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Archive for August, 2015

Did God Approve of Child Sacrifice Like The Other gods With Abraham?

One may read Genesis 22, where God seemingly orders Abraham to sacrifice his son Isaac, and question whether to respect God or any of the Old Testament guidance. There may be plausible interpretations for this passage to suggest God is not encouraging child sacrifice as the others supposed gods did during these times.

  • Scholars consider the first five books of the OT as a literary unit. The writers surely knew it had been recorded that God condemned child sacrifice (Lev. 18:21, Lev. 20:2-5, Deut. 12:31, 18:10) but still included this story. They may have understood the purpose and moral of the story was not that God approved of this kind of sacrifice
  • The story begins that God was testing Abraham (22:1). The rest of the story suggests Abraham either expected that they would not have to carry out this act or that God would bring Isaac back from the dead (i.e. Heb. 11:17-19). The other supposed gods could not promise this. Abraham told the servants both he and Isaac would be coming back (5). Abraham fully expected God to provide a lamb instead for the altar and did so (8, 13). Finally, the angel stopped Abraham before he could harm Isaac (11-12).
  • Why would God test Abraham with such a revolting temptation? It should be noted that the sacrifice never happened, unlike the other gods who fully expected execution to quench their thirst for power. God may have used this extreme example to differentiate Himself from the other gods, proving God did not approve of child sacrificing. These were unique historical times. God was using Israel as a means to usher in the Messiah as a blessing to all nations. This event took place on Mount Moriah where the temple was to be built (2 Chron. 3:1). Jesus through his sacrifice and resurrection replaced the temple as a guide toward God for a better life.
  • Isaac was not a child and most likely was an adult. The term boy or lad used for Isaac could refer to one of military age (I Chron. 12: 28). Kaiser suggests the term could mean that Isaac was easily in his twenties and possibly thirties (Hard Sayings Of The OT, p. 123). Isaac had a choice in this matter unlike the babies sacrificed by other cultures to their supposed gods
  • No one reading this passage can justify their behavior that God is commanding them to kill their child. God clearly spoke to Abraham as was God’s practice in the beginning of history with the Israelites. Abraham had experience in recognizing God’s voice. This was not a hunch. Besides, whoever uses this passage to claim God commands them to harm their child can expect God to provide a way out at the last minute. If God doesn’t they are delusional and not truly hearing God’s voice.

Is it at least fair to say that this event between Abraham and God did not mirror other ancient sacrifices to gods as they would not have stopped the sacrifice for their own pleasures? Since Abraham knew his older son would either not die or come back from the dead right away, does this make God’s request not the wrong we may have felt initially? This passage isn’t necessarily the editors letting their own story-telling devices creep into the story since God was clearly opposed to child sacrifice. There are reasonable explanations that God was not approving of child sacrifice in this extreme test for Abraham and Isaac.

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Does God Control When We Die And Does It Matter?

Let’s be honest. Many, many prayers are not answered. Miracles rarely happen. How we think our Creator does or doesn’t control suffering in our life makes a difference in our relationship. Many will say after a crisis “God saved my life.” When terrorists struck the Twin Towers some said “by the grace of God I was saved” when able to escape from the burning towers. Some said that God kept them from going to work on that horrific day. I don’t wish to offend those who have said this. I just want to perhaps un-offend those considering a relationship with God.

When one says “God saved my life” or “by the grace of God….” the implication is God did not save others in similar circumstances. If God saved you from a deadly illness, God did not save others of the same illness. If God allowed you to miraculously recover from some form of cancer, God did not save others from the same kind of cancer. If God kept you from going to work that morning on 911, than God did not intervene with others who ended up dying. The implication is that God is partial and does not have grace for all.

Those who claim divine intervention are not wishing to offend others. They simply want God to be honored in their life or death. But, one’s words can imply that God saves because one is a better or more moral person than others that God did not spare. Of course the book of Job teaches that one’s suffering has nothing to do with one’s goodness. Most don’t claim that God would say about them as God did Job: “….there is no one on earth life him; he is blameless and upright” (1:8).

Recently, when a Doctor got sick in a foreign country and recovered from a deadly virus one religious leader said that many were praying that God would spare this young man. When many are praying in a similar situation for another person’s life did God intentionally not spare that life? Praying doesn’t earn me more of God’s affection; God already loves us unconditionally. The truth is God placed a higher priority on freedom than control. Praying is more about communicating for support whatever may happen than manipulating for gain. A Creator can surely give and take life but God, unlike humans, does not have to control to be in control.

Understanding God does not control when we die can help in a crisis. Drunk drivers end life and not God. We can understand God allows us to make peace and not war toward death at the end of our life. Death is inevitable. We are not playing God by being proactive by helping to control one’s quality of life or pain at the end. Some who say God is in control – through their attitudes and actions – are really letting modern medicine be in control. God has given us freedom to help our loved ones die as peacefully and as comfortably as possible.

Many people may turn away from God because of their genuine misunderstandings and disappointments regarding God and prayers. Many who don’t know our God may be offended by our words which may suggest to them God is whimsical. What can we say to be less offensive? We might say in times of appreciation to God: “I was grateful to know God was by my side in this tragedy that God did not desire. I was fortunate to recover but I knew I would be made whole someday regardless.” This may more accurately describe who God really is – God never wished suffering or death in the first place.

If God Truly Exist Why Does God Seem So Hidden?

Why doesn’t God make his presence more evident to those who are open to knowing if God exists? Divine hiddenness has been a reason many have questioned if there is a God or if God truly is loving. Parents don’t hide from a child who is seeking their love and comfort. Before we consider reasonable reasons why God may seemingly stay more hidden, we need to counter some common assumptions among those who already believe in God.

It is argued the Bible says those who don’t believe there is a God are simply being rebellious to what they know to be true. The first chapter of Romans is used to suggest that all people that don’t believe in God are simply suppressing what God has clearly revealed to them. This passage is referring to those ignoring God so they could continue in their wicked ways. Many people live moral lives but for their own rational reasons cannot believe in an invisible God. There are many explanations for unbelief than accusing people of lying and not knowing their feelings.

A traumatic experience such as being raped by one’s father can keep one from wanting to have anything to do with God their Father. One may have been taught growing up God is a sadistic torturer who burns people in Hell forever if they don’t believe in Him. Many understand such an explanation of God is a direct contradiction of a loving God. People are not immoral because they doubt or don’t accept certain teachings without reflection. Jesus was toughest on the Pharisees for misrepresenting God that they claimed to know. Skeptics or those who may question God are not claiming or acting like religious elitists that got Jesus’ dander up the most.

There are individual, loving reasons God may not reveal Himself totally to those not ready to believe in God. God may know a person may reject Him currently as opposed to a time in the future under different circumstances. People may also come to believe in God for the wrong reasons if God shows Himself at the wrong time. God revealing himself to me in in what I perceive to be very real ways isn’t always comforting. Afterwards, I swear to God that I will change and don’t. Such experiences lead to guilt and discouragement. God may hide himself not out of cruelness but because He loves us and timing can be important in relationships.

There may also be societal benefits for God not revealing Himself always. The truth is those who claim to know and love God sometimes have less of a positive impact on others than those who don’t play the God-card. If we assume most people don’t have a close relationship with God, they may be more positively impacted by those who don’t wear God on their sleeve. The Bible suggests a genuine relationship with God isn’t based on certain beliefs or what one says but how one lives their life. Some are turned off by those who claim by the grace of God they were cured. I guess God didn’t give a crap about a loved one who died of the same kind of cancer.

God showed Himself when history began in very tangible ways. There may always be a need for the first time, but is God not loving by not continuing to reveal Himself in similar ways in each future generation? God’s chosen people had manna dropped from the sky to survive in the wilderness, but they turned on God when Moses went up the mountain to receive the Ten Commandments. God even came in person but Jesus’ presence and miracles did not obtain the results some may suggest if God would stop hiding. A parent, who has a child taken from them at birth, stills loves that child though that child may not know them or that they even exist. We cannot assume not seeing God’s presence means there is no relationship.

Why Didn’t God Create Heaven On Earth In The Beginning?

What one believes about God’s role in suffering can lead to feelings of God being distant or unsupportive. “Why, me!” can sometimes turn into “why God do you not love me.” One may question why God grants human beings the ability to choose evil in the first place, since much of suffering result from people making evil choices. If one assumes we will one day in heaven be unable to sin, why didn’t God simply create us as unable to sin from the beginning?

It is morally and biblically indefensible to suggest God created evil to accomplish good. A more rational explanation is that evil was not something created by God but originates from the human heart as the result of freedom given by our Creator in the beginning. It can be argued freedom is necessary for God cannot love us if He controls us. Authenticity in relationships is impossible without freedom. Without freedom we could accuse God of not creating the “best” world.

The necessity of freedom for genuine relationships can explain why God allowed freedom. It is plausible that having such choices is a necessary journey so that one day in heaven we are able to choose to not sin. Randal Rauser on his blog explains it this way: there is inherent value in the acquisition of moral virtues. Think of the distinction between the mountain climber lowered onto the summit via a helicopter vs. the climber who gradually climbs up the slopes. There is intrinsic value in being the climber who fought to reach the top. And there is intrinsic value in acquiring the moral virtues of the image of God over-against having them infused from birth” (randalrauser.com – 8/7/15).

I would be inconsistent to not mention the possibility to sin in heaven to protect the integrity of free will. It is depressing to entertain this possibility, but I am not convinced the Bible promises there is not the possibility of selfishness in heaven. Personally, based on my record here on earth and often under ideal circumstances, I cannot imagine not making some selfish decisions in heaven. We can at least hope God’s presence will have a greater impact then earthly, human authority to dissuade such decisions. We thrive more under certain types of parental love and leadership because of their qualities such as integrity and understanding.

But, there is a plausible explanation of how there can be freedom in heaven without the possibility of sin. Our moral progress here on earth may make choices to the detriment of ourselves or others impossible or at least highly unlikely in heaven. I am growing in my successes and failures that I would not have otherwise without the freedom to make unselfish choices. It is hard for me to fathom that I can murder someone here on earth though I have the freedom to do so. The maturation process I go through here on earth may make the choice to murder impossible. Understanding why God allows freedom and thus suffering here on earth can help to not alienate us but draw us closer to our Creator here on earth in unbearable times.

Did God Really Create Evil? – A Book Review

I did a review on amazon.com of John Noe’s book The Creation of Evil: Casting Light Into The Purposes of Evil. I don’t enjoy bashing books but I do have strong opinions on this subject and disagree with the book’s thesis that God somehow mysteriously is the creator of evil. However we solve the biggest philosophical challenge for the Christian faith – how evil and God’s goodness can co-exist – it seems to me it is morally and biblically indefensible to suggest God orchestrated evil to accomplish good. I have defended the freedom model which suggests God cannot truly love us if He controls us. Evil results from freedom which is necessary for authentic relationships.

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John Noe’s books on Jesus’ coming and the end-times are eye-opening and even possibly life-changing. He ably defends Jesus has already come and thus did not misled when advising followers to be ready within their generation (i.e. Mt. 24:34). I respect John’s courage by offering his solutions about the biggest challenge for the Christian faith – how evil and God’s goodness can co-exist. But, I must agree to disagree with John as his solutions seem to create more problems than they solve. I hope in the following comments that I do not quote John out of context.

I believe to suggest God created evil is morally indefensible and unlikely from a biblical exegetical viewpoint. Since all interpretations are possibly fallible, I would suggest when two debatable interpretations can stand up to scrutiny that we must err on the side that portrays God as the most relational and comprehensible to the human mind. Humans are not totally clueless since we are made in our Creator’s image.

John Noe suggests the origin of evil rest with God and is in fact ordained by God (Chapter 3). John says: “… (God) created evil, at least in the form of a tree to start with (83)…Therefore, we must trust God in his sovereignty knew and knows that evil in this world really is ‘good’ and ‘very good’ (Gen. 1:12, 1:31)” [p. 124]. Such doublespeak plays havoc with the human language that God used to communicate to us. We don’t have to explain how God hates evil (Prov. 6:16-19) but then God hates something He is supposedly proud of and says is good (Gen. 1:31). The Bible advises to hate evil (Rm. 12:9), but must we hate God’s supposed good plan?

There are no exegetical reasons to think the very real tree of knowledge actually possesses evil. You can’t see, touch, feel, smell or hear evil. Murderous thoughts surely are evil, but we don’t say such a thought is a created thing. The story tells us where evil originates – within the thoughts of the human heart (Gen. 6:5-6). God doesn’t regret His supposed plan of Evil.

John suggests if we are serious about God’s sovereignty that we must accept: “Therefore, God Himself must be recognized as responsible for creating evil in the first place and thus foreordaining and enabling sin to occur. This was his original intent for us humans in the created world. And He implemented it and sustains it. How can anyone deny this, dare to challenge Him, question his sovereignty, criticize his ways, or be offended thereby?…God is primarily and ultimately responsible for evil, sin, and suffering in our world…”(p. 77, 117). To be fair John argues in others place God isn’t responsible for sin. John seeks to define evil and sin differently (p.109), but I believe most would say evil is sin and sin is evil.

Good luck trying to discuss God and evil with a skeptic with a comment such as above. No offense but God cares more about the one seeking than the ninety-nine who already believe in a Creator. We don’t suggest earthly parents can provoke their children but not be held responsible for their actions. Are the rules different for our Heavenly Parent?

Our understanding of God’s sovereignty as it relates to God’s will influences our biblical interpretations. The word sovereign did not originate with the biblical languages. “Sovereign” doesn’t even appear in the KJV translation. The NIV often replaces God with Sovereign and translate Lord God as Sovereign Lord. I disagree with theologians who wish to protect a definition of God’s sovereignty or control that implies God foreordains or controls evil for some grand purpose. God can still be considered sovereign, even though He gives up control for the sake of freedom. God as sovereign does not require His will always be done, or we must say God wills sin.

I don’t believe that we are doing God a favor by declaring God is a mystery because we can’t explain our theology. To claim God is a mystery does not invite investigation by those who may be seeking God for the first time. John seems to go the “mystery” route when trying to explain how God could ordain evil and call it very good. John says: “But, there is no scriptural reason why God could not have created something that is incompatible with his own character and nature”… (This) doesn’t limit his (God’s) goodness or power, since He is separate from his creation” (p. 83, 117). Scriptures don’t claim that God’s ways are mysterious but only that God’s ways are higher (more moral) than human ways. God’s plan for His Son when sin came into the world will be somewhat of a mystery until after Jesus’ birth, death, and resurrection. There are reasonable explanations how God’s goodness and evil can coexist.

John does not seem to go into detail of the freedom model. I would suggest the freedom model is still a better alternative though it certainly cannot explain completely for many the confounding confusion of natural evil (Chapter 5). John argues that God could have created Adam and Eve capable of not sinning (p.76). I would counter freedom is necessary for authentic relationships. The truth is not even an all-powerful God can create and guarantee life without death, violence, suffering, and struggle and yet there be free will necessary for genuine relationships. Not even God can force true love.

Freedom is necessary for the highest good in relationships. Without freedom some could accuse God of not creating the “best” world. God’s interference may actually prevent a superior world from developing as a result of the moral improvement of free creatures. Isn’t it much easier for the majority to worship a God who doesn’t control everything as opposed to a God who accepts no resistance?

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