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A Response to Eagle

03/11/2011

1. Can a Christian be disappointed in God? Can they ever be angry at God? If not…then why? Why do Christians always attribute positive acts to God and negative acts to Satan? Why don’t they ever hold God responsible? Why don’t Christians ever get frustrated publically about God? Do they believe its a sin…and if so..is that Biblical?

I would say yes, a Christian can be disappointed with God. One of my favorite books and a foundational book in my walk with God was Phillip Yancey’s Disappointment With God, so there are many out there who agree with me, as well as those who disagree. While there is a clear divide between disappointment with God and “curse God and die”, the Scriptures are full of people who expressed audible disappointment and even anger with God.

Positive acts to God and negative acts to Satan? A fundamental understanding of God in Christianity is that God is good and God is love. Everything God created was good, including the angel known as Lucifer, who later chose to rebel and became Satan. And through Satan’s influence, humans were deceived into rebelling, thus creating what is called The Fall, when all of creation was corrupted at a deep level. Everything since then, all good has God’s sole doing, and all evil has been the joint doing of man and Satan.

Why don’t people hold God responsible? God held God responsible. God sacrificed Himself in the form of Jesus to redeem the whole world. In my mind, he fully owned up to his “mistake” and paid the ultimate price. However, most attempts to hold God responsible for atrocities and problems are coming from a misunderstanding of history, theology, and whatever else. For example, I’m hesitant to hold God responsible for the earthquake in Japan, although I know others are more than ready to say God caused the earthquake as judgment. I don’t immediately jump to such conclusions.

You are correct, though: very few Christians publicly display any anger against God. I’d call that at worse a sin, but probably just dishonest. This is particularly a problem in American Christianity, where too many Christians “put on their happy face” and refuse to show any emotion or shred of doubt. Cognitive dissonance for many, because they can’t bring themselves to confront any anger or doubts about God. Those who eventually do often break and lose their faith, with many becoming agnostics and atheists. That’s why there is such turbulence in Christianity and the philosophical community nowadays.

Or at least that’s my theory.

2. Can I hear your take on evil that is not the result of free will? (please elaborate, give an example)

The opposite of free will is divine sovereignty, which, if God is good and love, is incapable of evil. Technically, all evil is a result of free will. Satan is hardly divine or sovereign; he’s a free agent.

If you could ask this question again a different way, that would be helpful.

3. What exactly is the prosperity gospel? How would you define it? What is the difference between being blessed versus believing in the prosperity gospel?

Prosperity gospel is that God so wants you to have health and wealth that he is willing to give all of that to you whenever you ask, and in fact, is pretty much obligated to do so. It takes away God’s sovereignty in giving blessings, and instead says God MUST bless you and wants you to have the BEST health and AS MUCH wealth as you want.

Being blessed is God giving you things you don’t always deserve. Blessing always carries with it the responsibility of stewardship. God may bless me with a car, and I must therefore take care of it. Prosperity would say that God wants to give me a call and will give me a call if I just ask.

4. Do Christians make the Bible and idol? Do Christians worship the Bible?

Some Christians do. While there is a doctrine known as Sola Scriptura, which means that Scripture is the source of truth and knowledge as it relates to salvation, some would claim SOLE or SOLO Scriptura, meaning that Scripture is the ONLY source of truth in this life. I firmly disagree. The Bible says nothing about video games, for example, nor would it. I’d call looking to the Bible for all truth as worship of the Bible, because it replaces looking to God for all truth.

There are also some Christians who worship particular translations of the Bible, claiming that only the English translation they are most familiar with is the only true Word of God. These people are called “King James Only-ers”. Horribly, horribly wrong position. First, the Bible was written with 3 different languages over a period of thousands of years. Second, we don’t have any original manuscripts; at best, a copy of a copy. Third, the sheer abundance of copies allows us to rule out most instances of simple copy error, as well as any “grand scheme” to corrupt the writings. Fourth, no one translation is perfect.

Fact is, you can’t really trust your English Bible, not fully. True Bible study involves multiple translations as well as study of the original languages. We make do with the best we can, and many churches agree as a whole to use one translation in services to avoid confusion. But you can’t truly know the Word of God by focusing solely on one translation.

5. Do Christians take some liberties in saying that the Bible is from God and divine? I was thinking the Gospel of John starts out by saying the word became flesh (reference to Jesus) and while I am familiar with vs like 2 Timothy 3:16, Joshua 1:8-9, etc.. wouldn’t you say those versus are retrospective to those individual books? I mean (and I may be mistaken…call me on the carpet…) there really isn’t a verse in the Bible that says these 66 Books from Genesis to Revelation are divine and from God and exist in this intended format to be used in this way. Do you think Christians are mistranslating the Bible when they say that?

This is where my answers get tricky. Do some Christians take some liberties in saying that the Bible is from God and divine? Yes. I don’t believe the Bible is divine; God is divine. John 5:39 makes it very clear that the purpose of the Scriptures is not to provide eternal life but to illuminate the one who gives eternal life, namely Jesus Christ.

The Gospel of John does indeed start off with the Word (logos) becoming flesh (Jesus Christ). To a large extent, this is a mystery, with many theories out there and few concrete truths (and beware those who claim a monopoly on truth). As I see it, Logos, a Greek word which John would have been intimately familiar with through the writings of Plato and Socrates, is a way to say that something (“logic”?) is the foundation of this created world. It’s a way of saying that the thing that created this world became flesh in this world. Jesus is the only person in the Godhead that has flesh, a material substance, so all of life had to come from him and proceed through him into whatever existence is after life (heaven/hell).

There are verses such as 2 Tim. 3:16 that all Scripture is God-breathed and profitable for a number of things. Agree wholeheartedly. But what you are getting to is the concept of inerrancy, of which there are many flavors. The most extreme is like that of the KJV-Only position, which says a sole translation is inerrant. A slightly more relaxed position says that all translations are inerrant, and an even more relaxed position says that the Bible is “inerrant in the original manuscripts.”

Personally, I believe the Bible is inspired, but I’m not entirely sold on absolute inerrancy. I suspect there are several places where the Bible is wrong, but not wrong as in “a lie”; I’m talking the wrong that is the difference between saying something cost $5 or it cost $4.99. Basically, that type of wrong matters little. I firmly believe the Bible to be inspired by God, is as God wanted us to have it, has not been corrupted by man except through dumb easily correctable error (typography errors), etc. But I shy away from hardline inerrancy. I believe most of what we perceive to be errors in the Bible (such as the Genesis 1-2 young earth creationism argument) are really just a misunderstanding on our part, willfully or otherwise. There are also a few sections in the Bible that were clearly added on later and yet are accepted by most Christians as belonging to the Bible, so I have a hard time with the “original documents are inerrant” argument.

But as I’m sure there are plenty out there who would love to correct me on this position.

6. In the Bible if it talks about generational sin, and that comes down upon people, then where does the issue of free will come in? Isn’t there a conflict there?

I admit I don’t know a whole lot about generational sin, but I’ve observed that the people for whom this is an issue tend to skew toward a very literalist understanding of Scriptures or are in the hyper-charismatic circles. I’ve seen no evidence for generational sins and curses, but I don’t know enough to plant a flag on a position.

7. Also in regards to Adam…why is it that Adams’ sin affects and carries down to you? Why am I or anyone held responsible for Adams’ original sin?

I jokingly said “who said there was really an Adam” before, which is technically only half a joke as some don’t believe there was a singular Adam, but the typical answer is that when Adam and Eve sinned, sin corrupted them internally just as it corrupted all of creation. As a result, anyone born in this physical creation has a sinful nature. Jesus being the exception, as Mary was a surrogate mother for the most part, since Jesus had no human father. Handy little loophole there. Again, one of those mystery things.

Regarding responsibility…do babies go to heaven? I tend to think they do, despite being born with a sinful nature. But most of us have committed a sin, either consciously or unconsciously, and either a sin of omission or commission, at which point we are fully guilty and responsible.

The bottom line, though, is that regardless of our actions, we are sinners born into a corrupt world, so technically, our actions don’t affect us one way or another. To some, this is good news, to others, it sucks to hear.

8. Salvation exclusively in Christ? What then will happen to those people who never heard the gospel due to historical or geograghic limitation? Does the person who lived and died in China in 100 BC go to hell becuase he never knew Christ?

Universalism says that all will be saved, because no loving God will send anyone to hell. The quickest response to that is say that then there is no justice, at which point God is not loving. BUT…I tend to think that, while Jesus is the only way to salvation, knowing his actual name and who he is isn’t what saves someone. Scripture mentions that people can know God through nature, so I’m sure there are some in heaven who never heard of Jesus, but through his death, burial, and resurrection, still provided a way for some to come to Him. But I ultimately don’t know.

9. God and murder or committing genocide. How can Christians worship a God who has keilled so many people? Take Exodus..you kill the first born but not Pharoah? What did an Egyptian infant do to where he deserved to be killed? Why don’t Christinas become bothered by all the attrocities that God committed?

I mentioned before that this isn’t really an issue for me; don’t know why, just never something I stressed over, so never really developed solid responses and rationales for it. All life is God’s, and God is ultimately responsible for a person both coming into life and a person coming into death. We as humans, souls, exist somewhere prior to life, and will exist somewhere after life. I can’t be mad at God for killing someone or allowing someone to die, because then I’d also have to be mad at Him for allowing someone to live in the first place.

I read somewhere that the first born dying in Egypt was a response to one of the Egyptian gods…perhaps it was a god that demanded all firstborns be given in service to that god. At which point, the true God is making a pretty declarative statement that the other god is really nothing. Also, in a way, it’s a picture of Jesus Christ, as God will then kill his first born Son as well. God doesn’t get off the hook.

Also, many Christians are bothered by the atrocities, and should wonder about them and seek to understand them. Sometimes, though, what we call atrocities really aren’t. Some times, they may be. Again, assuming God is good and love, then there must be something good and loving about what appears to be an atrocity. So our understanding may be wrong.

10. How can a loving God allow evil? Especially if he’s omnscient? So according to Christian theology…that 5 year old kid who is being molested by that Sunday school teacher…God knew all along that it was going to happen and did nothing to intervene. How can Christians respect such a God? I mean heck if you allowed a child to be molested in Minnesota and did nothing to stop it you yourself could face charges by the state. Yet Christians excuse God and let him off the hook? Why…?

This is a tough question, one of which I’m still wrestling through myself. Perhaps God allows evil because he allows free will, and free will will always tend toward evil? In which case, it’s not like he’s not taken steps to eradicate the evil and safeguard against it.

Maybe we have a misunderstanding of what God’s sovereignty is, and perhaps He can’t eliminate evil? Maybe there is a cosmic balance that will one day skew toward the good, but for now remains in equal.

I know God hates and grieves the evil that the Sunday school teacher did toward that little boy. I also know it’s pretty cold to say that, technically, neither are innocent, both are absolutely evil and wicked, but there was still a grave, serious, and wicked injustice done to the boy by the older teacher. All of nature cries out that the wicked must be punished, and all evil shall be punished! Justice is natural, and will always be delivered. For the older sunday school teacher, there are now two options: either he will pay the full price for all eternity for his evil deed (and for simply being himself, wicked to the core), or, Jesus paid for the evil deed and the teacher’s nature with his death. The same two choices apply to the young boy: either he will pay for all eternity for a SINGLE wicked thing he did (lie, cheat, steal, adultery, whatever) plus for simply being himself, wicked to the core, OR, Jesus paid for the evil deed and the boy’s nature with his death.

Again, no one gets off the hook. Justice will always be served. I can respect Jesus Christ for choosing to die a gruesome horrible death for my sins. I can respect God for killing His only Son because he knew justice MUST be served. Did God know this wicked deed would occur? Yes, but he also knew justice would be served, and because He chose in his wisdom (another mystery) to give us free will, he either knew it WOULD happen or that it COULD happen, thus “allowing” it to happen so that justice could be served.

A key idea – everything, everything, exists and happens to bring glory to God. How does a molestation bring glory to God? I’m not entirely certain. But I know God is good, and I know God is love, and while I may not understand why, and I may rage and get mad at God for apparently allowing it to happen, I still, at the end of the day, trust him. Cuz I guess that’s what faith does.

Hope that helps.

Now I need a break. My mind hurts, and too much thinking about all this stuff can be harmful…lol.

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