Following is a rather unconnected and rambling list of thoughts. They are all based on statements or questions presented by non-believers – and a few believers in some cases – and have demanded my explanation. Some of these items have been addressed before in this blog. Perhaps not in exactly the same manner, but hopefully with the same mindset and arguments.
Giving the same old answer to the same old question is to be expected. Asking the same old question after the answer has been provided – and explained, ad infinitum – is rather childish.
1. Dying isn’t the worst thing that can happen.
The stimulus for this is typically a complaint along the lines of someone dying when the speaker didn’t want them to die. The speaker/complainer feels rather victimized because someone – a child, one’s parent or other relation, one’s dog, a favorite actor or singer – has died. Not only has the someone died, but in the opinion of the speaker/complainer, at the improper time or instant. “Why did the little girl (or boy) die because a drunk ran them over? Why didn’t God – obviously God’s fault – stop it?”
In some cases, the dead person died far away and possibly long ago. For instance, “Why did all the various Christians die in the Roman circuses?” Or “Why did God allow the [pick an evil group] to kill such and such a Christian?”
Where I cannot clearly answer all details of all questions, I do have some basic information about the phenomenon.
First, everyone dies. It’s a rule. Not only everyone, but everything. Horses, trees, governments, ideas (perhaps not all ideas, but the ‘fad’ ones anyway), and so on. So even if Uncle Cletus had survived the automobile accident, the cancer would have killed him anyway. Or his age. Or his lifestyle (drank whisky like a fish and smoked like a steam engine). Perhaps an angry husband. But die he would have.
Every so often – less currently – the attack of 11 September, 2001 is mentioned. God is berated for the death of around 3,000 people. Sometimes Moslem terrorists are mentioned in passing, sometimes not. Allow me to point out, had that not happened, would those people have lived forever? Probably not. Dying is often a tragedy and nearly alway inconvenient. But it happens to everyone, sooner or later.
When one accepts the concept of God’s sovereignty and omniscience together, one understands it is God who determines when everyone – anyone – dies; and when it happens, it was the ‘right time’. Just to be sure everyone has a chance to get this, it was the ‘right time’ as far as God was concerned. It may not be the ‘right time’ for the grieving survivor – including me – but it was the right time in God’s plan. If one of the survivors don’t agree, it makes little difference in the long run. One might as well be mad Rembrandt didn’t ‘lighten up’ the painting “Man with a Golden Helmet”. It is decided and done.
Not to mention we haven’t mentioned the sometimes imbecilic decisions which preceded the death. Why blame God when a child is never taught not to run out in the street? Why blame God when a relative abuses his health for years? Why blame God for being God? Some of this thought will be further discussed in section five.
2. Denying God’s existence will not make Him go away.
Many of the non-believers which whom I have discussed the matter justify ignoring God by the simple and circular reasoning of “I just don’t believe it”. One gets the feeling because what I have said does not convince the non-believer on the spot, it is not valid.
I haven’t been convinced of many things, but neither my ego nor faith is enough to convince me they cannot exist simply because I’m not convinced. It seems the non-believer’s faith is great enough to convince them they are the ultimate arbitrator of validity in the known universe.
It really isn’t, of course. It is the near ultimate form of denial. As long as one keeps repeating “Not real…” to themselves, they are safe from any consequence of the entity to be avoided. No doubt someone will post a reply to this essay, denying what I just said. Which proves they really don’t believe and they’re safe from God.
By the way, this denial doesn’t work with many other things in life. The death of a loved one, a diagnosis of cancer, a deadline, insufficient balance in the checking account or a flat tire. Nothing in reality ‘leaves’ just because one is not thinking about it or even honestly unaware of it.
3. The significant difference between ‘love’ and ‘approval’.
“Does God love homosexuals?” Variously, this is phrased as “Does God love [fill in blank of a person or group in opposition to God]?” Examples coming to mind are: Adolf Hitler, NAZIS in general, abortionists, women who abort babies, telephone salesmen, ‘sinners’ (non-specific) and so forth.
It is a ‘trap’ question. If one answers ‘no’, the questioner immediately pounces and announces, “Aha! So God doesn’t really ‘love’ everyone!”
If one answers ‘yes’, the clever questioner immediately pounces and claims, “Aha! Since God loves them, you must be wrong in condemning them as sinners!”
It’s the old ‘heads-I-win, tails-you-lose’, ‘unanswerable question’ gag. Much on the order of ‘Have you quit beating your wife (or husband, I suppose) yet?’
I have provided the answer on several occasions. Yes, God loves everyone, even ‘them’; however, that does not equate to approving or endorsing their actions. This of course is a ‘weasel out’ answer; it doesn’t play into their ‘gotcha’ game. They pretend the answer is artificial and doesn’t make sense, or they don’t quite understand it.
The mistake is in assuming evidence and definitions not given in Holy Writ. Nothing in the Bible suggests that one who rejects God can also ‘claim’ God’s protection.
4. The distinction between a moral code and peer group consensus.
God presents a code of ethics for His followers. In the Mosaic Law, it was seemingly formulated and specific. In Christianity, it is fairly loose in specifics and instead a general set of principles rather than a list of “do and don’t” articles. In fact, the Mosaic Law – the Ten Commandments and associated instructions for living life – was fairly general until the Holy Men of the Rabbinic league decided to specify what everything meant and issued – over a period of time – what everything meant.
This is not to point fingers at the traditional Jewish Rabbis. They did their work with great trepidation and with little monetary gain. Most of them did not get any pay as such for working as a rabbi. The great bulk of them served the Creator to the best of their knowledge and attempted to make others aware of what the Creator – The Name as usually used – wanted everyone to know.
So it has been in Christianity. Since the time of Christ, there have been people who claimed to speak for the Lord, as representatives of Christ and/or the Creator who further defined what Jesus instructed His followers to do. Rather than the formalized teachings of Mishnah and Gemara (look them up), Christianity has issued various documents of instruction in various forms and levels of authority.
The formal, organized, orthodox groups have demanded attendance at certain church functions during the year. Certain dress codes were published, especially for church attendance.
Protestant – as they are called – groups also issued ‘group specific’ rules of conduct and decorum. When I was a young man, a proper Christian was not to drink, smoke (cigarettes), dance, go to movies or engage in any form of sexual conduct with the ‘opposite’ sex. (Hardly anyone really knew if they were the ‘opposite’ sex or the other person was.) Card playing was usually forbidden; whether stud poker or bridge.
Other groups – church denominations – had either more strict or lax sets of rules. Some were very specific and demanding – like no female of any age could use make up or color their hair – and some allowed most everything. This is a whole study in itself and I won’t try to get more specific, other than to say Christianity as a whole has no less ‘commentary’ on what the Bible says than Judaism. It might be mentioned here that Judaism has a few distinctions between ‘groups’ as well. They range from the very Orthodox Jewish to essentially a ethnic, social society.
In the past one hundred years – more or less, it’s been a rather creeping process – many non-believers have set up a parallel belief system to Christianity, but one largely without Christ. The main thrust of the concept is “Christ doesn’t really matter, what He TAUGHT is what matters.” Except for the part about Christ being God, a relationship with Him as the key to salvation, miracles and that sort of thing.
For instance, Christ did teach about helping the poor. Therefore, in the Christianity without Christ religion, ‘giving to the poor’ is of greater significance than knowing and recognizing Christ as God. This ‘giving to the poor’ is also attached to various political systems who claim to assist the poor. For this reason, socialism is deemed to be more friendly to the poor than capitalism. Even if empirical, historic data shows otherwise.
This leads to the view that everyone should be removed from and protected from the results of their actions. “Freedom” is construed as action without limits or constraint. Therefore, birth control and abortion must be available to all women and at public expense. By the same token, medical treatment for sexually transmitted diseases – which could be easily prevented by ‘chastity’, the ‘old fashioned’ idea of only engaging in sex with one’s own and single partner – should now be provided to all at public expense. Recognizing a person brought some disaster – either legal, economic or medical – on themselves by their own choices – misdeeds in most cases – is considered ‘judgmental’ and forbidden.
On the same line, ‘environmentalism’ is a holy and required view; espousing ‘global warming’ or ‘climate change’ is far more important than other considerations. This is now to the point where evaluating ‘climate change’ and realizing the claims made are insubstantial and non-substantiable is considered heresy. Seemingly punishable by burning at the stake or at least a total and complete excommunication from society.
All these things – and many other associated – are now ‘assumed’ to have equal – indeed, preferential – standing with the moral code promulgated by God. Therefore, ‘free’ (public funded) abortions are now more important than celibacy or chastity and ‘environmentalism’ is more important than ‘thou shall not steal’.
In this logic, the God who said “Thou shall not steal” is wrong and the pretend god who who said ‘Gaia is the Earth Mother’ is right. Consequently, anyone who recognizes the Creator of the Universe is, at best, out of date and in error.
5. The significant difference between ‘holy’ and ‘happy’.
God commanded His people to be Holy, as He was Holy. This is recorded in the Mosaic Law and re-stated by Christ in the New Testament teaching of Christ. Whereas there are writings and poems or songs in the Old Testament book of Psalms about wealth and prosperity, the record of both Old and New Testament writings demonstrate God does NOT guarantee His followers with health, wealth, prosperity and “a rose garden” at all times. The story of Job, the history of the nation Israel and the deaths of Jesus and many of His followers demonstrate this concept.
What it – the message of God – does teach and guarantee is God keeps His followers in a positive state of mind through bad times. The Bible teaches those who rely on God will be ultimately rewarded in eternity, not immediately.
If it hasn’t been mentioned before, or no one has noticed, one is not issued a Rolls-Royce, a mansion in Beverly Hills and a wardrobe from the most fashionable designer immediately upon becoming a Christian.
Nor have I been protected from injury or illness due to my belief in God. I have to admit, I thought I was dead a couple of times, but God has preserved me. I expect to die at some point. All my grandparents – both sides – and my parents have died. Most of them were better Christians and probably better people than me. I have to replace the tires and oil in my car periodically. My dog got old and had to be put down.
The idea God makes life perfect for His followers is simply NOT part of Christian (or Jewish as I can tell) doctrine. Those who expect all their wishes fulfilled and a perfect life are confusing Christianity with a 1960 television show with Barbara Eden or a Disney movie.
6. “I don’t like it!” is not a valid criticism.
When dealing with those non-believers who justify their non-belief on what God ‘fails’ to do or does wrong, I’ve noticed a commonality. All of them are upset that God doesn’t do things they would do, or not in the way they would do them.
The conversation invariably comes around to ‘God shouldn’t do [such and such] – or allow [fill in the black here] to happen’. In other words, God didn’t follow this person’s wishes and is therefore wrong.
Not only that, but the person objecting demands God comply with their wishes in order to gain the objector’s favor.
So, just exactly is God in this case? Or more properly, who assumes they are God? If I had a nickel for every time some nitwit with a runny nose and no kleenex told me God was in error – I’d have a bunch of nickels.
So what is to be done?
God is going to win. I read the book all the way to the end. God wins. (Go figure.)
For those intellectually honest, admit to yourself God is really God and ask Him to show you the reality. Then have the intellectual honesty to understand God is telling you the reality and listen.
You will NOT have to start dressing like me, or get rid of everything you have. You won’t have to make any ‘specific’ changes prior to becoming a follower of Jesus. You won’t have to exile your girlfriend or boyfriend (regardless of participant’s sex). You won’t have to divest yourself of all your worldly possessions and become a monk or nun and live in a cave or anything.
You may have to make some changes in your life. However, you will not have to change anything until after you become a believer – and only then when God instructs you to do so. You will not have to change anything to placate me. Nor to placate the local pastor or priest. Placating your Mom is up to you and her. I would expect most everyone to change something in their life; but not everyone the same thing. Mostly what a follower of God needs to change are the things which stand between the follower and God.
If one does not believe God exists and continues in that belief; go ahead. No lightning bolt will strike – usually. In eternity – after you die – God will demand some explanations. It is up to you, obviously. I will still talk with you, share with you and even like you – depending, on how we ‘mesh’; there are some Christians with whom I don’t really get along. If you don’t shower often and never change your socks I may not ‘hang around’ as much.