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Archive for December, 2015

What Do I Wish Others Might Consider Are True About God?

Belief matters as they can lead to bigotries against one’s color or sex. Beliefs about God can hinder pursing a relationship with our Creator. I hope you may ponder what I think God is really like in case you have heard otherwise, so you might consider how a friendship with God can be beneficial in a challenging world.

God is not an angry egomaniac but a lover who wants what we deep down want for ourselves

God allows freedom of beliefs unlike religious extremists

God is not a sadistic torturer, as Hell is a myth, but welcomes all to Heaven after life on earth

God is not a sexist but suggests roles in home and society depend on gifts than gender

God did not create evil and suffering but understands authentic love necessitates freedom

God did not allow Jesus to be killed to be appeased but to convey God’s unimaginable love

God suggests prayer for support than manipulating for gain as God knows how to run a free world

God is not mysterious but comprehensible since we are made in our Creator’s image

God didn’t give the Bible to worship but tell a story; interpretations must be true of a loving God

God didn’t say go to church but be the church by encouraging others in a challenging world

Might you consider reading further what I have written if any of the above beliefs about God are true and would impact your relationship with God? What beliefs about God are you aware of that keep you from wanting to know God at all or on a more intimate level? Are they true?

Why Does God Hide From Us Physically Or Not Be More Obvious?

Why doesn’t God just talk to us in person or least make themselves or their guidance more evident? As the story goes God did that in the beginning. When Adam and Eve went against God’s advice it was humans that ran and hid not God. God sought the first couple out to have a conversation after not following God’s lead. Thereafter, God apparently decided it was in our best interest if God not continue to overwhelm us in person. There may be loving reasons that God does not reveal themselves until the best time.

God’s ways are really only guidance in becoming the kind of person deep down we desire to be. Our instinct seems to be to run and hide from God when we fail to act in our best interests. Being in the presence of others we offend isn’t always initially conducive for lasting change. God may have felt at least not being in God’s physical presence would be easier for us come to God on our own terms rather than out of feelings of obligation or overwhelmness. People may come to believe in God for the wrong reasons. God wanted it to be all about us and not God.

God respect for our human freedom translates into certain actions on God’s part. Jesus didn’t attempt to overwhelm as well. Miracles were not the norm perhaps for good reason. Besides, miracles did not necessarily convince others Jesus was God. Jesus wanted a lasting friendship and not just an initial “shock and awe” relationship. I don’t know of any human parent who brings children into the world not desiring their children freely reciprocate their love as opposed to feeling manipulated. Jesus didn’t demand obedience for we must move at our own progress.

God can’t force true love; love must be freely chosen. Parents can tell us until blue in the face what is best for us, but we only have a chance of heart when acting on our own accord. Fear of punishment doesn’t prevent us from finding a better way to hide it next time. God’s presence can lead to more fear and awe than love and respect. As children mature parents desire obedience out of respect and understanding, so wise decisions are made when parents are not around. Relationships based on fear can lead to temporary changes, not lifelong transformations. God doesn’t manipulate us to do anything we truly don’t desire for our own good.

God didn’t cause evil that lead to so much suffering in the world, but when we rebelled God responded different to suffering than us parents. God disagreed with Job that God should immediately reward good and punished evil in a rebellious world. Besides, God didn’t want us to act simply to avoid pain for instant gratification. If we shower our kids with gifts why do they really choose a relationship with loving parents? It is harder to not interfere than to spare my children of any pain, but interfering keeps them from feeling good by making their own choices.

Free will is surely understandable as only terrorists think controlling or destroying free, moral decisions results in true love. Without freedom we could accuse God of not creating the very best world where only true, authentic relationships can develop. God’s interference may prevent a superior world from emerging as a result of the moral development and improvement of free creatures that cannot be created initially. If freedom and determinism are compatible, then a loving God could have created a world in which all persons freely did only good at all times. Our character developed here on earth may empower us to see no good reason to do wrong here and in heaven. A loving God reveals themselves at the right time.

Are There Rational Answers To Why God Allows So Much Suffering?

If in the midst of suffering it may best to get through it than try to understand it. It can be helpful though to think ahead how we envision coping with suffering. Many seek to reconcile a belief in God with the harsh realities of sufferings in life. Lack of answers can make tragic times worse. Asking the question “Why is this happening to me or my loved one” can sometimes turn into “why God do you not love me.”  How we define God’s role in suffering can determine whether our Creator is a friend or enemy during troubles times. I am writing about this subject in this format, hoping to inspire you to read a more detailed explanation in my book  here.

For the purpose of discussion I view suffering as either deserved or undeserved resulting from personal or physical evil. Certain answers or rationalizations in answering the biggest philosophical challenge for the Christian faith – how evil and God’s goodness can co-exist – are totally unsatisfactory in explaining how God really cares since there is so much suffering in the world. Rational and relational coherence is important when it relates to God’s character. God doesn’t say “I am God, you aren’t, so shut up!” God wants us to know them. Close relationships, either personal or spiritual, are what inspire us to be the kind of persons we desire to be.

God is not a mystery – Why would God bother to communicate with words though the Bible if we can’t understand God? The story of Job doesn’t declare God a mystery. God simply rejected Job’s assumption that the wicked are judged or the righteous rewarded immediately. Job finally realized despite his suffering God still was just and had not abandoned him. Job accepted God knew best how to run a free universe. The OT does not suggest God’s ways are unexplainable or incomprehensible to the human mind. God’s ways are not always fully understood until the time of the event such as Jesus’ death and resurrection. Isaiah 55:9 does not say God’s ways are mysterious: “…so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.”  The context exhorts readers to forsake their wicked ways and thoughts and turn to God’s more moral ways and thoughts. For a biblical defense that God is not a mystery, please see here.

God is not the originator of evil – The presence of evil in our world is obvious, but evil is not something created. Evil originates in the hearts of human beings. Evil is a corruption of a good thing – human life created by God. God knew the first step toward them may be a step away in disobedience, but God desired people who could freely relate to God in love than out of fear. Evil could have only been avoided if God had not created humans or freedom. The view that God causes evil or suffering, rather than God uses evil or suffering to bring good, is morally and emotionally indefensible. God did not secretly will a rebellion against them so God could ride in on a white horse and save the world.

Freedom is important – Freedom, rather than control, is necessary for genuine relationships. Not even God can force true love. Authenticity, the highest good in relationships, is impossible without freedom. Without freedom we 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. No amount of good resulting from evil justifies the evil actions of others, but God will walk hand-in hand with us through any tragedy to bring good from it. 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 plausible that having such choices is a necessary journey so that one day in heaven we are able to choose to not sin. Our moral progress here on earth may make self-centeredness impossible or at least highly unlikely in heaven. 

God’s risk was worth it – Only preconceived notions of the meaning of the non-biblical word sovereignty insist God’s knows the future rather than the future is open. God knows what they are going to do but not the choices we will freely make. God not having such foreknowledge gives more integrity to passages that speak of God grieving or giving another chance. God knew the risks of freedom for the possibility of intimacy as do human parents. Are we wrong to bring children into a world hoping they will want to reciprocate our love but knowing our children could cause suffering or suffer at the hands of others? God doesn’t let a few rotten apples spoil the relationships they have with billions of people. Suffering is avoidable only if God had not created or allowed freedom. Few argue that no freedom is better than freedom. Only terrorists think destroying free, moral decisions results in true love.

Drawing the line at degrees of evil is easier said than done – C.S. Lewis suggested that wars, crimes, and injustices – evils that come through bad choices make by cruel and lawless people – account for at least 80% of humankind suffering. If God stops the murdering of millions by an evil dictator, why doesn’t God prevent every murderer, every sexual abuser, and all natural disasters not some? God should kill adulterers in their tracks because adultery destroys lives. Where does God draw the line to not make a mockery of freedom? God preventing freedom may be contrary to their nature. Maybe the destruction of one rebellious child in God’s eyes is one too many. Human parents nor God are necessarily sadistic just because they don’t squash freedom to avoid suffering. I, unlike God, often try to spare my children of any suffering though their pain may evolve into help for them and others. God really can’t win. God caused the flood but evil just grew back. God authorized wars in the OT to combat evil but is called a moral monster. Until we make the assumption that God prevents as much evil as possible without violating freedom and greater good, we may never be satisfied with God.

Preventing suffering requires instant justice and causes more evil – I don’t mean to be flippant by suggesting evil is good because of the end results. God doesn’t cause evil to accomplish good; God is determined to bring good from the evil choices of others. Allowing suffering may be the only way to redeem the world, when sin entered the world, while preserving freedom. We cannot prove there are no good moral reasons for allowing freedom resulting in so much evil. If God stops the bullet, the murderer may never change from killing even more people. A child can never reconcile with their father if God stops the beatings. Only a father can restore the love all children desire from their parents. Paul perhaps saw suffering as joyous because in God’s eternal world no sufferings are in vain. Instant justice doesn’t allow God to save as many children as possible by changing of their own free will. God clearly values mercy and forgiveness over instant justice. God is only guilty of not destroying evildoers instantly before decisions are made. God tolerates evil that God could stop in hopes many will come back to God before self-destructing.

God does intervene – God is tireless in working through individual lives to change the world. Could Hitler have been stopped if a few good people had gotten involved in his life as a child or when plotting his evils early on? Perhaps the only way to defeat evil in us, other than destroying at the first hint, is for us to persevere and overcome evil. God doesn’t derive pleasure by seeing us in pain but I experience greater moral growth during suffering than prosperity. It is best most of my prayers not be answered. Being rich often only leads to wanting to be richer at the expense of others. Jesus’ miracles turn heads but Jesus’ suffering changed the hearts of billions of followers. Lavishing gifts on our children doesn’t necessarily convey how much we love them or that we have an authentic relationship. The truth is sufferings enable us to better help and influence others in a free world that our prosperous times don’t. Personal tragedies or undeserved insults can empower us to be more sensitive to others in similar situations. Martin Luther King’s suffering moved the scales from the eyes of many how they tolerated bigotry. Suffering enables us to be of use to others in a world where suffering is inevitable.

Natural disasters are not easy to explain – Physical evils such as disasters of nature, diseases, or accidents cannot always be traced directly to a human’s freedom to inflict pain upon themselves or others. I lack scientific understandings to explain the cause of many natural tragedies. It does seem human accumulated mismanagement of the earth over thousands of years has brought destruction such as hurricanes, tornadoes, floods, droughts, and earthquakes. Many diseases can be explained as not present in the beginning but have been brought on by human rebellion against God’s original design. Our freedom to oppose God led to all sorts of calamity including physical death, relationship problems, and environmental evils. I read that the earth is constructed of tectonic plates and when they collide, what is atop them can be destroyed.  The shifting of these plates underground is not related to the changing mood of God.  When tectonic plates under the earth collide, atop them may be a particularly densely populated, poorly constructed city in a country which has been poorly governed for centuries. Who made money out of greed in the construction of the city in the manner that it was, and why wasn’t a better warning system in place? It would seem rebellion against God set in motions the deterioration of physical nature as it did human nature.

God does have a solution – God has at least provided a hopeful ending to the mess we have created. God’s ultimate response to suffering caused by evil is the slow, necessary way of the Incarnation. The Bible as a whole suggests the Cross was not to satisfy some need in God at the expense of their Son but to satisfy a need in us at God’s expense. The Cross was to change our attitude about God, not God’s attitude toward us. When evil was chosen, suffering deserved or undeserved became part of God’s story to lead us of our own volition to a paradise appropriate for free beings. The Cross declares God’s unimaginable love and desire to influence us for our own good. Closer relationships, either personal or spiritual, are what inspire us to be the kind of persons we deep down truly want to be. Our demands for an all-powerful, invulnerable God comes at the expense of trusting God know best how to run the universe and change as many lives as possible through their own volition.

 

 

Does God Desire Friendship Or Demand Obedience Like Terrorists?

The God of the Bible surely is not like the God of terrorists who supposedly thinks that controlling or destroying free, moral decisions results in true love. God pursued a friendship than demanding obedience in hopes of changing the world for good. The God of the Old Testament and God in the flesh in the New Testament encouraged loving others like you want to be loved. Jesus got His dander up the most with the religious elite, the Pharisees, because they portrayed God as demanding obedience rather than desiring a relationship. Jesus knew true religion is self-sacrificing rather than self-serving. No human or spiritual parent brings children into the world not desiring their children freely reciprocate their love as opposed to being forced.

The God of the Bible is clearly not like the god of the Jihadists or extreme Islamist believers. It turns out God does not have anything in common with religious extremists concerning freedom of beliefs, women’s rights, or the killing of women and children. God was a respecter of freedom of beliefs from the very beginning; otherwise, God who is powerful enough to create would annihilate immediately those who oppose God by choosing evil. God’s judgments and declarations of war against other nations were not because of a refusal to worship God, but because people were involved in despicable immoral acts such as child sacrifice. If such nations existed today where child sacrifices were a ritual, war may be the most humane action.

God doesn’t require obedience or God would not allow so much evil in the world. Unfortunately, God is portrayed more as a God of wrath than love in the Bible. God’s wrath or tough love was only to deter people from self-destruction. Fear-based theology is a misguided attempt to control our behaviors. God never thought fear led to life-changing transformations. Has gloomy uncertainty as to God’s favor conquered your battles against self-centeredness or long-standing habitual sins? Having an intimate friendship with God is what really transforms us into the kind of person we want to be.

A relationship with God, rather than an emphasis on rules and obedience, is our necessary nourishment to conquer our battle against self-centeredness. The fear of God doesn’t lead to changed hearts. When we feel a meaningful bond with our parents, we are more motivated to follow their guidance which often is in our best interest. Closer relationships, either personal or spiritual, are what inspire us to be the kind of persons we deep down truly want to be. God’s love is the same as perfect, human love. Jesus laid His life down so we might understand how much we are loved by our Creator. Understanding who God really is which leads to true intimacy, inspires us toward life transformations and helps face the challenges of an unfriendly world. 

Human parents surely do not understand relationships better than our Creator. Parents know the fear of punishment is only meant to encourage their child to run from evil and is not what the relationship is based on. Parents understand a friendship gained over time will help children to know us and act on our guidance which should always be in their best interests. Our obedience has absolutely nothing to do with God’s love for us. It only effects how we feel about our relationship with God. God grieves selfish choices because of the pain it will cause His children.

It is important to understand the reason for the Cross. The gods of the Old Testament would sometimes demand the sacrifice of children to be appeased. Jesus did not die to appease God’s anger and honor so they could love us. God is not more offended by what sin does to God than what sin does to us. The Cross was not meant to change God’s attitude but our attitude toward God. Jesus walked in our shoes, even facing undeserved suffering, to gain credibility and influence. God is not blood-thirsty Creator. God much preferred a “broken and contrite heart” (Ps.  51: 16-17). God went to great means to convince us of their unimaginable love and that their ways were truly in our best interests if we only listened to our hearts.

It is important to understand the traditional meaning and understanding of Hell, where you will burn forever after death for not believing in God while on earth, is a fabrication that doesn’t exist in the Bible. Hell, not a translation but a substitution for certain Hebrew and Greek words, is an invention over the centuries to scare people into submission and obedience. Misinformed interpretations of the Bible are one of the main reasons for unhealthy interactions for some who believe in the God of the Bible. Obviously, killing innocent people is not the same as a fire and brimstone speech. As it turns out God is a respecter of freedom in this life and life after death.

God doesn’t worry about giving us a license to keep sinning. Sin has its own consequences. You can’t yell at your partner and expect to have any kind of relationship. God’s anger doesn’t bring about desired reconciliation. A priority on God’s unconditional love does not do away with holiness but makes it possible. There is no fear in the presence of true love. God did not create laws to build a relationship. The law simply helps protect the innocent, where there is lawlessness, and hopefully points us toward our need for a relationship with our Creator.  The law can’t speak about matters of the heart and actions that lead to regrets eventually.

How do we combat terrorism and misguided ideology? Men who videotape beheadings are simply evil and sometimes the only way to combat such evil is to destroy it. We must confront and inform the law, even on our own family members, when we notice beliefs that can lead to blowing up innocent people. One hint terrorists are misguided is they don’t just blow themselves up to spread their gospel. Jesus didn’t come to conquer the evil Roman Empire; Jesus sacrificed His own life to influence others.

But, what about women who leave their infants with family members and go out and kill innocent people? This may be an evil that we can fight against with more than just guns in the beginning. In the beginning during the radicalization process we can try to convince others of their irrational beliefs. Some may be open to discussions of our and their beliefs. Those who believe in the Creator of the universe must be able to defend how their God believes in the freedom of beliefs. Fear-based ideology that attempts to control our behaviors is wrong. Any religion that is based on control than service is not truly religious.

Why Did God Create Freedom Since Leads To So Much Suffering?

Some may find it difficult to have a meaningful relationship with God when they think about all the suffering God allows here on earth. Why doesn’t God at least interfere more in their suffering or the suffering of others? How we define God’s role in suffering can determine whether we experience God’s support or abandonment in tragic times. Sometimes, the emotional pain can be as challenging as the physical pain.

It is not logically possible for God to create freedom without the possibility of moral evil. God creating a perfect universe in the beginning cannot guarantee a perfect world will develop. God clearly values ongoing freedom because of all the suffering allowed in the world. Free will is surely understandable as terrorists only think controlling or destroying free, moral decisions results in true love. Are there plausible explanations as to why a loving God allows freedom?

Without freedom we could accuse God of not creating the very best world where only true, authentic relationships can develop. God’s interference may prevent a superior world from emerging as a result of the moral development and improvement of free creatures. Freedom allows human to develop qualities of moral character that cannot be created initially. Dependence on miracles or instant fixes doesn’t lead to moral progress. The guarantee of a pain free universe cannot involve freedom. I don’t know of any human parent who brings children into the world not desiring their children freely reciprocate their love as opposed to being forced.

If freedom and determinism are compatible, then a loving God could have created a world in which all persons freely did only good at all times. I would suggest not even God could have created a perfect being in the first place to not sin if allowed freedom, even though Adam and Eve were not impacted by previous sinful choices or negative influences. God respecting freedom requires certain actions by God. One option we have is to trust that the current world we live in with the presence of freedom is the very best world that can be created under the circumstances. God does not prevent, overwhelm, or destroy freedom.

God choosing to not interfere in suffering on earth may be the most compassionate. If I force my rebellious son somehow to do right presently, he may further rebel or stay away forever. If I am patience and allow time for possible moral development (time on earth), then he may freely choose to live with me forever in heaven. God didn’t create suffering so we have to build a healthy dependence on Him; God created freedom in the beginning because they love us.

Suffering is horrible and is often nonsensical. Why doesn’t God at least interfere in horrific atrocities such as the Holocaust? Job asked God why the righteous suffer so long and the wicked are allowed to prosper. Job finally admitted to God he wasn’t capable of overseeing a free world. Besides, where does God draw the line? One child sexually abused is horrific. Underserved suffering enables me to better help others heal from such injustices. Challenging and seeking to understand God may lead to trusting God can see the bigger picture.

There would be more evil if God didn’t remain in our lives to influence us. God can bring good from what was intended for bad if we will accept guidance. God risked creating, but we parents do the same knowing our children will experience suffering, because of the possibilities of joys that come from relationships. God didn’t abandon us. God came in person and faced undeserved suffering in hopes to influence all of what leads to a better world. God has stayed with us and can at least control the ending of our story. God can handle our questions as we consider assuming and trusting God created the very best world which of course included freedom.

*I am indebted to Kevin Timpe, Free Will in Philosophical Theology, for many thoughts above

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