The term will probably not work its way into your casual conversation any time soon. However, it may play a part next time someone talks to you about your faith. It should play a part next time you talk to someone about yours.
Nonbelievers give many reasons for believing that God does not exist. Some say they cannot reconcile modern scientific thinking with belief in God. Some say that there is not enough historical evidence.
Then there is an entire category of questions about God with a different common theme: judging God’s character and actions. In this category, questions like the following are asked:
- How could God allow evil and suffering?
- How could God send people to Hell?
- Why would God put a tree in the Garden of Eden, knowing Adam and Eve would eat of it?
- Why would God make only one way to Heaven available?
These are certainly legitimate questions, which Christian thinkers over the centuries have treated with care. But, notice the common denominator. The real alternatives assumed in these questions are not whether God exists, but whether he is justified in what he does, assuming he exists.
Here’s the thing…
Discussing God’s existence and judging God’s character are two very different endeavors. Yet, people act as though how God exists determines if God exists. It is as if they are saying only when God’s character and actions are acceptable to us will his existence be plausible to us. Continue reading “How Could Someone Who Does Not Believe in God Judge Him?”
The problem of Hell is one of the most frequently asked questions about God, and one of the hardest to answer.
As with most questions about God, there is a lot behind this question. How do we reconcile the Biblical descriptions of Hell with a God who does not just show love, but as the Bible says is love? How could Jesus show so much compassion for people, and yet talk so explicitly about eternal weeping and gnashing of teeth?
What is behind this question differs from person to person. Some people would word their question better by asking, “Why would God send a person who sinned for a few years to hell for all eternity?” Some would ask, “Why would God not just forgive everyone so no one would have to be punished?”
Whatever emphasis resonates, the basic question remains the same. Why would a loving God send good people to Hell?”
Here’s the thing…
When we take our time to clarify what we mean in what we are asking, the answer reveals itself.
When we clarify certain things about God, we see that God’s love and judgment are complementary, not contradictory. When we clarify certain things about ourselves, we see that God’s justice is exactly that, justice. When we clarify certain things about Hell, we see that the solution for it is not the eradication of it; it is salvation from it. Continue reading “How Could a Loving God Send Good People to Hell?”
As quotable as C.S. Lewis is, my favorite quote of his has to be the following:
I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen: not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else.
As was his style, in this one statement he says so much. The Christian worldview is not without its evidence. However, multitudes of skeptics over the centuries, to include Lewis, have been convinced, not only by the truth they see in Christianity but also by the truth that it enables them to see.
We can categorize worldviews at the most general level by their concept of ultimate reality. They may be defined by how they answer questions about the nature of being, namely “What is there?”—what philosophers call ontology—and “Where did it come from?”—what philosophers call cosmology. Based on their answers to answers to these questions, every worldview essentially falls under one of three categories: naturalism, pantheism, or theism.
There are worldviews that affirm ultimate reality as ultimately physical. That is to say, “there is nothing more to the mental, biological and social realms than arrangements of physical entities.” These worldviews are often grouped in the category of naturalism.
There are worldviews that affirm ultimate reality as ultimately spiritual. That is to say, there is only “a single spiritual entity, of which the physical world must be understood as a partial manifestation.” These worldviews are often grouped in the category of pantheism.
Finally, there are worldviews that affirm ultimate reality as ultimately “owed to one supreme Being, who is distinct from Creation.” That is to say, there is “a dualistic relation between God and the world,” typically asserting that God is both transcendent, existing outside of and being sovereign over the physical universe, as well as immanent, existing inside of and being involved with the physical universe.
These descriptions are massively oversimplified by necessity. Each category includes a long list of specific philosophies and religions, many of which have precious little in common with others in the same category. Some seem to be more viable options than others. Some have many more adherents than others. However, the one thing that unites them is their view of reality, what is ultimately ultimate.
The question we have now is, which one is ultimately right? Continue reading “Both Sides of Every Story”
The problem that the atheist has in the problem of evil is that in atheism there shouldn’t be a problem.
The problem of evil is a problem for everyone. It is a problem from the stage at a philosophical debate to the table at a corner coffeehouse. People struggle with the problem of evil because people struggle with evil.
Christians struggle with thinking and feeling our way through the problem of evil as much as anyone, and often more so. We are forced by reality to ask ourselves how we can believe in an all-good, all-powerful God that allows all this pain and suffering. Nevertheless, we understand a few things.
- Logically, there is no reason to believe that the existence of evil and the existence of God are contradictory.
- Emotionally, as terrible as pain and suffering are, Christianity offers the resources to find a peace that passes all understanding.
- Existentially, there is hope in the fact that Jesus Christ took on himself the consequences of evil and demonstrated his power to ultimately deliver us from it.
In Christianity, we have both definition for and deliverance from evil.
But, what about the nonbeliever? The problem of evil is typically offered as evidence that God does not exist. It is usually the atheist who leaves the problem at the feet of the Christian and demands an answer. However, “Criticism without alternative is empty.”
So, what answer does atheism offer for the problem of evil?
Here’s the thing…
It doesn’t, because it can’t. Continue reading “The Other Side of the Problem of Evil”
It is a riddle that philosophers have pondered, skeptics have flaunted, and theologians have debated for centuries. If God is all-powerful and all-good, then why is evil so rampant?
If God is all-powerful, then he would be more than able to rid the world of evil.
If God is all-good, then he would be more than willing to rid the world of evil.
But, there is evil in this world. Everywhere, it seems. So, what’s the deal?
Is God able but not willing? Then he is not good. Is God willing but not able? Then he is not powerful. Either way, he is not God.
Popularly attributed to 4th-century philosopher Epicurus, and popularized by 18th-century philosopher David Hume, this form of the problem of evil poses the question: How can we reconcile the existence of evil with the existence of God? In other words, if God exists, why is there so much evil? The philosophical/theological debate rages to this day.
However, the problem of evil is a problem for everyone, not just philosophers and theologians. We see horrific things happening every day. When we are on the receiving end of that evil, we find that no amount of philosophy can soothe, and no amount of argumentation can heal. In those movements, believers are left with their faith shaken, and unbelievers are left with their doubts confirmed. The pain and suffering leave us wanting, not an argument, but an answer.
So, is the evil we see in the world the indictment against God’s existence that so many for so long have said it is?
Here’s the thing…
Evil, both moral and natural, with all the pain and suffering it causes, does not drive us away from God. It drives us towards God.
3 Reasons to Believe that Miracles are Possible
In a few weeks, millions of Christians around the world will celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ. For many of them, the resurrection has become more about commemorating a tradition than about affirming a doctrine. Nevertheless, as we saw last week, the bodily resurrection of Jesus from the dead is central to the entire Christian faith. Historic Christianity does not just affirm a generic idea of resurrection, nor does it hold to a spiritualization of Jesus’ resurrection. Historic Christianity, that is Biblical Christianity, is founded on the miraculous event of Jesus Christ’s death by crucifixion and physical resurrection.
Yet, believing in such an astonishing miracle has become increasingly difficult in this age of skepticism. For some people, miracles are a deal breaker in terms of religious belief. Many adhere to Christian ideals and admire Christian contributions in the world. But, accepting a miracle as anything more than a symbolic myth seems too backward for the modern mind.
The late Christopher Hitchens, bestselling author and ardent atheist, frequently debated Christians in a formal setting. He often began his cross-examination by simply asking his opponent, “Do you really believe that Jesus rose from the dead?” When the Christian predictably answered yes, Hitches would turn to his audience and declare, “Ladies and gentlemen, my opponent has just demonstrated that science has done nothing for his worldview.”
The accusation is straightforward, but it cuts deeply. Can a person appreciate modern science and at the same time believe Biblical Christianity with its insistence on the reality of miracles?
Here’s the thing…
I believe you can. The following are three reasons why.
Continue reading “Believing in Miracles in an Age of Skepticism”