"A major belief of Christians, is that God knows everything, created everything and has a plan for each one of us. Satan was originally an angel, but he fucked up, by trying to become bigger than God."So God banished him to Hell--or, in effect, gave him his own "Heaven" to rule."
Okay. First off, I need to address a specific misconception. God didn't give Hell over to Satan to rule as his "heaven." Hell was created as a punishment for Satan and his angels. Scripture reference (the first of many):
'Then (God) will say to those on his left, 'Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.'" (Matthew 25:41)
"Hell" isn't ruled by anybody; it's a place for eternal punishment. Satan doesn't have a 'kingdom,' per se; he's the proverbial outcast, and heaven--the only place he ever really wanted to be--is forever barred from him.
1)"God created everything, then surely He must have created Satan.
You're right. God created everything; even Satan.
You can't contradict this by saying that God creates no evil, because Lucifer wasn't evil to begin with."
I won't. "God creates no evil because Lucifer wasn't evil to begin with" is true--the (only) power that Satan has over the earth and man is the power of corruption--destroying good by changing it into something less than good. He cannot create; he can only pervert. I'll go more in-depth when you do.
2)"If God knows everything, then He must have known that Satan was going to rebel eventually. So why did He let it happen?"
Yes, He did know. "So why did he let it happen?" You mention free will later on, so I'll leave that issue alone for now, yet that's the ticket right there (with minor corrections to your word-usage ... bear with me)
"I've been presented with the argument that without evil, we wouldn't be able to appreciate the good things. But what about the Garden of Eden, the paradise God made for Adam and Eve to live in? If they had passed the test and not allowed themselves to be tempted, God would have let them stay there, and they wouldn't ever have seen any evil. Surely God can't get things wrong? So what was that all about?"
That argument, that "without evil, we wouldn't be able to appreciate the good things," is well meant but inherently flawed. It insinuates that both good and evil are equal, separate; that's not Christianity. That's Taoism; or, at best, Dualism. Remember what I said about Satan's power of corruption? That's the real, Christian definition of "evil." So, that means there cannot be "bad" without the "good," but there can be "good" without the "bad." Therefore, without the corrupting power of Satan, we would all still be living in the Garden of Eden. We would still be appreciating the Good without the Bad, because the Bad would not exist. That also solves your problem about "badness" in heaven; I'll clarify when you get to that.
3) "About God's little plan... the entire universe, so I'm told, is all involved in God's "perfect" plan. So Satan must be too. And I can't bring myself to believe that a perfect, flawless plan would allow evil to be so rife in it."
God's Plan for the world is perfect, whether you believe it or not. Yet just because God's plan is "perfect" doesn't mean that it won't be without its hardship. You said it yourself; the world is "rife with evil." But one of the mainstays of the Christian religion is that bad things happen for a reason. That may sound trite and tired to you, but hear me out. In the same fashion, "Two times two is four, three times three is nine, four times four is sixteen" sounds trite and tired to someone who's just learning the multiplication tables. When you're struggling to learn something, and you're still trying to wrap your mind around it, the repetition of it makes you just want to gag, to shut your ears, to push it away. Yet without those simple tables, we couldn't do algebra, or calculus, or physics--it's a basic truth that we have to accept basic things to move onto higher things.
So how do I know things happen for a reason? Well, how do you know that three times three equals nine? Or even that one plus one equals two? I know it because my mother taught me that way, and that my math teachers verified it once I got into school. If you really think about it, everything that you "know" is either stuff people told you was true (history, mathematics, ecology, geology, the revolution of the planets, etc.) or stuff that you "perceived" as true (colors, smells, textures, etc.) It is very possible that the "facts" of history are flawed, because the sources of the facts can be slanted or false themselves. The only way for a person to combat this is to find as many possible "outlooks" on history and to find out which one is the right one. History happened once, and only in one way--it is the person's responsibility to find the "most right" of all perceived possibilities.
Likewise, the five senses are subject to interpretation by a person's brain, and therefore subject to "bends" such as color-blindness, deafness, or dyslexia. The brain can even be subject to outright falsity (hallucinations, paranoia) as through mental illnesses like schizophrenia. The only way to show that these "bends" are indeed false is to find the "real" way to view things. And there is a "real" way--if there wasn't, then there wouldn't be "wrong" ways to view/sense things, otherwise words like "blindness," "insanity," "dyslexia," and "schizophrenic" would have no meaning. There has to be a meaning to all of this...otherwise why get up in the morning?
So, I know that everything happens for a reason because it says so in the Bible, and it was verified by those knowledgeable in the Christian faith. Sure, some people say that everything doesn't happen for a reason, and that the Bible isn't the holy, inspired word of God ... just like some people could say that there is a tiger in their closet, the sky is in fact green, and the Canadians are out to get us (shh! Don't tell anyone!). These people could write extensive papers on the subject and maybe convince other people to think the same way.
"Two plus two does NOT equal four! Revolt, citizens! Revolt!"
That's what is happening when you say that there is no reason, there is no God. You're denying something that is inherently true as mathematics. You don't believe it? Well, learn your multiplication tables. I never said it was going to be easy, because God never said that it was going to be easy. But if you try... really try, not just say you do and wait and see what happens... you'll find that you'll start to believe it. The truth will start making itself known, and your prayers will start being answered. Whoever told you that becoming a Christian would solve all your problems is full of crap--it won't prevent bad things from happening to you. I'm not even going to try and convince you of that...and even if I tried, you'd be smarter than that to believe it. But the difference between that reality that you left behind and the one you will enter into--that you will go through life depending on God's grace to see you through, and praying for Him for strength to get you though it; and, more importantly, knowing that everything is happening according to His plan--is that you won't be alone in your struggle. Before you were a Christian, you were fighting alone. All alone. Maybe you weren't even fighting. But if you trust in the Lord your God, you will not be alone. The very author and creator of the entire universe will be behind you, beside you, and within you. And through His power and grace, you can do anything. It will still be hard, but you won't be alone. And that's the most important thing.
"God has allegedly given us all free will. This means that we can choose whether or not we accept Him and do the right thing. So all the people who go to Hell because they're not Christians deserve to be there for not choosing God. Our creator is "just" and so is his law."
1)"God gave us the free will Christians all seem so chuffed about, so we make our own decisions. Therefore, the consequences are entirely our fault..."
"But didn't the thought ever occur to anyone that this means we don't actually have free will? You see, if He has already planned everything and knows everything, then He knows whether or not we will choose Him and whether or not we will do the right things or the wrong ones. Surely, it must be part of His plan? Otherwise, He obviously doesn't have control over everything and He's not the almighty God His followers claim He is."
That isn't a profound realization. The Bible goes on and on about God's omniscience. But the difference between God knowing what path you're going to take and Him condoning it are two different things. And, like you've already been "told" (but I'll tell you again), sin was not in God's plan. Evil came into being as a corruption of good, and sin (on the part of humankind) is the result of giving into that evil. And God hates sin with every bone in His body. It is distasteful to him, and it also sorrows him because it makes his dearest creation unable to hear His voice. There was once a time in human history where a belief in the Christian God was a "duh" just like the blueness of the sky. But that all changed. Why? Free Will. You'll deal with that more extensively in 3, so I will as well.
2)"Unbelievers go to Hell, simply for not believing. I find this unjust, brutal and morbid."
Well, good for you. I find gravity unjust, brutal and morbid, too, but there's no fighting it on earth; I can jump off the roof and say "I don't believe in you, gravity!" but I'll still crash to the ground. :) Most of the things that are true are very hard for those who are just learning them. I used the analogy of mathematics last time to understand the acceptance of Truth, but it doesn't work in this particular instance: there is more than one way to get a sum of 6, 12, or 5,110. Yet there is only one way to true life and a greater understanding of the creator: acceptance of Jesus Christ as your savior from your sin.
Think of it this way: 4 + 1 only has one correct answer: 5. A child just learning her numbers may forget that it is a plus sign instead of a minus and write 3 instead of 5. She is wrong because she interpreted the sign incorrectly, not because her sense of math is faulty. She just needs to be educated a little more. She may have more trouble with 4 x 5, but that's not the point; once you learn to add correctly, you can learn to multiply. What matters is that it is indeed a plus sign, and 4 + 1 only equals 5, no matter how you look at it. And some people may be so convinced that 4 + 1 equals 6. "It makes more sense that way," they argue. Sure, maybe it does. But that doesn't make it any less wrong. Some people are closer than others: the people who are convinced that the answer is 6 are a lot closer than the people who think 4 + 1 equals 41. Yet regardless, 4 + 1 will always equal 5, no matter what. You can argue until you're blue in the face, but it still won't make a difference.
And how do I know that 1 + 4 = 5? You can argue that one all day long. "What is one? What is four? Is it not only an illusion?" As CS Lewis said, "Don't talk damned nonsense." Let me jump out into traffic in front of a mack truck. "Watch out!" Someone yells. "It's going to hit you!"
"What, that?" I reply. "That truck is only an illusion! I don't believe in trucks!" Splat. The fact that I didn't believe it didn't make me any less dead. And, more importantly, it begs the question that if a simple thing that 1 + 4 = 5 is only an illusion and dependant on a specific "viewpoint," then there is no reason to life itself. And that isn't an encouraging thought.
As it is, you have two choices--one, you can try to make it to Heaven on your own. You can try and be a "good person," and earn God's favor through your own actions. Remember the Old Testament? That's what that's all about. Trying to make yourself holy through your actions. It would have worked, back then, but as time progressed mankind became so astray from God that there soon was nothing people could do under their own power to make themselves holy. And God saw that coming--as He sees everything coming--and so he revealed to the Jews that there was to be a Messiah that would rule them, reunite them, and save them. If a person was completely and utterly Good, then yes; they would prove to be a good creation and earn their just reward. But we can't do that anymore. That isn't an option for us, because our nature is so perverted. And since option one is closed to us now, that only leaves option two.
Two. Mankind cannot be "good" on its own, and so Jesus died to redeem us. Everyone (including myself at one time; and still on occasions) get caught up on the "Why" and "How" parts of that. But ultimately, it doesn't matter. It happened. Somehow, 1 + 1 = 2. It is the only option left.
"There are so many good people in this world who are just not Christians, and according to the Bible, they are all burning for eternity simply for not knowing Jesus."
You bet they're good! I'm not arguing that one at all. But are they perfect? I severely doubt it. If you can find me one (provably) good person on this earth, that had never sinned or done any wrong in their entire life, intentionally or unintentionally, then I'll take my place in line for oblivion, right next to you. I'll even bring snack food. But they don't exist anymore. God says Himself: "I am the way, the truth, and the life; no one comes to my Father except through Me."
And what is "good"? Without the knowledge of a Deity with a form of rules to go by, "good" is just an illusion. And that can't be right, because when someone wrongs you or me we know it. You may counteract that with the retort that it wasn't "wrong" for the person who did the deed. Oh, yes, it was, and he probably knew it, too. But he counteracted that knowledge with a "she deserved it", didn't he? He bent the known rule to make an exception for himself. He didn't say that it was "right." He knew it was the wrong thing to do, but he did it anyway.
It's so important in the Christian religion not to judge people on their fate after death. No one knows except God whether this person or that person is really going to Hell. A man who makes a last-minute conversion to Christ as his plane goes down could go to Heaven, and a long-suffering "man of God" can go to Hell because he really didn't believe at all, no matter how much money he gave to the church and no matter how much time he spent in it. Only God knows what's really in people's hearts.
Let me go off into a tangent: what happened if that pilot (who was just saved) just got done murdering his wife and kids? "How dare he," you say, "say that he's going to Heaven! He is still a horrible human being!" You bet he is. He broke the commandment 'Thou Shalt Not Kill'", and for that he deserves the punishment of eternal death. He proved he was a defective creation. But, you know what? Everyone is a defective creation. Everyone has broken one (or all) of the Ten Commandments. Think about it; no, really think about it. Really. Indulge me. Have you ever stolen something, no matter how small or insignificant? Have you ever lusted after something that wasn't yours (the sin of coveting)? Have you made some personal gain the be-all and end-all focus of any part of your life (the sin of idolatry)? We've all sinned in the eyes of God. Really. No, really. And what tells us that besides God's word, the Bible? That little feeling in our hearts that makes us sorry for what we did; guilt. And the knowledge that what we did was wrong. CS Lewis, in his Mere Christianity and Miracles essays, often said that Reason, the ability to know right from wrong, is the clearest way that God reveals His identity to us. "If the universe had no meaning," he said in one of my favorite quotes, "we should have found out that it has no meaning." Think really hard... If there really is no truth in the world, why do you feel so awful after you wrong someone else? Don't justify it by saying he or she "deserved" it, because that begs the question that this was something that is only okay if it is "deserved." Which means that it isn't good in itself. Which means the theory of "is it not only relative?" goes right out the window.
So does that make it "right" that even though the pilot killed innocent people, when he was "sorry" for it God forgave Him? No! Because that isn't what happens! And if you'd read a little more into it, you'd find that out.
You can be sorry all day long for your sins. But that doesn't change anything. The deed is still done, the action committed; those people are still dead. What that guilt is there for is to make you realize that there are no inherently good people, much less yourself. There is no one alive on this earth today that is completely and utterly "good," which is precisely the reason why Christ dying for our sins is so important. A lot of people are better than others--Mother Theresa was a wonderful example--but she alone could not have gotten into Heaven without her faith in God and her belief in the saving power of Christ. She may have been 'as good as it gets,' but she wasn't 'good enough;' and I think she would have agreed with me on that.
You think it's wrong, to say that if someone repents and believes in Christ, that they'll be forgiven and the sin omitted? "That's too easy!" you scream. You bet it's easy, once you actually believe it (and that's all it takes). But the thing is, when the tables are turned and we're the ones facing punishment, we will tend to believe that this is a very good method after all. You may want the person to suffer for what they've done to you, but that's your problem. You need to get that vindictiveness out of your system, because it's harming no one except yourself. I know that one from experience.
I have known so many people in my life who were "good people" but didn't believe in God or come to accept Christ. Does it sadden me that they might go to Hell? Yes. It sure does. But I can't make their decisions for them--if they don't believe in that mack truck rushing at them, no matter how hard I scream at them to get out of the way I can't make a difference. It's not in my power to throw myself in front of the mack truck for them; that's been done before, anyway, and by someone greater than I, if they'd just believe it. One of the ways that He saved me was that He told me the mack truck was there in the first place.
And you say that they're "good." Where is that definition of "good" coming from?
"If God loves us all so much, why are our chances to gain salvation cut short into our few measly years on earth? If He really wanted us all to turn to Him, why doesn't He give us slightly longer out of the eternity we allegedly have with Him in order to ensure more of us end up dancing forever in heaven and less of us end up burning forever in Hell? One of my favorite websites I recently discovered puts it brilliantly. "What would you think of a father who said to his child, 'Love me by the time you are six, or I will bake you in the oven.'" In this case, the parent gives the child a choice, but what kind of choice is it?"
Okay. You're forgetting the omniscience of God; something that you went on about before and will again later on. God has your entire life planned out already; "all the hairs on your head are numbered," remember? The difficulty in seeing that is because you're thinking within the constrains of time and space. God is not a 3D character that sees time pass like we do. Every time I say a word it's automatically in the past; as soon as I say "now" it immediately loses meaning. This is now...oh, no, wait. That was then, and this is now, and now I'm now looking toward the future... Wait a minute. Now? It just passed. Okay, here it comes--or is it, "there is goes?"
That isn't the same with God; the "Christian" God, mind you. He is outside of our time, and therefore he can see the whole picture. He is several steps above our 3D. How do we know this? Because Nature (a "catch-all" word that I stole from CS Lewis to denote the entire world, all her creatures, and all time constraints) is His creation; His "footstool." The artist isn't the painting, nor does he dwell within it; he is the master of it and sovereign over all. Yet that's hard for us to imagine, because there is nothing that we can smell, taste, see or touch here that isn't within the confines of time.
Let me put it this way (and how Lewis put it before): let us pretend we're all squares. Flat squares on a piece of paper. What would a box seem like to us? We only have the knowledge of going up and down and side to side; forwards and backwards are not only insane notions to us, they're not even words. They're not even ideas that we can process. We can gather ideas in short bursts that maybe, just maybe, a side-to-side movement and an up-and-down can be combined somehow, but we can't wrap our minds around it and give it an actual name. It's beyond our understanding. That seems like a cop-out. But try and figure out what a "squared-cube" would look like. Or a "squared-squared cube (or a cubed-cube)." Remember, line squared is a flat square. Square-squared is a cube. What about after that?
Are you seeing my point?
The God of my faith, the Christian God, knows that path you're going to take because he has the ability to see the entirety of your life at once. His time isn't our time. He is outside of it. He has it all planned out: remember the reason to life that I told you had to be accepted earlier? Everything God has planned out is precisely the way it is supposed to go, because He not only sees it happening, He knows it's happening before it happens. Therefore, it doesn't surprise Him when, in your path from point A, you decide to skip point B and go directly to point C. Point C is the direction you're supposed to go all along.
Your site's "brilliant" analogy is inherently flawed. God, as the father of your analogy, gave the child six years to love him because he knew that the child had that power to do so within six years. Even if you die tomorrow, you will still have enough time to repent and go to heaven if you choose it. Because "now" is the time you realize it, and "now" is when you start acting on it. And that is enough. God always gives you enough "time" to do what He wants you to do. It is up to you to actually go through with it.
"Unless we do what God wants, even if He fails to tell us what that is, we get tortured by Satan for all eternity."
God already told you what he wants, so you can't give me that excuse. You can pick up a Bible from any bookstore. Just swipe one from a hotel room; that's what the Gideons put them there for. You're just refusing to believe it. You have that guilt inside you that tells that there is a Higher Law, and that knowledge that however hard we try, we all fall short of it, but you still refuse to see it. To see what a perfect cop-out we have in Christ.
"What about the people that honestly don't know about the Truth? Some guy that's stranded on a desert island since he was a baby and survived until adulthood and then perished--where is he going, Heaven or Hell?" Well, it's not really up to me to decide. It's up to God. I don't really know for sure.
"Ha! I have you!" you say. "Miss Christian doesn't know!" But don't start celebrating yet. When you become a Christian you don't automatically "know" everything. Whatever gave you that idea? I am perfectly warranted to say "I don't know" by my faith; even more so than you, because I know that man is imperfect. I have come to accept the 1 + 1 standards of "right" and "wrong," and since I know that my nature falls within the majority of the "wrong" category, of course I can't be right all the time. You, on the other hand, you better be right all the time. You don't have a standard; you don't have the "excuse" to not be otherwise. You had better be sure that you know everything, because you don't have any other choice. Admitting you don't know everything is the first step into admitting that there just might be a God; and you can't have that, now can you?
And once you come to the realization that there is a God, how foolish would it be to question him? He's dealing with stuff we can't even comprehend.
3) "God gave us free will so that we could choose to love Him. If He forced us to, we would simply be robots, and God doesn't want that. He wants us to love Him truthfully, through our own choice not His, because that is real love. I couldn't agree more with this."
Then you are closer than you think.
"However, what about Heaven? It says in the Bible (haven't found the reference yet) that sin cannot exist in Heaven."
Really? Where does the Bible say that? You should have found the Bible reference before basing your argument on it. Because I can't find it either; maybe it's next to that Bible verse that says that God wears yellow rubber boots. :) But I can see what you're getting at. As best as we can infer: indeed, there will be no sinning in Heaven. When you sin, it's because you are susceptible to the effects of the Fall; man's inherent nature to give into and condone sin. In Heaven, that part of you will be wiped away, because you've accepted God's grace through Jesus Christ.
"Therefore, neither can free will (exist in heaven), because sin cannot exist without free will."
Wait, hold on there. Free will isn't the source of sin. It's us choosing the wrong actions and coming to the wrong conclusions with it that makes the sin. Food isn't what makes us fat; it's when we abuse it. Think of salt: you need a little bit of salt everyday for the iodine. But if you overdose on iodine, you die. Yet that's not a good analogy because free will isn't something we can take only in "small doses" and be okay. It's either we use it in the right way, to make the decision to love God as a choice, like you said before; or use it in the wrong way, to reject Him. In Heaven, there's no danger of us making the wrong decisions. Aren't the decisions that you make based on your conviction that there is no God? Well, in Heaven, there's not going to be that problem; you as a person will be in the full glory of God and there will be no chance in being mistaken in that context. Plus, the want that you have to sin--your sinful nature--is going to be entirely gone; you're going to be a completely new person. And that doesn't necessarily make you a robot.
How so? Well, what is "sin," anyway? Can you agree with me that it's when we do something "bad," like steal or murder or covet? Then what's the problem with that part of us being gone once we get to Heaven? Free Will is still going to be present, but we're just not going to be susceptible to the perversion of it. That's due to our sinful nature of the flesh and by the devises of Satan, the great Deceiver. (One slight tangent this time: people say that Christians think that the "sinful nature of the flesh" automatically has something to do with sex. Good grief! Sex isn't wrong! It's how God chose for us to procreate, for one thing. The thing that's wrong with that is the cheapening or the abuse of it. The sinful nature of the flesh that I'm talking about is that the human body inherently doubts and goes against God's Will, and is essentially easily tricked by the Deceiver.)
But isn't that too easy, to say "the Devil made me do it?" You bet. Even though he has a lot of power here on earth, there are ways that God has revealed himself and prevents you from being fully under Satan's throw. Therefore, to say that you had no choice to do otherwise is a cop-out. Of course the devil tempted you, and he can be extremely persuasive. And even though you try as hard as you can, you can't resist him all the time. But what you can do is to realize that (more often than not) when you do sin, only God's grace through Jesus Christ will make that horrible thing undone.
"Back to the earlier point about Satan. He was kicked out of Heaven for sinning against God. Therefore, sin must be allowed in Heaven, right?" (Part I)
Only in the regards of free will. Sure, you could sin, but it wouldn't be in the same way that you sin on earth. When you sin on earth, you are giving into the temptations of the flesh and of the devil. Both don't exist in Heaven anymore, so you wouldn't have anything to worry about there. Plus, would you want to? You are in a place full of happiness and light, a place were you are surrounded by the love of a parent for his children. You are in the perfection of Nature. Why would you want that garbage? Since those temptations are no longer in Heaven, there would be no grounds for sin (remember, "sin" and "bad" are corruptions of good, not a separate entity from it. Get that Taoist crap out of your mind.)
"Back to the earlier point about Satan. He was kicked out of Heaven for sinning against God. Therefore, sin must be allowed in Heaven, right?" (Part II)
Right. But the correct formation of the statement that it "was allowed in Heaven." Satan--formerly Lucifer, even though some still call him that--was once an angel, and he was once good. But he wanted to stage a coup and take over the throne; he became evil then, through his own choice. Again, as I said, Free Will is still very much a part of heaven, and part of an angel's makeup as well as a human's. But Satan, when he sinned, chose to become evil. We gave into Satan's urgings and went against God, and that's how we Fell; Satan became horrible because he chose it under his own power. One thing a person has to realize is that all things good come from God, and all things bad (the perversion of good) come from the Devil. We can do nothing under our own power: that is going to be a really hard thing for you to believe. But, if you finally admit there is a God, wouldn't you also admit that he, when he made us, gave us a little of his goodness and Reason? Just because we're inherently bad doesn't mean that God made us that way; it just means that something had spoiled us. Remember, bad is a "perversion of good," and not a separate thing. Think of it as a rusty old car: the rust is corrosion of the metal, right? So, in the sense that you can have the metal without the rust, you cannot have the rust without the metal. Without good, bad ceases to exist; yet without bad, good lingers on.
Maybe you want to bring up the "robot" argument again. Yet you can't say that just because we are made inherently good in Heaven after we die, a creature again in God's creation without sin or blemish, the way we were meant to be, we are automatically robots? I guess you could think that if you derive all your identity from your faults. But I'm not proud of my slothfulness, my doubt, my lust, and my pride; I hate them, because I know that they are the influences of the world that separate me from my God and, on a different level, I know that they are wrong in my heart because I feel it through the Reason that He's given me. I don't like to think of them as my "identity"; and neither do you, if you stop to think about it. You try to cover up your faults around other people, don't you? You know that they're bad, deep down inside; whether you admit that or not is up to you.
Why did Satan want to take over the throne? Again, I'm pulling the Christian card here: I don't know. Obviously he thought he had something to gain from it, and obviously (to those who understand) he failed miserably; though he succeeded in causing mankind to Fall, he didn't succeed in forever separating them from God if they choose not to be separated. For that's what he is trying to do, the vindictive little crap that he is: he's the one that is whispering to you, "there is no God," even though he knows very well that there is one. He's trying to pull the wool over your eyes. Look at all the evil in this world; something must have happened to cause it. And the knowledge that these things are "wrong" speaks to the fact that they haven't always been that way. We may have gone wrong, but Satan was the instigator of it. And, if we put our faith in Christ and let Him help us, believe that He indeed died for our sins, even if Satan turns up the heat (ha, ha) down here and makes our lives a living Hell (snicker), he still has no power of our fate after death. Because we understand that our nature makes us unable to be saved in our own merits, and we understand that only through the grace of God through Christ will we ever go to Heaven and be reunited with Him. Only by Grace will we ever be made anew. And that shows the depth of God's love.
4) "Jesus loves you! Or does He? A quick look at Jesus' so-called ultimate sacrifice for those who may not quite understand it the way they should!"
"Read the Old Testament. You are almost sure to open it on a page where God is getting revenge in His people, or killing entire nations for one man's sin. Then in the NT, everything changes. Jesus appears and suddenly He and God start talking about peace and love and kindness...doesn't quite add up. It says in several places in the Bible, e.g. Revelation 11:27, that God never changes. So if he was vengeful then, as His is in Isaiah 66:24, then surely if he never changes he must still be nasty and cruel now."
I can't help your misinterpretation of Jesus as a "goody-goody" or the Old Testament of only fire and brimstone; it shows your ignorance of the Bible as a whole, and that's your fault and not mine. But the "Jesus" God wasn't alone in preaching love and kindness: Proverbs and Psalm's "Jehovah" God speaks of it, too, as well as in the more "fiery" books like in Isaiah: "This is the one I esteem: he who is humble and contrite in spirit, and trembles at my word." (66:2; coincidentally a mere 22 verses from your "bloodthirsty" part). What about Song of Songs, an Old Testament book filled only with love poetry? How bloodthirsty is that? "Oh, how beautiful you are, my darling! Oh, how beautiful! Your eyes behind your veil are doves. Your hair is like a flock of goats descending from Mount Gilead"! (4:1) Revelations is one of the bloodiest books in the Bible, for all the symbolism; likewise Ruth in the Old Testament has barely any violence at all..
Likewise, don't assume that Jesus was meek in the sense that he was weak. He rebuked Satan himself and stood up to him, and was the only person on earth who ever did that and succeeded. He frequently called the hypocrites on their vices (and not too 'meekly', either; remember these were the ruling authority), toppled sellers in a temple (that ticked the Jewish people off, no doubt; and you know what happens when you tick off society), and endured interrogation and taunting from Caesar's men and his officers. And do you know how painful crucifixion was? Everyone else did back then; let's see if with that threat hanging over your head you would have still stood your ground and not have begged for mercy, even if you'd known it would've been in vain. He may have been God, but he was Man, too, remember, and He felt pain in the same way that we do now.
It may get tiring for you to hear all the time "Jesus was the ultimate sacrifice," but we've gone over this before. Just because you're on overkill from hearing the same thing said to you thousands of times before doesn't make it any less true. Believe me, I wanted to poke my ears out back in fourth grade when I was learning the multiplication tables; I was so sick of hearing: "six times six is thirty-six, six times seven is forty-two, six times eight is forty-eight" and on and on and on and on and on! But you know how I got over that? I learned the truth. I learned my multiplication tables. And when I saw how they worked in higher maths as I went on in school, I started to appreciate them more.
The point about God being all "showy" in the Old Testament rather than now... that's a great question. Yet that was back in the times before Jesus came to earth to save us from our sin, and so God had to be showy to get his point across. Also, it wasn't like it happened with every little transgression. It wasn't like some child stole a loaf of bread and suddenly the clouds parted: "STEVEN! WHAT did I TELL you?!" The interventions of God happened at very important times in the history of his chosen people, not sporadically (or, on the other hand, it didn't happen all the time.) The Old Testament is, among other things, a history book; and, as it is now, only important, life-altering things are recorded.
Now, it is different. Christ came to the world to save us. Now the conflict is entirely inside us, and God's voice has moved inward. He already did as best he could--he sent his son to die for us. Now it's entirely up to us. It may not seem right, but that's how it's going to work. We just have to accept that. And ultimately, it's better this way.
"And Jesus died so that God didn't have to roast us all. Well, then why didn't He just NOT roast us? It's not that difficult to do, and what with Him being God and everything, it wouldn't exactly have been very hard to do."
Very astute observation. But you're completely sure of God's omniscience, and you still doubt His motives? Keep in mind that there are no parallel universes where "this" could have been "that"; all we have is the past and all we have is the future, and God is the only one who can see both clearly. What we have of the past is what people have told us; all we have of the future is uncertainty and educated guesses. But to think of what might have been? That's only for philosophical quandaries and romance novels, not as a basis of faith. God's plan is complete: not just because he is perfect, but also because his plan is the only plan there is. That may sound arrogant, but so does the statement that 1 + 1 only equals 2. I'm sorry, but you need to accept that.
We went wrong. God gave us a way to be redeemed; if we choose not to take it, He will dispose of us as we deserve. If something has gone bad in the fridge I throw it away; it has no use to me anymore. Don't get me wrong--God loves us all, and wishes with all His heart that we would take the out, the detour, the bridge. But if we're stubborn, and we refuse it...well. Then we don't deserve it.
"Therefore, Jesus dying on the cross for the sins of the world is pretty pointless. Especially as He rose again 3 days later--that's hardy the ultimate sacrifice! I would die for the sins of the world if I knew that 3 days later I would be alive again!"
CS Lewis said it best, and this (rather long) quote answers that perfectly. I'd advise you to read it all.
" The one most people have heard is the one I mentioned before--the one about our being let off because Christ has volunteered to bear a punishment instead of us. Now on the face of it that is a very silly theory. If God was prepared to let us off, why on earth did He not do so? And what possible point could there be in punishing an innocent person instead? None at all that I can see, if you are thinking of punishment in the police-court sense. On the other hand, if you think of a debt, there is plenty of point in a person who has some assets paying it on behalf of someone who has not. Or if you take 'paying the penalty,' not in the sense of being punished, but in the more general sense of 'standing the racket' or 'footing the bill,' then, of course, it is a matter of common experience that, when one person has got himself into a hole, the trouble of getting him out usually falls on a kind friend.
Now what was the sort of 'hole' man had got himself into? He had tried to set up on his own, to behave as if he belonged to himself. In other words, fallen man is not simply an imperfect creature who needs improvement: he is a rebel who must lay down his arms. Laying down your arms, surrendering, saying you are sorry, realizing that you have been on the wrong track and getting ready to start life over again from the ground floor--that is the only way out of our 'hole'. This process of surrender--this movement full speed astern--is what Christians call repentance. Now repentance is no fun at all. It is something much harder than merely eating humble pie. It means unlearning all the self-conceit and self-will that we have been training ourselves into for thousands of years. It means killing a part of yourself, undergoing a kind of death. In fact, it needs a good man to repent. And here comes the catch. Only a bad person needs to repent: only a good person can do it perfectly. The worse you are the more you need it and the less you can do it. The only person who could do it perfectly would be a perfect person--and he would not need it.
Remember, this repentance, this willing submission to humiliation and a kind of death, is not something God demands of you before He will take you back and which He could let you off if He chose: it is simply a description of what going back to him is like. If you ask God to take you back without it, you are really asking him to let you go back without going back. It cannot happen. Very well, then, we must go through with it. But the same badness which makes us need it, makes us unable to do it. Can we do it if God helps us? Yes, but what do we mean when we talk of God helping us? We mean God putting into us a bit of Himself, so to speak. He lends us a little of his reasoning powers and that is how we think: He puts a little of His love into us and that is how we love one another. When you teach a child writing, you hold its hand while it forms the letters. That is, it forms the letters because you are forming them. We love and reason because God loves and reasons and holds our hand while we do it. Now if we had not fallen, that would all be plain sailing. But unfortunately we now need God's help in order to do something which God, in His own nature, never does at all--to surrender, to suffer, to submit, to die. Nothing in God's nature corresponds to this process at all. (...)
But supposing God became a man--suppose our human nature which can suffer and die was amalgamated with God's nature in one person--then that person could help us. He could surrender His will, and suffer and die, because He was man; and He could do it perfectly because He was God. You and I can only go through this process if God does it in us; but God can do it only if He becomes man. Our attempts at this dying will succeed only if we men share in God's dying, just as our thinking can succeed only because it is a drop out of the ocean of His intelligence: but we cannot share God's dying unless God dies; and He cannot die except by being a man. That is the sense in which He pays our debt, and suffers for us what He Himself need not suffer at all.
I have heard some people complain that if Jesus was God as well as man, then His sufferings and death lose all value in their eyes, 'because it must have been so easy for Him.' Others may (very rightly) rebuke the ingratitude and ungraciousness of this objection; what staggers me is the misunderstanding it betrays. In one sense, of course, those who make it are right. They have even understated their own case. The perfect submission, the perfect suffering, the perfect death was not only easier to Jesus because He was God, but was possible only because He was God. But surely that is a very odd reason for not accepting them? The teacher is able to form the letters for the child because the teacher is grown-up and knows how to write. That, of course, makes it easier for the teacher; and only because it is easier for him can he help the child. If it rejected him because 'it's easy for grown-ups' and waited to learn writing from another child who could not write itself (and so had no 'unfair advantage'), it would not get on very quickly. If I am drowning in a rapid river, a man who still has one foot on the bank may give me a hand which saves my life. Ought I to shout back (between my gasps) 'No, it's not fair! You have an advantage! You're keeping one foot on the bank'? That advantage--cal it 'unfair' if you like--is the only reason why he can be of any use to me. To what will you look for help if you will not look to that which is stronger than yourself? "
May God bless you in your endeavors, and may you finally see the Light. I hope that I have helped clarify these questions in some aspects, but there are some things that only a "look for yourself" can cure. I encourage you to educate yourself in the Christian faith, if only to find out "what it's really about" or those nagging questions that I haven't answered (or sparked by this essay). You might be pleasantly surprised.
Lewis, CS. Mere Christianity. HarperSanFransisco, 1980. pp 55-59. (quoted)
Lewis, CS. Mere Christianity. HarperSanFransisco, 1980. (in general)
"Gleechumber". Why It Sometimes Doesn't Work For Me. 12 April 2003.
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