In this post, I want to talk about how some people look at the pain in their lives or the lives of others and decide that:
a) God isn’t a God of love
b) God doesn’t have the power to stop bad things from happening
c) God doesn’t exist.
Tomorrow I’ll return to the issue of hell and punishment etc.
Had we not already experienced the reality of God’s love, my wife and I could have looked at the death of our only biological child and say that a God of love does not exist.
. We could look at our brain damaged adopted children and say that God isn’t capable of preventing such problems.
. I could look back on my 50 years of crippling arthritis and say that God may in fact be a sadist.
. I could look at my childhood sexual abuse and wonder how God could just sit back and watch it happen.
. We could suffer along with our youngest adopted son who is in the bottom 5th percentile intellectually and say if there was a God who started things, He’s long since left the building.
Yes, if Wendy and I hadn't ALSO experienced the palpable presence of a loving God day in and day out, if we had only experienced all the other sorrows and difficulties that come with this existence then there is a good chance that we might say that based on the life that we’ve been dealt, God is not a God of love. As many, many people have done, we could conclude that any God that would condemn people to an eternity of unparalleled agony is in no way a God of love. We could say that. It isn’t true, but for some people there is enough evidence to allow them to turn their backs on God.
For the sake of argument, I'm going to propose that God does exist. He is the Creator. He is the First Cause. He is a monster and a savage, sadistic Creator who allows sorrow and evil to spread like gangrene. Everything that Chris Hitchens and Dennet and Dawkins and others have said about Him is true. Creator God is cold - heartless - manipulative. He’s the ‘God of the gottcha’ as some describe Him. Yes, He’s all these things and more - but
- He is God
- He is real
- He exists.
Not only does He exist, it’s also true that things are turning out just like the Bible has said. History is winding down. World events, from naming Cyrus the Great by name, by the prophet Isaiah, 160 years before Cyrus came on the scene, to the prophesied combination of widespread denial of God’s existence in concert with widespread acceptance and promotion of the sexually disoriented, and finally to the world-wide persecution of the Christian Church that is well on its way, all are playing out as only a real God could predict and bring about.
God is real and you don’t like Him one bit. So be it. But there is a problem isn’t there? There’s a dilemma to confront. Something important needs to be dealt with. If God is real, and there’s a great deal of evidence that points to His existence, then that means that Hell is real too. Like it or not, in fact hate it all you want, our Creator God says emphatically that we either get on side with Him or we’re gonna pay - big time.
Get on side? You mean there is a chance to escape this kind of punishment / torment?
That’s what the Bible says. That, in fact is what God said when He came to earth in the form of Jesus. The Bible says that
“God was in Jesus Christ reconciling the people of the world to Himself.”
God seems to have created not only Hell. He has created a way to escape going to Hell. He has said that if we place our trust in Jesus, if we obey Jesus then He, God, will take us to paradise. He describes Heaven as a place that has no more pain or sorrow, no more fear or guilt or despair.
In fact Heaven is exactly the type of place that atheists say a loving God would have made for us now - if He actually existed.
But if Jesus is God and if God is a monster and if I’m to obey this monster, don’t I have to compromise my own set of values to come on side with Him? Well, no actually. While hell is nothing more than a means for justice to be served (and atheists are HUGE fans of justice - at least in regard to it being done to other people), there seems to be a side of God that we cannot in any way describe as monstrous.
In fact, this Jesus, who is God, seems to actually be a person of Love.
So here we are:
. Pain and evil do not negate God’s existence. The existence of pain and evil actually confirms the Bible’s diagnosis of our nature.
. God allows pain and evil to exist for a short time. As it turns out, He uses it for our eternal good.
. God is a God of love who is willing to rescue us, at His own expense, from an eternity of torment.
. Because He is a God of Love, it is logical to assume that the horrific punishment that unforgiven sinners will one day incur upon themselves is only difficult for us to understand now, because we don’t comprehend the monstrosity of sin. In fact we accept sin. In many cases we don’t just tolerate sin, we celebrate and nurture sin, even as it destroys us and our relationships.
. Because He is a God of Love, there is a reasonable and logical explanation for the presence of pain and evil in our world now. We don't understand pain, even though we (both religious and non religious) can in hindsight see the good that it has brought about in our own lives. We don’t understand pain, but Jesus explains how it is only through suffering that the believer is changed from a self-obsessed, self-loving horror show to someone who is able to love others with an intentional, deliberate, willed, volitional Christ-like love.
Like Him or hate Him, God is real. God is a force that needs to be acknowledged and reckoned with. Just because you don’t like a certain reality doesn’t mean that you can make it go away by pretending that it doesn’t exist.
This might be your last day to decide which side that you’re going to be on. I can tell you from experience, as can almost two billion other believers, that the word Love hardly describes how wonderfully God treats those who have turned their allegiance to Him.
Blessing upon blessing fills my days.
Mercy upon mercy envelopes me as I live in a hostile and angry world.
I and other Christians are not promised, nor do we experience freedom from the sorrows of the world. The reason that we no longer interpret those struggles as coming from a “monster” God, is that we, as adopted members of God’s family, are now immersed in His loving presence. We’re given His guidance and counsel and freedom from guilt. We have been set free from the power of sin to destroy us.
Believe what you want about God. Boldly claim, if you wish, that you would never worship a God who allows such pain in the world or who would cause such a great punishment for the "intellectual" position you now hold. You are free to do that, but you will also experience the consequences of that decision. Or, if you are wise, you are free to accept God as Lord of your life and experience the consequences of that decision. Good luck on your journey.
“One day every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord.”