Posted by: minnow | August 7, 2009

GOD QUESTIONS

In my previous post I answered questions about Jesus.  These were asked by someone I met blogging.  Her next questions, about God and God’s character,  were a little more troubling, possibly because of the discussion we had been having.  I may be reading more into them then is present but I get the feeling if I answer wrong I could be written off as a heretic, not by my friend but perhaps by others.   Of course, I may have gotten the first questions wrong as well, especially concerning Christ’s mission, however, describing God’s character seems a bit more daunting

 These were her questions: “Do you believe God is holy? Do you believe He is so holy that He can not be in the presence of sin? How do you believe God sees our sin? Do you think God is sovereign? Do you think God is still loving if He allows people to be murdered, raped, sick?” 

 To begin with, I believe God is both holy and sovereign.  By holy I mean worthy of devotion and perfect in goodness and righteousness.   By sovereign I mean having supreme authority.  In other words, what God determines to accomplish will be accomplished without contradicting His nature.  As His creation our role is to reflect His righteousness and goodness.  This purpose was revealed by Christ’s life before and commandments to His followers.

Bluntly, the question: “Do you believe [God] is so holy He can not be in the presence of sin?”  irritates me.  In the first place, the implication is I better answer the question yes.  However answering yes messes with a doctrine I completely embrace, the doctrine of God’s omnipresence and omniscience.  If God cannot be in the presence of sin than He can not be present everywhere nor would He be able to know everything.  I realize the idea He can not tolerate to be in the presence of sin (or evil) is popular but it is not Biblical.  In fact, in Job 1 Satan presented himself directly before God.  Surely if anyone is evil or full of sin it is Satan.  Furthermore, being in the presence of sin really has no bearing on whether or not God is holy.  In fact the opposite may be true, because of His holiness or purity, God may be more capable of being in the presence of sin without it impacting Him.

 The question: “How do you believe God sees our sin?”  could be asking what I think sin is or it could be asking how I think our sin makes God feel.  I do not think it is asking me to put a value on sin, for example sin is bad, or evil, or an abomination.  But just in case–I think God sees sin as death and death as undesirable.  As the author of life our Creator is grieved when we choose death.  Yet, at the same time He has given us the freedom to choose.  Now before you start thinking, “Gotcha” too loudly let me remind you how Jesus reinstated Thomas.  Even after the others told Thomas they saw the resurrected Jesus he refused to believe, saying: “Unless I see in His hands the prints of the nails,…I will not believe.” The next time Jesus appeared before the disciples Thomas was with them.  Jesus said to Thomas, “Reach your finger here and look at My hands…Do not be unbelieving, but believe.”  When Thomas told Jesus he then believed Jesus replied, “Thomas because you have seen Me, you have believed.  Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” (John 20:25-29).  Jesus did not give up on Thomas even after Thomas refused to believe.  Instead He found another way.  Now I believe those of us who believe in Jesus before we “see Him” (die) will be blessed, but I do not believe our physical deaths mark our last chance to believe.

My friend’s last question: “Do you think God is still loving if He allows people to be murdered, raped, sick?”  actually expects me to deny the goodness of God or conclude that God is not culpable.  In other words, God lets  people go to hell (ultimate bad thing) because they do not choose to believe but He does not cause them to go to hell (forget that if hell is true He is the one who made up the rules).  Again, I have problems with the underlying message of this question.  The bad things that happen, while essentially caused by the fall are often not the result of our direct choices.  We do not choose to be raped, murdered, or sick.  So, equating these non-choices with not choosing God and thereby choosing hell does not translate.  Secondly, the bad things that happen on earth are temporary unlike our traditional definition of hell.  So, even though they are not pleasant we can say their temporary nature and the ability of God to use them for our ultimate good (drawing us closer to Him) makes going through them worth  the pain.  Finally, saying God can intervene (He is all-powerful) but chooses not to does not rid Him of culpability.  It only paints Him in an even uglier light.  To illustrate my point, think of an earthly mother who could stop her child from running into the street, but doesn’t.  The child is killed and the parent says in her defense, “I warned him what would happen. but he chose to ignore me.  Just because I could have stopped him but didn’t is not my fault.  He needed to learn a lesson.”  Not one of us would agree with that mother’s self assessment.  Instead we would think her pitiless.  And, the permanent nature of the situation makes calling it “a lesson” absurd.  BUT, to answer my friend’s question: Yes, I believe God is still loving even though bad things happen to people–good and bad people a like.  God’s love for us is not manifest through our circumstances.  It is manifest by His constancy within our circumstances. 

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Responses

  1. I don’t think you should be offended by any questions I ask. It’s simply me trying to see how all the different viewpoints fit in your head. if I ask questions it’s because I’m trying to see things from your perspective you’re giving — and they are questions that I see somebody asking me (if I stood in your position) that I wouldn’t know how to answer from your position. They either hold contradictions or my mind or I simply can’t see the bigger picture of how u make it all fit together so that’s why I ask. You don’t have to worry or be paranoid about me trying to ‘trap’ you into a conversation or trying to call you a heretic or anything of the sort. I have no desire to ‘win the debate’ and what you believe really doesn’t have a barring on what I believe. I don’t need you to beleive what I believe. I respect your opinion and having more answers just helps me understand your view and how things all piece together in ur mind – because really any one debate/argument in theology affects so many of the other viewpoints they are all so interwoven.

    I actually do not believe that God ‘can be in the presence of sin’…. maybe a better wording is… God’s holiness demands that he chooses to not be in the presence of sin? I don’t know how I’m trying to phrase it really…. but I do believe that God is so holy that a sinful person who has sin ‘not covered’ will not see God. Not to say the HOly Spirit can’t be ‘around’ sin. Obviously it can and it does – or nobody would be saved. So I’m not sure of all the details I’m really not – but I believe that God’s Holy ness does demand sin to not go unpunished – all the way back to lucifer, adam & eve to today.

    I am not sure that we are His children without accepting Jesus. I just don’t know that to be true or not so I can’t relate to the last paragraph. I don’t know though… which is a common quote from me. “I don’t know” but because I don’t know – I will stick with what I believe until I see an argument that I can understand and support with scripture…. rather than believing nothing. I can’t prove anything either way and I’m okay with my argument not making sense logically and being irritating, traditional and foolish even.

  2. Randi–Please understand that I am not upset that you asked me questions inorder to understand where I stand on various issues. I am disturbed by the question itself. This might only seem like a matter of symantics but honestly, some questions do imply certain answers are correct and other answers are incorrect.
    You are certainly allowed to believe whatever you want to believe. I am merely trying to understand WHY you believe what you believe. It could be as simple as, “because I want to” or as complicated as how Calvinists defend their doctrines. If you tell me however that you believe what you do because the Bible says A B or C I am likely to try and point out WHY I think the Bible does NOT say what you think it says OR I will agree with you saying I understand the Bible to say the same thing you say it says.
    If for example, you say the Bible says: “A person must believe in their heart and confess with their mouth a faith in Jesus in order to be saved (avoid hell)”, I will show you why I do not agree with that conclusion according to scripture. I will also ask you to explain to me how that can be seen as loving or JUST in light of the fact that it would mean babies and developmentally disabled people, etc. would go to hell since neither one of us can find an exception to the rule clause anywhere in scripture that lets babies, etc. off the hook. Now if you tell me “I just believe it is true and I don’t know why” then I say fine. I can’t argue with that. Believe whatever you want. Same thing goes for believing God can’t be in the presence of evil. I have shown you where according to scripture that stance is wrong. I have also shown how it contradicts the idea that God is omnipresent. But, if you want to go ahead and believe it fine.

  3. […] argue against a literal interpretation of an eternal place of torment.  You can find some of those here, here, and here. My most recent post to reference hell was in June of 2013 and can be found here. […]


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