Please consider this post without judgment. I’ve been a Christian for twenty years, but sad to say, I’m at a significant crossroad.
First let me express, I’m not debating whether God does or does not exist. My personal experience has left me without a doubt there is a loving, personal God. It is my Christianity that is at stake.
I want to be a Christian. My large family is mostly Christian; I promised God I would raise my children as Christian. I love Jesus. Unfortunately, the more I study Christianity and the Bible, the harder time I have using logic to understand it.
When I ask other Christians for guidance, the response is always the same. I’m given a plethora of verses considered definitive proof. Sadly the verses have the opposite intended effect. Here’s why:
The Bible requires circular reasoning. This is non-debatable fact. If I found a book on the street and the cover says “written by God” and the inside pages say “written by God” and all the people around me say this is “written by God,” that is not proof that the book is written by God. Try describing the sky for a blind man. Difficult as it would be, the word “blue” couldn’t be included, for the color holds no meaning.
Bible verses are often difficult to understand. Sure studying helps, but you’re absolutely limited by the one teaching you. For example: Is the Bible to be taken literally, allegorically or a combination of both? And Revelation? There are at least four variations of thought on this chapter alone. Did you know that some Bibles contain more books than others? At least salvation is cut and dry, right? Not exactly, see below: Salvation Is Not Free. And if all this isn’t enough to confuse you, visit my post http://www.blogher.com/test-your-knowledge and test Old Testament/New Testament knowledge.
Bible verses are often not enough to provide the full picture of Christianity. On the most simplistic level, explaining the Christian God not only requires jumping from book to book, from the Old Testament to the New and back again, it also requires additional explanations, explanations that don’t always incorporate logic. Don’t believe me? Compare the number of verses specifically referring to free will to the number of verses that specify predestination and God’s control over man’s choices. Yet, free will is a critical Christian concept for explaining why God allowed sin in the first place.
For those reasons and more, Bible verses have only served to cause me more grief. What am I to do? While I wait for an answer to prayer, the next option I have is logic. After all, not only did God give me the ability to process thought, but also a moral compass to guide that thought.
DID GOD MAKE A MISTAKE? The Riddle of Epicuros:
“Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able?
Then he is not omnipotent (God is not all powerful).
Is he able, but not willing?
Then he is malevolent (God is not good).
Is he both able and willing?
Then whence cometh evil? (Satan, the Fall and sin)
Is he neither able nor willing?
Then why call him God?”
The concept of this riddle is simple: Why did our all-powerful, all-knowing, all-good God, allow sin/evil to enter our world? If He knew Satan would destroy eternal life for His beloved man, why didn’t He do something to stop this from happening in the first place?
The typical Christian response does not come directly from Bible verses, but from the concept of free will. God could interfere with our free will, but He chooses not to, despite the costs. Why? Because free will is essential to our existence. After all, we would be nothing but robots without free will. God didn’t want robots. He wanted us to experience the true meaning of love. He wanted us to love Him freely. We can’t love Him freely without having the ability to choose. We chose to disobey. Thus we are sinful.
AN INACCURATE ANALOGY
Personally, the robot argument has always made me cringe. Robots have nothing to do with free will. They’re inanimate objects. They have NO thought process. No feelings. No blood, no breath, no soul.
Consider a pet dog. Dogs can express fear, loneliness, happiness, etc. They can’t read or write but can solve problems (ever seen a video where a dog raided a closed fridge or dragged an owner from a burning building). Clearly dogs are not robots. But can a dog be evil? Certainly, a dog can be aggressive, even dangerous. However, is that dog choosing to be evil? More likely such a dog is acting on instinct (hunger, fear, breeding, training, etc.). Let me ask this: Does your dog love you? Is your dog’s love any less valuable to you because he loves out of need/familiarity, not because he chooses to?
Back to humans: God gave us a wide range of emotions: love, frustration, sadness, fear, anger, jealousy, etc. Does being angry or jealous make us evil? Consider this question very carefully, for the Bible has many verses that state the danger of these emotions. But the Bible also clearly depicts God experiencing both anger and jealously. So is God evil? Of course, not. Yet He experiences these wide range of emotions without the requirement of evil.
‘But He’s God,’ you say. ‘God doesn’t have to follow the rules. He makes them. He deserves to get angry and jealous when His humble creations are defiant. We might not understand His ways. God is fair, but just.’ Fine. I can accept the argument that God can be/do whatever He chooses. However, that doesn’t solve my dilemma regarding His choice of punishment. Using logic and our moral compass, how can anyone agree that God’s punishment of eternal suffering (a popular Christian belief) is just?