Friday, November 10, 2017

ANSWERING QUESTIONS FROM AN AGNOSTIC

WOW!! Over 600 views in ten days for my "Story of the Black Coffin!"  That's just so awesome, all I can say is THANKS to all those who took the time to read and share my silly story.  Today's post is something completely different, but I hope that it will be even more widely read.  Not long ago, a friend of mine named Brandon posted a series of questions about God, whose existence he seriously doubts, on my FaceBook page.  I tried to answer them in a FB post, and he came back with an even longer set of questions in his next few posts.  Some of them are a bit redundant, but I felt like, as a believer, I owed him an answer.  So, over the next couple of weeks (it took MUCH longer than I originally planned, because of my busy schedule), I tried to answer what he wrote.  This is the result - his questions in black, my answers in red.


                         BRANDON’S QUESTIONS


Why does God make natural disasters, and kill his people???

First of all, like many, you confuse what God made with what God allows.  The story arc of mankind is creation, fall, redemption, and restoration.  God gave us a perfect world in the beginning.  But we were incapable of simply enjoying that gift; we screwed it up, and all the evils that beset creation stem from that fall so long ago.  Because of that original disobedience, all mankind is mortal, death is our inevitable fate.  It is neither good nor evil, it simply is.
Why does he let people rape children who are supposed to be with him (preachers)???

God created man with free will.  It is our greatest gift and our greatest curse.  What men do with that free will is up to them; however, God holds all men accountable for their deeds.  Jesus Himself said: “If any man causes one of these little ones who believes in me to stumble, it would be better for that man if a millstone were tied around his neck, and he were cast into the depths of the sea.”  Those who hurt little children in God’s name literally have hell to pay.  God’s justice doesn’t move on our timetable, but it is still just.
Why doesn't he come back???

God is still here.  He never left, never quit being the creator and supreme judge of the earth.  The only aspect of God that departed from the earth was His living incarnation as a man, Jesus.  He completed the task set before Him two thousand years ago, and his physical, mortal form left the earth.

Where did he go???

Once He had completed the mission for which His Father sent Him to earth, Jesus returned to His throne, and resumed His place as part of the Godhead.
If no one knows the answers then how do we know anything???

Saying “no one knows” is a false premise.  You cannot know the mind of everyone on earth, so you can’t know say that with any accuracy.  How do we know anything?  With historical events, you go with the preponderance of surviving evidence, based on physical relics and eyewitness testimony.  With scientific principles, you go with hypothesis, theory, experimentation, and proof.  You can’t “scientifically” prove a historical event happened, and you can’t “historically” prove a scientific theory has validity.
You say from the book, what if the guy just passed out and came to, and everyone thought he had come back from the dead??? There was not microscopes back then, no doctors, etc... Could have been a LOT different than the book reads..

As a historian, I can tell you one thing – Romans KNEW how to kill people.  Read through the Gospel accounts, especially John’s Gospel.  John stood at the foot of the cross. He watched Jesus die, and after Jesus was dead, he watched a legionary ram a Roman spear (known as a pilum) through His chest, piercing his heart.  That’s the only way that you would have had blood and water (the clear fluid that surrounds the heart) flow from the wound mixed, as John noted.
  But, OK, say Jesus by some miracle survived.  They wrapped his body in cloths soaked in spices and sealed him in a rock tomb on a hillside in Jerusalem.  It was April – overnight temperatures on Mt. Zion can drop to the forties and fifties that time of year.  What happens if you take someone who has endured severe shock and trauma, wrap them in wet cloths, lay them on a cold stone slab, and seal them in a chilly cave?  They slip further into shock and DIE!

Even if Jesus somehow, despite all that, survived and crawled out of the cave, how did He get past the Roman guards?  How did He convince the disciples that He was the risen Prince of Glory when he was a pathetic wreck of a human being, unable to walk on His lacerated feet, or use His nail-pierced hands?  Of all the purported explanations for the Resurrection, this is the weakest – so much so that most educated skeptics don’t even bother with it any more.
Why would you put your whole existence on a book wrote a long time ago???

All of human history is inscribed in books written a long time ago.  How do you know George Washington existed?  Or Napoleon?  Or Julius Caesar?  As a professional historian I can tell you the Gospels pass the test of history as well as any other written document from the ancient world.
Man who could have been high or drunk or just making stuff up???

Multiple independent sources recounting the same set of events?  Not to mention that Jesus’ disciples endured whips, jail, beatings, exile, and in all cases but one, eventual martyrdom for their faith.  What kind of men die for a lame, baseless lie KNOWING it was a lie?  The best thing they could have done for themselves would be to forget they ever knew Jesus and go back to their fishermen’s nets.  But instead they proclaimed His resurrection right up to the day they died.
Besides, if Jesus was really dead, all the High Priest would have had to do would be to place His rotting body on a wagon and drag it through the streets of Jerusalem.   The whole city would have seen that the disciples were peddling a lie, and Christianity would have been strangled in its cradle.

There IS NO WAY to know for sure, you say evidence???

There is no way to know for sure that any historical event really happened.  You have to go with where the evidence takes you.  Some people have analyzed the evidence for the Gospels and found it wanting; others find it quite convincing.  For me, the Resurrection of Jesus is the most plausible explanation for the events surrounding the origin of Christianity. No alternative theory I have read fits the available facts even half as well.  As one scholar put it, “There is a gaping hole in history that is the size and shape of a Resurrection.”
Then why do people spend their whole lives trying to convince people he is real???

Well, for one thing, we were commanded “Go ye therefore and teach all nations.”

The fact is, we are commanded to love our fellow men.  When you love someone, you share life-changing truths with them.  The Good News of Jesus is too wonderful NOT to share!
If there was no doubt there would not be people doing this, as I said you don't see people walking around trying to convince people that the sun is real....

There will always be skeptics about everything, whether they are Holocaust deniers or folks who say the moon landings were fake, or Flat Earth Society members.  Historians, by trade, spend their lives educating people about things they will never be able to see for themselves. Think about this: no one alive today witnessed the Big Bang, and yet nearly all scientists agree that it happened.  No one has ever seen a black hole, but all evidence points to their existence.  God always provides some proof before asking us to have faith.  The clues to His existence are everywhere!  In history, in science, in geology and physics, countless indicators point to a prime mover, an uncreated creator, something or someone who willfully set the cosmos in motion.  When Jesus returned from the dead, Thomas refused to believe in Him at first, saying that he would have to put his finger in the nail prints before he would accept that the Master had really come back.  When Jesus appeared to him and held out His nail-scarred hands, Thomas sang a different tune. He fell to his knees and cried “My Lord and my God!”  Jesus chided him gently: “Because you have seen, you believe? Blessed are those who have not seen, and yet believe!”  That’s us.  We can’t see the physical Jesus as they did, but we believe anyway.  And we are blessed for it!


And if God makes everything, then why when a hurricane hits a place and everyone's houses and stuff are ruined, they say, thank God we are ok???? I mean that is insanity right there!!!! He was the one who made the hurricane, WHY would you be happy with him???


God MADE everything. Past tense. He created the world a perfect and beautiful place; man’s sin wrecked, twisted, and distorted what God had made.  So to say that God is to blame for the hurricane that devastated Houston is to overlook the responsibility that man has for polluting, breaking, and corrupting the beautiful home God gave us.  Say you are a master carpenter who built a house and made it sturdy and strong, and gave it to your children to live in. They proceed to spend the next few decades abusing, neglecting, and trashing it.  Then one day one of them leans against the balcony and it breaks because he was beating on it with a hammer, or using it for target practice with his pistol. Are YOU to blame when the bannister breaks and topples him to his death?  But, to answer the second part, people who love God give thanks to Him for all the gifts He gives, most of all for the gift of life.  Every day of life on this planet is another day to live, to love, and to tell our fellow men about the God we love.
I mean, IT MAKES NO SENSE!!!!!!
I need actual answers not a made up excuse of why things happen..

Well, the thing is, I’m giving “actual answers.” But if you make up your mind NOT to believe, you’ll decide my answers are not enough and go on demanding other, different answers.  On the other hand, if you have an open mind, maybe you’ll think about what I have written and decide to dig deeper.  The beauty of it is, God allows us freedom of choice.  We can accept Him or reject Him, as we see fit, and He will honor that choice, in this life or eternity.


There are so many unanswered questions that it is hard to believe...
I can't trick myself into believing.

It’s not a matter of “tricking yourself.”  Yes, faith is hard.  Every single believer in the world struggles with doubt at one time or another – it’s part of having a brain that works!  But the more I look into the mysteries of life, the more I see an invisible hand at work, something greater and deeper than the imagination of man.  And my faith gives my life meaning, purpose, and joy!
I need answers..
One more thing, a whole lot of the things we take for granted today was made or thought up by someone who did not believe in God.
So how is that possible???
God doesn't save lives, Doctors do...

But who made the mind of man?  We create and invent because God placed within all of us a spark of himself, the desire to alter our environment to suit our needs, the desire to create, with our hands or with our voices or with our minds, things that others will see and admire.  One doesn’t have to be a believer to make us of the natural gifts God gave us all.


Again I will finish with, why do people have to convince other people that it is real???

For one thing, Jesus commanded His disciples to “Go therefore and teach all nations.”  People can be remarkably ignorant – as a teacher, I see that every day.  I have to convince my students of all sorts of things that they simply refuse to acknowledge or don’t believe to be true.  Some folks will reject the clearest and plainest of evidence when it contradicts an idea or value they have held for their whole lives (like when you try to convince someone from Mississippi that the Civil War really was about slavery!).
When clearly things that are real do not need an army of people to make them believe in it...

How many people completely deny climate change, despite the scientific evidence that it is indeed real?
It just doesn't make sense...
That's all..
In my opinion religion has capped the brain. People can't get past it, it is ruining us...

Many of the greatest works the world has ever seen are products of faith.  Religion – the desire to be a commune with the divine – is generally morally neutral.  It’s what we DO with our religion that makes it good or bad.
Terrorist are a product of religion.

Some are. Some are products of communism, which is purely atheistic in its philosophy. Some are products of nationalism or an individual’s desire for power and dominion.  Terrorism is a product of MANKIND; since Cain and Abel we have needed little excuse to go out and kill each other.
And if gods knowledge is so difficult to understand by us humans. How do we know the terrorists are not right in what they do???

God has revealed enough of himself; his final revelation came through Jesus Christ.  Jesus never ordered His disciples to hurt anyone; he introduced a new Covenant with man that was meant to be spread peacefully.
Because we don't need a God to tell us that it hurts when we lose a loved one..

No, but the healing love of God can do much to make that hurt endurable.
Why does God not fight the other gods and get this mess straightened out????

Because there is only ONE God, and He would look kind of silly shadowboxing Himself.
Anyway I could go on and on...

 

Pretty greedy, arrogant, demanding, etc... wouldn't you say???
Yes, humanity is all of those things.  And the gods we create in our own image are too.

And again that's the problem for me, no way to know...

Debatable.  There are many things we CAN know for sure, and then from there we progress from knowing to believing.
You can’t go knock on the door and get some advice.

Sure you can!  I’ll send you my address! LOL
You have to rely on a book.

A collection of 66 books, actually, written over a time period of 1500 years or so, with an incredibly clear and consistent message.
That NO ONE takes or acts on literally.

Um, the fact that there are over a billion Christians in the world – actually, closer to a billion and a half – would argue against that statement.  As far as the old argument about taking the Bible literally – the Bible contains history, poetry, prayers, laments, parables, and many other forms of expression.  Some of it is literal, some of it is symbolic, or else simple figures of speech.

What I mean is there is a bunch of stuff you don't hear about.
People make this stuff up as they go to suit the situation.

I am not sure exactly what you mean by this.  People are endlessly creative, and man does invent some silly and even destructive religious ideas (Scientology).  On the other hand, if you live your life by the teachings of Jesus, you will be a better person for it.
Example- a person can rape and kill a child, go to prison, find God, get out of prison and have a better chance of getting a job than I.

Child killers RARELY get out of prison, unless they plead mental illness.  But I see what you mean.  Some folks in prison truly convert; they reform their lives and become better people, one of my close friends was a shoplifting, drug-addicted thief who found Jesus in prison and is now a pastor, married, with a beautiful family.  But, some people fake religious conversion in order to try and get paroled, then go straight back into their old lives.  The question devolves on who REALLY believed, and who didn’t.
All because he got his head dipped into some water...
That guy hasn't stopped having the thoughts.

Faith gives some people the mental and moral strength to overcome temptation.  Others are so damaged by their addiction to sin that they cannot change, even if they try.  And some simply fake trying in order to secure release.
And most people that do that go back to prison for the same thing as before.
I'm just saying the current system is not working.

If you are talking about the legal system, I agree!
And I think it's simply because it's not real...

God or the legal system? LOL!

A hurricane hits landfall and destroying everything in its path and killing innocent God loving people.
Then after the hurricane ( that God created ) people say, thank God we are ok..
So how messed up is that????

See above.
So because it's God he can do some bad things and not get in trouble???
Kinda looks like that's how our society is built, if you do wrong, just go to your local church and get saved and all is forgiven.

By God, sure, if you truly repent. But that does not negate legal consequences.  You can plead Jesus all day long, but you still gotta pay that traffic ticket!
I'm sorry but this is not healthy...
It's backwards...lol..
Seriously though, if he was a real person and did these things, everyone would hate him..
So why is it OK for God to just randomly kill people????

God doesn’t “randomly kill people.”  Mankind is MORTAL.  “It is appointed to me once to die, and after that the judgment,” as Scripture says.  Why should we be any different from every other life form on earth?
Why should we worship someone like that???

Your view of God is distorted by the evil actions of men.
Why don't people give an intelligent answer after the hurricane, like, this is the part of our God that we don't like, when he sends natural disasters our way.

Most intelligent believers I know would say: “This is what comes of living in a broken world.”
Now that would make a lot more sense than saying " thank God we are ok" ...
It just doesn't make sense.. lol..
But thank you for taking time out of your busy schedule to talk to me.. I do appreciate it.

Sorry it took me so long to get back to you.
Because I would really like to know the answers to my questions.

Hopefully I’ve given you some food for thought. 

 

If you want to read more, Lee Strobel has written some great books – THE CASE FOR CHRIST, THE CASE FOR FAITH, and THE CASE FOR A CREATOR.  They handle a lot of questions like yours on a fairly basic level, but each chapter and topic have their own bibliography, so you can read much more detailed answers on the issues and questions that bug you the most.  Thanks for providing me with some very interesting fodder for my blog!

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