- "If God is all-powerful and well-meaning, why is there pain, starvation, war, and sickness? Terrible things happen in this world. Human tragedy seems like proof that God could not possibly be both all-powerful and well-meaning. If He loves us and has the power to change our situation, He would prevent our pain, wouldn't He? It seems God is either omnipotent and uncaring, or benevolent and powerless to help."
Answer: Do you have children? Imagine you had an eight year old son...would you love him? Of course. Would you do everything in your power to prevent pain in his life? Of course. Would you let him skateboard? Sure you'd let him skateboard, but you'd tell him to be careful. So, as the child's father, you would give him some basic, good advice and then let him go off and make his own mistakes? You would not run behind him and mollycoddle him, correct? But what if he fell and skinned his knee? He would learn to be more careful, correct? So, although you have the power to interfere and prevent your child's pain, you would choose to show your love by letting him learn his own lessons? Of course. Pain is part of growing up. It's how we learn.
- "If there really were a God of love, the innocent wouldn't suffer."
Answer: If God eradicated everyone who has ever caused pain by selfishness, cheating, lying, gossiping or hurtful remarks, who would be left?
People say, "Suffering is God's fault!", conveniently forgetting times our own anger, greed and lies hurt others. To wipe out some people who cause suffering, and spare you and me, would make God guilty of gross injustice. We have each added to humanity's shame. If there is a God of love, the people he loves and longs to place in a pain-free world are the very ones who cause humanity's suffering.
We are so far from being innocent that we owe our very existence to sin. If, for example, we traced our family tree far enough, we would probably each find an ancestor born as a result of sin - rape, unlawful incest, a despised pregnancy, sex before marriage, and the like. Humanity can boast only one perfect Person. We killed him.
Frequently, we hear or read a comment like this: "I simply cannot believe in a god who permits innocent children to starve and suffer, and men like Hitler and Stalin to murder millions of people." The examples may vary, but the thoughts are always the same. Supposedly, this is "proof" that either God doesn't exist, or that if He does, He either doesn't care about our sufferings, or He is not powerful enough to do anything about them. But suffering is neither proof of God's non-existence or existence.
Saying, "If God exists, why is there suffering?" is like saying "If San Francisco exists, why are there earthquakes?" Do earthquakes occur because San Francisco causes them? Or do they occur in spite of San Francisco? Or do they have nothing to do with San Francisco? Well, we know the answer to that question because we know about San Francisco and we know about earthquakes. But how much do we really know about God? If we define Him by our own nature, then He cannot be of any greater character than ourselves. We may ascribe to Him a greater power than ourselves, but when we suppose that God should or should not act like this or that, then all we are really saying is, "He should act like I would if I were God."
Now, let's look at starving children. The Bible says that in the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. That includes everything necessary to feed and provide for its inhabitants. Can anyone deny that the earth is capable of producing more than enough food to feed the entire globe? Well then, if people are starving, whose fault is that? If God made the earth, is He also supposed to plant and distribute our crops for us? Do you remember the tons of food that were shipped to Ethiopia, but did not reach the starving people who needed it? Whose fault was that?
The reason that over 90% of the masses have barely enough to survive on, is that there is a problem of distribution, not of supply. A tiny minority have far more than they need, depriving the many.
Regarding suffering that is the result of sin, what could be clearer than Romans 1:28–29 and Galatians 6:8–9? The unbeliever may stomp about with all vigor and complain that it is "bigotry" to associate the rise of AIDS and other diseases to sin; that biblical morality is narrow-minded, outdated, and totally wrong. But this fact is unalterable: In a society where biblical morality is abandoned, suffering always increases. Where biblical morality is followed, suffering always declines. Always. (Isa.59:1-4).
As to Hitler, Stalin, street gangs and senseless murders: Would any of these things happen if people followed the teachings of Jesus? Do you realize what this world would be like if people simply followed God's instructions? There would be no murder, no wars. There would be no welfare, because families would take care of their own (and families would stay together) and those who did not have families would be provided for by their fellow-members in Christ. There would be no starvation… I could go on, but the point is: God has provided us answers; whose fault is it that we don't seek them or heed them when we find them?
I suspect that those who use suffering as a "proof" of God's non-existence would not want to have their free choice taken away from them, but that's exactly what God would have to do if He were to enforce His will on the earth. For if God were to intervene in the matter of suffering, would He not also intervene in the matter of sin? If He did, He would have to be a dictator. Then how would we react? We would not want that, and according to the Bible, God doesn't want it either. He wants us to obey Him because we want to, not because we have to. And in order to accomplish this, He must allow two things to happen. First, in order to grant us free choice, He must provide us with graphic examples of the consequences of the wrong choice. Secondly, He must allow injustices and sufferings; otherwise he'd provide sinful mankind with every blessing and benefit without restriction. If everything in this life was fair, good and happy, what need would there be to seek a better life? Why would we seek a Deliverer, if there was nothing to be delivered from? Suffering is not something that ought to turn people away from God, but draw them to Him.
- "No loving God would let a bystander be maimed by a drunk driver."
Answer: What alternative can you suggest? If God enslaved the human will, squelching wrongdoing by forcibly preventing us from indulging in our favorite sins, we'd be the first to shake our fists at him. It would be the height of hypocrisy to dare criticize God for not always interfering when tragedy looms. Time after time we have each proved by our actions that we don't want his love and wisdom cramping our style.
A God of love wants the whole world to operate in love, but could you force someone to love you? An involuntary act can have no moral value. It's slavery. Where would the virtue be in any action if it were impossible not to be virtuous? All of life would become meaningless.
One wonders how our economy has survived this long. Incalculable misery is inevitable whenever God's laws are regarded as oppressive restrictions rather than loving expressions of divine wisdom. We spurn God's laws, hurt each other, and then have the audacity to blame God for the resulting disaster. All suffering can be traced back to human wrong-doing - not necessarily the action of anyone presently alive, but to someone's deliberate disregard of God and his ways. There is even a human link to natural disasters. And why didn't God strike that person dead before others could be hurt? Because to be fair he should do the same to you and me.
Only a maniac or an ego-maniac would dare demand justice from God. Though we are too trapped in our own dirt to have a hope of seeing ourselves as we really are, if we could remove ourselves a little, we would realize we all stand guilty before a holy God. We have each added to humanity's pain.
The apostle Paul, one of the most qualified persons ever to broach this subject, discovered that no tragedy could 'separate us from the love of God' (Romans 8:35-39). For nearly 2,000 years, this hard-won insight has been put to the test by the torment of thousands of Christian martyrs who have agonized in triumph, rejoicing in the goodness of God. Include all types of affliction, and it is no exaggeration to say that literally millions of people have suffered without it diminishing their devotion to Jesus. On the contrary, they insist it was God's comfort, love and inspiration that empowered them to endure.
- "There is no God."
Answer: To see the logic of leaving God out of the equation, consider this:
Frog + Princess's kiss = Handsome prince (fairy tale).
Frog + Millions of years = Handsome prince (theory of evolution).
By definition, no one knows what lies outside their tiny circle of knowledge. Don't be like a blind person trying to convince himself that because he has never seen, everyone else claiming to see must be mistaken. Try saying this:
"Dear Father, I would like you to show me if you exist. If you are God, you are so superior to me that I cannot put demands on you. Anything you choose to show me must be on your terms - your time and your method. I can understand you not showing yourself to people who have little desire to know you. I will demonstrate my genuineness by at least reading the material presented here, looking for clues that might help open me to your revelation. And why should you bother revealing yourself to someone who would continue to ignore you anyway? If you show me there is a powerful, caring God who made me and wants the best for me, I will give you your rightful place as God of my life by obeying and trusting your love and wisdom."
- "Who made God?"
Answer: Everyone is forced to conclude that there has always been something in existence, whether it be gas, God or a full-blown universe. Every physical thing we have ever observed tends to degenerate. There is even a scientific law - the law of thermodynamics - that states this. So whatever has always existed must be radically different from anything we have ever seen - like God, for instance.
- "God, if he existed, would be impersonal."
Answer: People sometimes end up portraying God as sub-human - an impersonal force more akin to a machine or gravity than the Creator of us all. The secret attraction of this presumption is that it is easier to ignore a nebulous force than a God who thinks and feels and judges. If we can feel and love, our Maker can do all that - and more. If God seems impersonal, it suggests not the shallowness of God's nature, but the shallowness of our relationship with him. God is warm. His standards are granite. His heart is soft.
- "I hate God."
Answer: You might have every reason to hate the person you think God to be, but is that 'God' real? Your anger feels justified. We can understand infinite wisdom, however, no more than a babe understands its mother. What if your resentment towards God is like that of a desperately sick child who bites his doctor, imagining the caring doctor to be the cause of his torment, rather than his only hope of recovery? What a tragedy if you let the simple fact that you don't have infinite IQ rob you of your greatest source of comfort.
No one has been so spurned, so misunderstood, so much hated without cause as God is every moment of every day by millions of people, each of whom he loves more than we could conceive. No one is touched as deeply by humanity's anguish as its Creator. No one is as aware of suffering humanity as God is, and no one loves with the intensity that God loves. And your pain intensifies his pain.
Even when the cause seems beyond human influence, all heartache can be traced not to God's will, but to rebellion against God's will. Many things are murky or unknown to us - the view from eternity, the non-physical realm, the intricate chain reaction set off from person to person and generation to generation whenever anything happens. Relative to the all-knowing Lord, we are as short-sighted as King Midas, who wanted everything he touched to turn to gold. We have no idea of the full consequences of our wishes coming true. We vainly pit our puny intellect against the Infinite Mind, using brain cells he gave us to try to out-think him.
It's not the Word of God people hate, it's the perversion that they were taught about the Word of God they hate. It's a misconception. It's the abuse of authority they hate, not the authority of God. They have never known God, they think they did, but they've been taught lies.
- "If God made us, our moral failings are God's fault."
Answer: In other words, if we disobey God, it's God's fault?
- "What's in it for me?"
Answer: People dismiss Christianity on the basis of an outsider's glance, like a little boy certain he will always hate being kissed. Knowing Jesus is more wonderful than the uninitiated could dream. Jesus likened the Christian spiritual experience to buried treasure. Millions walk passed it, never suspecting the wonders that lie below the surface. To attempt description of the benefits of spiritual union with Jesus sounds as hollow and self-centered as listing receiving a gold ring as a benefit of marrying the most wonderful person. Here's a few of the consequences of being united to the One we were made for:
The excitement of living life on the edge, as God takes you beyond what you are humanly capable of. Divine power to love the unlovable, to break destructive habits, to resist peer pressure and to control such weaknesses as temper, greed, and selfishness. Being on the winning side - the obvious consequence of having in your life the God of infinite power and infinite wisdom. The ultimate security of knowing you are forever loved and that nothing - not even death - can rob you of its endless joys. The knowledge that you are of the greatest importance to the most important Person in the universe. Having as your best friend the Person who not only sympathizes but knows your every weakness and triumph, your every thought, your every experience since the moment of your conception, your darkest secret, your fondest dream, and is committed to you with unswerving devotion. A brand new start in life. The thrill of knowing you can now achieve things of eternal significance. Involvement in the greatest conceivable good. Reaching your highest potential. Finding and fulfilling your reason for being born. Living life to the full. Being at peace with God. No longer running from reality. The lifelong opportunity to love and thank the Giver of every good and beautiful thing everyone has ever enjoyed. The freedom to look in the mirror and know that no matter what your past, you are now pure in the eyes of the holy God. Knowing that God is working within you and in your circumstances to make you more and more like Jesus. Answers to prayer. Joy and peace and fulfillment, each of which are so far beyond what anything else offers that it defies description.
Not even all God's incomparable gifts, however, reach the ecstasy of enjoying and knowing intimately the most exciting Person in the universe. He is so special that falling in love with God is the inevitable consequence of truly knowing him.
- "Science has crippled Christianity."
Answer: With an act of God there are two levels of explanation, one of which science can contribute to. Consider, for instance, when Jesus told a man to stretch out his withered hand and it immediately healed (Luke 6:6,10). Scientists might describe what took place within that man's hand in terms of multiplication of cells, suddenly improved blood flow, etc. Such an explanation, though accurate, would miss an entire dimension to this event: the hand was restored at Jesus' word.
It is as if science lets us examine a masterpiece with an electron microscope (and such a view can be of value), whereas the Bible empowers us to see the big picture, enabling us to grasp the divine meaning and purpose of that masterpiece we call life. One has only to consider weapons of mass destruction, brainwashing techniques, and invasion of privacy to realize that scientific advance has only heightened our age-old dilemma: human nature. For our most fundamental problem, Jesus is the only answer.
- "Pleasant near-death experiences of non-Christians disprove Christianity."
Answer: Most reports of pleasant near-death experiences mention an encounter with a being who radiates love. No impersonal God could love. That God is a person who loves even his enemies is a uniquely Christian concept. These reports also seem to contradict such non-Christian beliefs as karma, reincarnation, and that the ultimate destination of humans is to lose their individuality in nirvana.
- "I don't need God."
Answer: People sometimes say they don't need love. They hope it's a sign of strength. Sadly, all it indicates is a fear of getting hurt, and the result is a hollow life. Asserting that we don't need Jesus is similar, and even more tragic.
No one could survive a millisecond without God. He holds the entire universe together, including every atom in your body. You are like a delicate fish in an aquarium blissfully unaware of its dependence because it thinks it is simply the nature of food to suddenly appear everyday and that water quality, temperature and aeration take care of themselves. For years you have acted like a parasite, sucking everything you can from the Creator and more or less treating him as if he doesn't exist. God in his kindness has let you abuse his generosity, giving you time to come to your senses. Your time, however, is running out.
- "Christianity is a crutch."
Answer: More than a crutch, it is a whole new set of legs. A living relationship with Jesus makes everything else look like a crutch. It's power to face problems head on. The transformation is like a machine with nearly dead batteries being plugged into a new power source. Jesus fills the unfillable hole within us. He makes us whole. He meets our deepest needs. He alone releases our full potential.
Everything anyone has ever enjoyed springs from God's creative genius and generosity. Like babies, non-Christians take everything from God and in the height of selfishness give their Maker not so much as a thank you in return. To become a Christian is to come of age. It is to take up your responsibilities with the One to whom you owe everything.
Christians are very ordinary people who dared confront the spiritual need the rest of us fearfully suppress. Through Jesus they somehow found the courage to push against the torrent of popular opinion and say good-bye to their favorite sins and the stranglehold of almost life-long habits. They put their life on the line and to their surprise found the warm presence of God.
- "The church is full of hypocrites."
Answer: Many people imagine they despise Christianity when they are merely rejecting aspects of 'Churchianity' that Jesus himself would reject. Jesus denounced religious hypocrites. So if hypocrisy turns your stomach, you might be Christ-like yourself. But to make this claim stick, you must have Jesus' attitude to hypocrites: he forgave them.
People can deeply hurt us, and if they happen to call themselves Christians it could turn us off Jesus for life. A major theme in Jesus' teaching (it's even in the Lord's prayer) is that we can enjoy the wondrous transformation that God's forgiveness brings, only to the degree that we are willing to forgive people who have hurt us (Matthew 6:12,14-15; 18:21-35; Mark 11:25-26). Jumping over the moon would be easier than forgiving some people, but if we come to Christ with sincerity, he will work the miracle of liberating us from the bondage of bitterness and empower us to forgive the unforgivable.
Hypocrites are people who claim to be morally better than they really are. Authentic Christians claim to be so bad that they deserve no forgiveness from God. Are you saying they are even worse than that? Christians are people who consider themselves such moral failures that they have come to Jesus for help and forgiveness. Making it spiritually depends not on how popular or nice we are, but how much we want God to rule our life and change us. Whether it be through quirks of nature or upbringing or whatever, becoming likable is harder for some of us.
Not realizing that genuine Christians have such a low view of their own morality, we attack them. What drives us to despise Christians is not unkindness so much as a desperate attempt to drown the shrieks of our own conscience. A favorite, rarely conscious, technique to silence a suppressed but nagging conscience is to muddy the name of anyone who might give the appearance of being morally better than us.
Would you criticize hospitals for being filled with sick people? When Christ walked this planet, one of the most frequent criticisms he faced was that sinners were drawn to him like drought-stricken animals to water.
Jesus chose his twelve disciples and loved them unreservedly, knowing that one of his supposedly closest friends, Judas, was such a hypocrite that he would arrange Jesus' murder. The presence of the ultimate hypocrite in the midst of that inner circle has not prevented millions of people throughout the ages from becoming devoted Christians. Moreover, the leading disciple - Peter - was also a hypocrite. He vowed he would remain true to Jesus no matter what, and within hours he swore he didn't know Jesus. Years later the apostle Paul accused Peter to his face of further hypocrisy (Galatians 2:11-14). But Paul and other Christians were made of stronger stuff than to try using the failings of key Christians as an excuse for wavering in their own devotion to Christ. They know that to forgive is to act like Jesus.
The embarrassing thing about denouncing hypocrisy is that it is equally hypocritical to condemn those who do not follow the teachings of Christ if you do not follow the teachings of Christ yourself. And one of his most fundamental teachings is that we should take our critical eyes off the sin of others and concentrate on our own chronic need for Jesus' forgiveness (Matthew 7:1-5; Luke 6:37; 18:11-14).
- "Christian superstars are after money."
Answer: Deny, if you must, thousands of martyrs throughout history so unselfishly devout that they gave up everything for Christ, even their last drop of blood. Were everyone a fraud, you would still have no excuse for not becoming the Christian you expect others to be.
If you despise the love of money, then you are Christ-like yourself. The Bible says, "For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows" (1 Timothy 6:10).
The fact that other Christians have erred from the faith does not excuse you for doing the same. You know you are not accountable before God for the actions of others. You are accountable, however, for your own actions - and especially for your response to Christ's offer to die in your place.
- "Christians support environmental vandalism."
Answer: A heightened appreciation of nature is a common bi-product of Christian conversion. Christians delight in nature because it is the handiwork of the God they adore. The loss of a single species is the loss of a unique manifestation of God's creative genius. Nature is an expression of God.
Many religions teach that everything physical is an illusion, and others claim that everything physical is evil. And, of course, atheists see nature as the product of mindless chance. Why go to pains to preserve an accident or an illusion or something evil? Godless philosophy teaches that advancement comes through survival of the fittest (the extinction of the less fit). If, for millions of years, so much good has come from mere chance and from the strong displacing the weak, why suddenly change the rules?
Christianity has these beliefs at its heart: followers of Jesus reject greed and the 'might is right' mentality, they stress the protection of the weaker and the defenseless, and they exalt the physical realm, insisting that it is good and that nature is as much a work of God as our own souls. The Bible opens with God giving humanity the responsibility to look after nature (Genesis 2:15).
Humanity, being in conflict with the Creator, is in conflict with the Creator's work - nature. Humanity's rejection of God has rendered nature our rival instead of a faithful servant.
- "Christians are bigoted, racist, sexist and homophobic."
Answer: 'There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus' (Galatians 3:28; Colossians 3:11). Bible verses like that are still shaking and shaping the world after 2,000 years. It is not merely that the Bible was 20 centuries ahead of its time, it was the Bible that at certain points in history pushed and dragged our western world to its present point of tolerance. Christianity is the world's greatest leveler. In Jesus' presence, everyone is equally precious.
Every day all over the world cruel manipulation takes place by people deceitfully using the word 'love'. The result is much cynicism, hurt and distrust. Yet the counterfeit never invalidates the genuine. Just as unscrupulous people have discovered the exploitive power of the word 'love,' some have discovered the word 'Jesus'. But people only counterfeit things of value.
- "Religion has sparked wars and exploitation."
Answer: The same could be said for politics, but politics cannot be eliminated from society; we can only try to find the right political formula. Neither can we eliminate our religious need; we can only find the right religion. A good start would be to find one committed to a leader who said, "Blessed are the peacemakers ... love your enemies ... bless those who curse you ... turn the other cheek ..."
If you assume that killing and exploitation are wrong, you have unconsciously appropriated Christian values. If, as atheistic evolutionists teach, advancement comes through the survival of the fittest, why not let war take its natural course? Dig into many non-Christian religions and you will discover the teaching that all things are one - including good and evil. Why work for justice if nothing - exploitation included - is evil? It is Christianity that provides the rational basis for pursuing justice and peace. It makes so much sense that non-Christians often end up sidestepping the logical implications of their own beliefs.
Now wait, I know what you may be thinking: What about the Spanish Inquisition? What about the crusades and other "holy wars" that were fought in the name of Jesus? Show me in the Bible where Jesus or His apostles taught that He wants people to fight for Him with earthly weapons. Be careful not to judge the Bible by the way people abuse it. Just because someone says they're a Christian does not mean they are one! You never judge a philosophy by its abuse.
Atheists have killed a lot more in history than religious people have. Stalin decided to give up his faith in God, and was responsible for between 40 million and 100 million human beings being slaughtered in the Soviet Union. Adolph Hitler killed 20 million people for their racial identity or personal beliefs. This is in addition to the 50 million who perished as a direct result of military operations in the European war. China's Mao Tse-Tung murdered between 40 million and 80 million. Vietnam's Pol Pot slaughtered over 2 million people in just 3 years. These were all atheists in the 20th century alone.
Atheism logically can lend itself to aggression and destruction. Christianity would be illogical compared to what Christ has said and taught. There are many morally minded good people who are atheists, or belong to other religions, but it is vitally important that Christianity not be judged on the bases of its abuse of its principle teachings. It would hardly be endorsed by Jesus, to take a sword to someone's neck and say, "believe or else"!
- "Christians have a low and negative view of humanity."
Answer: As demonstrated by their views about abortion and euthanasia, Christians regard human life as sacred. In contrast to secular society, they don't see people as the result of an accident in a primeval swamp, or the meaningless product of human lust. They see the lowliest of us as bearing the image of God himself; made by him and the focus of his love. They believe God values us so highly that he wants to enjoy us for all eternity, and that he has spared nothing to make this possible.
Yet the Bible fits everyday reality. Christians don't fall for the enticing trap of pointing the accusing finger at others and letting themselves off the hook. They believe we are all equally guilty and all equally able to attain moral perfection through Christ. If we are as good as we like to think we are, we would flock to the best person there has ever been, Jesus Christ. Deep down, however, we suspect the worst about ourselves and flee from it like people refusing cancer checks, even though early diagnosis brings life, not death.
- "What about all those who have never heard of Jesus?"
Answer: All over the world, missionaries are discovering people groups who have been supernaturally prepared for Christianity. Often these peoples' own ancient traditions have caused them to expect the coming of Christianity. Many cultures have vague traditions of the true God, with whom they have lost contact. They are already aware of the inadequacy of their own religion and when they encounter real Christianity they recognize it is the culmination of their spiritual longings. This is a major reason why Christianity is growing at a staggering rate.
Just like you, those who have not heard of Jesus have failed to perfectly keep their own moral standards, much less God's. How God deals with their moral failure is God's concern, not yours. Your quandary is that if God were to treat differently those who have never heard, it's an option not available to you. You might convince yourself, but ultimately that means nothing. God sees right through us. Every excuse you hide behind will evaporate when you stand before the almighty Judge.
- "All religions are much the same."
Answer: That's what many religions teach, so you have nothing to lose by ignoring them and concentrating on Jesus, who declared that if you don't surrender to him, you have everything to lose (John 14:6; Acts 4:10-12). You and I are not in a position to claim to know more about spiritual reality than the greatest religious teacher earth has seen - Jesus. He upheld the Scriptures which insist that all other religions offend God (Deuteronomy 32:16-20).
To ignore glaring differences between religions might seem broad-minded. In reality it is about as conceited and narrow as a person could get. To assert that all religions are essentially the same would be to claim you are smarter than each of the billions of people who see the distinctive features of their religion as critical. You would be asserting that even though you are not an expert in their religion you know they are wrong - you know their religion is really no different. Jesus made Godlike claims of this magnitude but he backed them up by living a perfect life, walking on water, calming a storm, multiplying bread and fish, healing people born blind or deaf or crippled, rising bodily from the dead, transforming believers for 2,000 years, and so on.
Your decision about religion is as serious as a starving person deciding whether to risk eating something which might be deadly. To the casual observer, wild mushrooms are all much the same and who cares anyhow? But when there is nothing else to eat, it becomes rather important whether the variety you choose is poisonous. And if you eat nothing for weeks, indecision becomes as deadly as the worse decision.
- "What does it matter whether it's Jesus you worship, or some other religion? It's all religion."
Answer: That's equivalent to asking a wife, deeply in love with her husband, 'What does it matter if it's you that your husband has sex with, or a prostitute? It's all sex.' That's the very analogy Scripture employs over and over, using such expressions as, "the bride" (Ephesians 5:31-32, Revelation 21:2; 22:17) for being a member of Christ's church, and "harlot" (1 Corinthians 6:15-16, Revelation 17:5) for mixing true worship with another religion. To make the analogy even closer, involvement with another religion is like prostituting yourself to a carrier of the lethal AIDS virus.
One of the Bible's most basic teachings is that followers of other religions have been enticed by deceptive spirits who are utterly opposed to the God who created us and loves us (Romans 1:18-23; 1 Corinthians 10:20; 2 Thessalonians 2:9-12; 1 Timothy 4:1). Even the first two of the ten commandments - have no other gods, make no idols - show that God regards it as a grave offense to become involved in other religions (Exo.20:3-4). No matter how similar non-Christian religions are, their truths are laced with errors that entice their devout followers away from the true God. We despise this biblical revelation because it forces us to make a decision about religion. And it sounds narrow-minded, but Jesus affirmed that the way to God is narrow, and that few people go that way (Matthew 7:14). Anyone really sincere, however, will seek truth no matter how unpalatable it seems.
To sit on the fence is a marvelous position. From the top of the fence you can look in any direction and watch life pass you by.
- "It doesn't matter what you believe, as long as you're sincere."
Answer: What if you believe red traffic lights mean 'go'? Try telling a victim of Hinduism that it doesn't matter what you believe. Especially before Christian influence gained momentum in India, millions of Hindus sincerely believed that: baby girls should be drowned in the Ganges so they can be reincarnated as boys; surviving widows should be cremated alive with their deceased husbands; and it is better not to relieve human suffering because that would be interfering with people's karma.
'It doesn't matter what you believe,' is the despairing cry of people whose beliefs have never brought them to spiritual reality. Find people who claim that sincerity is all that matters and try applying that logic to something they are passionate about, such as racism, rape, cruelty to animals, environmental vandalism, nuclear warfare, banning abortion. Suddenly they get hot under the collar. Suddenly it matters very much what you believe.
People apply this lack of logic only to things they could hardly care less about. Those who say, "all that matters is sincerity" would like to include themselves among the sincere. Instead, they prove they have no sincere religious conviction. They are simply mouthing a lazy, potentially fatal excuse for avoiding life's most important decision.
The genuinely sincere, would make seeking God their top priority. Instead, we bury our head in a thousand other activities and lame excuses for not confronting life's most critical issue. We are like little children who have run away from home - hungry, tired and in danger, yet still hiding for fear of what mummy might do if she found us. The reality is that God longs to take us up in his arms, forgive us, and give us a life of fulfillment and challenge beyond our wildest hopes.
- "There are so many religions: how could anyone know which is right?"
Answer: Most religions say Jesus was a great teacher or prophet. So focus on that great teacher. Until you do, God will remain a blur. Consider a worst-case scenario. Suppose another religion were right and instead of following that religion, I became a Christian. Many religions would say the Christian life is reasonably moral. So, according to them, although I would miss top spot, my life after death would be fairly comfortable. A few claim that if I ignored their religion, after death I'll cease to exist. I can handle that. Some say I'd get another chance through reincarnation. That's not too bad. But, relative to almost all religions, Jesus increased the stakes enormously. If he is right and I ignore him, the consequences are unthinkable. In addition, unlike most other religions, Jesus leaves his believers certain that they will enter heaven. Other religions typically place so many requirements on their adherents before they could be considered worthy of heaven that their followers endure a lifetime of uncertainty as to whether they have met those requirements.
To determine if Jesus' teaching is from God requires divine insight. Whether God grants a person this spiritual understanding hinges on a single factor. That critical factor, said Jesus, is your willingness to obey God (John 7:17). Why should God brother to open your eyes to spiritual truth if you are unwilling to respond to that truth? Yet, few of us are prepared to pay that price. It involves a willingness to relinquish our hopes and dreams for the future, to forego our pet sins and anything else God may ask.
Such abandonment seems crazy until we consider who God is. The God who made and sustains the entire universe is the source of all knowledge, moral goodness and love. That means he is good, he is trustworthy, he has our best interest at heart, he is wiser than us and he loves us more than we love ourselves. Obeying God is the smartest thing anyone could ever do. Until we acknowledge this and are willing to obey God, we obviously don't want God in our lives. We might want him as our slave, or as a curiosity, but not as God. If so, why should God waste time giving us the spiritual discernment to know whether Jesus is the only way to God? Until we rectify this, we can expect God to let us remain spiritually confused, subject to the deceptive powers of anti-God influences, unable to determine which religion is right.
- "Even Hare Krishna's are more Christian than Christians! The Bible says we are not to kill. Doesn't that include animals?
Answer: Most Christians eat killed animals but, as Hare Krishna's point out, Jesus said 'Thou shalt not kill.' More accurately, Jesus said, 'You have heard that people in the past were told, "Thou shalt not kill ..."' (Matthew 5:21). Jesus was quoting from the Old Testament (Exodus 20:13) - the book he loved and frequently cited and affirmed to be the unique revelation of God (Matthew 5:17-19; 22:29-32; 26:31; Luke 4:4-12; 16:31;22:37; 24:44-47; John 6:45). Over and over, that book records God commanding his people to eat the meat of sacrificial animals (Exodus 12:3-8,24; Deuteronomy 12:20-22,27-28; 27: 7-10). And the more holy people (priests) were required to eat even more meat (Leviticus 7:14-16,30-34; 8:30-31; 10:16-18; Deuteronomy 18:1-3). In fact, under Old Testament law, no vegetarian could belong to the people of God (Numbers 9:11-13). The point of animal sacrifice is that God was instilling the notion that an innocent must die for human sins. Ultimately, the innocent who dies for human sin must be human. That's where Jesus fits in. By quoting and exalting the book that emphasizes eating meat, Jesus was clearly speaking against murder - the killing of people, not animals. As would be expected, the rest of his life and teaching proves the same thing.
'Eat whatever is set before you,' Jesus ordered his disciples, knowing that their hosts, being Jewish, would be meat eaters (Luke 10:1,5-7). Jesus spoke approvingly of a man who slaughtered a cow for a feast. In fact, he likened that man to God (Luke 15:10,22-23). Christ ate meals hosted by all sorts of people (Mark 14:3; Luke 5:27-30; 7:36; 11:37; 14:1; 15:2). Even in a nation of meat eaters, his unrestricted diet caused a stir (Luke 5:33; 7:33-34). He helped catch fish (Matthew 17:27; Luke 5:4-9; John 21:5-8), cooked fish (John 21:9-13), fed it to people (Mark 6:41-43; 8:7-8), and ate it himself (Luke 24:41-43). He also ate the Passover meal in which the main dish was lamb (Luke 22:7-8,15).
Followers of Jesus are not offended that their Saviour ate meat because they know that, contrary to the claims of many religions, there is no spiritual link between animals and people. There is no such thing as reincarnation. Yet Hare Krishna's, flying in the face of all the facts, misrepresent Jesus as supporting their views about animal life. This exposes the unfortunate lengths to which such religions will sometimes go to deceive.
- "The Bible contradicts itself."
Answer: Most of these claims are blatantly spurious. People do not reject the Bible because it contradicts itself, but because it contradicts them! We must recognize, however, that truth is complex, and, in the Bible, God has entrusted us with spiritual truth in all its complexity.
- "Christianity is out of date."
Answer: Christianity is no passing fad. It has stood the test of time. In fact, it is gaining popularity like never before. If, by old-fashioned, you mean that which is crude and outclassed, Jesus' teaching renders modern society old-fashioned. Modern views, no matter how desperately we cling to them, have been superseded.
The morality of Jesus was so far ahead of its time that 2,000 years after Jesus brought it to this planet, modern society is still no closer to attaining it. 'Go the extra mile . . . bless those who curse you . . . It is more blessed to give than to receive . . .' Present day morality, with its crude focus upon observable behavior rather than heart attitude, is hopelessly primitive and out of touch with reality. Consider these examples:
'Anything is OK as long as you don't hurt anyone,' says a man who wouldn't dream of injuring his wife, and devastates her by cheating on her. Multitudes call the seduction of a married person 'love'. Seduction ravishes its victims at the deepest level, debauching them so completely as to make them willing partners in immorality. Even the hideous crime of rape leaves its unconsenting victims morally chaste.
People teach their children to say thank you and they themselves never thank the God who gives them everything they have ever enjoyed. They pride themselves on paying off their debts and spurn the God to whom they owe everything.
What differentiates most of us from criminals is not morality but our cowardice (fear of getting caught, of incurring the disapproval of others, etc.) or lack of opportunity (not knowing how to commit the perfect crime, or not holding a gun at our weakest moment), yet we hold our head high in a society that clings to outdated morality.
- "I'm not convinced."
Answer: Our desperate need is not for clever arguments but for a powerful encounter with the living God (1 Corinthians 4:20). And we need not more dramatic signs from heaven, but to act on what we already know. The door to spiritual understanding is not human explanation, but supernatural revelation. It swings not on mind games but on a willingness to surrender our stubborn will to One who knows better than us (John 7:17; 2 Corinthians 3:14-16; 4:3-4; 1 Corinthians 2:4-16; Luke 10:21).
Draw near to God and he will draw near to you, promises the Bible (James 4:8). Until we respond to the light we already have, God is unlikely to squander further enlightenment upon us. With insincere excuses we might even fool ourselves, but not the One who knows everything. We don't decide how much evidence we need: God does. Neither do we have the final say as to when God will lose patience with us.
Your reasons for not becoming a Christian may be more flimsy that you realize. Years ago, psychologists carefully explained to smokers the danger of smoking. They discovered that those who continued to smoke reported enjoying smoking more than before. Apparently, the discrepancy between their behavior and what they knew they should do, forced their minds to exaggerate the pleasures of smoking. Likewise, a reluctance to become a Christian could subject people to psychological pressures that distort their perception of the benefits or logic of remaining spiritually divorced from Jesus.
- "I'll think about it."
Answer: Good! If you are caught in a burning building, however, merely thinking about escaping will not bring you to safety. What is needed is not just thought, but action. The cold reality is that you are not guaranteed the next heartbeat. Do what you can now. It is no use thinking, 'I'll enjoy my sin for as long as I can and when I'm old I will say I'm sorry.' Do you really think you could fool God? Such a ploy proves you want your own selfish way, not heaven.
- "Faith is what you exercise when the object of your beliefs cannot be demonstrated. It does not involve reason, it involves a leap into the unknown".
Answer: Isaiah 1:18, "Come now, and let us reason together, saith the LORD." The Lord encourages Christians to think and to reason together. The Bible is full of common sense and wisdom. It has been demonstrated to be correct through practice, time, archeology discoveries, and scientific facts. It is not a leap into the unknown, but a leap based upon common sense and facts.
- I'm offended that the Bible gives such repugnant, graphic descriptions of sin in recording the lives of some Bible characters. Is this really necessary?
Answer: Yes. It is one of the great facts that give credibility to the Bible. Most biographies skip or soften the bad and often overstate the good. Telling it like it is gives people confidence the Bible can be trusted; it doesn't cover up. Further, others try to convince people they are such great sinners God cannot or will not save them. What joy sweeps over such people when they are shown Bible cases of people like them (and worse) whom God delivered from sin and justified (Romans 15:4)!
- Is all of the Bible inspired? Many believe only parts of it are.
Answer: The Bible has the Answer: "All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness" (2 Timothy 3:16). The Bible does not simply contain the word of God. Rather, it is the Word of God. The Bible is the information and operations manual for a human life. Ignore any of it and you will have unnecessary difficulties and problems.
- The Bible is an ancient book with old-fashioned wording and concepts. Don't you feel it is unsafe to rely on something so far removed from our enlightened day?
Answer: No. Its age is in its favor. That is, in fact, one of the proofs of its inspiration. The Bible says, "The word of the Lord endureth for ever" (1 Peter 1:25). The Bible stands as a rock. It is God's book—His Word. It cannot be destroyed. Men and even entire nations have burned, banned, and tried to discredit and destroy the Bible; but instead, they discredit themselves. They are gone, and their attacks on the Bible are forgotten. Yet the Bible remains a best-seller, in constant demand. Millions would die for it, if necessary. Its message is God-given and 100 percent up-to-date. Before you study it, pray and ask God to open your heart as you read.
- Some of the most brilliant people in the world, who have carefully studied the Bible, believe no one can understand it. If the Bible is truly God's book, shouldn't everyone be able to understand it?
Answer: Bright people who can understand and explain virtually anything are often quickly stopped in their tracks when they read the Bible. The reason is that spiritual things "are spiritually discerned" (1 Corinthians 2:13-14). The deep things of the Word will never be understood by a secular mind, no matter how brilliant. Unless one honestly seeks an experience with God, he cannot understand the things of God. The Holy spirit, who explains the Bible (John 16:13; 14:26), is not understood by the carnal, secular mind. On the other hand, the humble, even uneducated man or woman who studies the Bible receives amazing understanding from the Holy Spirit (Matthew 11:25; 1 Corinthians 2:9, 10).
- The Bible is full of errors. How can you believe it is inspired?
Answer: The overwhelming majority of so-called errors in the Bible have been demonstrated to be simply errors of judgment or lack of understanding on the part of those who make the complaint. They are not errors at all but simply truth misunderstood. The inspired Bible will always tell you the truth, will never mislead you, can be fully trusted, is reliable and authoritative, not only in spiritual matters, but also in other matters it addresses, including history and science.
People are always digging up some supposed flaw in Scripture, which is not surprising. Copyists may have miscopied in some cases, but no such supposed happening or any other alleged error affects the truth of God's Word. Doctrine is built not upon one Bible passage but upon the total of God's comments on any subject. We are unaware of any alleged error of any kind that would affect the truthfulness of the content of Scripture. Some things in Scripture are yet difficult to reconcile. There will always be room for doubt to those who prefer to doubt. We believe that even alleged errors, not yet fully explained, will (as in the past) soon be exposed as false alarms. The harder people work to undermine the Bible, the brighter its light shines.
- All we need is man's reason to decide what is right and wrong. Education will stop people from doing evil, because educated people are more likely to do good than evil.
Answer: This past century, the bloodiest in all of human history, should have lain to rest two of the most cherished theories about mankind postulated by the Enlightenment and Secular Humanism.
One was the idea that all moral questions, all issues of right and wrong, good and evil, were subject to being correctly decided on the basis of man's reason alone, without the necessity (better put, without the interference) of divine revelation or organized religion. Man, and man alone, would be the final and autonomous arbiter of morality. This idea brought with it, as a necessary corollary, the firm belief that man left to his own reasoning devices would invariably choose to do what is right, what promotes life and fairness and the common good.
This second idea of man's innate choice of goodness was aided and abetted by an arrogant belief that an educated person was more likely to do good than an illiterate one — that a Ph.D. graduate would be less likely to kill, harm, maim and destroy than a poor, hardscrabble, backwards farmer. But none of these theories have proven true. Hitler, Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot, Milosevic and the entire slew of other murderers of the 20th century have all given the lie to these fantasies about human morality and rectitude. One-third of all of the commandants of the Nazi death camps held either a Ph.D. or M.D. degree. Man, left to his own reason, will not choose right. Reason, by itself, is death and destruction, oppressive theories and murderous social engineering. No faith and no belief have led us to the brink of the social abyss of self-destruction.
- I lead my own life...there is no master over me.
Answer: If you watch a man out walking his dog, you might end up thinking that the dog is leading the way. The dog is out in front, pulling the leash, and the man is following behind. But what happens when they reach a corner, and the man wants to turn right? The dog may continue forward for a little bit, until he realizes that the man has turned. A moment later, the dog is leading the man again, pulling on the leash -- but headed in an entirely new direction. The dog only appears to be leading, but is in reality subject to the whims of the master.
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