Thursday, March 31, 2022

Why Does God Require Faith?

 Many do not accept God because they cannot do so without undeniable evidence of His existence. They do not have faith that He exists. We know God requires faith because He told us:

And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.

Hebrews 11:6 (NIV)

Why didn’t God make it easy for people to know He exists and remove the need for faith? I believe part of it has to do with being made in His image.

26Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness. They will rule the fish of the sea, the birds of the sky, the livestock, all the earth, and the creatures that crawl on the earth.”

Genesis 1:26 (HCSB)

God is spirit (John 4:24). He did not physically make us in His image but modeled our character and desires after His. So, is there something about God’s character that would require us to need faith to believe in Him and not rely purely on logic? I think there is.

Say a five-year-old child ran away from home and fell into an old well. The well was deep, and the cold water was up to the child’s neck. The walls were unstable and had partially collapsed when the boy fell in. The child had broken both arms in the fall, so there was no way he could get out on his own. The walls could easily collapse completely if someone else went down to rescue the child.

Pure logic dictates not sending anyone down to rescue the child because it would endanger that person. The child was simply suffering from his own choices.

However, almost no one would think like that. Of course, we would want to rescue the poor little boy. He didn’t know his choice to run away would lead to this. He must be terrified and in pain. There is no way we would let him tire out and slip below the cold water to drown. We would go beyond logic to embrace love and compassion to get the boy out of the well.

On the other extreme, if someone acted purely on emotions, a mother or father might jump headfirst into the well to get down there to comfort and protect their child. That would be a stupid thing to do because it would likely result in both of them dying.

So, to rescue that child, reason and compassion must work together. Compassion, motivating someone to risk themself to save the child, and logic, determining how to retrieve the child while keeping the rescuer safe.

How does this relate to being made in God’s image and Him requiring faith to be in a relationship with Him? God could have given us clear, undeniable evidence of his existence, making it illogical to say He doesn’t exist. However, that would only require the reasoning part of us to accept; it would require nothing from the compassionate part. Conversely, He doesn’t want us to believe in Him merely on feelings. God created us so our reasoning and compassion would work together. He wants us to accept Him with our entire being, not but part of it.

To satisfy the reasoning part of us, He has given us evidence of His existence:

For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.

Romans 1:20 (NIV)

We need to believe that He exists. The evidence is substantial but not undeniable. He left room for doubt. Faith is required for the reasoning part of us to believe He exists.

We also need to believe that He loves us. He has given us evidence of His love by sending Jesus to die in our place and save us from our sins. However, He left room for doubt in this as well. Faith is required for the compassionate part of us to believe He loves us.

God requires faith because that is the only way our entire being can come to Him. He could have given undeniable, logical evidence of His existence, but how can you provide absolute proof that you love someone? There is always room for doubt about someone’s motivation. So, God could only ever satisfy part of our being by showing Himself to us. Therefore, He stays mostly hidden, revealing Himself through His creation and His care for us.

We are that child trapped in the well. We had no hope of saving ourselves without God climbing down into the well with us, at certain risk to Himself, and pulling us out. Thank God that His reasoning and love worked together to save us from ourselves. Thank God that He created us to be like Him.

Wednesday, April 8, 2020

Natural Suffering

If God is good and all-powerful, He wouldn’t allow suffering. That’s what many people think, especially during this season of Covid-19. People wonder how God could allow this, or things like earthquakes, floods, and tornadoes, to ravage our world. Others wonder why He sent this into the world. We may never know if this is an attack by Satan or a test from God, but that should not change our response to this pandemic or any trial. It also doesn’t need to threaten our faith.
This is not the first time the world has seen something like Covid-19. It is important to understand that a pandemic happens about every century. The Spanish Flu was almost exactly 100 years ago in 1918 and killed 40-50 million. In 1885, the Third Plaque killed 12 million. A Cholera outbreak in 1717 killed about 1 million. The Italian Plaque killed 1 million in 1629. In 1520, Smallpox killed 56 million. And the most famous of them all, the Black Plaque of 1347 killed 200 million. (Stats from the Visual Capitalist). Keep in mind that as you go back in time, the population of the world gets smaller.

We live in a broken world. Disease and death result from living in this sinful condition. Jesus came to save us from the ultimate consequences of that condition, but not to remove all traces of the taint of sin from our lives in this life.

Many see the sickness and death around us wonder how an all-loving God could allow such a thing. Or they may decide God is not powerful enough to stop Covid (the Spanish Flu, the Plaque, earthquakes, etc). Satan tries to get Christians to think if they have faith then things like Covid will not touch them or their families. Then when trouble comes, and it will, doubt comes along with it. Satan uses this doubt to turn many away from God, or to drive a wedge between them and God to start pushing them away from Him. He wants you to be angry at God for this disease when the real source of the problem is Satan himself. If not for sin, death and disease would not be a problem. And we know who helped get sin into this creation.

Satan also wants us to think this pain and suffering is pointless. That is far from the truth. Times like these force us to realize we are not as powerful or as in control as we foolishly thought we were. It should drive us toward God to seek the peace that only He can offer through any trial. These difficult times force us to choose. Will our faith grow stronger or will we start turning from that faith? Trials force change. Change can be good. Stagnation is never good.

What is the source of these plaques? We do not know for sure, but we see in the book of Job that Satan had power over a storm, lightning, strong winds, and groups of people to cause all these to do his bidding. Satan has power in this world, and he will use that power to cause chaos and destruction. God is not the only one who has the power to cause things like these, but He is typically the one everyone blames.

Mankind may also be to blame for some of the natural suffering we endure. We have messed up the environment. We have killed off animal species. We chose to live in areas of the world that are clearly unsafe. Science has reached into areas we do not fully understand, causing undesired results or fallout. We eat foods that God did not declare to be food. We live in ways He explicitly told us are not healthy. There are frequently negative consequences from doing these things.

Like Job, we can question God, but also like Job, God may very well put us in our place and show us how ignorant we were in doing so. He may even show you how you (or we) were to blame, and we falsely accused God.

For me, I’ll have faith that no matter the source of this current trial, or future ones, that God can make good result from it, and I’ll look for how I can play a part in the good that is occurring.

We know that all things work together for the good of those who love God: those who are called according to His purpose.

Romans 8:28

Monday, March 30, 2020

Why Evil?

Why does God allow evil? That is likely the most common reason people have for rejecting God. They look around the world and recognize it is messed up. People do horrible things to each other, so they reasonably ask themselves, “If God is all-loving and all-powerful, how can there be evil?

The answer to this problem is found in 2 Peter 3:9: The Lord does not delay His promise, as some understand delay, but is patient with you, not wanting any to perish but all to come to repentance. It is God’s desire that all people come to repentance, which is a churchy way of saying He wants everyone to stop doing bad things and seek Him instead. Obviously, everyone is not doing that. If it is God’s will that this happen but it is not happening, what does that mean? It means we can choose if we will turn to Him or try to find our own way through life. In other words, we have freewill. We can make our own decisions and those lead us closer to or further away from God.

Something closely tied to the concept of freewill is that God wants us to choose to love Him. Without freewill we would have no say in the matter. If God forced us to love Him, that would be no different from rape. He would be forcing His will on us against what our own will would had been if He had allowed us to have our own will. It would be brainwashing at the deepest level. Even though it would be for our own good, it would still be forced upon us.

Therefore, God must allow freewill so we can choose to love Him. However, the cost is that people can make horrible decisions which have devastating effects on others. Could God step in and stop those actions? Yes, but actions are not the only thing God views as evil. Jesus told us in Matthew 5:21-22, “You have heard that it was said to our ancestors, Do not murder, and whoever murders will be subject to judgment. But I tell you, everyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment.” So, for God to stop evil, He would have to stop us from thinking evil. This gets us right back to having freewill. If God controlled our thoughts, we would not have freewill.

In summary, the reason evil exists is the same reason there is love: freewill. God allows us to choose to follow Him or our own desires. The fruit of those choices are love and evil. So, for there to be no evil, there would also be no love. That is too high a price to pay. Therefore, God chose to send Jesus to pay the price for evil so we could experience the gift of love.

[Nothing here is original except for the packaging of these concepts. I formed my thoughts about this question from the Bible, and other authors such as C. S. Lewis, Timothy Keller, N.T. Wright, and William Lane Craig.]