Archive | Questions I hope no one asks

Questions I Hope No One Asks: Why Is God So Silent?

One of the most irritating things in the world is to be ignored. My kids are in the “ignoring phase” of their lives. They have discovered its power of irritation. However, Kylee is the one who stands out the most. When she is in a bad mood or has her attention set on something else, she will just ignore you. Well, she knows better than to ignore me, but she has no problem ignoring the other kids. It drives them crazy.

Ignore: v. the act of not responding to the calls of another when you know they are beckoning for your attention and you are able to respond.

The other day my three-year-old son Zach and I were talking about God and he said out of nowhere, “I don’t hear him.” “Hear who?” I said. “God. Why doesn’t he talk?” Now that is a good question. Just the type of question that you would expect from a child. It is reasonable enough.

I don’t know of anyone in this world that I have such a peculiar relationship with as the one I have with God. I talk to him, but I have never heard him respond. I don’t know what his voice sounds like. I can’t read his facial expressions. In no way have my five senses been alerted to his presence like they are with every other relationship I experience in life.

I doubt there is anyone, young or old, who has ever escaped the subject of “divine hiddenness.” Maybe you have not termed it as such, but you have often wondered why God does not reveal himself in a way that is more satisfactory to our longings for experiential intimacy with him. “With him” may not be the right way to put it. A better, more inclusive, way to say it for our purpose here would be that we long for experiential intimacy with “the other side”: God, Jesus, heaven, angels, demons, loved ones who have crossed the bridge of death, and the like. As someone has once said, “One out of every one people die.” These are pretty good odds. We know that one day we will die and experience that which awaits us beyond death. Yet this life is virtually void of definite signs from the “other side.” When we do get a sign, it is rather allusive. In a way, all we have to work from is what Phillip Yancey terms “rumors” of another world. There is quit a bit of mystery, even for Christians, as to what exactly “the other side” will be like—what it will be like to see and hear God. This can scare us. In fact, it can scare us so badly that we avoid death at all costs and suspend our beliefs about God and the “other side” until after death.

Of course, as Christians, we do have faith that this “other world” is real and that heaven is an actual place where God awaits us. We also have faith that God, from this “other world,” has spoken to us through Scripture. Yet we long for an experiential intimacy that parallels the norms of our lives today. We want to hear the voice of God. We have questions for him. I have questions for him. We desire a sense experience that is often referred to as “empirical.” We want to see vivid signs of the other side that will solidify our faith and alleviate any residue of doubt that might does exist.

Is he ignoring us? Why is God so silent?

Wrong Answers:

Wrong answer #1: God is not silent. I hear his voice all the time. The better Christian you are, the more you should expect to see his face and hear his voice.

As Christians, God’s silence—God’s hiddenness—should not come as any surprise. In other words, no one, no matter how good a Christian should expect to hear or see God.
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Questions I Hope No One Will Ask: Why Aren’t Christians Better People?

“The Christian life is a life of starting over every day.” -Unknown

I remember hearing the story about the Christian farmer who acquired two new cows. He took his wife out to show her the new acquisitions. He told her, “Yep, fine looking cows aren’t they? But don’t get too attached to both of them. One is for us and one is for the Lord.” The farmer’s wife replied, “Which one is the Lord’s?” “Don’t know yet,” he said. “No need to decide now.” After a few months, the farmer came into the kitchen where his wife was. He was downcast. “What’s the matter,” she asked. “It’s the cows. One of them took ill last night. I am sad to say, but she died. There was nothing I could do.” “Oh dear,” the wife replied. “Which one was it? The Lord’s or ours?” “It was the Lord’s,” the farmer quickly came back. “But I thought you had not decided which was the Lord’s.” “Nope,” he responded. “It was the Lord’s. The Lord’s cow died.”

While this is a great illustration when it comes to Christian stewardship, especially of our finances, it broadly applies to how so many of us Christians treat the things of the Lord.

I will get back to the Lord’s cow in a moment.

I am so often convicted by my inability to live up to my calling and representation of Jesus Christ. I am quite hyper-critical, especially of myself. Idle time for me breeds much self-condemnation, remorse, and feelings of insufficiency. I have to discipline myself quite a bit here. I cry out to the Lord “Why aren’t I a better person?” The issues are plenty. While I don’t have any acute self-destructive addictions that would make most people’s top ten list, I am addicted to sin nonetheless. I am often mean, irritable, and selfish. Ask my wife. She will be happy to fill in the details. In short, I don’t have a stable personality in many ways. I never know who is going to wake up. I can manipulate truth with the best of them. Sometimes I justify my selfishness do to the bitterness that life often rewards. The easiest thing to ease my conscience is to compare myself to other Christians around me. I pick out the worst of them and say to myself, “At least I am not that bad.”

However, the guilt is intensified when I begin to look to the outside world and see many people who don’t even love the Lord who act better than I do. They seem to be more giving, have better marriages, and less self-conscious. It is true that I cannot see deep into their lives, but, nevertheless, from my perspective, many of them seem to be doing better on the Christian score card than me. In short, it seems that people, non-Christians and Christians, are letting the Lord’s cow die.

Not only this, but we see moral failure all over the place by Christian leaders. Those who are supposed to be leading the way fall in the ditches of depravity themselves. From child molestation to secret homosexual encounters, Christianity is at no loss for scandal. Then there are the great historical black-eyes from forced conversion (inquisition) to wars being lead by the church (the crusades). I don’t want to blow this out of proportion or be unfair here, knowing that fallen leaders will always get more press, but the fact is that Christians often don’t fair much better than non-Christians.

Sure, there are many like me who think in cosmic scales. I have imagined being martyred for my faith. No matter how I imagine it, I always see myself making that ultimate sacrifice. As well, I think to myself that if I had a million dollars, I would give most of it away. And you know what? I think I would. However, these cosmic cows so often give way to the day to day cows. All of them are dying. All of them are the Lord’s. It is not the cosmic sacrifices that are hard, it is the widows mites. It’s not the big things that we resign that are hard, it is the little things. Its not the theoretical cows that are sick, it is the actual ones.

The more I talk to other Christians, the more I find this real struggle present. The things we want to do—the things we know we ought to do—don’t get done much. And the thing that frustrates them is the same thing that frustrates me: we all want to be better people. We all want to sacrifice our cows. But for most of us, we have to pick ourselves up off the ground anew every day. The Christian life, for so many of us, is a life of perpetual new beginnings. It is starting over again every day due to the failures of the previous day. Continue Reading →

Questions I Hope No One Will Ask: What Will We Be Doing in Heaven?

The following is the latest post in my “Questions I Hope No One Will Ask” series. Check out all the posts in this series here.

Thus far in human history, outside of Jesus Christ (and possibly Elijah and Enoch), one out of every one people die. We are all painfully aware of this fact and assume that one day it will happen to us as well. For many, this creates great anxiety. For others, it is a fact filled with wonder and excitement. Still, for some, there is false hope and expectations that will not be recognized. Books about what happens after we die always do well. In fact, if you want a guaranteed place on the New York Times best seller list, simply die, come back to life and tell about your adventure. These are called near death experiences (NDEs). People will line up for miles to ask “What was it like?” “Who did you see?” “Where did you go?” One of the great cult movies when I was a teenager was Flatliners with Keefer Sutherland and Julia Roberts. In it, a group of young med students conspired to kill themselves with the hopes that the others would bring them back to life after a short stint in the afterlife. When they came back, they told others about their experiences in the great beyond.

A Brevity of Christian “Personal Eschatology”

Christians believe in the afterlife. While it is true that one out of every one people die, according to the Christian worldview, one out of every one people will continue their conscience existence even after their bodies lose life. In short, we believe that if Christ does not come first, we will all die and experience a time of existence without a body. For believers in Christ, this time will be spent in a place currently called “heaven” or “Paradise”. Unblievers will be some place awaiting judgement. We call this time between death and the resurrection of our bodies the “intermediate state of existence.” 

Intermediate State of Existence

The intermediate state of existence is probably the most mysterious of all issues of what we might call “personal eschatology.”

What we know about the intermediate state of existence for Christians:

  • We will be with Christ (2 Cor. 5:6; Luke 23:43).
  • It will be better than being on earth (2 Cor. 5:8).

What we don’t know:

  • What we will be doing.
  • If we will have an “interim” body, though it does seem we will find extension in space and be “recognizable” (1 Sam. 28:15; Matt. 17:1-9).
  • Where it is (it is not really up or down geographically; it could be some sort of scifi parallel plane of existence).

What I am pretty sure of is that most modern accounts of near-death-experiences (NDEs) don’t give a biblical picture of what the intermediate state is like (but that is a different story).

The New Earth

This intermediate state will be cut short when we are rejoined with our physical bodies at the resurrection of the dead (John 5:29; 1 Cor. 15:13-22; 1 Cor. 15:51-53; 1 Thes. 4:17). Some believe that this will immediately be followed by a thousand years where Christ reigns on the present Earth, then a second resurrection (Rev. 20:12-15), then judgment, then the (re)creation of a new universe (including the earth). Some Christians believe the same minus the thousand year thingy.

No matter what your position regarding the particulars, all roads of orthodox Christian “eschatology” (the doctrine of the last things) converge on a new or recreated earth where the presence of God is evident and real unlike any time since Adam roamed Eden.

Rev. 20:1-3
“Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. 2 I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. 3 and I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them.”

It is in this new earth that we will spend eternity. Yes, that is right—eternity. Christians believe that all humanity shares in an immortal spiritual existence. While we are not eternal as God is eternal (i.e. timeless), we are everlasting (i.e. once created we will never cease to experience conscience existence). Of all the things that are difficult—indeed, mind bending—to comprehend, I think everlasting existence on the new earth has to rank pretty high. It is not simply a really, really long time. It is time without end. As the old hymn goes, “When we’ve been there ten-thousand years bright shining as the sun, we’ve no less day to sing God’s praise than when we first begun.” While there is no such thing as an infinite going into the time-bound past, there can be an infinite going into the time-bound future. And that is what we have in store for us. An infinite future. Forever and ever.

Continue Reading →

Questions I Hope No One Will Ask: Why Did God Put Satan in Eden?

“I’m trying to whip the devil; I’m trying to get sanctified.” -Johnny Cash

I was reading a book a couple of days ago that mentioned Satan in passing. It called him God’s “archenemy.” I thought that this was an interesting label to put on Satan. We all know about archenemies. They are the greatest enemy that someone faces. Superman’s archenemy is Lex Luther. Batman’s archenemy is the Joker. Green Lantern’s archenemy is Senestro (you all will soon know this since the movie is coming this summer). In each of these cases, the enemy represents the polar opposite of the hero. He is the bad guy. He is the archenemy because he represents the greatest threat the hero faces. This is either because the enemy’s power matches that of the hero or because his level of evil matches the level of goodness of the hero.

With regard to the God vs. Satan setup here, for reasons I hope to explain, I am not really comfortable calling Satan God’s archenemy, though he is definitely an enemy of God. While we don’t know that much about him (or angels and demons in general for that matter), he is presented in Scripture as a very powerful being that, simply put, does not want God to suceed. He is hell bent (pardon the pun) on wreaking havoc on the earth and causing God’s people to fail. I don’t know what his ultimate goal is (or if he even has one) or whether he really thinks he can “win” (whatever game he is playing), but I do know that he is introduced to us very early in the Scripture and is found late in the game as well. Out of the infinite things that are going on in God’s creation, out of the vast amount of information that God could have given us about so many other things, one thing is certain, God wants us to be aware of this particular creature.

While there is a lot we don’t know about him, here are some basics of Christian “satanology”:

  • Satan is a creation of God who was originally good (1 Tim. 4:4).
  • Satan desires to take the place of God (Matt. 4:8-10).
  • Satan knows who Christ is (Mark 3:11).
  • Satan is one from whom we need God’s protection (Matt. 6:13).
  • Satan makes accusations against people to God (Rev. 12:10).
  • Satan seeks to “devour” people (1 Pet. 5:8). 
  • Though I don’t know when Satan inherited the “throne”, there is some sense in which he is the ruler of this world (Jn. 14:30; John 16:11; 2 Cor 4:4; Eph. 2:2; 1; Jn 5:19).

While there is more we could expand on here, the question of the hour is this: If Satan is so evil and “anti-God” why did God put Satan in the Garden of  Eden? While there is no way to know what would have happened had he not been present, it is evident from the narrative and the ensuing curse that Satan played a big part in the fall.

Gen 3:1-6
Now the serpent was more crafty than any beast of the field which the LORD God had made. And he said to the woman, “Indeed, has God said, ‘You shall not eat from any tree of the garden ‘?” 2 And the woman said to the serpent, “From the fruit of the trees of the garden we may eat; 3 but from the fruit of the tree which is in the middle of the garden, God has said, ‘You shall not eat from it or touch it, lest you die.'” 4 And the serpent said to the woman, “You surely shall not die! 5 “For God knows that in the day you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” 6 When the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was desirable to make one wise, she took from its fruit and ate; and she gave also to her husband with her, and he ate.

Gen 3:14-15
14 And the LORD God said to the serpent, “Because you have done this, Cursed are you more than all cattle, And more than every beast of the field; On your belly shall you go, And dust shall you eat All the days of your life; 15 And I will put enmity Between you and the woman, And between your seed and her seed; He shall bruise you on the head, And you shall bruise him on the heel.”

Wrong Answers:

Wrong answer #1: It was not Satan in Eden.

It is popular among many biblical interpreters these days to be agnostic with regard to the identity of the snake in Eden. While I admire there faithfulness to the text of Genesis—which does not tell us the identity of the snake—we can be fairly certain that it was Satan (regardless of whether we take this as a literal account or not). When answering such questions, it is important that we look to the whole of the Scripture and employ a canonical understanding often called the “analogy of Scripture” (i.e. the Scripture interprets the Scripture). Testimony from the book of Revelation identifies the snake as Satan: Continue Reading →

Questions I Hope No One Asks: Why Doesn’t God Save Everyone?

The first in my new “Questions I Hope No One Asks” Series

As an evangelical Christian, I seek to share Christ with others. Often, in doing so, people have a lot of questions. Many times these are “soft-ball” questions about which I am more confident in my response.  However, there are many questions concerning the Christian faith that that are much more difficult to answer and about which I am less confident in what I have to say. Most of the time it is not simply that I don’t have the answer, but that they are questions that I myself would love to present before the throne of God.

Questions I hope no one asks #1:

Why doesn’t God save everyone?

Insufficient Answers:

“Because he does not interfere with free will.”

This is the answer that would be given by some of my friends who don’t hold to the same particular theological persuasions that I have. I think it is the best of all the insufficient answers out there and does contain a certain element of truth. The idea is that God provides the means for salvation for everyone, but it is up to the individuals to choose God. As the old saying goes, “God casts a vote for you. Satan casts a vote against you. You hold the tie-breaking vote.” The emphasis is on the “you.” God has done his part, you are now the master of your faith and the captain of your soul.

However, this is problematic for me for some substantial reasons. Most importantly, I don’t think Scripture teaches this. I believe that we all have cast our vote against God. Hence, we have already exercised our “free will,” submitted our ballot, and checked the box next to “I stand with Adam; I hate God.” Satan has no vote for anyone. He only casts a ballot for himself. Therefore, we are in a very precarious situation. Humanity took a stand with Adam in Eden and exercised its freedom collectively and voted against God. In this sense, we are “in Adam.” Our choice was made “in and with” him (Rom. 5:12-21). If anyone is to be saved, our will and choice already made “in Adam” must be changed from the outside. In the end, God’s “vote” or election is all that matters. If we are to be saved, we must have our vote vetoed.

“So then it does not depend on the man who wills or the man who runs, but on God who has mercy [or vetoes]” (Rom 9:16).

Yes, man’s choice does matter. But mankind was condemned long ago with Adam. Our wills are in bondage to our sin. We have no ability to turn to God or choose him (Rom. 3). If anyone is to be saved, God must sovereignly do the saving.

But, unfortunately, the question remains: Why doesn’t he save everyone?

“God does not love everyone.”

I also know many people who take this “out.” For them, God’s only saves those whom he loves. For them, there are many who are hated by God. Therefore, God does not save them because they are objects of his hatred. Continue Reading →