This is an updated repost from June 2017, of our article on tough questions. The questions are worth pondering again, because as much as they’re asked, many times Christians don’t know how to answer, or what to answer.
I know I’ll never know all the answers, and I also know that not all of the answers would necessarily change one’s mind. It’s not a person’s mind Christ is trying to change but the heart. That said, people sometimes need answers they can wrap their minds around, and that’s how I try to go about talking to people about Jesus.
Let’s begin with the first question- Who made God?
The simplest answer is that no one did. God existed outside of time, had no beginning; He has always existed.
Everything we see around us had a beginning somewhere- from the homes we live in, food we eat, cars we drive, even a tree in the yard, clouds, rain. Each had a beginning. Even a big bang would be set off by something.
If the universe is not eternal, it needed a cause, or if it has always existed, it needs no cause because it has always existed. I know these sounds really goofy and like a circular argument- but there are things that we just don’t know about the universe. This doesn’t mean that scientists give up on trying- they still have faith that questions will be answered about our universe, to where it started and how. Likewise, there are certain things that we don’t know about God, but many still have faith that someday their questions will be answered, that we need not give up on the idea that God exists, just because we don’t know all about where He came from and when.
I know that may not be much of an answer but God is greater than our minds can conceive. That is, if nothing can be greater, then nothing or no one could have created Him because that would mean something even more great would have created God.
17th century philosopher, Descartes pointed out that the very idea of God could only come from God, because we couldn’t conceive of a God as God didn’t give us the ability to do so.
The highest thing we can conceive is God. Even if one doesn’t believe in God, one knows there is something much greater than himself which exists, working in the whole scheme of things. Because we exist, we know that we can’t exist unless something or someone brought us into existence. There is just not enough evidence that everything that exists in the natural world was created individually or through evolution from some primordial soup sparked into being by a magic zap of self-created lightning at just the right time and space.
So how come God doesn’t show Himself more clearly if He does exist? Most folks would like a miraculous event in order to believe in God; tangible proof of His existence. He does do miraculous things, but never just to satisfy our curiosity. He’s not some guy in the sky performing magic tricks. If someone wants a miracle as proof of His existence the birth of Jesus Christ would be sufficient.
The Son of God, born of a virgin (see our earlier post, A Closer Look at Jesus). Does it make sense that if a person invented God, they would come up with a Son of God coming to earth as a human child and being born into such conditions as a stinky stable full of animals? You have to consider Jews of the time were expecting a Mighty Messiah- a King surrounded by the armies of heaven, who would overthrow the oppressive Roman rule. You’d think that if someone created this story, the Messiah would be born in more opulent, royal surroundings.
As C.S. Lewis said, “The central miracle asserted by Christians is the Incarnation. They say God became Man. Every other miracle prepares for this, or exhibits this, or results from this.”
When God became Man, He gave the world a perfect way to reconcile every person back into a relationship with Himself. Every human has been given free will to believe or not. He didn’t create a race of programmed robots, neither has He ever ordered anyone to believe in Himself. He chooses the “foolish things” of the world- such as being born in a stable and laid sleeping in an animal trough, instead of being born into Royal comforts. Because He wants us to be free to choose to love Him, He doesn’t show himself though magic tricks and bribes.
Not too long ago, I had a discussion with an agnostic, who asked, what good has God ever done that I should believe in Him? My answer was- He came to us in human form through Jesus (Emmanuel- God with us) to save us by dying on the cross and taking our punishment that we deserve. Through faith or faithlessness, we have been freely able to accept or reject His offer of salvation and a relationship with Him.
So, this leads to the question of what was He doing before He created the world? 5th century Christian teacher, Augustine answered it this way- God didn’t have any time on His hands because time began with creation. Before creation, time didn’t exist. The creation of the world didn’t happen in time, it happened in a creation of time. Since God is eternal, the only thing before time was eternity.
This comes to the last point of the first main questions, why don’t more people believe in God if He’s real?
In our ‘enlightened’ society, we’ve have been taught that if something isn’t popular, it can’t be true, or truth is relative- that what may be true for one, isn’t necessarily truth for all. Truth often runs counter to popular beliefs and opinion.
Some people’s refusal to believe in God is almost always based on the notion that He exists. Many of these are moral arguments. Many great Christians have, before becoming a Christian, knew there is a God, but morally, they were unwilling to surrender to obedience to Christ, and putting off their old selves. (Even Christians who have been Christian for a long time have a struggle with this). Some people get almost furious and venomous in their arguments that God doesn’t exist, because it’s a representation of rebellion against God. I once heard an atheistic scientist say that even though he has seen more evidence that points to creation than to evolution, he will never bring himself to believe in God.
“The wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For His invisible attributes, namely, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. For although they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools” Romans 1:18-22.
Many people reading that would ignore that God has made himself plain to them, and instead become indignant about the first 4 words, “The wrath of God”. I often hear arguments from people that if God is real, he’s maniacal, cruel, and vindictive as if He indiscriminately destroys whatever and whoever He wants just for the heck of it. And that is a whole other argument.
Other atheists believe more in aliens’ existence than that of God- case in point, while Christianity in the west is on the decline; the rise in belief of extraterrestrials is on the rise, especially among atheists. In an interview with PsyPost, Clay Routledge explains his scientific study that those who believe in aliens have a common thread: they’re non-religious or atheists.
People are willing to believe in something to fill a void that can only be filled by their Creator, yet they willfully reject Him. This is a willingness to remain in rebellion to God, even though they have seen evidence of God. Many people can’t bring themselves to the point where they let go of their own willfulness.
Is it really too hard to believe that we were created to know God, to return His love and have a relationship with Him? If you have turned away from Him, what have you replaced Him with? If you think you never have known Him, can you think of things which are unexplained- which may just point to Him in a way you’ve never noticed before?
These next questions are some of the most often asked and of the most divisive subjects brought up between Bible believing Christians and non-believers. How can a Good God send people to hell? If God didn’t create evil, where did it come from, and why does God allow it? Aren’t people really inherently good? And, why would a loving God allow so much suffering?
These are not easily answered, especially if one doesn’t believe in the inerrancy of the Bible. There are some questions, such as these, that even when answered, they don’t really help a person come to grips with such serious questions, and certainly doesn’t help in comforting someone who is not a bible believing Christian.
How can a good God send people to hell? Firstly, part of the answer here lies in the question if one believes in good and evil, and if there are consequences to evil behavior? This question assumes that God would send people to hell against their will which is completely false. Again, the Problem of Evil explains that.
Hell or Heaven- neither destination depends on our own goodness. Even atheists can lead morally upstanding lives. You don’t have to be a Bible believing Christian to do good works. I’ve known many people with different beliefs who do wonderful things to help people. The point here is though, not whether we are good enough-because when it comes to God’s nature, and His righteousness, we will never be good enough on our own to deserve heaven.
God, in the Old Testament laid out His law- rules for people to live by. Everyone knows the 10 Commandments. Well, basically, the first 5 commandments deal with God’s law concerning a relationship with and how to live in Him. The next 5 concern our relationship with and how to live in our society. Let’s just focus on the last 5- even though each is important. Honor your Mother and Father. You shall not murder. You shall not steal. You shall not commit adultery. You shall not bear false witness (lie or slander). You shall not covet. Now, how many of these have you broken? I know I’ve broken each of the 10 more than I want to even think about. In these 5, I have dishonored my parents, even though I love them dearly. Every time I fibbed, every time I went against their “wishes”, broke a rule, disobeyed- when I did any of these, I dishonored my parents.
You shall not steal. Ever taken anything that didn’t belong to you; even something small; say, an eraser from work? What about stolen time at work? Ever played around on the computer when you should have been working? Listen, I never really looked at this commandment this way a few years ago. I used to read at work when things were slow. When I realized that this was actually stealing from my boss, because they were paying me an hourly wage- I stopped reading at work, because when I was hired, my boss didn’t hire me to amuse myself. Anything no matter how big- whether robbing a bank or taking an eraser or pen home from work is breaking this commandment.
How about this one, you shall not commit adultery. Have you ever looked at someone and fantasized what it would be like to have sex with that person? Have you ever looked at someone with lust? I know these seem kind of archaic in this day and age, but God has His reasons and ways for us to have healthy relationships. The point is here, to show how even just looking at someone with a “oh man, would I love to get into his/her pants!” type of thought is to God, considered adultery.
OK, how about the false witness thing? Now, I’m not just talking about swearing an oath to tell the truth (so help me who?) in a courtroom. This is meaning every bit of gossip, every time you’ve slandered someone, every time you’ve lied. I’ve found myself fibbing for something so as to not to hurt someone’s feelings if I’m put on the spot. Each time, even something “small” as that little white lie, you have broken the 9th commandment.
Now, how many times have you looked at something someone else had, and thought, that’s not fair, why should they have that when I don’t? Or, “I just gotta have that, no matter what?!” A pair of shoes. A house, car, toy, pet, vacation or job. Some people may do things they normally wouldn’t do to “beat” a colleague out of a promotion. Some may steal to get something someone else has that they want. Ours is a nation which promotes and expects coveting. How many times have you heard someone say something like “I deserve it?!” This is coveting- and I don’t know anyone who hasn’t had resentful feelings towards someone because they are able to do or have what you want.
Even if you’re almost perfect and have only broken 1 of the 10- you have still broken God’s Law.
Here’s the good part though. Jesus went through death on the cross to make things right with God. He took our punishment- what we deserve, for us, so we could be right with God and reconciled to Him. But without a belief in Jesus as your Savior, you have not been able to be reconciled to God, and are still a law breaker and will have to pay punishment yourself. It is all a choice whether we decide to seek forgiveness or not. We are the ones who either separate ourselves from Him or seek a relationship with Him. If you don’t want Him in your life now, would you really want to spend eternity with Him?
God is a righteous judge, and He is Holy, which means He cannot be in the presence of evil. He punishes sin, but He is also love, but His love can’t force people to love Him- we make the choice. God’s love demands that there be a place called hell so that those who want nothing to do with Him can be eternally apart Him.
It’s interesting that when people say they don’t believe in God, and then things go really bad, they will blame Him for the bad things. God’s goodness is not affected by our rebellion- which is what sin is. Evil continues to exist because of human refusal to accept His goodness. He is not responsible for evil. We are.
Look. These days so many people, even a lot of Christians don’t really believe in the fall- that is, Adam and Eve’s first sin. People look at this event as like a symbol, or a parable. The problem with this thinking is that if the fall is only a moral story- a fable, then there was really no purpose for Jesus to die on the cross as a sacrifice for our sins, and there would be no resurrection or reconciliation.
As long as –we have free will, we will be free to either love Him back by obedience, or to reject Him by disobedience. Again, He could have created us to be obedient at all times, but we would then be incapable of love or of making decisions. Free will is really the basis of all of our dignity. A free choice leaves the possibility of the wrong choice. If someone makes a mistake- no matter how big or small- there will always be ramifications from those mistakes. God does have a plan some day for removing evil from the world, and that time is coming soon. Until then, He has given us ways to resist evil through His Word.
So people often ask, aren’t people inherently good? I know it’s hard to look at a newborn baby and believe that little one is sinful; we’ll get to more in a minute. The truth is we are all drawn towards evil- that is if we knew no one was looking and there were no consequences, we would choose to do something we knew we shouldn’t. Being a good and giving person is a learned behavior.
Some people do bigger acts of evil; and small things don’t even seem like they belong in the same category- but to the Righteous Judge who is holy, evil is evil. No matter how big or small. In the last few decades, we have been taught that self-esteem is important. Now there really isn’t anything wrong with feeling good about who you are, or being liked by others. But, when we focus so much on self, feeling good, wanting others to like us, we tend not to see ourselves as sinners. Most of us definitely don’t want to see ourselves as capable of evil!
Now, getting back to that ‘innocent’ little newborn-I thought my son was the most precious baby who ever lived- I think most parents feel that way about their baby- until the terrible twos, the tantrum throwing threes, the fighting fives and so on. I never taught my son to lie when he was little and said “I didn’t do it“, while evidence of chocolate was all over his face. I never taught him how to defy a command, “though shalt not touch that…” as he put his finger on it with a look of “look, I’m touching it!”
Some things just come naturally to all kids that they were never taught.
Your child may have been obedient since the day he was born, but in reality, it doesn’t matter how good kids are, they are human. Just like all of us. Many grow up and learn a little more control and self-denial, how to consider others first, or at least as well as ourselves. But we still have the tendency to tell a little lie, sneak another piece of cake when no one’s looking, and take a second look at a pretty girl or cute guy. While these things are not overtly evil- say, like a Hitler, they are, in God’s eye- a sin, and sin is evil.
Now, this last question is a very sensitive one, one that I don’t know if I can answer it well enough or in the space I have left here. Why is there so much suffering- and why would God allow so much suffering if He is so good?
This is a touchy subject, because some people have lost loved ones at a young age, some lose children, and any parent will tell you, no matter the age, is that no parent should have to bury a child. And for younger folks who lose a parent, or someone close to them, their young minds can’t grasp the tough question of Why. Heck, even many adults can’t grasp it.
For myself, all I can do is find some common sense in what I’ve been taught and some of what I’ve gone through and how I have learned from it.
This major question of Why.
Most of my answer is- I have no idea.
I don’t know why sometimes children die of illness, why good people die young, why children lose their parents. I don’t know why 3 children that I used to baby sit died in a fiery car crash one night. I do know that they had been drinking, and the driver, one of 2 brothers in that car, tried to pass on a hill and crashed head on into another car. As much as I liked those kids- they were good kids, and they had great parents, their actions- their choices that they made that night brought on tough consequences for all involved. But couldn’t they have learned through pain of being injured and not have to die? I don’t know why.
I don’t know why years ago my brother’s girlfriend died 3 days before Christmas, but I know her and my brother’s choices- were not smart choices, brought about her death. I don’t know why my aunt and uncle were killed by a drunk driver one night- but I also don’t know why my dad was spared when he was hit by a drunk driver on his way to work on a Monday morning. I don’t know why I didn’t drown when I got caught in a spring runoff swelled river when I was in my teens, when a childhood friend- our pastor’s son drowned when their canoe tipped during a camping trip. I don’t know why I went through 10 years of an abusive marriage, only to lose my second husband to an illness, leaving me with a son to raise, at a very hard age when kids need their dads.
I just don’t know. Many times we get angry when something bad happens. God doesn’t blame us for getting angry when we’re hurt or don’t understand, it’s what we do with our anger that He cares about. Getting angry is a natural part of life. Sometimes people lash out at others in their anger, or let it seethe and eventually make the person bitter. This is unhealthy, and God wants to help us deal with it in more of a healthy way. Some people can get past the anger, even if they are still confused- they may be able to accept things as what they are.
In these choices, many reach out to others who are going through the same tragedy to help them deal with their grief. Some start support groups, others set up a trust fund to help others from having to go through the same things. There are different ways to handle grief, and there is a loving God who wants us to come to Him and let Him take our grief and use it for good- thereby relieving some of our own pain.
It won’t take it all away, but it will allow for healing to start. For some things, I do know that God allows for some suffering so we will learn from our own poor choices or downright bad behavior, and often times we use that to help reach, teach and help others.
When God mends us through suffering- it hurts. Just as it hurts when we need a bone re broken by a doctor so our bone will set and heal properly. When we touch a hot stove- it hurts. Pain can be instructive in many ways. Much of the time, it is our own actions which produce suffering in our lives, but suffering is not always caused by sin. (More on this tomorrow when we study John Chapter 5)
Sometimes, the pain of suffering is made a little easier to bear when you realize there is a bigger picture or meaning behind it. Many Bible believing Christians I know who have gone through such pain as losing a child are amazing in their strength. Ones that have gone through illnesses themselves show incredible strength. If asked how they can deal with loss or illness such as they do, they will say it is because of their faith in Christ that allows them to hang in, that it is His strength that gets them through. There are Christians around the world who have and are going through incredibly violent, painful and atrocious things that I can’t even imagine, and yet they keep their faith and live it out loud even to death. I know it’s faith that’s kept me hanging on, especially those days when there’s barely a thread left to hold. We know there is a bigger picture somehow, and if even we can’t see it at the time, we know something good will come of it. Many times people show Christ in the way they handle things.
God knows what suffering is. Jesus suffered humiliation, ridicule, mockery and rejection- even before He was sentenced to die. God knows what it is like to see His only Son die a horrible death- knowing that He was sinless as a man. He knows what we are suffering and wants us to come to Him through it- He comforts and strengthens. He knows what He is doing, even if we don’t. He took the worst through the death of His son though painful and humility of crucifixion and turned it into good by defeating Satan, and sin, and allowing for all of us to be redeemed through Him.
The Bible gives us an eternal perspective of things. We may never know in this life why some things happen, and why other things don’t happen when we think they should- but this doesn’t mean that God doesn’t care or doesn’t want good things for us. It’s just that His good things are things we don’t want to accept. He cares. He knows. He loves you and me. He’s waiting for us to come freely to Him so He can tell us things are going to be OK.
While you think about these answers, also think about these things:
Have you ever sinned? If you have done something that the Bible calls sin, what can be done to make things right- something by you or something already done? Do you believe that evil exists? If you believe it does, how do you know? Were you ever chastised or disciplined as a child? Did you feel loved because your parent disciplined you to where you knew they cared enough to show you right from wrong, or that they did it to protect you from harm? If your parents loved you enough to correct you, could you believe that God, who created you, can love you so much more, and correct you from time to time? Can you understand how God knows what it is like to feel pain, sadness, rejection, humiliation, and the sting of death? How can you relate to some of the things that Jesus went through in His life on earth?
If you need to learn more about Jesus, how He lived, and His sacrifice for us, you can start by reading the Gospel of John
- Have a blessed day all.