Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Those basic questions!

The basic questions hindering belief in the God of the Bible are theological before scientific. This means (it is my belief, among other believers) the true problem with faith in God stems from misunderstandings about God’s nature. What is our reference point about the most fundamental issue of mankind? For our purposes we’ll use the Old and New Testament of the Jews: for Christians, the most reliable being the King James Bible. (Unless you know about the history of how we obtained this book, it will be difficult to see why I esteem it most worthy).Theology deals with the study of God and His character. When someone asks why God did such and such a thing, usually morals come into it.
I recently was approached with something like this: Why did God create Adam and Eve? Put them in a garden and tell them they cannot eat of some tree which He created and punish them when they did so? On top of that, why did He create Adam and Eve so that they would make God angry, in the first place? And, furthermore, why did He create the serpent responsible for them being punished?
Wow! If you are not prepared to deal with this sort of hammering, you’ll want to simply reply that you don’t know, and do not question God. First of all, we may agree that the main issue against God is perhaps moral, over scientific ( I can even insert, historical, as well). The first roadblock for all who inquire after the God of the Scriptures is summed up by Paul who says that to those who are not saved and do not believe, the Gospel is foolish.
Let’s read from his own words: “The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned” (1Cr 2:14).“But we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumblingblock, and unto the Greeks foolishness” (1Cr 1:23). At this point I will encourage the reader to seek out more existing cross references in the Bible. This is how one gets a better understanding of its message.
The next question that follows is “how do I believe?” My response is that you must be sincerely wishing to learn about God and something about yourself. However, God must be first, from now on. The worldly POV promotes self: it is in advertisements and outer-fringe cults. Actually, both seem to meet at this one point: You are deserving, special, and even divine. The latter New Age element is slowly being slipped in today’s marketing campaigns and is even fueled by some governments; celebrities are reinterpreting the Gospel for selfish reasons. The problem is all this will push God out of your life if you let it. If one wishes to know God before all else he will eventually get a better understanding of his own self in the bargain. Why speak thus? Because knowing God can only come from knowing Jesus Christ. And to know Him, is to have a personal relationship with Him; for, you see, I am writing of a relationship, and that true Christianity is about relationships. I am unable to have any sort of understanding of God if I do not know Jesus Christ, aside from knowing myself. The problem is who really knows himself? Socrates said to ‘know thyself’. Sounds reasonable enough; but as time progresses we have come to a conclusion that our bodies are all we are. We spend thousands of dollars and thousands of hours on bodily maintenance, but that’s all. Let’s see what the Bible might say on this matter: Psa 139:23-24, as written by David, states, “Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts: and see if wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” Jeremiah, an Old Testament prophet, centuries before the time of Jesus says, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?” (Jer 17:9). In context to this and other passages by Jeremiah, it is best to understand he was lamenting the destruction of Israel by the Babylonians, who was sent by God to “give every man according to his ways, according to the fruit of his doings” (Jer 17:10). By now there can be seen 2 ways to interpret knowing thyself: bodily and spiritually. For the Biblical writers, spirituality is referring to morals and the way to talk of this we refer to one’s heart. Also, apart from God there is only nature, and the natural inclinations of one’s heart. Paul also states, “We are confident, and willing to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord” (2Cr 5:8). Please do not misconstrue this last passage for taking one’s own life to be with God, because for those who come to believe in Christ, Paul insists, “What? Know ye not that your body is a temple of the Holy Ghost in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s” (1Cr 6:19-20). So now we can determine 2 things about ourselves, 1) when talking about knowing ourselves we are looking at our hearts: the whole body, where resides our aspirations and our drives; 2) apart from God we are wicked by nature.
To see how mankind is wicked by nature we need to press on with those fundamental questions. At the outset you might have gotten into this discussion before with a terse answer like, “Mankind is wicked because they did not obey God.” Yes, in a word this is definitely true. Let’s look closer by answering the query as to God’s intent upon creating at all, let alone, Adam and Eve. God creates because God wishes to have a relationship with His creation. Why? Because “God is love” (1st Jn 4:8). If we read the whole passage we see that “He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is Love”. This illustrates how to better understand ourselves we need to bring God into the picture. Also, in order to have a more fulfilling love for one another we need to love God; and it may be easier to win someone to Christ through love. “But ye love your enemies, and do good, and lend, hoping for nothing again; and your reward shall be great, and ye shall be the children of the Highest: for he is kind to the unthankful and the evil” (Luke 6:35).
Why the forbidden fruit deal? “And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat: But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die”(Gen 2: 16-17). The reason for the tree of the knowledge of good and evil ties in with the rest of the picture: A loving God and benefactor, man created in his image, a partner for good company, a vast creation with other life forms…and the tree of everlasting life. The serpent was also made by Him. If we study these various things God has made we can generate 2 categories: the things in favor of and the things contrary to God’s approval for Adam and Eve. Adam and Eve have each other, they can eat of all the fruit in their midst, including the tree of everlasting life, and what is more they have communion with God Himself in the garden. Conversely, there is the serpent and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Since there are 2 categories of things we can safely say we see the dawn of freewill and the beginnings of potential love reciprocated by Adam and Eve leaning toward God and His word. So, there is now distinction of with and without God’s company, for here is the kicker: Since God is all perfect and nothing is greater, His word is Himself. Now, we are going to jump to the nature of His awesome character in His Son: Jesus Christ, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” (Jhn 1:1).Then just a few passages down, John says, “And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth” (Jn 1:14). In the Greek this is the Logos. Jesus Christ is the living Word of God, which in turn makes Him God. To illustrate: If I say the word cat, no cat will appear, but you may get an image in your mind of one. If God says the same word, there really is indeed a cat present. So, if God’s word is perfect and just, and is indeed God, to not incline to its instruction is turning one’s back on God. Just as we must take witness of the Gospel, or the good news of Jesus Christ lest we perish; Adam and Eve perishes due to not taking heed of God’s word. If God made Adam and Eve devoid of freewill, there can be no such thing as a relationship imbued with returning love; for is this not the same thing as making Adam and Eve incapable of disobeying God’s word? Just as God chose to create, we can choose to seek Him. So, where there is freedom there is love’s fuller potential to live out its forms.
God did create man knowing man will turn from Him, but not so that He may become angry. We can look at why God does become angry: Is it fair to say since He is God He cannot have any emotions? If God shows no emotions, followed by consequences, how do we 1) understand Him, and 2) grow? If God unleashed just an infinitesimal degree of angst toward us there would be nothing left! It is plain to see He is instructing and preparing Adam and Eve, and future mankind. Basically, we had it made: Paradisiacal conditions, companionship with the source of everything, and all the time in the world. However, we turned away, and continue to do so today as many will reject Jesus Christ for more knowledge of the world. There is a trace of the Eden condition still with us as people seek natural remedies for life’s ills, vegetarian diets, etc. The 60’s revolution with slogans like ‘flower power’ was a warped attempt at “Getting back to the Garden” (Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young). If all our Bibles and good pastors were gone, we could not do any better.
As for the serpent there is a double entendre with regard to him as he is really Lucifer-turned-Satan cast from the presence of God in heaven: “Thou hast been in Eden the garden of God; every precious stone was thy covering, the sardius, topaz, and the diamond, and carbuncle, and gold: the workmanship of thy tabrets and of thy pipes was prepared in thee in the day that thou wast created. Thou art the anointed cherub that covereth; and I have set thee so: thou wast upon the holy mountain of God; thou wast perfect in thy ways from the day that thou wast created, till iniquity was found in thee” (Eze 28:13-15). Why create that? This is getting to the core of all theological questions, because the first turning away from God is Luciferian.The tree of everlasting life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil are opposites and so were the ones behind them: God and Satan. The former tree is also a symbol of Jesus Christ. Jesus says,” Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me hath everlasting life” (Jn 6:47). The tree of the knowledge of good and evil is a symbol of sin. This is because in order for us to understand evil a created thing must perform it: only God can know the difference of good and evil without having to undertake doing evil (He is Just). For the rest of us a created thing must usher this in so as to make it knowable. There was no iniquity found in Adam and Eve (creations); however, in Lucifer (another creation), iniquity is found. It is difficult to say Lucifer had a choice, but we know from Scripture that the first man and woman did.
Adam and Eve are now subject to problems as God ‘punishes’ them (Gen 3). What He does is put them in a state that will enable all of mankind an ability to achieve a better relationship with Him through Jesus Christ, who is made sin (just as we are in sin from our first parents).“For He hath made him sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteous of God in him” (2Cr 5:21). For, they originally sought after knowledge apart from God the Father, only to allow us to become better acquainted with life through knowing the Son, Jesus Christ. At the Second Coming we are told that we will be with Him in a new heaven and earth. “And I [John] saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away; and there was no more sea. And I John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, their God.” (Rev 21: 1-3)

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