Straight Answers to Tough Questions
Those who call themselves Christians are often asked tough questions. From non-Christians and from other followers of the way. Provided below are eight questions asked by a friend – together with initial responses – some fairly definitive, others more tentative.
And in the end, as the apostle Paul once wrote to a church at Philippi (Greece), we are each to work out our own salvation with fear and trembling.
The Questions (& Responses)
So, here we go….
1. Why did God select earth to send his son here to die and form a religion called Christianity?
Response: It seems like this is really a 2-part question with each part addressed, in turn:
a) Why did God select earth?
We can not be certain that earth is the only planet selected. It’s possible that God is working with different populations and different planets – whether in this universe or across parallel universes?
b) And why send a son to die and form a religion called Christianity?
This is a tougher question but with a simple (perhaps simplistic) response. It’s because God set the rules of the game within which (at least) this planet is to operate.
He can make up any set of rules that he pleases – independent of whether they make sense to humans or not. His rules appear to involve elements both logical and free-wheeling.
The rules for earth center on offering free will to his creation. Then, God saw the consequences of unbridled freedom. He offered redemption through the offering of a blood sacrifice – certainly something understood to the Hebrew/Jewish population of long gone eras.
If there are other planets (or places) in the universe with similar creations, the rules of the road may all be the same. Or they may vary wildly, sort of like an experimenter trying different formulas to see what works best. A creator who’s willing to bear the consequences of the good with the bad – and adapt accordingly.
2. Fact: we now know that millions of galaxies are in our universe. Are there other planets that contain similar entities?
Response: It may be that the probabilities of similar entities elsewhere are limited. But if the universe is truly infinite (a point about which this author is not convinced), then it seems unlikely that there is just one planet with human-like, free willed, living and self-conscious beings.
3. Did God not visit these other locations and if he did – why are these other visits not reported in the Bible?
Response: God (the Father) may well have appointments elsewhere. If so, that would certainly be good reason for the Father to hand the baton for this planet off to his designee and Son Jesus.
As to why these other planetary visitations are not reported in the Bible, maybe it’s because it’s more than our minds could readily absorb or would want to handle. Maybe that comes with subsequent revelations. Or maybe God is willing to allow the time for us to discover on our own, whether in this life or the life to come.
4. Why do we combine the New and Old testaments in one Bible?
Response: Why not? Admittedly, the two sets of scriptures were prepared for different periods of time and with different interests in mind. It appears that the Hebrew scriptures as we know them were compiled largely during and subsequent to the Babylonian captivity. What we now call an Old Testament canon was, in effect, occurred in the wake of post-Jerusalem destruction (AD 70) by rabbinic communities in places like Jamnia and Tiberias.
The New Testament was composed for an emerging (and increasingly non-Jewish) Christian church. While some early patriarchs (like Papias around the beginning of the 2nd century) thought the church was better off with oral tradition alone, the impetus to create a written canon was created later in the 2nd century by a wealthy ship-owner on the Black Sea named Marcion. In reaction to Marcion’s claim to know which writings were authentic and which were specious, an orthodox movement arose to counter what were considered to be Marcion heresies – focused largely on his acceptance of Paul’s writings to the exclusion of most others.
Marcion also viewed the God of the Old Testament to be a distinctly different entity from the God of the New. The Old Testament Yahweh was a fairly idiosyncratic, bestial and war-like deity, not at all the same as the kinder, gentler, and perhaps more corporate Son of the New. The God of the Old also aligns more closely with the Muslim conception of Allah.
Despite claims to there contrary, there was never a fully settled canon (at least by the Catholics) until the 16th century. The full church finally adopted a formal canon in the 16th century as a counter to Martin Luther’s denigration of some New Testament writings – especially James which Paul thought to be a rather “strawy” epistle.
Over time, this author has come to appreciate the combination of Old and New documents. Getting to better know and understand this rambunctious creator of all – following what I earlier learned as the victory of son Jesus over death and into life beyond.
5. If Jesus taught about 3-in-1, why then must Christians claim to being the only religion and why does our religion require that all prayers must go through Jesus vs. straight to God?
Response: There is nothing in the Bible that teaches the Nicene formulation of Father, Son and Holy Spirit as 3-in-1– except in the Latin Vulgate with the 16th century addition of I John 5:7. It also seems that 3-in-1 unnecessarily separates us from our Jewish and Muslim brethren – who are better followers of one God. Or as the Shema of Deuteronomy 6 asserts – the Lord is God, the Lord alone.
With Christianity, it is possible, if not probable, that God passed the baton, handing off the primary responsibility for interaction with the divine to his son Jesus. Give me the freedom to pray to the Father, to the Son, or through the Son to the Father. Perhaps not theologically correct. But willing to await further instructions as to the correct protocol. And in the meantime, with a need to better understand and appreciate the role of the Holy Spirit.
6. Catholics are required to go through their priests, thru to God. Jews, Catholics and protestants – do we all pray to the same God?
Response: Yes, although our conceptions of what God is about may differ.
7. If there is only 1 God – what about Muslims, Tao, Hindu, Shamans?
Response: Intriguingly, both Muslims and Jews have perhaps the best understanding of the clear primacy of God the Father (Yahweh or Allah). With religions that encompass multiple gods (like Hinduism), it’s admittedly harder for at least some westerners to relate. They may better understand the concept of distinct responsibilities of different members of a Godhead than Christians. However, the seeming emphasis on quantity over quality trivializes the distinct attributes of divine versus human capacities and capabilities.
8. Are we holding ourselves above the rest of the world? Creating division instead of acceptance of others?
Response: Christians have made this mistake, witness the legacy of the Crusades or the Reformation and Counter Reformation. But let’s not get so hung up on creating division. After all, it was Jesus who said he came not to bring peace but division. So, embrace conflict on the basis of intense but respectful competition – as between the Dodgers and Red Sox – rather than the bloodletting of say, between the western world and radical Islam. Meaning a need to set rules of engagement – where the best ideas, the most proven, are the winners. As Christians, let’s put ourselves to the ultimate test – that of the marketplace.
For additional information on multiple topics of earthly to divine import from our web site, check out: www.jesustheheresy.com