Religion & Beliefs

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By Spencer D Gear

A thoughtful person with whom I had dialogues on the Internet and through email said to me: “If you would like to know why I have rejected Christianity, I will be glad to tell you.  Here are some [of my] reasons:” You can find his questions HERE [1]. His questions are in bold and indicated as Q. 1, Q. 2, etc. I have answered him under these topics:

Q. 7 It seems to me that if your religion is true, the least that your God could do would be to mercifully eliminate all of the non-Christian religions.

If you really mean this, you are asking for God to eliminate you NOW because the questions you pose demonstrate you are a non-Christian religionist.  The question is self-defeating and destructive to you personally.

Why suggest the extreme action of eliminating all of the non-Christian religions?  God’s view is, “For the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost” (Luke 19:10).  His plan is not elimination or annihilation but salvation.

No matter what our religious persuasion, he is out to draw us to himself so that we will see life as it truly is.  He is the creator, so he ought to know how the world (including people) functions best.  That sounds arrogant, but not when one considers who he is.

Even on a human level, the creator of an automobile engine must surely have the best understanding of how it functions at its optimal best.  I, a mechanical nincompoop, have not chosen to pursue a better understanding of engines.  All human beings are spiritual nincompoops when it comes to wisdom of how the universe and people ought to function best.

That’s why God has given us revelation in Scripture so that we may better understand him and his ways. He continued:

Q. 7 NO ONE HAS EVER ASKED TO BE BORN into this world with its many conflicting religions, having to choose the right one, or face never-ending torments in hell!!

Are you saying that you want the choice of life and death to be in the hands of somebody other than the Lord God Almighty?  Would you prefer Hitler, Nero, John Howard, Mother Theresa, Bill Clinton, Martin Luther or the researchers who are working on cloning human parts?

How crazy we would be to leave it in the hands of other than the absolute just, loving, merciful and sovereign God.

It is he who declared through the psalmist in beautiful poetic language:

For you [Lord] created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb.  I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.  My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place.  When I was woven together in the depths of the earth, your eyes saw my unformed body.  All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be” (Ps. 139:14-16).

The beginning of a person’s life is in the hands of God and so is the end.  Jesus said, “I hold the keys of death and Hades” (Rev. 1:18).

I know there are curly questions that arise out of that response, like: “Well, if God is the author of life, how can he allow the slaughter of unborn children on the abortionists’ tables around the world?  If people are in intense pain, why doesn’t he relieve it or allow euthanasia?”

The answer lies in a response to the second part of this unbeliever’s statement: “Its many conflicting religions, having to choose the right one, or face never-ending torments in hell!!”

The Dangerous Gift of Free-Will

Would you prefer to have been born into a world where it would not be possible to ask the excellent, penetrating questions you have provided?  Would you prefer to be a puppet with choice eliminated?  Would you like the option you are suggesting of never being born or leaving the gift of life through human birth to someone other than God?

Since God chooses the time of your birth and death, he does place some responsibility on the dangerous gift of free will that he has given us.  That mystery boggles my mind: How can a sovereign God allow me choice that can have beneficial or detrimental effects on my personal life, my family and the community in which I live?  How can He allow this when he has the ability to step in and stop that choice?

Are you aware that the “many conflicting religions” have come about because of people’s choices to reject the will and ways of the sovereign Lord?  Surely you know that the very nature of the questions you are asking declares your own religious allegiance!  You are actually contributing to the “conflicting religions” yourself.

By the nature of your questions, it seems to me that there are tones of naturalism, humanism, postmodernism and agnosticism/atheism.

God tries to reach us through so many different ways, but what do we do to push him away?

Q. 7 (continued) But… that would still leave literally hundreds of Christian bodies, some of which regard the others as of the devil!!!

I, a committed Christian, am grieved at the number of denominations among Christendom.  It is estimated that there are approximately 38,000 Christian denominations in the world.[2] Sadly, part of that is because of the many influences in the world (God’s world) – God himself will not treat you like a puppet.  Satan, his demons and sinful human nature give rise to sinful human choices.

Then add the human propensity to different interpretations of a given document.  It’s an interesting exercise to hand a group of people a local newspaper and ask them to silently read certain news items.  Then ask them to write down (without conferring with one another) answers to questions relating to the stories they have read.  The multitude of interpretations is amazing.

Just because one is a Christian does not stop one from thinking, pondering and concluding differently from others.  I dislike these divisions within Christendom, but I am not going to risk my eternal destiny because of the diversity of opinion.  God has given me a mind and the guidance of his Spirit to help me.  After all, he is “seeking to save those who are lost.”  He has placed much evidence around and in us to cause us to call out to him for eternal life.

Q. 6 (continued) Most of us acquire our belief orientation as a result of our inherited genes, our parental upbringing and our environment.

This is only partially correct. Our worldview (belief orientation) is based somewhat on our environment (hardly on our genes!), including parental upbringing.  However, much of this can be changed as we have seen children totally reject the beliefs of childhood.  There are many influences that contribute to our world and life view.

Under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, the apostle Paul wrote, “Faith comes from hearing the message, and the message heard is heard through the word of Christ” (Rom. 10:17).  So proclamation can influence a change in our beliefs.  I am pleased that in spite of the genes from my parents, their belief system and the other environmental influences, I committed my life to Christ after my heart was opened through the proclamation of God’s Word.

I have made many decisions down through the years that have altered my “belief orientation.”  Some of these are contrary to what I previously believed.  All this is to affirm that a change of “belief orientation” is always possible.  Genes, family upbringing and other environmental factors do not fix it.

Q. 6 (continued)  Besides, a person could spend an entire lifetime doing good works, helping others and giving most of his possessions to the needy, but end up in hell, when he died, if he failed to believe in Jesus!  While a person could spend a life of 80 years, killing, committing arson, stealing etc. and end up in heaven for an eternity of bliss, if just a few minutes before he died, he accepted Jesus!

You are dead right!  Good works without commitment to Christ will send one to hell – guaranteed!.  But faith without good works will also send a person to hell because it is not genuine faith – guaranteed!

A person may have lived in sin all his life and could trust in Christ for salvation moments before he died and he would enter heaven – guaranteed by the words and actions of Jesus.

We saw a perfect example of this with the thief who was crucified beside Jesus.  The thief said, “We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve”  (Luke 23:41).  Upon his confession, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom” (v. 42), Jesus’ response was, “I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise” (v. 43).  He received eternal salvation, instantly, after a life of sinful degradation that earned him capital punishment.

Only the grace of God can explain it.  It’s available to every one of us NOW.  But I wouldn’t be risking such a death bed repentance when life and death are in Christ’s hands.  He doesn’t let us know exactly when death comes knocking on our door (generally).

God pleads with us: “How shall we escape if we ignore such a great salvation?” (Heb. 2:3).  “I tell you, now is the time of God’s favor, now is the day of salvation” (2 Cor. 6:2).

I wouldn’t give up serving and living for Jesus Christ for all the money in the Reserve Bank.  The radical change that Jesus brought in my life and the full life he has given me can hardly be described.  Jesus is true to his word, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full” (John 10:10).

From the good questions you are asking, I wonder if you are really open to receive Christ, or is this an intellectual exercise to keep you from getting to the nitty gritty of your life?  Even if I satisfactorily answer most of your questions, are you open to receive Christ?

Notes


[1] On 5 November 2016 the website to which I linked had blocked my access to the URL. This has happened to all of my links to that website, christianforums.com. I suggest that you copy my questions into your web browser to see the original questions and other content I have written. It’s a sad day when a Christian forum does not want me to link back to its website where I was a regular poster (over 10,000 posts in 11 years) and took some of this interaction (particularly my content) for articles on my homepage, ‘Truth Challenge‘.

[2] “Christianity Today – General Statistics and Facts of Christianity,” available from About.com at: http://christianity.about.com/od/denominations/p/christiantoday.htm [8 February 2009].

 

Copyright © 2009 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 5 November 2016.

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