Since God knows everything and he hates sin, why would he let Satan tempt Adam and Eve into sin and let all mankind fall? Did God want us to be sinful?
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We might say that you have asked the question—one that Christian theologians have puzzled over for centuries. Since God knows all things, can do all things, and hates sin, why did he create the kind of world in which a fall into sin was possible?
Inadequate answers to the question fall into three categories. One kind holds that God doesn't know everything about the future, and that actually the Fall took him by surprise. It's not hard to see what's wrong with this.
Then there are those approaches that suggest that God wanted the Fall to happen so that he could display his glory and his saving love in Christ. This does not do justice, however, to God's hatred of sin and evil. God did not want the Fall to happen any more than he wants you or me to sin today (James 1:13-15).
The third category consists of proposals that, for one reason or another, God had no choice. Some theologians have held that freedom—under which they include the "freedom" to sin—is a sort of theological "law of nature." In other words, it's an essential characteristic of any possible world that God could have created. Others have held that the possibility that Adam and Eve would sin was a risk God was forced to take in order to create beings who would love him freely. There are problems with these proposals:
1) In Scripture, there is no such thing as "freedom" to sin. Freedom is the ability to serve God joyfully and willingly (Romans 8:2).
2) In order for us to love God the way he wants to be loved, it is not necessary that we have the option of sinning. What about after we're in heaven?
3) It is never true that God had "no choice." Nobody and nothing can compel God to do anything (Psalm 115:3).
In short, the honest answer to your question is, "We don't know." Your question is a reminder that the Bible's purpose is to reveal what God has done to save us in Jesus Christ, not to answer every theological question that we might have. That means we not only look to Scripture for answers; we also let it pose the questions.
Would God, who is supposed to love all, send people to hell?
You are right that God is loving. What some people forget is that Scripture also says that God is just ( Exodus 34:6,7). The amazing thing is that God displayed both his love and his justice on the cross when Christ was punished for our sins.
Those who reject Christ, God's payment for sin, will have to pay for the price of sin on their own. That is the tragedy of hell. All of those who will eventually suffer in hell had their sins paid for through Christ. Perhaps comparing it to a tax exemption is helpful. If we don't take the exemption, we have to pay the tax. So it is with God. It we refuse the exemption God gives us in Christ, we have to pay the tax for sin on our own. It is not the fault of a loving, just God that these people reject what he did for them.
My 10-year-old son asked me, "How do we know that there is really only one God?" How can I explain it to him?
First of all, thank you for taking the time to talk about God with your son, and for being concerned about telling him the right thing, God bless you!
There are many possible approaches to your son's questions, but as I see it, the best may be to point out to your son that ultimately only God can know the truth about God, and man only knows what God chooses to reveal to us. Thankfully, God has chosen to reveal himself in his Word. Among the things that he says are that he alone is God (Deuteronomy 6:4, Isaiah 42:10,11), and that he is all-knowing (Hebrews 4:13) and all-powerful (Psalm 115:3). "Because the Bible says so" is always a more satisfactory answer than, "Because he just is."
If you use it, be prepared for the next question, "But why should we believe the Bible?" The shortest and best answer to that one is, "Because Jesus does." Above all, God reveals himself to us in his Son, Jesus Christ. Jesus proved his authority to speak for God through his miracles, especially his greatest miracle: his rising from the dead. And Jesus always treated the Bible as inspired by God the Holy Spirit (Matthew 22:43) and therefore without error (John 10:35). Jesus would never lie to us. His book, the Bible, won't either.
I know that everything that happens is in the hands of God. But why does God permit bad things to happen to good people?
God certainly could prevent all bad and evil from taking place in this world. And more often than we may realize it, he does precisely that, frustrating the evil plans and purposes of those who hate him and his people (read Psalm 2 where God laughs at the rebellious plans of the kings of the earth!).
At times when God does permit man's evil, what God is doing is using one sinner as a tool of his justice to punish another sinner. Think of how he used the sinful nation of Babylon to punish the sinful nation of Judah. In turn, Persia conquered Babylon, and then Greece conquered Persia, etc.
But it would go against clear Scripture to say God causes evil. God is nothing but pure goodness (Psalm 118:1), and nothing comes down from heaven but good and perfect gifts (James 1:17).
My friend says that Christ in his human nature was incapable of sin or of succumbing to temptation. I thought Christ was susceptible to the temptation to sin—but did not. What does the Word say about this?
This subject has intrigued and troubled many Christians for a long time. It is not a silly or frivolous question since it deals with the person of Jesus Christ and the union of the two natures in him.
The Bible clearly leads us to see that Jesus was really tempted just like we are, but that he never sinned (Hebrews 4:15). This fact highlights his human nature, to be sure. Jesus was truly human and really tempted. This was no pretending.
But the person of Christ is unique and in addition to his human nature he also had his divine nature. As God, or according to his divine nature, Jesus could not be tempted (James 1:13) nor could he sin.
Being both God and man at the same time and in a unique way that surpasses our full comprehension, Jesus laid aside the full use of his divine characteristics and prerogatives for a time in order to carry out his work as our substitute. He was truly tempted and subject to temptation but as God was ultimately incapable of sinning. We let both truths stand side by side. Our task is not to plumb the depths of Christ's unique person but to rejoice in what he did on our behalf.
How do I know there is a God?
Have you ever thought about how many things you know and believe without having seen them? Take gravity for instance. No one has ever seen gravity, but I see evidence of it is all around. As a matter of fact, we depend on it for almost all of our everyday activities. Gravity holds our cars on the road. It keeps us from floating away into space. We would be in serious trouble without it.
Look at God in very much the same way that you look at gravity. You have never seen him, but you see evidence that he must exist in the world. Whether taking in a soft summer sunset or a late night display of the constellations, know that someone took some serious time and effort to get things just right. The Bible puts it this way, "Every house is built by someone, but God is the builder of everything." (Hebrews 3:4)
Have you ever taken time to look closely at the world in which we live? Get up a little earlier than normal tomorrow and let the sunrise speak for itself. You decide which is more impressive, the beauty of the sunrise or the fact that is has risen every day in the history of the world. You will hear an inaudible voice in that sunrise. It is God's voice. (Psalm 19:1-4)
Perhaps you are more impressed with detail. Take time to count the hairs on one of your arms from your wrist to your elbow. As you notice the delicacy with which each hair is connected, consider how hard plastic surgeons work to duplicate a "normal" hair pattern. They never do get it quite right, do they? All of this is part of God's great attention to detail and more evidence that he does exist.
We have never seen God, but, like gravity, we know he is here. He has taken the time to leave evidence of his existence all around the world in which we live. Take time to notice it. You will see that he is very real. If you want more, definite information, take time to get to know him better in the Bible.
The world has thousands of different religions, many of which claim to be followers of the one and only true God. How do any of those different gods have a position that makes that one's existence more probable than the others? How can you disprove one all-powerful God without disproving the others? How can you therefore confidently say yours is the true God if you cannot show the other 'all-powerful all-knowing' beings aren't?
Your series of questions is extremely common among professing atheists and among college students who have recently been exposed to philosophical issues in the classroom. Since any and all rational arguments can be countered and debated with reason, little meaningful progress can be gained by offering answers that are based solely on reason (e.g., the ontological, cosmological, moral, and teleological arguments for the existence of God). If you are most interested in intellectual exercises, I suggest that you enter, "Can we prove God's existence?" into your search engine and spend time examining and thinking about various approaches that people, including Christian apologists, have taken in this issue.
An honest—and fairly brief—answer from our perspective will have two parts to it, and I'll share this with you at this time.
Part 1: The Bible repeatedly says that all human beings have a natural knowledge of God derived through their observations of the created universe and the human conscience. That derived knowledge is sufficient to establish the reality of God to anyone. Those who deny this do so not for intellectual reasons but moral reasons. For expansion on this thought, please speak with one of our pastors and ask about the "natural knowledge of God."
Part 2: The fullest and most meaningful revelation of God is through the Bible and is centered in the person and work of Jesus Christ. This revealed information also shows how unique the Christian understanding of God is from all other religions and concepts of God. The Bible's primary focus is on the unconditional good news of God's love in Christ, providing us undeserving sinners with pardon and peace through Christ's life and death on our behalf. For expansion on these thoughts, please speak with one of our pastors and ask about these topics: "the revealed knowledge of God," "the gospel," and "objective justification."
This is something that has always been on my mind and that my children ask me all the time. Where did God come from? It is hard to understand that because we know everything comes from something. So how did God come into existence?
Your children are asking a question that the strong majority of people ask sooner or later. Because, as you say, we assume that "everything comes from something," it makes logical sense to assume that God came from something at some point in time.
Our only answer is to express what the Bible tells us about God. God didn't come from anything. He always was and always will be. Passages like Psalm 90:2 and Psalm 93:2 touch on this subject. "Eternity" and "everlasting" are terms that we finite creatures use to express the concept of something that has no end and/or no beginning. God has no beginning or end. He is outside the realm of time. The problem in saying this, of course, is that we cannot comprehend the idea of being beyond time or being without beginning or end. What Solomon expressed in Ecclesiastes 3:11 is humbling but true. We are informed of the concept but cannot fathom it.
I suggest that in talking about this to your children you simply emphasize that (1) God is different from everyone and everything else. Everything else comes from something (ultimately from God himself), but God doesn't. He is simply different; and (2) God is especially different in the kind of love he shows to us. He loves us so much that, even though we disobey him and often disrespect him, he sent Jesus to take away the guilt of our sin and adopt us into his family as dear children.
In this way, your answer can redirect the curiosity of your children to a subject they (and we) can better understand and appreciate. When we are more fully occupied with the gospel, we grow more content with what we do not know.
Some people I know want to use the name Yahweh instead of God. I think it makes them feel closer to God or special in God's eyes. Is there any reference I can use in this discussion about why or whether Yahweh is a better term of respect?
There are many names of God in the Bible, and we may use any of them. Actually, "God" is a general term, not a proper name. It may even be used of false gods or idols, who are not really God (Psalm 96:5).
The word "God" in the Hebrew language, Elohim, is special though, because it is plural even though it refers to the one true God. The one God is three persons. He is "Father, Son, and Holy Spirit," as Jesus indicates with the triune name that he directs us to use during baptism (Matthew 28:19).
Yahweh is the Hebrew form of the name of God. It means "He Is." However, out of respect for God, the Israelites did not pronounce the word "Yahweh." Instead, they substituted the word "Adonai," which means Lord.
The English name "Jehovah" is a result of combining the words Yahweh and Adonai. These names may refer to any person of the Trinity or all of them together.
Your friends' idea that calling God "Yahweh" is more respectful is interesting because the Jewish tradition is just the opposite. It holds that the most respectful thing is not to pronounce this name, just as we would not call a dignitary by his first name but by his title.
How do I answer an 85-year-old veteran of WWII who asks, "If there's really a God, and he's so good, why did he let me and others in the war kill all those people? Some of them weren't soldiers."
I am thankful that you have the opportunity to speak with this gentleman who is questioning God's goodness and apparently wrestling with a burdened conscience as well. Your brief description of his questions may well indicate that he has not been served with law and gospel in an adequate way and he could use help in trusting God's goodness above and beyond God's use of sinful actions (like war and hatred) in this world.
I would begin by focusing primarily on the reality and universality of human sin and God's ultimate solution to human guilt through Jesus Christ and his saving work for us all. This is not a direct answer to the question of participating in war as a soldier nor the reality that God allows "innocent" civilians to suffer during wartime, but it sets a foundation that will be needed to allow this gentleman to trust God's promises and divine wisdom in ruling the world. If we do not trust God as our Savior from sin and guilt, we will not trust his promises that he allows sin and wicked deeds to take place and then uses them for good purposes (that go beyond our ability to understand fully.)
While the Bible records many examples of war, violent deaths, civilian casualties, and military high and low points—and all of these may be useful to help demonstrate how God works providentially in this world, the quickest answer is perhaps simply to say this:
- When you serve as a faithful soldier representing your country in a just war (with a just cause, appropriate means, etc.), God only asks that you obey the civil authorities. See Romans 13:1-7. So if this man's conscience is troubling him about serving as a soldier, this might help. (But he still needs to focus on Christ regardless).
- When it comes to wicked and most unpleasant deeds, God may at any time 1) forbid or prevent them, 2) allow them to take place (giving means and opportunity but not sinful motive), and if he allows them, 3) limit and direct them for his broader purposes for everyone involved, and 4) use them for the ultimate good of his dear people (believers) and to serve his ultimate glory. In doing all of this he acts in ways that may make no sense to us at the time. Remember the day we call "Good Friday." For a time it appeared to believers as horrible, unacceptable, and evidence God had lost control. But it was very "good" indeed and was a part of God's master plan to deal graciously with his people and to deal severely with unbelievers.
- When we learn God's love and goodness in Jesus Christ and receive the gift of Christian faith through the Holy Spirit in the gospel, he allows us to walk by faith, not by sight. That is, we learn to trust divine promises and assurances when we cannot "prove" that things are fitting and good in the long run. For this former soldier, as a forgiven sinner relying on Jesus Christ, he will be led to trust that his killing in war was serving God's purposes—to bring fellow believers among the enemy to glory, to serve God as his instrument of judgment for those who despised the gospel, to demonstrate the evil of war and value of peace so that others involved may seek divine wisdom and comfort and encouragement through the gospel that is intended for all mankind, etc.
- The biggest temptation your friend faces is what everyone asking these kinds of questions faces: the temptation to allow human sentiment and judgment on what is good and bad, right and wrong, loving and unloving to stand in judgment on divine providence and decisions on those issues. When we are brought to trust the work and promises of Jesus Christ, we also learn to stand in awe of our good and gracious God rather than to stand in judgment of him.
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