My response is in Green:
Thanks for writing me. I try to answer the questions people put to me. Some people get mad because I do that but I figure if you are going to believe something then you should be able to defend your position. I will try to honestly answer the questions you have asked. I do want to let you know up front that I am not a theologian I am just a Bible believing Christian. The other thing I will tell you is that my answers are mine, I won't go read someone else's book and rewrite their answers to you. I have and do read a lot so my views may well parallel someone's views that I have read, but they will be my thoughts. I would like to discuss these issues with you. It might not be easy for me to adequately explain everything in one e-mail message, not to mention that if I tried it would probably be pretty lengthy. I love to discuss my faith so I hope you will discuss it honestly with me.
I signed your guestbook as "J." I want to let you know that I really appreciated your response to my note in your guestbook. So many people simply ignore the people who disagree with them. I appreciated your thoughtful, respectful response to the issues I raised. Perhaps I can explain myself a little better.
1) I think Christianity is, in some ways, "evil." By this I mean that it has a negative effect on some people and is the justification for some pretty terrible things. The Bible can be used to justify the subservience of women, animosity towards the gay community, and reckless "dominance" of the world by humankind (because of the notion that people are superior to other creatures).
First we need to agree what Christianity is. The reason I say that is because many people claim to be Christians but don't follow Christ. My definition of Christianity is the group of people (Christians) who believe Jesus Christ was the Son of God (I will explain that later where you asked about it) and that He came to earth as a human. That He lived a sinless life, died on the cross as atonement for our sins, was raised by God the Father on the third day and is now in heaven at the Father's right hand. Further that all we have to do to be forgiven from our sins is to believe in Jesus Christ and ask Him to forgive us. If we believe that Jesus is the Son of God then we will do our best to follow what He taught as found in the New Testament of the Bible.
Now, I went through all that so that you understand what I mean by the name Christian; someone who follows what Christ taught. Christ never taught the kinds of things that you don't like about Christianity, in fact He taught against them. So the problem comes not with Christianity, but with the people who claim to be Christians but don't follow Christ.
I will be very blunt about how I feel about this. The crusades were against what Jesus taught, and the officials who told those men to go kill heathens were not Christians!! The people who kill abortion doctors are not Christians!! The people who preach God and Christ all day long on the TV just to get people's money for their own selfish benefit are not Christians!! I will try not to quote too much scripture to you but I think this one is important. Jesus is speaking here: "No good tree bears bad fruit, nor does a bad tree bear good fruit. Each tree is recognized by its own fruit. People do not pick figs from thorn bushes, or grapes from briers. The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For out of the overflow of his heart his mouth speaks. "Why do you call me, 'Lord, Lord,' and do not do what I say? Luke 6:43-46
Anyone can say they are a Christian but if their life does not show it then they are not a true Christian, period. I use to be a Police Officer, if I got out my old uniforms and put on my badge and went out and stopped women just to get their phone numbers or worse, should all Police Officers be blamed? No, because I am not even a Police Officer, yet I would be acting like one while I broke the law. Don't judge Christ on what people do in His name.
2) I don't like the idea of people being inherently evil. I think the idea of original sin is ridiculous. I have not done anything wrong to anyone; I am without sin. To me, seeing people as evil and in need of god's grace is a very negative view of humankind. Why should we be evil? Why would god make anyone evil? One can argue that he didn't bring evil into the world, but that we ourselves did, and that that was the price of free will. But if god is really omnipotent, he could have given us complete free will AND a perfect sense of morality and justice so that we'd always know, and act on, the right choice. This would be completely within the power of an omnipotent god. Instead, he chose a path that he had to have known would lead to pain and suffering. He could have done things differently, but he didn't. He gave us a world where children are molested and murdered in casinos, a man could orchestrate the extermination of 6 million people, and people rape, murder, lie, cheat, and steal. What kind of god is that? How can you believe in a god that finds it best to subject humankind to such suffering, even if it's only during our "earthly life?" He could have done things differently. I could never believe in a god who would subject his created people to such evil. Surely he must be an evil god.
I must admit that I don't like the idea of people being inherently evil either, but I spent 7 years on the Sheriff's Department and I am here to tell you that it is true. I stand by the point I made in the guestbook, a parent does not have to teach a child to do wrong you have to teach them to do what is right. You say you are without sin, well have you ever lied? Have you ever stolen anything? Have you ever had an evil thought about someone? See it depends on what you call sin. God calls all these things sin and none of us can honestly say that we have never committed one of them. That to me is the idea of original sin, we are born with the will to do these evil sinful things. We got this from Adam and Eve who were not that way until they sinned for the first time in the garden of Eden. From that point on the earth was filled with sin. There was no death in creation until that time, but as soon as they ate of the fruit from the tree God told them not to, death also came into the world.
God has given us a sense of morality and justice. We know what is right and what is wrong. If someone asks you something and you decide to lie to them are you going to tell me that you don't know that is wrong? Or if you take something without paying don't you know that it is wrong? Of course you do and so does everyone else.
Part of the problem is your view of who God is. First and this will probably seem pretty intolerant of me, but I told you I will try to be honest with you; God is in control whether we like it or not. He does not have to answer to us for anything He does, but yet we can understand the reason for some of the things He does. He does not look at things like we do. Yet we can gain some understanding of Him from what He has done and said in the past.
For instance, we as humans have a hard time understanding why He would create us with free will if He already knew that we would sin and disobey Him. To understand that at least in part I think you have to go back to before He created us. He created the angels and He knew that some of them would disobey Him also. He gave them free will when they were created. Why is He so big on free will? I think it is because He could create as many beings as He wants and make them worship Him but it would mean nothing because they would have no choice in the matter. He does not want that kind of shallow worship, instead He wants beings who choose to worship Him on their own.
Anyway He created the angels and Lucifer (now called Satan) had a problem with pride. He wanted to be worshiped just like God. God could have killed him on the spot but He did not. God cast Satan out of heaven but allowed him to live on earth. This is about the time God created mankind and put them (Adam and Eve) in charge of the earth. God only gave them one rule that they were not to break and that was about the tree that they were not to eat the fruit from. Why would He make any rules? Well again I think it is because He wants us to obey Him because we choose to. If there is no choice then we don't really have free will.
So even if you agree with me so far, why does God allow sin into the world and then demand punishment for it? Again you have to understand God's nature. He is a holy being. His holy nature cannot stand sin, period. His holy nature demands punishment for every sin, and that punishment is the same for all sins; death! That seems harsh to us, but it is because we look at sin through human eyes not God's holy eyes. We take sin very lightly but God does not.
You said you could not believe in a God that allows His creation to suffer. Well the suffering is due to the sin in the world. Believe me He does not like it. He could make everyone who sins drop dead, no questions asked but then heaven would be a very lonely place. None of us is perfect. I saw first hand on the streets of America that people do evil things just because they want to. It makes no sense what people do to each other, but they do it all the time. Again God can and will one day put a stop to it, but He wants us all to have a chance.
3) This business about jesus drives me nuts. Gods can't have sons. Sons are born from sex between people. The notion of god having a son is just so bizarre. I guess he technically can, since he can do anything, but it really doesn't make sense. And what about god sacrificing his son? Well, he didn't have to do it that way. Remember--he's omnipotent. he could have achieved his goal of saving humankind any way he wanted--the possibilities are literally endless. He chose to sacrifice his son. And what's the big deal about Jesus's sacrifice? he knew he was god's son and was therefore immortal. So he suffered for a few hours on the cross. Big deal.
I won't try to tell you that I totally understand the Trinity, but I will try to explain it as well as I can. The Trinity is God (one God) in three persons. He is one being but yet has three distinct personalities (so to speak). There is God the Father and God the Son (Jesus) and God the Holy Spirit. How can God have a Son? I think He calls Jesus His Son so that we can better understand the relationship between them. They (all three - after all they are all one being) have been alive forever, so God did not get a Son later like we humans do. But I think it shows how these two persons of the being God, relate to each other. Now you might not be able to understand how God can be one being yet three persons, well again this is hard to understand but I will tell you how I look at it. Let's take you for instance, there is you - the body everyone sees. The flesh and bones, the person. Then there is you the personality - the conscious thinking being that makes you, you. I believe this is the soul inside of you. In a small way there are two of you but yet you are one person. I know that is a feeble explanation, but it is the best I can do right now.
So you see Jesus the Son of God was just as much God as God the Father. Why would He be willing to come to earth as a human (while retaining His deity) to die for our sins? Again you have to look at the nature of God. He wanted to show every living being that He was in control and not only because He was all powerful. He did it under human rules. For a time Jesus put His deity on the back burner and walked this earth as a human being. He had the same emotions that we have, the same temptations (the difference is that He never gave into them), He cried because of the loss of a friend, He got angry at times, He was human.
You said that His death on the cross was no big deal because after all He knew that He was God and that death was not the end of anything. Well you are right, just like I know that my death will not be the end, but going back to what He suffered, think about this. I said before that God cannot handle sin, He can't even look on it, because of His holy nature. Now remember that Jesus and God the Father are one being, closer than we as humans can even understand, yet while Christ hung on that cross, He took our sins on his shoulders. When He took our sins, He also took our shame, and God the Father turned His back on Him. I don't believe that as human beings we will ever fully understand what that must have been like. God hates sin and He poured His holy wrath out on Christ for us. He took all our sins on His shoulders. He took my lying, my stealing, my lustful thoughts, my you ... name it and He took your's too. And Clinton's, and everyone else's.
What does He ask of us? He asks that we believe in Him and what He did for us and that we ask Him for forgiveness. That is it, period, it is finished... I believe also, like I said before that after we accept Christ as our Savior we will try to live the life He wants us to.
4) I think most people are fundamentally good. They don't want to hurt other people or steal, lie, cheat, etc. But there are some people who do terrible things. That's just the way life is. It makes me sad, and I wish people would just be nice to each other. It's that simple--no god, no original sin, no punishment.
I wish you were right but I am here to tell you that you are wrong. I have seen it first hand. I have seen all those upstanding citizens who did not think anyone was watching when they stole something. Most everyone I ever questions, whom I already knew did something, would lie to my face, men women and children. I saw people kill over pennies, over pork chops, over who would have the kids, over a dirty look, over giving someone the finger, over a child sassing back to a parent. Yes a lot of people are good at heart, they will help others, etc... But we all have a dark side too and anyone who does not believe that should ride along with a Police Officer for a couple of weeks. I too wish people would be nice to others, but that is not the real world. It reminds me of the cold war. The peace advocates wanted the U.S. to just dump our nuclear weapons into the ocean. Then the world would have been a peaceful place. The problem was if we had done that we would have been the only ones and we would have been at the mercy of anyone who had nuclear weapons. See it is a nice sentiment but unrealistic.
You said "It's that simple - no God, no original sin, no punishment." That kind of reminds me of the person who is trying to cross a freeway in California. Just close your eyes, see, no traffic, no danger, no problem... It just doesn't work that way.
5) About punishment...Why would a perfectly good god choose to punish people? That's such an evil thing to do. Why would anyone who is perfectly good hurt others? It doesn't make any sense. Punishment is completely incompatible with perfect goodness. In any case, these are just my opinions, obviously. thanks for listening.
Why is punishment an evil thing? Okay, you don't believe in God, but do you believe in punishing people who do evil things? If so, why, isn't that evil of you? If not, then I guess if someone kills someone you love you would go eat dinner with them that night, no harm done? I doubt that.
Punishment will be just in the end. God does not judge people on what they don't know or don't understand, He only judges us on what we do know and what we do understand. If a person has never heard of Jesus or God, they still know inside what is right and what is wrong, that is what God judges them on. On the other hand, those of us that do understand the plan of salvation but turn our backs on it have no excuse. Someday we will stand before Christ and have to explain why we did not believe and ask for forgiveness. Was it pride? Was it that we knew we were doing sinful things and just could not stand the thought of giving them up?
So what is the reason? How hard is it to ask Jesus to forgive you of your sins? It costs nothing and it will gain you eternal life. One other question, what if I am totally wrong and none of this is true? What have I lost? I enjoy my life more now then I ever did while I was out drinking and living a sinful life. Now think about this, what if on the other hand I am right? What have you got to lose???
I know you might find this hard to understand but Jesus loves you no matter what you think of Him. He came to earth to suffer and die even knowing that you would feel this way. That is an awesome thought. God the creator of the universe would have died (and did) for you.
Well I am sorry this has gotten so long, but you asked a lot of questions. I know I did not answer all of them but I figure this is enough for one message. Please write back and we can discuss this further. I hope it does not upset you, but I will be praying for you.
E-Mail Ralph (whose comments are in green)
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