I think it was Aristotle who told us the three most important things to do in telling a story. You need to begin at the beginning, continue through the middle, and finish at the end. That works well for stories. It also works well for arguments. I mentioned in last night’s blog debating someone who was dealing with dbout and what I tried to do was to go to the beginning.
What is that beginning? Who is God? It’s amazing that we leap into so many thorny issues in relation to moralityand how God relates to that without deciding who he is. Consider if we were discussing the Problem of Evil. If we have a finite godism concept, then the problem of evil makes sense. Of course, it also becomes a real problem then as we can’t really be sure if God will overcome it in the end. If we have the Christian God, it’s not so much a problem as it is a mystery. Let’s suppose we have good reason to believe God has revealed himself in Christ, which we do. If we grant that, then we have to say, “Why evil?” It doesn’t destroy our faith then, but just presents a mystery. (Naturally, for those who don’t believe God has revealed himself in Christ, it counts as a problem.)
Our concept of God changes everything. Take the issue I was discussing with someone, the doctrine of Hell. If we’re going to look at this doctrine, we have to realize that it will be looked at from a Christian framework. It’s saying “Even if I grant everything else in your system, can you really say that Hell is a proper doctrine to believe in?”
Please note how that is worded. When I talk about Hell, I want to be sure that I give no one the impression that I like the doctrine of Hell. I don’t. Dwight L. Moody once said that if anyone ever preaches on Hell, there’d better be tears in his eyes. I’m not sure if I am at that point yet, but I certainly hope I am someday.
I was on an internet chat program one day when a friend contacted me. Our troops had just slain the sons of Saddam Hussein. My friend was pleased that we’d finally eliminated those two evil men. I had to say “You know, I’m glad that they’re not going to be around to inflict pain on anyone else, but I’m also sorrowful because I know two more people have entered Hell and there’s no escape.”
I say that because it is true. Hell should never be a doctrine that brings us delight. Too many Christians give the impression that when the fires of Hell are burning some of their enemies, they want to be right over them roasting marshmallows. I believe we can delight in justice and truth, but the suffering of others, not really. I also don’t think we can say it brings delight to God that people are in Hell, but that’s their choice.
And yes, we will look more at this thorny issue at a later date.
However, if you’re going to discuss Hell, you have to start again with God which is what we too often don’t do. Our arguments usually begin in a rather silly way when you think about it. Consider the Problem of Evil. An atheist would say “Well, if I was God, I could find a much better way to do X.” Oh? Really? You mean there’s no chance that if you suddenly stepped outside of time and had omniscience that you might just think that God has the right idea?
“Well, I wouldn’t like to suffer like that, so surely God wouldn’t allow that.”
It is quite frankly tiring to hear such things. It has been said that many people do wish to serve God, but only as advisors. When I come to the Problem of Evil, I have to look and consider “God knows the end from the beginning. Who am I, this finite being of limited intelligence bound by time to tell him he’s doing it wrong?” That doesn’t mean I don’t think we can’t make our requests known to God or even our complaints, but I do think it means we shouldn’t expect the master of the universe to change everything around just to make us happy.
What’s our concept of God? Maybe it’s time we looked at that. It could make many of the other issues much more understandable.