Questions & Answers – Part 3

Q: If there is a creator God, why do the innocent suffer?

A: If there is no God, why are they innocent and who cares if they suffer? Innocence implies moral standards, and the sadness of suffering implies that someone cares about suffering, that is not natural or ordinary, right or just. Only believers in a personal, omnipotent, and loving God ask this kind of question. If there is no personal God, there are no morals, no innocence, and suffering is a first truth of existence.

As to suffering, God is innocent and He suffers. The Lord Jesus, who suffered more than any man for our sake, did not promise to free mankind from suffering, but sin. And because suffering comes from our sin, each reborn person helps take some of the hurt from the heart of the universe.

Q: If god is love, why does the Bible say He is “angry with the wicked every day” (Ps. 7:11)?

A: It is perfectly possible to love and be angry at the same time. You have done it yourself if you got mad at yourself when you did something foolish or wrong. The reason you were angry with yourself was that you knew you were capable of better things, but did not do them. God is angry with the wicked every day because He knows what they are capable of and to what depth they have fallen.

Q: If God is good, how can He be jealous?

A: Jealousy is the emotion of single-minded devotion. Jealously is only wrong when it is self-centered, creating envy and hatred for others. But jealously can be positive- the single-mindedness of commitment and zeal. Jealously is the only correct emotional response when a rightful love is threatened by some rival claiming an already pledged affection.

God loves us wholly, utterly and without reserve. We by right belong to Him, and an utterly faithful and committed God of covenant love cannot allow a rival to His rightful ultimate affection. (Ex. 20:5; Deut. 5:9; 6:15). His response to all that would lead us to idolatry, wavering commitment, and spiritual seduction is a holy protective anger that flames against that which threatens His beloved (Deut.4: 23-31; 32:16-21; Ps 78:52-58; Zech. 1:12-16; 8:2-8).

Q: I hear Christians say that Jesus was perfect, yet He cursed a poor fig tree because it didn’t have any figs and killed it (Mark 11:12- 14) Doesn’t this reveal a bad temper?

A: No, it shows He is God! This incident happened on the way to the Temple, His Fathers house, which had become badly corrupted (Mark 11: 15-18). Certain trees in the Bible are consistent symbols; the vine represents the political history of the nation and the olive, its genuine spiritual history. The fig tree is likewise a symbol, representing the religious history of a nation. Its is unique in that the fruit appears before the leaves. On His way to the temple of the backslidden people of Israel, a place with all the trappings and no fruit, Jesus came across a fig tree with only leaves, just as if it had fruit, in violation of its proper function. He used the anomaly as an unforgettable object lesson to the disciples (Mark11: 20-22).

Q: How can anyone know what God is like? An infinite God, far beyond our mortality, is to strange for finite man to understand.

A: True, unless God is somehow related to us. We could never know God as uncreated infinite being He is except for the fact that He is the personal Creator. An atheist being asked Francis Schaeffer , ” What sense does it make a man to become an ant and die for the ants in order to save the ants?” Schaeffer answered, “No sense at all, for a man is not related to the ant. But God made man in His own image and likeness; we are related to Him by creation in His image.”

Q: But how could anyone find an infinite God?

A: No one can, unless that infinite God chooses to reveal himself. Zophar said to Job,”Canst thou by searching find out God? canst thou find out the Almighty unto perfection?” Job 11:7). Truth comes by revelation and is possible because God, even though infinite, is also a person and thus able to communicate with us who are also persons even though we are finite. In Scripture and in history, God has revealed himself to all who set their hearts on seeking Him. “And ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart. And I will be found of you, saith the Lord” (Jer.29:13-14).

Q: If that is true, why hasn’t God disclosed himself to more people than just a few Jews and Christians?

A: “The wicked, through the pride of his countenance, will not seek after God: God is not in all his thoughts” (Ps.10: 4). “The Lord looked down from heaven upon the children of men, to see if there were any that did understand, and seek God. They are all gone aside, they are all together become filthy: there is none that doeth good, no, not one”(Ps. 14:2-3). Because we run from God, He has to take the initiative to seek us, a rebel and runaway race. Through His Spirit and in His Son, anyone who will respond to Him can meet the same God who made Gentiles into Jews and who is making heathen of all ages and places into Christians.

Q: How can God possibly care for all the people in the world?

A: God is not only a person, but an infinite person. He names every star (Ps.147:4), attends the funeral of every sparrow (Matt.10:29), and knows all our names as well as the number of hairs on our heads (Matt.10:30. His care is real, His concern is genuine, and His ability is unlimited.

Q: With so much hurt, pain, and horror in the world, what keeps God from going crazy?

A: His love and His purposes. He who declares the end from the beginning (Isa.46: 10) is the only being great enough to carry the sins and sorrows of a whole world and live. Although our sin has caused God great suffering, He moves toward His final goal of a redeemed Church in a recreated universe filled with happiness and harmony (Rev.21: 1-7).

Q: I don’t believe God can really suffer. How can really suffer. How can you say God is all powerful, sovereign, and in control of the universe and in the next breath say He can be affected by problems and evil in His creation?

A: Because God is all-powerful, He is able to suffer without damage to either His character or purposes. Because He is in truly sovereign, He is able to take existing evil in a fallen world and use it for His own purposes (Gen. 50:20). Because He is in total control of the universe, He is capable of managing His grief, knowing that the ultimate eternal outcome will be worth the passing pain. It was for the “joy that was set before him” (Heb.12: 2) that Jesus went to the cross, and both the incarnation and crucifixion demonstrate the reality of God’s suffering; not out of His own weakness, but on behalf of ours (1Pet.2: 21).

Q: But if God really suffers, isn’t He then at the mercy of turmoil and pain?

How does that concur with an all-powerful God?

A: God is not at the mercy of suffering. He has chosen to enter into it, bear it, and yet triumph over it (Luke 24:43-46; Acts 3:18). His alternative is to divorce himself from His creation, leave it a deist universe, and walk out. But long before the incarnation, God chose to fully enter into and wholly identify with all the potential sufferings of a world that, as yet, has never experienced them; He is the “Lamb slain from the foundation of the world” (Rev. 13:8).

Q: If God cannot sin, what does it mean that God “repented” (1Chron.21:15; Amos7:6; Jon.3:10)?

A: The word “repent” used of God is called an “anthropopathism,” an image ascribing human feelings or reactions to God, because we know that God cannot change (Num.23: 19; 1Sam15: 29; James1: 17). But we think of God’s changelessness in terms of His uncreated being and eternally faithful character, not as some inability to make new decisions. God as Creator not only can make new choices but because He is faithful and righteous He is perfectly able to respond with integrity and justice when men change their choices for or against His purposes and laws.

Q: Are you saying that God was wrong before He changed his mind?

A: No, but that the world was. It seems clear that God was initially happy over His creation, and that the space-time fall of man and the subsequent spread of deep rebellion brought Him real grief. In Gen.6: 6-7 (and 37 other times in the Bible) the special word “nacham” is used for “repent.” It comes from a root that means, “to draw the breath forcibly, to pant, to breathe strongly, to groan,” and is difficult to translate into English.

It is usually used of God instead of the other word “shuwb” used of mans repentance, his turning from sin. Zodhiates writes, “Essentially nacham is a change of heart or disposition, a change of mind, purpose, or conduct. When a man changes his attitude, God makes the corresponding change. God is morally bound not to change His stance if man continues to travel on an evil path… When God did change His mind it was because of the intercession of man and because of man’s true repentance (Ex.32: 12, 14; Jer.31: 19-20;Jon.3: 10). God is consistent (Ps. 110:4; James1: 17). Through it may appear that God’s purpose has changed, according to God’s perspective nothing has changed. Most prophecy is conditional upon the response of man.

Q: God loved the world (John 3:16), yet He tells us not to love it (1John 2:15). What does He mean?

A: God loved the world by dying in it to free it. We, to, must die to the world and its influence in order to demonstrate God’s love for it in Christ so that He might redeem it (John1: 7; 9:5; Matt. 14; John 17:14-23).

Q: Are the past, and present, and future the same to God?

A: It does not appear to be. The Bible reveals that God recognizes a true distinction. He does things in sequence and never hits that these acts are consimultaneous, or happening all at once, even as far as He is concerned

Q: What is meant by the phrase “Eternal Now”?

A: It means that God lives in an eternally present state-God’s being transcends time. But it has also come to mean that God has no true past or future, only an ever-present now. Although the idea is popular, some charge that it is an Eastern or Greek concept rather than a biblical idea.

Q: Is the future fixed?

A: No. The Bible clearly describes alternative decisions, actions, judgments, responses that man can or may make. The future is a flux of alternatives within certainties laid down by God.

Q: Can God live in either the future or past?

A: Apparently not, except in either an immediate remembering or cognitive sense. God has, of course, perfect recall of all past events and perfect knowledge of all future alternatives, but He lives in neither. God is acting-in computer language- “real time”.

Q: What does “there should be time no longer” (Rev.10:6) mean?

A: The history of this planet and this race will come to an end with the final destruction of the present earth and heavens. This “time” began at its creation and will end with its curtailmeant. However, the biblical phrase simply means Christ will not delay doing this.

Q: What is the relationship of Einstein’s concept of time to what we find in the Bible?

A: In Einstein’s theory, a body approaching the theoretical speed of light approaches infinite mass and zero time. A body at the speed of light would fill the entire universe and “time,” for it would theoretically stop. This “time” is related to light velocity, which is not really an absolute. However, biblical time in God’s character pre-existed the creation of light and can be considered as ultimately a creative sequence.

Q: If God lived in time, how could He be omniscient?

A: By omniscience, we mean “God’s perfect and eternal knowledge of all things which are objects of knowledge, whether they be actual or possible, past, present, or future.” God knows the past as perfectly as He absolutely knows the present and the possibilities of the future as well as that which is possible in the present.

Q: Are things which could be possible (contingent events) objects of knowledge?

A: Yes. An infinite God must know all finite alternatives; they are knowable without being expressed realities.

Q: But does God foresee the future actions of men as realities or only as possibilities?

A: How does God see His own future actions? If they are already realities, they are not yet expressed realities. When God foresees His own free actions, could it not be assumed that He has the power to change them? The Bible seems to say that He not only can but does control His future actions. Free choice is a reality with man because it is a reality in God.

Q: How does the doctrine of divine foreknowledge fit into this? God says one of the main reasons He is different from idols is His power to foretell the future (Isa.41: 21-22). Strong says: “if God cannot foreknow free human acts then the ‘lamb that has been slain from the foundation of the world’ (Rev. 13:8) was only a sacrifice to be offered in case Adam should fall, God not knowing whether he would or not, and in case Judas should betray Christ, God not knowing whether he would or not.

Indeed, since the course on nature is changed by man’s will when he burns towns and fells forest, God cannot on this theory even predict the course of nature. All prophecy is therefore a protest against this view.”

A: The subject of both prophecy and divine foreknowledge in relation to time and eternity deserves a much fuller treatment than is possible here. However, the concept of God living in endless time rather than timelessness does not impair either His power to see the future and proclaim it or detract from His ability to govern it. What He says will come to pass; what He gives to men, as alternatives are real alternatives. What He determines will always and without fail be accomplished

Q: But how can God be certain of acts that are free? Some say that knowledge of contingency is not necessarily contingent knowledge, or seeing a thing in the future does not cause it to be any more than seeing a thing in the past causes it to be. Foreknowledge may, and does presuppose predetermination, but is not itself predetermination.

A: That, of course is the basic issue. Can an act that will- not might, could, should, or even would-happen still be called “free” without fixity? For us to see a thing does not determine its future or past, but in the timeless eternity view, God does not just observe man making these choices; He created us making them. We have looked at the appendices. But the reformed idea of predestination is based on divine decree and not foreknowledge. God’s certainty here comes not from foreseen choices but fixity by purpose. Ultimately, we cannot say in this concept that man ever was free; his choices are ultimately determined by divine decree.

If however, choices are creations, and creations never exist as realities until imaged out into the real world, then all moral beings have a real but limited freedom, and God is a purposer, not just a programmer.

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