This is among the most difficult questions to answer, and I don’t have any particularly innovative solution to offer that hasn’t already been proposed before. A short listing of the most notable answers can be found here. They provide some food for thought, and may help explain why a world with some suffering in it could be preferable to a world with none at all. For a vivid illustration of this, I’d recommend the Twilight Zone episode A Nice Place to Visit.
Nonetheless, I would agree that if God is good, the quantity and intensity of suffering we observe in this world Continue reading “If God is good, why is there so much suffering in the world?”
Most Christian denominations do teach that sex before marriage is always a sin, and the importance of chastity is a common theme in Christian literature at least as far back as St. Augustine. I don’t take lightly the weight of tradition in this matter, and the purpose of this blog is not to set my own views up as being authoritative over those of other Christians. However, this blog does aim to honestly confront the issues that might be decisive in driving large numbers of people away from Christianity, and it must be admitted that this is one of those issues. It has been reported that in present-day America, most people have sex before marriage (~95%). So do most conservative Protestants who are active in their faith (~80%). It is not unusual Continue reading “Does Christianity forbid sex before marriage?”
For me, this is one of the most mysterious issues in Christianity. Like many of the other posts on this blog, this one is not going to provide a precise answer, but rather some possibilities to consider.
Nevertheless, while I’m unclear as to the why and the how of it, I affirm that Jesus did indeed die for us. This is not a peripheral part of the Christian message. It does not at all appear to be something added on by the biblical writers or later Church leaders, nor is it something where Jesus has been misunderstood. Rather, it seems to be the abundantly clear teaching of the New Testament that Jesus gave up his life for our sake.
It is true that Jesus taught a lot about morality. But He didn’t present Himself as a moral innovator, but rather as one who illustrates (and calls us back to) timeless moral truths that we already knew inside our hearts. For example, Continue reading “Why did Jesus die for us?”
The Old Testament contains many passages that are difficult to believe. There are of course problems with scientific, geographical, or historical details, the most famous of these being the six-day creation. These issues do not present severe difficulty except to the fundamentalist who insists on taking every word literally. Allegorical interpretations of the Genesis story have been part of mainstream Christian thought since long before the scientific age.
The more serious concerns with the Old Testament come from passages where either the “moral of the story” itself, or the life lesson that a believer could be expected to draw from a passage, or the depiction of the character of God, strikes us as terribly wrong. For example, in Numbers 5:11-29, we read that Continue reading “Did God order the Israelites to commit genocide?”
The whole idea of hell is a complicated one. It’s also very important, and I would encourage readers to work through the material in this post and read the scriptures to which I have added links.
There is first of all difficulty in defining what hell is. Conservative Protestants generally consider it to be a place, while Catholic, Orthodox, and Anglican theologian typically define hell as a state of separation from God. The influential King James Version of the Bible translates three different biblical terms – Hades, Gehenna, and Tartarus – as “hell”, masking shades of meaning in each term.
The basic premise, outlined by Jesus in the Gospel of Matthew, Continue reading “What kind of God would punish people in hell forever?”
Blaise Pascal was a 17th century French philosopher, mathematician, and physicist. He invented a mechanical calculator, and a modern computer programming language is named after him. His contributions had long-lasting impact in the fields of gambling theory, economics, and actuarial science. He was also a deeply religious man. His Pensées, an ambitious work meant to provide a thorough defense of Christianity, were unfinished at the time of his death. The most famous idea to emerge from his draft has been called Pascal’s Wager.
The basic idea is that either God exists, or He does not, and the matter cannot be proven one way or the other. If He does exist, you have everything to gain by believing that He does, and living your life accordingly, and everything to lose by rejecting or ignoring Him. If He does not exist, you have nothing to lose either way. Regardless of what probability you assign to his existence, the rational “wager” is to live as if He does exist.
Critics of Pascal’s Wager attack not the mathematics of it but the various underlying assumptions. Continue reading “Does Pascal’s Wager make sense?”
I find that one’s answer to this important question predicts a lot of how the rest of one’s thinking takes shape.
One group says yes, the Bible is inerrant, right down to the last detail, including the literal six-day creation. This position is usually maintained either through exaggerated claims about archaeology and prophecy, or on the fear that compromise on that point leads down a slippery slope.
A second approach is to say Continue reading “Is the Bible completely without error?”
No. Christianity is clear that God is love, and doesn’t hate any of His children. Anyone claiming to the contrary is badly misrepresenting the Christian faith. Such voices get far more attention than they deserve, and I won’t dignify any of them with a link.
The more significant controversy is whether gay relationships are by their nature sinful, or not. Christian social conservatives use biblical arguments to attack homosexual behavior rather than gay people. They are typically careful to remind people to “love the sinner, hate the sin”. For some, this maxim might just be lip service to cover up a prejudice to which the biblical passages provide convenient support. There is no good reason, however, to believe that all or even a majority fit that description. Just as it is possible to “love the sinner, hate the sin”, it is possible to disagree with someone’s argument, but give their sincerity the benefit of the doubt.
Other Christians interpret the same scriptures much differently. Continue reading “Does God hate gays?”
C.S. Lewis gives a good answer to essentially this question in God In The Dock: Essays on Theology and Ethics.
I can’t say for certain which bits came into Christianity from earlier religions. An enormous amount did. I should find it hard to believe Christianity if that were not so. I couldn’t believe that nine hundred and ninety-nine religions were completely false and the remaining one true. In reality, Christianity is primarily the fulfillment of the Jewish religion, but also the fulfillment of what was vaguely hinted in all the religions at their best. What was vaguely seen in them all comes into focus in Christianity – just as God Himself comes into focus by becoming a Man.
One observation often made is that Continue reading “Didn’t Christianity just copy from earlier religions?”
No. It is different in some very important respects, all of which point to it being true. Here are a few points to consider.
1) Christianity is one of only a few candidates that has stood the test of time. The vast majority of religious movements die out quickly or never reach any kind of critical mass. If God has a true message at all for the world to hear, wouldn’t one expect it to have survived in one of the major religions? If not, each of us has little hope in finding it anyways, so it makes sense to focus on the major candidates. There are four great world religions to which over 1% of the world’s population belongs: Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, and Buddhism. I will also discuss Judaism since many readers are familiar with it. These five cover about 75% of the world’s population. Continue reading “Isn’t Christianity just like all the other man-made religions?”