P.S.-Is Heaven really heaven if your friends and family are not there?
Who is "email"?
They are dangerous because they might eventually challenge God's worthiness. ... If you and I could anticipate God and understand everything He does, He wouldn't be much of a God, would He? The very fact that He is God and has unlimited knowledge, sight, awareness, and wisdom, necessarily implies that He will make some decisions and do somethings which we will not understand. Now, He may choose to explain them to us, but we will need to see everything He sees to appreciate what He has done. Until we mature to such splendor (if and when), then we will have to trust Him on a few things. Is that fair? What do you think?
Now, your line of questions are necessary, because God has recognized them and answered them - well, kind of. Actually, please allow me to suggest that you are not asking the correct question. Maybe you should instead ask, "How can I know there is a God?", followed by, "How can I know if He has spoken to us?". This last question boils down to the practical questions, "How can I know which God is the real God? Of Christianity, Judaism, Buddhism, Hinduism, paganism, Islam, Humanism, pantheism, deism, etc.?" The God of the Bible and Christianity, whom I am convinced is the one true God, is somewhat unique, because He recognizes man's need for evidence. He supplies man with evidence necessary to trust Him, believe in Him, and have in full confidence in Him. However, He has chosen the evidence, which He wishes to present. It is up to us to decide based on His presented evidence. He will not comply with whatever test we invent. We have to accept His evidence or reject. If we assume the evidence is sufficient, would that be fair of Him? What do you think?
So, God has chosen to answer other questions, provide other evidence, beside the ones you have asked. It is up to you to consider that evidence and decide if the God of the Bible is who He claims to be. If He is indeed God, then we can trust Him on other matters. Is that fair? I have come to believe so.
Based on the above line of reasoning, please allow me to briefly present a synopsis of God's evidence with a few links for further reading. For the sake of brevity, I will not provide as much Scriptural justification as usual or as I would like. Feel free to question any specific point, because I would be happy to elaborate further upon your request.
At the risk of detracting from the essential point, I will lastly take a stab at your questions, because I do not want you to think that I am avoiding them.
How Can I Know There Is A God?
Interestingly, the Bible does not address this question directly. In fact, it kind of assumes this position, touching only this question indirectly. In spite of this, let us briefly entertain a few classical arguments along this line:
- Ontological - "God is that than which nothing greater can be conceived." The idea of a perfect God is too wonderful to be imagined by imperfect men. For example, compare Greek mythology to the Holy God of the Bible. The Greek gods were just "super men", just as perverse and immoral, but with stronger bodies. However, the God of the Bible is perfect, without any flaws of any kind.
- Cosmological - "God is the only adequate cause for the Universe." Every effect has some cause. Nothing comes from nothing. The universe must come from something, and something superior to it.
- Teleological - "The Universe shows design. It's Designer must be God!" The genius of our world's design demands an intelligence surpassing its immense design. Also known as the "watchmaker argument". Would you believe a random materials could ever form a pocket watch with its complex combination of levers, gears, and wheels?
- Anthropological (Moral) - "Mankind's moral nature demands the existence of a moral lawgiver." All people everywhere have some basic concept and appreciation for right and wrong. What is the source? No animal has such an appreciation of justice, mercy, loyalty, fidelity, etc. Only a moral God could have impressed man with such an instinct.
- Universal - "The universal craving for a god and the religious instinct demands God to instill that need and instinct." If life rose from an inanimate source, then what is the cause for a universal awareness and belief in some personal, higher power?
- Aesthetical - "The presence of beauty and sublimity demands God as its source." Too much in this world exhibits beauty, but yet it has no practical purpose. Beauty exhibits symmetry and order. How do such things arise from chaos, non-order, and nihilistic nothing?
Weakness of Man's gods:
Evidence of God's Existence and Expansive Power in the Universe:Jeremiah, an inspired prophet, wrote: 3 For the customs of the peoples are futile; For one cuts a tree from the forest, The work of the hands of the workman, with the ax.
4 They decorate it with silver and gold; They fasten it with nails and hammers So that it will not topple.
5 They are upright, like a palm tree, And they cannot speak; They must be carried, Because they cannot go by themselves. Do not be afraid of them, For they cannot do evil, Nor can they do any good."
6 Inasmuch as there is none like You, O LORD (You are great, and Your name is great in might),
7 Who would not fear You, O King of the nations? For this is Your rightful due. For among all the wise men of the nations, And in all their kingdoms, There is none like You.
8 But they are altogether dull-hearted and foolish; A wooden idol is a worthless doctrine.
9 Silver is beaten into plates; It is brought from Tarshish, And gold from Uphaz, The work of the craftsman And of the hands of the metalsmith; Blue and purple are their clothing; They are all the work of skillful men.
10 But the LORD is the true God; He is the living God and the everlasting King. At His wrath the earth will tremble, And the nations will not be able to endure His indignation.
11 Thus you shall say to them: "The gods that have not made the heavens and the earth shall perish from the earth and from under these heavens."
12 He has made the earth by His power, He has established the world by His wisdom, And has stretched out the heavens at His discretion.
13 When He utters His voice, There is a multitude of waters in the heavens: "And He causes the vapors to ascend from the ends of the earth. He makes lightning for the rain, He brings the wind out of His treasuries."
14 Everyone is dull-hearted, without knowledge; Every metalsmith is put to shame by an image; For his molded image is falsehood, And there is no breath in them.
15 They are futile, a work of errors; In the time of their punishment they shall perish. (Jeremiah 10:2-15)
Evidence of God's Design in the Universe:Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ, wrote: 18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness,
19 because what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them.
20 For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse,
21 because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened.
22 Professing to be wise, they became fools, (Romans 1:18-22)
David, the inspired psalmist, wrote: 1 The heavens declare the glory of God; And the firmament shows His handiwork.
2 Day unto day utters speech, And night unto night reveals knowledge.
3 There is no speech nor language Where their voice is not heard.
4 Their line has gone out through all the earth, And their words to the end of the world. In them He has set a tabernacle for the sun,
5 Which is like a bridegroom coming out of his chamber, And rejoices like a strong man to run its race.
6 Its rising is from one end of heaven, And its circuit to the other end; And there is nothing hidden from its heat. (Psalm 19:1-6)
Man's Intrinsic Moral Awareness:The writer of Hebrews wrote:For every house is built by someone, but He who built all things is God. (Hebrews 3:4)
Paul again wrote:14 for when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do the things in the law, these, although not having the law, are a law to themselves,
15 who show the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and between themselves their thoughts accusing or else excusing them (Romans 2:14-15)
Man's Happy Appreciation of the World's Hospitality and Beauty:Solomon wrote: 10 I have seen the God-given task with which the sons of men are to be occupied.
11 He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also He has put eternity in their hearts, except that no one can find out the work that God does from beginning to end. (Ecclesiastes 3:10-11)
Each of these amazing things (the expanse, design, and beauty of the universe, as well as man's moral instinct) all point to some source beyond what we can see and comprehend. At this point, you don't have to call this force or being, God. That would be to presumptuous. First, let us see if this force has revealed himself, and then we can let him establish his own name, identity, character, and will for us.Luke, recording a speech of Paul, wrote: 15 "... you should turn from these useless things to the living God, who made the heaven, the earth, the sea, and all things that are in them,
16 "who in bygone generations allowed all nations to walk in their own ways.
17 "Nevertheless He did not leave Himself without witness, in that He did good, gave us rain from heaven and fruitful seasons, filling our hearts with food and gladness." (Acts 14:15-17)
Has the Creator Spoken?
Again, please allow me to cut to the chase: Let's examine the Bible, shall we? After all, its global reputation alone would warrant a serious investigation. The Bible itself stakes its own veracity on the following claims:
- Fulfilled Prophecy
- Jesus' Resurrection
- Harmony and Consistency
- Integrity of Transmission
- Faithfulness of Witnesses
Again, the Lord acknowledges our need for evidence ("Come now, let us reason together" - Isaiah 1:18). God builds His case for His own exclusive identity on His ability to foretell the future and bring it to pass (Isaiah 41:21-24; 42:8-9; 44:6-8; 46:8-11). Some prophecies even specify names of kings of empires that did not exist until hundreds of years after the prophecy’s writing (Isaiah 44:28-45:7). The Scriptures contains several hundred prophecies concerning the specifics of Jesus' life and death, many uttered over 500 hundred years before His birth! How can someone foretell the future so clearly, unless God is moving them (II Peter 1:19-21; Deuteronomy 18:20-22)?
We are not talking about scam artist, faith-healers, who heal people of invisible, subjective "aches", which only return in a few weeks. The miracles of the Bible including raising people from the dead, even those who were dead in the tomb for 4 days (John 11:34-35)! Miracles including restoring missing limbs and withered members, healing leprosy and other gross diseases, healing paralytics, people blind from youth, etc. Again, Jesus and His apostles stake His divine origin on the fact that He and they could work indisputable miracles (John 20:30-31; John 5:31-36; John 10:24-25). The miracles were specifically designed and chosen to inspire faith, trust, and confidence in God and the message (Mark 16:17-20; Hebrews 2:2-24).
The chief miracle is the resurrection of Jesus Himself (I Corinthians 15:1-7). If Jesus was just a mere man, how does one explain the empty tomb? The evidence easily overwhelms any alternative explanation.
Harmony and Consistency:
Another amazing feature of the Bible is its complete consistency. There are no contradictions in the text. It is completely self-consistent. Again, God deliberately gave this as evidence to the message's origin (Titus 1:2; 9). A lack of harmony with existing and established revelation was to be taken as a sign of false witness (Galatians 1:6-8; I John 4:6; Deuteronomy 13:1-5).
The power of the argument is seen in the incredible number of attempts made to find just one contradiction in the Bible.
Integrity of Transmission:
The Bible does not specifically raise this point, although it does mention that the Word of God is incorruptible and stands forever (I Peter 1:23-25). The amount of supporting texts for the Bible is multiple orders of magnitude beyond what is available to support any other ancient document. The correlation is staggering. All of the words up for debate, just up for debate, fit on just one page of the common Bible! The basis for confidence in the textual integrity of the Bible is profound, worthy of miracle status in and of itself.
Faithfulness of witnesses:
Outside of Judas, who was prophesied to betray Jesus, every apostle of Jesus suffered martyrdom for preaching His name, according to secular history. Untold thousands upon thousands of first, second, and third century Christians died at the hands of their Roman persecutors, just because they were Christians. No other religion can boast such fidelity in the face of overwhelming, intense, and early adversity.
Any one of these provide incredible evidence to the veracity of the Bible. The sum is overwhelming, at least I am so persuaded. What do you think?
Answer to Your Questions:
Not unlike you, the Old Testament worthy, Job, had very crucial questions that he wanted God to answer. After much deliberating with his friends, God finally appeared to Job, but He never answered His questions. Instead, He demonstrated His power and wisdom and essentially asked Job to trust Him.
This is the essential question for you, "Has God sufficiently demonstrated His power and will?" If He has, then I would encourage you to trust Him, when He said He created the world in 6 days. Take His word for it, when He says that He once destroyed the entire world in a global flood save those on the ark. Trust that He knows best when He leveled Egypt and condemns the wicked to hell. After all, He is God. If the God of the Bible has made His case for His identity, then how can we doubt anything He says?
We all have questions. I have several that I don't understand, but the evidence is too overwhelming for me to dismiss it all, just because I can't get my mind around a few ancillary points. Interestingly, as time has gone by, I have come to understand many of these, yet more appear. Some of which I have come to understand, but others linger, while more appear and are answered. Patience and trust are virtues here. If you trust in the evidence God has given to all of us, these other questions will be answered in time or pale in significance.
Now, let me knock the legs out from everything I have established and answer your questions, as best as I can, because they are challenging questions indeed:
- Science versus the Bible - Science is based on empirical evidence; therefore, it is not properly equipped to deal with the problem of origins, since the "Big Bang" and "Evolution" cannot be tested, demonstrated, and confirmed. They are based on interpretation of the evidence, which is highly debatable. Science's position changes, so building your ultimate beliefs on it is comparable to building your dream home on the Florida coast without hurricane insurance! There are many good sites which demonstrate that the evidence actually suggests a created universe, young earth, and a global flood. Here a few links to debates, lectures, articles, and other sites, which deal with the technical merits of this question:
- Judgment of Egypt - First of all, Pharaoh did not act alone. His heart was representative of the hearts of the Egyptian people (Exodus 9:27, 34). They all enjoyed and condoned the Israelites serving as their captive slaves; therefore, they became guilty and worthy of any punishment that God met out against them.
Secondly, keep in mind that God is not man. He is the original source of all life, and therefore, He has a right to reclaim it whenever and wherever He wants, for whatever reason He wants. Right? He is God, after all. He does no wrong in taking the life of any innocent child. Whenever a child dies, he or she goes straight to heaven (Matthew 19:14). Often time, God takes the life of a righteous to spare them further suffering (Isaiah 57:1-2). What kind of person would that innocent child have become, if he had grown up in a totally corrupt, heathen, immoral Egyptian society? Maybe God looks further down the road than you and I...
- Heaven without Loved Ones - This is a hard one to swallow. Heaven is heaven not because it is free of suffering, pain, and evil, which it is free of such things (Revelation 21-22). It is not heaven because it promises eternal existence. Even hell offers that. However, it is heaven because God is there, and He is the source of true life and all that is good (Revelation 22:3-5).
If our loved ones do not make it to heaven, it will not be because God did not try to persuade them (II Peter 3:9). It will be because they did not want to go, as did others who rejected God and Jesus (Matthew 23:37). How could it be heaven for them, if they were surrounded by people and a God whom they despised? If God forced them to come to heaven against their will, what kind of God would He be? What kind of heaven would it be for them and for us? You see, the gulf that separates the inhabitants of heaven and hell will not be geographical or environmental. It is spiritual. The two peoples are incompatible, because they are ultimately fixated on different things - one on God, one on self. Separating them into different locales only recognizes the difference that is already there. The darkness of hell is what the inhabitants seek - complete isolation from God. The joy of heaven is what its inhabitants seek - the direct light of God's face and His immediate service. Consequently, the lost would consider heaven to be hell and would find no place nor joy there, and we could not be happy, if they were profoundly and ultimately miserable.
Admittedly, this is a longer response that what you were probably expecting. But, if you are truly interested in these things, I pray that it will be exactly what you need.
If you have any other follow-up questions, comments, or thoughts, please let me know. I will try not to be so long-winded next time.
May God bless us with open hearts and a sincere love of the truth.