Monday, March 06, 2006

“If your son was terminally ill with an awful disease, would you do everything in your power to heal him?” The answer is of course yes, but we don’t have that kind of power. We are helpless in this situation. We aren’t God. But God does have that kind of power, and He chooses for whatever reason to allow bad things to happen.


I was talking to a friend today, and we began to discuss doctrine and theology. I was surprised to learn that he does not believe that God sends people to Hell. When I asked, he replied, “even Hitler. The reason given is that it is unfair to say that since we know the truth and others don’t, it is arrogant of us to think we are special. He asked me if there was anything that my son could ever do that would make me stop loving him. When I answered no, he asked me why it is different with God. I could not think of an immediate response. I spent some time driving this evening, and I have some thoughts on this.

Let me ask another question: “If your son was terminally ill with an awful disease, would you do everything in your power to heal him?” The answer is of course yes, but we don’t have that kind of power. We are helpless in this situation. We aren’t God. But God does have that kind of power, and He chooses for whatever reason to allow bad things to happen. If the analogy of a loving father theoretically holds true in the first case, it would seem that it would hold true in the second instance. But we know from observation that it is not true.

Another deeper question is who are Children of God? Are all humans God’s children or only those who have accepted the atoning works of Christ for their salvation? There is debate over this, and many close to me believe that we are all God’s children. I do not believe this is, because I think scripture teaches otherwise. John 1:12 immediately comes to mine. We have the right to become a child of God when we receive Him and believe in His name. We aren’t born a child of God; we are born an enemy of God tainted by the sin of Adam.

My last question is “does the analogy of a father and his children accurately describe how God relates to us?” I believe it is close, but for reasons stated above, I don’t believe it is totally accurate. Yes, God does behave in many ways like a father would to his children, but not all the time. If he did, He would not allow his children to suffer. What kind of father would allow evil things to happen when he has to power to prevent it? The father-son analogy is what is called anthropomorphic language. This type of language is used over and over in the Bible, because the only foundation that we have to understand God is in human terms. For example, the Bible speaks of God as a “man at war” (Exodus 15:3), it speaks of God as having feet, hands, a mouth, and a heart. The Bible also uses this type of language to describe His emotions (and if you think about it, the term “emotion” is a human term that is attributed to God to help us understand Him - Genesis 2:2, Genesis 6:6, Exodus 20:5) While this type of language helps us understand God a little better, I do not believe that God is limited by this type of language. I believe that God is beyond our understanding, and we are the ones that are limited by our language and understanding.


What Others Are Saying:

7 Comments:

  1. Betty Newman said...
    Mack Stokes, one of our really good Bishops from the past, once said, "God doesn't send people to hell; they send themselves..."

    Hell has been described as "separation from God." Sin causes that separation, but God has provided a way "across the chasm." However, man must agree that the chasm is there before he can take the gift.

    If he chooses to stay on the other side, it's his choice. I believe that God cries everytime someone chooses that side.

    Just as the "kingdom of God" begins when one accepts the the gift of salvation, so hell begins when one refuses...

    Betty
    Sally said...
    This is a question I have also been struggling with on and off, I have to say I now tend towards an anhilanationist/ hopeful universalist position. Rather than ramble on I've been blogging on it at:
    www.sallysjourney.typepad.com/emergingvoices
    Brett said...
    sally
    the link to your post doesn't work. Can you send it again?
    Jason Woolever said...
    Great questions. Keep searching.
    John Wilks said...
    Well, since you see yourself as a Calvinist Methodist, I can see your struggle.

    Arminian thought understands that God gives us a truly free will. So God can want us to be saved, can have the power to save us, and still regretfully allows His children to choose hell because He respects the free will He has given us. Some folks might prefer eternity on their own terms and not God's. That is really what it comes down to- do we want God or not. Hell is the absence of God- that is why there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. But we've all seen people choose tears over joy even in this world.

    But Calvinistic determinism says that our will is not so free because determinisms feel that if God wants us to be saved and we wind up in hell, then God's sovereignty is in question.

    And if any go to hell, (from the Calvinistic view) it is because God either chooses or willingly allows it- just check out the Westminster Confession!

    Brother- if Calvin is right about about the nature of God's sovereignty and human freedom- then either God wants some to go to hell or else God will save all. That is the choice facing Calvinism- a God who chooses hell or universalism. Those are the logical options for Calvinists.

    Let me recommend Dr. Jetty Walls book "Hell: The Logic of Damnation" from Notre Dame press for a better understanding. Dr. Walls is a professors or religious philosophy at Asbury Theological Seminary and a great thinker. His book will help you make more sense of all this.
    Lori (Brett's wife) said...
    When you put questions down about why God doesn't save us from terminal illness, do you think maybe he knows that we are going to a better place? Do you think maybe God knows more than you do? I never pretend to know all the answers, but you said that we are born with original sin and we are enemies of God. What? Are you crazy? So you think that God looks at a newborn baby and says that is His enemy? I agree with Betty who said that the kingdom of God begins when someone accepts him, the damnation begins when one refuses him!!! God allows for suffering because he knows the end result. He knows that there is more than our mere earthly existance. GOD IS OUR FATHER!!!! I can't believe that you think that our son is an enemy of the Lord. He is a perfect and innocent little boy, and until he is old enough to understand and accept Jesus as his savior, HE IS A CHILD OF GOD, and he will go to heaven. Until you have the chance to refuse HIM you are innocent.
    Brett Royal said...
    Truth is taught and found in scripture, and I believe that is what the it teaches. It's not what I want it to mean, or what you want it to mean. If I am wrong on this issue (maybe I am) then it needs to be proven to me through scripture. If I am convinced by scripture that I am wrong, then I will gladly admit "I was wrong."

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