There are many questions put to Christians in an attempt to throw them off. I’m all for answering questions sincerely, but sometimes they are not sincerely asked. Nevertheless, most atheists have asked them at some stage and insufficient responses don’t exactly encourage people to find faith. Here are some brief answers to the first five of ten of the most-asked questions. Answering them could make an ‘other-world’ of difference.
1. Why does a good God allow evil to exist?
God is often presumed to have to override the free will of perpetrators of evil as evidence of His love or power. The Bible points to the existence of a real arch-enemy of humanity called Satan (1 Peter 5:8, 2 Corinthians 4:4) who was empowered by human sin (Romans 5:12). It also shows God’s care of every person who He not only created but for whom He also provides an eternal rest where there is no more pain (Revelation 21:4).
Jesus described Satan as a destructive thief in John 10:10 and Himself as the source of abundant life, but this life must first be chosen. God won’t override free will. We logically live with the fruit of choices made by others with a free will, too, whether good or bad.
If God used His power to eradicate the worst of sins, there would be a new category of worst sins warranting further removal until an arbitrary endpoint, perhaps one of our choosing. To remove all sin would inevitably mean we would not give love freely, though, thus effectively being programmed for allegiance and obedience.
2. How can Christianity maintain any integrity in the face of the abuse of children by clergy?
Clearly, cases of abuse of children are appalling to the vast majority of believers who feel that such practices clearly violate their own Christian values. Victims need support and perpetrators need to be brought to justice, not protected as has sometimes apparently been the case.
Although forgiveness is also a Christian value, many perpetrators have not truly repented of their actions until facing the sort of justice that will affirm the violations of a victim, anyway.
Nevertheless, as much as abuse reflects badly on the Christian faith as a whole, it is perpetrated because of the sort of sin that universally afflicts people (and also other organisations).
Christianity is not the culprit; it actually opposes the crimes wrongly committed in its name. These are committed by a small minority whose actions therefore don’t represent the teachings and values of Christ, even though they tend to damage the reputation of Christianity.
To spurn churches because of the actions of a handful of people, as evil as those actions may be, denies the enormous value of Christianity. It is measured in individual life change and social transformation, not to mention its necessity for eternity’s sake. Hospitals, schools, the justice system and other practices in many societies have been some of the fruit of Christian influence.
3. How could Satan be the source of evil if he was a created being?
Luke 10:18 shows Jesus referring to the sudden and spectacular fall of Satan from Heaven. This is perhaps reflected in the poetic imagery of the fall of the King of Babylon in Isaiah 14:12-15, Babylon also being linked to the expression of evil in the end days in Revelation 18.
The Isaiah passage gives expressions of pride and presumed equality with God resulting in Satan also being cast out of Heaven, but seems to suggest this evil was found in his own free will.
This therefore sees Satan as the cause and inspirer of all evil, although Jesus’ refers to personal culpability for evil. Matthew 15:11 and Romans 5:12 give examples of the need for individual responsibility for personal sin due to human free will.
In Ezekiel 28:12-19, the King of Tyre also poetically refers to the character of Satan who he reflects. He is also cast down to earth and this passage more specifically shows culpability for sin which originates internally.
4. Doesn’t your faith depend on where you were born?
This question presumes birth in India, for example, would likely result in becoming a Hindu, whereas birth in a Western nation would makes one more likely to be Christian. It also overstates the cultural link, whereas Christianity is about relationship with God through Christ, rather than mere affinity for a religious system.
Although one would be more likely to become a Christian in some countries due to extra exposure, people need to encounter God personally to become Christians and this requires verbal communication of the Gospel by other Christians, a requirement in any country (Romans 10:14).
Many examples exist of conversion to world religions within countries that do not primarily follow them. A Christian faith is not adopted by virtue of one’s birth, though, and no-one can rightly claim to be a Christian without making a choice to believe and confess faith (Romans 10:9-10) and to demonstrate obedience to Christ thereafter (James 2:17, 1 John 1:6).
5. How can Christians possibly believe in miracles that defy Science?
Miracles are often quantifiable, but sometimes need to be accepted on the word of those who have experienced them. This latter scenario is often considered unacceptable to those who need proof, but it seldom is to the recipient! For those quick to dismiss miracles, it must be said that the sheer number of disconnected claimants could not all be deluded and cynicism conveniently and unjustifiably casts aspersions on their character.
The truth is that many miracles are seen across the world in answer to prayer. We still see healing of seemingly incurable conditions and more often than many believe. These are more than momentary, but are not universal and cannot be produced on command.
Some people will nevertheless question personal or medical verification without physical or viewable evidence, which is naturally not always possible. Science does not give the final word on all phenomena and evidence surely only needs to be beyond reasonable doubt, not all doubt..
Even demonic manifestations, when seen, are sometimes passed off as psychoses, despite tangible personal changes in health or demeanour when exorcism is performed. I speak as someone who has a Science degree but has also received expert feedback attesting to psychological and physical healings of people I have prayed for. Yet some people’s response will always be to look for another cause….without cause.
More next week