Last week, we began examining some of the key questions asked of Christians by atheists. Five more are include here. As with supposed Bible contradictions, these questions have all been pondered and answered extensively. Few, if any, questions are new. They are, of course, deserving of answers when asked with sincerity.
6. Why does God allow Christians to suffer?
Christians are presumed by some to be logically entitled to immunity from suffering due to their relationship with God. Biblical promises of provision are sometimes invoked, though, without respect for their conditional nature.
In the Bible, Satan is described as the god of this world system in 2 Corinthians 4:4. God’s power is said to be greater in the Christian who truly has relationship with Him (1 John 4:4). This is the most significant condition, yet does not guarantee total freedom from pain and problems in this life.
We receive only an imperfect expression in this life of what God perfectly provides in the next (1 Corinthians 13:10, 2 Corinthians 3:7-18, Revelation 21:4). We live in a fallen world in which sin has a devastating effect through disease, illness, pain and genetic imperfections.
The absence of healing in this life, for example, is sometimes due to a lack of faith or faithfulness, but other times is just an extension of living in a world in which suffering was allowed its entry through original sin (Romans 5:12). The ability to seek answered prayer requires faith but faith alone cannot ensure that answers come in the way or timing that we want and does not even ensure they come at all.
Easy answers to problems cannot necessarily be found to our satisfaction and allegations against God are usually based on presumptive reasoning.
7. If God made us then who made God?
God’s eternal existence is asserted in the Bible without evidence. We are asked in faith to accept that He is (Hebrews 11:6) and always was (Genesis 1:1, John 1:1). If He is not the self-sufficient source of all things then it would be hard to conceive of Him as truly being God.
Those who look to prove God scientifically disregard the boundaries of Science which must be allowed to speak only within its reasonable limits. Could I not reasonably ask of those who require a cause for God that they give a cause for the Big Bang when, of course, no cause actually exists?
The ‘Big Bang,’ supposedly the ultimate basis for the universe’s existence, allegedly originated from an imbalance between matter and antimatter at time zero, but there is no possible reason for any physical laws to arise that would govern this happening, except by chance. In much the same way, life is said to originate from matter without any cause except that of Darwinian randomness.
That surely resembles the very faith required to believe in an eternal Creator!
8. If Christianity offers objective truth then why are there so many different churches?
If churches all have a common source in the form of the Bible, it theoretically stands to reason that they should operate identically. Churches, however, cannot address all emphases adequately or have identical vision expressions, especially in regard to how people will practise their faith.
After all, people have different interests and come from different cultures. The Bible is not a text book, but a story of God’s dealings with His people and the principles for Christian living need careful interpretation in context and then application across the gap in history.
Where churches differ in their interpretations of the Bible through unhealthy conflict or pride (1 Corinthians 3:3-4), this reflects the humanness that brings imperfect understanding and application of God’s perfect truth. The beliefs are not imperfect, just because the believers are.
Also, overly dogmatic Biblical interpretations actually risk excesses of control. Few new churches start and then last if in overt opposition. Most are either intentionally planted or perhaps begin due to differences in style and practice.
Seeing diversity in church traditions as a positive and not a negative enables appreciation of the merits this brings to Christian expression and fruitfulness.
9. How can accounts of Jesus’ Resurrection be trustworthy?
Without the Resurrection of Jesus, a Christian faith is futile 1 Corinthians 15:17.
A significant internal biblical piece of evidence for it is found in 1 Corinthians 15:6 which alludes to five hundred witnesses, most still being alive at the time of writing. If the Resurrection was a fabrication, it would have been impossible for so many disconnected witnesses to preserve a conspiracy.
First century accounts outside the Bible accept that the Resurrection was widely believed at the very least; there are none that contradict it. Also, the willing martyrdom among those with first-hand knowledge of Jesus would be highly unlikely if they knew the Resurrection to be a lie.
Oxford apologist, C.S. Lewis, famously stated that, if Jesus was not a liar or lunatic, then the only remaining possibility is that He is indeed Lord.
Finally, extensive external archaeological evidence and the fulfilment of many pre-established prophecies of the final weeks of Christ’s time on earth thoroughly substantiate the reliability of the Gospels and therefore of their miraculous claims.
10. Why does God encourage so much killing in the Old Testament if He is a God of love?
Although these killings were because God ultimately cared about protecting His people from the idolatry, witchcraft and sin of pagan nations (Deuteronomy 12:30, 18:9-12), they do not apply under the New Testament.
The Old Testament enemies of Israel were actually descendants of God’s people who strayed from His love and His commands, anyway (e.g. Genesis 15:13-16). They had chances to repent, and God also spared those who were faithful (e.g. Genesis 6, Joshua 6:17).
God is unchanging (Malachi 3:6) and still consistently judges sin with the death penalty throughout the Bible (Romans 6:23), even though the nature of this judgement changes. There has effectively been a ‘stay of execution’ since the New Testament due to the legal payment for sin with the sinless blood of Jesus (2 Corinthians 5:21).
This payment must, however, be transacted personally to spare us from eternal death and to invite God’s blessing in this life. The provision of this gift is an expression of God’s love, but His perfect love does not cancel His perfect justice. Both attributes are therefore satisfied and without either, God could not be God.
In the end, rejecting God because of intellectual hurdles takes a great risk with eternal consequences when life on earth is extremely brief by comparison.
He offers only good news for those who accept Him and choose to live for Him, but accepting it requires that choice to be made and followed through in this life.
Death becomes the ‘use-by’ date of that gift.