Revised 6th November, 2015. Question 1 - missing text added.
These are the questions sent in after our community Market Day on 17th October, 2015. The panel for the evening was composed of two women and three men with a variety of ages, with skills in communication, engineering, microbiology, librarianship and accounting, and with a good knowledge of the Bible.
If you prefer to listen, the MP3 audio files for the questions are here
Does anyone want to add anything to that?
Just one thing comes to mind as you were speaking. There is a place in one of the prophets where God says "come, lets reason together." He is not speaking to the prophet, but to us through the prophet. It's not that God is hiding, or doesn't want to be asked a question.
Just a "small" question! :)
I appreciate that the question could come from a number of places, and probably is a very personal question out of experience. So I recognise that I may not answer it according to what you had in mind from your personal experience, but let me give it a bash.
When we talk about what is fair, the Oxford dictionary says "treating people equally without favouritism or discrimination." so why is life unfair? It's a good question isn't it - there is so much about life that seems so unfair. As I reflected on it, why do I live in comfort and luxury when so many others live in poverty?; it's not fair. Why do we live in peace when others are in war-zones and refugee camps? That's not fair. Why does a tsunami wipe out 250,000 people in 2004 while i was enjoying post-Christmas lunch with my family? Or why is my child born healthy and another friend's not?
I think possibly the question behind the question "Why is life unfair?" is the God question, though the question does not use the word "God". Perhaps the question behind it is "Is God fair - is God good?" That is perhaps the emotion we attach to that question and I think that is the guts of it.
Well I think for me the Bible helps me to make sense of my world because it tells this overarching love story between the Creator and His broken creation, that helps me understand when I suffer, and it helps me understand when I see suffering.
So very simply the overarching love story is that God is good, God has created our good world and we are the pinnacle of God's good world, He has made us intentionally to know Him, to love Him, to serve Him, for relationship and to be caretakers of His beautiful world, but that's not all in harmony now, and right from the beginning that precious relationship has got broken as we turn our backs on God and say "I don't need you. We want to live our life without You". We break the relationship and as we cut ourselves off from the Life-giver, so to speak, just like this flower is cut off from the roots where the life comes, we die, we wither, and as a result we destroy ourselves, we destroy our relationships, we destroy our world.
The evidence is all around us isn't it, in our families, on our news, it's on a global scale. History tells us that much of our suffering is the result of human evil. Of abuse and injustice, of poverty and greed, of war and every kind of act of oppression; so much of our suffering comes from that. The Bible also tells us that the creation itself also groans in its bondage to decay; there is a sense in which even the cells and atoms and the environment are linked to our rebellion and so, "why is life unfair?" Because we are not the way we ought to be, we are not in sync with our Creator first and foremost, so unless we are rescued, that trajectory goes on into eternity.
To be fair, then, if we are asking a holy God to be fair, He could fairly say "You've rebelled against Me, therefore I will wipe you out." God is just, and will one day bring all evil to judgment, and we need to consider that when we ask for justice, for fairness; what will that look like?
As a mother of 3 daughters this is a question I've often thought about, and obviously if you happen to be the mother or father of daughters or sons or a mixture of sons and daughters you will have the the same question. I don't think there is a parent who does not look at a newborn baby and think "I wonder who will you be? We've welcomed you into our family, but who are you, who are you going to be?".
Thankfully God knows, and thankfully He chooses usually not to tell us. When we hold our baby in the hospital for the first time do we really want to know? Maybe we do want to know that this child will grow up to be healthy, wealthy and wise. But maybe we don't want to know the trials that this child will go through, we don't want to know the heartache they are going to have, the heartache they are going to bring to us, the pain that they are going to suffer. Those are questions that God knows, and God only shows them to us at the point where we need to know.
So what do we wish or pray for our children, if we aren't going to know what is going to happen? What does God want us to ask for our children, how should we pray for our children?
The world would have us to believe that what we want for our children is that they be healthy, wealthy and wise, whether that is because they go to bed early and rise early, or whether they buy the right sort of insurance, or whether they buy right sort of shoes, or whether they buy the right sort of car. The world would have us think that these are the things that matter. But are they the things that matter to God? Are they the things that God wants for our children?
God sees life differently. God sees the important thing as our relationship with him. In the answer to the "Why isn't life fair?" question we talked about the need to have a right relationship with God, and it is that right relationship with God that we should most want for our children, because that is the thing that will have eternal consequences. And we can start sharing that truth with our children right from the moment when we first hold them in our arms, as we pray for them, as we get to the point where we can read a story to them, to answer their endless questions. Whether they are 3, or 13 or 33 there still seem to be questions they have and we can still do our best to give them godly advice.
Timothy was one of the people that Paul disciples. Paul talked about Timothy's relationship with his family and we know that his grandmother and his mother were both people who taught him the Scriptures and that ought to be our aim as parents and grandparents and aunts and uncles and friends, to be able to share the Scriptures with our children at whatever opportunity we get. So Paul wrote about Timothy, "But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus." 2 Timothy 3:14,15 ESV
Now if we are going to do that we need to know Christ Jesus as Lord ourselves, because we can't lead our children where we haven't been ourselves. But as we trust in God and as we pray for our children and give godly answers to the best of our ability, and encourage them to read the Scriptures, which are infallible, when we certainly aren't infallible, then we will have children who are blessed by God and will spend eternity with Him.
There's a couple of questions in that one. I've tried to narrow it down to these questions:-
In the first book of the Bible we are presented with a description of animals starting to eat each other after what is called the world-wide flood.
So if you think of it in terms of a Timeline - first God made everything, including the first man and woman, and everything perfect, and the animals were herbivores. It did not stay that way. Soon afterwards the man and woman decide to do their own thing and go their own way and reject God's rules and directions. At that point in time, which sounds like rebellion, and it was, lots of things change, death and disease came into the world.
About 1600 years went by, people multiplied and the population grew, but they also grew in wickedness and the bad things they were doing to everyone. God got to the point where He had had enough, so He sent a world-wide flood to cleanse the world, to get rid of all this badness, and effectively to start all over again with one man, Noah, his family and lots of animals. From this point on we read that species began to eat each other. (Genesis chapter 9 "God said to Noah and his sons: I am giving you my blessing. Have a lot of children and grandchildren, so people will live everywhere on this earth. All animals, birds, reptiles, and fish will be afraid of you. I have placed them under your control, and I have given them to you for food. From now on, you may eat them, as well as the green plants that you have always eaten." - probably the animals were eating each other too, at or before this point in time).
No, as I just said, before the first couple chose to go against God, Genesis indicated it wasn't. Following the rebellion it all changed for the whole universe.
So is God going to do anything about it? Pretty much the whole Bible talks about what God is doing to fix the situation.
So God is going to fix the situation. Does it seem like He is taking His time. Possibly, but maybe He is just being loving and kind and patient in giving us time. For, by the way, part of the plan was Jesus coming, as others have mentioned. He is part of the fixing situation that God has put in His plan.
So our natural reaction to animals attacking each other, our natural reaction to suffering, is it just doesn't feel the way it should be, and that is right. The Bible says it is not the way it was meant to be.
So I hope I've given you in the Bible some examples that explain why the world is like it is. And what's in it for me, is to see that what the Bible says is true. So the conclusion of that long question is that God does not have a nasty mind at all, but we are just in the middle of the plan that is being played out.
I think there are 3 things involved in this question.
So I think, to me, that's the reason that He worked.
I think with this question we also need to include non-Christians, and there is a first step for a non-Christian, in that for someone who doesn't know God yet, and doesn't know that Jesus is their Saviour, as a local church we want to share with them the good news of the Gospel, the fact that God loves them, the fact the He sent His Son to die for them.
But as a local church how do we help those who are battling with a whole lot of things?
I think the first place we start is that we are friends with them and we want to share fellowship with them. We do it unconditionally, we do it non-judgmentally, we offer an ear to listen because anybody who's dealing with any sort of problem is helped when they have someone to share it with, someone who will listen empathetically, who will ask a leading question, to say "Did I understand that right? You said this, would you like to tell me a bit more about that?", so we need to be a listening ear, and we also need to be ready to share the truth we know. When someone says to me "I'm overwhelmed by my fear" I need to be ready so say to them there is an answer to your fear, and its in the Bible and its what God does in our lives. So we start by being friends.
Then the next step, and I think this is one of the most important things, and that is that we need to pray; pray for them, and if they'll let us, pray with them. Even if they say no, I don't want to pray with you, or I don't feel like I can pray with you, we can pray for them, and pray for them consistently. As the opportunity arises we can let them know "I prayed for you, and I know tomorrow is going to be stressful for you, and I'll pray for you", and as we pray, God works because it is not us who can solve or fix their problems. So we pray for them.
We encourage them to learn what the bible has to say. Being part of a growth group is a wonderful way to be able to find out what the Bible says about fear, about anger, about addiction, about other challenges that can grip our lives, and as we share in the small group, and as we build relationships, and as we build confidence in the group, then we can share with them and say, as I did to my bible study group on Tuesday night, "I'm really struggling this week, please pray for me", and this week I had several people who messaged me and said "I prayed for you this week. and as I prayed for you God gave me this hymn, or this Bible verse", and in that way we pick each other up and we carry each other. So if you're someone who deals with these sorts of issues, join a Bible study group. We have many here across the different age ranges, and we have all-women's groups, we have a men's group, we have mixed groups. Find a group that suits you, and join it, and listen to what God says.
There's also, beyond our individual study groups, there are those who have done extra-Biblical training; our pastors, our elders, people who are experienced in the faith, to whom we can go and say "I'm really struggling with this question". They can explain to us what the Scriptures say, they can encourage us and might give us a book that you can read, because there are lots of helpful books. They might encourage us to go and talk to someone who has particular skill in dealing with a particular issue. If we know of someone in our group then we need to be ready as people have done for me, to share a verse, to share a hymn, to ask meaningful questions. One of the questions we ask in society is "How are you?", and we say "Very well thankyou" with a smile stuck on our face, but we need to practice asking "How are you?" and really meaning the question and being ready to listen to the answer.
Sometimes we need to encourage people to go and seek the help of a medical or psychiatric or psychological nature. Being able to say to someone with whom you've built a relationship "Have you talked to your GP about this?" or to say "I've had a problem like this and I found it helpful to talk to so-and-so". So be ready to share your experience and be ready to encourage them to find help, primarily in the Bible, but also to use the other things that God has given to us, the other services that God has made available to us.
The last thing I've put down is persistence. Don't give up. Don't give up on them - if they are dealing with anger or dealing with fear there are times when you will cop their anger or fear, but don't give up. Be a persistent friend, a persistent prayer, a persistent sharer of the Scriptures, because God won't give up on them, and God won't give up on their relationship with you either.
The local church has a lot to offer to people who deal with all sorts of problems, whether it is fear, or anger, or addiction, or - you fill in the blanks. But for you, join a church, be part of a group of Christians, and see what God can do for you.
God created mankind with the capacity for free choice. He did not want a race of robots who would say "Yes God, I love you and will always obey you." Creatures like that would not really be human, just pre-programmed animals.
You could say that He was prepared to take the risk of His creatures turning their backs on Him. In ways mysterious to us, He knows everything before it happens. He is not inside Time as we are, but sees all things from the view of eternity. Certainly He thought it worth the risk. And the pain - He is not distant from the suffering mankind brought upon itself; He dived to the very bottom of that pit when Jesus died on the cross.
A key here is the most famous verse in the Bible "God loved the people of this world so much that he gave his only Son (Jesus), so that everyone who has faith in him will have eternal life and never really die." John's gospel, chapter 3, verse 16 CEV
C.S. Lewis, in his novel "The Great Divorce", puts it this way: 'There are only two kinds of people in the end: those who say to God, "Thy will be done," and those to whom God says, in the end, "Thy will be done."'
It seems that a lot of people, both those who believe there is a Creator, and those who do not, view the theory of the Big Bang as a threat to such belief. The Big Bang theory came out of the discovery in the last century that the universe was not static after all, not eternal. Rather it is expanding at enormous speed from a super-dense particle that exploded at the beginning of time. Later discoveries confirmed the theory. Albert Einstein clung to the static, eternal universe, but later said it was the biggest mistake he ever made, and accepted the Big Bang.
If the Big Bang theory is correct, and the evidence is good, why should this do away with the Creator? Who made that infinitely dense seed particle? Who triggered the vast explosion that is still flinging galaxies apart at speeds near that of light? The Bible tells us "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth." Genesis chapter 1, verse 1 CEV
Leading NASA astronomer and science communicator Dr Robert Jastrow, who did not himself believe in a creator, felt compelled to write his book "God and the Astronomers". In it he wrote "For the scientist who has lived by his faith in the power of reason, the story ends like a bad dream. He has scaled the mountains of ignorance, he is about to conquer the highest peak; as he pulls himself over the final rock, he is greeted by a band of theologians who have been sitting there for centuries."
There remains the question of timing. How does the Big Bang's more than 10 billion years square with the Bible? Only God knows. However, two things are worth thinking about.
The Bible uses the word heaven in several ways, but I am guessing that the questioner has in mind heaven as the future home of all who trust in Jesus. One of the thieves crucified with Jesus said to Him "Lord, remember me, when you come into your kingdom.", Jesus said to him, "Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise." Luke 23:43, ESV. Where did the thief go after dying?
Here are the MP3 files for the answers.
|Answer to Question 1|
|Answer to Question 2|
|Answer to Question 3|
|Answer to Question 4|
|Answer to Question 5|
|Answer to Question 6|
|Answer to Question 7|
|Answer to Question 8|
|Answer to Question 9|
|Answer to Question 10|
|Click here for the PDF, or right-click and "Save Link" to download|
The Bible speaks of 4 heavens. King Solomon's prayer at the dedication of the first Temple in Jerusalem illustrates the first 3; "But will God indeed dwell on the earth? Behold, heaven and the highest heaven cannot contain you; how much less this house that I have built!" ! Kings 8:27 ESV
Bible quotations are from the Contemporary English Version (CEV) Copyright 1995 by American Bible Society, unless otherwise stated.
English Standard Version Anglicised (ESVUK) The Holy Bible, English Standard Version Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers.