My little brother Justin recently emailed me and started a discussion on religion and the problem of evil. I thought my readers may find it useful or entertaining, so check it out:
7/17/09 Written @ 2:21 am
I have been propelled to share truth with you. Because of all things a dream I had about you.
The gospel is truth The complete canon of scripture is truth. Yes, Jesus is truth. I know you know what the scripture says about His life, but I want you to know it is truth. I tell you this quite selfishly and yes with an agenda concerning you–my motivation is my love for you. If I did not love you I would not even dare to try and share with you concerning Jesus. But I must. It is now at this moment 2:21 AM and I am awake because of you and this dream I had concerning you. The dream is of importance only in that it has propelled me to share the gospel with you. Whether or not you will receive it is on you. You are responsible for yourself and your own choices. I know you hardened yourself & your heart most to God because you were most aware of what was happening when our parents abandoned us, but especially you. God is not our parents. He never wished for us to experience what happened to us & to you. Our parents are human as you & I and we must have pity on them, but you must not blame God any longer for what happened. It was not God’s fault or your fault. I doubt this will lead to your conversion but I do believe that as long as you have a breath to breathe and have not entered into eternity you still have the opportunity to turn from your ways and run to God. You are responsible for your choice, Deny Jesus & He will deny you before the Father, Accept Him and He will accept you before the Father. You have not ran to far or done too much to not be able for Jesus to forgive you or to save you. Jesus dying on the cross covers a multitude of sins, a lifetime of sin. Jesus wants to restore you, I implore you to make haste & seek truth. I dare not say this letter is God Himself speaking directly to you, but I dare say He is letting you know He got your attention and given you the opportunity for you to receive truth, to know truth, and maybe one day live truth. As you sat atop the mountain and saw the rolling hills and all that lay before you I hope you could see that all that is, was not by chance nor are u!
Joel, I love you–you are my brother–my flesh and blood is your flesh and blood. You are the first born and as much as I love you, God loves you more. Allow God/Jesus to reveal Himself to you–if you ask Him to–I pray He will. After all, what is the worst that could happen?
In Jesus & concern for you–my brother
My reply to Justin’s email:
Your love and concern for me are moving and much appreciated. However, you have some confusion about who I am. Mom and Dad had really nothing to do with me not being religious. The basic laws of logic, evidence, science, nature and economics did. The dogmatic mysticism of religious people does not make sense and actually heavily contradicts itself. The day I lost my fear of the threat of burning in hell was the first intellectually free day of my life. I realized that Christianity and its rules and threats and prejudices was created by hut-dwellers thousands of years ago in order to gain power over their fellow human beings. New religions continue to crop up constantly in much the same way Christianity originally did- look at the Mormons, Scientologists and other less-successful religions. If I thought Christianity had even a .01% chance of being correct, I would be a believer since the threats of eternity in hell are very scary. However, the problem of evil and many other direct theological contradictions in the Bible make it very obvious that Christianity doesn’t even have that much chance of being correct. There may be a god, but he certainly is not the Christian one.
You may have seen my prayer-helpers.com website and thought my knowledge in the truth was weakening, but that is not the case. That site is built to generate controversy & links so that I can promote other client websites. I do have legitimate Christians doing the praying though- I always deliver the best products to my customers and would never scam them.
Once again, thank you for your love, thought, and concern. I greatly appreciate having you as my little brother and am looking forward to meeting up with you sometime soon. I am going to take Josh camping & hiking if you want to come with us soon. I haven’t decided the exact date yet though.
in Love & Jesus towards you
Thank you for your response. My final thoughts in magical bullet point form:
- You cannot use the Bible as evidence in a debate over the veracity of religion.
- Just because aspects of Christianity sound nice don’t mean they are true.
- According to Christian theology God is all powerful, all knowing, created everything and is completely righteous & good. If God the first three are true, free will is an impossibility. God knew every detail about us and every action that we would ever take from the beginning of time, correct? If he changed or did not change something, we are still 100% his responsibility. I know it’s hard to grasp intellectually, but even without a god true “free will” does not exist. The laws of physics, biology and nature direct everything from gravity to the style of your hair. Just because it doesn’t “feel” that way doesn’t mean its not true.
- So God created us not because he needed our love, but because he wanted to brag? You said, God created us as a “Demonstration of his glory”. Who is he demonstrating to? What is the point? It’s like me making a Microsoft Word file that says, “Joel Rules!” 50 times. Kind of useless.
Thank you for your response to my response. These are not my final thoughts, but beginning of a dialogue (in bullet point form):
- One can use the Bible to affirm the veracity of religion in this sense; if the message of the Bible gives better answers to man’s dilemma than any other world view then it is worth considering. But remember this is not a debate over the veracity of religion–it is a discussion about the problem of evil.
- Your second point is just silly, certainly you would not accuse Blaise Pascal of presenting Christianity as something that just sounds nice. He was one of the great thinkers, mathematicians, and social commentators in all of history. He is not someone who can be treated in a cavalier manner.
- Your argument of what is known as chemical and biological determinism (that there is no free will as everything is a result of “the laws of physics, biology, and nature direct everything from gravity to the style of your hair.”) is simply not true as it isn’t borne out by experience. If it is true, it means there is no real love, no moral motions, no creativity or originality, no appreciation of beauty. Yet, most people affirm that these things are real–and no one really lives as if determinism were true. We all live as if love we’re real–you would not shoot Bestemor in the head with a .357 magnum, not because of chemical or biological determinism, but because it is morally repugnant to you since you actually love her. People who claim to believe in this point of view live by cheating: They can’t live consistent with this world view since it is not true to real life. Another way to say it is if determinism is true you are no longer there: you are only an animal or a machine…and even you Joel are not an animal even though you live like one in some ways as I have in the past. Does this makes sense to you, Joel?
- God did not create us because He needed our love, but He created us to give us the gift of Himself. If God is truly God then by definition there is nothing greater He can do than to allow us to experience Him. Because there is nothing greater or better than Him. That is what I mean by “demonstrating His Glory.”
- Joel, you can agree or disagree with what I believe as you do; However, to make a mockery is ungentlemanly and I hope is beneath you to do from this point on with our discussion–even if you do mock it for the sake of provoking your blog’s readers to respond. I will not and have not made a mockery of you or your beliefs but will try in love to seriously dialogue these very important issues with you. I am referring to your final point on the Jewish Zombie. One of the most fully attested facts of ancient history is the bodily resurrection of Jesus from the dead in real space/time. There is more evidence for Jesus’ resurrection, both Biblical and extra Biblical, than for the fact that Caesar conquered Gaul. We can discuss this at length another time, but suffice it to say that this is the pivotal truth of the christian faith. The Bible itself, puts all it’s eggs in this one basket when it says that if Jesus is not raised we Christians are of all men most to be pitied, and our faith is in vain. ( 1 Corinthians 15:14-19) But apropos of your point–it is certainly not the case that any christian or any Biblical passage views the resurrected Jesus as a zombie. The men and women who actually encountered Jesus after His resurrection saw Him vibrantly & compellingly alive and well. Further, the forgiveness of sins is not the result of some telepathic interaction with God, but rather God’s gift to all who will, by faith (TRUST) receive that gift which was made possible when Jesus took upon Himself the punishment for sin that I so completely deserve, as He died on the cross in my place. (Isaiah 53:6 All we like sheep have gone astray, we have all turned to our own way, and the Lord laid on Him (Jesus) the iniquity of us all.) Again, we can discuss in detail later, the moral necessity of a substitutionary propitiatory atonement, but lets begin by clearing up what the Biblical message really is, and not argue about some caricature of Christianity that you so disrespectfully and inaccurately have presented here. Again, I’m not arguing the veracity of religion. Rather I’m explaining the message of the Bible which you misunderstand & therefore misrepresent.