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Friday, 25 August 2017

10 Deadly Views that are Prevalent in Society

Since settling back in England, I’ve been engaging people in conversations about faith in a number of different environments. Rather than fill pages with lists of my contacts that will most likely be meaningless to anyone that wasn’t present for the conversation, I thought it might be helpful to mention some of the common responses and viewpoints that are emerging in faith discussions. I hope my experiences will help you, should you be faced with these questions, issues or stumbling blocks. (You can click on some of the headings for related past posts that deal with the subject, or an aspect of it, in greater detail)

A number of the statements on my list deal with the issue of whether truth is absolute or relative. In layman’s terms, whether truth can be different for different people. We know rationally that if something is true then it is true for everyone but unfortunately the lines have been blurred by those who try to suggest that people can “make their own truth.” I hope by the end of this post that you will see that truth is absolute and knowable.

1. I hope I’ve been good enough to get to heaven.” This is an extremely common sentiment, sadly even amongst professing Christians. The view that God will judge us based on our good vs bad deeds or that there will be some kind of divine scale. The fear in people’s eyes as they express the hope that they have done enough is sobering as the statement alone demonstrates that they have completely missed the point.

No one is good enough to get to heaven because God’s standard is perfection. The Bible reminds us that “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3 vs 23.) This is the very heart of the Christian message, that Jesus had to die to pay the price for our sin. The most famous verse in the Bible reminds us that “God so loved the world that He gave His only Son that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3 vs 16,) and perhaps a lesser known verse but one of my favourites, “If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.” (Romans 10 vs 9.) It is through faith in Jesus alone that we gain our place in heaven and this has absolutely nothing to do with good vs bad deeds.

2. All religions/faiths lead to God. Again, a commonly expressed view, but one which I find more difficult to understand. There is an ignorance about this statement that couples with the idea of Multi-Faith facilities which are supposedly open to everyone regardless of their particular faith. Every religion/faith group is worshipping a different god or deity or in some cases several gods. They all claim exclusivity and all believe that their religious practice is the right and only way to their god or higher power. They all believe that their god is the one, true god. Most people practising a particular religion wouldn’t be willing to accept that another faith group can access their god via a different religious system or creed, nor would they accept that another faith group might be right and they might be wrong about their belief system. How, then, are we in a position where people believe that all religions lead to the one, true God and how can people of different faiths worship together when, according to their own belief systems, one of them must be worshipping an idol or a false god!?

The issue here is that the absence of a belief in absolute truth has led people to make nonsensical statements. It can be very difficult to get people to acknowledge that if there is a God, there can only be one true God due to all the religions believing things which are fundamentally opposed to each other. I have to conclude that a person following a false god is no better off than someone who fails to acknowledge that God exists. Therefore, all religions and faiths don’t lead to God. There can only be one true faith and one true God and each of us must seek the truth with all of our hearts. God promises that we will find Him if we do this (Jeremiah 29 vs 13.)

3. “There is no God.” Atheism is steadily on the rise in Western countries and yet I have been surprised by how many people prefer to be identified as agnostic (they don’t know,) rather than atheist. This seems to be a more honest position. Even the atheist London buses campaign had to stop short of declaring categorically that God doesn’t exist by inserting the word “probably” into the statement. It doesn’t have quite the same effect if, when telling people to “stop worrying and enjoy life,” you also remind them that God cannot be disproved. The Bible reminds us that God has placed the knowledge that He exists within us and, if that isn’t enough, we can see it in the things He has created. This is why we are without excuse if we suppress that knowledge and reject Him. (Romans 1.)

4. “Where is Jesus then? He would’ve come back already if He was going to.” Not such a common complaint, but one I have heard several times in recent weeks. We are not told when Jesus will return, only that He will do so and that we should be ready when that happens. Ironically, perhaps, these people are actually fulfilling a prophecy written in the Bible centuries ago just by expressing their view. "They will say, "Where is the promise of his coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all things are continuing as they were from the beginning of creation." (2 Peter 3 vs 4.)

5. It doesn’t matter what you believe as long as you are sincere.” In some ways this is similar to points 1 and 2. People that say this usually think they are being kind. They want to encourage people and believe that God will judge them purely on their levels of devotion or sincerity of belief. However, this is an extremely dangerous thing to say to someone. Would you tell someone who believed that drinking poison would make them well that it didn't matter as long as they were sincere?! 

God says that it absolutely does matter what you believe and that people can be sincerely wrong. Is it more loving to affirm someone in their erroneous view when potentially they will end up in Hell forever, or to tell them the truth before it is too late? Someone famous, I can’t remember who, once said that he wondered how many Christians would be confronted with the question, “Why didn’t you tell me?” by desperate friends and neighbours on Judgement Day. The likely answer in many cases would have to be, “It wasn’t culturally appropriate.” What a tragedy!

6. God can’t judge me because I don’t believe in Him” and “I won’t go to Hell because I don’t believe in it.” These statements and ones like them are again rooted in the view that truth is relative or that we can make our own truth. However, just because we don’t believe in something doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. At the simplest level, a person can say that they don’t believe in Canada because they have never been there or seen it, but it still exists. A person who buries their head in the sand believing that they can somehow annihilate God/Hell by their unbelief has probably not seriously thought about faith rationally. They prefer to live in denial rather than honestly looking into the matter and sadly protestations of ignorance will not help them when the times comes.

7. “A loving God wouldn’t send people to Hell.”  A very common view and a stumbling block for many Christians. I was asked by a sincere Muslim girl at Speaker’s Corner recently what my biggest struggle with the Christian faith is. I immediately said “eternal punishment in Hell.” Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely believe Hell exists and that it is eternal, it is just the hardest thing for me as a Christian to accept and understand. The thought of anyone being tormented forever is something that most normal people cannot bear to think about for more than a few seconds at a time, if at all.

The best way to look at this subject is by remembering several things about God; He is perfect (He cannot lie) and He will always do what is right. “His ways are not our ways nor His thoughts our thoughts.” (Isaiah 55 vs 8.) He is not just a bigger version of ourselves, our finite and comparatively small minds cannot comprehend Him. Remembering these attributes of God helps us to trust that He is doing right even when allowing a person to go to Hell.

We need also to remember that the way of salvation through Jesus is open to anyone who turns to Him in repentance and faith. Also, that God “doesn’t desire for anyone to perish” (2 Peter 3 vs 9.) In rejecting God and the method He has chosen for salvation, people are making their own way to Hell…..

8. “The Bible isn’t relevant or has been corrupted, changed or falsified.” A favourite argument of those who most of the time haven’t read it. The best response to this is to ask for specifics; what has been changed? who changed it and why? how do you know? etc….There is actually plenty of historical evidence supporting the authenticity of the Bible including early manuscripts. The fact that nothing in it has ever been disproved is astonishing in itself due to the specific nature of so much of the material. As time passes, more and more evidence appears that corroborates the Bible, not surprising for those of us who believe it is God’s Word, but surely a puzzle for the rest.

As for its relevance, the fact that millions of people are still reading it today and find it to be a reliable guide for life, faith and everything else suggests that it is highly relevant and will continue to be so.

9. “I believe in science. Evolution is scientific fact.” Apart from contradicting the statement that evolution is factual, rather than an impossible to prove theory, I don’t usually get into the specifics when people take this line. Science and Christianity don’t need to be incompatible, but I’m not a scientist and websites like Answers in Genesis have a lot more to offer those with real questions in this area. However, it does seem to me that people are placing an incredible amount of faith in scientists who at the end of the day are fallible. Consider that if God did create the world, then he also created the scientists that are carrying out the research and the minds that belong to them. Should we really risk our eternal security by trusting the findings of finite, fallible people or should we instead turn to the God who created them?

10. “If there was a God He would stop all the suffering.” Another difficult but common stumbling block and perhaps the only one on my list with merit. It is really hard to explain to someone dealing with terminal illness or the loss of a loved one, especially a child, that God loves them and has a plan and purpose. As with all of the other issues though, there is an explanation which on a basic level falls into two sections.

The cause of a lot of the suffering in the world is human greed and selfishness or more specifically sin. There is enough food to feed everyone but for our greed. Likewise, there would be enough shelter and clothing. I’m sure you can think of other suffering that is caused by people; crime, war, stress, broken relationships etc. If God stepped in and prevented people from sinning against each other, then we would be akin to robots rather than having the power to choose how we behave and how we treat each other. This is one reason why is is necessary for there to be a Judgement Day, so everything can be dealt with and justice will be done.

So, what about natural disasters, babies born with cancer and things that cannot possibly be attributed to human choices that are being made now. This is again due to sin but dates back to Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. When they took the fruit and ate it, disobeying God, sin entered the world. Sin leads to death and ultimately to Hell. God cursed the earth at this point as punishment for their disobedience. The earth is slowly dying and, like us, will eventually come to a physical end when Jesus returns. Until that day we can expect to see disaster, sickness and death as a consequence of the original fall.

As Christians, we can have hope that one day all of the suffering and pain will come to an end and we will live forever in heaven with God who created and rescued us by sending Jesus to die for our sin. That's the Good News that we need to urgently communicate to people as we also confront the deadly views that society affirms and encourages.