12 Questions and Brief Answers.

We got a message through the site with 12 GREAT questions. We were excited as soon as we saw these because they represent a lot of thought and consideration. Our responses are fairly brief, but hopefully this will spark some interesting conversation. 

1. If Adam and Eve were real, why was God acting surprised when he saw them in the Garden of Eden.

In Genesis 3 God states 4 questions to Adam and Eve. "Where are you?" - "Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree of which I commanded you that you should not eat?" - "What is this that you have done?" 

I think of these somewhat similar to the way a Mother might question a child who she knows has broken a rule. A mother might ask her son, "did you hit your sister?" Even though she knows that her son did. She might do this to give him an opportunity to respond and apologize. My gut tells me that God, in this case, is using this as a moment to show Adam and Eve what they've done. If God jumped right to punishment without showing them where they had failed, they may not fully understand. This is only my opinion on this, and I'd have to admit that a better scholar may have another perspective. 

2. Why is God so cruel to people in the Bible. Like seriously!

Taken as a whole, what I see in the bible, is the story of an incredibly patient God. Let's get a little background first, though. Over and over God says, "Don't perform evil acts or there will be consequences." (that's my paraphrase)

Here is an example. In Leviticus it says that anyone who performs ritual worship of Molek (an Ammonite and Canaanite god), that person will be put to death. It even says that if the community ignores what that worshiper did, and doesn't put him to death, those who ignored the act will also be put to death. 

Now this sounds really cruel right? Why is God so jealous? Here's why:

To worship Molek included a very specific set of rituals. Idol statues of Molek were made of bronze. The hands of the bronze statue would be heated red hot with fire. Then an infant baby would be placed in those burning hot hands. If the baby didn't die from that, they would roll him/her off into the fire. 

Suddenly God doesn't seem so cruel right? 

This practice of child sacrifice never really went away all through the original years that Israel and later Judah were in the land. From time to time it would get stomped out, but it just kept creeping back into popular use. Even King Solomon got involved with this crazy practice later in his life. Which really mad God mad. 

Child sacrifice is one of the reasons that Israel and Judah were defeated and taken into captivity according to Jeremiah 32:35-36. 

Now here's the interesting thing. God was incredibly merciful through those years. God gave the law through Moses before the people ever even entered the land. Leviticus 20:2-5 prohibits worshiping Molek, but more importantly it prohibits sacrificing their children. All through the law there were warnings for what would happen if Israel decided to disobey God and sacrifice their children. 

Even still, God was patient and sent prophet after prophet to call the people away from the deplorable act. The people originally remained in the land from about 1000 BC until 586 BC. God gave them lots of years to change, and throughout those years God would allow events to happen to bring the people back for a time, but a generation or two would go by and they'd be right back in the thick of the baby burning rituals. Ultimately God allowed them to be defeated and exiled because of their evil acts, including child sacrifice. 

So when I read the old testament, I see a God who is incredibly patient and long suffering, and merciful. It was as if he was pleading with his people. He couldn't overlook that kind of evil, but he also didn't want to bring utter ruin on the nation. He gave them every opportunity to repent of their evil for hundreds of years. 

Now this is only one example. Many of the laws that may seem outdated to us in our modern world, had very real, very important reasons for being implemented. Not all were as heinous, but the punishment always fit the crime. 

So from my reading of the bible, and background research, God is actually presented as a patient father who pleads with his children to do what is right. He's reluctant to punish, and even when the time for punishment has come he leaves a life-line. He offers repentance and forgiveness even until the very last moment. 

So I disagree with the general premise that God is cruel. It seems that people are the source of cruelty in the story, and God is working to root out their evil actions. 

3. Why is the Story of the Bible very similar to many other religions that pre date the bible?

The simple answer: It isn't. 

This is a claim that is often made by bloggers, and non-scholars. I've encountered it a number of times. We did a video recently, that dismantles the claims that Jesus' story was plagiarized from Horus, and Egyptian mythological god. 

When you go and read the original mythological stories the similarities are superficial at best. So here's my challenge. The next time you hear someone saying that Jesus' story is a retelling of Mithra or Horus do this: Go find an overview (wikipedia is a pretty good place) of Mithra or Horus or Osiris. Read their stories for yourself, without the atheist cheat sheet. Read the story of Jesus separately and see if you see any similarities. 

I laughed out loud when I went through the supposed similarities. 

Here is an example of this ridiculous argument:

(in Egyptian Mythology) The god Osiris is murdered by the god Set and cut into 42 pieces. The goddess Isis, Osiris’ wife, searches out the pieces and reanimates her dead husband Osiris’ body, she has sex with him and gives birth to Horus. 

For those who claim Jesus was plagiarized from Horus' story this is cited as the sources for Jesus virgin birth. Notice that Isis would clearly not have been a virgin. 

Most if not all of these claims are such a stretch you couldn't rest a hair on them without breaking the connection. They are simply wishful thinking on the part of over-eager atheists. 

Maybe the most similar non-biblical account in antiquity is the Sumerian flood story. Even that has these huge differences from the biblical story. 

However, there's good explanation for this. IF something big like a flood happened in human history, it would make sense that there would be other versions of the story. You can bet that IF it happened then people would continue to talk about it and the story would morph and change through the passage of time in other cultures. So it's no surprise that we find flood stories in other ancient writings. 

Another point I would make is that the ancient origin stories from extant cultures all have political agendas. They generally were written to legitimize the political claim to the throne of whoever was in power at the time. 

This is very different from the biblical origin stories which are systematic, and often speak negatively of the main characters. 

Secondly the bible has an wholey unique cosmological origin story in terms of ancient religious writings. Other religious writings generally claimed that the universe was eternal. That was the prevailing idea for thousands of years. However, now scientists are confident that the universe actually had a beginning, popularly called the big bang. The bible stands uniquely alone in that it presented a ex-nehila viewpoint (meaning from-nothing). The bible was right when all the other ancient books were so far off. 

So, on the contrary I feel like it's pretty clear that the bible is unique in what it presents.

4. How can anyone justify the world and universe not being billions of years old?

I'm an amateur astronomer. I believe the Universe is about 14.5 billion years old, because that's what the data from the Huble space telescope is telling us. I believe that the Earth is about 4.5 billion years old, which comes from a host of various sciences. I believe that an identifiably human species showed up about 100,000 years ago. 

 I don't think the science supports young Earth creationism, and I am confident that Genesis 1and 2 can easily support a progressive creation understanding. I know this might be unpopular among my christian peers, but it's where I'm at right now. I actually think, despite what you've probably heard, that the first few chapters of Genesis fit well with what we know about a 14.5 billion year old universe. 

Do you realize that the bible doesn't tell us how old the Earth is? It seems that atheists want you to believe that on page one of the bible is says, "the earth is 6000 years old." They want you to think that the bible and science are opposed to each other. The reality is, that young Earth creationist get those numbers from genealogies, that are in the bible. 

The 6000 year thing is a calculation based on genealogies that describe how long each person lived and when they had children. The bible doesn't tells us why it gives us this information. It doesn't tell us that we can calculate the age of the earth with these genealogies. However, that hasn't stopped many people from doing it. 

The whole 6000 year thing breaks down on this one word: abbreviation. What if the genealogies were abbreviated. What I mean is, what if the genealogies just "hit the high points." Much like I might say, "I'm descended from Abraham Lincoln, Henry V, and Gangus Khan. I've just given you an abbreviated genealogy. It might be accurate, but not exhaustive. It doesn't tell you everyone who was in my family line up until Gangus. So we are not told whether the bible's genealogies are exhaustive or abbreviated. After doing a lot of reading on the subject, I think there's good reason to believe that they are abbreviated. So making a time chart from them is a weak argument for the young age of the earth. 

The second place where we young earth creationist make a strong stand is on the Hebrew word "Yom." In English Yom is often translated as "day." So if you're familiar with the first chapter of Genesis you'll remember that it says certain things were created on certain "days." However, there is lots of debate going on currently. Many believe that it's an acceptable translation to consider the "creation days" as long periods of time. 

Augustine said, "What kind of days these are is difficult or even impossible for us to imagine, to say nothing of describing them."  

The bible says that "For you, a thousand years are as a passing day, as brief as a few night hours." Psalm 90:4

All I'm saying is that I believe we have some latitude in how we can interpret these verses. Science is telling us that the universe, and the Earth itself are really quite old. I'm convinced that this fits Just fine with what we find in Genesis. 

So there it is, I'm not a young earth creationist. But note this: I would be, if Jesus had said to be. I would be a young earth creationist if the bible said to be. I'm convinced more strongly in the reliability of scripture than I am, in anything else. IF it was clear from scripture that young earth creationism was truth, then I'd jump on the band wagon. However, There's no direct command from Christ, and the bible doesn't say to be a young earth creationist so since I've been given that freedom, I've spent a lot of time looking at the science, and I'm convinced that the universe is old. 

If you're interested in this subject, I have some books I'd suggest. 

5. Why did people have to kill animals? Just old sacrifical nonsense that the pagans would have done if you ask me.

I don't have a good answer for this, other than it was a metaphorical image for what Christ would do. Christ would be sacrificed for the sins of the people. The OT law was a picture of that. 

6. Why does God dramatically change over time? Shouldn't he be the same forever..

I don't think he does. Fill me in on what you're referring to and I might be able to understand the question a little more. 

7. Why does God test people when he already knows what will happen.

I don't supposed I know for sure. My hunch is that it's for the sake of fairness. We don't know the future so we could make the claim that we never had a chance. He would be justified in setting our destiny based on what we would do, but we wouldn't have the benefit of knowing what we would do. So it makes sense that he would let it play out, even if only to prove to us that what he already knew all along. 

8. Why did God make the Devil?

Originally Satan was made to worship God. Satan was not created evil, but rebelled. You might ask, why did God make creatures with the capacity for evil... well that's another discussion all together. 

I would say, it makes for a pretty interesting story. Every storyteller knows that you need to raise the stakes to make the story compelling. (I write sic-fi btw) So the capacity for Evil makes for such an interesting and textured story... That might be a very unsatisfying answer, but it's at least an interesting angle. 

Ultimately I don't know the answer to this question. 

9. Why didnt he kill the Devil or take his powers. He kills humans no problem.

God kills human's bodies, but he doesn't destroy their souls. There are certain things that God has decided. Apparently one of the things he decided is that there are certain creatures whose essence (spirit) will live forever. 

Ultimately God will imprison Satan and remove his power to effect the world. We just happen to be living in the thin sliver of time (human history) before God has done that. 

10. Why did God make hell? Seems very harsh to send people who are just living lives.

He made Hell for the Devil and his fallen Angels. Matt 25:41. He doesn't want anyone to go there. 1 Timothy 2:4

11. Why would God make a trilion other Galaxy's if he new it would lead to people worshiping Stars?

God creates because it gives him pleasure. Genesis 1, Psalm 104:31. He loves the things that he makes. I totally understand this, because I am an artist, writer, etc. I make art that sometimes people don't understand. Still I make it primarily because it brings me joy. 

Secondly God creates to bring our attention to his power, love, and glory. The heavens declare his glory Psalm 19:1

Romans 1 tells us that people worship the created things rather than the creator. It's part of our fallen nature. 

On the astronomy side, the universe needs to be as big as it is for it to sustain complex human life that can grow to complex civilization. There is a certain age and size that universe has to be before it can produce heavier elements needed for complex life and civilization. The universe is expanding, therefore a certain age equals a certain size. etc. etc. 

ALSO, I believe he made other galaxies because we will one day explore and colonize those galaxies in the eternal Kingdom of God. Isaiah 9 says that his kingdom will always be increasing. We have to have somewhere to expand to. 

12. Do we have to believe Jesus was real or do we have to believe what he taught was good?

This is my favorite question out of all of the ones you've asked. So...

The Gospel of John is the ONLY book in the bible whose purpose is to show us how to have eternal life. The purpose statement is found in John 20:31. So the Gospel of John is the place to go if we want to understand what it takes to have eternal life. 

In John, the word "believe" is used about 100 times. John 3:15-18, 3:36, 5:24, 6:28, etc etc. I'm going to pick one. 

John says over and over that whoever "believes" in Jesus HAS eternal life. Check out the above verses if you want to take a closer look. 

OK SO - the question then arises, and I think it's the question you're asking, "what exactly am I supposed to believe?" This is possibly one of the most important questions we can ask. 

John 4 and John 11 tell us. Let's start with John 4:10

Jesus answered and said to her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is who says to you, ‘Give Me a drink,’ you would have asked Him, and He would have given you living water.”

This verse shows us that there is a VERY short list of things we MUST believe to have everlasting life (which he calls living water here). 

1. We must know the gift (eternal life) 
2. We must know who the giver is (Jesus)

Here is a simple phrase to remember this by, "Believe in Jesus for eternal life."
If you've believed in Jesus for eternal life then you have it. 

Now let's look at John 11:25-27

Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die. Do you believe this?” She said to Him, “Yes, Lord, I believe that You are the Christ, the Son of God, who is to come into the world.”

In these verses we see the same idea put into different and non-metaphorical words. Jesus explains that he is the 1. Resurrection and the 2. Life. Once he's made this statement he asks if Martha believes it, which points to the fact that if someone believe this statement they will be resurrected. This shows us that there are two parts of what we must believe once more. 

1. We must believe the gift (resurrection i.e. Eternal life)
2. the must believe he is the giver (Jesus)

What's really great about this verse is Martha rephrases Jesus' words. She encapsulates all of that in this simple phrase, "I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who is to come into the world." So any time you see someone in scripture come to believe that Jesus is the Christ, it is synonymous with this idea, believe in the gift (resurrection / eternal life) and the giver (Jesus).

So, as John 3:16 and many others tell us, if you believe in Jesus as the giver of eternal life then you have eternal life. It's really quite awesome. 

So, YES we must believe Jesus was real. We must believe that he will resurrect you to eternal life. If we believe those two things then you have eternal life. 

Believing that Jesus' teachings are good doesn't give you eternal life. However, if you believe Jesus' teachings are good and you obey them, (once you've become a believer) He promises to give you extra reward once you get to the Kingdom of Heaven. Matthew 6:19