Please be sure to consult the reference and links page for questions that are not answered here, or for more details on those that are.

Personal Questions: 1. Why should I care? 2. What does it take to become a Christian? General Questions About Christianity: 1. How is Christianity different from other religions? 2. Why can't we all just respect each other's religions? 3. Why do you say Jesus is the only way to heaven? Questions about Jesus Christ: 1. What does the name "Jesus Christ" mean? 2. Wasn't Jesus just a good moral teacher, preaching love and peace and tolerance and all that? 3. What was Jesus then? 4. How can modern educated individuals believe Jesus rose from the dead? Questions about the Bible: 1. How do you know the Bible has been passed down accurately over so many years? 2. Why isn't there a question number 2? 3. Who determined what books go into the Bible and what gets left out? 4. Do Christians take the Bible completely literally?? 5. How does the Bible correspond with other historical writings? 6. How does the Bible correspond with archaeological evidence? Inconsistencies:
1. Why do people kill in the name of God? 2. Why do people suffer if God is good? 3. Why does a loving God send people to Hell? 4. If God created everything, where did Satan/evil come from? Miscellaneous: 1. Is there any scientific evidence at all for the Bible's account of creation? 2. Isn't religion just a crutch for the weak?


Q: "Why should I care?"

A:  My idea is, there's 3 possibilities of life after death. Either (1) there isn't any, (2) you go to heaven (or a tolerable place), (3) you go to hell. I think it's pretty important to know which of these is true. If it's (1) or (2), cool. But if it's (3), you might want to find out how to avoid it.

"But I don't believe in hell," you might say. Good, that will make it go away. Sorry about the sarcastic tone, but if something may or may not exist, you owe it to yourself to get the facts, not just wish. And there are facts to get. Despite the idea that religion is all unverifiable "faith" and opinion, I've found that Christianity is really not just a matter of what people "feel like" believing. There are verifiable historical facts, and convincing logical arguments to check out. If you have checked these out thoroughly and still do not buy it, then, well, at least you tried, and you have some interesting facts to throw out at parties, and I respect you for trying. If you haven't checked them out at all, that's kinda risky, I think.

"But Hell is a ridiculous idea," you might say. Okay, maybe the cartoonish picture of hell that's been painted by popular culture today, what with horned devils in tights, and flames, and creatively grotesque punishments for each person. But, check out my idea of the place.

Now, a lot of people bring up that it's kind of selfish to seek after God just to save your butt from hell. Well, there's two things I have to say to that. First is, when someone is dying of a rare disease, and they go to the library and look up every article they can about their disease, studying the latest research, hoping for a cure, does anyone ever accuse them of being "selfish"? No, it's just survival. I mean, we even respect them for it. Also, what God wants out of it is your love. And you can't give him that if you don't know him. So however you get started looking for God, for whatever reason, once you get to know who he really is and what he's like, you will love him, and that's what he wants.

Another way to look at the question "Why should I care?" doesn't involve the afterlife. In this life, we look for satisfaction in a lot of things - money, pleasure, friends, family, achievements, etc. But even the best of them are disappointments. God is guaranteed not to be, because not only is he faithful from beginning to end, he made you, and knows exactly what you need.

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Q: "What does it take to become a Christian?"

A:  Not a lot. Sez the Bible: "That if you confess with your mouth, 'Jesus is Lord,' and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved." (Romans 10:9-10)

There are two parts here - "believe" and "confess".

You need to believe that Jesus is the Son of God, who had been sent to earth to die and redeem you, a sinner, and that he died and rose again.

Just believing does you no good, for even the demons believe this, and they're as far from Christians as you can get! So you must also confess with your mouth, as the passage says, that "Jesus is Lord" in your life. This doesn't mean that the sound of your voice saves you, of course. It means that not only do you believe all the above things, you are going to take action upon them and claim Jesus as your Lord and Savior.

Pray this to God, just by speaking to him wherever you are, and God will hear and answer you, and come into your life. In order to really be a "Christian" (by definition someone who lives their life in a manner involving/emulating "Christ") you'll probably need to find other Christians to help you figure things out, as well as pray and read your Bible to make sure you're talking to God as well as other people.

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Q: "How Is Christianity different from other religions?"

A:  A number of things make Christianity unique among the thousands of religions and belief systems out there today. I think going through the following list in order will help explain why Christianity is so unique.

  1. A personal God.
  2. Absolute standards.
  3. Grace.
(1) A personal God - This is the first division. Many religions and belief systems involve a universal "life force" sort of thing, which is in all of us, and all of nature, or maybe just some of us, depending on which religion you're talking about. But it's sort of inanimate and doesn't think much, doesn't have personal preferences, and doesn't like or dislike people. Or, some philosophies state that God just started the universe, and is too busy to bother with us on a day-to-day basis. Christianity states that God made a world, and put us in it to enjoy it and to love him and be loved back. Even after we did our best to screw that up, God still loved us and spent every opportunity trying to call us back to him. The God of the Bible is concerned with individual people, and not just "the grand scheme of things". According to Christianity, you, yourself, are important to God.

Humans are so important to God that he himself became one, by the name of "Jesus". Christianity is a rare religion in which the God of the religion and the human founder of the religion are one and the same.

(2) Absolute standards. - This is not unique to Christianity by any means, but it does provide another distinguishing division. The Bible makes it very clear that some things are right, and some things are wrong, and that this never changes. I want to clarify that this doesn't mean that wearing certain clothes or eating certain foods is right or wrong. God's laws, from the beginning, have been based on the heart, and God's definition of sin is based on the intentions and secret motives of the heart. So, hatred is always wrong, but a certain hand gesture might be wrong or not depending on whether it conveys hatred in that particular time and culture, or whether it's just a friendly greeting to those people. So no nitpicking about "is eating pork right or wrong" or anything like that, okay? However, the standards are absolute, and do not change from century to century. Stealing is as wrong as it has ever been, even if people call it "borrowing", and insulting people is wrong, even if it's called "humor". Murder and adultery are wrong no matter what names they're disguised as. And in this way, Christianity, as well as Islam, Judaism, and several other religions, distinguish themselves from the rest, as well as from popular culture.

(3) Grace. - The problem posed by these absolute standards is resolved by Christianity's third distinguishing characteristic - grace. The God of the Bible has extremely stringent absolute standards, so strict that no one on earth can meet them. Thus, the Bible labels every human being on earth a "sinner". "There is no one righteous, no, not one," says the Bible. Yet God loves us, so much that he refused to give up and spent thousands of years preparing the human race so that he himself might come down in human flesh and die, and offer salvation for the taking.

Therefore, unlike the common idea about the Christian God, that "if you're good, you'll go to Heaven", no good works or evil works that you do will influence your entry status into Heaven, but only whether you accept Jesus' sacrifice. This seems like "cheap grace" to some people, and I'll address that in another question.

Some religions say "all people are good, and will go to heaven", and some say, "all people are evil (except a select few of us) and will go to hell", and some even say, "all people are okay and will end up in the same place when we die, or cease to exist". Only Christianity says, "all people are evil and are gladly welcomed to heaven by the gift of Jesus".

"You don't deserve to spend all eternity with me in heaven," says Jesus, "so come." This is the strange and wonderful invitation of the Bible.

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Q: "Why can't we all just respect each other's religions?"

A:  Respect is a good thing. That's why I want to be careful to define what we mean by "respect". Should Christians contemptuously snort when other people state their beliefs? Heavens, no! Should Christians call people names when they don't share the same beliefs? No, no, no! That kind of disrespect is completely uncalled for!

Now, what's often interpreted as disrespect is the fact that Christians want everyone to believe in the same Jesus that they do, and obey him as they do. How rude! What colossal cheek! Why can't they just go to church and enjoy whatever it is they do there, and let us enjoy our own beliefs?

Well, that's all well and fine if you look at religion as a hobby. After all, why should the gardening fanatic try to convert the rabid sports fan to his ways? Everyone enjoys different things, and that's all well and fine. Well, gardening and sports are about preferences, and different people can have different preferences.

But in the end, beliefs are about truth. It's what I refer to as "the way things are". If there really is a God, and he really has a purpose, and good intentions, and requirements for people, then that is just the way things are. Someone can make up their own religion and say that there is no God and that if you wear pink flowers every day, you will have a happy afterlife. But you know what? If the God of the Bible exists, that person is in serious trouble, because they don't know (or perhaps care) what's really going on and what God really wants! That's why it's so important to a lot of us Christians that our friends find out about who Jesus really is! Because beyond all culture and preferences, there is a dead serious choice to make that will affect all eternity and all future happiness for us, and Christians worry about people who don't know about this choice, or all the facts about it.

This seems arrogant, perhaps, of Christians to say they've got the truth and nobody else does. But, how will you have it? Say there's a person dying of cancer. A friend, a cancer survivor, comes by, and says, "I had that exact same cancer. I tried this treatment, and it cured me." Would the person dying of cancer then say, "Oh, so you think you're better than me, you've got all the facts"? Or would they at least check out the validity of this treatment? Arrogance doesn't come into it at all. One person was simply lucky enough to find out first.

So basically, Christians should respect other people's beliefs, in the sense that they should take them seriously and listen to them. In fact, I think us Christians should even shut up sometimes when explaining our own beliefs, when we've passed that point when people no longer want to listen and are just getting irritated. But in the sense of just doing nothing and letting people believe what they will, I can't agree with that. You non-Christians have to understand, us Christians think you're dying, and we'll do whatever we can to help prevent it. I hope that helps you understand where we're coming from.

Also see this answer at Answers In Action, another Christian apologetics site.

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Q: "Why do you say Jesus is the only way to heaven?"

A:  Because Christian belief comes from the Bible, and, of course, Christ, who says:

"I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me." - John 14:6

There is a vague idea out there, that people seem to have, that everyone is supposed to go to heaven, yet this mean old God of the fundamentalist Christians has decided to take a whole bunch of people and send them to hell, just for kicks.

In fact, as the Bible tells it, everyone is headed for hell, tainted by sin, and unfit for the blinding purity of heaven. God's heart was broken by the thought of this, and God himself, as Jesus, came to die, so that anyone who was heading for hell might just call upon the mercy of Jesus and have his sin washed away so that he might go straight to heaven. Anyone could go to heaven - if he so chose.

God is love, as people of many religions are fond of saying. Love involves giving the beloved a choice. Shall a loving God force people to go to heaven saying, "I know what's good for you, now git!"? Or shall a loving God simply open the way, preach the way to all parts of the earth, and persuade all people by all non-compulsory means so that people might voluntarily choose his way and live?

This is not a narrow invitation. God has given this invitation to all mankind. It is not an elite group of moralists who will be saved, but anyone, from any race or culture or age or gender or occupation who has heard the way to heaven and grasps it with all their heart.

So Jesus is the only way to heaven, but what a big, wide, welcoming way!

Also see this answer at Answers In Action, another Christian apologetics site.

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Q: "What does the name `Jesus Christ' mean?"

A:  Jesus Christ is not a first and last name, as you might have guessed. Jesus (Iesos) is the Greek form of the Hebrew Y'shua, which means "salvation". In the Bible, Mary and Joseph were specifically told to give the child this name (Matthew 1:21). Meanwhile, Christ (Christos) is the Greek form of the Hebrew Messiah, or "anointed one". The word has a special meaning to Jews, as the Hebrew scriptures are full of prophecies relating to a coming Messiah, who will lead and save Israel. It might be more accurate to say Jesus the Christ, as Jesus is his given name, and the promised Messiah is what he is.

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Q: "Wasn't Jesus just a good moral teacher, preaching love and peace and tolerance and all that?"

A:  Wasn't Jesus just a good religious and moral teacher in the tradition of Socrates, Confucius, Buddha, and Mohammed? Wasn't his main message just to be kind and tolerant to each other and live good lives? It has been commented that Jesus's followers are twisting his message today by making it judgemental in a way it was never meant to be. Some Christians today do regrettably exercise judgement willy nilly, and love hardly at all. So what did Jesus really say?

It is true that Jesus taught us many good things about the way that we should live our lives. However, his main message was not concentrated on these things. He kept coming back to a main point of being "ready" for something that was coming. When it came, it would be final, and permanent, and would separate people into two sets.

Jesus's very first words of preaching, according to Matthew, were "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near." (Matthew 4:17). He claimed that very few people would find life. "Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it." (Matthew 7:13-14) He used many analogies to show that people would be separated into two categories in the end, and one category would be doomed. "Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire." (Matthew 7:19, Luke 3:9) The parable of the wheat and the weeds illustrates that in the end, the "wheat" will be gathered into the barn, and the "weeds" will be burned in the fire. Then Jesus explains explicitly what "wheat" and "weeds" represent. (Matthew 13:24-40, Luke 3:17 similar) "Once again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net that was let down into the lake and caught all kinds of fish. When it was full, the fishermen pulled it up on the shore. Then they sat down and collected the good fish in baskets, but threw the bad away. This is how it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come and separate the wicked from the righteous and throw them into the fiery furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth." (Matthew 17:47-50) When Jesus returns, he claims that "Two men will be in the field; one will be taken and the other left. Two women will be grinding with a hand mill; one will be taken and the other left." (Matthew 24:40-41) He told stories in which people were taken by surprise and were found unready (servants, bridesmaids) and cautioned his listeners to be ready for something coming. (Matthew 24-25, Mark 13, Luke 12)

Additionally, Jesus never claimed his goal was to bring peace between all people. "Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword." (Matthew 10:34, also see Luke 12:51)

Without even getting into the specifics of the gospel message, we can see that the message Jesus brought was something more serious and sobering than to love each other and be happy on earth. Yet anyone who knows Jesus knows that love and kindness was also a main part of his message. The truth, I believe, is more complex than it is portrayed in popular culture.

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Q: "What was Jesus then?"

A:  I will present to you what I think is the simplest method of looking at the debate, in a perspective presented by Josh McDowell in his book "More Than Just a Carpenter."

Most historians agree there was a person in history named Jesus, who died. Disagreement centers around who he really was, whether he was a great moral teacher, or actually God, or a total fake, or a prototype and example for what we all could become, or many other things. There are 3 logical possibilities as far as I can see.
1. A faker.
2. A deluded man.
3. God.

Not included among the possibilities is "a great teacher". Jesus claimed to be God, and he claimed to be - personally claimed to be, himself - the only way to be saved from destruction. Not the religion he was teaching, but himself. (John 5:46, John 6:35, John 8:58, John 11:25, Matthew 12:8, Matthew 16:15-16, Matthew 16:27-28, Matthew 20:28, Matthew 28:18, Mark 2:5-12)

His claims infuriated the Jewish religious leaders. They had the education and theological book learning (but regrettably, no heart) to know what Jesus meant by his carefully chosen words.
But Jesus remained silent. The high priest said to him, "I charge you under oath by the living God: Tell us if you are the Christ, the Son of God."
"Yes, it is as you say," Jesus replied. "But I say to all of you: In the future you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven."
Then the high priest tore his clothes and said, "He has spoken blasphemy! Why do we need any more witnesses? Look, now you have heard the blasphemy. What do you think?"
"He is worthy of death," they answered.

(Matthew 26:63-66, also see Mark 14:61-64) In this, and other passages (e.g. John 10:30-38), the religious leaders recognized half of the truth (that he called himself God) but not the other half (that he actually was). As appropriate to the law for a man calling himself God, when he wasn't, they tried to kill him, and eventually did.

Considering this, that he clearly claimed to be God - so clearly that the people of his time recognized it and sought to kill him for blasphemy - he was either wrong or right. If he was wrong, there are two possibilities. He really believed it (and was thus deluded) or he didn't believe it (and was deliberately lying).

If he was deliberately lying, he did not get much out of it. He got his 15 seconds of fame, and then was taken to trial for his life. He had ample chance to say "no, I'm not really God" at the trial, but instead reinforced his claim to being God, getting him killed. Also, he was the worst kind of hypocrite, then, demanding humility and honesty from others while exalting himself with lies.

If he was deluded, it does not seem to me he could have been such a shrewd observer of human nature and so wise in his teachings. The number of times he caught the Pharisees in their own attempts to snare him clearly show that he had a top-notch intellect. While insane people do have a certain sort of cleverness, it tends to be inconsistent, and while they may be clever in technical details, or lying, their insight into human nature usually contains many flaws due to projection of their own personalities or assumptions based on their deluded view of the world. Meanwhile, Jesus' moral teachings and insights into the human heart were correct, completely different from the teachings of that era, and extremely insightful. Usually, as Jesus himself said, the plank in one's own eye will distort a person's view of other people's faults. Jesus had no such plank. He had to see himself clearly in order to see all people so clearly. And he did.

If these two possibilities can be eliminated, then there only remains the possibility that what he said was true. And he said he was God, the very same God that appeared to Abraham, the father of the Jewish nation (John 8:53-58) the God who created the earth.

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Q: "How can modern educated individuals believe Jesus rose from the dead?"

A:  Books and books have been written about the Resurrection, from all points of view. People have "proved" it, "disproved" it, made comments about how such a myth might have been made up in the social context of the day, etc. I will present to you some simple "common-sense" style arguments that show the Resurrection to be very possible and not at all in the realm of unbelievable mythology. "Proof" of anything non-mathematical is not really a possibility. For more detailed and scholarly analyses, check out the reference page.

Most historians agree there was a man named Jesus who lived around 2000 years ago. Most historians also agreed that he died (or fainted) on a cross at approximately 33 years of age. What happened 3 days after that has been a lively and contentious source of debate for two millenia. I think it can be agreed however, that a religious movement came out of the belief that the man in fact rose from his tomb at that time, and this religious movement spread rapidly throughout the Mediterranean and then out into other parts of the world.

Now the question is, did he really rise from the tomb? And if not, what really happened? Many possibilities have been proposed. After all, when told that a man defeated the natural order of things and became alive three days after being dead, the human mind's first reaction is to strive for alternatives. Here are some:

Jesus didn't really die, he just fainted. This was proposed by a scholar of some repute a while back. Jesus in fact just passed out on the cross, in the heat of the day and in blood loss, and came to in the cool of the tomb, where he had been left for dead. I will now go into detail on what must have happened. After being nailed to a cross by Roman soldiers whose specialty was death, Jesus soon passed out. These same Roman soldiers noticed him not moving and poked a hole in his side to check if he was dead. Blood and water poured out, something that only happens when people are dead and plasma separates out (something like that, please don't shoot me if I'm wrong) of the blood. After this impressive display of death-like behavior, he looked so dead that he fooled Joseph of Arimathea and the women that came to prepare his dead body for burial, who left him alone in the tomb that revived him. Then he pushed off the stone that was too heavy for several women to move, but not too heavy for a cool- tomb-strengthened half-dead crucified man who had lost most of his blood. A polite guest, he folded the burial cloths behind him and walked out, where he either beat up or ran off from the soldiers posted to guard the tomb, for well-trained Roman guards were no match for a man who had cool-tomb power. In this state, he appeared to his disciples and impressed them mightily. I admit I find the theory ridiculous.

People went to the wrong tomb. It was pretty dark when the women went out to anoint Jesus's body. All tombs kind of look alike. Couldn't it have been the wrong tomb they went to? Consider though: They ran back and told the disciples, a few of which immediately ran out to look, also coincidentally arriving at the wrong tomb. Later on, as news spread and people started to believe, the Jewish religious leaders who had arranged the death in the very hopes of crushing this movement stood by helplessly as it in fact propelled the movement forward with greater momentum. In such a predicament, what would you do? As such a religious leader, with an interest in suppressing a new cult, I would simply go out to the correct tomb and dig out the right body and show it to everyone. A religion based on an empty tomb? Show the body in the tomb, and it's all over. But no one did any such thing, or even tried. They had no body.

The disciples stole the body. A popular theory at the time. It would explain why the Jewish religious leaders had no body to produce. Jesus said he would rise from the dead, and when he didn't, his disciples couldn't let everyone find out he was wrong, and stole the body to create the illusion. Then they began to teach all his teachings in the street, and the reward they got for this clever trick was a lifetime of beatings and jailings and persecution, which ended, for most of them, in execution. Never in all that time did they stop giving the same message they had been giving all along - that their Lord had risen from the dead and called everyone to believe in him. They hardly preached it to help themselves. And it hardly benefitted the people who believed their message, many of whom suffered the same fate as they did. It does not ring true that they perpetrated a trick, preached a message based on that trick which they knew to be false, and which would only bring suffering to those who believed. One person might be unbalanced enough to do such a thing out of sheer insanity, but such a trick would have required several people to be in on the secret (500 claimed to have seen Jesus up and about), and people are usually not all insane in the exact same way.
Also, this makes out the disciples to be cleverer than they are. All the time that Jesus was alive, he kept predicting his death and resurrection, and they never got it then. Every time he talked about dying, his disciples assumed it was because he was feeling down and discouraged and pessimistic, and tried to cheer him up. There is no evidence in the gospels that anyone got the point that Jesus meant to die and rise again. (Except the thief on the cross.)

It was a mass hallucination. A whole bunch of people had a religious hallucination and thought they saw Jesus. There is a comprehensive argument and answer at the Christian Thinktank.

The main line of argument, I guess, is that the body was either in the tomb or not. If not, no one turns up with the motive to steal and hide it, neither the disciples nor the authorities. The only person with a motive and means for getting Jesus out of the tomb would be God himself.

Although the possibility seems supernatural and difficult to believe, the alternatives are not at all satisfactory from a logical standpoint. In much greater detail is the book "Who Moved the Stone?" by Frank Morison. Frank Morison set out to write a book disproving the Resurrection, and instead, as he researched the facts, he became a Christian, and this book came out. Truth is powerful and unexpected, if you really and honestly look for it.

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Q: "Why do people kill in the name of God?"

A:  This is a hard question to answer - of course, that's why it's here.  Well, there's an easy answer and a harder answer following it.  The easy answer is that they're shameless liars.  They're just quoting God's name when they do things, but they hardly know him at all.  If my mom tells me not to hit my brother, and she leaves, then I beat up my brother, telling him, "Mom told me to do this," who's the bad guy, me or my mom?

But why does it seem like religious people have done some of the worst persecutions or injustices in history?  Well, as the saying goes, the bigger they are, the harder they fall.  Apathetic people tend not to do much harm or much good, they just don't have the motivation either way.  But people who are strongly enthusiastic about something have the potential to change the world for good... or for evil.  Religious zeal twisted by extra added impurities, like racism or pride, suddenly becomes a powerful force for evil and injustice.  But a pure and truth-based belief in God will bring about a tremendous and long-lasting amount of good.

Additionally, the statement that religion has killed more people than all other causes combined is a statement that is not based on facts. Please see: Stand to Reason's commentary for a breakdown of mass murders of the past millenia.

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Q: "Why do people suffer if God is good?"

A:  There are a number of reasons.  To summarize, I'll just say "free will", "fallen world", "refining in the fire", and "healing is more important than just getting the facts".   Okay, now for detail.

   First, that fun subject of free will.  When God made people, he gave them free will.  Why?  What, don't you like having free will?  Well, anyway, God made people to love him and be loved by him.  Now, if he had made people without a will, robots programmed to say "I love you", then it wouldn't really be love, as they had no choice.  Love isn't worth too much unless the person had a choice to not love you, but he rejected it and chose to love you.

   Well, free will leaves people with the ability to do both good and harm.  If they choose to do harm, other people might get hurt.  And if God steps in to stop them at this point, they haven't really got free will at all.  And again, we're back to robots.

   Is this worth it?  Is all the suffering in the world worth the ability to love and be loved by God?  Well, in order to weigh two things against each other, you have to know the value of both.  And you won't know the extent of God's love until you get to know him, and even then, it'll take you more than a lifetime to understand the full height and width and depth and length of the love of God.  But from what I've seen of it, I think it is worth it.

   Okay, but there's also natural disasters.  What's up with those?  Well, ever since Adam and Eve sinned in the Garden of Eden, everything's gone wrong in this world that was made to be perfect.  Animals started eating other animals, people had to struggle with the earth to get it to yield its crops, and something, it seems, went wrong with the environment such that people's lifetimes dropped dramatically.  God had set up an order for the world, involving man at the top.  But Adam and Eve forfeited that position when they sinned, and everything started falling apart.  It's still falling apart today.

   Also, I think that sometimes God does punish people with natural disasters.  Pretty rarely.  So I'm not that keen on people who claim that a hurricane-damaged city is being punished for sin and all that.  I think most natural disasters are just the consequence of a fallen world.

   Other times, God allows people to suffer in order to help them.  Does this sound cold?  But from human experience, you know there are times when suffering does build character.  If we lived sheltered, carefree lives all the time, then on the inside, we'd be pretty soft and weak in our character.

   Not only does suffering build character, but it also can be a test.  Not for God's benefit, he already knows what we're like!  But for our benefit.  We might think we are kind, civil people, and in time of trial, discover we are rude and cruel, and this leads us to work on real kindness on the inside.   We might be doubtful about whether our faith is strong enough, and through a trial, find out that it is, and so be more confident.

   But if you're really in a time of suffering, if someone you loved has passed away, if someone who meant the world to you has rejected you, if your life is falling to pieces around you, reasons are no good.  Tell a mother who has lost her baby, "Oh, your baby is in heaven, and I'm sure this trial will make you stronger," and that is cold comfort.

   Sometimes God doesn't give us the exact answer as to why we're suffering at the moment because he knows that it wouldn't help.  It wouldn't make us feel any better.  Instead he offers healing.  He offers a shoulder to cry on, ears to listen, and the power to heal our grieving, lonely, hopeless hearts.  And someday, if you go to heaven and see him there, he will give you the answer.  But God gives what you need, when you need it, and sometimes in the depths of suffering, logic and reasons isn't what you really want.

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Q: "Why does a loving God send people to Hell?"

A:  I don't think of Hell as a special place of torment that God spent a lot of time thinking up.  Well, you got to start from God.  As Genesis says, "In the beginning, God..."  He started it all, and everything comes from him.  Love, joy, happiness, laughter, trees, people, birds, rain... everything.  Some of the stuff became corrupted as people and angels made bad use of their free will, such as love turning to lust, laughter to barbed insults, happiness to cheap thrills.

    The corruption keeps spreading, and the world's getting worse, but one day God will put a stop to it.  He will separate all that is bad and corrupted and shut it away, and take all that is still pure and bring it to a safe place.  Heaven.

   The other place, filled with all the corruption of the world and none of the good stuff, will truly be Hell.  There will be perversion, hate, and violence there.... but none of the enjoyment from it that causes people to do it here on earth.

   And as for us people, made in the image of God and still retaining some signs of it, yet corrupted beyond belief, where do we go?  Suppose we went to Heaven?  But corruption only spreads, and sooner or later,  Heaven would become another earth, deteriorating like it is now.

   No, God cannot allow any sin into Heaven, although he loves us and wants to be with us.  But with this sin, this corruption, inside us, he cannot bring us to Heaven, or Heaven would no longer be Heaven.  So people, on the outside, unable to enter, end up in Hell.

   Don't think that God lets the situation stand like this!  He has provided his son Jesus to die for us, executed and banished as we were supposed to be, and the blood of Jesus washes us clean, if we believe and ask, and allows us to enter Heaven pure and spotless.

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Q: "If God created everything, where did Satan/evil come from?"

A:  First, let's get rid of the idea that God and Satan are equal and opposite forces. This is untrue. Satan is just another being created by God. Now that does leave a quandary. How does a God of pure good make a being of pure evil?

When God made the universe, everything was good, and the best it could be. He made Lucifer, a really magnificent angel, who was glorious and good and the brightest star in the heavens. But then Lucifer was unhappy being the best angel. He wanted to be the best being, period. He thought he could be better than God. He revolted. He got kicked out. Now he's bitter at God, and figures if he's going to lose in the end, he's going to take down as many of God's precious people as he can with him.

Now if Lucifer was made by God, how could God have left that flaw in him? Well, the name of the flaw is "free will", and is a necessary component of any sentient being capable of living and thinking as we know it. Free will is a mystery unmeasurable by any branch of science, but there's no doubt it exists! People use it every day! You might argue that we're controlled by chemical reactions, but when people are drugged out, and don't want to be, they're struggling and fighting the chemicals! If the chemicals are running our will, then whose will is fighting the chemicals?

That argument can go on forever. But the statement of the Bible on the matter is that created beings, like people and angels, have choices. At the most basic, there is the choice to love God or rebel against him. Lucifer had free will and chose to rebel. So did Adam and Eve. So do the murderers, rapists, despots, and greedy corporate executives of this day.

God makes some people bigger personalities than others. When those people choose good, the good they do is tremendous. When they choose to do evil, the evil is horrific. The difference between Hitler and Mother Teresa began with a choice.

So evil came to the world through the dangerous, costly, but necessary experiment of free will. To allow great kindness and love to be possible, God had to allow the risk of great evil and hate to be possible.

But God has a solution for all of this conflict, and it is coming soon. Read on.

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Q: "Is there any scientific evidence at all for the Bible's account of creation?"

A:  Why yes, yes there is.  Here's one. http://www.halos.com There's more, so I'll try to add it in later as I find it.

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Q: "Isn't religion just a crutch for the weak?"

A:  Some people have said this, most notably on a bulletin board I used to frequent.  Here's what I said: 

  Religion is a crutch? Hmm... God is the source of my strength, and I depend on him. But everyone depends on something. Everyone has a "crutch" if you want to call it that. Even you super independent people depend on: your brains? your strength? your willpower? your friends? your family? your savings? your health? your emotions? your sense of the artistic? your optimism? Everyone depends on something.

But you know... they will all fail. Your health will fail one day... Your friends and family won't always be there (even if they try their best - they may get sick or have to go away)... Your intelligence may fail you at an important time... Your emotions can be modified by chemical imbalances... I'm not saying you shouldn't take the risk to let these things be important parts of your life, but they are "crutches", and God (the God of the Bible, a book that passes secular historical examination with flying colors compared to Homer's Iliad, I might add, ask me if you want the exact academic points explained) is a "crutch" (or as the Bible puts it, a "rock") that will never fail, not for all eternity.

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Page last updated 4/28/02.