Questioning Authority… Again

It’s a bit of a habit of mine, and it applies to both earthly superiors and God.

It was the poet Xenophanes, I believe, who brought up the irony of gods- that they look like people. Shouldn’t it be the other way around? We want gods to be like superhero versions of us, because we are arrogant. it’s still true today. Even those of us who are Christians, who supposedly “know better,” we too like to imagine that God is a certain way so we can sleep at night. And when He doesn’t fit our mold, we may want to rebel. 

Romans is a confusing book. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but it will make you think. No bobble-head-Jesus theology here. Just so we’re all clear, I don’t feel like blogging only about the things that everyone agrees on. I don’t see why we, as Christians, gloss over most of the Bible because what it says confuses or scares us. If we really believe that it is the Word, then I think we should make it our business to find out what it really means. Even if we’re not always successful. Let’s not be shy! Let’s talk about things. Let’s talk about things like judgment, adultery, rape, genocide, homosexuality, socialism. At least sometimes. But let’s not condemn each other in the process.

Check it out:

19 You will say to me then, “Why then does he still find fault? For who can resist his will?” 20 But who indeed are you, a human being, to argue with God? Will what is molded say to the one who molds it, “Why have you made me like this?” 21 Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one object for special use and another for ordinary use? 22 What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience the objects of wrath that are made for destruction; 23 and what if he has done so in order to make known the riches of his glory for the objects of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory— 24 including us whom he has called, not from the Jews only but also from the Gentiles? 25 As indeed he says in Hosea,

“Those who were not my people I will call ‘my people,’
and her who was not beloved I will call ‘beloved.’”

-Romans 9:19-25

Okay, so the first part of this may not seem that objectionable. Verses 19-20, I’m tracking, “Okay, fair enough, good, right, amen to that.” And then verses 21-22. At this point, I’m more than a little indignant. I’m pretty mad at God, mad at Paul too. How could He? Sure, I acknowledge that He has the power to do what He wants, and the right to do what He wants… But why, why would He EVER make people who were meant to be destroyed? Wasn’t it their choice to rebel and be destroyed? What is this predestination or something?! Is this the same God who sent His son to die for us? The same One who gave “The Great Commission?” 

Who am I? Who are You, God? I thought I knew You. Why should I listen you You ever again if You’re going to be so unjust?

Before I have a cow right here on the internet, I think I should throw in two observations. Observation: Paul is being hypothetical. You can see that. But why would he be purely hypothetical? Does it mean that God didn’t create people to be destroyed to show His glory? Why would Paul say it like that if it wasn’t true?

Observation 2: He could be referring back to the Old Testament human-God relations in order to make a larger point. But even if God only did this in the past to people like the Egyptians who enslaved the Israelites… I still don’t quite get it.

This is a subject of personal importance for me. I say that because I know people who are not Christian, obviously, but these people often strengthen my faith. I know that sounds weird, but it seems like the more they oppose God and the more i watch them living for all the wrong things, the more I realize just how real God is. I know it sounds like shallow faith. Anyways, how it relates to this verse is this: I suppose I would feel kind of bad if people were being condemned just for my benefit. Just so I could see how great God is.

God, do you really think that people are so expendable? I always thought that anyone could be a child of God. Sure it takes faith, but I don’t understand why people need to be condemned at birth. 

Can someone help? Am I looking at this in all the wrong way? 

Perhaps I am being a little arrogant by dictating what God should be like and what He should do with Himself. I know that allowing this to plague me is not demonstrating trust in God. But I would like to understand what’s going on very badly. I can’t be the only one who’s ever wondered about this.

I suppose a closing remark is in order. I don’t want to conclude that God doesn’t exist and it’s every man for himself. Even though God knows who’s going to be saved and who’s not, we don’t. So that kills some of the arrogance and laziness that can spring from predestination. We don’t know. And that’s why we must preach the Gospel to the world. On that note, I sign off. 







What Is Expected of Disciples of Christ (The World of Faith/Works/The Law Visited)

From reading the New Testament, we get the impression that we cannot be saved by doing good things. Which is true, of course. No one wants to just follow a bunch of rules anyway. And yet, a little guidance never hurt. 

For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven.

-Matthew 5:20

I’ll bet you never memorized that verse in Sunday School. But there’s got to be something to it, otherwise why would Jesus have said it? Does it have some kind of non-literal meaning? Maybe. Was it a little rude of me to just rip it out of context? Probably. I’ll help you out a little with the context thing, here’s the verse that comes before it: 
Whoever then annuls one of the least of these commandments, and teaches others to do the same, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever keeps and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.

I think that probably helped a little bit. 

I’ve heard it preached before, probably more than once, that true love for Christ will result in obedience. Therefore, we must obey. But what does that mean? Do we need to have more good deeds and less bad deeds tallied up than the Pharisees?

I think it’s important to address that the Pharisees were bound by different laws than modern Christians, because much of our doctrine is based on the teachings of Jesus, the same one who got mad at Pharisees frequently. 

The important question lingers… are we required to do good? I can’t really answer yes. You know what happens when I say yes- I sound like some kind of pre-destination whacko type who harasses teens for dancing. And you know what happens when I say no- I sound like the anything-goes-as-long-as-your-heart-is-in-the-right-place-spiritually type. And if I say yes and no, then I have portrayed Christianity as an impossible paradox.

So I will omit an answer. I don’t need to answer this question, God already has. Paul has written pages and pages on this topic. I think that implies that it’s hard to answer the question in a couple sentences. But here is what I will say.

You can be saved through the love, mercy, and sacrifice of Christ. It’s not because you saved a toddler from a burning building (although if you really did that, I must admit that’s pretty awesome).

But if God didn’t care what we did with our lives, why did he give us guidelines through his son Jesus? To name a few:

Resisting greed (1Timothy 6:8)

Loving enemies (Matthew 5:43-44)

Turning the other cheek (Matthew 5:39-40)

Helping the poor and needy (Matthew 9:35)

Fleeing from sexual immorality (Hebrews 13:4)

Not complaining (Philippians 2:14)

Not getting drunk (Ephesians 5:18)

Not swearing (Colossians 3:8)

Not getting angry at people (Matthew 5:22)

Is this hard? Uh… yeah. That’s why we have to ask for God’s help. Christ fulfilled the law, making it a bit more comprehensive, but also giving us the forgiveness, love,  and aid that we need that we need to do His will. Now all nations will know about God. No more burnt offering and wars- but now our task is to “make disciples of all nations” (Matthew 28:19-20). 

I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.

Galatians 2:20