Archive for the ‘God’ Tag

Misconception of Hell Part 2   5 comments

Many nonbelievers are affronted that God would “send them to hell”. The argument goes something like this —

God is evil for sending anyone to hell. How dare he expect me to love him back when I don’t even believe he exists and how dare he send anyone to hell for not believing in him.

That’s a lot of anger toward a being who the nonbeliever claims does not exist, but let’s just concentrate on the topic of hell for a moment.

Hell is a place where God is not present. On the day Jesus comes back, all people — believers and nonbelievers all — will know that God is real and know with certainty that God is good. God will judge the believers and the nonbelievers. Nonbelievers are those who have spent their lives avoiding getting to know and spend time with God. They have a host of excuses for that, but all of their excuses boil down to the simple fact that they chose not to have a relationship with God.

Adam and Eve were created for the purpose of having a relationship with God. They decided that relationship was expendable if they could be like gods themselves. They broke the relationship and God kicked them out of the Garden to allow them to live their lives as they chose, following their own faulty thinking rather than His perfect guidance. We who live today and all intervening generations have not been able to restore that relationship, because frankly, we continue to put ourselves in the seat of God. We deem a relationship with Him to be too confining on our ability to do as we please. God did something dramatic to help us understand the importance of that relationship — He stepped down into our messy world in human form and died a horrible death so we would understand just how much He loves us and wants to restore that relationship.

Christians are those people who have recognized that sacrifice and chosen the relationship that God offers. It doesn’t make us any less human or any better than those who have not. It just means we’re connected to God through relationship and He honors our choice.

But He won’t force any of us to fellowship with Him. He suffered and sacrificed to reconcile with us, but it’s still our choice to accept that relationship or not. And if we die without having accepted that restoration, He will give us the dignity of our choices and allow us to spend eternity without Him.

That absence will be so painfully keen that it will cause continual weeping and gnashing of teeth. Hell is the absence of God.

You can hate God for that, but you’re the one who chooses it.

Divine Right of Kings   1 comment

Ancient kings discovered it was a lot easier to keep their subjects in line if the subjects thought of them as gods. Thus the Egyptian pharaohs moved from the ceremonial title “son of Ra” to being gods themselves. Caesar Augustus claimed to be descended from Aeneas, son of the goddess Aphrodite, but after he died, the Roman Senate declared him to be a god. Two generations later the Caesars (even when not related to Augustus) were being worshipped in many parts of the Roman Empire.

When the Roman Empire appropriated Christianity as its exclusive religion, all the pagan god-king rhetoric had to be set aside. I suspect Theodosius didn’t think ahead on that. What did he know of the Bible, actually? Deuteronomy 17:15 made clear that human government is a cooperative process between God and His believers:

“When you come to the land the Lord God is giving you and take it over and live in it and then say, ‘I will select a king like all the nations surrounding me,’ you must select (absolutely) without fail a king whom the Lord your God chooses. From among your fellow citizens you must appoint a king ….”

Well, that obviously wasn’t going to work in a dictatorship, so it’s a good thing the Bible wasn’t in wide circulation. In less than a generation, Rome would collapse anyway, leaving the whole God-king-citizen issue for others to sort out.

During the early Dark Ages there was no real government besides the Roman Catholic Church. The popes could (dubiously) claim to be God’s voice upon the earth using the specter of apostolic succession, but as the nobility rose to rule, the Church needed to provide legitimacy to these rulers as well. Thus, they created the  doctrine of the divine right of kings.

Christianity rejected any concept of men who are gods. There is nothing above God and placing any human equal to God is idolatry. So “Christian” kings couldn’t claim they were gods, but they could use the Church to advance the idea that the kings were authorized by God to rule.

The subversion of Scripture was easy. Most people couldn’t read. Even the priests themselves often could not read. They read portions of the Scripture to the congregation, but selective readings allow them to ignore parts like Deuteronomy 17:15. And, in the translation of Romans 13 from Greek to Roman, they changed the emphasis of the word “submit” from a voluntary act of cooperation to a requirement commanded by God.

Under the Holy Roman Empire, the divine right of kings created two heads of state working in harmony for the maintenance of peace and ordered conduct among Christians. Christ was seen as the ultimate King and Pope and kings were His vice-regents. Using Romans 13, the Church – which decided the disposition of men’s souls – put its priests between man and God in matters of faith and put the king between man and God in matters of state and they backed one another up if ever there was a conflict of conscience.

If people objected to some abuse by their government, they were told that Romans 13 said they must submit to the government because the king is God’s representative and good Christians are supposed to submit to God. Similarly, the Roman Catholic Church put forth that believers could not question the dogmas of the Church because the Pope and his priests are the representatives of God on earth and good Christians are supposed to submit to God in all circumstances.

Nobody questions you because to do so is a matter of faith and the pope, the king’s brother, holds the keys to heaven and if you really believe God wants you to obey Him ….

Nice deal, huh? And, it worked … for a while.

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