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A niggling question
January 11th, 2006 by teragram

YellowSnow’s recent foray into theology has inspired me to post a question that’s been on my mind pretty much since I got here. Unfortunately, it’s not something I can offer an answer to just yet; at least, not one that satisfies me.

Why did God create this world at all? If He’s going to re-create the world in such a way that there will be no more tears, then why didn’t He just create it that way in the first place? My first instinct is that this world prepares us in some way for heaven, but that can’t be right. Each person’s experience is so different: some people never make it out of their mother’s womb alive, some people are surrounded by all that’s worst about this world, some surrounded by all that’s best. Since coming here I’ve seen people who live in such abject poverty that they can’t afford to wash their hair. I’ve seen slums that are, relatively speaking, well off – because the tents there are waterproof. And yet I grew up in such a different world. I don’t know what hunger is. I don’t know what it is to really have to work.

What I’m trying to say is: if this is some sort of preparation for heaven, why don’t we all get the same training?

Okay, so I guess the classic response to all that is: we brought this suffering on ourselves, in some collective sense, through sin. In heaven there will be no sin, and therefore no suffering. Well what will be different about heaven that will prevent sin, and why didn’t God just make this like that in the first place? We’ll still have free will, right?

Is the difference that we’ll be in God’s immediate presence, and that will prevent us from sinning? If so, then why did He go “walking in the garden in the cool of the day” (Gen 3:8), so that Adam and Eve were able to hide from Him? If the answer to that is that He didn’t want to impede their free will, then I have to ask, will our free will not be complete in heaven?

I guess when it comes down to it, what I’m struggling with is related to predestination. If we are not palpably in the presence of God, can we really choose between spending eternity with Him, and spending eternity without Him? If we had experienced His immediate presence, would we choose anything else?

The idea that we as individuals have no part in whether we go to heaven or hell, that God made us to go to one or the other, doesn’t fit with my understanding of God. Our God “wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.” (1 Tim 2:4). So the decision is, at least in some way, ours. But then, how can we make an informed decision about him in this life?

Why should this whole continent be so steeped in idolatry, so that so very few people even know who Jesus is? Are the people here able to make an informed decision between Jesus and they idols they grew up with? And are people in “the west” any better off? They’ve heard the stories, but how many of them have met God? Does hearing a distorted view of the Gospel count as hearing the Gospel? Had I ever really heard the Gospel before I understood it and accepted it?

Answers on a postcard to the usual address.

Tg


14 Responses  
  • David Barrett writes:
    January 11th, 20062:51 pmat

    Tg, maybe given free will, this is the best world possible.

    I’m serious by the way.

  • teragram writes:
    January 11th, 20065:13 pmat

    What’s heaven like then? Do you think we won’t have free will there?

    Tg

  • O.G writes:
    January 12th, 20063:04 pmat

    “I give you a warning… Here on the mountain, the air is clear and your mind is clear; as you drop down into Narnia, the air will thicken. Take great care that it does not confuse your mind.”
    The Silver Chair, C.S. Lewis

    Perhaps here on earth, because we are not in the full presence of God and there is a battle going on, our minds are clouded and we make bad choices. When we are in Heaven and in the complete presence of God we will want nothing more than to spend eternity worshipping Him. So we will be exercising our free will whilst simultaneously fulfilling the purpose for which we were made.

    Also, I laugh at your audacious title. It’s not ONE niggling question, it is about TWENTY, and they have niggled away since I read your entry.

    O.G – hoping others won’t think she’s just recently joined the Narnia band wagon.

  • perplexis writes:
    January 12th, 20065:03 pmat

    But O.G., that still leaves the niggling question, what would prevent the garden of eden scenario from happening again, which was what teregram was getting at…

    Perplexis- in hot pursuit

  • O.G writes:
    January 12th, 20068:10 pmat

    Thank you for pointing out the potential flaw in my argument Perplexis, that was very… thorough of you. My idea was that, because we are on earth, our minds are clouded to a degree. When we finally (hopefully) ascend to Heaven, our minds will clear and our only desire will be to worship Him. Sinning will not even enter our minds because it will be so far from the Perfection before us. So therfore freewill and a state of sinlessness will harmonise for the first time (apart from Jesus of course).
    All of this is conjecture I hasten to add. I’m not in God’s elite ‘understander of all’ circle. I’d have to be WAY holier for that.

    O.G. Still holier than you

  • teragram writes:
    January 13th, 20062:27 pmat

    But doesn’t that lead back to the original niggling question? Why bother creating this “world of sin and woe” if being in His immediate presence would prevent us from sinning? Why not just skip earth and go straight for heaven?

    And the other question that arises is: Would anyone choose anything other than that perfect state of harmony, once they had experienced it? And is it fair to ask them to choose if they don’t have all the facts (which we don’t)?

    Perplexis: what I was getting at was less “what’s to stop us from sinning in heaven” and more “if there can be a sinless heaven, why isn’t this it?”. If you see what I mean.

    Tg

  • Zoomtard » My Grapes of Wrath writes:
    January 13th, 200610:20 pmat

    […] Maybe soon I’ll get around to writing about the psuedo-Christian violence committed in Uganda over the last few months or respond to the serious theological issues raised quite superbly over by that patch of YellowSnow and Teragram. But between now and then, I am off to the Soviet Union. […]

  • David Barrett writes:
    January 13th, 200611:04 pmat

    I don’t know about heaven. Is free will truly an option if we cannot sin? Is our free will done with once we make the choice to serve in life?

  • teragram writes:
    January 18th, 20069:04 amat

    Would we be the same creatures if we didn’t have free will? Would our obedience mean anything if it wasn’t, continually, freely chosen? Hasn’t God made it clear that He values our free will above almost everything else?

    I for one don’t – at all – like the idea of a heaven without free will.

    Tg

  • James Hackett writes:
    January 20th, 20061:17 pmat

    Hi,
    I think the point in genesis and revelation is that Satan will no longer be around and neither will the sea, which is a metaphor for something like the world/the flesh I think. Anyway it seems that Satan, the angel of the abyss (which might mean the messanger of death in the sense that he is able to introduce something that isn’t life to us, in the sense that God is life, and God created everything that was created, and therefore Satan introduced something that didn’t fit in with everything (abyss, a bottomless pit, is something I associate with a complete void, or nothingness, which is the only thing that can exist outside everything, outside God). Em, I’d better start that “sentance” again. I don’t have much control over these thoughts as I don’t really understand them, so the best policy is to throw them out as fast as I can. Anyway, Satan will be chained to the abyss, so he can no longer be a messanger of the abyss as he was in genesis, so we won’t have any link to sin. Now whether we can follow lucifer’s original folly and create our own sin is another question. The bible doesn’t comment on this. Not only will Satan be gone, but a new heaven and earth and new bodies for us will be created free of the corruption that has pervaded our bodies. As for how lucifer was able to rebel in the first place, well that’s a bit too spiritual for me. The bible doesn’t even bother talking in normal language about such things, and generally resorts to allegory in an attempt to give us any inkling. I don’t think God wanted Lucifer to rebel, and therefore didn’t want the world to be corrupted, but that’s just my opinion. If he did want lucifer (as opposed to satan) to be the angel of the abyss, perhaps “void” is a necessary part of the process of creation, and God is looking forward to a more complete creation at the end of all the meaninglessness that permeates our world. The bible seems to indicate that creation was complete on the 7th day, however. The short answer? God knows. (trust him)

    PS: I have a friend called swami, though I don’t have his email address with me right now, who became a follower of Jesus amidst the multi-cultural society of India. He sought God out, presumably urged by the Holy Spirit, because he wanted to find God, and he who seeks will find. Perhaps he would be able to help you to see how God is actually working in India, even if it isn’t obvious? I will try to get his email.

  • James Hackett writes:
    January 20th, 20061:27 pmat

    PS. My writing is very small on postcards. That was my first ever contribution to an online discussion anywhere, despite my nerdish tendancies. I am not a social nerd you see. Anyway, will make sure I write small paragraphs in future. Sorry

  • James Hackett writes:
    January 20th, 20061:32 pmat

    PPS. Free will is fine, but it would be nice not to have to choose between good and evil I think?

  • MaverickJuliet writes:
    July 10th, 200711:54 amat

    Occams Razor supplies the answer; God, Heaven, Satan DON’T EXIST! This solves all the above niggles.

  • teragram writes:
    July 11th, 20079:03 amat

    Hi MaverickJuliet. I have to disagree. When I apply Occam’s Razor to the question of God’s existence, I have to say it implies He does exist. A creator who is outside of time (and therefore not subject to cause and effect) seems like the simplest, and most satisfactory, explanation for the existence of the universe.

    Tg


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