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This study © 2000 by David Humpal
1. Who made God?
We have abundant evidence that the universe contains something. We know from science that something cannot come out of nothing. Philosophers for centuries argued that there must have been some self-existence “first cause” which caused the something in our universe today. By definition, the first cause was what we would call God or the Creator. To argue that there must be a cause before the first cause is to misunderstand the definition of the idea of a self-existent force out of which the universe came into being. We cannot deny that the universe is here. It seems less a leap of faith to assume that the universe was brought into existence than to believe that it was eternally existing, especially since all our scientific evidence points out that the universe is declining in entropic fashion. Educated people see the methodical arrangement at Stonehenge and they say, some ancient intelligence must have built it. Educated people see the giant stone faces on Easter Island and they say, some ancient intelligence must have constructed them. But these same educated people can look at the extreme complexities of gravitational pull, magnetic fields, DNA, atomic particles, and molecular cohesion, and then say with a straight face, it all happened by chance. Does this seem very reasonable to you? I would like to suggest that it requires more faith to believe that something could be formed out of nothing than it does to believe that a self-existent God created that something!
2. Wouldn’t a loving God stop evil and tragedy?
In order to answer this question it’s important to understand what evil really is. God has given humanity a free will to choose to obey or not to obey. Once a person chooses to disobey God, they are free to make further choices about their actions. If God would prevent their choices there would no longer be free will, and we would all be puppets of God. Evil is the result of disobedience. There are only two ways for God to remove evil from this world. One way would be to remove the freedom of choice from each human being. The other way would be to have a testing period where people become so strong in their faith that they can resist evil.
Most people who are upset with God for allowing suffering in the world view this life and our present existence on this planet as humanity’s main purpose. If our joy depends on our earthly happiness, then it is easy to see how some would be angry with God when someone died or when someone became ill or when others were persecuted. However, I believe we are not viewing these things from God’s viewpoint. Since we are living in this world, we are distracted by our own feelings. We have come to think that this earthly life is the only important thing. This is not what the Bible teaches and this is not a heavenly view.
We need to view our earthly life as that of a toddler learning how to walk. A toddler may fall and hurt themselves, but eventually they will learn how to walk. When that child grows up and becomes an adult, they remember little about those bumps and scrapes and tears -- they are just happy that they can walk properly. Sufferings, persecutions, and troubles help to build our faith so we can learn how to spiritually walk. What God has in mind for us after this brief earthly life, I don’t know. But I do know that it will be for an eternity. Certainly a few decades of bumps and scrapes are worth it if it prepares us for an eternity of working for God!
When we view things from God’s perspective, it changes our values. Death is no longer a tragedy, but rather a homecoming. Suffering is no longer pain, but rather an opportunity to learn to trust in God. Illness is no longer dreaded, but rather an opportunity to see God’s comfort and care. Persecution no longer makes us feel weak and helpless, but rather it makes us strong in our faith. Walking through the valley of darkness is no longer frightening, but rather it helps us to learn to walk by the light.
If a child never faces challenges when growing up, they will not learn how to cope with them as an adult. If a child is given everything they want, they will become spoiled and self-centered. If a child never meets failure, they will never learn how to trust in God. God does not want us stunted in our spiritual growth, and God does not want us to be like spoiled children. So the very things that we don’t like to see happen to us are the very things that make us a better citizen of heaven! It seems we need to learn to change our spiritual viewpoint.
3. Doesn’t the Bible give us a picture of a mean God who brings judgement and vengeance?
The Bible gives us a picture of a holy God who offers mercy and forgiveness, but who will punish the wicked and disobedient. Every time God pronounces judgement, he also speaks of the disobedience that brought the judgement. The fact is God loves us so much that he has provided a way for all of us to be part of his family in spite of our acts of disobedience. In the Old Testament, believers sacrificed animals looking forward to the true Passover lamb sacrifice that Jesus would make on the cross. From the crucifixion on, we have been looking back to that sacrifice as the means for our atonement. The fact is God sent his son to die for us because he loved us and wanted us to know that we are forgiven.
God is a God of justice, but he has provided our pardon if we will only accept it.
4. Wouldn’t a loving God want everyone in heaven?
God does want everyone in heaven. Here are a few verses that show that God wants all to be saved. It is interesting to note that three of these references are from the Old Testament when Israel was considered the chosen nation.
Psalm 96:2-3, “Sing to the Lord, praise his name; proclaim his salvation day after day. Declare his glory among the nations, his marvelous deeds among all peoples.”
Matthew 28:19, “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.”
Psalm 22:27, “All the ends of the earth will remember and turn to the Lord, and all the families of the nations will bow down before him.”
Psalm 117:1, “Praise the Lord, all you nations; extol him, all you peoples.”
God wants all people in heaven, but he has given humanity a free will whereby we can chose to do evil if we want to. The only way all men and women would always choose to do good is if God removed from us the freedom of choice. Through Jesus, God has provided a way for all to be saved. But unfortunately, many choose to not accept God’s free gift of salvation.
5. What about all those who have never heard about God? It wouldn’t be fair for them to be punished, would it?
Throughout the Bible we read about those who somehow received the message of God in an unusual way. We read about the wise men coming from the East. They were probably Persian. Who told them about Jesus? Job did not live in the land of Israel. How did he know about God? I believe that anyone who sincerely cries out to God will be heard, and God will send someone to them. God sent an angel to the Roman Cornelius and Jesus spoke from the cloud directly to Saul. The Bible tells us that all people have ample evidence of God.
1 The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies
proclaim the work of his hands.
18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness,
19 because what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them.
20 For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse.
There is no nation or language which cannot hear the voice of nature declaring the glory of God. It is the universal language -- the unspoken language. It is the language of the educated and the ignorant. It is heard in the halls of the palace and the dark corners of a cardboard and tin shack. The line of evidence, the sound of the evidence, has gone out through all the earth. The words of God’s glory, as shown in his creation, reach to the ends of the world. How then can anyone deny God? As Anselm, the eleventh century Archbishop of Canterbury, says, “It is incredible, I say, that any man denies...the existence of God.”
6. Why wouldn’t God accept sincere followers of other religions?
Jesus’ sacrifice is the only acceptable atonement for sins. Without Christ, there is no salvation. Throughout the Old Testament we read about the importance of the sacrifice, especially the Passover lamb sacrifice to take away the sins of Israel. This is the plan that God established from the beginning. We may not understand it, but that doesn’t change it. The necessity of Christ’s sacrifice is explained in Hebrews 9:19-26:
19 When Moses had proclaimed every commandment of the law
to all the people, he took the blood of calves, together with water, scarlet
wool and branches of hyssop, and sprinkled the scroll and all the people.
If we want to be saved, we must come to Jesus. We cannot enter the kingdom of heaven any other way. There are not many roads to heaven. Buddha did not die for your sins. Mohammed is not the resurrection and the life. The Yin and the Yang does not fill us with the power of the Spirit. Eastern meditation does not guide us into all truth. The sayings of Confucius are not quick and powerful. Jesus said in John 14:6, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.” He is the only way.
7. Is the idea of a divine trinity Biblical? How can God be one God and yet also be Father, Son, and Holy Spirit?
Early church theologians came up with the trinity concept as a way to explain what the Bible teaches.
Alexander Campbell described it this way, “God alone is self-existent and eternal. Before earth and time were born he operated by his Word - and his Spirit. God, the Word of God, and the Spirit of God, participants of one and the same nature, are the foundations of Nature, Providence, and Redemption. In Nature and Providence, it is GOD, the WORD, and the SPIRIT. In Grace, it is the FATHER, the SON, and the HOLY SPIRIT. All creation, providences, and remedial arrangements display to us the cooperations of Three Divine Participants, of one self-existent, independent, incommunicable nature. These are fundamental conceptions of all the revelations and developments of the Divinity, and necessary to all rational and sanctifying views of religion.”
Here is a brief discussion of some of the Bible verses that teach the concept that theologians have named the trinity.
God Is One God
The Bible clearly teaches that God is one God and not a multiple of Gods. Deuteronomy 6:4 says, “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one.” And when we compare Malachi 2:10 with John 1:3 we see that Jesus must be part of that “one God” who created us.
In fact the Hebrew word for God in Genesis 1:1 is instructive -- <myhl)> elohiym is always used as a singular noun with a singular verb when it refers to the deity, and yet it is the plural form of the word. The Hebrew language itself may indicate to us that God is one and yet contains more than one person in the Godhead.
Jesus and God are One
In Philippians 2:6 Paul says that Jesus has the very nature of God. And In Matthew 1:23 the Angel tells Mary that her baby will be named “God with us,” The Jewish leaders understood that Jesus was claiming to be God, and they accused him of blasphemy in Mark 2:7, John 10:33, and John 5:18.
In John 20:28 Thomas calls Jesus “my God.” And in John 1:1 John calls Jesus God. In Luke 22:42 Jesus clearly states that he has a will separate from the Father’s, “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.”
The Holy Spirit Is God
In Acts 5:3-4 Peter tells Ananias that he has lied to the Holy Spirit in verse 3 and in verse 4 says that he lied to God. This passage clearly indicates that these two are the same. In 2 Peter 1:21 the words of the prophets are said to be both spoken from God and carried by the Holy Spirit.
When we compare the same event described in Exodus 17:7 and Hebrews 3:7-9, we see that in Exodus God is the one being tested. In Hebrews the Holy Spirit is the one being tested. Since both passages describe the same event, this indicates that God and the Holy Spirit are one.
In John 16:13 the Holy Spirit is said to not speak of himself but rather will speak what he hears, clearly indicating that the Holy Spirit has a separate will from God the Father and Jesus the Son and could speak of himself if he so chose.
God is the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit
There are many scriptures that show the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit working together as three separate persons of the Godhead such as 2 Corinthians 13:14, 1 Peter 1:2, and Matthew 3:16-17.
In Matthew 28:19 Christ indicates the formula for baptizing new believers, “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” In Ephesians 4:4-6 Paul tells us that there is one Spirit and one Lord Jesus and one God the Father indicating their equality in the Godhead.
It’s important to remember that the concept of the trinity is beyond human comprehension. Many people have attempted to make God understandable to our human intellect, but the fact is that the concept of a divine, all-powerful, eternal being is beyond our human understanding. Although it’s tempting to want to put God in human terms, this is one area which is best to simply accept what the Bible says by faith even though there may be parts of it that we cannot fully understand.
8. How could Jesus be both a man and God? How could his dying make any difference in my life?
Jesus was born as a baby and grew up as a human being. And yet he is also the son of God. God sent Jesus to the world clothed in human flesh so that we would know that God understands our human condition. Before Christ came, it would have been easy for people to think that God is far removed from human affairs and does not care about us. But now we know that Jesus suffered as we suffered, he felt pain as we feel pain, he faced temptation as we face temptation. Knowing this helps us to better understand God. Most of the time in scripture we see Jesus from his human side. But occasionally the gospel writers show us events which revealed the divine side of Christ -- such as when Jesus commanded the storm to be still, when he was transfigured on the mountain, and when he told the soldiers who came to arrest him, “I am he,” and they all fell down to the ground. Somehow, Jesus was both fully God and fully human. This is one of those areas that is simply beyond our comprehension.
The Old Testament shows God’s justice in that all sins were to be punished. God is a righteous, holy, and just God and he cannot allow sins to go unpunished. So as far back as the time when Adam and Eve sinned God set up a system for redemption. He instituted sacrificing an animal for the remission of sins from the very start. It is significant that when Adam and Eve sinned, God sacrificed an animal and covered them with the animal’s skin indicating that their sins were covered by the shedding of blood. Throughout the time of the Patriarchs and the nation of Israel, animal sacrifice to atone for sins was the way that God provided for redemption. What we now realize is that those animals offered no atoning power by themselves, but rather were a type of the true lamb sacrifice which was to come. Jesus was the Passover lamb sacrifice which redeemed the world from sin and offered the opportunity for all who would accept Christ to become part of God’s family. Before Christ, the Hebrew sacrifices looked forward to Christ’s sacrifice. But once Jesus came, the sacrifice was no longer necessary. This is why God allowed the temple to be destroyed in 70 A.D. It no longer had any function as a place of sacrifice. Now God’s temple is in our hearts.
9. What exactly is the Holy Spirit?
The Holy Spirit seems to be the part of God that ministers to humanity and to the earth. In Genesis 1 we see not only God’s Spirit being breathed into Adam, but we also see God’s Spirit hovering over the waters. The Bible teaches us that the Holy Spirit is a person. John 16:13 clearly refers to the Holy Spirit as a person using the Greek ekeinos -- “But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come.” And Jesus said in John 14:16-17, “And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever -- the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you.”
We know that the Spirit’s job is to lead people to Christ and testify about God the Father and Jesus the son. John 16:13-14 tells us, “Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will show you things to come. He shall glorify me: for he shall receive of mine, and shall show it unto you....”
The Holy Spirit is the part of God that lives within us. We are the temple of God’s Spirit. The Spirit is never far from us. This should be comforting to realize.
This study on God © 2000 by David Humpal, all rights reserved.
Romans 1:18-20 from the New King James Version © 1982, Thomas Nelson Publishers
Anselm: Apologetic pg. 166, Saint Anselm: Basic Writings © 1962, The Open Court Publishing Company
Campbell: The Christian System, Chapter XXIII, pg. 54, Standard Publishing Company, written in 1839
John 16:13-14 from the King James Version