10.11.06

Objections to the Gospel

Following my post on "Is Christianity a Crutch?", my friend Mark suggested that it would make a good series to examine other objections that are raised to the Gospel message, and to open them up to discussion. The objective being to make us better prepared and more confident to engage with those who have such objections.

I don't claim to be a gifted evangelist, nor do I pretend to have all the answers to some of these difficult questions; so, dear reader, I'll need your help if this series is to succeed. Don't be shy to offer your thoughts on how to answer these questions, or to share from your experience in engaging those who have raised them.

The emphasis should be not just how to give a good answer, but also to identify what stage on their journey to faith people who ask these questions are likely to be, and how we can help them to take the next step. As I have said before, we want to win people not arguments.

So, I'm opening the series off by taking suggestions on what questions we should tackle.

Here are my own ideas:

  • If God exists why is there so much suffering?

  • With so many contradictory religions in the word, what makes you think yours is the right one?

  • Isn't religion is the cause of all the world's problems?

  • How can intellectual people believe the incredulous stories in the Bible?


Let's hear yours...

17 comments:

richard.bentall said...

Chris

Lets get some more questions out and well done for tackerling the questions that we shy away from.

how old is the earth ? some say that it is millions with a whole load of animals running around yet the bible dates it relatively younger. Who is right?

Look forward to some comments
Richard

Tim said...

Here's one someone asked me a while ago.

"If God loves us and wants us to be with him. Why did he start off the whole creation thing if, being all knowing, he knew we were going to mess it up and be apart from him anyway. It just seems like a cruel experiment"

Steven Carr said...

The Gospels say there was an angel at the tomb telling whoever wanted to know that Jesus had been resurrected.

Why did that angel knock off work? Isn't his testimony more needed than ever?

How did Jesus ascend to Heaven via the sky?

Matthew 19 says God is like a good shepherd who will move Heaven and earth to rescue his sheep. Why then are there so many lost sheep in the world? Do the sheep have to look for evidence of the shepherd, or should the shepherd look for the sheep?

Steven Carr said...

There are other objections.

Why did the disciples go back to fishing after being transformed by seeing Jesus resurrected?

Why did some of them doubt in Matthew 28:17?

Why did people convert to Christianity and still scoff at the idea that God would choose to resurrect a corpse? (See 1 Cor. 15)

Chris HH said...

Steven, thank you for your comments. I will try to address these questions as part of this series. I see also from your blog that you are raising some of the same issues that I already planned to address. I do hope that, whether whatever is written here serves to persuade you at all or not, you will stick around for the ride. Your presence on this thread immediately turns a theoretical exercise into a practical one. Anything you have to say will be welcomed.

Mark H said...

For the list:

I don't believe this original sin nonsense. Just look at a new born baby. It isn't sinning is it?

Mark H said...

Another candidate:

Doesn't the Bible contradict itself?

Andrew B said...

Hi, Mark's blog pointed me to here.

Re the relationship between biblical truth and scientific truth (age of the earth, evolution etc.) my gut feeling is that somehow both are true. Currently I am enjoying a magnificent image sketched by Eugene Peterson in his book "Christ Plays in Ten Thousand Places":

"Game, used as a metaphor, is useful for gathering up all that goes on in history. But it must be understood that this game is no diversion from the main business of history. This is the main business. Salvation is the game that brings everything that happens, including everything that happens to each one of us, onto the playing field of history and into the play of Christ. This is a game in which there are no spectators - we are all in it; the meaning and outcome of our lives is at stake. The results are eternal."

So I have this image of the purpose of the universe being salvation. Magnificent! Eternal purpose of God rolling down the aeons of time and space!

And my gut feeling is that the interesting stories in the science section of my weekend newspaper are part of the same image - the hypothesis about how the mantle of the earth is shifting relative to the core, so that the position of the poles relative to a point on the surface has shifted dramatically in the course of 800 million years, or the story about gene mixing between Neanderthals and homo sapiens a short while ago in geological time. These are, for me, part of the universe God is creating. The universe where He invites us to join Him in the ongoing process of creation and salvation.

Now, what I would like to see is some underpinning for my gut feeling, for this really big picture which Peterson conjures for me. This demonstrates the glory of my God that He created this vast universe over these billions of years. Big God. And yet He by His Spirit comes to dwell in me, a little creature populating this blue rock for a blink of time.

So how does truth within the scope of the scientific method, stuff we can measure and prove by logic and mathematics, fit with the truth of God which plays on both the spiritual level and the temporal physical level?

Andrew B

Steven Carr said...

Although I have spoken to Neanderthalers (they have evolved sharp elbows for getting on the S-28 to Kaarst via Duesseldorf), it cannot be denied that if God existed, then he allowed whole branches of humanity to go extinct.

It was a strange feeling to go to the Neander Valley near Duesseldorf and see the place where history was made (or rediscovered, if you like)

Just 16 bones, and the history of the world would never be the same again.

Mark H said...

Another one for the list ...?

Is hell real? What is it? Why would a loving God send people there?

Andrew B said...

A foundational question:

The answers to many of these questions will be based on our understanding of the Bible.

Many statements of faith include something about the authority of the biblical texts that derives from their being inspired by God.

What do we mean when we say the biblical texts were inspired by God? Are they inspired in a way no other texts are?

Andrew B said...

Another foundational issue is the history of the church and current manifestations of the church. All sorts of objections to the Gospel arise from that and a lot of explanation is needed to separate the Gospel from the human institution with its usual load of power games, politics and corruption.

An example struck me recently. Here in The Netherlands we are in the final days of election campaigning for a parliamentary election. There a six main parties and half a dozen fringe ones all with a chance of getting seats in the parliament. So there is lots of TV covering politics and the politicians.

One series of programmes took each main party leader in turn to a place of their choice for an intimate series of interviews against the chosen backdrop. The Socialist Party leader took the interviewer to Assisi and they visited the monks there and the monuments and relics that are reminders of St Francis. One of the things the politician pointed out was the relic of the original little chapel St. Francis used. It is now inside a huge monumental ornate church building. Nearby is a monastery of busy monks. The whole thing seems to operate like a discrete, up market tourist attraction. The original message of St. Francis about the simple life and care for the poor has got buried under a circus.

Of course, in the discussion about faith and the church, the Socialist Party leader drew attention to all this. And these are serious Socialists. This is not the Labour Party. The serious Socialists who are elected to parliament only retain the portion of their salary matching the national average wage (or some such level) the rest goes into party funds.

Sorry for another long comment. But you get the point about the church. And of course there are far more virulent issues than the one in my little story.

Looking forward to the rest of your series. Thanks for the effort.

Mark H said...

Can you add to your list of articles, something about how we should interpret the Old Testament in light of the New? Specifically, how do we reconcile the violent accounts from the Old Testament with the loving Father who is revealed in the New Testament?

Matthew said...

Andrew's comment reminds me of something I once heard Tony Benn say in response to an interviewer refering to the Labour Party as a Socialist Party (I paraphrase): "The Church and the Labour party are very similar, there have always been socialists within the Labour Party, just as there have always been Christians within the Church." Witty and true (as by Church he was meaning what theologians would call the "visible church").

Andrew B said...

Re Matthew's comment:

For some time I have had the idea that all reformist (and revolutionary) movements suffer from the problem if institutionalisation. It happens to political movements and political parties. It happens to churches and church reform and revival moments. We capture the idealism and energy of the fist wave and in order to try to channel and focus it we organise and instutionalise it. We write constitions and statements of faith and set up organizations and governance structures.

In this way we get control of movements of the Spirit and quench them.

What is the solution? Anarchy? One idea I had was to adopt the OT concept of jubilee. Every 50 years we should throw away all our church organizations, institutions, leadership structures and go back to Acts 2. Sell all the property. Empty all the bank accounts. Fire all the staff. Discharge all the volunteers. Go back home and start afresh, in houses.

Andrew B said...

Re Steven's comment on Neanderthalers a few days ago (you still on here Steven?):

Yesterday I drove my teenage daughter and a couple of her schoolfriends to a rock concert in Cologne - the roadsign to the Neanderthalers flashed past at some point.

Just goes to prove - evolution must be true! ;-)

Matthew said...

Andrew B - I think your assessment of the quenching of the Spirit by institutionalisation of the church is spot on.

But I do believe that the bible makes provision for governance and rule in the Church without institutions. The NT minsitries of Apostles, Prophets, Elders etc can and do function in today's church without written constitutions.

The Jubilee idea has real appeal - though I suggest the only leaders with the bottle to do it would probably be the ones who didn't need to!