Tag: Suffering and Faith

DOES GOD HAVE A DARK SIDE?

If there is a God, why do so many bad things happen? Is God really everything we want to think he is…or is he something altogether different? More specifically, is there a “dark side” to the God of the Bible?
The_Sun_by_the_Atmospheric_Imaging_Assembly_of_NASA's_Solar_Dynamics_Observatory_-_20100819

The concept of the “dark side” of George Lucas’ “Force” in Star Wars is compelling in many ways, and fits in with the beliefs of certain world religions. Is there a “dark side” in the real universe, responsible for all the suffering we experience in life?

Suffering is cited as the biggest reason people reject the idea of the existence of God, or at least, the idea of a caring, personal God. To my mind the earth and life on it is obviously designed, and not cobbled together by time plus chance plus countless trillions of fortuitous and impossible events and circumstances. But I can understand why people do turn away from faith in the face of suffering, because we humans sometimes suffer unspeakable things, and it’s difficult even for those of us who believe in his infinite power not to sometimes question his motives or his methods.

THE DARK SIDE OF GOD?

Anyone who reads a sizable portion of the Old Testament can’t fail to notice some very heavy-handed dealings by God with his people and those around them. As an example, consider the punishment of Korah, his family and all who rebelled against Moses with him:

“…the earth opened its mouth and swallowed them up, with their households and all who belonged to Korah…and the earth closed over them…” (Numbers 17:31-35 ESV).

800px-MARTIN_John_Great_Day_of_His_Wrath

In fact, the Old Testament is strewn with plain statements from God about himself which demonstrate a side of him that most of us choose to ignore:

“I form the light and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the Lord do all these things” (Isaiah 45:7 KJV).

By “create evil” I assume not that he’s a “Yin-Yang” type of God who is both good and evil, but that some of those terrible things we hear of in our world, and which we ourselves suffer, are without doubt sent by Him, or allowed within his plan.

Who hasn’t read the account of Job’s testing without a chill running down his back or without asking some very serious questions about God, and who hasn’t wondered why God put that tree…that baaad tree, in the perfect Garden, along with the serpent?

717px-Blake_Book_of_Job_Linell_set_6

Here are two more examples:

Then the LORD said to him, “Who has made man’s mouth? Who makes him mute, or deaf, or seeing, or blind? Is it not I, the LORD? (Exodus 4:11 ESV);

When ye be come into the land of Canaan, which I give to you for a possession, and I put the plague of leprosy in a house of the land of your possession… (Leviticus 14:34 KJV).

It really doesn’t help our fear of God’s “darker” side to dismiss the Old Testament and only follow the New, because by dismissing the Old you are also bringing into question the entire New Testament. You can’t read any one of the gospels without finding numerous examples of Jesus Christ quoting the Old as though he believed it were totally true, and the letters are similarly packed with references to it. In fact, putting the Pharisees on the spot as he loved to do, Jesus said:

For if you believed Moses, you would believe Me, for he wrote about Me (John 5:46 NASB).

The two disciples on the road to Emmaus were given a Bible study from what we call the Old Testament (Luke 24:13-35). Jesus was showing the validity and importance of Old Testament scripture, and how it gave the background to his own ministry and person. The genealogy and history of Jesus’ human side is recorded there, and then confirmed in Matthew’s gospel. The two testaments are inextricably linked. You can’t have one without the other.

In the New Testament there’s no escaping God’s “other” side, because statements throughout it apparently echo what we saw in the Old Testament:

…let us have grace, by which we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear. For our God is a consuming fire (Hebrews 12:28 KJV).

It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God… (Hebrews 10:31 NIV)

This will happen when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven in blazing fire with his powerful angels. He will punish those who do not know God and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. They will be punished with everlasting destruction and shut out from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might (2 Thessalonians 1:6-9 NIV).

And here is one I often refer to in my own daily life:

For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it (Romans 8:20 NIV).

220px-Lucas_Cranach_the_Elder-Adam_and_Eve_1533

We seem to be stuck with the fact that the God who sent plagues upon the Egyptians, and who ordered the cleansing of Canaanites from the land, and who said “I make peace and create evil”, is the same God who sent his son Jesus into the world for us to find life, forgiveness and hope. The same Bible that tells us about the love of God also tells us that many of the things which go wrong in our lives and in our world are directly from the hand of the one who created it, or they are allowed to occur by him. God does, then, have what appears to be a “dark side” to his nature.

However, as any Bible student will have been itching to inform me up to this point, John the apostle wrote that:

 

God is light; in him there is no darkness at all (1 John 1:5 NIV).

No darkness at all! How can God be said in his own book to be all “light” and yet at the same time to cause or allow frustration, trouble, testing and suffering? We obviously have in the Scriptures what is either a serious contradiction, or a strange paradox which we need to come to terms with. So in part two of this post-in a few days-I’ll discuss why the fact that God’s “other”, darker side does not have to exclude the reality that God is all “Light”, and I’ll discuss God’s provision for our deliverance.

I’ve published an entire series on the causes of suffering as revealed in the Bible. While I don’t pretend to have all the answers, some of them are there for your consideration. I’m not trying to sell them to you in “my latest insightful book”-they’re free. Start here: https://nickyfisher.com/2017/05/31/why-do-we-suffer-part-1/

 

 

Advertisements

PERPETUAL CHANGE: YES, OR NO?

It seems to me that pronouncements from evolutionists always provide more questions than answers. Here’s just one more of those pronouncements…

A_smiling_baby

According to a BBC news report* the regular use of caesarian sections in birth is affecting human evolution:

“Women with a very narrow pelvis would not have survived birth 100 years ago. They do now and pass on their genes encoding for a narrow pelvis to their daughters.”

“Historically, these genes would not have been passed from mother to child as both would have died in labour”.

I can’t help wondering, after one million, or one-and-a-half million, or two million years of human evolution, or how ever long current thinking says it’s been going on, and at the outset of which only a couple or a few proto-humans started us all off, why we haven’t already bred out all those nasty narrow-pelvis genes. Wouldn’t all related women and children and so their inferior genes have died off by now? How did any survive at the beginning?

I know I’m no expert at all, but I’ve had the impression for decades that more and more doctors and surgeons are preferring caesarian birth as a simpler and safer option for their patient. Surely this could account for the six-in-a-thousand increase in caesarian births since the 1960s, and not human evolution taking a turn for the worse?

The expert quoted in this report lets slip one of the hardest matters for evolutionists and secularists to deal with. He said that the death of such women and their offspring:

“…is, from an evolutionary perspective, selection.”

I don’t think he meant to say so, but the natural inference of this view when considered with the mechanics of evolution is that if your wife and your baby die because of a narrow birth canal it’s okay: evolution is doing its work.

Being one of those not willing to blindly accept the conceit known as human evolution I can’t help asking some questions. From the perspective of natural selection and the survival of the fittest, are we actually attempting to oppose nature by having hospitals, doctors and fitness clubs? Shouldn’t we just let it all happen…death, disease and suffering? Are we tinkering with the ultimate goal of mud-to-god transformation by having police forces, prisons, governments, armies, laws and education establishments? Or are wars, hospitals, police forces and caesarian births actually an integral part of that evolutionary process-a product of it?

Gosh, that’s a tough nut to crack for the philosophers and politicians determined to shape our society. And make no mistake, they do think about and discuss those very questions. The Margaret Sangers  and the Adolph Hitlers of the world are infamous examples of people who’ve taken evolution seriously, but they’ve only been visible because they’ve taken gigantic, consequential steps to act upon their ideologies. How many more were and are acting unseen?

Atheists and evolutionists claim that we theists and Christians sweep under the carpet all the difficult issues they see in our beliefs. But they’re really no better off. At least Adolph Hitler was man enough (if totally insane and megalomaniacal) to state as plainly as day his view that nature needs a “helping hand” to wipe out those who are weakening the human gene pool.

The consequences of evolution, when confronted honestly, are far more serious than those that any unbeliever can cook up to stick on the believer. Yes, it does seem like an impossible task, on the face of it, to reconcile suffering and faith in a loving God. Search my series on suffering. But in evolution struggle and death are creative and necessary: in the creationist, theistic worldview struggle and death are destructive and bad.

Biblical answers make much more sense to me, and much kinder sense, than the hard, cold realities of the hypothesis known as “evolution”. Evolution is perpetual change, ostensibly for the better, but which in reality brings struggle and suffering, followed by annihilation, to every living thing. The Christian, on the other hand, knows that suffering and death are unnatural and temporal, and that everyone is offered an eternity of health, perfection and completion in Jesus Christ.

* http://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-38210837

 

 

WHEN LIFE STINKS…

Sometimes life isn’t so wonderful. Sometimes life stinks. Sometimes it seems that if there is a God, he must have gone away on a long journey to some distant part of the universe, and doesn’t realize or care what a mess you’re in and how terrible you feel…

460px-Sépulcre_Arc-en-Barrois_111008_12
Those Christians who are “super-spiritual” will be quick to tell us that “real” believers don’t get depressed, and that it’s “sinful” to feel depressed because “whatsoever is not of faith is sin”. That’s a twisted, cold and smug extrapolation of scripture which ignores the fact that numerous Bible characters, including those who performed the greatest miracles, suffered at times with depression, fatigue, despair, fear and sorrow.
Elijah was so discouraged that he wanted to die (1 Kings 19:4-5). Moses, distressed and at his wits end, asked God to take his life (Numbers 11:10-15). David too felt like giving up:
“How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? How long must I wrestle with my thoughts and every day have sorrow in my heart?” (Psalm 13: 1-2.
In the New Testament Paul confessed to being downcast and fearful (2 Corinthians 7: 5-6). Jesus was “…a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief” (Isaiah 53:3). He wept at the tomb of Lazarus and mourned over the death of the Baptist. He said “blessed (not sinful) are those who mourn” (Matthew 5:4) and Paul said that we should “mourn with those who mourn” (Romans 12:15). This, and not a lecture on faith, is real love.

There’s a saying that goes something like this: “You find out who your friends are when you’re down and out”. I can vouch for that. I’ve been down and out several times in my life, financially, spiritually and mentally, and I can say without hesitation that I learned a lot about my “friends” and my family, along with other valuable lessons, in those situations.
As long as you have any power of reason and wisdom at all in adverse circumstances they serve as cleansing periods. You find out who really cares about you (if anyone). You find out who really wants to be a Christian-and so does God-and who’s just dabbling, and you find out how strong or weak your own faith is. You discover a lot about the darker side of human nature, which, you become convinced, is the dominant side, and you find out the hard way what’s really important in life and what can be trashed. You learn, if you’re willing, to lean on and trust in God rather than on the material world and the world of men and women.
Here’s something to remember when you’re down and out: did you know that you have many billions of bacteria living inside you? This means you’re never really alone…
When we suffer with depression or just a case of the blues we tend to think we’re alone, but in truth, all of us experience times like this sooner or later: it’s the human condition. Why do we suffer, and why does God allow us to suffer? There are numerous answers to those questions: I’ve written about them before. The main point I want to make here is that although when we’re in the middle of a depression it seems like there can be no benefit to it, there actually is at least one. I believe that in the enormous, incomprehensible will of God; in that giant tapestry called “life”, so big that we can’t see it all from this limited vantage point, God even finds a use for sorrow. Solomon said:
“Sorrow is better than laughter, For when a face is sad a heart may be happy. The mind of the wise is in the house of mourning, While the mind of fools is in the house of pleasure.…” (Ecclesiastes 7:4).
Depression may be clinical and may require treatment. It may be down to our own poor attitude and the negativity we wallow in, so that it grows and festers inside us: this really is something we need to repent of. Or it may be caused by very real conditions and experiences in our life. If we can be wise enough to submit and accept it, we can be broken in a Godly way, in order to be remade by the master craftsman.

A SPIRITUAL DEFENSE STRATEGY: ACRONYM 4 IS CLASSIFIED!

600px-Color_icon_gray_v2_svg

 

I need to apologize to anyone anxiously awaiting my fourth acronym, because there’s little in it that I can share with you: it’s highly personal. But perhaps that’s the point of this post anyway…

This series of posts outlines “step 3” of  my own personal defense strategy. Steps 1 and 2 are the most important and involve prayer and meditation on scripture (the Bible). Step 3 involves reference to reason, compiled and memorized while the going was good

MAWF

During many years of living as a born-again Christian, I’ve encountered certain aspects of life which make clear to me that there is a spirit world all around us. Of course, to the skeptic and the atheist among you this is nonsense, and evidence only that I have at least a few screws loose and need counselling and mind-bending drugs. But this post isn’t addressed to the unbeliever, or to the one who is determined not to notice God.

Over those many years, and I think before I was a believer, I realized I was not alone. And I’ve realized that not only is there a God who fills and inhabits me and all things, but that there are other entities, other forces at work, not only in the world around me, but in my own life and in my own mind. They can even be in the physical objects and events that cross my path (no I don’t mean that objects have life in them). These entities war against me and against my faith. And very often the results of those forces working in my life are specific to me. By that I mean that they seem tailored to my weaknesses, my proclivities, my individuality and the things I am susceptible to, and they may not affect other people with different personalities and weaknesses.

Am I suffering from paranoia? If you want to explain everything in terms of natural processes that’s up to you, but coincidence is far too improbable on some occasions to be a satisfactory explanation for me.

So acronym 4 concerns the things which affect me negatively. How does this relate to faith, you may well ask? Well, put simply, if the Bible is right about malevolent forces and beings around us, then it is also likely to be true in its portrayal of a God of goodness and love. The negatives prove the positive, and evil proves the existence of good. If there is no God, our view of evil is an invention and entirely subjective, so that Hitler was no more “wrong” than we are. Contrary to the shallow arguments of the likes of Richard Dawkins, the Bible has very good explanations for suffering, and suffering can actually be used to argue the existence of a loving God. I covered this in a series of posts I wrote a few years ago, titled “Why Do We Suffer?” But please also refer to my disclaimer at the end of part one of this series.

In my view, it may not necessarily be just the malevolent spirits which are initializing negative actions and outcomes in my life. I must be clear that I’m not talking of any “Yin-Yang” type of understanding.

My fourth acronym spells “MAWF”. Two of these letters represent relationships with other people. One, “M” stands for “Murphy’s Law”, otherwise known as “Sod’s Law”, or “bad luck” I wrote an entire post on Murphy’s Law:

https://nickyfisher.com/2012/03/26/toast-murphys-law-and-the-bible/

The “F” in my acronym is just too secret to share with you to any degree-I could damage someone’s faith by sharing something so negative, which in my case supports my faith. And no, it’s not the four-letter word.

So while I don’t want to hurt or offend anyone’s faith, I’m just suggesting that perhaps you may see in your own life how the negatives prove the positive-that there really is a God-the God described by the Bible.

 *

A SPIRITUAL DEFENSE STRATEGY

Mycalesis_patnia
Photo by L Shyamal

All of us who are people of faith have times of testing, do we not? It’s for such times that we need a spiritual “defense strategy” ready. Also we’re called upon to  “always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have” (1 Peter 3:15). Faith does not and should not have to be without reason, as some people believe.

(Nils Frahm, “Ode”)

For me there are three initial steps in a good defense strategy: step one is prayer, and step two is Scripture-by that I mean the Bible.

This post outlines my personal “step 3”. Step 3 involves mental and spiritual reference to the reasons I had for my faith in the first place, compiled and memorized while the going is good. I’ve fallen back on step three several times already in my life, and found it to be a valuable tool. However, please see my disclaimer at the end of the post *

Step 3 is a collection of acronyms, (or they may be “initialisms”, depending on your point of view), the letters each representing a key word which prompts me to recall a “reason” for the hope that is in me. The acronyms are pretty meaningless on their own, but they serve a purpose. They’re evolving perpetually. To date I have four:

1: DIO APO HAELJASE-E

2: MASHT PROCH

3: JELL MUSH

4: MAWF

Is that perfectly clear? Good, now I’ll give you a summary-a first layer of explanation -for each one.

Sam-Side

DIO APO HAELJASE-E

The first acronym supports my belief in the existence of a creator, or if you like, intelligent design. It also indirectly supports my faith in the God of the Bible, since it reflects the nature and character of that God.

D is for DESIGN.  I see incredible design in all of nature. Out of the thousands of examples which could be given, one of my favorites is of a moth I saw late one night near where I live (not the one in the picture). On the ground with its wings spread out in bright light it had a five-inch wingspan (12.5 cm), and on the back of each wing, no doubt to warn predators, it had a large eye-like pattern, so that you seem to be looking at a formidable, intimidating five-inch wide face. How would the moth “evolve” itself those “eyes”, and why would it, if it could survive long enough (millions of years) while it was evolving them?

4810137-portrait-of-a-cute-caucasian-baby-girl-beige-background

I is for INFORMATION. A strand of DNA, contained in each of the trillions of cells in our body, is packed with more information than a library. Information has never been observed to come from chaos. Researchers scan the skies for a radio signal which would confirm intelligent life in outer space, yet ignore the incredible message in plain view within life on earth;

O is for ORDER. The universe operates in a very orderly, lawful way, as does our own solar system and our own planet. The laws of nature hold all things together and allow us to exist and function.

A-P is for the “ANTHROPIC PRINCIPLE”, dismissed as mere coincidence by the evolutionist. Earth is uniquely placed and equipped for life in our galaxy and in our solar system, and benefits from many hundreds of extremely fortuitous conditions. As an example, if earth were tilted any more or less in relation to the sun, its temperature ranges would be too extreme to support life. If we didn’t have the moon at just the right distance from us and at just the right relative size with just the right orbital pattern, we would have no tides to keep the oceans alive and fresh, and there would be no life on earth. Earth’s magnetic field protects us from the harmful power of the sun’s radiation.

631px-FullMoon2010
Photo by Gregory H Revera

O is for ORIGINS.  Even famous evolutionists admit that they don’t know for sure how life evolved from non-life, and they’ve never seen it happen. When the first living cell miraculously produced itself, who did it mate with and what did it eat? I can much more easily believe in an intelligent creator than in a rock producing all the complexity we see.

There is plenty of scientifically supportable reason to believe in the Biblical view of origins. Try http://www.icr.org for a start, or http://www.answersingenesis.org

H is for man’s HUNGER for God. Man has an inbuilt hunger for the spiritual (Pascal’s “God-shaped vacuum”) which explains the existence of many religions throughout history and in every culture. Religion is not always a product of superstition: perhaps superstition is born of a longing for God, and the realization that there is something much greater than us.

A is for ATHEISM. The condition of atheistic cultures to date has not been impressive or endearing.  Atheistic philosophy has been the cause of far more evil in our world than any religion has (refer to the regimes of such men as Stalin and Pol Pot). This is not to say that every atheist is a “bad” person: they are not. Instead it demonstrates that being God-less is not the answer to our problems.

11991563-the-russians-are-coming

Also consider the implications of atheistic philosophy. If there is no God or creator who sets the rules and standards, neither is there any fixed universal, objective standard of right or wrong. Hitler, then, was no more “wrong” than the West was-we just happened to disagree with him. What one person or culture decides is good another may decide is evil, and who has the right to deem it otherwise?

Since life, according to evolution, evolves by means of mutation and natural selection-the survival of the fittest-death, war, murder and the consumption of our competitors cannot be “wrong”. Our governments are oppressing us by deciding everything for us and by locking us into their system of thought, laws and regulations, and so government and the opinion of men has become our Master. Who’s satisfied with the results of that?

In God’s economy, each human life has great value. In the strictest and most logical view of the evolutionary worldview, I have no more value than a worm.

E is for EMOTION. Most of our emotions are superfluous and even detrimental to us if we are only here to contend with other life forms and emerge the winner (as we have). The God of the Bible made us in his image, and is himself a feeling, emotional being.

L is for LOVE. Real love produces commitment, caring, empathy, loyalty, faithfulness and truthfulness. Where does love come from if not from a loving, faithful designer? How could chemical reaction and interaction alone-born of rock-produce love? When your significant other asks if you love her or him, do you reply that yes, you are currently experiencing some chemical and hormonal interactions, and as long as they occur you will stick around and refrain from killing and eating him or her? Love in the popular definition of today is a reductionist ploy with the aim of reducing our relationships to one of temporary mutual use while the going is good. Godly love is that which produces stable relationships, homes and societies.

Gothaer_Liebespaar

J is for JUSTICE. Our sense of justice is evidence that we were made by a just, moral God. If we have ‘evolved’ a sense of justice, why do we still have crime, war and murder, at every level of every society? And why would or should we care anyway?

Again, if we evolved there is no such thing as absolute right or wrong, but only what we decide is right or wrong. It means that we cannot claim to have had the moral high ground over Hitler- we just managed to bully him and impose our view of right and wrong over his: it was a battle only for the ‘survival of the fittest’. This means that if a tyrant comes along in the future who defeats the forces of what we call “freedom”, he has every right to wipe us out and to rule over us. However, we recognize naturally in our hearts that there is such a thing as evil at large in our world, and that it needs to be checked. This recognition was given to us by a God of justice.

A is for “AESTHETIC SENSE”. We have an inbuilt appreciation for beauty of many kinds, and for all of creation, and not merely for our mate when we are busy reproducing, or for the food on our plate. We desire to be creative, to entertain, and to express ourselves, and we appreciate those who do so skillfully. We create and imagine often without any practical reason. We philosophize and think very deeply (well some of us do anyway).

harvest-in-provence-1888(1)_jpg!Blog

S and E are for SIN and EVIL. The Bible is right about human nature- just look around.  Those who claim that people only abuse each other when they are impoverished are often the same people who berate the ultra-rich for abusing the rest of us. And if we evolved, why shouldn’t they, since life is all about “survival of the fittest”? Those who claim that religion causes all unrest and abuse forget all about Stalin, Pol Pot, Mao Tse Dung, and other avowed atheists who murdered millions of their own people less than a century ago essentially for the crime of being the surviving “fittest”.

E is for EXPERIENCE. In the years I’ve been a Christian I’ve experienced God in many ways. This includes an acute awareness of His presence, and a feeling of indescribable completeness, inner peace and joy. It’s important for me to remember those experiences and continuous states of mind, and not to let them be dismissed as mere superstition, hormonal balance or positive thinking. I’ve experienced answered prayers, and I’ve seen the difference made by the Spirit of God in someone’s life, in a home, and in a society which has now turned its back on God to its own harm.

*DISCLAIMER

My disclaimer is the acknowledgement that in those awful situations some people face-perhaps all of us at some time in our lives- reason and information are inadequate or even counter-productive.  Sometimes all we can tolerate is some loving, prayerful company, and our own personal brokenness. Many times our brokenness is what our God is looking for.

ACRONYMS 2-4

The rest of my defense strategy part three will follow soon. Thanks for reading, and God bless you with truth and a sound mind.