Friday, July 30, 2010

The Onion's latest newsflash: God's contemplating on resigning!

THE HEAVENS—At a press conference Tuesday, God Almighty, our Lord and Heavenly Father, gave his strongest indication yet that he might soon step down from his post as the supreme ruler of all things.

Following a routine address during which God confirmed the recent extinction of several thousand species, the Divine Creator fielded questions regarding rumors of his possible retirement.

"I've been at this a long time," said God, ∞, the all-knowing, all-powerful being who has presided over the cosmos since forming it from sheer nothingness nearly 14 billion years ago. "And the truth is, this was never something I planned on doing forever. Lately, in fact, I've begun to wonder if I should move on sooner rather than later."

Read more here

Jokes aside, there's some truth to be found in this article. Is God now just a figurehead in our lives? Someone to love (when we feel like it), someone who answers wishes, yet seemingly unimportant in every other aspect of our everyday lives?

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

A vengeful, bloodthirsty, manipulative God

Remember playing those war Lego sets with your friends when young? Or playing war based RPG games? Maybe that’s how God feels.

I was reading Dr. Claude Mariottini’s blog, where he spoke of how Joshua (In Joshua 11) defeated the Canaanites despite their lack of army strength. It was a story of a hero – the famous warrior who, led by God’s wisdom, survived the odds and conquered an army that “were as many as the sand on the seaside”. The power of God displayed in all its glory.

Yet behind all that glory lies a gory scene. Hazor (the city) was burnt. “All the people they put to the sword until they completely destroyed them, not sparing anyone that breathed.” (Joshua 11:14)

Does God encourage violence? Did the Israelite army revel in their victory whilst their bodies were soaked in sweat, bathed in the blood of their enemies?

The strangest part came in this verse, “For it was the Lord himself who hardened their hearts to wage war against Israel, so that he might destroy them totally, exterminating them without mercy, as the Lord commanded Moses.” (Joshua 11:20) I shiver when I think of a God that could be this merciless – like a child playing Lego, building an army and then knocking them flat with a sweep of his hand just to gain this feeling of power,
for the sheer fun of it all. Are we just Chess pieces, manipulated and swung around as part of His entertainment? What happened to His unconditional abounding love, His gentle mercies, His love that never fails? Who is this scary God? Does He have more faces than one? Why does He keep sending mixed signals?

How can God be a God of peace, when He’s the one encouraging hardening the hearts of the cities to make war against Israel? Isn’t each life precious to God? Are the Canaanites worthless to God now that they’ve disobeyed and angered him?

It sometimes makes me wonder – what kind of God am I serving?

We are stupid, therefore we cannot comprehend

“There were some matters taught by The Tillek which simply had to be learned, because they mattered as details to the whole story. The Great Sleep, for instance, puzzled even the cleverest calf, male or female, because dolphins did not require sleep. To have slept for fifteen years was an incredible thing to have done.”
-- Dolphins of Pern, Annie McCaffrey

I've been a fan of Annie McCaffrey's
dragonrider series for more than 10 years now(yes, I'm getting old), and her works have dragged me into another dimension altogether. In a series of stories, she recreates another world (similar to Earth, yet far deeper than Harry Potter) and inspires readers with real, humane characters. I recently decided to re-read the series for the umpteenth time (I never got to read her entire series in one shot previously - her books were always on loan at the library), to relive some of that childhood fantasy and longing. I stopped short when I read the above quotes in her book, the Dolphins of Pern.

About half of the
Dolphins of Pern was written from a dolphin's point of view. Intelligent creatures, treated with metasynth to further enhance their empathic abilities and allow communication with humans. Yet, from a dolphin's perspective, there were many things that were mind-boggling - Why didn't humans sleep in the seas? Why did they even need to sleep at all, since dolphins don't need to sleep?

“The Tillek (their dolphin leader) said those points were the spaceships that had brought Humankind and Dolphinkind to Pern They must take this on faith, she said, for she had had to learn these facts from The Tillek who had taught her. This was fact as well as faith and must be believed, though never experienced. It was History.”
-- Dolphins of Pern, Annie McCaffrey

If we've never experienced something, can we comprehend it? Or must we simply take it on faith, believed though never experienced?

"Then Jesus told him, 'Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.'" (John 20:29)

"I tell you the truth, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you." (Matthew 17:20)

Can we have faith as small as a mustard seed? Or must we spend our lives on earth arguing with our limited intelligence?

Friday, July 23, 2010

The Bible is just fiction

So, I'm going to get right back into critical mode. I know I've based a large portion of my last post on the Bible, and many people are now asking - How do we know that the Bible is real? There are so many discrepancies in the Bible, so many things left unproved. And who, really, was there to record so much of the Bible as we know it today? Indeed, who was there in the beginning, in the garden of Eden (except for Adam and Eve, of course), and who was there (who could write on something that survived in the flood) to see Noah give birth to a son at 500 years?

I chanced upon this video where Ricky Gervais talks about creationism:

I can't deny that I had a good laugh. It's not the points that he brings up - it's the way he brings it up. Ever so subtle, so accommodating, yet filled with sheer disbelief. Having been introduced to Genesis at a very young age (where fantasy could be real, and that the Bible is fact), I never once thought how unbelievable it might sound to a person reading it for the first time.

Many long discussions that I've had with my Christian friends over topics on "how do we know that the Bible is true" have ended up with "that's where faith comes in". But that's simply not the answer I'm seeking. There's faith - then there's blind faith. If God is all powerful, I'm sure convincing me won't be an impossible task :P I just hope that he does it in this lifetime!

"Ask and it will be given unto you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be open unto you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened." -- Luke 11:9-10, similar verses in Matt 7:7, Matt 18:19, Matt 21:22, Mark 11:24, John 14:13, John 15:7, John 15:16, John 16:23, James 1:5, 1 John 3:22, 1 John 5:14. (Full audio verses have been included below as well)

Is this promise, emphasized so many times in the Bible by so many people, just another lie?

Somehow, I don't want to believe that.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Elected to die?

I recently had the privilege of talking to Julie Ferwerda for an interview for Voxbiblia (which will soon be up), and she gave me a new insight into some of the questions that I've been actively seeking in God is a cruel God.

I've since begun an amazing journey of discovery, and I thought I'd share what I've learnt from her as I go along.

My friend once asked me how God could be so cruel as to create so much of the world to die. This was one of the main reasons that led her to seek another religion, because she felt that it was impossible to worship such a cruel, selfish God.

But what if
no one is predestined to die? What if all will be saved? Listen to Romans 9:

Romans 9 is a commonly used verse by those who believe in Calvinism - belief that a special elected group of people are chosen by God to be saved. The rest will go to hell. And yes, Romans 9:11-12 does say that "Yet, before the twins were born or had done anything good or bad - in order that God's purpose in election might stand: not by works but by him who calls..." This certainly does show that God
has elected a group of people - this principle is not wrong.

But Paul doesn't stop there! He also goes on to say What then shall we say? Is God unjust? Not at all! For he says to Moses, "I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion." (Romans 9:14-15)

It does later become confusing, even hurtful, when he then writes honestly "What if God, choosing to show his wrath with and make his power known, bore with great patience the objects of his wrath - prepared for destruction? What if he did this to make the riches of his glory known to the objects of his mercy, whom he prepared in advance for glory - even us, whom he also called, not only from the Jews but also from the Gentiles?" (Romans 9:22-24)

So what does this mean? We were made, predestined to be destroyed? Are we worthless tools in God's plan, just made to be a display of His Glory and His ability to create and destroy as He wishes?

But skip ahead to the next few chapters (I've included the audio bits for you to listen, so you can get the full picture) - What of those who seek God so earnestly (through works), yet were condemned? "Did they stumble so as to fall beyond recovery? Not at all! Rather, because of their transgression, salvation has come to the Gentiles to make Israel envious. But if their transgression means riches for the world, and their loss means riches for the Gentiles, how much greater will their fullness bring!" (Romans 11:11)

Are these Israelites then cast aside 'for the greater good'? How unfair is that?? And (by the theory of predestination) they didn't even get to choose! But Romans 11:25 brings a message of hope: All Israel will be saved. All! Not some, all! "The deliverer will come from Zion; he will turn godlessness away from Jacob. And this is my covenant with them when I take away their sins... for God's gifts and his call are irrevocable." God's promise to Israel still stands - He promised to save them, and He will. Because "Just as you (the Gentiles) who were at one time disobedient to God have now received mercy as a result of their (Israel's) disobedience, so they too have now become disobedient in order that they too may now receive mercy as a result of God's mercy to you. For God has bound all men over to disobedience so that he may have mercy on them all." (Romans 11:30-32)

How can we ever experience mercy if we have not sinned? If we all feel pure and self-righteous, how can we ever truly experience the love that God has given us, and in turn love Him back fully?

But this poses yet another series of questions - All of Israel will be saved, but what of the Gentiles? Where, then, has our free will gone? And, as we look around, so many people who have not known Christ have died/are dying. How then is this believable? Are these words just empty promises, or ramblings by a deluded man?

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

The cross is just another lie

I took a trip down to Stockholm’s famous world-heritage cemetery, Skogskrykog√•rden, over the weekend. The short visit didn’t bring any answers as to why the cemetery became a world heritage site, but it did bring a few questions to mind.

Does the cross mean death, or life?

What does the cross really mean to people?

Has the significance of the cross been too corrupted for us to grasp its true meaning?

When you step into the cemetery, the first thing you’ll see is a huge granite cross right in the middle of a green, open field. The cross is not meant to depict the usual symbol of the Christian faith, but is a direct representation of the cross that accompanied all death notices at the time. As I gazed out at the fields dotted with crosses – tombstones erected to mark the burial grounds – I couldn’t help but wonder how many people truly believed in Christ. Or was it just a fashion symbol, something a person put up because it was ‘the thing to do’ when you died? Just like how, simply because they liked the notion of it, people got baptized or married in a church.

How many of us ‘hang labels’ around our necks? ‘I’m a Christian’ grants you immediate
access to a large support group, but makes you feel awkward when mixing with a bunch of atheists. So many of us conveniently stick a temporary ‘I’m a Christian’ post-it on your tee when mixing with Christian friends, and conveniently rip it off just before going to a night club. Or do we refuse to label ourselves at all, because we don’t want to be bound by those labels that we’ve stuck on ourselves?

Thursday, July 15, 2010

God created a crappy eye

Whoops. In my process of discussing the difference between Buddhism and Hinduism with my friends, we somehow strayed off topic and started discussing Darwinism versus Creationism instead.

And so my friend announced that “if God really wanted the most beautiful creation, He wouldn’t make such a stupid thing as a human eye”. And promptly referred me to this link.

But a little bit of Google (and that’s one of the things I like about this Internet age) came up with this.

But honestly, what’s wrong with the human eye? I think it’s beautiful. I can see a myriad of colours - far more than the latest HDTV can ever churn out. Focus on an object in the far corner of the room, and you’ll find that you can still be perfectly conscious about movements from the side. And it even renders images in higher quality and depth than any supercomputer can ever churn out – all in the blink of an eye! (No pun intended :P) I think, without going into details about comparing my eyes with a squid’s, my eyes are great as they are thankyouverymuch.

Are Creationists theories non-arguments? Perhaps. After all, as my friend so aptly put it, everything is justified by “Phenomenon A is such because God made it such - Science would be non-existent in a society which believed that”. But isn’t that why we call it a phenomenon? We’ve been trying for ages to replicate these phenomenons, and while we’ve gotten pretty darned close, our “pretty darned close” still looks like a botched paint job. It just isn’t good enough. And our tinkering always seems to churn out another set of problems anyway.

But...where were we? Ah, yes, evolution and Darwinism. Can we really believe that everything on this world came about through the evolution of a single cell? Who created this amazing cell anyway? Could we really come from monkeys? Animals are animals – they act by instinct. They adapt by instinct. But humans have a consciousness that cannot be found elsewhere. How could that have come from evolution?

Yet, at the same time, I find it difficult to trust in creationism, because it requires the one thing that I don’t have – faith.

No wonder Jesus said that “if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there’ and it will”. (Matthew 17:20)

Faith is like the wind – You can’t grasp it or bottle it, but it’s there.

Disclaimer: I’m a simple person. I haven’t attempted to go into the itty bitty details of how a microscopic cell can magically become a human being (aka I haven’t read Darwin’s book, even though it’s one of the things on my to-do list for some years now). But when I fling open my windows, breathe in the crisp air, and gaze at the mysterious skies dotted with a universe full of stars, I can’t help but think that someone must have painted this perfect picture.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Johnny the Bagger

Julie Ferwerda is one of my favourite bloggers, and today she posted this up as part of her "25 Awesome Things" series. It's beautiful, touching and inspiring, so I thought I'd share this!

Quote of the day:
"It's not how much you do, it's how much love you put into the doing!" -- Janet Hamilton

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Unbelief in an unusual form

I was reading Idle musings of a bookseller: Unbelief in an unusual form, and this bit caught my eye:
It's an affront to God to keep talking about how unworthy we are. It's a statement of unbelief. “I really don't believe what God says about me; I believe what I think about me.”

The Rest of the Gospel: When the partial Gospel has worn you out, page104
I couldn't help but reflect on myself. Have I been insulting God all this while when saying that "I'm not worthy", or was it just a convenient excuse for me not to commit fully to this relationship? Is it simply because I don't wish to be obedient and faithful with my walk with God (aka I still want to sin), that I am resisting this relationship?

People say that relationships are all about compromises. But this isn't the case when it comes to having a relationship with God. The bar is set, and there's no compromises. But the rewards of being in this relationship are huge. Are we willing to 'give up being unworthy', and let God make us worthy?

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Go to hell!

[Random Musings] How many times have we heard that "if we don't believe in Christ, we will go to hell"? Why are we constantly so focused on trying to 'save' people, instead of wanting to let people know about the wonderful relationship that we have with Christ? Is this relationship so insignificant? How many Christians really do have that relationship with Him?[/Random Musings]

Taking on the carrot and stick theory, shouldn't we be using both the carrot and stick to lead a person down the right path. Have we over-emphasized the stick because it’s more effective than the virtual carrot? Or is the carrot more real than simply “muttering words before our meals” and speaking in tongues (which, to the layperson and half the Christian community is contrived to be complete gibberish)?

[Disclaimer] No insult meant in breeching the subject of speaking in tongues – I just hope to give an unbiased picture of what others view speaking in tongues as. Instead of it being seen as a form of communication with God, it often comes across as a bunch of people looking possessed instead. Perhaps this is why, when Paul wrote to the Corinthians in 1 Corinthians 14:5, he said "I would that ye all spake with tongues, but rather that ye prophesied: for greater is he that prophesieth than he that speaketh with tongues, except he interpret, that the church may receive edifying." [/Disclaimer]

So here’s a shoutout to everyone out there reading this blog – Drop in a comment about your relationship with God. Use this opportunity to tell others how real God is to you, and encourage others to cultivate that as well!

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

God is a cruel God

Free will versus predestination is a topic that has been debated over and over, and while this can be a thesis by itself, here's what I've personally come to conclude:

Free Will
- Some passages you might
want to look at
- Full passages can be listened to in context here:

The term 'free will' isn't actually a word directly used in the Bible. The concept of free will (partially) stems from the concept where love isn't love, unless it is given freely. And that's why God gave Adam and Eve the choice - to choose between disobeying God and giving in to temptation (eating of the forbidden fruit).

However, if God really is God, and knows everything, from the stars in the sky (Ps 147:4) to the past, present and future (Matthew 6:8), then wouldn't he know that Adam and Eve would sin, and subsequently whether or not we would choose to repent or go to hell?

There are many verses in the Bible where the word 'elect' was being used, supporting the idea that all this was already in God's plan. In fact, how could God be God above all, if He was just as uncertain about the future as all of us?

Paul E. Eymann
brought up an interesting thought - that God frees man's will by exhorting them repent, believe, obey and turn to God. But if God already knows who will respond to these exhortations, then aren't the respondents also part of the 'elect'?

That leads us to the point - Isn't God a very cruel God, to create a huge bunch of people whom He knows will die in the end?

John E. Bailey wrote an interesting article about predestination and what it means. It's one of the better articles that I've found so far, and the picture he painted was that many of us have interpreted 'free will' in an inaccurate light. His position stands with predestination, and God's 'cruelty' is put down to the fact where "Everything that God has ever done, and everything He ever will do, He does primarily to Glorify Himself." This might sound obnoxious, but it has been mentioned repeatedly in the Bible that our God is a jealous God - one that is unwilling to share His Glory with anyone else. However, he also went on to say the following:
"We can see that in his ultimate wisdom He could elect some for heaven, pulling them out of a situation that only He could save them from, in so doing showing his glorious might and ability to save. While at the same time leaving some to their own wicked hearts, and eternally punishing them for their crime of not loving Him. And in so doing glorify Himself by upholding for all eternity the great worth of His being by demonstrating the severity of the crimes against Him by eternally punishing those guilty of these crimes."
Now, this is absolutely cannot accept. If we are condemned to 'our own wicked hearts', where did this wickedness come from? Which brings up another interesting point - if God didn't create evil, where did evil come from? (But let's leave this for another post)

Of course, it might also be the tone of writing, but doesn't creating a bunch of people and condemning them to eternity for the sake of glorifying oneself sound a little juvenile and egoistic to you? Like a three year old kid creating a Lego town, then getting 'Godzilla' (no pun intended) to crush the town and establishing himself ruler over it all?

Would you really want to love, worship and serve a God like that?

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Critiqal Beginnings

Ever since I could remember, Christianity has played a part in my life. Church on Sundays, memory verses, Bible stories, prayer before food and bedtime. But while it has played a part in my life, it has yet to become my life.

So when I was interviewed and offered a job at Voxbiblia, an audio Bible company, I was rather hesitant on taking it up. But I felt that I was at a key crossroad in my spiritual life, and something in me made me choose to take on the offer.

It's been six months.

Reading the Bible
Reading blogs and posts from countless pastors and Christian websites
Researching on how Christianity has spread through the world

Much of it has been encouraging, but many more doubts have been raised.

And so, I've decided to begin my search proper, and to use this blog to pose questions and document the answers for others to discover.

Feel free to take offense and tell me your views. My tone might be harsh, even insulting to some. But my goal is simple - I'm not trying to prove that God doesn't exist. I just want to see if God is real.

That being said, please keep the flame wars to the minimum. Offend me if you like, but not the other readers of this blog.

Disclaimer: Voxbiblia has, in no way, influenced my thinking or my decision to start this blog. I
will be referring to Voxbiblia and when writing my posts - this gives me ideas on how to improve Voxbiblia's interaction for the rest of the Christian bloggers out there. (Talk about combining work with play!)
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