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?