Monday, August 11, 2008

Punishment or Reward. (and when...?)


So I was engaged in my morning commute while listening to one of the many podcasts I subscribe to. One of the topics that arose was divine punishment and reward. I started thinking about the concept of a God that punishes and rewards a being accordingly of the merits or liabilities of his or her life.

I can't help but think of Jerry Falwell after the horrible events of 9-11 when he said:
"I really believe that the pagans, and the abortionists, and the feminists, and the gays and the lesbians who are actively trying to make that an alternative lifestyle, the ACLU, People for the American Way, all of them who have tried to secularize America. I point the finger in their face and say 'you helped this happen."

Let me add my disclaimer right here before i get tons of responses irrelevant to the purpose of my post
The writer of this post in no way believes that the late Jerry Falwell in any way represents the opinions or intentions of ALL Christians.

Now I regard Mr. Falwell in much the same vein that a scientist regards a pathological virus that needs to be studied and observed such that it might be eradicated before it does more harm.

So Mr. Falwell, please consider:

1. It can be said that the majority of the country is some flavor of Christian. Estimates vary but let's say that number is 80% (conservative estimate probably higher)

2. Assuming average dispersion of a population could further then assume that roughly 80% of those that died on 9-11-2001 were Christian too.

So 8 of 10 that God was PUNISHING that awful day were his own followers?

That's a bit of a scorched Earth policy wouldn't you say?

Heck my home state LEGALIZED gay marriage back in 2004 and the worst we've seen is a maple syrup shortage!

From his on-screen antics it seems that Mr Falwell holds to the view that he must either punish or reward in THIS life, in addition to meting out judgment in the afterlife. Honestly, I don't think Mr. Falwell is was as much an idiot as he played at in front of the TV cameras. I very much feel he was considering only the lowest-common-denominator theists in this country. You know the ones I mean... the dentally and genetically challenged sub-species that populate the backwoods of southern states and frighten hikers of the Appalachian Trail*.

So if you are a Christian or Christ-follower, what are you to make of this punishment or reward issue?

Consider the poll I put up in the sidebar of my blog.

What's your view on divine punishment or reward?

Do you believe that God is actively punishing and rewarding people in this life? If so how does He choose when and where to act? Or is that a question you wouldn't even begin to answer?

As far as I can see the evidence is very much against Him acting against those that are doing evil (Paris Hilton, Dick Cheney, Vladmir Putin, Fred Phelps) and those that have done evil (Mussolini, Hitler, Stalin, PolPot, McCarthy) evil.

Discuss!!!

R.

*from Bill Bryson's excellent book "A Walk in the Woods"

27 comments:

nate said...

I think punishment and reward happen in this life and the afterlife but I don't believe the question, "how does he choose when where to act," is answerable, and I would purport that most of what is claimed at times to be punishment or reward at the hand of God is actually pure coincidence or circumstance (i.e. 911, contra-Falwell; if you've ever dug into my blog you'll know I'm not the man's biggest fan: http://natewatson.blogspot.com/2007/10/russia-america-iran-andjesus.html)

SirRobert said...

Nate

I would have never characterized you as a fan of Falwell. ;-)

R.

1godsgal said...

Wow, this is gonna take awhile....you have enough for probably three or four posts...LOL

I'll be back... ;)

Indian Lake Papa said...

I think that the Aids Pandemic is Divine punishment, 9-11 was divine punishment, and the drunk who was killed in a head on collision with a family of four that also died were the result of divine punishment. now that I have your attention let me respond. My belief is that most "punishment" is a consequence of a direct disobedience to God's law or one of his guidelines for Christian living. each example I gave above could have been avoided by complying with God's law. But because people get self-centered and take actions that destroy their lives - others can lose their lives as well. Much more complicated then that, but its a start.

Robert, before you respond to my comment, go to my latest post and tell me who was at fault for the 2 year old being almost killed.

darla said...

Hey Robert!
First, I was very upset on 9-11 and very upset with what Falwell said. (By the way He is before God now, and he is seeing things clearly) I don't buy into the whole punishment thing, I know I am different. I believe there are consequencs to my actions, and God rewards the follower for trusting and believing HIM when HE calls us out to do so. I used to think that God stood over us all day daring us to step out so HE could whack us like a Whack-a-mole game. Didn't like the game! But what I am finding now is, those things that are laid out in the Bible as "don'ts" are there to protect to me not to limit my fun or freedom. Life just works better when I follow it. There is still times when I ask "why", and sometimes I get an answer, and sometimes I just get a peace that tells me that HE is doing something that I just don't see yet. I do think 9-11 was a wake up call of sorts, but I also think it is going to get worse before its all over. (my two cents ;) )

1godsgal said...

I’m going to focus first on the Hell issue….there is so many angles to go here, but I think it would be a good starting point. I think it was Martin Luther who said that God doesn't send anyone to hell; they choose to go there themselves. .
A friend said to me not to long ago…if a non-Christian husband marries to the Christian wife that he really does want to be Christian, he just doesn't want to be like anyone he knows who is Christian--namely his wife. That idea--that we who are Christians often get in the way of other people who evaluate the gospel based on what they see in us.
Most of us Christ followers come to the point where we recognize that we can take no responsibility for our own salvation; for whatever set of reasons, when we chose to turn to Christ, no other choice seemed reasonable. Some of us were born to church families and spoon-fed the truth with our strained peaches; others reached the bottom of a deep and dark barrel, and saw only one light which might afford an escape for them. C. S. Lewis once described his own salvation like this: "I was dragged kicking and screaming into the kingdom of God, eyes darting left and right for some means of escape.”
So the question is always, why would I want to know a God who sends people to Hell? A question of what is fair….or permissible…or accepted… If someone were to give me a million dollars, and does not also give you a million dollars, there is nothing unfair in that. Neither of us can claim that we deserve a million dollars, nor that we've earned it, nor that it is our money. The money belongs to the person in question until they choose to give it to someone else, and it's up to them to decide to whom to give it. Likewise, if you give a Christmas present to someone at work, your other coworkers might say, "Where's mine?", but you and they know it to be a joke. Gifts by their nature are things we do not deserve, they are by the giver and for reasons known to the giver.
If you assume that God made something good which chose to destroy itself, it is logical (I used that word just for you) that every human deserves to die. If He then chooses to reach down and save a few from that destruction, the ones not chosen have no grounds to file a complaint. Most people get what they deserve; those who say they only want what they deserve cannot claim to be disappointed when they do. Christians get better than they deserve, but no one can say that it's not fair when we do--especially if the offer is extended universally.
So how does God choose whom He will save? No one knows. He hasn't told us at this point. So here's the problem....
If God made something good, why did it destroy itself? Is the offer truly open to everyone?
I love C. S. Lewis, and I can’t remember which book I was reading but he spoke one time and said the material in the Bible is intended to provide information needed by those who have the opportunity to read it or hear it read. It does not at any point tell us what God will do with those who never hear the gospel or know of the Bible. Anyone who reads the Bible is automatically out of that category, and does not need that information. Concerning those who hear the gospel and fail to heed it, who read the Bible but reject the truth, they may argue a night and a day that God did not push them to salvation in the same way as He may have pushed others, but in the final analysis, they chose what they chose.
There is always debate on Hell. There is a debate in theological circles as to whether eternal punishment is "eternal in its duration" or merely "eternal in its consequences". Studying up on this there is some evidence that the consequence of eternal separation from God “must be the ultimate dissolution of the individual self--that is, cast into loneliness, one would eventually cease to exist.” But it's generally agreed that the survival of the spirit beyond death is central to the Christian message, and that no one will be forced to spend eternity with God, nor permitted to spoil heaven. There must be some realm where these may exist, at least for some time. If it is a place cut off from God, where the only people are those who put themselves first and who are slowly getting worse rather than better, that in itself would be sufficient to make it hell. As to the images included in the New Testament--the outer darkness, the lake of fire, the garbage dump where the worm never dies--these are clearly images, attempts to convey a concept of the inconceivable, to illustrate the afterlife in a way which describes its nature rather than its appearance.
I would like to imagine that in the end all would be saved; but I know that there are many who would refuse to be saved, even if at the end they could clearly see the alternatives and make a choice then. I think you would enjoy a book called The Great Divorce by CS Lewis if your reading pile ever becomes depleted…..
Done for the moment…more later… ;)

1godsgal said...

Sorry for all the typos...sigh...this is hard to do at work...LOL

SirRobert said...

@Papa

To my mind that is categorical proof of a God that is NOT in the world.

I understand the need to slap u the side of the head the parents who would put a 2 year old in that dangerous position...but I fail to see the good in putting the innocent through that.

Calling the AIDS pandemic and 9-11 divine punishment borders on obscene to me. Don't misunderstand me I think very highly of you but I must respectfully disagree with that assessment.

R.

SirRobert said...

Darla

I am not sure how to categorize your response.

You don't like the idea of a God that punishes but you do see it happening...?

This is tough stuff ;)

Thanks for dropping by!

R.

SirRobert said...

Deb

WOW!!

Well that's a very detailed explanation of the concept of Hell and why it's needed...

I want to digest that for a bit and respond later.

R.

Indian Lake Papa said...

The incidents that occurred earlier mentioned in my comments are NOT cases of God reaching out his hand and zapping people. He does not do that (my opinion). I think as the planes crashed into the twin towers my God wept. did He step in and rescue some - I don't know. I think as children and adults die from the AIDS pandemic, He again is weeping. We suffer the consequences of our choices when we go against his laws and guidelines for our lives. Hence, the title of my blog site.
I like the book of Job, gives insight of three different individuals, Man, God & Satan. We tend to leave out the role Satan is allowed to play out way too often. Instead of blaming God for allowing these things to happen, we need to recognize that God in his divine plan has allowed Satan to exist. He will turn mans heart away from God if he can. Satan destroys. I sure wish I understood all of this Robert! I do believe that my time on earth is extremely short and that it is a microscopical drop of water in a 55 gallon drum compared to eternity. I have no doubt He does exist - right in my own life - absolutely no doubt!

born4battle said...

Well, I would not be so presumptuous to say that 9/11 was specifically God's judgment for the sins of America, nor will I say that Katrina was judgment for the sins of New Orleans. I might be as equally presumptuous to say that there was NO element of God's judgment in either instance. I'm sure that there are enough 'national', 'state', and 'city' sins to warrant God's judgment, without the 'big ones'. In fact, 2 Peter 3 and Revelation 21 tell us that one day the current heaven and earth will be done away with, and there will be new, perfected versions of both, exactly as God intended before the 'fall'. So much for judgment upon non-human created things corrupted by the fall. Romans 8 speaks of all of creation 'groaning' like a woman in childbirth and looking forward to being 'delivered'.

2 Peter 3 also speaks to God's being patient with the human race and desires that all of those chosen out of fallen humanity to become a gift for His Son (see John 6) come to the Son, never to be lost. He permits sin to exist but at times does punish and bring judgment - of that I am sure. He allows evildoers to co-exist with His true children (those who believe in Christ).

If He were to bring judgment against sin here and now, every human being outside of Christ would have to die, no matter how 'good' or 'bad' they appear to human eyes . Romans 3 and Psalm 14, along with Ephesians 2 speak to the fallen condition of all humankind. Contrary to popular belief, there are no 'innocents'. I think God has a special place for children who have not reached the age of understanding of good and evil, but the Bible is not categorically clear what that means. The only righteousness any of us have, sufficient to please God, is through His Son.

Concerning punishment and judgment. Once we have truly believed in and received Christ we are no longer under eternal judgment, but I believe God will punish us as He sees fit like a parent disciplines his/her children. (Hebrews 12).

Judgment will come and God's Holy wrath will be poured against all unrighteousness. And when that time comes, I want to be found 'in Christ'. God's concept of time is not like ours either. He is the great I AM, as if everything He does in somehow in the 'now moment' although we see days, years, decades, etc.

You could say that judgment has already been passed on sinful mankind but the judge's sentence has not yet been carried out (John 3:18).

Concerning rewards and other good things, Matthew 25 tells us that God brings sun and rain on the just and the unjust. Some would say that believers will also face a judgment, one based on how well we 'walked the walk', but it will have to do with rewards in His Kingdom and not the eternal judgment of those who will face Hell for their unbelief.

That's a lot of 'stuff' but you asked big questions (and good ones at that). I hope it has been helpful.

And by the way, I wasn't a big Jerry Falwell fan either, but probably for different reasons. :)

darla said...

Robert , hey man, this is tough stuff to swallow yet alone discuss. But I am glad that you asked. I have had these same questions in my past...and I just know that God laid out the commandments( that we can not follow on our own) to protect us. Even non-believers can show a better value of life that follow or try to stay close to them.

9-11/ Aids/ children left behind without parents due to various reasons...we all just feel the effects of someone elses consequences...I think the question really is.."COuld HE stop it?, Or did HE cause it?" I think HE could stop it, but its not time for HIM to intervene...we still have choice, and although I would like it to be over somedays, I am glad that its not...I love people that I want to choose HIM first..selfish huh? but honest. I think HE is giving us time to make that choice. So although things look grim..we are still being shown HIS mercy. so maybe its just the way I look it...glass half full or half empty..mine is half full ;)

Oh yeah - hope its cool if I put you on my blogroll... if you say no..then I will take you off..but its going up tonight.

Christian Beyer said...

"Now there were some present at that time who told Jesus about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mixed with their sacrifices. Jesus answered, "Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans because they suffered this way? I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish. Or those eighteen who died when the tower in Siloam fell on them—do you think they were more guilty than all the others living in Jerusalem? I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish."
Luke 13: 1-5

But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that?
Matthew 5:44-46

Jesus seems to be saying that sometimes, perhaps as a result of sin and at other times perhaps just due to 'bad luck' that....shit happens. Just be ready when it does.

Tam said...

i just had one simple thought from your post R, which i totally loved...as i do you.

um. i dont think God punishes us here. i think WE do.

b4d6uy said...

Hey Robert,

I'll try to answer your questions succinctly:

"So if you are a Christian or Christ-follower, what are you to make of this punishment or reward issue?"

I don't really see a whole lot of punishment/reward happening here on earth right now. I believe there are (often severe) consequences for our actions and non-actions, but that is the reality just being played out. God certainly punished in the OT, but since he came to Earth he's singing a different tune. Seems he wants us to love one another or something.

"What's your view on divine punishment or reward?"

From the divine perspective we are all worthy of and deserving of death. I cringe when I hear people crying for "justice" in the world. I don't want justice - I want mercy.

"Do you believe that God is actively punishing and rewarding people in this life?"

Yes and no. I consider myself to be "blessed" because I am reasonably healthy, have a loving wife, great kids, and we haven't personally suffered a whole lot of tragedy in our lives. Did God orchestrate (e.g. reward) any of this? I'd like to think He did - but I don't think for a minute it's because I did anything particularly right or well - especially not for "good behavior." I'd like to think I'm somewhat obedient to His call; and that I have walked with him honestly for most of my adult life, but from "appearances" I shouldn't have what I have.

If so how does He choose when and where to act?

Trying to get into the mind of God is rather futile. If for a minute you think he masterminded all of the universe, you begin to suspect that he's a tad smarter than any of us...

Or is that a question you wouldn't even begin to answer?

Not wouldn't...couldn't. Read Job 40 and 41. One of my "life verses" is Job 40:4-5, "I am unworthy—how can I reply to you? I put my hand over my mouth. I spoke once, but I have no answer—twice, but I will say no more."

hoverfrog said...

As an unbeliever I imagine that it must be a great comfort to believe that the wicked are punished either in this life or beyond. No one wants to believe that terrible crimes go unpunished. The sad fact is that, in the world that we know, many criminals escape justice. Hopefully not too many though.

Similarly sometimes bad things happen to people who don't deserve to suffer. It must be comforting to believe that the scales will be balanced and the pain of mortal existence will be made good in the end.

None of this stops people of all faiths or none from seeking justice when we've been wronged. Does that imply a lack of trust in God's justice or just reasonable steps to protect society?

I'm not a Christian but if I were I would say that God helps those who help themselves and that our earthly problems are for us to resolve on Earth. We may see that as unfair but how else are we supposed to learn? I think I agree with Tam in that respect. We get the justice that we deserve because we provide the laws and systems of justice. If there is a God then that isn't his job, it's ours.

Curiously my view of God in the field of justice is remarkably secular. ;)

SirRobert said...

Sheesh! Where did I leave off?

OK I am going to TRY to wade through this today. Please be patient with me. If it seems like I have skipped a response it's because you have made me think very hard about a response.

Peace!

R.

SirRobert said...

@Darla

Of course you can add me to your blog roll. I am honored that you would do so!

R.

SirRobert said...

OK Deb

:-)

Your response has required me to open up my word processor and proceed from there so here goes...

God doesn't send anyone to hell; they choose to go there themselves.

The unstated choice being 'to hear and then reject the message of Christ'.

Well for my part I do not feel I am rejecting the message of Christ. I don't think you are accusing me of doing so either. But, plenty of people who would call themselves Christ follower DO. some would make themselves judge of another. As I understand the message there is only ONE judge. ;-)

To me that is neither here nor there because to my mind Hell is something that we humans created.

Some of us were born to church families and spoon-fed the truth with our strained peaches;

Yes indeed! You and I touched on that very point yesterday when we chatted on via IM. Many think I want to raise my children to be just like. Nothing could be further from the case! My eldest daughter said to me the other day that she had referred to herself as an atheist to a few friends. My response to her was to not throw that word out there lightly and that she was not educated enough to make such a pronouncement. The word atheist has a great deal of baggage associated with it. Some equally uneducated Christian might hear her pronouncement and make some unfortunate judgments about her. I explained to her that she had much education left before her and it is conceivable that she might become a Christian! If she comes to that through an intellectually honest approach, that would be fine with me. I'll disagree with her, but I will respect her choice.


others reached the bottom of a deep and dark barrel, and saw only one light which might afford an escape for them.

I find this to be a recurrent theme in the lives of many, but not all, 'Christ followers'. Admittedly, I haven't had much in the way of an existential crisis much more severe than teenage angst and young adult self-importance. There was no substance abuse, anti-social behavior or family dysfunction ever in my life. So maybe there was no need for me to throw myself at the mercy of Jesus and call out for His assistance. I have had trying times in my life where I have looked skywards and asked for help as a nondescript way of praying. In the end I always found reservoirs of strength within and support of a loving and caring family to help me through those times. I have expressed gratitude in a larger way to those who assisted me and perhaps in a smaller way to divine providence if it did provide some measure of assistance. This has been my experience: that which I needed was within me and in the support of friends and family, that and who were there all along.

C. S. Lewis once described his own salvation like this: "I was dragged kicking and screaming into the kingdom of God, eyes darting left and right for some means of escape.”

That's not a very pleasant image to me. To be dragged kicking and screaming. That's a very telling attitude that Mr. Lewis presents...one of a misguided rebel....I don't see myself that way. Not that I think you are accusing me as such! ;-)

If someone were to give me a million dollars, and does not also give you a million dollars, there is nothing unfair in that.

But would it not be at the very least a matter of some curiosity as to why you were chosen for the gift? ;-) Even though the reasons may be none of any one else's business...the curiosity is there nonetheless.

Likewise, if you give a Christmas present to someone at work, your other coworkers might say, "Where's mine?", but you and they know it to be a joke. Gifts by their nature are things we do not deserve, they are by the giver and for reasons known to the giver.

Perhaps this betrays the feeling of 'entitlement' people have come to possess? We sort of inculcate this from a young age. I see it in my own kids. Christmas and birthday presents are expected as a right instead of the gift they are supposed to be. Every year I feel I have to out-do the previous year! What vicious little materialistic cycle we create!

If you assume that God made something good which chose to destroy itself, it is logical (I used that word just for you) that every human deserves to die.

Here we are in agreement. But for different reasons. Life is a precious gift. Regardless of what any of our faiths tell us as far as we KNOW for certain, this is the ONLY one we get. How will we choose to use that gift? Will we choose to look out only for ourselves and live as a hedonistic, seeking only that which gratifies the self? Will we abuse and addict ourselves to pleasures of the body? Or do we try to make a meaningful life that is life affirming and endeavors to leave the world a little better for the future? The answer is simple and self evident to me...and I don't need the Bible to tell me that answer. We all KNOW deep in our conscience what the right answers are. Some find the guidance to that which was already within us in the pages of the Bible. That's fine and I'm glad they found the way. But I don't believe the Bible is the only way to salvation. Perhaps it was indeed God who wrote into our souls or consciences... I have no issue with that.

I have said this before...

You (Deb) and I have very similar takes on the meaning and the nature of existence. We use very different language to describe it.

A friend of mine, a theist, after a deep conversation called me Christian-atheist. I was taken aback by that label but when I thought about it I realized it sort of applied very well!

I can live with such a description. ;-)

nate said...

Just a quick note...

Robert said, "I don't need the Bible to tell me that answer. We all KNOW deep in our conscience what the right answers are."

I agree...mostly...I think there are some folks who ignore this inner knowledge to the point of being dead to it; so much so that they don't know the difference between right and wrong...you know the whole "defense from insanity" deal.

But I guess I'd call this inner knowledge 'conscience.' I think Robert's idea can be found in scripture (Rom.1:19-20). Which begs the question, "is the bible to sole authority for determining righteous living, right-and wrong, doctrine, etc."

I myself reject the idea of Sola-Scirptura...I'm not saying I don't agree that it's divinely inspired, I just think scripture itself doesn't support soal-scriptura (kind of circular logic there...sorry).

1godsgal said...

I'll be back...;+)

SirRobert said...

nate said:

I think there are some folks who ignore this inner knowledge to the point of being dead to it; so much so that they don't know the difference between right and wrong...you know the whole "defense from insanity" deal.

I completely agree...

But I would say that those people who don't listen are in one of two categories...

1. Willfully going against the conscience....

2. Sick or some otherwise defective.

Category 1 people need to be reformed or otherwise have their influence curtailed.

Category 2 need to be helped or cured.

Robert

1godsgal said...

Robertness says: ….”I don’t need the Bible to tell me that answer.” First of all I want to clarify that you are completely correct in saying that I am not condemning you or accusing you…You know me better than that! :+)

So, I wanted to explain my views of the Bible, and why it is in fact so important to me….. I don’t believe that the Bible is meant to be only manual or instruction book, but it is also a book that reveals the Way of God so that we would be able to live consistently with in that.
To me, a departure from the Scriptures is a departure from God. I can’t know God apart from the Bible.
2 Timothy 3:10-16 (NKJV) – “But you have carefully followed my doctrine, manner of life, purpose, faith, longsuffering, love, perseverance, persecutions, afflictions, which happened to me at Antioch, at Iconium, at Lystra—what persecutions I endured. And out of them all the Lord delivered me. Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution. But evil men and impostors will grow worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived. But you must continue in the things which you have learned and been assured of, knowing from whom you have learned them, and that from childhood you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness..."


The Bible works behind the scenes so to speak.
Let me give you an example. A scientist learns about various physical laws from text books that he or she obtains while in school. However, after he has graduated and begins to work in his field he will find that the answers that he needs is not in the text books. The scientist will come to find that the knowledge and wisdom that is required started from the text book, but it was the practice that led to experience that provides the path to the answer that he needs. He will begin to live by the things in the books that he learned in school, but he will not treat those books as an instruction manual for his trade. He may need to refer to it from time to time to recall a formula that was forgotten, but for the most part the knowledge that he needs is within him and he can direct his actions based on that.
The Bible is very similar to the life of the Christian. Beyond finding the answers that I need for specific things that come up in my life, I do have the knowledge that I need to get at the answers that I need. I can interact with God because he has revealed himself and His way to me in the Bible. The Bible is the first step to knowing God.
Matthew 4:4 (NKJV) -But He answered and said, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.’”
Consider this. Even with the Bible we see how there are so many different doctrines in so many different churches. One church says that they have the way and another church says that they know the way. However, the point is that if we are not consistent with what God says then we don’t know the way.
The other thing I wanted to answer was rejecting Him. But, I don’t have time at the moment….
Be back… ;+)

karen said...

I'm responding before reading all comments thoroughly here, so forgive me if I repeat anything.
I think your statistics are correct..the majority of Christian thought maintains that God will smite the majority of mankind.
I, and many of my buds, look to literal translations of the New Testament and based on the original words, don't believe that's true, nor is it in keeping with the logic of an all-loving God--and I'm always amazed that some "loving" folks seem to rub their hands together in glee that so many will be going to "hell" (a word translated from the original word Sheol, which is a very benign place, into Hades, Tartarus, etc.,-- punishing concepts which come from Greek paganism) >:-/
I believe that stuff happens here on earth, that's just the way the world rolls, and if we choose to seek out His support, it's entirely there. I've experienced that in the fullest. I don't believe that quakes, floods, epidemics, etc., are punishment--they are, rather, Nature or the natural consequences of humankinds' mismanagement of the world--and sadly, evil exists and really bad stuff happens. I do believe that God can intervene; we've seen miracles from the most passionate of prayer.
I do believe that Jesus lived,walked the earth, taught, and died, for ALL of us; scripture tells us this in Romans, letters to Corinth, etc.,--the gift was for all, not just for some. If I give you a gift, and you reject it, shall I kill you? No, the gift was still for you; the purpose, the intent, the caring and love is still there.
--no kicking and screaming necessary.
I believe, in the quantum physics of creation, that this is all one big vat of atomic, celestial, jello; all interconnected and this existence pales in comparison to the Creator's Really Big Picture--and that our consciousness certainly exists beyond our "physical" form.
Thank God. ;-)

Christian Beyer said...

Karen. Nicely put.

One point you make about natural disasters not being God's design;

To paraphrase the question: "If a tree falls in the wilderness is it dangerous?"

Not unless you build your house beneath old, rotting trees.

Is a hurricane evil? If you choose to live on an artificially created and unsustainable river delta in hurricane country you might just think so. The native inhabitants of this land, nomadic and respectful of nature, understood this a bit better than we do.

Paul Maurice Martin said...

Not only that, but in the last analysis, I like to think that religion and spirituality are about more than personal reward/punishment systems. If that's what it's finally all about, kind of seems to me like we might just as well be lab rats.