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In Search of a Better God
Posted: Wednesday, September 30, 2009
I am far from alone in noting that the questions spiritual seekers are asking of Christianity has changed significantly in recent years. For example, I do not encounter too many people who ask questions that classical apologetics trained us to answer, such as questions related to the existence of God, whether Jesus rose from the dead, and if the Bible is true.
Instead, the new questions have to do with significance and meaning, the “so what?” questions, such as “So what if Jesus rose from the dead?” That’s different than proving there was an empty tomb.
There are also a great many questions about the character of God. What kind of God is the God of the Bible? It is not uncommon to find direct challenges, such as “Is this God of yours really that good? Is He really that moral?”
I recently read of an outreach pastor who has come to similar conclusions: “The questions [people are asking] have changed quite significantly in the past 30 years. It used to be, ‘Is there a God?’ and now it’s ‘What I know about God I don’t like.’ Their biggest complaint is that God acts in morally inferior ways compared to us.”
And the God of the Bible is particularly suspect.
Granted, pointed questions are not new. This is not the first generation to ask if God is a bully, sounds vengeful and angry and over-anxious to consign people to hell, or seems a bit too worked-up over sexual ethics. This is far from the first era of human history that wonders aloud why God becoming a human and dying for our sins was necessary, much less why He allows human suffering to go on.
What is new is the kind of question being asked, and the importance of answering these questions with an openness and transparency that acknowledges the worth of the question. Like never before, we are being called to defend and explain God’s character, clear up misunderstandings of Who the God of the Bible actually is; and explain the Christian faith in ways that a post-Christian world now needs it explained.
If we don’t, we will lose people. And some of those people will grow up and influence a lot of other people to get lost along with them.
Author Dan Brown of The Da Vinci Code fame has just released his follow-up novel, The Lost Symbol. In an interview to promote his new book, he was asked, “Are you religious?”
Here was his answer:
I was raised Episcopalian, and I was very religious as a kid. Then, in eighth or ninth grade, I studied astronomy, cosmology, and the origins of the universe. I remember saying to a minister, “I don’t get it. I read a book that said there was an explosion known as the Big Bang, but here it says God created heaven and Earth and the animals in seven days. Which is right?” Unfortunately, the response I got was, “Nice boys don’t ask that question.” A light went off, and I said, “The Bible doesn’t make sense. Science makes much more sense to me.” And I just gravitated away from religion.
When I read that, I wanted to find that minister and sue him for spiritual malpractice. This was a question that should have been immediately affirmed as worthwhile, and then quickly sorted out in relation to the biblical materials. This could have been answered both efficiently and effectively between floors on an elevator!
But it wasn’t.
So a young boy went looking for a better God. One that would be open to questions – and hopefully, would offer some answers.
What’s sad is that he actually had that God.
But nobody told him.
James Emery White
“On seeking ‘a better God’”, Julia Duin, The Washington Times, Thursday, August 20, 2009 (www.washingtontimes.com).
“Life After The Da Vinci Code,” James Kaplan, Parade Magazine, September 13, 2009, p. 4 (www.parade.com).
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