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Sunday, May 03, 2009

What If There is No Devil?

A dear friend asked recently, "What if there is no devil?"

Usually people who are discouraged and depressed ask, "What if there is no God?" They ask this question because they don't want to feel without any hope at all. They don't want to have bet their lives that there is a God, gone to church all those years only to find out God is a fraud like all the really smart people said He was.

When you ask, "Is there a devil?" that question comes from somewhere else. I suspect my friend truly does believe there is a God and is rather mad at Him. He probably means something more like, "What if God is just arbitrary and mean. What if we want to blame all the terrible stuff that happens in the world on Satan and it really is all God's fault?"

On the face of it, my friend has good reason to think God is picking on him. He had a truly awful childhood. His mother made him believe she hated him and wanted to give him away. Worse, she convinced him he was the only one of her children she despised. Turns out, she told his brother the same things.

His attempt to serve God turned out badly. Again he was rejected by people he trusted and loved. Then his best friend and companion committed suicide, leaving him alone to face deep pain and unhappiness for the rest of his life.

He told me once that he imagines a small child standing before God's judgment seat - a child representing the untold millions of God's children throughout history who have been murdered, tortured, tormented and brutalized.

"We did not ask for this?" the child says.

"You gave us no choice about whether we wanted to be here or not."

"It is you who should be on trial here, not me!"

It is a poignant scene and I understand where it comes from, but the reasoning behind it is flawed. It assumes God never asked such a question. It assumes God is not on trial here.

Actually, I believe such a scene as my friend pictured has taken place already. Well, not exactly already. My verb tense is all wrong, but there is no tense in the English language for when this scene takes place that makes complete sense to a creature bound by the limits of time and space as we are.

If you accept that God is not bound by time and space; that he, in fact, is infinite and exists beyond time and space, not just able to move backward and forward in time (as I believe the angels are - but that's a discussion for another essay), then God must encompass both space and time at once. When He creates, He creates the past, the present and the future all at once. It explains why He is called the Alpha and Omega. It explains the confusing business about the Trinity. To us He appears to be three beings and yet we are told He is one. God is who he is in whatever dimension of space and time he dwells. Physicists believe there are many dimensions in the universe. It may be (and, of course, this is only speculation) that Christ is God manifest in the 3 dimensions we know, the Holy Spirit in 4 and God the Father in 5 and beyond. It would explain a lot of things.

C.S. Lewis drew an analogy once that helped me tremendously. He described a line upon a sheet of paper on someone's desk. We are a dot along the line, moving from left to right, past to future in the flow of time. God exists not only on the line, but also on the paper, and in the entire room. God sees the beginning and the end of the line all at the same time. He made the line all at once. He did not create the Earth as if it were a bowling ball that He rolled off down the lane to see whether he might knock over some pins with it.

What I believe God did was create the entire line - the whole path of the cosmic bowling ball, if you will. As God creates the beginning, He also creates the end. Though to us the great judgment may happen at the end of time to us, in effect, God already has met you as you exist at the end of the world. To God tomorrow is the same as yesterday. He sees them both.

God, in a sense, has already asked you the question, my friend demanded that He ask. God simply asks it at the end of time when we have all the facts. He actually can ask, "Do you want to have your time on Earth my child?" For God the question will mean something.
"Do you want what I am offering you?" asks God. Whatever your answer might be, God already knows it from your own lips.

Maybe you think now that you would rather never have existed at all, but then, you do not have the information you will have when you stand before God and review your life. Perhaps you saved a life you never knew you had saved. Perhaps you eased someone's burden, but never knew how grateful they were for your help.

Maybe someone loved you more than you ever knew. Just maybe, someone found God and was able to live forever because of your witness. Maybe you yourself have rejected eternal life, but still were able to make a difference for someone. Maybe you chose to live your life, no matter how selfish and evil, just to do that one good thing - as a way to make up for your wickedness in some small way. I like to think that given all the information, I'd choose to do the right thing, even if it were hard.

I believe God is just. I believe we will all be satisfied with His judgment, even if not all will be happy. I remember a time being punished for something I had done wrong as a child. I knew the consequences of my actions were just and I accepted them. I think it will be much the same for all who stand before God one day whether they are redeemed or have chosen to go their own way. I believe every one will know that He is just!

We cannot fairly judge God because we cannot see the alpha and omega as He sees. We cannot know the beginning the middle and the end as He knows it until we have lived it. We cannot love as completely as He loves because we can never know another as he knows us. We cannot be as completely fair as God is fair to us because we cannot grasp all the factors that make up even our own lives, much less that of any other person. God, however, knows the why and wherefore of everything. We live bound by the strictures of time and space and yet we think we can understand a God for whom no such limitations exist. It's little wonder some of us are so frustrated.

The great challenge of faith is to recognize that we cannot second guess God. Instead, all we can do is trust that He is who He says He is. My friend's child analogy is quite appropriate. We are like children standing before a parent, stamping our feet and demanding to know things we cannot understand until we have grown up.

I have to trust that when we do grow up finally, that we'll choose to live the life we had here. I am told that all things work together for them that love God and are called according to his purpose (Rom. 8:28). I am told we will throw down our crowns at Jesus' feet and shout "Praise God, heaven is cheap enough!" I used to not fully understand why we'd do that, but as I grow older, it's becoming clearer.

And if there is no devil or no God, then what is the difference my friend if I believe in Him or not? It makes no difference to you. So what if I trust Him to be fair? If you believe He's selfish and evil, unfair or nonexistent, then live your life and die and be done with it. What's the difference? If God does exist, then he apparently doesn't force you to do anything you don't want to. I haven't seen many folks struck down by lightning bolts for being disobedient lately.

But what about hell? Well, in my Bible it says when you're dead, you apparently sleep. Jesus called it that. He said God gives eternal life, but at the same time he also gives eternal death to those that choose that. Solomon said, "The living know that they shall die, but the dead know not anything. Eccl. 9:5" Eternal torment is a Greek idea that was added on later.

So if a merciful God lets those who choose to disbelieve in Him go to their eternal rest, then it's the same thing as you'd get if God really didn't exist. So, be content. Everyone has a choice. God is good. He loves you whether you love Him or not. If you want to be with Him, you get to be with Him. If you don't, you get to run you life without Him and que' sera, sera!

I hope to see you all upon the Sea of Glass. If you choose not to join us, then rest well. Me, I'm looking forward to eternal life. I have way more stuff I want to do than I could ever get done in 70 or 80 years here.



John said...
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John said...
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David said...
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