My main reason for going to university was to study reasons for not becoming a Christian, with an emphasis upon philosophy, psychology, history, and evolution. My Bachelor of Arts Honors Psychology research project compared Christians with non-Christians.
After graduation I went to Asia, where I interviewed a Filipino faith healer and spent a year in almost non-stop religious discussions. Upon returning, I commenced further studies on this widely misunderstood subject.
When not writing or surfing the net, my favorite pastime is hiking in the Australian bush, creeping up to shy Australian animals - kangaroos, koalas, emus, echidnas, and so on – while trying not to step on snakes.
I would like to say I am single, good looking and rich, but only one of the three is true!
Smart people have decided this must be true. It is like a time-bomb set to blow up (explode) in Christians’ faces the moment something bad happens to them.
To argue with those who believe in a loving God we should first understand them. Let us put their claims to just a few words.
Amazingly, Christians say that only one innocent person ever suffered! They say that few of us can face this truth unless Jesus removes guilt feelings buried deep within us – feelings which we rarely admit even to ourselves. They argue that only after the spiritual miracle in which all guilt is taken from us, dare we stop our desperate attempts to hide and excuse and push from our minds just how bad we really are. They say it is an awful experience to have one’s supposed goodness shown up in the light of God’s astounding purity. With every bit of pride within them screaming in protest, Christians feel forced to conclude that the moral difference between them and the worst murderer is almost nothing, compared to how far from the perfection of God even their best efforts fall. They argue that even babies are not totally innocent!
(See Are babies innocent?)
No clever argument, however, and no supposed spiritual experience can hide one unavoidable fact: a holy God would want to wipe out every cause of pain. And if he destroyed everyone who has ever caused pain by selfishness, cheating, lying, saying hurtful things, who would be left?
‘Suffering is God’s fault!’ we say, forgetting times our anger, greed and lies hurt others. Of course, there is an amount of hurt we say is not so bad, and for some questionable reason the hurt we have caused happens to be the sort of thing we say is not too bad. It is like failing a test at school and then moving the pass mark to make our own score look good. A holy God could play no part in such dishonesty. To wipe out some people who cause suffering and spare you and me would make God guilty of serious unfairness. We have each added to humanity’s shame. If there is a God of love, the people he loves and longs to place in a pain-free world are the very ones who cause humanity’s suffering.
We will soon move on, but this question of innocence is central to the question of suffering. We are so far from being innocent that we owe our very life to wrongdoing. If, for example, we followed our family history far enough back in time, we would probably each find some great-great-great-grandparent born as a result of wrongdoing, such a man being cruel to a woman, or stealing someone else’s wife or using too close a relative or having an unwanted baby.
Then, having accused everyone of doing wrong, believers suddenly make an exception, holding on to the seemingly proud claims of a man famous for being humble. We all come from human parents, yet Jesus claimed to be totally different, having lived forever before ever becoming a baby. (John 8:56-59; 17:5) If true, and if he then lived a perfect life, he alone could be innocent in every possible sense. And we know this man suffered.
He appeared as the only perfect human. He preached rules that were impossible to keep, claimed they were God’s rules and actually lived them. Loving his enemies, just as he had preached, he surrendered to insults and torture, somehow taking within his bleeding body the frightening results of all humanity’s wrongdoing.
The world has known just one perfect Person. (See Appendix) We killed him. Yet our only Innocent gladly suffered punishment he did not deserve so that he could free guilty people from suffering forever the punishment they deserve. In this enormous swap, the Innocent and the guilty traded places, making it spiritually legal for his suffering to end your suffering. As hard to believe as it seems, this has brought us to the edge of a new world where the longing deep within us will be met – lies, abuse, and hurtful actions will be swallowed by goodness; sadness will disappear in endless joy.
But temporary earthly pain continues for a wonderful reason. A heaven of peace, trust, openness and love would quickly spoil if just one person in it acted even slightly like we presently do. To enter a perfect world without spoiling its perfection, would require a bigger character change than ever seen on earth. Through what Jesus did, God can perform this miracle and make us fit for such a world, but he will not abuse us by forcing a change upon us that we do not want. We must be willing to let God take from us not just the bad habits we hate, but the bad habits we love. We must let God, in his endless wisdom and love, rule every part of our lives.
Humanity is at the very edge of destruction, hypnotized by its love affair with wrongdoing. Each moment that God controls his explosive desire to destroy evil, is a moment in which billions of us have yet another chance to come to our senses and let Jesus deliver us from our love of wrongdoing. But the end of this time of God’s patience is rushing toward us. Soon all suffering will end. All wrongdoing will be destroyed, along with everyone still caught in its deadly trap.
In Australia, seemingly innocent rabbits are pests because their ancestors did something unnatural: they came with white man to a land where rabbits had never been before. Although they are lovely animals, it is certain that as a baby rabbit grows it will damage the land by digging holes, eating Australian plants and eating food that Australian animals need. Similarly, claim Christians, when we were born we, too, were likable and our minds and bodies were too weak to do wrong. God loved us greatly but it was certain that we would add to this world’s suffering – lying, cheating, saying bad things about people, and so on – the moment we gained the strength and intelligence to do it. That is because our ancestors abused their God-given responsibilities. There is no point blaming our ancestors or God. Had our ancestors been removed before passing on to us their tendency to do wrong, we would never have been born.