April 20, 2017

I just do not understand.

I have to admit, there are things about God and Jesus and the Bible that I just do not understand. I am not saying these things are wrong, I just have trouble with them. Maybe my problem Is I do not know enough about the Bible. One of my Bible study guys said, "Everything you want to know is in the Bible." He may be right, but I still do not understand some things..

I do not understand, "Why the Jews?". Presumably God could have chosen a group of people from the vast area we call China or maybe from India or Europe or even the Americas. There were people in those areas. Why not there; why not a group of people from one of those other places? Why Abraham? Why Issac and Jacob? And on a related subject, once the people who would later be called Jews were chosen to receive God's attention, what about all the other people in the earth? Did God abandon them? Did basically say to Chinese ancestors, "Sorry guys, you lost out on receiving my favor. You are on your own. I'll see you in 4000 years when I send missionaries to tell you about Jesus." 

I do not understand the Trinity; God the Father, Jesus the Son and the Holy Spirit. Yes I know this is Christian doctrine and I know this is three aspects of the same unity.  We sing, "God in three persons, blessed Trinity." But when I read the scriptures, Jesus refers to his Father in Heaven. Jesus prays to his Father not to himself. Jesus said he was going away and then he promised to send us a Counselor, a new person. Stephen said he looked in Heaven and saw Jesus standing at the right hand of God (Acts 7:55 NIV) . The young Jesus told his earthly parents,"Didn't you know I had to be in my Father's house?" (Luke 2:49 NIV) On the cross, Jesus said, "Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing." 

All of these incidences indicate two separate persons, the Father and the Son. The apostle John writes, "For God so loved the world He sent His only Son ..."(John 3:15 NIV) I am sorry I do not understand; I accept the Trinity on faith, but I just do not understand.

I do not understand violence against other people. Why were eight Christians sitting in a Church studying the Bible shot and killed by a deranged man? Why are men, women and children maimed and killed in war or any other time for that matter? Why do tragic things happen to innocent people even people who proclaim the name of Jesus? The professional Christians among us will declare, "The answer to this one is easy. God does not cause tragedy, bad things happen because of sin in the world." Frankly, to me this is a cop-out! Did not Jesus say, "Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you then who are evil know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will you Father in Heaven give good things to those who ask him?" (Matt 7:9-11 NIV) The God of the Old Testament was a vengeful God. He ordered Joshua to kill all the men, women and children and cattle when they entered the Promised Land. I know we must be careful when applying current day morality to ancient times, but still!

I do not understand prayer! We are asked tp pray fr someone who is ill. When they recover, we say our prayers were answered. If they do not recover, we say it was God's will. Which was it? In war both sides pray for victory! We pray for victory on the football or soccer field. We pray that our little Johnny or Susie will be accepted in the right school. We pray for the most desperate situation all the way to the most insignificant. And we all quote John 16:23, "...Very truly I tell you, my Father will give you whatever you ask in my name." (NIV) 

Be very careful when you explain this by saying, answered prayer depends on your faith. You lay yourself open to rebuke from the strong Christian mother whose daughter was just hit by a drunk driver. You begin judging other people's faith. And that is just fine until it is your turn to ask God for something!

Does all this questioning mean I am not a Christian. Sadly, some Christians would say so! Some will say you must not question, you must have no doubts. Unfortunately their self assurance and internal condemnation of doubts would also encompass the Apostle Paul as well as me. You see Paul, as brilliant as he was and as close as he was to the mind of God also had doubts. He did not pretend to know everything. In the famous passage in First Corinthians the thirteenth chapter and the twelfth verses, he writes: "For now, we see only reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known." (NIV) The King James Version says, "For now we see through a glass, darkly; ..." The Holman Christian Standard Bible says, "For now we see indistinctly," The Living Bible says, "Now all I know is hazy and blurred," I could go on with numerous translations of this passage. 

It seems to me, Paul is saying, and I am putting my own words into Paul's mouth. We think we know everything, but we only know a very small portion of God's mind. We are not able to see the totality of God's plan and the extent of his actions. We think we know who or what God is, but we don't. We would do well to allow a healthy doubt to creep in, that small doubt may lead us to discover a truth greater than we ever imagined.

By the way, read my Faith Box series. It is intended to help us know what we do believe so we might approach these doubts with confidence.

If I can help, let me know.



  1. Enjoyed this Steve. If honest, I think most of us are confused by the very same things you've mentioned in this article. I have no problem with the Trinity, but much of the rest of it has also crossed my mind at times. But, like Paul, I rest in knowing that one day I will know the answers. Amen ??

  2. My thoughts...
    Prayer: the only prayer that's needed is "Thy will be done." God wants to know the desires of our hearts, and He wants our desires to align with His will. Unanswered prayers are perhaps prayers that don't align with God's will.
    Why do bad things happen to good people? I don't know. Sin and free will, probably. Part of God's master plan, maybe.
    Doubt: Boy, if that's the mark of a bad Christian I'm in trouble! I'm counting on God to know my doubts and curiosities are not a lack of love, but a desire for understanding and connection.
    That's all I've got. I love you, Dad! Thanks for sharing your thoughts with the world :)

  3. As a philosopher, I desperately want to know more of the "why" questions as well. I understand "why" questions to be of 2 sorts: general why's and particular why's. I think we do know some general why's from the Bible. For instance, if Ezekiel 18:23, 1 Timothy 2:4, 2 Peter 3:9, Acts 17:26-27, and 1 John 2:2 are correct, then the answer to the general "why" is that God wants to maximize the occupation of His eternal kingdom. But how does the daughter killed by the drunk drive fit into that? Those particular "why's" are what keep us restless. I think that Heather C is on the right track, but it sure is difficult to process it all.

  4. I will also add that I like your comments on the Trinity. I think you show a deeper understanding of it that you give yourself credit for. You note that it is clear that Jesus and the Father are two separate persons. That's precisely what the doctrine of the Trinity affirms. The unity is in their being (essence or soul). I agree that it is difficult, but I want to suggest that it is certainly coherent! Good work brother!!


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