Christians Have Answers—A Reprise


A number of years ago, atheists popularized a response to the Christian catch-phrase, Jesus is the Answer: “If Jesus is the answer, what is the question?” Some time later, a Christianized edition surfaced: “If Jesus is the answer, why are Christians afraid to ask questions?”

Oddly, this sentiment co-exists with a sort of artificial humility that has Christians backing off from knowing anything. Rather than offering a defense to everyone who asks us to give an account for our faith (1 Peter 3:15), we are now, apparently, to say spiritual things are a mystery. It’s a type of Christian agnosticism.

The whole notion of spiritual mystery is an outgrowth of postmodern thought and is not a Biblical concept. Instead Scripture teaches that God is transcendent:

“For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are your ways My ways,” declares the LORD. “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, So are My ways higher than your ways And My thoughts than your thoughts” (Isaiah 55:8-9).

Because God is Other, we will never figure Him out. Does that mean He remains cloaked in mystery? Actually no, for one reason, and one reason only: God chose to reveal Himself to us.

Hence, when the New Testament writers reference the mystery of God, they say things like “make known” or “speak forth” or “reveal.”

Clearly God has made known what Mankind needs to know, first in creation, then through His Word, His Son, and finally by His Spirit. The interesting thing is, the more we see of God, the more we see of God.

In other words, Christ, who is the image of the invisible God, makes reconciliation with God possible. To those who believe, He gives His Spirit who in turn teaches us all truth and brings to remembrance all that Jesus said (John 14:26). And of course Jesus said what He received from the Father. In addition, the Spirit “searches all things, even the depths of God” (I Cor. 2:10b).

In his first letter to the church in Corinth, Paul continued to explain the working of the Holy Spirit. Then he concluded the discussion with this amazing statement: “But we have the mind of Christ” (I Cor. 2:15).

So … it’s a fair assumption, then, that Christians have answers, even to hard questions.

I suspect the problem has never been about not having answers but about not liking the answers we have.

For example, a hard, hard question that has been asked down through the ages is this one: Why is there suffering in the world?

The Bible gives the answer: because of sin.

But no, we want more. That one’s too simple, too impersonal, especially when the suffering we’re asking about seems very personal. In fact, we’re often asking, Why me?

Again the answer, All have sinned and come short of the glory of God, and the wages of sin is death.

Another answer we don’t like.

Shouldn’t being a Christian change that answer? Shouldn’t Christians be able to count on God to get us out of suffering?

Again, the Bible gives the answers, ones we just don’t like. We are to expect persecution, to bear our cross, to share in the sufferings of Christ including the fellowship of His death.

When the questions involve the Big Things of life—why am I here, how did I come to be, what lies ahead—the Bible gives those answers too (for God’s glory; by His creation; judgment and life eternal, either in His presence or cast from Him).

But how? How does it all work?

Need I say it? The Bible tells us how:

For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things have been created through Him and for Him. He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together (Col 1:16-17).

But to those weighty, cosmic questions, aren’t those answers illustrations of the earlier criticism—they’re simplistic, impersonal.

I’ll answer with a set of questions of my own: Is Christ simplistic? Impersonal?

Perhaps how a person views Christ determines whether or not that individual believes Christians have answers.

– – –

For other posts on this subject see “Transcendence vs. Mystery,” and “Draw Near To God … For What End?”

This post is an edited version of one that first appeared here in July, 2011.

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The Simplicity Of The Gospel


baby-in-car-seat-893656-mSometimes I get bogged down with theology. Ought we to baptize infants or only believers? Have the “ecstatic gifts” ceased or are people who hold to that view actually quenching the Holy Spirit? Did God create using the evolutionary process or in six twenty-four-hour days?

Then there are the questions atheists ask: why would God allow slavery or unfair treatment of women or the killing of whole people groups or the suffering of Job or the hardening of Pharaoh’s heart? Then there’s the “did Jesus really exist,” kinds of questions or the “what makes the Bible different from other holy books” kinds of questions.

There are answers to a lot of these, but to get to them, a person has to understand the Bible as a metanarrative. As much as I hate jargon, that word works pretty close to perfect. Meta is a prefix meaning “denoting something of a higher or second-order” and narrative means “a spoken or written account. In other words, we can read about Adam and Eve but it doesn’t stand alone; it fits into the higher or “second-order” account.”

In thinking of the Bible as one story, a person gets a glimpse of the big picture. The sacrifices make sense as types of Christ’s great sacrifice; the priests make sense as the forerunner of the great High Priest and of the priesthood of believers; the yearly feasts make sense as the foreshadowing of the Banquet of the King. On and on.

Of course to understand Scripture at this level, a person has to think deeply, do some research (or listen to great preachers who help connect the dots), and of course, to read the Bible. Religiously!

But the problem is, someone who isn’t a student of Scripture may not like the answers to some of the questions. Yes, God predestines us and yes, we have free will.

HUH? Well, both are in the Bible, sometimes in the same verse. Sort of like Pharaoh hardening his heart but God hardening his heart. We want to say, Which came first? Who initiated this process? God says it’s both/and.

Those are hard answers to sell. They sound like we’re equivocating. But I’ve come to realize the dissatisfaction with hard answers about the Bible boils down to one point: do you trust the Author or not?

For someone who trusts God, the hard answers aren’t hard. They are what they are because God made it that way.

Remember, Jesus said, what we need is the faith of a child:

But when Jesus saw this, He was indignant and said to them, “Permit the children to come to Me; do not hinder them; for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. Truly I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child will not enter it at all.” (Mark 10:14-15)

Matthew said it this way:

“Truly I say to you, unless you are converted and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever then humbles himself as this child, he is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. (18:3-4)

In other words, the gospel is not really all that complicated. It takes trusting God in child-like humility. It takes receiving the kingdom of God like a child.

What does that look like?

A child can sleep in the back of a car hurtling down the highway at 70 miles an hour and not worry in the least about the road conditions or the other cars or drunk drivers or debris in the road or any other thing. He trusts that his parents are taking care of him, and he doesn’t have a clue about operating a car anyway, so why be anxious?

dad-playing-with-his-baby-1-718403-mSame when her dad picks her up and gently tosses her toward the ceiling, then catches her and says, Wheeeee, or some such silly baby talk. The child laughs and cries “‘Gain! Do it, again, Dada.” She’s not thinking, What if he drops me this next time? Will I crack my head on the way down, break my wrist if I try to cushion the fall?

No, she is perfectly trusting. Perfectly.

That’s the simplicity of the gospel. We have a God we can trust perfectly. He has promised that those who believe in the finished work of Jesus at Calvary will be rescued from the dominion of darkness. We will have everlasting life. We will be with God for eternity. We have lots of promises for today too and a host of responsibilities, but the point is, the whole of the Christian life hinges on the simplicity of the gospel. If we don’t have the faith of a child, if we don’t humble ourselves like a child, we will flounder under the burden of unanswered questions or questions with answers we don’t like.

God makes it easy. He is completely trustworthy, completely good, kind, merciful, gracious, willing to forgive. Anything that would cause us to question God’s character is untrue or we have blinders on our eyes keeping us from seeing clearly.

The other part is, God doesn’t owe us an explanation. Many people point to Job and say, God never explained to him why he went through all the suffering he did. I happen to think God told him (in the white space between verses), but if he didn’t, so what. God doesn’t owe us perfect understanding. In reality, He’s told us what we need to know.

One thing we need to know is that His ways and thoughts are higher than our ways and thoughts. So no surprise that we don’t get everything that’s going on in the supernatural realm! Or even the natural realm! We are not God and do not have His omniscience.

The faith of a child, then says, “God knows and understands. I’m glad He’s in charge.” But too often we get caught up with ourselves: “I don’t know. I don’t understand. I wish I were in charge.”

How odd, isn’t it? In our prideful hearts, though we admit we’re clueless, we still want to call the shots.

The simple gospel is perhaps off-putting to CEOs and presidents and other Very Important People. Like Paul they have to say, “Whatever things were gain to me, those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ.” Who wants their Ph.D. or their VeryImportantPerson Award to be tossed onto the rubbish heap?

As a rule, I don’t think fallen humankind does well with the simple gospel. It doesn’t leave us anything to do so we can crow later. We can’t pat ourselves on the back or work harder to get a rung closer to God by doing more or doing better.

Nevertheless, the gospel is simple. Not easy, mind you, but simple. All it takes is complete trust in God.

Published in: on February 12, 2015 at 6:27 pm  Comments (5)  
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God And The Why Game


sleeping catWhen I was little, we kids used to play the “why” game from time to time. It’s not an actual, formalized game, but really a way to get under somebody else’s skin. Why? Because virtually every answer can then be subject to the question “why?” It doesn’t end until the ask-er wants it to end.

Except . . .

Eventually the answer in our house ended up being, because God made it that way, or something similar.

So it goes like this:

Why do cats purr? Because they’re happy.

Why? Because they like to be petted and pampered.

Why? Because cats like comfort.

Why? Because God made them that way.

Of course there can be a lot more questions, depending on the one who is answering and how much time he wants to put in.

I realized the other day that for atheists, they’d never get to the “God” answer. I’m not sure what their end game would be. I suppose it would be something about DNA or the arrangement of molecules, though I think a good ask-er could push the question beyond that point.

But here’s the cool thing I discovered when I started thinking about this. . . well, let me show you with another illustration.

Why is snow cold? Because it’s frozen water?

Why? Because the air temperature drops so low that the water in the atmosphere freezes.

Why? Because there’s low pressure sweeping down from the Arctic and the air there is very cold.

Why? Because God made it that way. [This answerer is in a hurry. 😉 ]

Why? Because He knew our planet would work best with cold poles, not warm ones.

Why? Because He knows everything.

Why? Because He is God.

Or, restated from His point of view, because I AM.

Published in: on February 28, 2013 at 6:00 pm  Comments (4)  
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Christians Have Answers


One of the latest catchphrases among Christians seems to be a reworking of an atheist question: “If Jesus is the answer, what is the question?” The Christianized edition is, “If Jesus is the answer, why are Christians afraid to ask questions?”

Oddly, this sentiment co-exists with a sort of artificial humility that has Christians backing off from knowing anything. Rather than offering a defense to everyone who asks us to give an account for our faith (1 Peter 3:15), we are now, apparently, to say spiritual things are a mystery. It’s a type of Christian agnosticism.

The whole notion of spiritual mystery is an outgrowth of postmodern thought and is not a Biblical concept. Instead Scripture teaches that God is transcendent:

“For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are your ways My ways,” declares the LORD. “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, So are My ways higher than your ways And My thoughts than your thoughts” (Isaiah 55:8-9).

Because God is Other, we will never figure Him out. Does that mean He remains cloaked in mystery? Actually no, for one reason, and one reason only. God chose to reveal Himself to us.

Hence, when the New Testament writers reference the mystery of God, they say things like “make known” or “speak forth” or “reveal.”

Clearly God has made known what Mankind needs to know, first in creation, then through His Word, His Son, and finally by His Spirit. The interesting thing is, the more we see of God, the more we see of God.

In other words, Christ, who is the image of the invisible God, makes reconciliation with God possible. To those who believe, He gives His Spirit who in turn teaches us all truth and brings to remembrance all that Jesus said (John 14:26). And of course Jesus said what He received from the Father. In addition, the Spirit “searches all things, even the depths of God” (I Cor. 2:10b).

In his first letter to the church in Corinth, Paul continued to explain the working of the Holy Spirit. Then he concluded the discussion with this amazing statement: “But we have the mind of Christ” (I Cor. 2:15).

So … it’s a fair assumption, then, that Christians have answers, even to hard questions.

I suspect the problem has never been about not having answers but about not liking the answers we have.

For example, a hard, hard question that has been asked down through the ages is this one: Why is there suffering in the world?

The Bible gives the answer: because of sin.

But no, we want more. That one’s too simple, too impersonal, especially when the suffering we’re asking about seems very personal. In fact, we’re often asking, Why me?

Again the answer, All have sinned and come short of the glory of God, and the wages of sin is death.

Another answer we don’t like.

But shouldn’t being a Christian change that? Shouldn’t Christians be able to count on God to get us out of suffering?

Again, the Bible gives the answers, ones we just don’t like. We are to expect persecution, to bear our cross, to share in the sufferings of Christ including the fellowship of His death.

When the questions involve the Big Things of life — why am I here, how did I come to be, what lies ahead — the Bible gives those answers too (for God’s glory; by His creation; judgment and life forever, either in His presence or cast from Him).

But how? How does it all work?

Need I say it? The Bible tells us how:

For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities — all things have been created through Him and for Him. He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together (Col 1:16-17).

But to those weighty, cosmic questions, aren’t those answers illustrations of the earlier criticsm — they’re simplistic, impersonal.

I’ll answer with a set of questions of my own: Is Christ simplistic? Impersonal?

Perhaps how a person views Christ determines whether or not that individual believes Christians have answers.

– – –

For other posts on this subject see “Transcendence vs. Mystery,” and “Draw Near To God … For What End?”

Published in: on July 26, 2011 at 1:58 pm  Comments (7)  
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