Monday, October 12, 2015

Short Answers to Big Questions about God, the Bible and Christianity - by Clinton E. Arnold and Jeff Arnold

Short Answers to Big Questions about God, the Bible and Christianity by Clinton E. Arnold and Jeff is just what its title declares it to be, it is an endeavor to answer, in only a few pages, many questions new Christians, or unbelievers, have about God, the Bible or Christianity.  The book is not as good as I had hoped it would be.  My main problem with it is its presentation of the relationship/interaction between God and mankind. 

 First, its discussions of the love of God toward people are presented too much like the modern concept of "falling in love", an uncontrolled, "couldn't help it" type of thing.  Here are a few quotes to demonstrate what I mean:  "God isn't just loving, he is love……And he isn't just a loving person 'in theory'; he literally, at this very moment, is aware of his deep love for you. "and, "he loves you because he created  you…If  you have a child,  you have felt this love before; you don't love your child because of what they've accomplished; you love them because they are your child.  This is how God sees you. …"  I don't remember anywhere in the Bible where God's love is declared to have been bestowed on us simply because we are His creations.  God created Satan too but He doesn't love him even though he is His creation. "The problem of sin created a serious dilemma for God…It is his nature to hate sin….yet he earnestly wants a relationship with his people…..", "In his perfect purity, holiness, and righteousness, God is deeply offended by our sin.  Yet he longs to have a close relationship with us.  Since he cannot simply overlook our offenses, he devised a merciful and loving plan to deal with this problem…"  To me, this makes God's love come across as a human loving a pitiable sickly little child, but God's love isn't generally presented that way (unless you count the picture of God's love towards Israel, but even then, it was His choice), it's more like God choosing to love a corpse, or a zombie…those dead in their sins and yet using their decaying faculties to rage against God and His attributes and desires. God CHOSE to have pity on us, God CHOSE to love us detestable creatures, creatures who naturally choose to despise Him and His laws in favor of their own selves and desires.  He chose to make us New Creations, breathing spiritual life into us. 

Second, in answering the question "Why Bad things happen to good people", part of the explanation is given like this, "God gave us the free will to make our own decisions.  Without this freedom, we would be unable to truly love God - or each other, for that matter; we would simply be robots following commands.  So when we ask how an all-powerful God could allow someone else to wrong us, the problem with what we're asking is that God's power has nothing to do with it;….God could, if he wished, end all pain on this earth right now.  He could step in and directly control everyone's actions, thoughts, and feelings in order to keep anyone from doing anything that causes harm.  But imagine the cost:  an entire world full of people who move around like puppets, never saying or doing anything that wasn't controlled for them.  No one wants that." So will we be robots in Heaven, not able to choose evil?  When God makes us into New Creations, Christians, does that make us puppets?  Is it really more loving for God to let a person choose to make choices that will lead to condemnation for eternity than it is for Him to change their dispositions to desire the right and accept Him so that they will live in the New Heaven and the New earth for eternity?  That logic doesn't come from the Bible.  That logic doesn't even make sense when it comes to parents with their children, it would not be loving for a parent to let their child slap their brothers and sisters around and then also give them the option to choose to stick their finger into a light-socket.  The loving thing to do would be to stop them from doing both of those things, not giving them a choice in the matter, even if they aren't happy in the process of being stopped.  "…without this freedom, we would be unable to truly love God.." really? Where does the Bible say that?  True love comes from God (see 1 John), it doesn't originate with human beings.  God defines love, and we learn in the Bible that true love is selfless.  So to rephrase the above statement, "Without the freedom to be selfish, we wouldn't be able to truly be selfless?"  As you can see, I don't believe that question about why bad things happen to good people was answered biblically in this book. 

Things like the above really bothered me.  This is not to say that there weren't good things in the book, there were.  I just don't think that this book would necessarily be the best to give an unbeliever or an immature Christian because some of the answers given do not match up with what the Bible says.  I really liked their section on why we don't always sense the presence of God. That chapter contains many statements that I really like, actually, I think they're excellent! So I'll end on a positive note with my favorite excerpt from the book:
Soon after I stopped feeling this intense love and presence of God, I started grasping for things that normally brought that passion back.  I would drive almost an hour away to find churches with great worship bands and speakers……I knew on some level that there was something off about the way I was approaching this, but I felt like I needed to do whatever it took to get that feeling back.  And then one day it struck me:  my faith had stopped being about God and had become about how I felt.  That was really selfish of me.  It shouldn't have mattered how I felt if I trusted that God was real.  At that point the best thing for someone like me was to remove those feelings so that my faith would once again become about God, not myself. ….the end result was that I began learning how  to center my life around God with or without the feelings that I once had…….To make Christianity purely about feelings is to make it about ourselves rather than God.  God doesn't promise to constantly flood us with intense emotion…From the earliest days of the church, Christians have based their closeness to God on theology - on what they knew about God from Scripture - rather than feelings.  Many of the first Christians shed blood for believing in God.  If anyone had the right to feel distant from God, wouldn’t it be the people suffering for his sake? Instead, the early disciples rejoiced at the chance to suffer for Christ (Acts 5:41)."

I received a free review copy of this book from the Baker Books Blogger Program and my review did not have to be favorable.


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