Response to Kendall Aaron’s “I Have Questions”
Senior Pastor of St. John Lutheran Church in Boerne (315 Rosewood Ave.)
I recently moved to Boerne and am still exploring the area. Naturally, I turned to Explore Boerne Magazine, and was much intrigued by Kendall Aaron’s article in the last issue, “I Have Questions.” Mr. Aaron writes, “I have questions. LOTS of questions, and I put them in a list for your perusal. If you don’t have questions, but rather have answers…I’d like to hear ‘em.” I’m taking Mr. Aaron up on his gracious invitation and offer these answers to six of his questions for your consideration.
Who made God? I know that you’re going to tell me that He has no beginning and no end, but the human mind can’t comprehend that, so I’m left imagining something even bigger than God…and that makes my head swim.
Excellent question, and you already know how I’m going to answer: Nobody made God. God is holy, which means that God is unlike anyone or anything else. Everyone and everything else came into existence at some point in time, but God has always existed – “I am that I am,” he says, “that is my name forever” (Exodus 3:14-15).
Everything which begins to exist depends for its existence on something prior to it. Like links in a chain, each successive link hangs on the one before it. But there must be some anchor point holding the chain up, or the whole thing would come crashing down. God is that anchor point (Hebrews 6:19). He is the Creator, not a part of creation.
I agree, Mr. Aaron, that the human mind can barely comprehend it, which brings us to your next question…
If God is Jesus, and Jesus is God…why did He pray to Himself for safety before his crucifixion? Some of “The Trinity” stuff is confusing and I struggle with it. I can get how God can become Jesus, but the Holy Ghost is not something I understand completely.
Me neither, Mr. Aaron! Neither you, nor I, nor anyone else can understand the Holy Spirit completely. This “Trinity stuff” is confusing, no doubt about it. But would you expect anything less?
If there really is a God, who by definition is holy – wholly unlike anyone or anything else – how could we possibly expect to understand who He is? To what could we compare him (Isaiah 40:18)? Nothing! There is nothing and no one like Him. He is one-of-a-kind.
We believe that God is the Trinity not because it makes sense, but precisely because it doesn’t. “One God in three Persons” is not the sort of thing that anyone would ever expect or make up. It is not speculation, the revelation of a mystery. When God Himself took on flesh and came among us, Jesus called God his “Father,” called himself God’s “Son,” and claimed to work by and send forth the “Holy Spirit” of God. We can never fully understand it, and frankly should not expect to. We can only accept it as a mystery. Which brings us to your next question…
If God can see the future, why make us at all? I mean, He knew that we were going to sin, screw up the entire Eden thing, and ultimately kill His Son. I suppose it means He loves us, but I might have said “To heck with this” and gone back to whatever God did before we came along. This one really troubles me and seems contradictory. If He knew we would be a failure, why not correct the failure so that He doesn’t have to endure millennia of frustration?
Great question, Mr. Aaron, and the answer goes back to what you suppose is true: He loves us. God created the world good (Genesis 1:31), but the world as it is, is not as it’s supposed to be. It’s a world scarred by sin, marred by failure, and mired in violence. Yet God so loved the world that He didn’t give up on it in frustration, crumpling it up and throwing it away. And God so loves us that He is willing to endure millennia of frustration if it means giving us the chance to turn away from our failures and back to Him.
“God is love” (1 John 4:8), and He made us in His image. God made us to love Him and love one another (the two greatest commandments!). But love must be freely given. Love can’t be coerced or forced, or it’s not love – its abuse. God gave us the freedom to choose for or against Him, to love Him back or walk away. Even when we walked away and made a mess of the world, He didn’t walk away from us but sent His one and only Son to win our hearts and put things back together again. “God is love” and God doesn’t change.
God’s unwavering love in spite of our unfailing failure is not a contradiction, Mr. Aaron; it’s a coherent thing of beauty that goes all the way to the heart of who He is. God could never say “To heck with us,” and that brings us to your next question…
God is merciful. Yet he created the most nightmarish, cruel, eternal place of damnation. What gives? If He loves us so much, how could He ever imagine putting us in such a place? And not for a day or a year, but for all time. I don’t know of any enemies in my life (that I really don’t like) that I could justify such a punishment, but God can do it to me. Ouch.
God did not create “the most nightmarish, cruel, and eternal place of damnation.” God created all things good and indeed very good (Genesis 1:31). Hell was not a part of God’s good creation, but a remedy for sin, set aside “for the devil and his angels” (Matthew 25:41) as a way to quarantine evil and remove it from the world. Jesus describes hell as a place of “outer darkness” far removed from the presence of God (Matt 25:30). Hell is the one place in all creation that truly is God-forsaken. God is not there, which means that all the things which depend on and proceed from God – goodness, mercy, compassion, light, joy, etc. – are not there, either. Hell truly is a “nightmarish, cruel, eternal place of damnation.”
But God goes not put anyone there; sin does, and we believe in a God who did everything in his power to save us from sin and keep us from going there. We believe in a God who “so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son” to die in our place and take away our sin (John 3:16), so that no one who turns to and trusts in Him will ever go to Hell. And that’s the Gospel truth, which brings us to your next question…
If God can write on the wall (as He did in Daniel 5:5) then why didn’t He write the Bible? It says in Daniel that the hand of God appeared and wrote on the wall. If this is the case, why not just send Moses (or Adam) up on a mountain and hand-deliver the original copy of the Bible, written directly by Him?
God did write the Bible, not with His hand but with His Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit inspired the various authors of the Bible (over 40 in number) to write the words of the Bible in three different languages (Hebrew, Greek, and Aramaic) over the course of 1500 years on three different continents (Europe, Africa, and Asia). Yet through it all, there is one coherent narrative about a God who loves us and call us back to Himself.
God opted to take the long, drawn-out approach to writing the Bible, I think because He’s not just a God “up there” who speaks and demands that we listen. He’s a God “with us,” who intervened in history and acted on behalf of his people time and time again. He’s a God “with us” who ultimately became one of us, “the Word made flesh” (John 1:14). God gave us the Bible not just so that we might know what He said, but so that we might know Him. Jesus said, “You search the Scriptures, because you think that in them you have eternal life, and it is they that bear witness to me, yet you refuse to come me have life” (John 5:39-40). And that leads us to the final question…
If heaven has no sadness or pain, how can I go to heaven and watch countless millions of people die horrible deaths and NOT be sad? This terrifies me about heaven. If I really am “watching over my loved ones” as so many say, I fear I would just go nuts trying to watch over my kids. And if their lives take bad turns, it would be excruciating not being able to help.
I’ve been blessed with six kids and understand the fear, but I think it’s misplaced. There is no place for fear in heaven. Heaven is a place where “God will wipe away every tear from their eyes,…there shall be no mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore” (Revelation 21:4), in large part, I think, because we don’t “go to heaven and watch countless millions of people.”
Jesus tells us that when we go to heaven, we will “be like angels” (Matthew 22:30). When we read the descriptions of heaven in the Books of Isaiah, and Ezekiel, and Revelation, we notice that the angels are focused on God. They’re not looking down from heaven, watching people; they’re looking to God, worshipping Him. John tells us that we will do the same:
“I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb…crying out ‘Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!” (Revelation 7:9-10).
Heaven is a place of joy, not tears, or fears, or anguish. Heaven is a place of worship, where there is “fullness of joy” in the presence of God (Psalm 16:11). I don’t understand how it all works, and I don’t have all the answers. But Mr. Aaron, I do know the Way to get there; His name is Jesus. He loves you, He died for you, He rose from the dead for you and lives for you forever. Put your trust in Him, and one day in heaven we’ll find our answers together.