The Problems of Evil, Suffering, and Belief

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The problems of evil and suffering have long been used critics of The Bible to argue against the existence of an Omnipotent, or all-powerful God. In recent years, I have become very skeptical of the mental gymnastics required to ignore this problem. If we were to be intellectually honest with ourselves, I believe we would have some major doubts about our religious worldviews.

I know many times I have accepted my suffering as “part of God’s plan,” because “God has something great” for me. If no one had an explanation, then the standard responses are, “God’s ways are above our ways,” or “We’ll have all of the answers when we get to heaven.” I’m sorry, but that is no longer good enough for me. The story of Adam and Eve’s fall in the Garden of Eden is not a sufficient explanation when examined logically.

Besides being Omnipotent, Christians believe God to be Omniscient,or all-knowing. If God, with one glance of his eyes can see across all history and time, then why do we have the Garden of Eden story?

*God creates the angel Lucifer knowing that he will lead a rebellion and will be cast out of heaven with one-third of the angels.

*God creates a paradise, but with the proviso of a forbidden tree, which will keep Adam and Eve in perpetual ignorance if they stay away from it.

*So if Lucifer wasn’t created and the forbidden tree wasn’t put in the garden, then the talking snake would not have convinced Adam and Eve to eat the forbidden fruit, which caused the fall of humanity.

*The all-powerful God could have dealt with sin and Satan right then and there, restored everything, hence there would have been no need for a worldwide flood, the sacrifice of Christ, or the need for a Second Coming of Christ to finally vanquish Satan and his minions.

*The idea that my suffering, your suffering, and the suffering of untold billions is due solely to the fact a talking snake convinced two people to eat a piece of fruit does not hold up upon further review. If your great-grandfather robbed a bank in 1925, decades before you were born and the police show up at your door to arrest you for your great-grandfather’s crime and throw you in prison, that would be ludicrious.

Let’s take another biblical example of innocent people suffering because of one person’s actions. If you are a reader of The Bible, no doubt you are familiar with the Exodus story of Moses leading the Israelites out of slavery in Egypt. Moses, on behalf of God, goes before Pharaoh to “Let my people go.”

However, Pharaoh refuses and God sends plagues on Egypt, which included the Nile River turning to blood, flies, boils, darkness, etc, which culminated with the death of every first born child in the land of Egypt. On the surface of the story, Pharaoh seems to be a very stubborn person who will allow innocent people to suffer over the fate of slaves. However, The Bible states in Exodus 4:21, 7:3, 9:12,11:9, and 14:8, that it was God who hardened Pharaoh’s heart, which brought on the plagues, which brought on the suffering of Egyptians not involved with Moses or Pharaoh. Why didn’t God just deal directly with Pharaoh? In fact the Exodus story doesn’t mention any direct punishment Pharaoh received due to his actions against God’s people, but innocent people suffered because of the stubbornness God put on Pharaoh.

Isaiah 45:7 states, “I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the Lord do all these things.” (KJV).

Isaiah 45:7 is a verse used by theologians and apologists to describe evil as “natural evil,” such as earthquakes, hurricanes, tornadoes, volcanic eruptions, and the like. God can use this kind of “evil” for his purpose to bring healing to a community or country, for which the disaster can be used “for his glory.” I believe this begs the question, why does God have to use suffering in order for people to pay attention to him? Why did God allow Job to suffer so much, yet give him no explanation? It was God, after all, who put the limits on Job’s suffering. If God is all-powerful, then can’t he simply manifest himself in a definitive way?

I am not belittling anyone’s faith and I am not saying you should or shouldn’t believe in God. However, if we are to base our lives and possible eternities on beliefs laid out in ancient texts, can we still apply logic and reason to what we believe? Is it still viable in our modern world to question the advances of science and society in order to hold onto a book that insists the world was created in six days, slavery is allowed, women are to be treated as property, and genocide is encouraged? We must examine the heart of these issues and what we believe. We have been given the gifts of logic, reason, free thought, and common sense let us use them to the best of our abilities. I will leave you with a quote from the 4th/3rd Century BC Greek philosopher Epicurus:

“Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able? Then he is not omnipotent. If he is able, but not willing? Then he is malevolent. Is he both able and willing? Then whence cometh evil? Is he neither able nor willing? Then why call him God?”

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Of Snakes and Spiritual Growth

“Snakes. Why did it have to be snakes?” – Indiana Jones, Raiders of the Lost Ark  

Few creatures on earth can induce such a terror-stricken state of panic as snakes. No matter the size or species of the snake, people can be absolutely terrified of them. I have no particular fear of snakes, but I can understand people who have a fear of snakes, as many, many species are venomous and can kill with a single bite, while others constrict the breath out of their prey.  That sounds like something out of a nightmare.

Snakes have been portrayed in a negative light since time immortal. The Bible describes how the serpent mislead Eve in the Garden of Eden. In the Book of Revelation, John refers to Satan as “that old serpent” (Revelation 12:9 and 20:2).  God sent snakes to bite and kill rebellious Israelites. After the surviving Israelites repented, God instructed Moses to make a serpent statue for people to look up at and be healed (Numbers 21).

In Greek mythology, Medusa had a head full of snakes and anyone who looked at her turned to stone. Snakes have also been portrayed as hypnotizing and deceitful, such as Kaa in The Jungle Book.  Snakes have also been portrayed as wise, which gives background to Jesus’ statement of being “wise as serpents and harmless as doves.” (Matthew 10:16).

Unlike humans and other animals, snakes grow throughout their entire lives. So, it is conceivable in the right environment, a snake can grow to be in excess of twenty-to-thirty feet long. However, a snake’s skin does not grow along with its body and it becomes necessary for the snake to shed its skin (which also helps it remove parasites from its skin). If a snake does not shed its skin properly, it could die.

I know this seems like a rather odd topic, but there is a spiritual principle involved. As snakes are always growing, so should we always be growing in our spiritual lives. As we go about our lives and our relationship with God, we too develop some parasites on ourselves- sin, bad habits, false doctrine, a religious spirit, bitterness, unresolved anger, the traumatic experiences we cannot shake off- whatever it is.  Anything that is not helping us grow is hindering our development and possibly suffocating the life out of us.

From time to time, we have to shed some of our “skin” in order to grow into God has called us to be- bad relationships, forgiving others, asking for forgiveness, etc.   We may have been comfortable in our old skin, i.e. our old life, but we cannot stay there. That clothes no longer fit. Could you imagine a thirty-year-old person trying to fit into pants they wore when they were three? You are not the same person you were yesterday, last year, or twenty years ago- you have come along way and you have a long way to go. Keep growing and God bless you.

Christ Symbolism and Superman

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Superman with his arms in a “cross” pose. 

© Copyright Warner Brothers Studios/DC Comics

My wife and I recently went to the theater to watch Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice (no spoilers here if you have not seen it). This film marks the first big screen team up of Superman and Batman in their character histories, which go back to the late 1930s. I admit that my inner fan boy could not wait to see Batman v. Superman, my two favorite superheros together and I enjoyed it. As we left the theater, my wife and I began to reflect on the movie’s imagery.

Superman was created by Jerry Siegel and Joe Schuster in 1938 and has gone through numerous incarnations by other comic book writers, screenwriters and artists. The Superman mythos contains elements of Hercules from Greek mythology and parallels the story of Moses, as baby Kal-El is saved from an extinction of his people on his home planet of  Krypton, whereas Moses was saved from pharaoh’s order to kill the male Hebrew children. However, it appears to be the intent of Batman V. Superman: Dawn of Justice and its predecessor, Man of Steel, to portray Superman as a Christ-like figure.

The Gospels of Matthew and Luke give details concerning the birth of Christ, while Mark and John focus squarely on Jesus’ ministry. The story of a twelve-year-old Jesus debating with the religious teachers (Luke 2:41-49) is the only story Scripture records of a young Christ. The next time the Gospel writers mention Jesus, He is thirty years old. We naturally assume that Jesus worked in obscurity as a carpenter in small town called Nazareth. In Man of Steel, Superman, aka Clark Kent, is portrayed as a drifter who performs occasional heroic acts until he makes himself known to the world at age thirty-three, the same age Jesus was when He was crucified.

In Man of Steel, Superman surrenders to the U.S. Government, as Jesus stated that He would lay down His life Himself (John 10:18). Superman captures the world’s imagination and is seen as a god because he can do things no mere human can do. For example, Superman flies, he is not harmed by bullets, he can see through walls, he has super strength, heat vision, etc. Just as when Jesus walked the earth, He performed acts and miracles on a scale people had not seen- raising the dead, walking on water, healing the sick, casting out demons, teaching with authority, feeding multitudes with a few loaves of bread and a few fish, etc.

Flash forward to Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice and public opinion has began to turn against Superman, per the events of Man of Steel. Superman has upset the established government order and people are questioning his agenda and intentions, perceiving him as an alien threat. This can be compared to how Christ upset the religious order and the Pharisees and priests looked for an opportunity to arrest Him. Consider the fact that many of the same people who shouted, “Hosanna,” when Christ came to Jerusalem also shouted “Crucify Him,” at His trial before Pilate.

When you take both movies together, there are numerous references to Christ, such as a stained glass image of Christ in the Garden of Gethsemane over Superman’s shoulder as he speaks to a priest  and Superman making another “cross” pose in the water in Man of Steel. Superman is thronged by a crowd of people  as shown in the trailers and commercials for Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice, just as Jesus was thronged by the masses. In the new movie, there is a subplot (as advertised) of man vs. God and the devil vs. God as Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman go against Doomsday.

With the heavy Christ symbolism projected upon this current incarnation of Superman and his drawing the ire of the government, the change of public opinion, and taking on a beast creature such as Doomsday, could this be a way of the New World Order conditioning the masses against the return of Christ? Consider for a moment how the return of Christ will upset and defeat Satan’s plan of world domination. Consider the current violent persecution of Christians all around the world at the hands of oppressive dictatorships and terrorist groups. From the time of the Tower of Babel, to the empires of the Babylonians, Greeks, Romans, etc., Adolf Hitler and the Nazis, the United Nations, men and governments have sought to impose a one world government system upon the masses and to also direct their religious affiliations.

Brothers and sisters, we are closer than ever to seeing the world government and religious systems as described in the Book of Revelation. What is the best way to control the masses? Control the message. With a reported budget of $250 million dollars and millions more poured into marketing, nothing in Batman v. Superman or any movie for that matter is accidental. There is an agenda, there is a message the filmmakers want to spread, as if you hand millions of dollars at your disposal to share the Gospel, we would share the message and love of Christ.

I enjoy movies. I enjoy superheros, science fiction, historical epics, and a good good versus evil story. If you enjoy movies and comic books, enjoy them. However, as Christians, we must be discerning and pay close attention to what we watch and read.  We must watch with our spiritual eyes opened. Let us not sleepwalk through these last days. God bless you all.

 

 

 

Giants in Mythology

This post is part of an ongoing series concerning the Nephilim, or giants in the Bible. For more information, you can read the previous posts, “An Introduction to the Nephilim,” “Giants in the Bible,” and “As In the Days of Noah,” which are found in the site archives.

 In previous posts, I have discussed the issue of the Nephilim, or giants in the Bible. I have also discussed the non-canonical Book of Enoch, which discusses in more detail the events of Genesis 6:1-4. This post will examine the impact of giants in mythology, more specifically Greek and Norse mythology. There are other mythologies that discuss giants, which I hope to get to soon. Before we go any further let me state that I do not ascribe any theological authority to mythology or the Book of Enoch. These books are being used to illustrate concepts in Scripture. The Bible and its accepted canon is the only book I consider to be God’s holy Word.

Greek Mythology

Even today in Western culture, there is a familiarity with the Greek myths and their pantheon of gods. The Titans were a race of giant divine beings who were overthrown by the Olympian gods. Giants are described as a constant thorn in the side of the Olympian gods. In fact, the giants are described as, “They were a force for disorder and chaos, rapists, thieves, and murders, and they could not be allowed to co-exist with the new order.”[1]

This description of the giants confirms how they are described in the Book of 1 Enoch: “The giants consumed all of the work and toil of men. And when men could no longer sustain them, the giants turned against them and devoured mankind. And they began to sin against birds, and beasts, and reptiles, and fish, and to devour one another’s flesh, and drank the blood.” (1 Enoch 7:4-5).[2]

Specific Giants in Greek Mythology

 

Cyclopes one-eyed giants.

Tityus- giant killed by Apollo and Artemis after he tried to rape their mother, Leto.

Argus- a giant with 100 eyes, “the all-seeing giant,” who was killed by Zeus.

Antaeus- a giant who was the king of Libya, killed by Hercules.

Memnon of Ethiopia- a giant killed by Achilles.

Polyphemus- a man eating Cyclopes encountered by Odysseus.

The Laestrygonians- giant cannibals encountered by Odysseus.

There are also other myths of Hercules helping Zeus and the other gods in their war against the giants. Jason and the Argonauts also helped a king defeat a group of giants.

Norse Mythology

If you are familiar with comic books or comic book movies, you should be familiar with the names of Thor, Loki, and Odin. Not only are they popular characters in modern cinema, they are also part of Norse mythology. We will take a brief look at how giants are intertwined in the stories of Thor, Loki, and Odin, then we will look at other specific giants mentioned in Norse mythology.

Thor

Geirrod- a giant who attempted to kill Thor.

Hymir- a giant killed by Thor.

Jarnsaxa- a giantess and mistress of Thor.

Magni- son of Thor and Jarnsaxa.

Loki

Loki, who is known as a trickster and the father of lies in Norse mythology, is the offspring of his giant father, Farbauti, and his giantess mother, Laufey.

Angrboda- giantess and mistress of Loki. Loki and Angrboda had three children, sons Fenrir, the wolf, and Jarmungand, the greatest of serpents. Hel, a daughter with decaying skin.

Thakk- a giantess, who was Loki in disguise.

Odin

Odin is the father of Thor, Odin is also a partial offspring of the giants, as his mother, Bestla, was a giantess. Odin also had a giantess mistress, who name was Grid.

Jotunheim

In Norse mythology, Jotunheim is the realm of the giants.

More Giants in Norse Mythology

The Frost Giants

The Frost giants include Thrym, the king of the Frost Giants; Augelmir, a giant; Gerd, a giantess, and Gymir, a giant.

Other Giants

Other giants and giantesses mentioned in Norse Mythology are Baugi, Bergelmir, Fjolsvid, Hraesvelg, Hrungnir, Hyndla, Hyrrokin, Logi, Mist Calf, Muspell, Skrymir, Surt, Suttung, Thiazi, Utgard-Loki, Vafthrudnir, Ymir, and Eggther, the watchman of the giants.

Ragnarok

In Norse mythology, Ragnarok would be the equivalent to the Battle of Armageddon or any apocalyptic final battle. Ragnarok is the final battle between the Norse gods, including Thor and Odin, and the Giants. In the Battle, Thor, Odin, and Loki are killed, the world is set on fire by the giant Surt. The world is later reborn and made new after the final battle.

Although tales of giants are relegated to the area of myth and legend, how is it that ancient cultures, separated by vast distances and time, with no form of mass communication, all share similar stories of giants and even “sky people” coming to earth? Could these myths and legends simply be retellings of the fallen angels who came to earth and lusted after the daughters of men and produced a race of giants as described in Genesis 6:1-4? Could all of these stories be the results of when God confused the languages and scattered the people after the Tower of Babel? I believe the Bible is the inerrant, infallible, and inspired Word of God. There are supernatural events described in the Bible that Christians accept without hesitation- the virgin birth of Christ, dead people being raised to life, a talking donkey, a floating ax head, and a ninety year-old women giving birth to name a few. I encourage you to do your own research into these matters and to study the Word of God. There are many good teachers out there concerning the subject of the Nephilim, please check them out for yourself.

[1] Robin Waterfield and Kathryn Waterfield, The Greek Myths: Stories of the Greek Gods and Heroes Wildly Retold, 28. New York: Metro Books.

[2] Joseph B. Lumpkin, The Books of Enoch: The Complete Volume Containing: 1 Enoch (The Ethiopic Book of Enoch) 2 Enoch (The Slavic Secrets of Enoch) 3 Enoch (The Hebrew Book of Enoch), 29. Blountsville, AL: Fifth Estates Publishers, 2010.