Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Why doesn't God destroy the Devil? Why would he allow people to go to Hell?

question Why doesn't God just wipe out the Devil? Is he powerless to do so? Or does he want him kicking around? Why does Hell exist? If you can believe that something as complicated as God can exist without being caused, then why can't you believe that something much simpler, the universe, could?

I don't know the technical answer to this, but here's an interesting thought- which actually addresses all of the questions above. (These questions were taken from the comments on previous posts.)

I believe the fact that God is existence makes sense of this. When asked His name, God said "I AM". Basically, He is existence. This is the problem with asking things like "Does God exist" and "How can God exist without being Created". Existence can't not exist, and existence can't be brought into existence by something else- that's just the nature of existence. People could argue that existence does not have the qualities otherwise attributed to God, but that would be a pretty convoluted debate. For the sake of moving forward, God is existence.

Now God is also love. Out of Love, God brings things into existence. Above all He brings immortal creatures into existence. Because He loves them, He creates them immortal- so they share in his nature and never die or cease to exist. This is unique in that it is only true of spiritual beings- humans and angels, essentially.

Once God creates them immortal, though, this becomes their nature. So for them to cease to exist would require a willfull act on His part. But He is existence, and He is love. So for them to cease to exist, He would have to stop loving them- which He cannot do! (When people say God is all powerful, He is still bound by His nature. He cannot cease existing, contradict himself, or stop loving.)

However, even while God creates us such that we exist forever, he does not force us to be in a relationship with Him. He only invites us to. Force would not be love. We may not realize when we reject Him what we are doing, but we effectively do choose Hell, because Hell is eternal existence apart from He that is everything good. Theoretically it is always possible for us to choose God- even after death, but our twisted nature prevents us from doing so. Like people who refuse to forgive or accept forgiveness- the one preventing them is themselves, not others, not God.

It would be more pleasant not to believe in Hell, but that's backwards reasoning. People often refute the idea of God by saying 'If there was a God, God would be thus. God is not thus, therefore there is no God.' I find the evidence for God too strong, so I go the other way. "God exists. God is not thus. Therefore, I must be worng about what I expect God to be."

One other note on this. We expect God to be like a really saintly human. We emphasize his Goodness and Mercy. These traits are real, and we humans only have them in so far as we participate in the nature of God. However, we should not forget fear of the Lord. This was emphasized hugely in both the Old and New Testament, and in the Early Church and throughout history. We have forgotten that God is Justice, and we must fear and respect Him. Muslims and Jews fault us for calling God Father, and overemphasizing his compassion, without recognizing that He is God.

We mustn't create God in our own images!

I'm a Wiccan. What do you think?

The thing that keeps me going back to Christianity is two fold. One, the firm conviction that Jesus really did rise from the dead. I think the historical evidence for this is fairly difficult to refute, from eyewitness testimonies to physical evidence like the shroud of turin, to the fact that there was no evidence to the contrary, that is, no corpse of Christ which could be presented to say "no he didn't", even though there were a lot of people denying it even at that time. And the testimonies are written in a very historical form, shortly after the events. They do not have the mythic elements you would expect if someone were making this up.

The other reason is because of the teaching authority. I do not believe that people could guess at spiritual truths with any hope of accuracy. I think the only way we could be right is if God revealed Himself to us, and ensured that we could not go wrong. The reason there are so many religions in the world is precisely because there are so many people attempting to guess at truth. But in order for God to reveal the truth, there would first have to be a god who cares about us enough to do so. Interestingly, only the monotheistic religions (Christianity, Judaism, Islam) even claim to have been revealed. Everyone else- Hindus, Native Spritualists, Wicca, etc- are just guessing.

That said, it would be pretty ignorant to declare Christianity true and all others false without demonstrating that it is. But if I could convincingly demonstrate that Christianity were true and nothing else was, I would be a remarkably gifted man. I don't think I can do that to most peoples satisfaction, even my own. But I have convinced myself that it is the most likely thing to be true, and have thus chosen to believe it.

So starting from the basis of Christianity being true, there are many things about Wicca that I think are not only wrong, but dangerous. For one, Wicca does not appear to have any real moral base, asside from "an it harm none, do what ye will". This sounds great, but it begs the question when it comes to issues like abortion, just war, divorce, pornography, self indulgence, accumulation of wealth, infidelity etc. It does not define the sanctity of life or love or sex, or our social obligations to one another. I think there is a higher morality. There is objective good and objective evil, not just 'positive and negative'.

Secondly, Christianity affirms that there is one God, and we should worship no others. The majority of Wiccans worship at least 2 gods, niether of which can easily be said to be the one God that Christians worship. The problem is that if Christianity is real, and there is only one God that we must worship, but Wiccans worship 'gods' who are not figments of their imagination, then who are the gods? In the Old Testament, idols were either just madeup, or they were demons. This belief was still held in the New Testament and early church. In fact, the Greek god Pan, with goat legs and horns, became the image for Satan. I notice that though most Wiccans would not like to say that they worship Satan, as they do not really believe in an evil being like Satan, they do worship a horned God, someimes called Pan. As for Goddess worship, this was considered a very dangerous cult in the Old Testament. So what if Christianity is true, but so is Wicca? The implication is that Wiccans are worshiping demons, and not the true God.

The last thing is the use of magick. Fortune telling, contacting the dead, etc, were expressly forbidden in the Old Testament. There is actually a witch in the OT, called the witch of Endor, who contacts the dead. In the New Testament there is a magician, known to history as Simon Magus, who could also be said to be a witch, as it does not appear that he was merely an illusionist. Simon, when he saw the power that the apostles had in the name of the Holy Spirit, attempted to purchase the power. He did not understand that you cannot purchase the Holy Spirit, and as a result to this day the purchase of holy or blessed objects is known as the sin of simony.

Anyway, Christianity does not say that magic does not exist, but that it is forbidden. There is power, but God has not granted us the authority to use it. A couple of years ago, I had the opportunity to travel to Kenya with Renewal Ministries on a mission. The leader of our group, Peter Thompson, had previosuly been on a mission where he prayed for a woman who had gone to a witch doctor who had done magic on her. The woman had remarkable demonic manifestations. You can see his testimony here

There are countless other stories where demons get involved because people get involved in occult practices. (I think it is interesting that in the Salem Witch trials, which I by no means condone, the girls who started it all had been involved in fortune telling, and suddenly began manifesting demonic activity, which triggered the whole thing).

The question I think you need to ask is this. Did Jesus really rise from the dead? If so, what does that imply about his teaching? If he is God, and God has forbidden the worship of other gods and the use of magic, then do we dare to do what he has forbidden?

Monday, May 16, 2011

Do we have to believe in the Devil?

I was watching a re run of Criminal Minds and in it, they say that if you believe in God then you must believe in the devil. It is part of the Catholic teachings. We are taught that the devil was one of Gods closest angels but his intentions were in the wrong place. He tried to over through God but instead of coming out on top he was cast out of heaven and sent to hell. So therefore if you believe in God do you have to believe in the devil?

I do believe in the devil and that he really does exist but my guidance counselor at school who is also a nun doesn't. When I was in the darkest point of my depression I talked to her because I felt that I was being watched and followed by something evil and that I would occasionally hear voices talking to me and telling me to do bad things. Don't worry I no longer feel or hear anything evil around me. So while I was talking to our counselor she mentioned to me that she thought I might be I guess a little crazy. She then proceeded to tell me that she believes in God and the good but she doesn't believe in the devil and evil. Which strikes me as weird and almost wrong. But I could be wrong. She's a nun so she would obviously have to believe in God but I just think that she should have to believe in the devil. For me I think that you can choose to not acknowledge evil but still know that it exist.

Answer Yes, Catholics are supposed to believe in the Devil. The thing about Catholicism is that it is a whole package- if you believe that the Church has authority to teach, than you believe what it teaches. If you don't think it has authoity, than why be Catholic?

The Church leaves a lot of things open to debate- as in, she does not have a clear teaching on many things. But she is clear that there is such a thing as the Devil, and Demons. Many people do not want to believe in the Devil, or Hell, because those are so unplesant to think about. I have to be honest, if I could drop Hell from my set of beliefs, I would! But then the Church and the Bible would be wrong, so I would not know what to believe.

There are some people who don't belive the holocaust5 happened. And I think most people like to live their lives as if people today are not dying of starvation. But just because something is unpleasant to think about, does not mean it isn't real. Many times it means that we have to do something about it!

Many Catholics pick and choose what they want to believe, and hold their own opinion up as if it is higher than that of the Church. But the Church has taught the same stuff for 2000 years without contradiction, aparently because she is inspired by the Holy Spirit. I for one am glad that there is an authority out there, so I don't have to guess about everything. It's funny that people who know nothing about science will choose to trust a scientist, but people who know nothing about religion still think their ignorant opinion is more likely correct that the experts, the Church!

As for the voices you heard- on the one hand, demons are real, and possession is real. In face, almost every diocese still has an exorcist! But if you were to call an exorcist, he would first want to eliminate the psychological possibilities. Knock out schizophrenia first, then look at the spiritual. It can be potentially dangerous to start wondering if you are posessed. Interestingly, the Devil gets stronger power over us as a result of our fear and our fascination in him. It is much better to just keep going to God, and think about God instead!