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A beginning of an answer

Decided I'd comment on your article as I read, quoting you and then answering. Since you develop your ideas more toward the end of the article some of this may not apply by then but we'll see:

///The Misunderstanding of God’s Plan

I’m a Christian, yet I sympathise with people who think the message of the churches isn’t that appealing. ///

I’ve already commented that many doctrines aren’t appealing but an offense to those who reject them, and that it is wrong of us to expect God’s word to be appealing to fallen humanity. The first requisite for coming to Christ is to know oneself as a sinner in need of grace, and being offended by God's word is not a good start.

///Specifically, I'm referring to the doctrine of hell defined as the eternal, conscious punishment of the wicked (refer to Wikipedia article for an overview of Christian hell doctrine). The message has problems that aren’t answered. But here’s the thing – is the problem with the message that we can find in the Bible, or is the problem with the message given by the churches? Perhaps a fresh look at the Bible will find something with a lot more appeal. We should hope so.////

I don’t think “we should hope so” at all, Craig. Again, the Bible tells us that the gospel itself is an offense to people, so why should we expect that any of the rest of it should tickle the ears of fallen humanity?

Also, I understand you want to claim that it’s not the Bible, but the churches that are responsible for the doctrine of Hell, but in my experience the churches have a tendency to water down or simply ignore the doctrine of Hell altogether, so that I had to look for a church that preached Hell to trust that it was truly a biblical church.

////The Problems of the Message
There are at least three problems with the popular message.

Again, Craig, just have to comment that the doctrine of Hell is far from “popular” but is usually avoided in the churches in my experience.

////Firstly, if God is a loving God, then why doesn’t he seem to be putting much effort into saving his own creation? ////

As I understand it God puts constant unflagging "effort" into sustaining His creation, which would disintegrate entirely if He didn’t. Of course you are talking about “saving” it. I can’t even bring myself to ask such a question, knowing that God is sovereign and His acts are all perfect, and that scripture says “He will have mercy upon whom He will have mercy” – it’s His sovereign choice whom He chooses and how, and “who are you, O man,” to question God? I have trouble with merely asking these questions, since it seems to me only unbelievers ask them.

/////John 3:16 says “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten son, that whoever believes in him should have everlasting life.” The question is, why don’t we see more of a follow-up? Why are there big chunks of the world who have not even heard of Jesus Christ, let alone had a decent explanation of what he’s all about? Why would God send his only son to die, and then not quite get around to making sure the message is reaching everyone? You would think that God is either not as loving as they say, or not that powerful in his ability to save people./////

Yes, we may wonder about that, and I do, but I couldn’t ever go so far as to suggest that it’s a fault in God that this is the case; I simply wonder why He’s doing it the way He is, and I expect to find out eventually. Again, He’s sovereign, He rules the world, and everything He does is perfect. That’s simply a definition of God.

Also, WE were given the commission to take the gospel to all the world; how can we blame God for what we aren’t doing?

/////Linked to the first question is the second. This hell thing – is it for real? So people miss out on hearing about Jesus, or maybe they have a tough life and can’t get it together before they die young, and so they burn forever in torment? When you hear the tough stories of so many people, it sounds as though they’re getting a pretty tough deal on life, if hell is true./////

Why do so many always focus on the people who have never heard the message? There are plenty of extremely wicked people in this world who deserve Hell to focus on instead.

Think of the time before God called Abraham, think of the time before Moses gave the Jews the Law, then think of the long time until the Messiah came. There were some righteous people in all that time that God saved. Job was one, the patriarchs from Shem to Noah are others. God saved them. They had the anticipation of the Messiah to come in their hearts. Anyone who has that is saved BEFORE the Messiah came. How God does it with people who haven't heard after the Messiah came isn't spelled out, but we can trust Him to save people who deserve it.

Also, there is some indication that Hell has levels, and the most wicked are in the very lowest, and we can’t assume the final disposition of any particular human being ourselves. Just leave it to God who knows all things to determine the final end of every creature -- God knows what He is doing, and when we finally face Him we will see His plan in a way we can’t see it now and understand it and most likely bitterly regret our distrust. We must simply take in faith that God IS good and merciful, as scripture describes Him, and that in the end we will see and understand. God made all those people, you know, and He knows exactly how to deal with them in His perfect justice and mercy. Meanwhile our job is to do what we can to make sure everyone does hear the gospel.

/////That links to a third question, which is another big one. “If there is a loving God, then why is the world such a mess? Why doesn’t God fix things?”////

This shouldn’t be a question at all for anyone who knows the Bible at all. Sinning human beings caused the mess, not God. God has been merciful nevertheless. And His great plan of salvation is the most merciful fixing of things imaginable. When He sent Adam and Eve out of the garden after their sin He covered them with animal skins to prefigure the sacrifice of Christ. God owes us nothing as we are ungrateful creatures, but because of His mercy and love He has made a way of salvation at great cost to Himself. He’s also make Himself available to fix things in general too, if we pray for His help. Not good to accuse God in this way.

I understand you will eventually attribute the mess the world is in to the Fall, but I cringe that anyone would ask the question at all myself. Only unbelievers should have that question. It’s easily answered by the first few chapters of Genesis.

/////A Better Message
Could it be that the Christian churches are misrepresenting the real message of what God is doing? Yes. The weakness is in humans’ and Christians’ understanding of God’s power, His true love for His children, and His amazing plan of salvation.////

As I say above, the biggest weakness I see in today’s churches is the attempt to give a smooth worldly feel to the gospel, to water it down and smooth out its rough edges so as not to offend the fallen.

I’m going to post this much and get back with the rest later.

Perhaps I will understand what you are writing somewhat differently by then.


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