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Christian thinking



J. D. Johanston

Have you ever examined the average Christian's thinking especially in times of trouble? It is interesting to hear them give all the praise to God and Jesus whenever good things happen in their lives but never blame God when things go wrong for them.

I began noticing this many years ago when my uncle was sick and had to have an operation. Everyone was praying for him, asking God to help him. I think I prayed for him, but there was those gnawing questions in my brain; where was God when my uncle became sick, why didn't he help him then. Isn't that what we pray for in the Lord's Prayer, "lead us not into temptation, and deliver us from evil?" Most Christians say the prayer, my uncle said it. What does it mean? I wondered. Then I was conscious that I was doing this more and more; questioning.

My uncle came out of the operation all right and everyone said how great God had been in helping him through the operation. It was like God had done it all; hardly any credit went to the surgeon, nurses or hospital. Everyone was saying dear Jesus had helped him, praise be to the Lord; this continued all through my uncle's recovery, and when he came home. I guess that I was partly saying this too but those questions as to where was Jesus when my uncle took sick were still going through my mind.

I was glad my uncle got well, but the questions still remained in my mind. I was never too religious and neither was many in my family except when some hardship hit. As it occurred to me, most people are that way, they never really pray to God until they need something. Perhaps that is why he is thought of as the great old man with the flowing white beard in the sky; the great grandfather who always gives you something.

Even though it has been many years since my uncle's operation the question now saturate my mind. It required years for my perspective to completely change; to completely determine that things are not as Christian say. This change of view came gradual at first. There were incidents like the woman I met who said she did not believe in God; she got sick, had an operation, and got well. Same thing, I thought, does God do it for everyone whether they believe in him or not. No, I knew another woman that died on an operation table. Then, was God selective, he picks and chooses who lives and dies.

This was not only about health, but other things as well. Most of my family are hard working people, they have nice homes, do not want for things, but they're not rich. Most thank God for what they have or say they do. But I have met some people who never mention God, others, like the woman who had the operation, who do not believe and have more than most of my family members. If God provides everything as some say he does, then why do some non-believers have more than believers. I asked somebody in my family that once; I could tell it upset her because she quickly answered, "It is just God's way, and God's way is not to be questioned."

I had heard that before a long time ago in Sunday school, only it was God's will and not way, and it made no more sense then than when this family member said it. All I got from it was you are to do and shut up like a good child of God. Perhaps that's why I went on my way drifting from the Christian faith. Because of arguments with my mother I drifted away from my immediate family, I worked, went to college some at nights, and then lived with a lady for five years.

She taught me about life, a different kind of life since she was a lesbian. She knew life from the opposite prospective. She had felt the insults of Christianity; no love of thy neighbor had been shown her. She was their enemy; she was the female counterpart of the abomination of God which the Bible speaks of. However, I saw her as a honest business woman. With her inherited money she did not have to work, but she did. Our relationship was built on trust, love followed. As she used to say, "Those such as me don't qualify for the commandments; we just have to depend on ourselves." She was an atheist, but she never tried to keep me from my belief in a creator; I just had to show her that I was honest about it.

Eventually I grew tired of the relationship which she understood. I then visited my family, worked, moved to different cities. I eventually come to know a dear friend. He was alone too. He was raised Catholic but was no longer in the faith. After trying Protestantism he gave up on Christianity. He and I mutually consider ourselves Pagans. He is still very interested in religion though. It was through our discussions that I found some sort of sensible answers to the questions which I previously mentioned. As my friend explained, if you have an all good God then nothing bad can come from him; that is why Christianity needs a Devil. The devil causes all the terrible things in the world that happens to people, not God.

Yes, but, I asked him, isn't God more powerful than the devil? I heard somewhere the devil can only do what God permits him to do, like when he tempts people. That's right, my friend told me, but that is something that's conveniently forgotten. I asked what he meant. He explained the reason was just what we were talking about; people always thank God for getting them out of jams, but they seldom ask why God let them get there in the first place. Or, if they do, they explain the bad situation they're in as part of God's will or plan for them.

I've heard that one, I told him, and you're not to question God's will. That isn't bad enough, he added, it gets worst. They say God tests people when they are tempted to see if they have faith in him to get them out of their trouble. This is nonsense if, as they believe, God is omniscient, knows everything. If God is omniscient, then he already knows the person's reaction in a situation even before the person acts. So saying that God is testing the person's faith isn't a valid reason. If God knows all things, he knows the future, as many believe he controls the future because there's no future for him; he's in eternity. Taken this to be true, then God knew Adam would sin before the serpent tempted Eve, who tempted Adam, who ate of the forbidden fruit of the tree of knowledge.

Yeah, that has always bothered me; doesn't seem right, I answered. It bothers many, my friend commented, especially today with all we know about physiology, DNA, and learning. It's hard to see how a bite of fruit could make a man know right from wrong, or that he was naked, if that is wrong. Many consider the Adam and Eve story a myth, but a powerful one that influences Judaism and Christianity as well as Islam. But, let's get back to our prevention issue.

I agreed as he continued. Adam and Eve serve as a pivotal example of what we are talking about. God knew before hand the consequences of the actions of the two people described within the story or myth. At this point the blame is shifted from God to man. Generally no one says that if God had prior knowledge of the consequences, then he was capable of preventing them by not letting the incidents occur. No, the blame is placed on man, Adam who ate of the fruit and failed the test of his free will by doing what God said not to do. But, the point is since God had prior knowledge of what Adam would do there was no test. This is like the teacher who would test students after knowing their grades; it would never happen. It was God who placed Adam in the situation in which he knew that he would fail.

The question is why God didn't prevent this. It is obvious that he didn't want to when having the capability to do so but did not. Here we are back to God's will; he chose not to. Knowing Adam would sin, he let him sin and we have the state of affairs which Christianity states that we have today. And, this can be said about everything, if it is God's will that man sin, he will sin; if it is God's will that man gets ill or has trouble, then these things will happen. And, why not if one believes that God controls the world? And, here one must understand one fundamental Christian teaching which is that God does not will bad things to happen to man, an all good God could not do that, but he permits them to happen in order to test the faith in him of his people.

But, I interrupted, regardless of whether God wills these things or permits them to happen to people, they occur just the same. Yes, my friend agreed, and that is the point which most Christian fail or neglect to understand. They eagerly say the devil causes bad things to happen to them. They pray to God and Jesus for help, forgetting or not wanting to think of the teaching that God is always stronger than the devil, so why did God permit the devil to cause their trouble in the first place. As with Adam and Eve, there is no testing of the people's faith, God already knows their reactions. Even Martin Luther almost said that the devil was the back side of God.

All of this will only make sense if you said one of two things: one, God cannot prevent these things from happening, or, two, God has been described from the human point of view. I say the first one can be eliminated quickly, my friend continued. If God can't prevent these terrible things from happening, then he can't clean them up, or remedy them? So, therefore, there would be no argument for testing the individual, pray, or anything. In essence God has no control over anything, an argument which few would agree to, I might add. The second argument seems more plausible, that God, the Biblical God, has been described only in human terms. As far as I can determine there seems to be more of a basis for this argument. As we've already said, if God is omniscience then his test of Adam seems senseless and this holds true of people today as well. This makes it look like whoever originally described God, particularly Moses, describe him from the human viewpoint thinking God needed to test man to see what man would do as man has to do.

Or, I injected, man originally did not know God was omniscience. Or didn't think he was, my friend continued. One has to be very careful here, so much of our religious thought has been determined by church councils and leaders that it's difficult to tell what exactly early Biblical men thought of God. All we really learn of God from the Adam and Eve story is that he is eternal and seeks them out, we only surmise that he knew what had happened before Adam and Eve told him.

Does that possibly mean he didn't know and isn't omniscience?

That is a possibility, but sure nocks the God controls the world theory in the head. No, from current teaching, I think, one would be safer to say the ancient Biblical writers did not know or forgot that God was all knowing. This will refer to most writers of the Old and New Testaments as well as people today. People think they have to meet God's demands or he will not like them, they will go to hell. This exactly is the error of Christians; God already knows they don't meet his demands; this is what they proclaim when they say Jesus died for their sins. On Easter Sunday, they're happy, but on the following Monday they are scowling and exclaiming everyone still needs the Ten Commandments so to sin no more. If the sins were paid for by Jesus' death, then Christians should be happy, no longer worrying about not sinning, but trying to lead happy lives with their neighbor. But, for many, especially the fundamentalists, this isn't the case, they're so concerned over not sinning, that most life pleasures become sins for them and nothing else matters. These usually are those saying sweet Jesus and such. They are so hung upon sin that they forget their message of salvation. This doesn't mean that I'm saying that one should go out and commit sins just because he believes that his sins were paid for by Jesus' death; no, but recognized that if you believe in sin then sin is part of life.

This also applies when asking God or Jesus for help and thinking they give it. It was hard for me to imagine God lead me every step throughout my life as some people believe or pretend to. I thought God had more important things to do. I did believe, though, that God gave me the help that I needed in my live; this came through my early instruction of right and wrong, my intellect, and my ability to figure things out as I went along. There was no saying sweet Jesus when things went all right or blaming the devil when they didn't. To me, this was just God's scheme of things, the way they were, reality in other words. It still is, for me, and I guess that's why I'm pagan.

You mean the light and dark, I asked. Yes, there's no day without night, and no night without day. All day or all night would be undistinguishable. Good and evil are part of our world. As we see it, the only way evil can be prevented is for God to stop the devil from causing it, which seldom happens. So, in actuality, for Jesus to get more praise God is going to have to curve the devil's ambitions more.

However, even though saying that, I know God dose not need to do that. Some will praise God and Jesus regardless. Like a friend had pneumonia, a nurse was feeding him in the hospital, someone walked by saying to him, "God love you." The nurse agreed. My friend thought, God let me be in this condition to let people and me know he loves me? Where was God when I got sick? The other day there was a clutch in my computer; I mentioned it to a friend. Later I accidentally rebooted and everything worked fine. My friend said thank you Jesus. My friend knows little about computers, I had clutches before and rebooted, the trouble went away. So is it Jesus or the nature of the machine?

Then there is the trouble which people get into from not thinking adequately. Much of this is blamed on the devil; he gets credit he doesn't deserve. When the people work themselves out of their trouble they thank Jesus. They maybe right in doing so, but they do it for the wrong reason. It amazes me, the most important thing man has is his brain, but that is often the last thing God is thanked for.

Perhaps that's why we're Pagan, we realized we are to work things in life out for ourselves; the God/Goddess has provided us the tools for doing that. Exactly, whether they realize it or not, everyone has to work out the divine plan set for them themselves.

No matter how loving the Mother or Father is the child has to learn to walk by taking his own steps no matter how often he stumbles, I concluded.