Why does God allow suffering?

This seems like a strange question when you consider the Christian position that this life is not all there is, but rather is preparation, training and selection for a future to come. If you understand this, then it should be obvious that God is going to allow suffering, including bad things happening to good people.

God doesn’t want a universe of robots. He wants humans who have the free will to be His partners in creation. This means that humans must be free to do the wrong thing, which will bring suffering on them and in the short term on others. People need to be trained and selected, and as with other training and selection (professional athletes, special forces soldiers etc.) this is bound to involve some element of suffering. Worthy projects necessary for the future state of the universe need to be completed, which may cause short term suffering. But what about good people who die young? Perhaps their preparation on earth was complete and they graduated to the next stage early. Perhaps this life is not the sum total of their earthly incarnation and they are here to help as part of training and preparing others.

Should Christians celebrate Christmas?

I would say yes. The two objections generally given are that December 25th isn’t really the date Jesus was born and that Christmas is derived from pagan rituals. To address these:

  1. It is probably not possible to know the actual date of the birth of Jesus at this time. If you believe the Book of Luke it probably occurred sometime in March. However, there was an eastern tradition that Jesus was conceived and died on the same calendar day, and if you work that out it puts the date around Christmas time. In any case, given we are not sure of the date, why not just pick a convenient date and celebrate it then, as we do with other holidays?
  2. Regarding the objection that Christmas is identified with pagan festivals, I would disagree with the implication that European paganism is necessarily evil. You could see European Paganism as being a necessary precursor to Christianity , with Christianity always having been destined to be a European centered religion. This explains why European pagans were very easily convertible. Moreover, many of the particular traditions associated with the pagan festivals, such as gathering with family and community, are positive.

Did the resurrection of Jesus happen?

The evidence for the life and crucifixion of Jesus is held to be conclusive by most historians. The evidence for His resurrection is as follows:

  1. Numerous eyewitness testimonies, acting seemingly against their own best interests in identifying themselves with a condemned criminal and a persecuted sect.
  2. The reaction to the witnesses. Instead of the following of Jesus fading away after his death, as happened to the following of other charismatic prophets, there were thousands of new converts who made major life changes such as worshipping on Sunday rather than Saturday.
  3. As with the Gospels generally, textual analysis of the passages around resurrection shows they read more like eyewitness accounts than fiction.

If we used the same evidence to demonstrate some everyday occurrence, say that Jesus visited some city on a given date, most people would conclude that on the balance of probability that that did indeed occur. Does it follow that we should believe in miraculous occurrences such as the resurrection based on the same criteria or should they be subject to a different standard? That is a difficult philosophical question.

Why did Jesus die for us?

The usual explanations don’t make sense. In terms of judicial punishment, it doesn’t make sense for someone to be punished for the shortcomings of others. In terms of paying a debt, if Jesus was an incarnation of God, he would merely be paying a debt to himself.

A better explanation might be that, unlike almost all the people prior to Noah’s flood who simply needed to be wiped out, some of the subsequent population was salvageable. To bring about their salvation, God’s incarnation as Jesus and subsequent death was necessary for a couple of reasons.

  1. The story of Jesus’ existence as a human embodiment of God, publicly noteworthy death and subsequent resurrection was needed for Christianity to spread.
  2. In order to redeem ourselves, we need to follow God’s example. For certain human experiences, there is no parallel with God. Therefore, if order to provide an example it was necessary for God to have a human experience.

Home Churches

If you have a local church to go to that hasn’t succumbed to the scourge of liberalism or some other heresy or hasn’t otherwise gone off the rails, then you are extremely lucky. If not, you might like to start or join a home church. Most of us are going to need home churches to work out how to lead a righteous life, gain mutual support in doing so, and in this atomised world just to have a positive social network.

A home church could consist of a few people who ideally meet in person, or if this is not possible over the Internet. The convenor of the church would ideally be a generally educated man with some knowledge of Christian issues. Services could follow the New Testament instructions.

According to the books of Acts and Corinthians, church is for preaching, teaching, praying and eating together. A service might begin with a prayer of some sort, the convenor could expound on a historical and/or religious topic and relate it to everyday life, there could be discussion on doctrinal matters, a video on a religious topic could be watched and discussed and a meal could be eaten. You could fit some hymn singing in somewhere if that is your thing.

This could be a springboard into making positive connections in life outside church or perhaps some sort of Internet ministry.