David Hume once said: “Were a stranger to drop suddenly into this world, I would show him as specimen of its ills, a hospital full of diseases, a prison crowded with malefactors and debtors, a field of battle strewn with carcasses, a fleet floundering in the ocean, a nation languishing under tyranny, famine, or pestilence. Honestly, I don’t see how you can possibly square with an ultimate purpose of love.”
The question of evil and suffering has plagued the philosophical debate over the existence of God for thousands of years. Many see a deep incompatibility between the all-loving and all-powerful God of Scripture and the world of pain and suffering they observe. The argument goes something like this: If God is all-loving, He would desire to stop evil, and if God were all-powerful (both of which the Bible claims), He would have the power to stop evil. Therefore, since evil exists, the God of Scripture doesn’t. Many great answers have been given to this objection, from free will to justice. These answers have shown that there is no contradiction between Scripture and the world, but instead of regurgitating those typical (and good) responses, I’d like to take another approach for a moment.
Many agree that free will answers why evil and suffering exist, but the next question is often ,“If God knew Adam and Eve would sin and cause death and suffering, why create them in the first place? Why create a world that He knew would end up in pain and suffering?” When Hume looks at the world, He cannot reconcile God’s ultimate plan of love with his observations, but I want to submit to you that suffering and pain is the only way for God to make the greatest act of love. Scripture says:
John 15:13: “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.”
The greatest love that someone can express to another is to die in their place, to sacrifice themselves for the well-being of another. Sacrificial love is the greatest expression of love, because sacrifice involves pain and suffering of some sort. Dying for someone requires pain and sacrifice of your life. Giving finances when you’re struggling requires extra work to make up the difference. Donating a kidney is a frightening surgery and painful recovery, yet these sacrificial actions express the greatest love.
Why then, would God look down the timeline of history, know that mankind would sin and cause suffering and pain, and still create the world? God knew that in the midst of that pain and suffering, in the midst of the evil brought about by man’s free will and sinful choices, God could show His greatest expression of love towards us by dying on the cross to save us and bring us back into a relationship with Him. Pain and suffering make the greatest expression of love – sacrificial love – a reality, which is why the Bible says:
Romans 5:8: “But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
A God who is by nature love, would desire to express the greatest love possible to His children, and that love is possible because He created mankind, knowing we would sin, and knowing that our sin would give Him the perfect opportunity to love us beyond measure. Love is not only the purpose of the cross, it’s the plan and reason for creation. My prayer is that the world will see the love that pain made possible, and the gospel in which this greatest love was expressed to the world by its Creator.
Christians today have a unique opportunity – one I fear we are squandering. A horrifying reality of people taking into their own hands the determination of whose life matters and whose life doesn’t now brings our country to the brink of implosion. Police overreach threatens legitimate police action. Hate group terrorism threatens legitimate citizen concerns. What is the answer and how do we, as Christians, respond? Whose life matters, anyway?
As Christ followers, we have the answer, the same answer we give to those considering abortion, to those contemplating suicide, and to those concerned about refugees and immigration: All lives matter to God, and therefore all lives matter to us. How we determine through discernment the best course of action in order to preserve life may be different in each situation, but even within those differences, the underlying foundation remains the backbone of every decision: All lives matter to God, and therefore all lives matter to us.
John 3:16 is perhaps the most well-known and most often quoted verse in the Bible: “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whosoever believes on Him should not perish but have everlasting life.”
2 Corinthians 5:15 says, “And He died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves, but for Him who died for them and raised again.”
1 Peter 3:18 is equally clear: “For Christ also died for sins once for all, the just and the unjust, so that He might bring us to God, having been put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit.”
Hebrews 2:1 makes its own case: “But we do see Him who was made for a little while lower than the angels, namely, Jesus, because of the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honor, so that by the grace of God He might taste death for everyone.”
And Genesis 1:27 explains why: “So God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.” (All emphases mine)
The Bible says Jesus died for all. That means Jesus died for all. You, me, him, and her. Them. Yes, even them. Kermit Gossnell. Members of ISIS. Celine Dion and that twerking kid. Gays and straights. Drug addicts and holier-than-thous. Blacks and whites, Asians and Hispanics. Stubborn Scots and the Fighting Irish (thank God). Jews and Gentiles, Samaritans and lepers. Us. All of us.
Not all will accept His blood sacrifice. Not all will go to heaven. But all will receive the opportunity (Romans 1:20) because all lives matter to God, and therefore all lives matter to us.
Humanity, however, has a unique way of swinging the pendulum of truth wildly from one far side to the other, and when that gold ball hanging from a thin gold post swings left, right is forgotten entirely. All lives matter to God, and therefore all lives matter to us. But neither in godly principle nor in God’s Word are we instructed or given the option of ignoring justice and the truth of the Gospel in the name of tolerance or acceptance. To consider such a thing is proof our view of God’s love is skewed at best. Neither we as Christians nor our law enforcement officers will or should handle everyone in the same manner, but instead as unique individuals in a unique situation (Proverbs 13:8&9; Romans 13:2-5).
What, then, is our job as Christians? To preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ to all, because all lives matter to God, and therefore all lives matter to us (Matt 28:19). What, then, is the Gospel? The true Gospel always begins with the bad news: All have sinned and the penalty of sin is death (Romans 3:23; 6:23). There’s that word again – all, and you’re part of all. Each one of us has fallen short of the mark, short of God’s glory, short of good, and none of us can redeem ourselves. Death is imminent and hell is reality…but for the grace of God! And herein lies the Good News: Christ died once for all…and you’re part of all.
And because all lives truly matter to us, we are to love people enough to speak the truth in love to them – the truth of God’s justice, mercy, grace, and sacrifice. The truth that all other lives matter, too, and that taking the lives of others because you’re angry or discriminated against or hurt is as unjust as the injustice enacted upon you. We are to stand against crime, stand against sin, stand against injustice in its various forms, but we are not to stand silent, for to do so is to squander the opportunity we as Christians are now given.
I am reminded of the tale of two salesman who ventured to Africa to find new business opportunities. They both sold shoes and, upon arriving at their destination, they each quickly formed an opinion. One man called his wife and sadly told her to book him a flight home immediately. “I can’t sell anything here,” he told her, “No one here wears shoes.” The second salesman called his wife, as well. Full of excitement he told her to get ready for an adventure. “I can sell to the whole country,” he exclaimed, “No one here wears shoes!”
We’ve all read the stories, heard the reports, and seen the news. We all know our friends’ opinions, the pundits’ opinions, and the president’s opinions. But the only opinion with which we need concern ourselves is God’s. Whose life matters, anyway? The value of every human life is infinite and sacred. All lives matter to God, and therefore all lives matter to us. Go buy up that opportunity.
In this blog I want to explore a few aspects of dualism that I believe could lend great support to the teaching and truth found in the Bible. Keep in mind that these ideas are early in development and will require much more thought to prove them either true or false.
To begin, we need to define our terms, the first one being dualism.
Dualism states that things are defined by their opposite (and by extension you must have knowledge or experience of both sides of a dualistic thing in order to understand the other side.)
We see this with many examples in our dualistic world. You cannot understand light without understanding what dark is. You cannot understand high without understanding low. You cannot understand love without understanding hate, etc. Now understand that you don’t have to know both aspects in order for one to be real. For example, imagine a hypothetical situation where someone is raised in a way that he never experiences darkness (there is always light). Dualism does not cease to exist, it’s just unknowable to him until he experiences both sides. Our first argument for the Bible from dualism will come from this idea: that while you don’t have to experience both sides (light and dark) for either to be true, you do have to experience both sides in order to understand one side.
Our next observation when dealing with Dualism is the necessity for it to be applied to itself. You cannot say that everything (including ideas or abstract notions) is defined by its opposite, and then exempt that statement from its own implications. If everything is defined by its opposite, why is a world that follows the laws of dualism not included? The opposite of a dualistic world or reality would be a non -dualistic world or reality, one that is not bound by the laws of dualism.
Using these two notions we can support multiple aspects of Biblical teaching:
1. We understand what Dualism is. We understand that our world functions by the rules of dualism, that things can be defined by their opposite. But according to dualism the only way to understand something is by also understanding its opposite. We again will reiterate that dualism itself as a philosophy that must be subjected to its own rules, and if there is a dualistic reality, there must also be a non-dualistic reality. But this is where we are left with the question that if we must know the opposite in order to understand a thing, how do we know that this world is dualistic? The only way to understand dualism would be to understand non-dualism, but how is it possible to understand non-dualism in a dualistic world? The Bible gives us a satisfactory answer to this question. The Bible says that we are all made in the image of God (Genesis 1:27), that there is an aspect of humanity that is like God. Romans 1:18-25 says that everyone actually knows God, but many suppress that truth in unrighteousness. How does this solve the problem? God is by definition non-dualistic. Within the being of God, within his nature, there is only one side of the spectrum – not good and evil, just good. If we are made in his image (and with the knowledge of him) that would explain how we can understand dualism in this world.
The next Biblical implication would be the existence of a non-dualistic world as a counterpart to our dualistic world. The Biblical model for heaven would fit this non-dualistic description, where there is no more sorrow (although joy exists) there is no more pain (although pleasure is there), etc. In a non-dualistic world things are not defined by their opposite, but by themselves. Granted, that is hard for us to understand in our dualistic world, but our lack of understanding doesn’t prove it wrong. Surely the opposite of things being defined by their opposite would be things defined by themselves, and since we understand things being defined by their opposite, that means we again must have an understanding of things that are defined by themselves (like God, when he swears by himself in the Old Testament).
Some could object and say that a problem biblically will come about with the doctrine of this dualistic world being destroyed and passing away as Revelation talks about, but that isn’t true. Non-dualism (heaven, God, etc.) does not need dualism in order to survive and exist and be known. Only this dualistic world needs God in order to be known and understood. Non-dualism does just fine without dualism. By definition, it’s non-dualistic and therefore does not need its opposite to be defined.
Another area I still need to develop (although all these areas still need further developing) is the apparent dualism of heaven and hell, and how that plays into everything.