Hard questions ~ inadequate answers
Here is a post I made on a forum for fans of Zao. Some guy popped into the Religion section and dropped all the "hard questions" on us. These are the big ones. And I thought it would be fun to have a record of my current thinking on them. So here is my reply…
This is probably not the best place to ask the heavy-weight questions you are asking. Most of the people on this board are very young and not terribly educated about Christianity. (We protestants do a horrible job at that.) If these questions are seriously perplexing you, I'm guessing it's because God wants you, but you feel like you would be stupid to go along with it until your logical side is satisfied. Here is something to consider: there are many theories out there that offer compelling explanations to things, yet are incomplete. Think about physics, math, evolutionary theory. They all propose answers, yet even the best and brightest in their field can not answer every single question asked about it. There will always be "holes" that need to be filled. The most hardened atheistic evolutionist has "faith" that the questions he can't answer will be figured out eventually. Likewise, though no human can fully understand the nature and plans of God, we can still make wise and intellectually informed decisions based on what has been revealed to us.
If you truly want answers to these questions I recommend you seek out a Bible-believing church and ask to speak to the pastor. If you don't want answers, and just want to feel superior for having examined and dismissed the idea, go to a nice universalistic, liberal church, and they will be happy to inform you that nothing really matters but being nice to people.
That being said, I'll take a stab or two at your questions. Just keep in mind I'm no theologian, and there are better answers out there.
Why would God create us a certain way and then damn us to Hell for acting in our own nature?
As has been said: He did not create us 'that way'. He created us perfect and immortal, to have communion and friendship with us forever. But He had to give us a choice to do so, or friendship would be impossible. Why He decided to make a being with the choice to reject Him is a mystery. One theory is that our creation was simply an expression of Love. It simply happened because of His nature. Though that still does not answer your question about the perfection of a God who would let His creation suffer.
Is it really necessary for God to damn us to Hell for all eternity for simply not believing and/or never hearing about Jesus?
Most Christian theologians I've heard would say that God does not damn us. Rather, hell is simply an existence without Him. And a being that is not perfect cannot exist with a being who is. That would compromise His nature, and thus, make Him no longer God. So it's not a matter of an angry God casting souls into hell. Rather, He let's us choose to reject Him, and being apart from God is Hell.
What happens to all those who never heard about Jesus?
C.S. Lewis surmised that the invisible nature of God is known to all. And though they may never hear the name of Jesus in life, there is some mechanism for them to make a choice about him. (I don't recall where he said this explicitly, but it is clearly alluded too in The Last Battle from the Chronicles of Narnia.)
Personally, I don't have a clue. But that doesn’t mean there isn't a good answer. And it may be an answer that a mortal being cannot comprehend. One thing I am sure about is that Jesus is the way. But how that happens when someone has never heard His name I don't know. Perhaps after death? The Bible leaves a lot to the imagination in that area. I'm sure there are good reasons that God didn't try to explain the specifics of what happens when we die.
How does one come to grips with what the Bible says about slavery or women?
Societal norms are the biggest explanation here. Jesus never taught that we should rebel and overthrow any world system or government. He always demonstrated living a godly life under whatever circumstance life deals you. Remember in His day the Jews were being ruthlessly oppressed, and sold out by their spiritual and political leaders. They were desperate for freedom. But Jesus didn't concern Himself with the world system He was in. He improved people's lives from the inside out. It's all about the hearts of people that He's after.
Likewise, in the rest of the New Testament, the authors never proposed uprising or rebellion. They advocated working within the system that was in place. Slaves should live godly lives as a demonstration of the transformative nature of Christ. Same with slave owners. Also, what someone said earlier is correct, that the slavery of that time and place was not much like the slavery we know of.
How can God be so cruel as to create me without notifying me, then expecting me to believe in something bizarre (drinking Jesus' blood to be saved from eternal hellfire is bizarre), and then damning me to hell for not believing in it as if life itself weren't punishment enough?
Drinking blood is not for salvation. Acceptance of the sacrifice that it symbolizes is. Communion is a ceremony, like baptism, that reminds us humans that something deeper is at work under the surface. There is more to life than what we can see and perceive with our finite senses.
If God created everything, He created evil. In this sense, God willed evil. It fits into His plan. Doesn't the idea that God allowing and even promoting evil disqualify him from being the moral authority?
God did not create evil. Evil is simply the choice to reject Him and His perfect ways. Choice allows evil, it does not create it. If my kid rides his bike into the road and dies, it's not my fault for giving him a bike. It was simply the mechanism that was used which led to his destruction.
How does one reconcile that parts of the Bible literally contradict each other? If the Bible does contradict itself, how can it be the perfect word of God?
I have read numerous rebuttals to just about every supposed contradiction out there. There is a book called, "Hard Sayings of the Old Testament", and a sequel, and also one about the New Testament I believe. Most perceived contradictions have to do with not taking a hermeneutical or educated approach to the scripture, or reading a part as literal when it is clearly figurative, etc.