Tuesday, March 29, 2005

The Judgment of God (part I)


I used to be a regular poster on the religion and faith website, Beliefnet. I found the site an interesting place to gain insights from other people’s beliefs and perspectives, and to work to avoid the pitfalls of assumptions about my own understanding and opinion of Reality.

There was a downside as well, I learned. There are the sort of people who cannot allow others to believe freely as they choose, but they must attack them, using ridicule, insult, and intimidation to crush any inconvenient belief. I am saddened to have to say, some of these were people who claimed the same faith as I hold, yet their tactics bore nothing of the love we receive from God, and are commissioned to extend and share. The other most oppressive group were vicious atheists, who ridicule every Christian tenet and doctrine, as well as those who hold them.

Those Christians who attack others for their differences are, I think, misguided, and so I conclude the same is true of those who attack Christianity with such malice. Anyone familiar with the life and teachings of Jesus Christ, could not deliberately choose to insult or harm someone in the evangelism to which we are called. I also believe that no one who understood the message and purpose of the Gospel, could find fault with it or anyone connected with it. And an essential part of both sides’ confusion lies in the topic of Judgment Day.

Hollywood has made a lot of money off the theme of Judgment Day, although their version has a lot more to do with evil demons or the final foolishness of Man, than any consideration of the Lord. Yet it is the Lord’s hand in things, which drives much of the emotion on this matter.

Christians understand that we are all of us sinners, in need of God’s love. Accordingly, it seems plain truth to us, that we must confess our sins and accept forgiveness on God’s terms, if we are to have hope. Some believers have concluded, however, that anyone who rejects the premise of the Gospel as we bring it, must be willfully rejecting Christ, and this pains them, sometimes to the point of bitterness. This is unfortunate, not the least because the confusion between the believer and unbeliever is not corrected in such cases.

Those who do not believe in God, as I understand the matter, can respect the desire to do good to other people and to accept a moral code of ideals, but they find it laughable to place trust in a being whose existence cannot be confirmed by any human measure, much less His intentions. To make matters worse, the secular nature of most schools, even at the Collegiate level, precludes sufficient access to the great writings of Theology, to help explain the intellectual reasoning behind the Christian faith. This is not to say that Christians believe because of a philosophical or moral argument on the intellectual level, but it does mean that Atheists and Christians often meet with no common ground, and so there is no common language. Everything must begin ab initio. And since there is so much History and Doctrine out there, even a willing party can only discover so much, and we all eventually prove our limits in ability or comprehension, at which point the conversation either loses its focus, or fails altogether.

For here though, I would like to write, thinking in print as it were, on the subject of the Judgment of God. For it seems to me that this point might be worth the consideration, especially when we compare the image to the truth as I hope to present it.

One of the stranger things I’ve read in religious debates, is the claim that God has no standing to judge people. A variant of that, is the idea that because God is loving, He won’t judge anybody, or if He does, punishment won’t be an option. The rejection of Divine judgment is not surprising, though. First off, if you do not believe in God, you would hardly take seriously the notion that an Omnipotent Third Party would control the final resolution of all our actions. Worse, even believers get caught up in the image of a man sitting in Judgment of Mankind. The Bible has all sorts of images of God, and every last one of them makes God look like a man. A very powerful, large, scary man, but a human for all of that. When we face the image of a human judging the whole of Humanity, it’s ridiculous on its face, and that’s exactly what the non-Christians do. After all, from their perspective, there is no logic that one belief is going to trump all others. The fallacy they miss, is that while Man can and does miss the mark in Absolute Justice, God is Just by definition.

Perhaps I can explain this way. Gravity is a difficult force to understand, but no one really denies it exists. Essentially, if you have enough mass, you have your own gravitational field. Simply being a planet gives you gravity. Now apply that condition to existence. If an existent essence is such that it is the source of all Creation, then any idealistic or moral absolutes are defined by that essence; it is impossible to exist in violation of those conditions. That’s how it is here. If God exists, God is just because God is God. This is also why the pantheist and polytheist explanations fail to work here; power is one thing, but if Absolutes exist, then some essence controls them, and is therefore Absolute by definition. The notion of Yin and Yang imply a balance between equal opposites, but we find that does not hold up in moral discovery; good and evil oppose each other but are not equals. Superiority exists, and from that the exposition into Supremacy follows. That also implies an eventual resolution, the obliteration of either Good or Evil must at some point occur.

One must come to grips with the fact that God will, in plain fact, judge us all. The consensus is non-existent on the matter of what we may expect, but since the Bible speaks clearly about it, I will venture to say that we all will receive a mixture of Justice and Mercy.

Going back to the basics, if we’re going to be logical about it, God has given us everything we have, and everything we are. Most people wake up in the morning, and don’t give a conscious thought to the fact that God was under no obligation to give us life to wake up at all. We received many thousands of these days, each without doing anything worth their value, and we carry on all through our lives in the pursuit of our personal interests, as though we have bought and paid for our lives, when in fact we simply take them with little in even the way of thanks to our Provider. Now, some have argued that because God gives us these lives freely, and all the things which are in them, we are under no debt to God, even to account for what we have done. Of course, carrying that logic to its natural extension, that would also mean that the God who gave us these good things without any responsibility on our account, would be free Himself to do as He liked to us later, even tormenting us for eternity, with no more accountability than we admitted in receiving the good. After all, if there is no obligation created if we receive Good, then we have no rights on our side, and whatever we receive is just by definition, even destruction or torture, using that same definition of terms.

Accordingly, we are going to receive our resolution on some terms, and if there is a judge, then He shall set those terms. As a Christian, I find the Bible true and trustworthy on that point, and therefore come back to my initial assertion, that God will judge us as He promises, with a mixture of Justice and Mercy.

Tomorrow, I plan to discuss the aspects I can see of that Justice and Mercy.

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