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Real Letters and Answers - Letter Four

 

Real Letters and Real Answers
from People Who Have Written Talk To A Pastor
The name has been omitted for privacy.

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Pastor's note:  I appreciate the respect in which this man writes looking for a real answer to a genuine conflict in his mind.

From an agnostic ...

Pastor,

First and foremost, although I am what you would term an "agnostic", I truly hold your position as a religious leader in the highest regard. I also empathize your responsiblity to answer for the unforseen misdeeds of your fellow clergy, however distant. I would ask that you respect my choice to remain a non-christian. This is not an opportunity for conversion... merely for conversation. Thank you in advance.

I have two questions for you. The first I have been asking for years, and received unsatisfactory to downright insulting answers. I desperately need the relationship between an all-loving creator and eternal torture in hell to be resolved. I find it to be a serious mistep in logic for a supposedly logical creator... as well as a morally reprehensable topic for the church to defend. It is my personal belief that there is no hell. However, the church has yet to sufficiently "take the stand" on this grevious issue to defend it.

I will refer to Cotten Mather's infamous speeches during the Salem witch Trials where he expounds upon newborn infants quite literally roasting in ovens for all eternity. I will also refer to a pastor I met in Texas who, from the pulpit (which is a position of authority), told men, women and children that the unsaved will burn, and it is the priviledge of the saved to look upon and "rejoice". Would you please clear this up for me? Thank you in advance.

My second question is far more obscure, although I imagine you have encountered it. On the subject of exorcisms... what exactly is the point? From an atheistic standpoint, I suppose medical science will one day come up with some strange and rediculous reason why the biologicals manifest themselves that way... but if I am to believe in the paranormal (which I do, to an extent), I would still ask what the overall acheivement of the demons is supposed to be.

If your God is real, then they have effectively lost the war, regardless of what battles they win. Even in the oft touted light of "they just wanna take as many as they can to hell with them", it is still rediculously stupid for demons to use this tactic. A possessed person offers living proof of the paranormal, if not spiritual plane... wouldn't you want your opponents and victims to remain ignorant, and thus, susceptible? The possessed are also highly visible, which means they will inevitably attract the attention of exorcists... thus foiling the ploy; even moreso when the exorcist (and thereafore God) is found to be victorious. I would also assume that the possessed would gain "diplomatic immunity" from hell, since they are not to blame for their actions.

I look forward to your answers (and hopefully) a long, fullfilling discussion. Thank you once again,

Signed, XXXXXXXXXXXXX
 

Our Answer ...

Dear (Agnostic):

Thank you for writing TTAP.  I appreciate your respect and the way in which you posed your questions. Honestly (I hate to admit it) I've been treated with more respect by agnostics and Wiccans than by many "Christians" sometimes.

Since we are dialoguing, I trust you will allow me to lay down a few pre-suppositions that will have bearing in the discussion.

  1. Not everyone who says they are a Christian really is a Christian

  2. Not everyone who is a Christian has everything doctrinal correct;  therefore

  3. Not everyone who claims to speak for God actually does
     

  4. Christians are not perfect - although real Christians have a desire put in them via the Spirit of God to see their lives change for the better.  Christianity is not a set of doctrines and rules, but rather a living relationship with the creator.  Those who approach Christianity from a "legalistic" point of view are often harsh, critical and dogmatic (I apologize for those who claim to speak for God, but do not). Those who approach Christianity correctly realize that the relationship with the creator is what God Himself is after.
     

  5. God created man in His own image as a "triune being", Body soul and spirit. The soul, which is the real you, has two interfaces: ;  the body, which interfaces with the physical world around us though our five senses and  a spirit that interfaces with the spiritual realm - be it God or occultic.  Realizing that there are 3 distinct parts to man sometimes makes it easier to see the holistic point of view of spirituality.
     

  6. I usually agree with many points the agnostics, atheists and wiccans make about Christianity - which surprises them.  However, that same group usually uses extreme people and events to make their point, assuming that because they claim to speak for God they must actually do so.  Not a valid assumption.  For instance I usually get hit with the "what about the crusades" question.  Good point, what about them?  GOD did not tell anyone to go kill others in the name of Christianity.  So those that did where flat wrong.  What about the Spanish Inquisition where they tortured and killed Christians in the name of the Church?  Bingo!  Not God.  Frankly the Catholic Church is not a representation of the true message of the gospel.  So using them as an example is like saying Sarah Palin is a good representative of the Democratic party.

Okay, let's address your questions.

RE: Hell

First I do not believe that babies go to hell.  The message of salvation requires a conscious, voluntary decision On the part of the person who wants to have their sins forgiven.  So until a child at least reaches an age where they no right from wrong and have the chance to hear the message they are protected.  There is no certain "age of accountability" as some would teach, but rather as each person comes to the point of realizing their own self-will and sin.

The reality of hell from a Christian viewpoint demonstrates the absolute balance in the character and nature of God.  Some go to one extreme and preach God as the harsh condemning God that wants to throw everyone in hell.  Others go to the other extreme and preach the "God is love message" to the exclusion of everything else.

Human nature has a hard time reconciling these two views of God and so tends to chose one over the other.  Legalistic religionists tend to the judgmental God and others, like yourself pick the loving God.  However God is NOT bi-polar, nor schizophrenic.   He does not have multiple personalities or mood swings.  He is one all encompassing, balanced nature of righteousness and love.  In fact you could not have a perfect god without both.  Righteousness makes God good, love makes him approachable.  Men have a hard time reconciling this, but real Christians do not.

Ever hear of "tough love"?  Why does a parent tell a child not to play in the street or not to play with matches?  It is not because they love them?  Why did God tell us not to do certain things?  Is it not because he loves us and knows that certain things would not be good for us?  We can look at the 10 commandments as God being a killjoy and limiting our personal liberties, or we can turn it around and see that the 10 commandments are a protection for you and me.  Would you want to be stolen from?  Do you want your spouse to commit adultery?  Is it a good idea for children to learn patience, obedience and respect and hold their own self-centeredness in check?  There is a place for those who have not learned this; it is called "prison".

Could you imagine what the world would be like if God where not perfectly righteous?  If God did not care what His creation did?  The cornerstone of civilized society is the 10 commandments.  A basic sense of right and wrong and how to interact with others.  This was God imparting to his creation the sense of who and what his own nature and being really is.

Now on the other hand, a righteous God, without love, would have to harsh and judgmental.  If righteousness is the standard and God really gave that to us, then it only seems logical that he have some sort of system to hold us accountable.  Else it would be like making a law and ignoring violators.  We've all been incensed when some judge lets a criminal go free.  Our own sense of righteousness or morality is violated.  God could not be righteous without holding us accountable.  The minute he let some sin go, he would cease to be God, as He has revealed himself.  God would cease to be just if He ignored sin and his perfection would be disproved in a heart beat.

The fact that the God has revealed himself as a "God of Love" (actually the Bible says "God IS love" - or the personification of love) is perfectly in balance and harmony with God's revelation of His righteousness.  True righteousness - without love - if it were possible- would not be a good thing. As witnessed in the workings of those who approach Christianity from the legalistic viewpoint. In fact God's perfection not only requires perfect righteousness, it requires perfect love.  Once again man has a hard time combining these concepts because it is much easier to swing one way or the other - to have a set of rules to live by, or to have no rules at all.  Relationship requires much more effort than the other ways, which is why so many people miss the entire point of Christianity.

So we have a quandary - which leads to your question about hell: A righteous God can not ignore sin and a loving God wants the best for His creation.  Isn't that the real issue?  Since God is not bi-polar what is the answer?

God cannot ignore sin, but neither does he want his creation to be lost forever.  So He created  plan by which he could maintain both his righteousness and his love without violating either.  Only a perfect God could do this.

The answer lies in the gospel message which tells us that God sent His Son Jesus Christ to become a sacrifice for sin.  While I realize you don't recognize the Bible as YOUR authority in spiritual matters, I do need to give you a couple of verses to make my point, because this is what God says about the issue an since you are trying to figure out where we are coming from you need to know the source is the Bible not my opinion.  Here is the Gospel in a nutshell:

  1. Everyone has sinned and fallen short of God's standards Romans 3:10, 23

  2. The wages of sin is death (physical and spiritual (separation from God forever in hell) Romans 6:23

  3. However the GIFT of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ (Romans 6:23)

  4. God loves us and does not want us to be separated from him for eternity - but rather wants a RELATIONSHIP with us for all eternity John 3:16

  5. Jesus, as a manifestation of God in the flesh lived a sinless life and therefore was not subject to the death penalty instituted for sin.  Jesus said, "no man takes my life from me, but I lay it down." John 10:15-18

  6. Jesus said, "no greater love has any man than he lay down his life for a friend." and "I lay my life down for you." John 15:13

  7. Jesus did die historically on a Roman Cross - but not for his sins, but rather the sins of the world - II Corinthians 5:21

  8. God raised Jesus form the dead as "proof of eternal life" and victory over the power of sin, death, the grave and hell.  Christianity is not just a religion or a philosophy, it is new life imparted by God into a person's being - as demonstrated by the resurrection of Christ.

  9. God said, "If you believe in your heart and confess with your mouth that God has raised Jesus form the dead you shall be saved."  Romans 10:8-13

So we see that sinful man has an option of avoiding hell.  God calls salvation a "free gift" from God, but that gift must be acknowledged, accepted and used.  It is not automatic but the Bible says this, "how will we escape if we neglect SO GREAT A SALVATION?"  Hebrews 2:3

The only problem is that God, who offers love, forgiveness and relationship has also limited the manner in which man can come to him.  He MUST deal with the issue of sin and does so by offering forgiveness - unearned and unmerited - through the sacrifice of Christ.  Is God unjust to present stipulations?  He did not have to offer a way at all.  The problem is that man does not want to deal with the issue of sin or admit his need of a savior.  AND THIS is what sends a person to hell - not God who has done everything He can to stop people from going hell. Man's own rebellion, intellect, pride and arrogance are what condemns him.  God has no choice but to deal with sin in a righteous manner after he has offered a better solution.  Hell is the last resort of a loving, righteous God - not the first choice.  The Bible tells us "hell was created for the devil and his angels," not man.  But men who follow in that rebellion of Satan will follow him also to hell, in spite of God's best efforts to keep him out.

RE: Question two - demons in people:

There are really two answers to your question.  The first is "why does Satan, et el demons, bother?  What do demons get out of inhabiting people?

The Bible tells us Satan (originally named LUCIFER or the Light bearing one) was the highest of three arch angels and was the "covering angel" over God's throne.  It also tells us that musical instruments were built into Satan's very being and this has led some to theorize that Lucifer was the choir director of heaven, leading all angelic creation in the worship and adoration of God.  The Bible goes on to tell us the Lucifer became lifted up in pride and self-will and jealous of that worship shown to God and wanted to be like God and usurp that worship for himself.  Lucifer said, "I will exalt my throne... I will be like the Most High." Isaiah 14:14-18 In his rebellion he was cast down and some believe he led 1/3 of the angels under his direction with him in that rebellion (although 1/3 is speculative). The angels- turned demons came from somewhere and there are a lot of them.

Now we find in the story of Genesis that Satan (formerly Lucifer) wanted to impart that same rebellion into man - God' greatest creation. This for two reasons: 1.  Satan wanted someone to worship him; 2. He knew God's righteousness and justice, if he could get man to rebel in the same way he had done, God would have to judge men as he was judged and cast out of God's presence.  Getting man to rebel took care of both points.  If you are familiar with the Genesis story you will note that Satan's argument against god was that "God knows that the day you eat of that tree you will BE LIKE GOD..."  In other words the exact same principle was being conditioned in the lie - "God does not want you to be like him and he is holding out on you."  Note the point - become like God, which was the fulcrum of Satan's rebellion.

Now there is one other pertinent issue here.  Satan obviously hates God.  And God is not "gettable."  So Satan goes after the thing god loves the most - his created humanity.  Think of this in two ways.  What would hurt a loving parent the most?  A kid that rebels and hates them after they have sacrificed for their well being.  And have you ever seen a movie where they are trying to get information out of someone and they refuse so they grab the guys wife and say, "tell us or we'll kill her instead?"  The point is the same.  You hurt God by hurting the object of his love.  Getting some to hate God and by destroying the lives of others is the only means Satan has of retaliation against God.

And finally, why do demons inhabit people?

Demons do not have physical bodies.  Your definition as "biologicals" is not correct.  They are spirit beings.  Like angels they can manifest themselves in visible form from time to time, but they are not physical beings.  It is believed through observation and practical experience that demons have a nature corresponding to a particular sin i.e. Lust, murder, idolatry, perversion, etc. Since sin is a "fleshly" thing, in order for them to manifest their nature they need a human body to do so.  Else they have no real expression and it would be somewhat akin to an addict going through withdrawals wanting  more dope.  They crave the expression of their nature and seek to gain entrance to humans to have a release.  This drives them to inhabit people.

Demonic spirits can not just "hop in a person."  There has to be an open door of invitation.  Those doors are created in several ways: 1. Occult practice, 2. Continued willful sin, 3. Extreme Fear, 4. Extreme traumatic experiences, 5. Overt rebellion, 6. False religious experiences, 6. Curses passed down through the generations, 7. Drug and alcohol abuse, 8. sexual perversion. more.

Your idea that demonized people should therefore automatically excused for their actions is shown to be a false concept since the person demonized had to repeatedly violate some of God's prohibitions in the first place.  Remember, God gave us the commandments to PROTECT us from just this problem.  When we ignore the warnings we end up suffering the consequences - not something God intended, but something He tried to keep us from.  Does that make God a mean God because he didn't want us demonized?  On the contrary.

Concerning your thought that Satan would be better off hiding:  The above explains that -demons are driven to express themselves.  Additionally Satan's plan is not to hide, but rather to condition men to acceptance of the occult.  Remember the 800-physic craze a few years ago?  You put a worm on a hook to make the fish think he is getting some good and beneficial to himself.  The same principle works for Satan.  What better way of creating open doors and causing destruction that to conditions men to accept the occult, but deny the existence of Satan.  The best of both worlds.

Satan and his demonic horde have lost the battle.  Relation 12"12- says:

"And war broke out in heaven: Michael and his angels fought with the dragon; and the dragon and his angels fought, but they did not prevail, nor was a place found for them in heaven any longer. So the great dragon was cast out, that serpent of old, called the Devil and Satan, who deceives the whole world; he was cast to the earth, and his angels were cast out with him. Then I heard a loud voice saying in heaven, "Now salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of His Christ have come, for the accuser of our brethren, who accused them before our God day and night, has been cast down. And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, and they did not love their lives to the death. Therefore rejoice, O heavens, and you who dwell in them! Woe to the inhabitants of the earth and the sea! For the devil has come down to you, having great wrath, because he knows that he has a short time."

Satan's wrath at being kicked out of heaven and ultimately condemned to hell fuels his rage and his desire to to hurt God and destroy men.  While the simple thought, "Satan wants to take as many people with him to hell," is true - it is not an adequate explanation, which causes people like you to question it.  I trust I have provide a more thorough answer to your question.

Well Jordan, this has been somewhat lengthy, but I trust it is a more plausible answer than you are used to.  If so it will have been worth my time.

I invite you to write back any time with whatever might be on your heart.  However I do want to ask one simple consideration from you.  I do not have the time nor the inclination to debate for debate's sake.  If you are truly interested in why I believe what I believe I would be glad to dialog.  If you goal is to dissuade me from my beliefs, it will be a futile time for both of us.  I have a living relationship with the creator and no philosophy or doctrine can supersede that. If you simply want an intellectual argument, it to is not worth the time and effort since neither of us will gain from it.  Keep in mind I am NOT accusing you of any of these thoughts, just laying out the ground work for meaningful exchange.  Oh and in exchange I promise not to condemn you or to badger you about becoming a Christian.  DEAL?

 

Pastor Steve