Will the Real Creator Please Stand Up?
Carl: Thanks for the coffee, Lucy. I almost hate to ask, but what's on your mind today?
Lucy: You're most welcome and thanks for asking. We've been talking a lot about natural science and natural history and their implications for a Creator lately, but we haven't really talked about God revealing himself in human history: not 2 million or 2 billion years ago, but a mere 2,000 years ago. As the author of Hebrews wrote, "In the past God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom also he made the universe (Hebrew 1:1)."
Carl: My caffeine hasn't kicked in yet, Lucy. I'm not sure I'm ready for a discussion on religion this early in the morning.
Lucy: You may relax. We can save theology for later, Carl, and jump into history instead.
You told me that you thought Jesus was a great teacher so let's just start with what he taught.
Carl: As long as you admit that Christianity has produced a lot of evil and suffering throughout history, you may proceed.
Lucy: Thanks, Carl. As long as you keep an open mind and admit that all human beings, even those with the best of intentions, are more than capable of acting contrary to the will of God and the teachings of Jesus.
Carl: Fair enough. You're on.
Lucy: OK, let's begin with something Jesus said to those who claimed to do good works in his name:
“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’" - Matthew 7-21-23
Carl: Those must be pretty frightening words for a lot of Christians.
Lucy: They should be frightening words for everyone, especially those who do not want to have anything to do with him. They should, as you say, also be a clear warning for any person who claims to be a follower of Jesus and yet trusts in his or her "good works" for entrance into the Kingdom of Heaven. As Paul later put it, "For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast (Ephesians 2:8-9)."
Carl: What's the point of good works then?
Lucy: Glad you asked. For that we'll have to go all the way to Paul's next sentence: "For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do (Ephesians 2:10)." Once you are in the Kingdom, the good works prepared in advance for us to do are the way we do God's will in thankfulness for his incredible gift: eternal life in the New Heavens and New Earth where there is no more pain and suffering, death or sorrow. One does not earn a gift. One does not work his way into Heaven. One does not gain the blessing of God for doing things that (despite the praise and admiration of men) are against His will.
Carl: Are you telling me that people who don't follow Jesus can't do good things and be rewarded for them?
Lucy: Hardly. Anyone who does good things on earth should receive an earthly reward: a thank you, a paycheck and maybe even a promotion. But when it comes to the Kingdom of Heaven, if someone wants to have nothing to do with God and His Son, God gives you the freedom to reject His love. We should be praying, "Thy will be done." But if someone wants to do his own will rather than his Creator's, God will have to say to them, "Then thy will be done. Depart from me" just as Jesus told those who tried to rationalize their deeds.
Carl: But even atheists can lead good and happy lives. What's wrong with that?
Lucy: Just like evil and suffering, it's temporary.
Carl: I still don't like Christianity. Look at all the evil that it is responsible for: the Crusades, the Inquistion, ...
Lucy: And what do you think Jesus would have said?
Carl: Let me guess. "Depart from me. I never knew you?"
Lucy: Good guess, Carl, you're spot on! We may have a good reason to condemn those who identify themselves as Christians yet act contrary to Jesus' teachings, but it obviously doesn't follow that we should reject Jesus in the process. That simply defies reason and logic. Now let me ask you a question in return.
Carl: Fair enough.
Lucy: How much of the 20th Century did you miss? What do you have to say about these historical facts? Keep in mind that the foundation of Communism is atheism, not the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Should Mao, Stalin, Pol Pot and their followers be rewarded for the "good works" they did for their countries? On what basis can you rationalize the murder of millions? Survival of the fittest? Render unto Darwin?
Carl: Is it too late to change the subject? No? ... OK. Then I see your point, Lucy.
Lucy: No more rejecting Jesus for the Crusades or ignoring the fruits of atheism?
Carl: Not from me. But I still plan to leave the world a better place than I found it. I'll do much more good than evil, much more right than wrong.
Lucy: I hope you do. But remember that in school, 65% right and 35% wrong is an F.
Carl: OK, I'll still be better than most people. Surely God will take that into consideration.
Lucy: God doesn't grade on a curve, Carl. His standard is the perfect sinless life of Jesus. And don't forget about those who boasted about all of the good works they did in the name of Jesus. Furthermore, up until now, you haven't shown any trust at all in the Father or the Son. Why trust in your own "good works"? Do you think they are superior to Jesus' works? Have you healed the sick or raised the dead or paid the price for your own sins?
Carl: I voted for universal health care.
Lucy: So that people can attend St. Jude's Hospital or St. Luke's Hospital inspired by Christians or St. Darwin's Hospital where only the fit survive?
Carl: I've paid the price for many of my so-called "sins" already. Trust me.
Lucy: Trust Jesus, Carl. He paid for all of your sins on the cross taking the punishment that you and I deserve upon himself. The cross is where love and justice met almost 2,000 years ago making it possible for you to enter the Kingdom of Heaven without a blemish.
Consider this from Isaiah the prophet 700 years before the birth of Christ:
“Come now, let us settle the matter,” says the Lord. “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool (Isaiah 1:18)."
Carl: That sounds an awful lot like 100% good but too good to be true.
Lucy: It is 100% and it's true because God is good, merciful and loving. How else could a New Earth be without tears or suffering or death unless we were in perfect harmony with our Creator?
In the Revelation of Jesus, John writes:
"Then I saw 'a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, 'Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God.' He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” - Revelation 21:1-4
This is why Paul, writing from prison in Rome wrote, "I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us (Romans 8:18)."
The bottom line is that when it comes to comparative religions or worldviews, there is no comparison to the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
Carl: You're starting to make me skeptical of my skepticism. Next week?