Friday, April 4, 2008

Ed’s Question of the Return of Odin

I have decided to move Ed's off-topic question from A Fun Bible Study on the End Times to a separate blog post. He has raised some interesting thoughts, and I appreciate his intelligent questions. I hope that others will join in on the discussion. I have separated Ed's comments into three separate questions:


 

Ed says (Question #1): To answer your last question first: If I had utter proof (no faith needed) that the Christian God was coming to Earth tomorrow, I would become a Christian. Who wouldn't?

Tom replies: So Ed let me engage what you just said. If you had absolute proof, you would become a Christian. Is this right? Would you mind telling me what you think it means to be a Christian. What would be different in your life?


 

Ed continues (Question #2): Which brings up a side issue: Skepticism... Now we all know that Jesus wants us to take himself and God on faith, but he did say, "Blessed are those who have seen, and believed..." Doesn't that sort of imply that it's okay NOT to believe until one has seen (i.e. been presented personally acceptable proof)? And does this not further imply that conversion upon actually seeing the returned Christ would qualify one for grace?


Tom's response: Yes, there is a long history of skepticism even in the church. Did you know that even after the 11 Disciples saw Jesus post-crucifixion and death, and He was with them resurrected to life, even then some of the Disciples had doubts. God's Word says: Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus directed them. And when they saw him they worshiped him, but some doubted. (Matthew 28:16-17).


 

So if some Disciples doubted Jesus even after seeing Him dead and brought back to life, right in front of their eyes, yes, I think there is room for doubt from those of us living 2,000 years later. But on your last point, I know you have it mistaken, for there will be no extra chance to see Jesus' return and be converted. All of the descriptions of Jesus' return describe Jesus or His angels separating people into two groups, for example separating the sheep and the goats (Matthew 25:32). So by the time Jesus returns, all people have already made their choice. The sheep that choose faith in Jesus will go to the Kingdom of God (v. 34). And to the goats that rejected Jesus, they will be sent away to "eternal punishment" (v. 46).


 

Ed's Final Point (Question #3)- Tom, I have a purely mental exercise that belongs at the end of your Bible lesson: If I could provide utter proof (no faith needed) that Odin was coming to Earth tomorrow, what would YOU do? Show your work. :-P ~Ed~


 

Tom's response: Ed, I assume you did not mean to raise such an offensive comparison – the Return of the King of Kings, Jesus the Messiah returns to set Creation in order, compared to the 'return' of a myth (Odin). But apart from the obnoxious character of your question, I assume you intended to raise the possibility of some other religion being correct. If this is your intent, it is a valid question, and I will go through the mental exercise you suggested.


 

For me, and I am not speaking for all Christians here, even if there was irrefutable proof that some other religion was correct , and that tomorrow was Judgment Day, I hope that I would not turn from my faith in Jesus Christ as my Lord. Faith is not trusting in God despite the proof around us. No, I see faith as a gift given by God where one day I did not have it, and over a process of three years later, I received it. I received this gift of faith starting with skepticism (I remember my mighty struggles trying to understand John 14:6), And through prayer, and directed study of God's Word in BSF, it started making sense. And yes, when it started making sense, I checked out and investigated some of the difficult questions, like how should I live my life now. And the issue of other religions (you may remember my SOF outlines as I went through and learned more about some of the other religions during this time of my life).


 

And I found that only a faith in Jesus Christ answers all of the questions of life. Including the BIG question of how can someone who messes up all the time like me with actions that show I do not fully trust in Him, how could I ever hope to be in the presence of a holy, righteous and perfect God? I know it is not going to be on anything good I've done in my life. Instead, my only hope, and it is a blessed hope, is my complete faith and trusting in Jesus' righteousness in my place.


 

So what if I know that some Norse god named Odin is showing up tomorrow? Fine, I will strap on a shield and battleaxe and charge him. I know I won't make it far, but doesn't he reward brave warriors with entrance to Valhalla? OK, I'm letting my past experience in D & D get the best of me. My only real hope is in Jesus the Messiah and the eternal life the Lord promises.

4 comments:

edward oleander said...

Thank you, Tom!

edward oleander said...

Aaarg... That was supposed to be the start of a long post (aren't they all)...

Once again you show your organizational skills to be far superior to mine... My post makes much better sense divided up as you did. So to it...

Becoming a Christian WITH CERTAINTY, by way of absolute proof, would have a huge impact on my life, without changing much of my day-to-day existence. I have always believed that the general rules of the 10 Commandments are good social engineering (to use Clay's term), and try to live as close to them as I can. The Golden Rule, and the "hate the sin but love the sinner" concepts are central to me already (although my definition of "sin" would have to expand greatly in a Christian conversion). I would have to (but could) adjust to the idea that God really is the source of life. I fear I would have great anger at God over many of his decisions, but I would be grateful for having an Earth to stand on, and a voice to question him with.

The bigger question of whether I would learn to love God, and follow his laws out of love, or follow him out of fear remains to be answered. An insight into how God thinks would be found in the identities of those taken up in the first wave (hopefully there would be one as a warning to the rest of us). You know that I have large problems with how some aspects of "morality" are interpreted by some Christians. If I respect the choice of who the initial Elect are, I could also respect God. I don't think following out of fear would really get me eternal life (since God would be guiding my actions but not my heart), which leads into the second part... skepticism.

Not having the choice to convert upon seeing the risen Christ means that we are not allowed to be skeptics... We must have Faith (capital F) or we are doomed. This seems hardly fair when even the apostles had their doubts and were allowed the chance to have them allayed.

It seems to me that the only ones who should be eligible for condemnation are those who see a real, living God but then either A) Forsake him in favor of a deity to be proven later (as you would do upon the coming of Odin... you would gamble that this doesn't invalidate your own God) or B) Those who see a real, living God and reject him on philosophical grounds (as I fear might be the my own case). In both cases, the "condemned" one still would have the hope (Faith?) that he would be spared eternal punishment by some other deity than the one right in front of him.

I guess it comes down to: Can you stomach becoming the follower of the first deity to actually show himself? I could never follow Odin. I know, because a good friend of mine tried to convert me back in 1992. He was a Priest of Odin in the religion of Asatru. It is possible I might be willing to follow your God. If Buddha is the first to appear, I'm all over that.

On my Odin question, you'll have to give me a pass on the comparison of your God to Odin. No offense was meant. I know that no devout person likes to hear their deity compared to ones whom they consider mythical. The Pagans (to whom I am closest spiritually) are more used to thinking in terms of co-existing deities, and so are harder to shock this way. The Atheists (to whom I am closest rationally) believe your religion to be as mythically based as any other. I chose Odin specifically because he is considered mythical by even most Pagans and I was too lazy to look up the spelling of an even "deader" (i.e. some Sumerian or Babylonian god no longer even worshiped by splinter Pagan groups).

Finally, to throw the ball back to your court: What if, instead of a "mythical" god like Odin, the one to return was an aspect of your own, but from a rival faction? I'm talking about Allah, as worshiped by devout, conservative, Muslims (whom we commonly call "radicals" these days). Furthermore, what we also had absolute proof that no other deity would EVER be coming back, that radical Islam was, in fact, the One True Faith? Would you convert, or pretty much guarantee permanent fire out of a lack of the ability to love/respect Allah?

Thanks again for making this a separate Topic, and again I ask your other readers to join in the discussion!
:-)
~Ed~

tom wolff said...

Ed says: … (on how his life would be different if he were a Christian) I fear I would have great anger at God over many of his decisions, but I would be grateful for having an Earth to stand on, and a voice to question him with. … You know that I have large problems with how some aspects of "morality" are interpreted by some Christians.

Tom says – Having anger against God is OK. But only if it leads you to a point where you can accept what God has done and is doing, and trust that there is something more going on than what you can see. Would you mind sharing what it is that is the source of your anger against God? And try to not be too hard on the Christians around you. Wasn’t it Gandhi who said something like ‘Christ I can follow, but Christians make it too hard.’ Christians are people just like anyone else, who can be annoying, stupid, prone to mistakes, but also capable of generosity, kindness and love. I think that is why God’s Word teaches us to “fix our eyes on Jesus”, and not on the people who go to church every Sunday. The reason for this is simple, because we will always be disappointed by people. For after all, we are only human. (wink)

Ed says: … Not having the choice to convert upon seeing the risen (i.e., returning) Christ means that we are not allowed to be skeptics... We must have Faith (capital F) or we are doomed. This seems hardly fair when even the apostles had their doubts and were allowed the chance to have them allayed.

Tom says –Hardly seems fair? A person is given life, provision, people to support and love him, all coming from our Sovereign God, and a person ignores their Creator for all of their life, and you expect a second chance? Remember that Matthew 28:17 says “when they saw him they worshiped him, but some doubted.” So all the Disciples still worshipped Jesus, and considered Him worthy of worship, despite some of their doubts.

Anyway, I think you are misunderstanding the fairness and justice of God’s Judgment. Would you tell me, does Adolf Hitler deserve some sort of punishment in the afterlife for his ordering the murder of 6 million people plus, along with the stealing of their property, the lies, the torture of “scientific” experiments during this time? What about Josef Stalin? Should their punishment for their crimes against humanity end just by their death? Doesn’t our sense of fairness inside each of us cry that they must pay something more for what they have done?

So I hope you agree with me that Hitler and Saddam Hussein and Stalin, all deserve Hell. But the $64,000 question is this – why would Jesus teach that we all deserve Hell? That’s right, both you and I deserve to be punished in Hell (See, Matt. 5:22, John 3:17-:18). Please tell me what you feel Jesus meant by this.

Ed says: …On my Odin question, you'll have to give me a pass on the comparison of your God to Odin. No offense was meant… Tom says: I know Ed, that you meant no offense. It is already under the blood. I knew you had a motive to discuss the topic more in depth, which is why I provided my response.

Ed says: …Finally, to throw the ball back to your court: What if, instead of a "mythical" god like Odin, the one to return was an aspect of your own, but from a rival faction? I'm talking about Allah, as worshiped by devout, conservative, Muslims (whom we commonly call "radicals" these days). Furthermore, what we also had absolute proof that no other deity would EVER be coming back, that radical Islam was, in fact, the One True Faith? Would you convert, or pretty much guarantee permanent fire out of a lack of the ability to love/respect Allah?

Tom replies –See, my previous response on the return of Odin. From what I previously said in my response to your question about Odin’s return, what do you think I will say here?

Anonymous said...

I confirm. It was and with me.