Natural Evils III

The below item is part of my "Conversations" series.

An atheist and a Christian waiting for a bus

Daisy: I can’t remember the last time it rained this bad. The water’s going to be over the curb any minute.

Emma: Yeah. I’d like to get my hands on whoever it was that wrecked the bus shelter. I’m getting soaked to the bone.

Daisy: If I were a religious woman, I’d be praying for lightning to strike people like that before they could do so much harm.

Emma: Well now, I don’t think that would get you much. God has to allow people their free will for the greater good.

Daisy: Then I’d pray for God to stop the rain before it gets much worse. If this goes on all night, there are people in the valley that are going to get washed out.

Emma: We can’t ask Him to change the world for our convenience.

Daisy: People are definitely responsible for their own actions; I get that. But if God’s all powerful, why doesn’t He do something about natural evils like floods, volcanoes, and crib death?

Emma: He does do something about those evils. He brings us joy, hope, love, and comfort. We couldn’t live without those things, and they are enough to help us overcome any obstacle.

Daisy: I’d rather do without the death and disasters.

Emma: Then the world would be a simpler place, but we would have fewer opportunities to appreciate the blessings God has given us.

Daisy: If one of those blessings is a pair of dry socks, I could use it right about now.


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Posted on April 18, 2014 at 8:48 pm by ideclare · Permalink · Leave a comment
In: Conversations

Natural Evils II

The below item is part of my "Conversations" series.

An atheist and a Christian volunteering at a donation center

Wyatt: We must have sorted enough clothes for a thousand shelters today. Thank goodness we’re almost through.

Abigail: Tell me about it. Thank God for the strength to make it through, right?

Wyatt: For me, not so much. I’m not religious.

Abigail: Really? I assumed you were since you volunteered for this. Sorry for talking about God so much all day.

Wyatt: That’s okay; it doesn’t bother me. Whatever helps you make the time pass. I do wonder, though, how can you be so God-positive all the time when He lets people do such awful things to each other. We wouldn’t be doing this work if there wasn’t so much violence in the world.

Abigail: God has to let people do what they want to do. If he didn’t, then we wouldn’t have free will.

Wyatt: I suppose, but why should God allow natural disasters like tornadoes and plagues?

Abigail: If the world was free of evil, it would be a much calmer place, wouldn’t it?

Wyatt: Sounds good to me.

Abigail: If the world is calm and without conflict, then there would be no reason for people to rise up and improve themselves. Without great disasters and mighty diseases, there would be no heroes coming forward to save the injured or create world-changing medical cures.

Wyatt: I’d be willing to lose heroes for the sake of saving huge numbers of people from death.

Abigail: But you’d be condemning those people to a life of mediocrity because they’d have no incentive to live up to their full potential. The good that comes from overcoming adversity is far greater than the evil of that adversity, and every hero that rises glorifies God by showing the wonder of His creation. All the blessings and benefits that come from heroes are more than sufficient reason for God not to eliminate evil from the world.

Wyatt: Sorry, but I’m not seeing that.

Abigail: Look at yourself. You, an atheist, are volunteering to help women and children in battered women’s shelters. I’d say that’s heroic, at least a little. Wouldn’t you agree that the world is a better place because of little bits of heroism like this?

Wyatt: If it weren’t for my feeling the need to offset some of the mystery that we live with, I could be home watching Big Bang Theory. Give me that over the benefits of heroism any day.


If you have a conversation that you’d like me to consider publishing on this blog or in an upcoming book, please see the conversation guidelines.

Posted on April 16, 2014 at 8:47 pm by ideclare · Permalink · Leave a comment
In: Conversations

Morality of Free Will

The below item is part of my "Conversations" series.

An atheist having dinner at his Christian friend’s house

Ulrich: I really appreciate you letting me stay the night. I’ve been saving up for this trip for a year, but I’m barely affording it as it is.

Valencia: Not a problem. I don’t mind being a stepping stone to Yellowstone.

Ulrich: Mammoth, actually.

Valencia: Shows how much I know. You couldn’t get me camping for anything.

Ulrich: Well, I find it relaxing. I want to get as far away from the land of cubicles as possible. This project I’ve been working on was so high priority that I haven’t been able to take more than a long weekend off in over a year.

Valencia: What are you working on?

Ulrich: I can’t say too much. It’s autonomous military technology.

Valencia: I see. You know how I feel about the military stuff.

Ulrich: I know. It’s just part of the job to me. I sometimes have trouble understanding where you’re coming from, though.

Valencia: How so?

Ulrich: You’re really religious, but you’re also a pacifist.

Valencia: Those don’t exactly contradict each other.

Ulrich: No, but how can you be so anti-military when God isn’t?

Valencia: God is a God of peace. Of course he’s anti-military.

Ulrich: Then why does He allow people to die in combat?

Valencia: God can’t stop people from being violent because he’d have to remove our free will to do that. Having free will means being able to do both good and evil. God desires good, but he has to allow us to do evil and suffer the consequences.

Ulrich: It seems to me like He’d do more good by having a little less free will and a little less dying.

Valencia: The fact is, it’s a greater good to create free will than it is to prevent evil. It kind of stinks for us, but that’s just the way the world works.

Ulrich: I’ll have to take your word for that. Speaking of military stuff, I’d like to get your opinion on something.

Valencia: Sure.

Ulrich: Let’s say that someone is working on a robotic sentry — something that can patrol an area, challenge intruders, and unleash lethal force if necessary. Let’s say that it’s armed with machine guns like you’d find on a fighter jet, so it could actually take out lightly armored vehicles if it had to.

Valencia: You know I’m not thrilled about that kind of thing. Is that what you’ve been working on?

Ulrich: This is just a hypothetical. What I want to know is this: do you think that it would be better for the engineer to create a machine that follows a specific, predetermined set of mission parameters, or should the engineer use new neural-network technology to effectively give the robot free will so that it can abandon its mission or create a new mission if it decided that was for the greater good?

Valencia: For who’s greater good would be the question.

Ulrich: Well, this is an imperfect machine, so that question wouldn’t be easy to answer. We’d give it a set of priorities, but if it has free will, it might make priorities of its own.

Valencia: Personally, I don’t think it’s possible to build a machine with free will.

Ulrich: I guarantee you that in the very near future we’ll be able to build something so close to a machine with free will that you won’t be able to tell the difference.

Valencia: Be that as it may, you know how I’m going to answer this. We can’t have dangerous machines that we can’t control. That’s the problem with land mines and other uncontrolled ordinance.

Ulrich: But isn’t it a greater good to give the robot free will than to control its behavior?

Valencia: I know you think you’re being clever, but the analogy doesn’t hold. Humans aren’t machines. Human free will has value; robot free will has no value, assuming it exists at all.

Ulrich: Why is that? Why is one kind of free will superior to the other?

Valencia: Because robot free will is just a copy of the real thing.

Ulrich: Can you explain why making a copy of something that’s morally good results in something that isn’t morally good?

Valencia: Human creations don’t have moral value the same way that God’s creations do.

Ulrich: Then do you find robot soldiers less objectionable because they are just copies of human soldiers?

Valencia: No; they’re more objectionable. Turning something into a robot doesn’t ever make it more moral.

Ulrich: So if I put a computer in a car that automatically stops the car if it’s about to hit someone —

Valencia: That’s not the same thing at all. I know I’m not being very clear here, but the point is that real free will has moral value, and man-made free will does not.

Ulrich: You know, if you came camping with me, we could have these conversations every night.

Valencia: Like I said, I hate camping.


If you have a conversation that you’d like me to consider publishing on this blog or in an upcoming book, please see the conversation guidelines.

Posted on April 14, 2014 at 8:46 pm by ideclare · Permalink · Leave a comment
In: Conversations

Evil and Free Will II

The below item is part of my "Conversations" series.

Two Christians in a museum with a walk-in Noah’s Ark display

Aiden: The giraffes are huge!

Beth: Well, they are supposed to be life size. Look at the elephants! The brochure says the giraffes are an aluminum frame covered in wicker, and the artist made the elephants completely from VW car parts.

Aiden: The ears are the car’s doors. That’s really clever. Put down the brochure and let’s see if we can guess what everything’s made from.

Beth: Just a sec. It says here the artist was given a Noah’s Ark toy for Christmas when he was little and grew up loving animals because of it. It says he’s donating much of the money from the exhibit to some kind of anti-poaching charity.

Aiden: That’s nice. I think poaching’s awful. It’s one thing to kill an animal for food, but if you’re killing it just for its fur or tusks, that’s disgusting. It’s an affront to nature, almost. I wonder why God lets people insult His creation like that.

Beth: You know the answer to that. It would be a greater evil for God to interfere with human free will than it would to allow poaching.

Aiden: This is a weird place for you to say that.

Beth: Why?

Aiden: We’re standing inside a Noah’s Ark exhibit. Isn’t God sending a flood to kill almost everyone pretty much the definition of interfering with people’s free will?

Beth: That’s not God interfering with free will, that’s God killing sinners and removing corruption. It’s a different thing.

Aiden: Then why can’t God wipe out the poachers?

Beth: Because He’d just be doing it to stop them from exercising their will, not because they were a blight on the earth.

Aiden: Aren’t they a blight on the earth?

Beth: Yes, but God said he’d never send a flood to kill everyone again.

Aiden: I don’t mean a flood and it doesn’t have to be everyone. Why not just some strategic lightning strikes?

Beth: If lightning hit everyone who sinned, nobody would be left. Even on the way here you and I crossed that street against the light.

Aiden: We’re saved, though. In God’s book, justice has already been balanced on our account.

Beth: If God started punishing unsaved people on the spot for sin, it would stop them from exercising their free will because they’d know about the threat.

Aiden: It just seems weird to me that stopping Hitler is more evil than interfering with free will, but that killing millions of people in a flood isn’t.

Beth: That’s because killing people would be a sin for you or me, but it isn’t for God. On the other hand, interfering with free will is evil.

Aiden: Then shouldn’t we avoid interfering with people’s free will? And doesn’t’ that bring us back to why God didn’t kill Hitler, if it wouldn’t be a sin for Him.

Beth: We don’t have the power to interfere with free will, and God couldn’t kill Hitler because of the free will problem. I already said all that before. Don’t you get it?

Aiden: Not really.

Beth: Then don’t worry about it and let’s look at the animals.


If you have a conversation that you’d like me to consider publishing on this blog or in an upcoming book, please see the conversation guidelines.

Posted on April 11, 2014 at 8:45 pm by ideclare · Permalink · Leave a comment
In: Conversations

Did God create evil?

The below item is part of my "Conversations" series.

Two Christians in line at a bakery

Rachel: This is kind of like communion, right? Being lined up to get bread?

Sabrina: I guess you could say it reminds you of it.

Rachel: I’m so new to Christ that everything reminds me of Him. It’s still a struggle in some ways, though. I had so many questions that I thought would be answered once I accepted Jesus.

Sabrina: Now that you’re a Christian, you have all the answers. They’re written as clear as can be on your heart. You just have to be patient and let it happen.

Rachel: But does being a Christian automatically makes everything clear? Some things seem so incomprehensible.

Sabrina: Like?

Rachel: For example, why do bad things happen? If God is good, then why did He create evil?

Sabrina: He didn’t. Evil is an absence of good, just like darkness is an absence of light. You wouldn’t ask why God created darkness — it’s just all there was before He created light.

Rachel: That seems kind of weird. How do we know that good and evil aren’t both things, like sweet and sour?

Sabrina: When you give it some thought, it’s actually pretty obvious. I’ll walk you through the basics.

Rachel: Okay.

Sabrina: Whenever there’s a cause and an effect, the effect can only contain things that are in the cause. A wind can make things move because a wind is motion, but a wind can’t make things red because there’s no red in the wind. Right?

Rachel: Right.

Sabrina: God caused the creation of everything in the universe.

Rachel: Sure.

Sabrina: So if evil is a real thing and it’s part of the universe, then God created.

Rachel: Right. That’s what I’m saying.

Sabrina: But for God to cause evil to come into being, He would have to have some evil in Him.

Rachel: But that makes no sense because there is no evil in God.

Sabrina: Exactly! Therefore, God only created good, and evil must be just the absence of good.

Rachel: That’s awesome! But how do we know that evil is the absence of good and not the other way around? Maybe God’s creation is naturally good absent evil, but then evil comes in and corrupts things.

Sabrina: If that were the case, then God would have had to have created evil, and that can’t be since there’s no evil in God.

Rachel: Oh, right. Duh. Thanks for the sermon. Now we’ve earned our bread!


If you have a conversation that you’d like me to consider publishing on this blog or in an upcoming book, please see the conversation guidelines.

Posted on April 9, 2014 at 8:44 pm by ideclare · Permalink · Leave a comment
In: Conversations

God is Good IV

The below item is part of my "Conversations" series.

A Christian and an atheist carpooling

Kelly: Have you been thinking any more about what we talked about yesterday?

Lance: A bit, but I still need some clarification. I understand about God being just, but what do you mean when you say that God is good?

Kelly: God is perfectly good. That’s all there is to it.

Lance: But when you say that God is good, what does that mean? How do Christians define “good?”

Kelly: You know, good. Beneficial.

Lance: So in Christianity, “good” means “beneficial.”

Kelly: Right.

Lance: That implies that things that aren’t beneficial aren’t good.

Kelly: Obviously.

Lance: And anything that’s beneficial — like my taking someone’s wallet, which would be beneficial to me — is good.

Kelly: What? No. Taking a wallet is stealing. Good can’t have evil as a component, and God — being perfectly good — has no evil in him. I don’t know why we’re spending time on something so obvious, but if you want to get picky, then I’d say that good means providing benefit to the greatest number possible.

Lance: For example, giving every person in the country a penny would be more good than donating three million dollars to charity, right?

Kelly: No. A penny is almost no benefit at all.

Lance: I thought that good was defined by the number of people benefitted, not by the amount of benefit?

Kelly: That’s just part of it. You have to look at the total amount of benefit and provide it to the largest number possible.

Lance: Or else it’s not good?

Kelly: Or else it’s not as good as it could be.

Lance: Then if I have my $3 million, it would be more good for me to feed 100,000 dogs than to feed 10,000 people.

Kelly: No — people have a higher status than dogs. I’m talking about good for people.

Lance: So doing things for people is the greatest good?

Kelly: Yes.

Lance: More than doing things for God?

Kelly: No — of course you have to serve God.

Lance: Then I think what we’ve ended up with is “good” is defined as maximizing as much as possible the product of benefit and beneficiaries, where beneficiaries are either people or God.

Kelly: Yes.

Lance: Not animals.

Kelly: Wait, no — you can do good for animals.

Lance: But only after people and God.

Kelly: People and God are more important than animals, yes.

Lance: So helping an injured dog isn’t good if I could be using the time to play with a child or pray to God?

Kelly: No, or I mean yes — it’s still good. You’re completely missing the point here. Good means doing good things, no matter to whom or what.

Lance: You can’t use “good” in the definition of “good” — that’s circular.

Kelly: Say “moral” then — being moral is the definition of good.

Lance: Is it moral to rush into a burning building and save a stranger?

Kelly: Of course! Why would you even ask?

Lance: Is it immoral not to rush into a burning building and save a stranger?

Kelly: You’re not morally required to put your life in danger for others, no. You can be good without being heroic.

Lance: Then it’s good to not rush into a burning building to save someone.

Kelly: What?

Lance: If being “good” means being moral, and not rushing into a burning building is moral, then not rescuing the burning person is good. Of course, rushing in is good, too, so pretty much anyone on the scene where people are trapped in a burning building is good.

Kelly: For goodness sakes! Good is helping others, doing charity, and obeying morality. Good is all those things!

Lance: Are those examples of good or are they its definition?

Kelly: They’re examples.

Lance: Can you define “good?”

Kelly: Not in a way that will make you happy, apparently.

Lance: Then it sounds to me like all you know about good is that it’s a collection of things you personally like and that God has an infinite amount of it. Would it be fair to say that God is defined by perfectly doing things you personally consider moral?

Kelly: Yes! That’s not all encompassing, but yes. I would say that everything God does is perfectly good.

Lance: Then allowing the Holocaust to happen —

Kelly: Oh, for goodness sakes. I’m not going to go into that again. Why don’t you just read the Bible and find out the truth for yourself.

Lance: Somehow I don’t think that would help.


If you have a conversation that you’d like me to consider publishing on this blog or in an upcoming book, please see the conversation guidelines.

Posted on April 8, 2014 at 8:43 pm by ideclare · Permalink · Leave a comment
In: Conversations

God is Good III

The below item is part of my "Conversations" series.

A Christian and an atheist carpooling

Parker: Have you been thinking any more about what we talked about yesterday?

Omar: A bit, but I still need some clarification. I understand about God being eternal, but what do you mean when you say that God is good?

Parker: Well, I mean that God sets the standard of what is good.

Omar: So being good means being like God?

Parker: No, being good means obeying God. God has created a set of laws, and if we obey those laws then we are good.

Omar: Doesn’t that mean that when you say God is good, all you are saying is that God obeys his own laws?

Parker: Right. He obeys them perfectly.

Omar: Then a good person is a person who does whatever God wants him or her to do?

Parker: Yes.

Omar: If God told you to rob a bank, would it be immoral for you to rob the bank?

Parker: No. Earthly laws might punish me because they don’t know that I was working on God’s command, but robbing the bank wouldn’t be a sin.

Omar: I hope you’ll pardon me if I say I find that rather scary.

Parker: You shouldn’t. God only has our best interests at heart.

Omar: What about God killing people in the Old Testament? Does that mean it’s okay for us to kill other people sometimes?

Parker: God is on an entirely different moral plane than us. It’s not about what God does, it’s about what God tells us to do. God tells us that it’s a sin to murder, so murder is evil. Not that God murders anyone, but we can’t even kill people righteously for the same reasons that God does — because they disobeyed him, for example.

Omar: If that’s the case, then why doesn’t Jesus kill people like God did? Jesus is God, right?

Parker: That’s a special case. Jesus made flesh is God in a human body. In that case, He is serving as an example of how God wants people to behave because He is, in a sense, a person. That’s why God and Jesus behave differently. If you actually read the Bible instead of just reading atheist stories about it you’d understand better.

Omar: I’m going to have to do that at some point.

Parker: Definitely! I’ll be happy to answer any questions about it you might have.


If you have a conversation that you’d like me to consider publishing on this blog or in an upcoming book, please see the conversation guidelines.

Posted on April 7, 2014 at 8:42 pm by ideclare · Permalink · One Comment
In: Conversations

God is Good II

The below item is part of my "Conversations" series.

A Christian and an atheist carpooling

Nancy: Have you been thinking any more about what we talked about yesterday?

Makayla: A bit, but I still need some clarification. I understand about God being omnipresent, but what do you mean when you say that God is good?

Nancy: Well, I mean that God is the definition of what it means to be good. He’s the yardstick of goodness, and if we follow that example as exemplified by Jesus Christ we can live moral lives.

Makayla: If God is the definition of good, then is there any objective standard that we can judge goodness by?

Nancy: Yes. God.

Makayla: I mean, how do we know that God is good if we don’t have anything to compare Him to?

Nancy: That’s like asking how do we know that salt is salty. God is the definition of good in the same way that salt is the definition of saltiness.

Makayla: Then if God killed innocent kittens, it would be good to kill innocent kittens.

Nancy: I suppose, but God wouldn’t do that.

Makayla: Why not?

Nancy: It’s not His nature. Killing innocent things for no reason is evil and God can do no evil.

Makayla: But if God is the definition of good, then wouldn’t the definition of evil just be not doing what God would do?

Nancy: Yes.

Makayla: Then if God killed innocent kittens, kitten killing wouldn’t be something God wouldn’t do. That means if God killed innocent kittens, it would be good to kill innocent kittens.

Nancy: The point is that good is the way God is. You’re asking what we would call good if God had a different nature, but it would be impossible for God to have a different nature.

Makayla: If someone described a deity to you and it had a moral nature different from God’s, would you say that deity was evil?

Nancy: I’d know it was a false god already because it wasn’t God, but yes, I’d also know it was evil because it didn’t follow God’s perfect example of goodness. We’re evil for the same reason.

Makayla: If you came up to someone who had never heard about God, how would you prove that God was good?

Nancy: I’d use the Bible to show that God was love, caring for and shepherding His creation.

Makayla: And how would the person you are talking to know that those behaviors show that God is good?

Nancy: Those are obviously good things.

Makayla: By whose standards.

Nancy: By anyone’s standards.

Makayla: Even a person who has never heard of God?

Nancy: Yes.

Makayla: But if good is defined as following God’s example, how could someone with no knowledge of God know what good is?

Nancy: There are no people without knowledge of God and goodness. Both of those things are written on our hearts by God at the moment we are created. Even if someone has never heard the word “God” or read the Bible, he can sense right and wrong. That’s God working through him.

Makayla: How do we know that the moral sense we have was put there by God? Couldn’t it be that we call God good because He meets our expectations of what a good deity would do?

Nancy: No, because none of that makes sense without God. God is the definition of good. Without Him, no statement you can make about goodness makes any sense.

Makayla: Maybe there’s an objective standard of good, just like there’s an objective standard of truth.

Nancy: The only objective standard of anything is God. Without God, there could be no consistency in the universe — not in truth, not in good, not in anything. It would all be clear to you if you’d just read the Bible.

Makayla: I’m going to have to do that at some point.

Nancy: Definitely! I’ll be happy to answer any questions about it you might have.


If you have a conversation that you’d like me to consider publishing on this blog or in an upcoming book, please see the conversation guidelines.

Posted on April 2, 2014 at 7:17 pm by ideclare · Permalink · Leave a comment
In: Conversations

Why did Jesus die?

I want to tell you a story and see what you think about it.

Imagine it’s thousands of years ago in the middle east. Jesus and his twelve closest followers — the apostles — know that they are on a path to fulfill the prophecy of a savior rising to re-establish God’s kingdom on earth. The problem is that their growing prominence has drawn the notice of the authorities, but they still need more time to bring followers to their cause.

With this in mind, Jesus has a plan. “One of you will betray me,” Jesus says. The apostles are amazed by such a strange statement and erupt in confusion. All of them except for Judas, because Judas and Jesus have been plotting. “Is it me?” Judas asks. “Yes,” Jesus says, acknowledging that Judas had volunteered for the job.

The day before, Judas had arranged to “betray” Jesus to the authorities and was paid 30 pieces of silver. They now had operating funds to put Jesus’ plan into production.

Jesus is captured and taken before the authorities. He is beaten and abused far more than he had expected, but his disciples have no way of knowing this. Jesus is crucified, as expected.

It is said that the guards watching over Jesus gambled for his possessions, and this story is all that remains of the cover story told to explain how those who were supposed to watch Jesus die came by quite a bit of silver. It was enough silver, in fact, to ensure that Jesus’ legs would not be broken and that he would be taken down from the cross much earlier than was the normal practice. It was, apparently, not enough silver to stop one of the guards from stabbing Jesus in the side as proof that they were trying to kill him.

Later that night, after Jesus was laid away safe in a tomb, Judas returned. The plan had been for him to rescue Jesus, who would have dramatically “died” on the cross and been taken down before the fatal moment. Jesus would recuperate for a few days before returning to his people and continuing to build his movement in secret without the interference of authorities (who now thought he was dead). Unfortunately, because so much of his strength had been used in withstanding the earlier beatings, Jesus had not been able to last even a few hours on the cross and had, in reality, died.

Judas is distraught. He takes his beloved leader’s body from the tomb, but is unable to breathe life back into it. In despair, he buries it in a nondescript field and swears to himself that he will tell nobody what happened.

When Judas returns to the other apostles, he tells them — somewhat truthfully — that Jesus died on the cross but that his body is no longer in the cave. He heads off on his own after that and, full  of guilt for being part of a plot that killed the man he thought of as his future king, kills himself, consequentially eliminating the only living person who knew the entire story of Jesus’ death.

The other apostles, knowing that Jesus had promised he would return in three days, wait for him. Jesus had a plan, they knew, so they had to have faith and wait to see how it played out. When the time came, many of them — whether due to stress, religious furor, or other cause — have visions in which Jesus returned to them and gave them instructions for carrying out his wishes. The apostles treated these visions as if they were real, in-person encounters with Jesus, much like Paul would do not long after.

And so the story of Jesus miraculous death and resurrection was begun.

This story is just a story, but it does explain many things. For example, it explains:

Now that you’ve heard it, how ridiculous do you think my story is? Is it completely, insanely divorced from any possible reality? Or, to put it more simply, which do you think is more likely: this story in which a mortal man’s plot goes awry, or a very different story in which the protagonist has God-like powers and can return from the dead? I don’t see it as a very difficult choice, and in reality you have many more mundane stories to choose from than just mine.

(By the way, for those of you who have read the Gospels more recently than I, I’d love to hear any thoughts you have about how the Biblical story of Jesus’ last days fits in with my tale above.)

Posted on April 1, 2014 at 9:54 pm by ideclare · Permalink · Leave a comment
In: Bible

The Smell of Burning Flesh

The below item is part of my "Conversations" series.

A teenage Christian coming to her father with a question about the Bible

Isabella: It says in the Bible that God liked the smell that animal sacrifices gave off when they burned.* Why would God like that? Wouldn’t a burning animal smell disgusting?

Jack: Barbecue doesn’t smell bad, does it?

Isabella: No.

Jack: The law that said that the Hebrews had to burn their animal sacrifices was just God’s way of reminding people that we have to cook meat before we eat it. Lots of the rules in the Old Testament are really just reminders of how to live a healthy life.

Isabella: Jesus was the last sacrifice, right?

Jack: Yes. That sort of underlines my point — God didn’t require the body of Jesus to be burned after He died on the cross because burning isn’t really part of a sacrifice. It’s something you do to an animal before you eat it.

Isabella: If burning isn’t part of a sacrifice, then why was Abraham going to prepare a fire before sacrificing Isaac?

Jack: That’s a different matter entirely. It wasn’t the fire that was important to God, but the wood for the fire. Isaac carried the sticks for the sacrificial fire** just like Jesus carried his cross*** on the way to his own sacrifice.

Isabella: I thought that Simon carried the cross for Jesus?

Jack: Jesus carried the cross for a while and then Simon did.**** In the same way, Abraham carried the wood after Isaac did.***** The whole story of the binding of Isaac was a foreshadowing of the death of Jesus on the cross. God allowed Abraham to find a substitute for Isaac, just like God provided Jesus as a substitute sacrifice for our sins.

Isabella: Wow! Does everything in the Bible work together like that?

Jack: Yes, Love.

*Exodus 29:25, “And thou shalt receive them of their hands, and burn them upon the altar for a burnt offering, for a sweet savour before the Lord: it is an offering made by fire unto the Lord.” Leviticus 1:9, “You are to wash the internal organs and the legs with water, and the priest is to burn all of it on the altar. It is a burnt offering, a food offering, an aroma pleasing to the Lord. ” Also in many other places in Exodus, Leviticus, and Numbers.

**Genesis 22:6: “And Abraham took the wood of the burnt offering, and laid it upon Isaac his son; and he took the fire in his hand, and a knife; and they went both of them together.”

***John 19:17: “And he bearing his cross went forth into a place called the place of a skull, which is called in the Hebrew Golgotha:”

****Luke 23:26: “And as they led him away, they laid hold upon one Simon, a Cyrenian, coming out of the country, and on him they laid the cross, that he might bear it after Jesus.” See also Matthew 27:31–32 and Mark 15:20–21.

*****Genesis 22:9: “And they came to the place which God had told him of; and Abraham built an altar there, and laid the wood in order, and bound Isaac his son, and laid him on the altar upon the wood.”


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Posted on March 31, 2014 at 7:16 pm by ideclare · Permalink · Leave a comment
In: Conversations