An essay donated by Susan Humphreys
Some questions about the rapture & end times theology
As December 21, 2012 fast approaches and events in the Middle East seem to get worse and definitely not any better, many are beginning to look seriously at end time prophecies. Some I might say are looking gleefully to the end times; they can hardly wait for God to “sock it to” their and his enemies.
I have a few questions for the Rapturists and Tribulationists.
Would a loving and compassionate, all knowing and all seeing, wise, powerful and perfect God save only Christians in the Rapture and leave the rest of the world’s “good” people to suffer during the Tribulation?
People can point all they want to passages in the Bible they claim support their position about the Rapture and Tribulation. But such passages contradict of their theology, their basic claims about God.
Are those passages the word of God or the word of Men claiming, though not necessarily having. divine inspiration? Could they be metaphorical truths rather than literal truths? Are they prophecies of what will happen or threats about what could happen if humanity doesn’t start to treat each other more kindly?
Could they be the words of the Devil whose intent is to disrupt and deceive, to bring strife and war? The Devil is known as the great deceiver and nothing is more deceptive in my mind than convincing people that they are following God’s word or doing God’s will when they aren’t.
They sound like the words of an angry, vindictive God or angry and vindictive men not the words of a loving and compassionate, wise and perfect God.
Theists believe in a God that created the heavens and earth and all other things. They describe this God as being all knowing, seeing, loving, compassionate, wise, powerful and in every way perfect, who intervenes in the affairs of men, when he is so moved to act.
How could or why would such a God save only Christians and condemn all others to the torments of the Tribulation? How could such a God even think of bringing such torments down upon the heads of his people? I think the only answer is a wise and perfect God wouldn’t!
My parents managed to teach my siblings and me life’s important lessons without causing lasting physical or mental harm to us or causing harm to others. So why would a wise and perfect God need to harm his children, cause them to suffer, in order to teach them a lesson?
Why would such a God starve children to death or cause them to be blown to smithereens or have them watch their parent be blown to bits? Why would such a God need to harm innocents in order to teach some other recalcitrant schmuck a life lesson? Why would such a God cause a world wide Tribulation?
These questions have bothered theologians, philosophers and thoughtful religious leaders from all faiths since the dawn of time. They have spawned an entire field of study: Theodicy. Wikipedia defines this as the “attempt to resolve the evidential problem of evil by reconciling the traditional divine characteristics of omnibenevolence, omnipotence, and omniscience with the occurrence of evil or suffering in the world.” Wikipedia.
The questions have spawned a whole host of books. Rabbi Harold Kushner, “Why Bad Things Happen to Good People” and more recently “The Shack” by William P. Young are two popular books. .
And they have spawned what I consider, some pretty lame answers, chiefly, “God works in mysterious ways and it is not ours to know or even to question his reasons or intent.”
That statement avoids the question, it doesn’t answer it. Why would a “wise and perfect” God not be able to find other ways, why would such a God NEED to harm anyone, especially innocents, in order to teach people life’s lessons?
The people that put forth the answer just can’t face the reality that a “wise and perfect” God wouldn’t. A wise and perfect God that is all knowing and all seeing would be able to see into a person’s soul, he would be able to know, how to get through to a stubborn mind without harming innocent bystanders and without interfering in man’s “free will”.
After any major disaster we hear some fundamentalist preachers declare they don’t know what those people did but they must have done something awful to incur God’s wrath. They can’t accept the idea that innocent people, good God loving people, were killed in the disaster along with the not so good folks and probably some that were quite bad. They can’t face the conflicts between their Theology and the problem of why bad things happen to good people.
An imperfect God, a God that wasn’t the top God but a lesser God, might resort to such tactics, might indiscriminately kill or harm out of anger, frustration or vindictiveness. Such a God might take pleasure in wielding his power and terrorizing people and nations. Such a God might bring world wide floods to wipe out all of humanity, or make a bet with the Devil as told in the story of Job, or do some of the things described in various Biblical passages. Yet the Bible tells us to “turn the other cheek” rather than to seek an eye for an eye type of vindictive justice. We are told to forgive trespasses as we hope to have our own forgiven. Are we to do what God himself is unable or refuses to do?
The Bible is full of passages that address the issue of how men should treat each other. Wouldn’t an all knowing, seeing, wise, loving, compassionate, all perfect God recognize and honor goodness wherever it is found; in the Hindu or the Buddhist, the Wiccan or the Atheist, the Jew or the Muslim? Would such a God recognize only “good Christians” and turn his back on all other “good” people? Matthew 25:31 tells us he wouldn’t.
A God that isn’t so wise or perfect wouldn’t care about how people treat each other. Such a God might actually try to turn people against each other, set one group against another group, create strife and hatreds, encourage self-righteousness and intolerance. We have a name for such a God, we call him the Devil.
If God is all seeing and knowing wouldn’t he be able to see, wouldn’t he know what is in the heart of all people? Wouldn’t he know if they are sincere, honest, good people or charlatans? Wouldn’t such a God know if someone was just pretending to be a Christian in an attempt to hedge his bets? (check out Pascal’s wager)
If I can see and appreciate and understand the wisdom and “truths” in the sacred texts of the Hindu, the Buddhist, the Muslim as well as in the writings of our world’s secular philosophers and great writers, wouldn’t a perfect God recognize them as well? People on the other hand might declare that one book is more sacred than all others, that one book contains the absolute, literal TRUTH and all others are lies. A wise and perfect God would never make such claims.
We are taught that jealousy is a character flaw an imperfection. So how could a perfect God claim, “I am a jealous God you shall have no other Gods before me”? Humans might claim that my God is better than your God, and demand that all people worship him. But a wise and perfect God would make no such claims.
Humans would make claims that God only loves Christians, or only Christians will be saved. A wise and perfect God would have no favorites.
There are other answers to the problem of Theodicy:
- One answer is what I think spawned Deism, the belief in a creator God that doesn’t intervene in the affairs of the world. Deists claim such a God feels people’s pain and suffers what they suffer but is unable to do anything about it.
In a sense this God has no arms, legs or opposable thumbs, or vocal chords. For the Deist, human beings are Gods hands, legs, opposable thumbs, his voice. It is their action and words, not Gods, that does good or evil in this world. He can’t reach down and pluck you off the deck of a sinking ship and set you on safe ground. Nor could he cause the destruction of the earth or other Tribulations or cause the chosen ones to be taken up into heaven (Raptured) to avoid the tribulation. If there is such a God than it is obvious that such a God couldn’t have written the Bible or any other sacred text, caused miracles to happen, answered prayers ... How could such a God have even created all things? Deists don’t have an answer for that question.
But, to be honest, Scientists also don’t know at this point in time, what the first cause was, what set off the Big Bang. They are getting closer to an answer. They have now been able to create in a lab some peptides, the first building blocks of living organisms. Just because I, (and the Scientists) don’t know (at this point in time) what the first cause was, I have no need to say that God did it, for lack of a better answer.
- The third answer to the issue of Theodicy -- why is there evil in the world -- is simply that there is no God. God and the Devil are metaphors for the goodness and evil within all human beings. We are all we have got. Either we learn how to get along with, how to work cooperatively with, how to tolerate each other and we all thrive, OR we wage war against each other and we will self-destruct.
Would an all wise and perfect God save only Christians and leave the rest of the world’s “good” people to suffer? No, that would be against his nature. Whether there is or is not an all wise and perfect God is a question you have to answer.
Whether there will or will not be a Tribulation of some kind, only time will tell! If there is, it will be caused by men (or a lesser God or the Devil) not by an all knowing, seeing, loving, compassionate, wise, powerful, and perfect God.
Originally posted: 2012-OCT-11
Author: Susan Humphreys