Today I’d like for us to switch gears in this podcast and talk about things on a more basic level; in fact, I’d like for us to talk about things on the most basic level.
To many people, Christianity is all about sin and forgiveness. We sin, and Christianity is all about getting our sins forgiven. At least in the past, that’s what much of Christianity has concentrated on—getting your sins forgiven. To many people, that’s the whole point of Christianity—getting your sins forgiven.
But remember, the name of this podcast series is “Starting Over With Christianity.” So I’m going to really start over, and I’m going to ask you to consider that Christianity is really not about getting your sins forgiven. I’m going to ask you to consider a completely different direction.
Although this might be a different direction to many Christians, it’s not a new direction. It’s not my invention or something I came up with. It’s been around a long time. In fact, you could argue that it was the original idea behind Christianity, but that it became pushed into the background, more or less, as Christianity eventually developed to be all about sin and forgiveness.
I’d like for you to consider Christianity not as a way to get your sins forgiven but as an entire world view. I’d like for you to consider that Christianity talks about much more than sin and forgiveness, that it talks about the way things are at the most basic level. I believe Christianity speaks to the most basic questions: Where did everything come from? Why are things the way they are? Who am I at the most basic level? Why am I here? What is the meaning of life? So let’s think about some of those questions.
First, where did everything come from? Well, Christianity says the entire universe was brought into being by God. In some way or another, God is the one who brought everything in the physical world into being. This is not the time to get involved in an argument between creation and evolution, creation and the Big Bang. Let’s just agree to stipulate that, however it happened, God is the one who made it happen. God is the one who brought everything in the physical realm into being.
And of course that includes us, human beings. We are here because God put us here. Again, this is not the time to get involved in an argument about whether God created human beings in one day or whether human beings evolved over a long period of time. Let’s just agree to stipulate that, however it happened, God is the one who made it happen. God is the one who, in some way, made human beings.
And now for another question: Why am I here? I am here because God wants me here. God wants me. It’s that simple.
Why is the world here? Why is the entire physical universe here? Because God wanted us and needed a place for us to live. In other words, what God really wanted was us, and He needed a place for us to live, so He created the world and the entire physical universe as an environment for us to live in.
But why did God want us? He just did.
If you have children, why did you want children?
And, thinking of children, if you have children, what do you want for your children? Above all else, what do you want for your children? I bet above all else, you want your children to be happy and have a good life.
In the same way, I think, above all else, that’s what God wants for us, too—that we’re happy and have a good life.
So, let’s stop and summarize what we’ve talked about. God wanted us, so God created the world and the entire physical universe so we would have a place to live. And, what God wants for us, most of all, is that we’re happy and have a good life. Keep all that in mind while we think of something else.
What is God? Obviously, God is different than us, but what is He?
We don’t really know. All we can do is say that God is some kind of spiritual being. Obviously, if God is the one who created the world and the entire physical universe, then God is not a physical being. God is a being in another realm, a realm we call the spiritual realm.
But consider that God is not the only being in the spiritual realm. There are other beings there, too, other spiritual beings. And, some of them are opposed to God. They don’t like God, and they don’t want to see God have what He wants, and, remember, we said that what God wants is us. And so these spiritual beings who are opposed to God try to tear down what God has made, try to mess it up.
The biggest part of that is that they try to destroy us. After all, remember, we’re the ones God really wants; God made the entire physical universe just to give us a place to live, so these spiritual beings that want to destroy what God wants target us most of all.
Primarily, they’re out to destroy us. And they have, to a large extent, created havoc here in the physical world. They have succeeded in making life hard for us. They’ve succeeded in bringing heartaches and troubles and suffering and disease and natural disasters. They have worked within people to get people to do horrible things so that we live in a world where people do horrible things to each other. They have created all kinds of troubles and hardships in the world.
In fact, they have been so successful at creating havoc here in the physical world, at making life hard for us, that they’ve just about ruined what God made and what God wanted.
But God is not willing to let them succeed. God is not going to let them destroy us. God is going to intervene and stop them. Although they’re powerful, God is more powerful. However, they are so powerful that it’s hard for God to stop them. It’s not something God can just wave His arm and accomplish. It’s something that will take God a long time, and a lot of effort, to do.
There’s only one way God can stop these other spiritual beings from destroying us. We don’t understand why there is only one way, or exactly what that way is, but we do know that it requires God becoming a human being.
And so that’s what God did. About 2000 years ago, God became a real human being, just like us. And then He did something. Exactly what it was that He did, we’re not sure. We know it had something to do with being killed and then rising from the dead and ascending into heaven in His real human body, but exactly what all that accomplished, we’re not sure.
All we know is that it started a process that will, at some time in the future, result in God neutralizing those spiritual beings that are trying to destroy us. God is in the process of accomplishing that now. It’s something that He’s working on and has been working on for almost 2000 years but hasn’t yet accomplished. We don’t know how much longer it will take for God to accomplish that, but we know that one day He will.
And then, when that happens, God will be sure that we have what He always wanted us to have—a good life, where we are happy.
That, in essence, is what I believe Christianity is all about.
This idea is nothing new. It’s been around since the beginning of Christianity. It’s the idea of God fighting against Satan. It’s the idea of what Jesus did, and will do in the future, as really being about the defeat of evil.
I’ve been a Christian for over 50 years, and during that time, I have tried to take my faith seriously. I’ve read and studied and thought and pondered. I spent four years in seminary. I’ve seen a lot of different interpretations of Christianity over the years. Some have come and gone, some are still around.
But this one, about God fighting against Satan, about what Jesus did and is doing really being about the defeat of evil, is the only one, at last in my opinion, that really makes sense and that you can really harmonize with the Bible.
And so this is the version of Christianity I have chosen. It is the one I believe is true, and it is the one I try to promote.
There’s a stumbling block to this, though, that many people have trouble with. In order to accept this version of Christianity, you’ve got to be open to believe that there is a spiritual realm, that behind the physical world, beyond the physical world, around the physical world, or however you want to put it, there lies something more, something we call the spiritual realm.
Whatever you call it, whether you call it the spiritual realm or something else, you have to be willing to believe that there is more to things than just the physical world, more to things than just what we can see, in other words.
That’s so hard to do in the modern world, where everything is based on science. Belief in a spiritual realm is so un-scientific.
We live in a time where we believe in science. Science has The Key to The Truth; science is where we look for The Deepest Truths. Science is what we should look to if we want The True Answers. And of course science says there is no spiritual realm; science tells us religion is not real; it is the creation of human minds.
And so our position, as people in the modern world, is that we have one foot in religion, so to speak, and one foot in science. We’d really like to keep both. We don’t want to give up religion, and we certainly don’t want to give up science.
How can we have both? Well, if we see Christianity as being just about sin and forgiveness, as being just about the God who will send you to hell if you don’t get your sins forgiven, we can have that kind of Christianity and not have to think much about a spiritual realm. All we really have to think about is a God up there in heaven somewhere who is very displeased with how we live our lives and who is going to settle the score if we don’t get His forgiveness.
We don’t have to see much of a spiritual realm at all in order to have that belief. We only have to see just this God and a very limited spiritual realm. We can jiggle all this stuff about the spiritual realm around a little bit and end up not having to see much conflict between this version of Christianity and science.
However, in order to see Christianity as the struggle between the forces of good and the forces of evil, have to be willing to believe in the existence of an extensive spiritual realm inhabited by lots of different spiritual beings, the beings the Bible does talk about—angels, archangels, seraphim, cherubim, elders, hosts, various kinds of living creatures, demons, unclean spirits, Satan.
We can have the belief that Christianity is all about going to hell if you don’t get your sins forgiven without having to think about an extensive spiritual realm with all those spiritual creatures. We don’t really have to think much about the spiritual realm at all. All we really have to think about is a God who is never satisfied with the way anyone lives their life and who wants nothing but to settle the score for sin.
That view of Christianity doesn’t come into conflict all that much with science, but the view of Christianity that talks about the struggle between the forces of good and the forces of evil does.
That is, I think, why the version of Christianity that says Christianity is all about sin and forgiveness is so popular. It’s easier to reconcile that with science. We can believe that the physical realm is all there really is, but that somewhere behind it is a God who is dissatisfied with the way we live and demands we get forgiveness for being bad. That’s not really believing in the existence of an extensive spiritual realm; it’s only believing in something behind the physical. That version of Christianity is much easier to reconcile with science. We can have that version of Christianity and still, more or less, accept science.
The other version of Christianity is harder to reconcile with science, and I think that’s why so many people reject it.
What I’m trying to do is get you to consider, just consider, that maybe there is more to things than we can see, maybe there is more to things than just the physical world, maybe there is a spiritual realm.
I think we all know, in the backs of our minds, that there is more than just the physical world. We just know there is. We can’t prove it; we feel it. There’s just something in us that recognizes there is, something in us that tell us that what we see is only a small part of what is. We know there’s more than the physical. It doesn’t have to be proven to us, we just know it. Deep within, we know it.
And, we have a yearning in us to somehow connect with that. We know there’s more, that we are a part of something much bigger than we can ever imagine, and we are attracted to it. That’s why religious beliefs, in whatever form they might take, are universal in the world among virtually all peoples. Religion is the result of that sense within us that just knows there’s more.
Now, I’m not asking you to believe in demons and devils as some kind of slithery, reptile-skinned creatures with horns and pitchforks. And I’m not asking you to believe in angels as some kind of fuzzy-white, baby-faced creatures with wings. That’s just the way those have been portrayed in art.
But what I am asking you to do is consider, just consider, the possibility that there is a spiritual realm and that there are spiritual beings, whatever they might look like, that some of these are on the side of good, and some of them are on the side of evil; that the ones on the side of good are for us and the ones on the side of bad are against us; that the ones on the side of good are not willing to let the ones on the side of bad win but are willing to struggle against the ones on the side of bad, and that eventually, the ones on the side of good will win.
I’ve been a Christian for most of my life. I’ve been involved in Christianity for many years and have studied it seriously. I’ve seen many, many different versions of Christianity, and I’ll have to tell you, at least to me, none make sense but this one.
Why is that so? Because it’s the only one that gives the picture of God—what God is like—that we get from the Bible. One of the main things, I think, we can do with the Bible is glean from there what God is like. And from this idea of God fighting against the forces of evil that want to destroy us, we get the same view of what God is like that we get from the Bible.
But from the other versions of Christianity, we get a horrible view of God. Think about the view of God some of the other versions of Christianity have. A God who cares about nothing but His own glory, making Himself look good, and we are only tools God uses to make Himself look good. Or, a God who is consumed with desire for revenge for every little misstep a person makes, hell bent on making you pay for every little mistake, but who doesn’t because He has some kind of deal with His son, who He sent to earth and struck down with horrible suffering. Or, a God who supposedly loves everyone and just wants everyone to get along but who is too passive and docile to do anything to stop the suffering going on in the world. Or, a God who actually sends suffering and horrible things on the world in order to fulfill some kind of grand plan He supposedly has.
These are the views of God some of these other versions of Christianity lead to.
And I can’t accept any of them. I do not believe God is an egotistical maniac who cares about nothing but making Himself look good. I do not believe we are only tools God uses to make Himself look good. I do not believe God is hell bent on revenge for every little sin we ever committed. I do not believe God sent a biological son to the world and then inflicted terrible suffering upon Him. I do not believe God is too passive and docile to stop the suffering going on in the world. And I certainly do not believe that God could stop the suffering going on in the world at any time but does not because somehow it fits into some kind of warped-twisted plan He has in which He evidently delights in seeing people suffer, for their own good, of course.
The reason I accept the version of Christianity that I do is because it is the only version that leads to any kind of reasonable picture of God as He is described in the Bible, not one or two selected verses, but the picture you get of God if you look at the entire Bible, the broad sweep of the Bible.
And so, according to this version of Christianity, here is what God is like: God wanted us. Above all else, God wanted us. And so God made the entire physical universe as a place for us to live, and then He made us and put us here. Above all, what God wants for us is that we are happy and have a good life. But some other power, not of this world, set out to destroy us. It’s a power that’s almost—almost—as strong as God; so strong, in fact, that it almost succeeds in destroying us. But God is not about to let us be destroyed. God fights on our behalf, and after a long, long struggle, will finally win. God will destroy the power that is out to destroy us, and then we will have what God wanted in the first place, happy and good lives forever.
Sound like pie-in-the-sky? Call it that if you like, but I am absolutely convinced that’s the way things are.