Continuing to Answer (and Ask) Big Questions
As part of our “Big Questions” sermon series in this post-Easter season, we invited people to send in their questions (anonymously). We received over 100 questions, covering a wide range of topics and issues. There were also some common themes, so we will combine some questions as we seek to give responses in various places.
Big Questions on the Sermon Topics
The questions submitted confirmed that the big questions we discussed in the sermon series are questions that people are indeed wrestling with. In fact, the topic we received the most questions about related to suffering, as we received around a dozen questions touching on this topic (I’ve tried to combine them for sake of space):
- Why does God allow/create natural disasters, pandemics, and tragic events?
- How can someone who has lived a faithful life experience so much pain and suffering in this world?
- When asked why God, if He is so loving, allows bad things to happen (i.e. this present pandemic),what’s the best way to respond?
- How do we explain to our children why God lets bad things happen (like pandemics, joblessness, world, hunger, tornadoes, etc.) and why people suffer?
- Does the idea of God’s providence mean that even disease is “sent by God”?
- If God is merciful, why does He allow us to suffer and such terrible things happen to innocent babies and children: physical and/or mental abuse, neglect, sex trafficking, etc.? How can God watch His children suffer?
Many elements of these questions were discussed in the sermon “Why Do Bad Things Happen to Good People?” by Pastor Jason DeVries and the followup blog post on the topic, but I will add a few more comments here. First, we need to recognize that the presence of evil in this world is tied to sin.Because Adam and Eve chose to disobey God, the world has been cursed and humans have a sinful nature, which is why there are natural disasters, diseases (including pandemics), and also destructive choices that hurt others. Second, we need to recognize that this evil grieves God as well; He does not sit back and see the pain in this world that He created and think it is okay. In fact, He does not stay inactive or remove Himself from the suffering of the world, but enters into it in Jesus Christ, thee only sinless person, but one who endured great suffering on our behalf. Finally, it is okay to believe that God is good and in control but still struggle knowing that God sees this suffering. Struggling with the question does not mean you don’t have faith, but rather that you do, as you are seeking to make sense of what you believe and experience and are holding onto your faith. May we turn to Him, not stray from Him in these moments.
There were also a number of questions related to science and faith, such as what is the church’s stance on evolution, whether it is okay for Christians to have different views regarding creation and science (as long as they affirm the gospel), and if some of the findings of science (i.e. the Big Bang theory) could be how God chose to do things. The message by Pastors Charlie Contreras and Dave Weemhoff of “How Can Science and Faith Co-exist?” and an interview with Dr. Tom McCall of Trinity Evangelical Divinity School help us think through how faith and science can be viewed as compatible and complement each other, and I will add a few other comments addressing the particulars of these questions. Christians throughout the ages have had a number of different views regarding issues such as how exactly God created the world and also how old it actually is. The Apostles’ Creed affirms that God is the maker of all things but does not go into more detail, and ancient writers (who lived before the rise of scientific views) had differences of opinions regarding how to read the creation account of Genesis 1 in light of issues such as the fact that there was no sun until day 4, or what is then stated in Genesis 2. Therefore, as a church, Faith Church does not take one particular stance regarding how God created things, but thinks there is room for different views on the topic within certain guidelines (something also affirmed in a recent book I read by Gavin Ortlund called Finding the Right Hills to Die On). The key principles that we affirm are: 1) all things were made by God out of nothing, and 2) Adam and Eve were real, historical people who were made by a special act of creation in God’s image -- humans are not simply more highly-evolved animals or created by blind circumstances. These principles are important because the Bible affirms God made everything and connects both our sinful condition and our redemption by Jesus upon the creation between Adam and Jesus (see Romans 5 and 1 Corinthians). God may have created the world in a short amount of time or over a long period; we believe He is all-powerful, so He can do what He chooses. The major question isn’t how He chose to create, but why (to glorify Him) and how we can be saved (through faith in Christ).
One additional question that is somewhat related to this topic was “When were dinosaurs created and why do scientists claim them to be millions of years old?” For the sake of space, I will point to a blog post from June 2017 dealing with dinosaurs and the Bible.
Another question that we received was “how is it best for us to respond to people who have come to distrust the church and basically believe that the church hurts more than it helps people?” Pastor Bob’s message on Matthew 23 and the followup blog post remind us that we should acknowledge that Christians can be hypocrites, and at the same time, point others to Jesus who calls out and rejects hypocrisy; the faults of Christians do not undercut the claims of the faith.
We also received a few questions regarding the reliability of the Bible. While we discussed the overall topic in the message and blog post of whether the Bible is fake news, some specifics were not covered in the message. In particular, someone asked how to respond when we hear stories about some biblical manuscripts being forgeries (as recently happened with some held by the Museum of the Bible). This goes back to the fact that we have so many manuscripts of the Bible - if a few are found to be inauthentic, it does not invalidate the large amount that we have that are authentic. Another person asked if “the brilliance of the authors” who wrote the books we have in the Bible and their use of various literary devices cast doubt on their historical reliability. History and good literary writing do not need to be viewed as at odds with each other; while history can sometimes be written in boring ways, the ancient world sought to have historians write in ways that were engaging, and history can be engaging. Accurate and exciting renditions of past events do not need to be mutually exclusive. Finally, someone asked why the church puts so much emphasis on the Bible when the original audience could not read and when it has been rewritten through the years by humans. This is a great question and reminder that the first Christians did not have personal copies of the Bible; the early church could not encourage people to read their Bibles at home since they didn't have them. However, while people could not read, they would hear and could still memorize and learn from the sacred text; the goal is not to read, but to know and live out these truths. Furthermore, when you look at the wide expanse of manuscripts that we have in terms of the Bible, we can be confident that what we have today is what was written - it has not been rewritten by humans or changed through the years. While there are variations in the manuscripts we have, the differences are able to be explained and do not cast down on the overall teaching or message of the Bible.
Other Themes and Trends - and Upcoming Posts
We sought to answer a number of the questions in Facebook videos that I wanted to make sure you were aware of (you should be able to view the videos here even if you aren’t on Facebook).
- “Are we supposed to be following the commandment and have a day of rest? Is that rest from all work or what does that mean?” and “I have accepted Christ as my Savior and have been a Christian most of my life. I still keep doing some of the things that I know are wrong. Am I truly saved?”
- “I am thankful God blesses me every day. What does it mean when we say that we bless God?” “If you pray for something for years and it doesn't happen, why doesn't God remove the desire? I have asked Him to take away my desire if it is not His will; I still have the desire” and “When is it appropriate for a Christian to push back against a tyrannical government? An example of one who did would be the German pastor and theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer. He was martyred for his part in an assassination attempt on Adolph Hitler. Were his actions sinful?”
- “I am so afraid of death, illness, and suffering. How can I find comfort and let go of worry over the unknown and inevitable?” and “When I accepted Jesus as my savior, scripture says I am a new creation. Why don’t I feel like a new creation?”
We also briefly explored some of the more common questions and themes in the last week of the sermon series; these questions included:
- How do you know if God is talking to you?
-What happens to people who live in places where they never hear the good news about Jesus? -What happens to believers when they die?
-Do we choose God or does God choose us?
-If God knows everything, why pray?
-If God is good and everywhere - how can there be a hell?
-Why does Faith Church use the ESV translation?
-Why haven’t we taken communion during this time of COVID-19?
-Is this the end of the world?
Please check out that message for answers to some of these questions you might be asking.
Keep Reading - And Keep Asking
While the sermon series on “Big Questions” is over, we don’t want the asking or exploration of big questions to end. Since some of the questions we explored this past weekend are a bit more complicated than we had time to address in the few minutes devoted to each question, we will go further into some of these topics in the posts later this month. We will also address some of the other key themes and trends in the questions submitted, including some that dealt with specific passages (specifically the Old Testament and the command to destroy various nations when Israel went into the Promised Land in the book of Joshua), prayer, infertility, family, other religions, and living as a Christian. We also encourage you to keep asking questions to be answered on the blog or directly by Pastor Brian by sending them to the address below. Let our desire and hope to be a place where you can ask questions and get some answers!
Questions about the Bible or theology? Email them to Pastor Brian at You can also request to receive weekly emails with our blog posts by filling out the information on the right side.