Christianity has fallen into disrepute in the United States. It is now more fashionable, at least in education, media, government and other areas of public life to favor other less coherent world views. It wasn’t always this way. At one time our elected leaders and the laws they passed favored the Christian faith as its principles formed the foundation of our nation. Many of the founding documents and writings of public leaders are riddled with Christian ideas like this one from Thomas Jefferson:
- “It was not, however, to be understood that instruction in religious opinions and duties was meant to be precluded by the public authorities as indifferent to the interests of society. On the contrary, the relations which exist between man and his Maker – and the duties resulting from those relations – are the most interesting and important to every human being and the most incumbent on his study and investigation.”
Thanksgiving Day Proclamations
Many of our presidents wrote memorable Thanksgiving proclamations including this one by our first president:
President George Washington
City of New York, October 3, 1789
Whereas it is the duty of all Nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey his will, to be grateful for his benefits, and humbly to implore his protection and favor, and Whereas both Houses of Congress have by their joint Committee requested me “to recommend to the People of the United States a day of public thanksgiving and prayer to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many signal favors of Almighty God, especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness.”
Now therefore I do recommend and assign Thursday the 26th day of November next to be devoted by the People of these States to the service of that great and glorious Being, who is the beneficent Author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be. That we may then all unite in rendering unto him our sincere and humble thanks, for his kind care and protection of the People of this country previous to their becoming a Nation, for the signal and manifold mercies, and the favorable interpositions of his providence, which we experienced in the course and conclusion of the late war, for the great degree of tranquility, union, and plenty, which we have since enjoyed, for the peaceable and rational manner in which we have been enabled to establish constitutions of government for our safety and happiness, and particularly the national One now lately instituted, for the civil and religious liberty with which we are blessed, and the means we have of acquiring and diffusing useful knowledge and in general for all the great and various favors which he hath been pleased to confer upon us.
And also that we may then unite in most humbly offering our prayers and supplications to the great Lord and Ruler of Nations and beseech him to pardon our national and other transgressions, to enable us all, whether in public or private stations, to perform our several and relative duties properly and punctually, to render our national government a blessing to all the People, by constantly being a government of wise, just and constitutional laws, discreetly and faithfully executed and obeyed, to protect and guide all Sovereigns and Nation (especially such as have shown kindness unto us) and to bless them with good government, peace, and concord. To promote the knowledge and practice of true religion and virtue, and the encrease of science among them and Us, and generally to grant unto all Mankind such a degree of temporal prosperity as he alone knows to be best.
As we give thanks for the many blessings we have, let us give a special thanks to the God who created us with unalienable rights that have their source in no other.
1. Jefferson, Writings (1904), Vol. XIX, p. 414, Board of Visitors, Minutes, October 7, 1822.
Fifty years ago two great men died. Most remember this day as the day that John F. Kennedy died, but few remember that it also the day that C.S. Lewis died. C.S. Lewis authored many great books including Mere Christianity, The Screwtape Letters, The Problem of Pain, The Weight of Glory, Surprised by Joy, The Great Divorce, the Chronicles of Narnia Series and many others.
In his book Mere Christianity, Lewis made the observation that many say Jesus was a great moral teacher, but they don’t believe that he was the Son of God. I wonder if those who say these things have ever considered what Jesus said of himself:
- “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6)
- “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die.” (John 11:25)
- “For as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, so also the Son gives life to whom he will.” (John 5:21)
- “For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.” (John 6:40)
- “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day.” (John 6:44)
How can a man make the claims that Jesus made and be merely a good moral teacher? C.S. Lewis described how foolish it is to claim that Christ was nothing more than a good teacher when in Mere Christianity he wrote:
“I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: ‘I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept his claim to be God.’ That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic—on the level with the man who says he is a poached egg—or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God, or else a madman or something worse. You can shut him up for a fool, you can spit at him and kill him as a demon or you can fall at his feet and call him Lord and God. But let us not come with any patronising nonsense about his being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.”
Was he a liar? Was he a lunatic? Was he the Lord of heaven and savior of the world? Those are the options that are open to us. Will you receive Jesus as savior? If not, your only option is to believe that he is a liar or worse.
I love those who love Allah because they are made in God’s image. I love the zeal and passion they show in following what they believe. I wish that some of my Christian friends would exhibit this same sort of zeal and passion for following God! Because of the love and respect I have for my Muslim friends, I hope they will tolerate my frank and honest discussion as well as this additional question.
Does Allah really love you?
Please correct me if I’m wrong, but I could only find two Surahs that mention Allah’s love for his people:
- “Say: If you love Allah, then follow me, Allah will love you and forgive you your faults, and Allah is Forgiving, Merciful”. Surah 3:31
- “Never stand in it; certainly a masjid founded on piety from the very first day is more deserving that you should stand in it; in it are men who love that they should be purified; and Allah loves those who purify themselves. Surah 9:108
These passages say that Allah loves his people but they seem to be conditional. In Surah 3:31 it appears Allah will love you only if you love him. In Surah 9:108 it appears that Allah will love you if you purify yourself. Is that how you understand them? Is Allah’s love conditional?
Love is the greatest of all ethics. I would have expected Allah, if he is a maximally great God, to exhibit the greatest of all ethics in a maximally great way, but I just don’t see that in him. Am I missing something here?
A Truly Loving God
I performed the very same search using the Bible as well. In contrast I found 29 passages that mention God’s love for us. Among the passages that tell of God’s love are these:
- “Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another”.
1 John 4:7-11
- “For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord”. Romans 8:38-39
- “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” John 3:16
- “Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love; according to your abundant mercy blot out my transgressions”. Psalm 51:1
- “Give thanks to the God of gods, for his steadfast love endures forever”. Psalm 136:2
- “Now may our Lord Jesus Christ himself, and God our Father, who loved us and gave us eternal comfort and good hope through grace, comfort your hearts and establish them in every good work and word”.
2 Thessalonians 16-17
God Did for Us What We Could Not Do for Ourselves
The God of Christianity is a maximally holy God. He cannot be in the presence of sin, but he saw that we could not rescue ourselves from sin, so in his mercy he provided a way of rescue for us. “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God”. (2 Corinthians 5:21) We were bound to the law of sin and death because we could not live up to God’s standard, but God willingly sacrificed his one and only son “so that we might receive adoption as sons.” (Galatians 4:5). That is how a maximally great God shows love in a maximally great way!
I know my Muslim friends are now thinking that I believe in three Gods. May it never be! There is one God. All Christians believe that there is one God who is revealed to us in three persons, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. This one God is eternally one in essence and eternally distinct in three persons. This allows God to express all the range emotions that we feel in a maximally great way – even before the creation of the universe. That is something that the lonely Allah could not do before creation (I mean no disrespect in saying that – it just seems to follow from what I know about Allah – please correct me if I’m wrong). The idea of a triune God, a God who is three in one, is hard for us to comprehend but perhaps we can apprehend who he is. We have to remember that we are finite beings and God is an infinite God. Actually we are finite “becomings” because we are not yet what God intends us to be. God is the only one who has eternal being. God has condescended to reveal himself to us – even to the point of becoming one of us to suffer in our place. He saw our suffering and chose to suffer with us. That is a maximally great love!
God has given us a free gift as so well described in Romans 5:6-10. “For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person – though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die – but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life.” So then, we are justified by faith just as Abraham was. For Abraham “believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness” (Galatians 3:6). “Know then that it is those of faith who are the sons of Abraham. And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, “In you shall all the nations be blessed.” So then, those who are of faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith”. (Galatians 3:7-9 & Genesis 12:3)
God is offering you the free gift of salvation in Christ Jesus . Will you put your faith in Christ and receive him as your savior?
Allah is a maximally great and holy God. Allah is perfect and righteous. He does not tolerate evil and he judges rightly by punishing those who do evil and think evil thoughts.
Have you disobeyed Allah? Have you lived up to Allah’s expectations? Will Allah really forgive those whom he judges or will he not judge rightly by punishing you for the sins you commit? For according to the Quran:
- “That is because Allah never changeth the grace He hath bestowed on any people until they first change that which is in their hearts, and (that is) because Allah is Hearer, Knower.” Surah 8:53;
- “But lo! many are led astray by their own lusts through ignorance. Lo! thy Lord, He is Best Aware of the transgressors. Forsake the outwardness of sin and the inwardness thereof. Lo! those who garner sin will be awarded that which they have earned.” Surah 6:119-120
- “They were mightier than these in power and (in the) traces (which they left behind them) in the earth. Yet Allah seized them for their sins, and they had no protector from Allah.” Surah 40:21
All have sinned both outwardly and inwardly. None of us are perfect. Shall any then escape the right judgment of Allah when he is punished for his sin? If you respond that Allah forgives those who believe in him, how can that be? Does Allah commit an evil act by rewarding those who have sinned? On what basis will Allah be a righteous judge if he rewards sinners? The Quran clearly states that we will not be wronged in judgment. It says we will all receive what we deserve.
- “And Allah created the heavens and the earth with truth and that every soul may be rewarded for what it has earned and they shall not be wronged.” Surah 45:22
So then, what reward will you receive from Allah? Since sin is punished and all have sinned, will not all who believe in Allah be punished?
A More Excellent Way
There is a righteous judge who does not commit evil by judging wrongly. He forgives sinners not on the basis of their evil acts but on the basis of a substitutionary sacrifice. This righteous judge will punish all people who do not receive the free gift, the substitutionary sacrifice, being offered to them. This free gift is a righteousness that is credited to us by the sacrifice of a perfectly obedient life given in the person and work of Jesus. For even the Quran says:
- She [Mary] said: Lo! I seek refuge in the Beneficent One from thee, if thou art Allah-fearing. He said: I am only a messenger of thy Lord, that I may bestow on thee a faultless son [Jesus]. Surah 19:18-19
The free gift of eternal reward is exceedingly good news. It is available to all and could be summed up in this way:
- God is maximally holy
- We have all sinned against God
- Sinners cannot be in the presence of a maximally holy God
- God sent Jesus to die as a once and for all perfect sacrificial offering for us.
- In his death Jesus took our sin on himself and credited to us his righteousness
- If we receive the free gift of Jesus, then we receive an eternal reward not based on our righteousness, but based on the righteous of Jesus
- Having therefore received the righteousness of Jesus, we respond with praise and sacrificial living
Will you receive the free gift that God has offered in Jesus?
Many are unaware that the Qur’an mentions Jesus in several of its Surahs. For example, Surah 3:45 says “(And remember) when the angels said: O Mary! Lo! Allah giveth thee glad tidings of a word from him, whose name is the Messiah, Jesus, son of Mary, illustrious in the world and the Hereafter, and one of those brought near (unto Allah).”
The Qur’an mentions Muhammad as too. For example Surah 38:1-2 says “The revelation of the Scripture is from Allah, the Mighty, the Wise. Lo! We have revealed the Scripture unto thee (Muhammad) with truth; so worship Allah, making religion pure for Him (only).”
The Supremacy of Jesus
The Qur’an is complementary toward Jesus, but how do the Surahs about Jesus compare with similar Surahs about Muhammad? Do the Surahs about Jesus indicate his supremacy over Muhammad? Let’s compare a few Surahs about Jesus and Muhammad.
Jesus is Born of a virgin but Muhammad is mortal
- Jesus: She [Mary] said: How can I have a son when no mortal hath touched me, neither have I been unchaste? He said: So (it will be). Thy Lord saith: It is easy for Me. And (it will be) that We may make of him a revelation for mankind and a mercy from Us, and it is a thing ordained. Surah 19:20-21
- Muhammad: Say (unto them O Muhammad): I am only a mortal like you. Surah 41:6
Jesus could speak from birth
- Jesus: Then she brought him (Jesus) to her own folk, carrying him. They said: O Mary! Thou hast come with an amazing thing. O sister of Aaron! Thy father was not a wicked man nor was thy mother a harlot. Then she pointed to him [Jesus]. They said: How can we talk to one who is in the cradle, a young boy? He [Jesus] spake: Lo! I am the slave of Allah. He hath given me the Scripture and hath appointed me a Prophet, And hath made me blessed wheresoever I may be, and hath enjoined upon me prayer and almsgiving so long as I remain alive, And (hath made me) dutiful toward her who bore me, and hath not made me arrogant, unblest. Surah 19:27-32
- Jesus: When Allah saith: O Jesus, son of Mary! Remember My favour unto thee and unto thy mother; how I strengthened thee with the holy Spirit, so that thou spakest unto mankind in the cradle as in maturity; Surah 5:110
Jesus heals the sick, gives sight to the blind, resuscitates the dead, and creates
- Jesus: … and how I taught thee the Scripture and Wisdom and the Torah and the Gospel; and how thou didst shape of clay as it were the likeness of a bird by My permission, and didst blow upon it and it was a bird by My permission, and thou didst heal him who was born blind and the leper by My permission; and how thou didst raise the dead by My permission; and how I restrained the Children of Israel from (harming) thee when thou camest unto them with clear proofs, and those of them who disbelieved exclaimed: This is naught else than mere magic; Surah 5:110
Jesus is faultless and righteous but Muhammad must be forgiven
- Jesus: And remember when the angels said: O Mary! Lo! Allah giveth thee glad tidings of a word from him, whose name is the Messiah, Jesus, son of Mary, illustrious in the world and the Hereafter, and one of those brought near (unto Allah). He will speak unto mankind in his cradle and in his manhood, and he is of the righteous. Surah 3:45-46
- Jesus: She [Mary] said: Lo! I seek refuge in the Beneficent One from thee, if thou art Allah-fearing. He said: I am only a messenger of thy Lord, that I may bestow on thee a faultless son [Jesus]. Surah 19:18-19
- Muhammad: Then have patience (O Muhammad). Lo! the promise of Allah is true. And ask forgiveness of thy sin, and hymn the praise of thy Lord at fall of night and in the early hours. Surah 40:55
- Muhammad: So know (O Muhammad) that there is no Allah save Allah, and ask forgiveness for thy sin and for believing men and believing women. Allah knoweth (both) your place of turmoil and your place of rest. Surah 47:19
- Muhammad: “Lo! We have given thee (O Muhammad) a signal victory, That Allah may forgive thee of thy sin that which is past and that which is to come, and may perfect His favor unto thee, and may guide thee on a right path. Surah 48:1-2
Those who follow Jesus are above those who disbelieve
- Jesus: (And remember) when Allah said: O Jesus! Lo! I am gathering thee and causing thee to ascend unto Me, and am cleansing thee of those who disbelieve and am setting those who follow thee above those who disbelieve until the Day of Resurrection. As for those who disbelieve I shall chastise them with a heavy chastisement in the world and the Hereafter; and they will have no helpers. And as for those who believe and do good works, He will pay them their wages in full. Allah loveth not wrong-doers. This (which) We recite unto thee is a revelation and a wise reminder. Surah 3:55-58
Even the Titles for Jesus in the Qur’an Seem to Indicate his Supremacy
The Messiah (Al-Masih): Jesus is given this title eleven times in the Qur’an. Surahs 3:45, 4:157, 4:171, 4:172, 5:17, 5:72, 5:75; 9:30, 9:31
The Word of God (Kalimatullah): Jesus is also called “His Word” in Surah 4:171, meaning the Word of God. In Surah 3:45 we also read that the angels said to Mary “Allah giveth thee glad tidings of “a word from Him”, whose name is the Messiah, Jesus, the son of Mary”. More than once in the Qur’an, therefore, Jesus is called God’s Word.
A Spirit From God (Ruhullah): Jesus is called a “spirit from Him” Surah 4:171 and 58:22. Very significantly Yusuf Ali, commenting on this latter verse in his translation of the Qur’an states that here the “phrase used is stronger” than that for the Holy Spirit (Ruhul Quds). He implies that the Spirit from God is greater than the Holy Spirit and says that it is “the divine Spirit, which we can no more define adequately than we can define in human language the nature and attributes of God”.
Jesus is Supreme and the Only Way to God
Jesus is unique. The Bible was written over a period of 1400 years and yet the single thread that runs from Genesis to Revelation is Jesus, the savior of the world. Only in the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus can man be saved. The Bible records these words of Jesus in John 14:6 : “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me”. Acts 4:12 adds “And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” It is undeniable that all people experience sin. Only Christianity recognizes that man is depraved and in need of a savior. Only Christianity recognizes the savior that God sent to save people from the condemnation due them because of sin.
What will you do with Jesus? Will you recognize that he alone lived the life that you should have lived and died the death that you should have died? He alone provides a way of escape from the condemnation of your sin. Everyone must decide what to do with Jesus. Have you?
A scholarly article on a study of why Christians are leaving the faith cited four primary reasons, seldom if ever discussed in blog posts on the same topic. Here are the four reasons for “deconversions” found in a study of written testimonials of those who had left Christianity.
The abstract of the study, which can be found here: Explaining Deconversion from Christianity, states, “This article examines the written narratives from fifty former Christians. In these narratives, drawn from an online community of deconverts; the writers described their experiences with and explanations for leaving the Christian faith. Several themes emerged as to why they left, including: intellectual and theological concerns, a feeling that God had failed them, and various frustrations with Christians. The writers gave little mention to non-Christians as pulling them out of the faith. These narratives emphasized external, rather than internal, attributions for the deconversion. They also identified primarily “push” rather than “pull” factors as the cause of deconversion. While some narratives outlined the costs and benefits of deconversion, others told of seeking moral rightness regardless of the costs.” The four reasons cited for the large exodus of people from Christianity were (in order).
- Intellectual and theological concerns
- God’s shortcomings
- Interactions with Christians
- Interactions with non-Christians
The first three reasons were cited more often than the last one, and a large majority cited the first reason, some of which cited it as the sole reason for their departure.
The study, conducted for the Journal of Religion and Society by a group of university professors was also cited in a few great blog posts including:
- The surprising importance of apologetics
- Breaking up with a God who failed them
- The problem of responding badly to doubters
- The relative unimportance of non-Christians
The first three reasons are grounded in the failure of Christian churches to teach theology and apologetics. The intellectual concerns around Christianity are primarily due to a secular culture that at best is neutral toward Christianity and at worst is hostile toward it. People look at science and the discoveries that have been made that provide significant evidence for an old earth a cosmic creation event originating with a singularity (the “big bang”) and don’t see it matching up with the six days of creation in Genesis. The frustrating thing is that there are good reasons to interpret Genesis with plenty of room for an old earth viewpoint. Scientists, most of who have a purely naturalistic worldview, raise additional doubts when they teach that science explains everything. The assumption is that you don’t need God to explain any part of creation. All you need is physics and if given enough time physics will explain everything (is this the “science of the gaps”?). Other intellectual concerns arose as well including the apparent contradiction between a loving God and an eternal hell or between a loving God and suffering on earth. Still others cited Christian atrocities not realizing the magnitude of non-Christian atrocities. Others found stories like Noah’s ark difficult to believe in light of the science behind effect of a global flood. Noah’s flood very well may have been a regional flood that destroyed the known world at that time – but most Christians don’t hold this view. Relatively short genealogies leading up to the flood might account for why only a regional flood was all that was needed.
As for “God’s shortcomings”, those who cited this as a reason for their departure generally felt that God had not answered their prayers in times of extreme need. One person epitomized the sentiment of many when he stated “God promises me a lot in the bible and he’s not come through. Ask and it shall be given. Follow me and I will bless you. I promise you life and promise abundance. Man should not be alone. I have a plan for you. Give tithe and I will reward you. All broken promises. This god lacks clarification. This god lacks faith in me. He wants my faith. I want his too.”
Too bad that we often fail to realize the truth seen in this simple poem by Robert Browning Hamilton:
“I walked a mile with Pleasure;
She chatted all the way;
But left me none the wiser
For all she had to say.
I walked a mile with Sorrow;
And ne’er a word said she;
But, oh! The things I learned from her,
When Sorrow walked with me.”
Many people can’t understand the struggles they face in the world. They might be thinking, “How could an all powerful and perfectly good God create a world where evil exists and people struggle?” They may also think, “Why isn’t God answering my prayers”? These doubts can be addressed with thoughtful and winsome teaching in theology and apologetics. There are good answers to doubts generally and these questions specifically.
It is disappointing to see that Interactions with Christians is also a topic that causes people to leave Christianity. I would have suspected that this was due to lives that were inconsistent with Christian teaching. People seem to be very interested in living well, but to my surprise their biggest frustration was how other Christians dealt with the doubts expressed by people. It should be seen as “ok” to doubt. Even new testament Christians had doubts. Consider John the Baptist who sent a messenger to see if Jesus was really the Messiah or the disciple who said to Jesus “I believe; help my unbelief” (Mark 9:24). We all struggle with doubt at least from time to time and we should be willing to discuss our doubts with each other in a loving and accepting manner without criticism or other negativity.
I’m surprised to see that the fourth category, interactions with non-Christians, was not more prominently cited. This may be because Christians in general are insulated in primarily church relationships. Another disappointing fact since we are supposed to be salt and light to a lost world. However, it is interesting to note that once people left Christianity, non-Christians helped to provide reasons to support why they left thereby confirming their decision to leave and making it more difficult for us to win them back.
In addition to the study itself and the blog posts linked above, there are some additional posts on the topic from apologist “Wintery Knight” here:
For a different but related topic here is a study of reasons churches grow:
I hope that we Christians we will do everything we can to respond to the needs of those who are leaving the faith. I would hate to see the our children spend their lives in a nation that loses the positive influence of Christianity. Even worse I would hate to see a single soul lost because we failed to live Christianly.
Richard Dawkins said in his book, the God Delusion “The God of the Old Testament is arguably the most unpleasant character in all fiction: jealous and proud of it; a petty, unjust, unforgiving control-freak; a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser; a misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully.” He said this because of the Old Testament commands to completely wipe out certain people groups, particularly the Canaanites.
The Bible says that God is holy, holy, holy. This is a Hebrew way of indicating the supreme magnitude of something. In this case it is used to describe God as being supremely holy. The Bible never says God is love, love love, or mercy, mercy, mercy, or justice, justice, justice. It only says God is holy, holy, holy. Because He is supremely holy, He cannot tolerate evil. Is it wrong then for God to choose to end a person’s life or the lives of all people in a nation if that person or that nation is decidedly evil? If God ends someone’s life is it murder? Since God is the author and giver of life, can’t he also choose when to end the life of a person or the lives of all people in a nation? According to the Bible, there is a new creation that all people will be a part of (either in God’s presence – heaven, or outside of God’s presence – hell). Can’t God choose to transport people from one realm to another whenever he chooses?
With that as background, let’s consider the Canaanites and God’s command to the nation of Israel to wipe them out and take over their land. First we need to remember that God had punished the Israelites for 400 years by sending them into captivity in Egypt. During these 400 years, the Canaanites engaged in idol worship that included all sorts of evil acts, the worst of which was the sacrifice of their children to the “god” Molech. Molech was a brass idol with outstretched hands. The Canaanites would build a fire at the base of the brass idol and lay their children in the hot outstretched arms of Molech. To keep the parents from hearing the cries of their children, the “priests” would beat their drums very loudly. God warned the Canaanites to stop this practice and others like it in the 400 years leading up to the ultimate defeat of Canaan, but they refused to repent of their evil acts so God commanded their destruction.
Why God chose to destroy the Canaanites is a difficult question for Christians to answer. Based on the nature of the God I have come to know, I believe that if the Canaanites had repented of their evil ways and turned toward following God, He would have relented of his decision to destroy them. The Canaanites did no such thing. They refused to repent and added evil upon evil to what they were already doing. God can only tolerate wickedness for so long. The fact that he patiently waited for them to repent for 400 years is remarkable considering He is holy, holy, holy.
We see this pattern over and over again where God warns people to repent and if they don’t, judgment is delivered to them. The Israelites went into Egyptian captivity, Assyrian captivity and ultimately Babylonian captivity for the same reason – they had turned against God. Before God judged the Assyrians and the Babylonians, he warned them too. This is a repeating pattern in the Bible.
In the New Testament God still judges nations and causes nations to rise and fall. Consider Hitler’s Germany. The destruction of millions of Jews led ultimately to Germany’s destruction. In America we are murdering millions of unborn babies. Is this why our nation is in decline?
There is one significant difference between the Old Testament and the New Testament. That difference is in Jesus’ death on a very cruel cross. Our sins have been paid through Jesus’ vicarious, substitutionary death. That is a game changer. Though we are sinners deserving death and eternal punishment, at the cross of Jesus our sins were imputed to Him and his righteousness was imputed to us. People are still judged. Nations still rise and nations still fall. God is actively involved in the rise and fall of nations, but we don’t perceive it because he acts in subtle ways. God is loving, but he is also righteous and holy, holy, holy and will only tolerate evil for so long.
The questions that remain are these. Are you following God or not? Will God bring judgment to you or graciously forgive your sins? Are you willing to ask his forgiveness or are you going to stubbornly do whatever you choose to do, no matter how much it displeases God?
The decision is yours.