Questions & Answers
Latechurch has committed itself to working towards answering some of the difficult questions we face as Christians.
We’ll be answering questions and putting it up here. The answers are given by all sorts of people from Latechurch. What you read are not the thoughts of experts, but the explorations of normal followers of Jesus.
If you want to keep exploring the issues, all of the articles will have links at the bottom for more in-depth discussion. Or, if you want to talk more with someone who follows Jesus just contact us here
Pete Kutazov is a member of Latechurch, a follower of Jesus and a Dad of two boys. Here he wrestles with the vast number of Christian denominations.
On September 12, 2001 Canadian police officer James Symington and his police dog Trakr cut short their holiday to volunteer in the rescue operation at ground zero, New York. Twenty-six hours after the Twin Towers came down, Trakr leads rescuers through the rubble to Genelle Guzman, the last of the 20 survivors who had been inside the buildings when they collapsed.
The rescuers had no idea where to find survivors. Even after Trakr revealed Genelle’s general location they would have to spread out, searching for the safest way to get to her through the treacherous rubble. But because they had Trakr, they knew where they had to get to.
And I think the sense in which Christians can say that they know what’s true is similar to the sense in which the rescuers could say that they knew where Genelle Guzman was in those moments before she was found. Christians don’t know everything, but they have a person that they trust knows the most important things of all.
And that’s pretty much it. If Jesus did actually come from heaven, then even if Christians don’t know much they do know that if they follow him they’ll get there. And if Jesus truly did rise from the dead then it means he’s qualified to tell us what happens after death.
One of the greatest moments of honesty recorded in the Bible comes from Thomas, one of Jesus’ followers. Thomas says to Jesus, “We don’t know where you’re going. How can we know the way?” I just love his honesty about having no idea how any of this will work out. But in a beautiful moment, Jesus says to him “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me”. (John 14:5-6) Thomas didn’t need to know the ‘right’ Christian answer to every thorny issue, because he knew the one person who knows the way to God.
In fact, Christians who listen to Jesus should expect that we’ll get all sorts of things wrong. The church has LOTS of sorries to say.
Now, you might have met Christians who don’t really have this attitude. Some of us insist that we’re right about everything. Sorry about that. We don’t follow Jesus too well sometimes. Jesus himself gave us three reasons that Christians should expect we’ll get lots of things wrong. Us humans are limited, self-centred and broken.
First, Jesus says that us humans can only ever know a sub-set of the whole story. One particular angle on the truth. We’re not omniscient. We’re subjective. So our views will always be a bit one-sided. Secondly, Jesus says that our view of what’s true will always be a bit biased. One example of this is what psychologists call the ‘self-serving bias’. What we believe to be true is affected as much by what we would like to be true as by the objective reality. Third, our brains don’t always function properly since sin messed up the world. Anyone who’s been affected by mental illness knows just how much of a pain this is. So with these three all interacting, even the amazingly brilliant humans that God made in his image are going to mess things up quite a bit.
The thing about following Jesus is that he paid the costly price for our screw-ups. His death was for our sin, that he took on himself. He then rose again to enter heaven, paving the way for us to follow him there. Even if sometimes we follow him a bit like a confused tourist follows a GPS. Or a frantic rescue worker follows a police dog through dangerous rubble. We make wrong turns. Often. Following Jesus is a constant process of checking our direction against the compass and turning back to follow him. Often with our tail between our legs, but thankful for the forgiveness he won on the cross.
When you add our ability to make mistakes like this to the fact that Christianity inherently embraces people of every age, race, gender, class, orientation, etc: it makes sense that there would be 30,000 different groupings of Christians who all trust Jesus to tell them the way. I actually find the diversity somewhat comforting. Groups where there is no liberty of opinion or space for diversity of thought are an appropriate cause for real concern.
The great thing about all this is that you can ask any person from any one of those 30,000 denominations this question: do you trust in Jesus Christ to know the way, or do you think that you know what’s true? Someone who follows Jesus will tell you that they don’t know much, but they know Him.
Now this answer raises a bunch of questions about whether Jesus is a real man, if the Bible is even an accurate record of what he said and whether he really rose from the dead. Which is great, because we love talking about hard questions like those, too. This page will be updated with links to honest reflections on those questions as they’re posted through the year. Come and check it out. We’d love you to be part of our journey for answers.
 Some of which we’ll cover in later questions
 John 3:8.
 On the ‘self-serving bias’ see http://www.psych.ufl.edu/~shepperd/2%20Shepperd%20et%20al.%202008.pdf or on the Dunning-Kruger effect, see http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10626367. For Jesus on our skewed, self-centred view of things, see Matthew 7:1-5.
 For statistics on mental health in Australia, see http://www.mindframe-media.info/for-media/reporting-mental-illness/facts-and-stats. For Jesus engaging with and caring for a broken mind, see Luke 8:26-35.
 This has been standard teaching among Christians since its first preachers started preaching, check out 1 Corinthians 2:2.
Ryan Ferguson is a uni student in his mid twenties who started following Jesus about 6 years ago. He gives us his thoughts on the problem of evil and God.
2015 has just begun, and the New Year has come in on the back of tragedy. Two weeks before the New Year’s celebrations, a hostage situation broke out in Sydney, ending in three deaths. Days later, eight children in Cairns were murdered. The problem of evil is not just an intellectual paradox – it rattles us, it offends us, it grieves us. And it makes us ask: where is God in all this? Is God powerless against evil? And worse: if He’s able to stop it, does He just not care?
If you’ve ever felt the sting of evil, suffering and injustice, then you’ve probably found the cliché “God works in mysterious ways” underwhelming. It doesn’t give a good reason for why things are so bad, and it offers no comfort to ease our pain.
Job, an Old Testament character, knew about pain. Job was “blameless and upright” (Job 1:1, NIV), yet despite how good he was, he experienced the death of his children, the loss of his property and the destruction of his health. Spare for the air in his lungs, he went from having everything to having nothing. For many chapters, his friends told him that good things happen to good people and bad things happen to bad people, therefore Job must be to blame. They didn’t approach Job with love and gentleness, which would be expected from those who know God’s Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23). Instead of comforting Job as men representing God (2 Corinthians 1:3-5), in an attempt to justify God they condemned Job. It was wrong of Job’s friends then, and it’s just as wrong of us now. While there are instances of divine retribution throughout the Bible (eg Genesis 6-9), Job‘s story is no such case. And in all probability, neither is yours.
Modern thinker Dr Alvin Plantinga looks at evil as the product of free will. Instead of blaming the victim, he affirms that evil is the direct product of its culprits. This is true, and has been ever since evil entered the world (Genesis 3). But so what? When the hostages in Sydney had a gun pointed at them, would it have comforted them to know that God allowed this because He valued the gunman’s free will? When you have been personally violated, does the knowledge that your violator chose to do it make you feel any better? Evil is a function of free will, but it is still unjust. We are right to hate evil, and God himself hates injustice, for “He who justifies the wicked and he who condemns the righteous are both alike an abomination the Lord” (Proverbs 17:15, ESV).
But if God hates evil and has the ability to stop it, why doesn’t He?
Sometimes, God uses our evil for His good purposes. In Genesis 37-50, God uses a murderous plot to save many people. In Judges 14-16, He uses Samson’s rebellion to free Israel from oppression. In the New Testament, Paul encourages his readers to rejoice in suffering, because “suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope” (Romans 5:3-4, ESV). But what about the children in Cairns? Was anyone saved by their death? When they were being murdered, was it somehow good character development? Sometimes God uses evil for good. But often we can’t see any good in the evil that we suffer.
Having experienced evil ourselves, we know that if God is good He has to stop evil somehow. But the effect of evil in the world and in our lives makes it look like God isn’t doing a very good job. Is there anything that can resolve this tension?
2,000 years ago, the Son of God became flesh and entered into human suffering. Like Job, Jesus was blameless, yet he suffered. Jesus had everything, but he voluntarily relinquished everything for our sake, giving up even the air in his lungs. Jesus died through a murderous plot to save many people, so that if we follow him, any evil in us (no matter how small or how great) is destroyed in his body.
The death and resurrection of Jesus show us God cares and is doing something about evil in the following ways:
One: Because our evil dies with Jesus, we can know that God hates evil enough to put it to death. At the same time, we can know that He loves us and protects us from the eternal impact of any evil inside us.
Two: Jesus claimed that the greatest act of love is to lay down your life for another (John 15:3). Because Jesus is God incarnate, we can know that God loves us to the fullest, having laid down His life for us.
Three: Jesus is both God and human, and as a human he suffered physically, emotionally and spiritually on the cross. We can know that God intimately shares our pain, because Jesus suffered with us and for us.
Four: Because Jesus was resurrected as a human into eternal life, we can be assured that God’s promises to restore the world and raise us into eternal life will be fulfilled. Though we endure for now, if Jesus really was resurrected, then a time is coming when God will end all evil. “He will wipe every tear from our eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain” (Revelations 21:4, NIV).
When we see evil or suffer it ourselves, we have good reason to be angry and confused. Unfortunately, we often have no answers for why horrible things happen. But, as frustrating as it is, if Jesus was crucified and resurrected then we can trust that God is not absent. Now, because of what Christ has done about evil in the past, God urges us to trust Him in the face of unexplained evil today. The gospel does not make evil comfortable, but in it God offers His comfort and gives us a reason to hope while we suffer.
Ryan Ferguson is a uni student in his mid twenties who started following Jesus about 6 years ago. Here he takes a look at the relationship between Christianity and other religions..
King Xerxes the Great, Queen’s Freddie Mercury and Star Trek’s Persis Khambatta all had something in common. They were all Zoroastrians. In their religion, there’s one true God, but many beings worthy of worship. By worshipping these beings, Zoroastrians believe they come closer to God. In a modern pluralist society, the idea that there are many ways to God is appealing. A broad road is easy to follow and a wide gate is easy to pass through, and if God is good surely he’d make himself as accessible as possible, right?
Meanwhile Christianity and, by extension, Christians are often accused of being too narrow and exclusive. The skeptic can even use the Bible to argue for Christianity’s excessive exclusivity. During his ministry, Jesus taught to “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it” (Matthew 7:13-14). In John 14:6, Jesus declared: “I am the Way and the Truth and the Life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” Against the accusation of excessive exclusivity, Jesus’ own words don’t look promising.
If you aren’t a Christian, the claim that the only way to God is through Jesus can be downright offensive. And if you are a Christian, it doesn’t always feel a whole lot better. After all, we have colleagues, friends and family members who want nothing to do with Jesus, but we want them to know and enjoy God. We believe that God is the best thing to have, and do not want anyone to miss out. Sadly, if Jesus really is the only way to God, this could mean devastating consequences for the non-Christians we love.
I can’t speak for other Christians, but personally I would love it if each religion granted legitimate access to God. Then I could rest assured that everyone will be alright in the end and I wouldn’t need to write this article. But Jesus claimed to be equal to God (Matthew 28:18-20, Mark 2:5-12, John 5:16-18, John 8:58), and God affirmed Jesus’ claims through his resurrection. So when Jesus says he is the only way to God, we need to take him seriously.
In Christian circles, we sometimes talk about ‘general revelation’ and ‘special revelation.’ General revelation refers to what can be known about God simply from observing nature. When people look at the world and see that it is created without drawing from a specific religious tradition, this is an example of general revelation. While most religions grasp at general revelation, it is only when God informs us about himself directly — which he does through his Son — that we get special revelation.
Modern pluralists generally prefer to believe that all religions have stumbled upon some truth about God, but are missing the full picture. A common parable is the story of three blind men feeling an elephant. One man feels the tail and calls it a rope, one feels the leg and calls it a tree, one feels the belly and calls it a wall. But what if God approached the blind men and gave them sight to see him? This is what God claims to do in the life of Jesus.
Since God has chosen to make himself known through his Son, an uncomfortable question arises. We began by asking why we can’t find God some other way. But if god has already shown us the way, why would I want another way?
From the beginning, humans have resisted God’s way. In Eden, God’s way was to imbibe everlasting life, but Adam and Eve opted to go another way with disastrous consequences. In Israel, God’s way was to obey the law, but Israel opted to go another way with disastrous consequences. And now God’s way is to bond with humans through his Son, who is fully human and fully God.
When we have considered the evidence that Jesus is the Son of God, but still look for another way, are we really looking for God? Or are we rejecting him? It’s counter-intuitive to say that we can reject God through religion, but if Jesus really is the Son of God, then there is no better source for finding God. If Jesus is the real deal, then looking elsewhere is looking away from God.
Rejecting God has always had disastrous consequences. The good news is that people with a history of rejecting God — be it through religion or irreligion — are the exact kind of people Jesus came to save. On the cross, he faced the disastrous consequences of us rejecting God. So if we stop looking away and start following the Way, we won’t just find God — we will be with God forever.
Explore God. 2013. Is Christianity Too Narrow?
Daniel Smartt work’s part-time, is in his mid twenties and has been following Jesus his whole life. Here he tackles the thorny question of how Jesus is treated by his Father God…
The crucifixion is foundational to Christianity. If it’s wrong, it really
matters. At the crucifixion the Bible says God the Father sent his innocent Son Jesus to die a horrific, shameful, painful death as a punishment for sins he didn’t commit. Jesus died on that cross as a substitute for us, so that we don’t have to take the punishment. His death in our place means that we can be reunited with God. If Jesus hadn’t died, we would still be separated from God and lost on the path to hell.
The claim that the crucifixion is cosmic child abuse is a serious accusation, not only because it slanderously paints God the Father as an abusive God, but also because it strikes at the heart of how we can be right with God. And it is a big concern: if the accusation were true, I wouldn’t want to serve a God who abuses his own Son. God the Father did cause his Son to die a horrible, painful death, and in most circumstances that would rightly be considered abuse.
There’s more than one way a Christian can deal with this issue, but not all are helpful. For example, some say “Jesus was a consenting adult and volunteered for it.” This is true, but it is a weak argument because in our broken world, parents do sometimes abuse their adult children, and even if the child consents (for example if an older child takes abuse to protect their younger siblings), abuse is still wrong. Another argument I have heard is “Jesus came alive again, so it was ok that Jesus was crucified.” This is also factual, but I’m not going start arguing that the end justifies the means, so this doesn’t actually deal with the problem, either.
But thankfully that’s not where the Bible leaves us.
“No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again. This command I received from my Father.” 1 John 10:18
Imagine that there is a war on. The enemy is cruel, heartless and will steal, kill and destroy everyone if nothing is done to stop them. A father and his oldest son love the rest of their family so much that, to protect them, they enter into the war. The father, being the wiser and more experienced of the two, takes a command role at the military base, while the son takes advantage of his youth and steps out onto the front line.
Once out on the front line, the son sees his enemies and dials base. Having examined the landscape and the enemy tactic, he sees a way in which he can end the war right now – but it will cost him his life. His father, overseeing the battlefield, has observed the same battlefield and tactics, and agrees that the son’s bold move will end the war. Moreover, both the father and the son see that this is the only way they can end the war. If they don’t act now, the war will continue and will spread back home, resulting in the death of their family. So, as tragic as it is, the father and son unite in their mission, and the son defeats the enemy at the cost of his own life.
In this picture, it’s easy to imagine that the father loves his son very much, but as a joint effort they are willing for him to die so that his family may live. There is no abuse in this story, even though it is an awful decision to have to make.
The son loves his brothers and sisters so much that he freely volunteers to die to save them, knowing that his death will be horrific and painful. He takes their place so that they won’t all die. The son loves his father so much that he is willing to give up his life for him, and trusts his father so much, knowing that his father wouldn’t have him do this if there was any other way. The father and son both know that the only way to save the rest of the family is if the oldest son goes off to die.
If there was any hint of abuse in this relationship, or even anything less than perfect love, would the son have gone through with it? The son would have deserted at the first chance he got.
If a father can love his son and still send him off to war, with no chance that he might return, how much more can the God who is Love send his Son to save us, knowing that after his suffering and death he will return victorious.
TL;DR A Father sending a Son to war to save the rest of the family isn’t abuse, therefore neither is God the Father sending Jesus to die on the cross.