7/5/12 Tony about 50
I don't usually see people walking while reading their Kindle, but that's what a middle-aged man named Tony was doing when I asked if he had a moment for a question. "What do you think comes after this life?" He looked off in the distance, a smile on his face. A minute is a long time for silence in a conversation, especially with a stranger, but something told me to wait and let him think about this for a while. Finally, he laughed and said, "Well, you really know how to ask a good question. I thought you might need directions or something!" As it turned out, Tony said he is Catholic, but really wanted to qualify his response rather than give a trite, pat answer. He said he prays every day and respects the Bible, but from his answers I could tell he reserves the right to define God on his own terms rather than from God's revelation of Himself in scripture. For example, he believes other religions to be equally valid pathways to God. Why? Because he doesn't believe God would punish otherwise good people. Beliefs like this require us to go back to the foundational truths of the Bible beginning in Genesis. Most people like Tony focus on Genesis 1, where man is created in God's image and said to be "very good". But what about Genesis 3, where man rebels against God's law and eats the forbidden fruit? By failing to recognize that God has placed man under a curse and no longer considers us "good", many people go through life believing that we deserve God's favor, and that He owes us something. People feel entitled to God's blessings and angry when they don't receive them. They develop a man-centered view of the Bible rather than a God-centered view, and huge portions of the Bible are rejected, ignored, or reinterpreted to fit with this view. Does God punish good people? No! Why? Because there are none! I explained to Tony that allowing scripture to shape our view of God means that often we need to face up to biblical truths that we don't like and don't agree with at first. But in the long run we will be glad we did, because the truth is always better than our imaginations.