Tag Archives: freedom

How Can I Break the Spiritual Bonds Passed on from My Ancestors?

Some Christians believe that people can be “demonized” by ancestral sin. They believe that in such cases the demonized individual needs to be freed of inherited demonic influence by a “power encounter” in which the inherited demonic influence is exposed and expelled.

In our view, there is no scriptural precedent for using power encounters or exorcisms to deal with the sinful patterns of living that are passed down from our ancestors. In fact, Scripture seems to place a clear limitation on the power of evil ancestral influences, comparing it to the much greater influence of godliness:

I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments (Exodus 20:5-6 NIV).

Practically speaking, how could we possibly distinguish the sinful tendencies inherited from our parents from those we learned by exposure to them and other significant people in our lives? Throughout the New Testament, deliverance from sin involves repentance and confession. Whatever the origin of our sinful tendencies, the biblical approach to dealing with them is neither quick nor easy. The New Testament gives us no reason to believe they can be “cast out” in the same way Jesus and the disciples cast out demons of the possessed. (See the ATQ article, Can Christians Be Demon Possessed?)

All of us are deeply affected by the sinful patterns of living of significant people in our lives. Our behavior is largely shaped by the behavior of our parents, whose behavior, in turn, was shaped by the behavior of their parents, and so on. John describes how God can cleanse our hearts of sin’s influence:

If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9 NKJV).

This doesn’t mean that our struggle is merely psychological or emotional. Satan is a real and personal foe, attacking us relentlessly, systematically (Ephesians 6:12). Yet the biblical pattern for overcoming inherited sinful patterns of living is not to obsess on the demonic element of our sinful traits, but to accept the direction of the Holy Spirit in uncovering and overcoming them.

A person who wins a lottery is much more likely to squander his wealth than someone who earns it in years of patient effort. Likewise, Christians need to understand their sinful tendencies and struggle with them before they can fully appreciate the value of being delivered from them.

The New Testament doesn’t promise power encounters that deliver us effortlessly from our sinful ways without the growing pains of spiritual renewal.

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Why Would a Loving God Make People Suffer in Hell?

The biblical doctrine of hell is often badly misunderstood. Certainly, if God arbitrarily and unjustly punished His creatures for eternity, He would be evil rather than good.

Luke 12:47-48 , however, shows that punishment will depend on a number of factors, including one’s knowledge of truth, one’s intent, and one’s rejection of the good news and “light” of Christ. Jesus denounced the cities in which most of His miracles were performed ( Matthew 11:20-24 ) and told them they would be judged more harshly in the day of judgment than Tyre, Sidon, and Sodom. Jesus displayed compassion toward sinners. Even when He was on the cross He said, “Father, forgive them for they don’t know what they do” ( Luke 23:34 ).

It is wrong to think of hell as a place where sinners will receive horribly disproportionate punishment for their sins. Certainly, there is an element of coercion. Justice and retribution are involved. But a person’s presence in hell is also the result of a long series of choices. As a person passes through life he either becomes more open to truth, love, and spiritual life or he willfully withdraws from the light that God has given him and begins a descent towards spiritual darkness and death.

Hell is necessary in a universe where genuine free will exists. C.S. Lewis has written a remarkable little book on the subject of hell called The Great Divorce. While we do not endorse all of Lewis’ imaginative descriptions of what hell might be like, the value of his work is in his explanation of the need for hell and eternal punishment. It can be purchased at most bookstores.

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Why Would an All-Powerful God Permit Evil?

God permitted evil to enter His universe as the price of freedom. Although He could have created the universe without the potential for suffering or sin, such a universe would not have allowed free creatures to exist. It would have been a robotic universe, with no more awareness of grace or God’s goodness than a colony of insects.

The Bible teaches that God became a human being and entered into the suffering of His creation. By experiencing and sharing His universe’s suffering, He made redemption possible. He made it possible for all of the wrongs of the world to eventually be made right.

God’s true nature is revealed in Jesus Christ. The apostle Paul declared:

In Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form (Colossians 2:9).

In the natural universe, underlying reality appears at times to be good and at times to be evil. Only Jesus provides a clear definition of God’s holy, loving nature.

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Why Doesn’t God Make His Existence Undeniable?

God may have designed the universe so that the motive for faith must be as much moral, relational and spiritual as it is logical. Consider what the author of the Epistle to the Hebrews writes:

Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. This is what the ancients were commended for. By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God’s command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible. By faith Abel offered God a better sacrifice than Cain did. By faith he was commended as a righteous man, when God spoke well of his offerings. And by faith he still speaks, even though he is dead. By faith Enoch was taken from this life, so that he did not experience death; he could not be found, because God had taken him away. For before he was taken, he was commended as one who pleased God. And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him. (Hebrews 11:1-6 NIV, italics added).

In fact, the intrinsic nature of faith, hope, and love are such that they shouldn’t and can’t be reduced to mere logic. If God designed the universe so that His presence could be “proven” in the scientific, mathematical sense, faith wouldn’t have to be a decision of the heart. It would be mere acquiescence of the mind, motivated by necessity and fear but not by love. If faith, hope, and love were reduced to a logical decision, freedom would vanish. Who would dare stand against God if logic always seemed completely on the side of faith? If God’s existence and ultimate control were undeniable, people would obey out of fear and would struggle to conceal their resentment.

Rather than being a loving, heavenly Father who allows prodigals to make mistakes, repent, and come home to experience His love, He would be viewed as such an ominous authority that creatures would never dare become prodigals, who by returning to faith could discover freedom, individuality, calling, and love. Self-awareness would be overwhelmed by the obviousness of God’s presence. Creatures would be so engulfed by His power and glory that they couldn’t even begin to discover themselves. Love as we know it could never exist in such a world.

This may be why faith, hope, and love affirm logic but transcend it; why they must involve moral choice rather than mere logical deduction. This too may be why He employs randomness within the creative process, leaving profound evidence of His involvement and presence but doing nothing to coerce obedience.1

  1. “I believe that we Christians are warranted in seeing every potentially viable life form (or every viable variant of DNA) as something thoughtfully conceived in the mind of the Creator. As did Basil and Augustine, I believe that we may rightfully speak of God calling into being at the beginning, from nothing, all material substance and all creaturely forms (whether inanimate structures or animate life forms). And, still standing with Basil and Augustine, I believe that we may rightfully presume that the array of structures and life forms now present was not yet present at the beginning, but became actualized in the course of time as the created substances, employing the capacities thoughtfully given to them by God at the beginning, functioned in a gapless creational economy to bring about what the Creator called for and intended from the outset.
    “In the context of this traditional Christian vision of God’s creative work . . . , we might now wish to employ the vocabulary of twentieth-century science and speak about the full array of functionally viable forms of DNA (and the creatures thereby represented) as constituting a ‘possibility space’ of potential life forms—this possibility space itself, along with all connective pathways, being an integral component of the world brought into being at the beginning. Furthermore, in the language of this theistic paradigm of evolutionary creation, we would speak of DNA being enabled by the Creator to employ random genetic variation as a means to explore and discover (in contrast to create) viable pathways and novel life forms so that the Creator’s intentions for the formative history of the Creation might be actualized in the course of time.

    “See, then, what this evolutionary creation paradigm accomplishes: Do material processes have to create? No, the possibility space of viable and historically achievable life forms is an integral aspect of the world that God created at the beginning. Material systems need only employ their God-given functional capacities to discover some of the possibilities thoughtfully prepared for them. But, one might ask, how can such ‘mindless’ material processes function to bring about what appears to be the product of ‘intelligent design’? The point is that they are not really mindless at all. Rather, every one of these processes and every connective pathway in the possibility space of viable creatures is itself a mindfully designed provision from a Creator possessing unfathomable intelligence.

    “It seems to me that this theistic paradigm provides precisely what the naturalistic (broad) paradigm—the blind watchmaker hypothesis—could not. It provides the answer to the question, How is it possible that such a remarkable array of life forms is not only viable but historically realizable within the economy of the world at hand? Could anything less than the infinite creativity and faithful providence of God suffice?” (Howard Van Til, First Things, July/August 1993) Back To Article

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