Tag Archives: Christian Theism

Freud, Marx, Nietzsche, and Jesus Have It Right | Religion and the Hermeneutic of Suspicion at Christmas

Atheist Richard Dawkins offers a description of God in 23 adjectives: “jealous and proud of it, a petty, unjust, unforgiving control freak; a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser; a misogynist, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal…, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully.” Dawkins doesn’t just disbelieve in God; he detests Him. Dawkins has bought the hermeneutic of suspicion.

In 1976, faith was “a blind trust that goes against the evidence”. Then in 1989, faith is “a mental illness”. Now, in recent years, faith according to the new breed of atheists, is “one of the world’s great evils, comparable to the smallpox virus but harder to eradicate” (Alister McGrath). Dawkins even suggested that faith in God is morally reprehensible. The hermeneutic of suspicion.

John Shelby Spong tells about Michael Goulder, who unlike Richard Dawkins, describes himself as a “non-aggressive atheist.” He asserts that God has no real work to do. It’s not so much “Is God good?” The question for Gould is “What good is He?” This God no longer fights wars and defeats enemies. This God no longer chooses a special people and works through them. This God no longer sends storms, heals the sick, spares the dying, or even judges the sinner. This God no longer rewards goodness and punishes evil. God is an unemployed deity. Goulder asserts that the church has entered exile. God now rings with a hollow emptiness. The power once ascribed to this God is now explained in countless other ways. God is irrelevant.

It’s the Nietzschean “God is dead” line all over again. Americans are really fulfilling the prophecy of a syphilitic and eventually insane German, but a brilliant philosopher. Friedrich Nietzsche wrote over 100 years ago, “God will be dead in the 20th Century.” He was a very bright man. He didn’t argue that there wasn’t a God in the Heavens. One could look at the stars and galaxies all in perfect harmony and know there was a God. What Nietzsche argued was that people would live as if God does not exist – and that’s precisely what we are doing; that they would kill God – and that’s what happened in the 20th Century and what is happening in the 21st.

Nietzsche had a hermeneutic of suspicion (Tim Keller). He suggested that religion was not just a product of wish-fulfillment (Freud); it was not just a way to control the masses (Marx); it was the suggestion that God doesn’t matter anymore. Nietzsche attacked our motives for being religious. We create religion so that we can feel good about ourselves, so that we have a system of payment for the bad things we do. And there is substantially no life difference between atheists and theists.

Rebecca Manly Pippert shares her story (Hope Has Its Reasons). A conversation with a Harvard professor went something like this: “Even though I am an atheist, I genuinely admire people like you who take faith seriously. There is no question that the human race needs help. But honestly Becky, isn’t life the same whether we believe in God or not? Don’t all of us long to be loved and understood?… Life is difficult for all of us. I don’t think cancer cells ask before entering a body, ‘Excuse me, are you a praying person?’ And don’t all of us, believers as well as skeptics, raise our children the best we can? And some make it and some don’t, leaving us with broken hearts and dashed hopes whether we believe in God or not?… And don’t believers fail morally? I grant that many of you do better in certain areas than we do. But I have met my share of religious people who were racists, gluttons, self-righteous, and full of pride, all the while mouthing religious platitudes… What possible difference does God make?”

That Harvard professor’s critique of religion is right on. Believers aren’t exempt from pain. They experience illness, sexist bosses, unemployment, violence, and marital problems just like everyone else. Christians fail morally. We are deeply flawed people.

What difference does religion make? The answer is “No difference.” It is easy to be just religious versions of the same people we’ve always been.

The atheists have it right. Religion is a power play to control others. It is the opiate of the masses. It’s a pain-killer. It’s a crutch for the weak. It’s a way to justify our behavior and allows us to feel good about ourselves. This is the way religion was perceived and what we learn is that Jesus Himself was anti-religious too and had some of the same issues that Frued, Marx, and Nietzche had with organized religion. That’s why he blasted the religious establishment guys, the Pharisees, like He did and kicked over tables and “violated their rules” like He did.

But what happened was that the ideas of these anti-religious establishment philosophers transferred over to God. Now people seem to see God one of two ways. “God does not exist, so life is meaningless.” Or, “God does exist, and here are the rules – keep them.” Jesus offers a corrective to all this and basically asserts that “I have fulfilled any requirement necessary to procure the salvation of mankind. All religion is inadequate and insufficient. And if you want to know what God is like and how He feels about humanity, then look at my life.”

Christianity goes beyond Judaism. It’s not just repackaging of the same system. Judaism (religion) could not contain it and it answers the deeper questions of life. Christianity blasts the lie that we’re OK or that we’re in charge. It shatters our religion. We can’t hide behind religion anymore. We want God without the hassle of looking at the mess we’ve become. Christianity forces you to look at the mess you’ve become.

What Nietzsche failed to consider is that in Christianity, God himself became the payment. In no other religion, do you have god or the gods becoming a payment for human evil. Stott says it best: “For the essence of sin is man substituting himself for God, while the essence of salvation is God substituting himself for man.” The tragedy is that when people turn away from God and turn to religion or man-made theories, they begin to see themselves as the center of the universe and they miss grace. We hate not being god, just like Dawkins.

I deeply believe that the crisis we face today is not a crisis of the economy or the stock market or health care, the real crisis in American life today is a crisis of values. What can we believe in anymore? There is only one answer. God became flesh. He became a person in the person of Jesus Christ. He’s come over from the other side of the hedge to let us know that there is a true and living God, and that an unseen world parallel to this one exists and there is a great battle raging for the minds and allegiance of creation.

Religion has been replaced by Relationship.

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Filed under Agnosticism, Atheism, Atheist, Christian Worldview, Christianity, Christmas, Hermeneutic of Suspicion, Jesus Christ, Nietzsche, Worldview

What if the New Testament Really is God’s Word? Why didn’t God Preserve the Original Documents?

This is a fair question posed by theists and atheists alike. The best we can do is speculate. It has been suggested that the New Testament might be better protected through copies than through original documents (Geisler).

If the original New Testament documents were all bound together that would mean that they would obviously all be in someone’s possession and they could potentially be changed or modified by the owning entity. However, when you have copies spread all over the ancient world, it makes it more difficult for any one scribe or priest or person who owns the originals to change things.

When the New Testament is reconstructed by copies and variants, the changes are rather easy to identify and can be easily corrected. In fact, just about all of the New Testament can be reconstructed from the Church Fathers who quoted it extensively in their works.

It’s a bit ironic, but not having the originals may actually preserve the New Testament better and keep it more accurate than having one solitary bound volume of all original New Testament books in one single volume.

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Atheists: Don’t Fear God’s Intervention | Fear His Non-Intervention

God’s wrath as revealed in Romans 1 is not so much about intervention with some cataclysmic event of judgment, but about God’s non-intervention. God who honors human freewill, will eventually hand people over to their chosen path or belief or sexual preferences or lifestyles. He allows you to have your addictions, your worldviews, your atheism and the emptiness that comes with it. Pay attention to the three italicized phrases in verses 24, 26, and 28 of Romans 1.

Romans 1:24 says “Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another. 25 They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised. Amen. 26 Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural relations for unnatural ones. 27 In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed indecent acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their perversion. 28 Furthermore, since they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, he gave them over to a depraved mind, to do what ought not to be done.

Three times Paul underscores the non-intervention of God. God doesn’t zap with wrath or bully them into doing things His way. He simply lets them have what they want in full measure.

The ultimate wrath of God is when you are so belligerent and stubborn, that God says, “OK, have it your way.” God gives you over to your beliefs or non-belief (in the case of atheism), hoping that the emptiness of it all will turn you back to Him. Many people fear the intervention of God and His punishment. But our greatest concern is the non-intervention of God and living with the life that will inevitably result from such a path taken.

A philospher once opined that when we reject truth and God, we will do one of two things: we will play god over our lives and we will live for the gratification of our senses.

We all have tried living life this way, but especially the atheist. The atheists plays god (by asserting there is no God) and having removed God and any higher purpose for living life associated with this belief, they live for the gratification of their senses. And God says, “You can do it. I’ll give you what you want.” God doesn’t have to punish us or the atheist. The pleasures that we live for punish us. Our sins punish us.

Our problem (not just atheists, but all of us) is that we want independence, total freedom from any deity, even if that deity loves us and we find Him and his ways abhorrent and objectionable. Therefore, we start playing God. You say, “I don’t want anybody telling me what’s right and what’s wrong, I want to decide what’s right and what’s wrong. I want to call my own shots. I want to make my own rules. I want to put myself at the center of the universe. I want to be my own boss, live my own way, and if it feels good, do it. I don’t want anybody telling me what to do with my life.” That’s called playing God and wanting to be at the center of my universe.

When the bottom falls out, physically, emotionally, spiritually, financially, relationally—what often happens is that God just has to step back and let us feel the full impact of our own stupid decisions. “You want to be God? O.K. You be God.” And He’ll just step back and let you be God (Romans 1) because God always honors free will. It’s not something that He enjoys in some kind of sadistic way. He just lets you have what you want. He allows you to be god and to have your pleasures.

Be careful about persisting for something that you think you want. The worst thing that could happen is that God just might give you over to it and you and I will have to live with the consequences of our own decisions.

And to my atheist friends: if you don’t want God in your life, you can have it your way. God will allow you to do it. But in the end, when your views have been pushed to their logical conclusions and life has been shattered by your non-belief, it will be one time in your life when you will wish that you never got what you wanted.

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Filed under Addiction, Atheism, Atheist, Christian Worldview, Free Will, Rebellion, Sexual Addiction, Theism

Art, the Imagination and A Sense of Longing

Of the many things we could say about art, one of the primary things we could say is that art creates longing. Beauty evokes desire. Beauty is not just skin deep; it’s soul deep. Archeologists have not yet discovered any stage of human existence without art. There are very few societies that do not attempt to decorate or capture in art, song, word, or ritual.

C. S. Lewis talked about his imagination being baptized after reading a work of George MacDonald fiction. What he meant was that it enlarged his sense of what is possible; it re-enchanted the ordinary world; it stirred a sense of longing within him.

When C. S. Lewis was just a little kid, his brother brought the lid of a biscuit tin into the nursery. He had covered it with moss and garnished it with twigs and flowers so as to make it a garden or a toy forest. Lewis says, “As long as I live my imagination of Paradise will retain something of my brother’s toy garden.” Lewis said that his brother’s work of art taught him “longing” – this dim sense of something just beyond our reach.

After Lewis turned from atheism, he looked back and realized that these experiences occurred periodically. God was whispering to him through his imagination, but he never listened. What he later realized was that he had been longing for a Person more than a place (Nicholi, Question of God, 27). All honest atheists will admit this vague sense of longing, a dim echo that seems to fade upon just catching it.

Art, literature, and music wake us up to beauty and a Beautiful One. “The book or the music in which we thought the beauty was located will betray us if we trust to them; it was not in them, it only came through them, and what came through them was longing… They are not the thing itself; they are only the scent of a flower we have not found, the echo of a tune we have not heard, news from a country we have never visited (Lewis).”

Art gives us fresh cravings and we begin to ache for something or a Someone. If you want to know what we long for, what we value, what we fear, the longings we possess, look at our stories, our poems, our songs, our paintings. We long for home and simple things, and we long for the Grand Artist, the source of all beauty.

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Filed under Apologetic of Desire, Art, Atheism, Atheist, Beauty, Christian Worldview, Home

Good Friday – “It is Finished” Not “I am Finished”

“It is finished.”
– Jesus Christ on the Cross at about 3 PM Friday afternoon 34 AD.

In John 19:20 Jesus said “It is finished” while on the cross, a phrase that means “paid in full (tetelestai).” The Greek word translated “It is finished” was commonly written across certificates of debt when they were canceled. What does this mean?

Your sin debt has been paid in full. Christ’s righteousness replaces our guilt and is credited to our account. A death sentence will never come to rest on those who are “in Christ.” All sacrifices were fulfilled. The Scriptures about Him were accomplished. The veil in the temple was split down the middle, indicating that man had free access to God. Satan’s reign was over and evils’ power conquered. Life had won. Man has been liberated and set free.

Christ didn’t say, “I am finished” because He wasn’t. He’s still alive today. God raised Him on Easter. He said, “It is finished.” What’s the “it”? Your salvation. The plan to provide grace for every person. It’s finished. The gospel is an announcement of an objective state of affairs informing the world of what God has done for them in Christ. “You are forgiven. You’ve been set free. Grace has happened for you. The party has begun. Personally believe and receive it, and sit down and enjoy it!” You don’t need to win His love; you already have it!

On that first Good Friday, it was dark. It was lonely. He was thirsty. He was naked. He was in terrible pain and distress. His friends scattered. His lifeblood ebbed away. He called out in the darkness and there was no rescue for Him. Everyone had forsaken Him. Even His Father. Men jeered. His enemies laughed. Demons danced and rejoiced. Death came slowly. He did it for you to pay a debt He didn’t owe.

“It is finished.” You and I and even the atheist is declared “Debt-free.” Now, the only thing left to do is to live in light of what happened on Good Friday and life will be truly good.

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Every Joy on Earth is an Inkling, a Whisper of a Greater Joy

We think that our greatest problem is pain and suffering. Indeed, it can be gut-wrenching, but it’s not our biggest problem. Our problem is that we have achieved what we thought would make us happy, and yet we remain unsatisfied. G. K. Chesterton observed that weariness does not come from being weary of pain but from being weary of pleasure. We’ve tried everything we can try in life, and still we are restless.

Deep within the human heart throbs an undying hope that somebody or something will bring a way to retain the wonder of living a fully alive, multisensory life experience, even in the pain and who will not disappoint. The presence of wealth is no protection against the ravages of the soul. Emptiness still stalks the rich, loneliness still haunts the icon, and disappointment still casts its shadow amidst the cheers under the spotlight (Zacharias), and the “liberated new atheist” is no more satisfied than the least informed Christian Theist.

Oscar Wilde was a literary genius – a poet, playwright, novelist, and critic. I have a book of quotations taken from his works. He was one sharp guy. Born in 1854, he won scholarships and was educated in Britain’s best schools. He had earned lots of money and traveled around the world. Yet, at life’s end at the age of forty-six, he died bankrupt and broken with no self-respect due to poor homosexual moral choices he made.

He says “I ruined myself…” He talked about the notoriety and natural gifts that had been given him. “…But I let myself be lured into long spells of senseless and sensual ease… Tired of being on the heights, I deliberately went to the depths in the search of a new sensation… I grew careless of the lives of others. I took pleasure where it pleased me… I forgot that every little action of the common day makes or unmakes character, and that therefore what one has done in the secret chamber one has some day to cry aloud on the housetop… I allowed pleasure to dominate me. I ended in horrible disgrace.”

I think we have learned to deal with pain and suffering. What has mastered us though, are these long periods of “senseless and sensual ease” and yet we are not satisfied. Questions of pain and suffering will always plague mankind until the New Creation. But an even greater question is “Why do we remain unsatisfied among blessing and plenty?”

The reason we remain unsatisfied is because we have made a mistake in what we thought would satisfy. Every joy on earth is an inkling, a whisper of a greater joy, but they are not ends in themselves. All of our pleasures point to a Pleasure-Giver. Our life-long nostalgia is a longing to be reunited with something in the universe from which we feel cut off. And that something is actually a Someone. Until He becomes our greatest pleasure, pain and suffering will still perplex and long periods of sensual ease will be our psuedo-joy. We are far too easily pleased when infinite joy is offered.

C.S. Lewis said, “If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world. If none of my earthly pleasures satisfy it, that does not mean the universe is a fraud…earthly pleasures were never meant to satisfy it, but only to arouse it, to suggest the real thing (The Quotable Lewis).”

The Hedonistic Paradox states that true pleasure is a by-product of a greater pleasure. Until God is our greatest pleasure, unsatisfied senseless and sensual ease will be the lines along which our story moves. All those who refuse or deny God His existence relegate themselves to only the whispers or echoes of a Voice of the One who eventually provides the ultimate fulfillment of all sensory delight.

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Filed under Atheism, Christian Worldview, Hedonistic Paradox, Pleasure, Suffering, Theism, Theodicy, Uncategorized

Human Beings – Accidental, Coincidental, or Designed by an Intelligent Designer

Let’s say for a moment that there is a creature from another planet. And even though this creature is not a human being, he/she/it does have the ability to investigate, reason, analyze, love, appreciate beauty, and blush (By the way, these facts alone are enough to prove that we are made in the image of an Intelligent Designer. What other living creature has this ability?).

But for illustrations sake, a mechanical machine from another planet – whom we’ll call TOFU, discovers earth and finds living here, human beings. What would TOFU discover about human beings that would prove that they had to be designed by an Intelligent Designer? TOFU would discover that there is no way that the complex human system called man and woman, evolved over time to form this living human body.

DNA
You would have to conclude that at the cellular level, you have a very complex thing called DNA. One author has shared how that human DNA contains more organized information than the Encycolopedia Britannica. The languge of life is stored within it. The organism accesses the information that it needs from DNA so it can build some of it’s critical components. The DNA stores more information in a smaller space than the most advanced supercomputer on the planet. States one author: “300 different proteins, a source of sugars, nucleotides, amino acids, and fatty acids all placed together in working order.” Each cell is like a miniature factory town, humming with power plants, automated plants, and recycling centers. The nucleus houses the cellular library, where blueprints are copied and sent to the factories. These manufacture the immense array of products needed within the cell, with the processes all regulated by enzymes that function like stopwatches to ensure that everything is perfectly timed. The outside surface of the cell is regulated with sensors, gates, pumps that regulate traffic coming in and out. It’s like a complex train system where things are so precisely timed, that no crashes happen (Behe, summarized by Nancy Pearcey). And how does evolution know where to take us as humans? Who codes the new DNA? Each cell has a specified message (specified complexity). Think about what evolution would have you to believe. A simple single cell creature… spontaneously generated from primordial soup… the cell mutated and survived a very harsh natural environment… evolved into a species that could swim… then evolved into a species that could fly… all the while surviving while scales are not feathers and feathers are not scales… and gills are not lungs and lungs are not gills… finding food… avoiding predators… and self-assembling new DNA… and reproducing these mutated changes….etc…etc… DNA. Design or accident/coincidence?

Reproduction
You would have to conclude that all the reproductive parts of the male and of the female had to arrive simultaneously together, not over millions of years. Otherwise, every significant development in the male reproductive system would have had to been matched by a female development concurrently, a very unlikely scenario. If evolution is true, the fossil record should reveal millions of intermediate sexual beings and congenital freaks. Human genitals fit snugly together and always have. Everything about the act of fertilization is reciprocal. Design or accident/coincidence?

Brain
Every body function is controlled by the brain. If you need energy, the brain tells the stomach. If you need oxygen, the brain tells the lungs. If you drop in blood pressure, the brain tells the heart to beat faster. The body is covered all over with sensory receptors. It computes millions of computations with just a walk in the park: adjusting to temperature, sensing balance via the inner ear, and taking in audio/visual aids to compute a human response. But most of the brains work happens underneath conscious awareness: a heart that beats, every breath, an eye-blink when the eye is getting dry, light waves and sound waves, every moving joint or muscle – triggers physical, hormonal, and chemical responses that are handled by the brain automatically. It lets you know if something doesn’t taste right, or smell right, or look right, so the human can be freed to pay attention to other things. The brain regulates growth, the endocrine, respiratory, gastrointestinal, circulatory, musculoskeletal, and excretory systems, all of which fit together into a wonderfully designed, interactive living being. Design or accident/coincidence?

Eye
The eye is placed at the top of the head, and gives distance vision. We can also see where we’re going and what we’re touching. Both eyes are set back inside a bony protective socket, but they protrude enough for a wider plane of sight. The eyes are spheres so they can roll around easily. They are set just enough apart to allow for depth perception. Eyebrows protect from glare. Pupils dilate. Eyelids close during sleep and are thin to allow for an awakening at dawn. They water when irritated and wash out irritants. And only humans summon tears in profoundly sad times or extremely happy times. The eye is not a survival organ or a random mutation. There are a minimum number of parts that are necessarily for it to work. Irreducible complexity is an argument made in the discussion on evolution. This concept says that the origin of complex organs must be explained. How do you account for the complexity of the human eye? Some living mechanisms are too complex to arise by the short steps required by evolution. There are many things that evolution cannot explain. Irreducibly complex organs is one of them. The eye has more than two million working parts, and can discern a candle light from miles away. Several well-matched interacting parts contribute to basic function and if one part is removed, the whole part is jeopordized and in many cases ceases to function. What good is a retina by itself? Or ocular muscles and no lens. The eye is a package. Yet Darwin would assert that the eye could not come as a package; that the eye parts each must be useful in some way by itself and performing a function in order for it to evolve in small, incremental steps. Accident or Design?

Ear
The ear catches sound waves like a satellite. It converts it into electrical impulses and sends it to the brain for processing. Even as we age, the ear gets larger to offset the loss of hearing that comes with age. Inner and outer hair cells allow for fine-tuned hearing: cracks of a floorboard, a single instrument in an orchestra, and the sounds of someone breathing, and yet somehow, they tune out the blood splashing through our veins. Speech and sound would have had to evolve together in an evolutionary system. So, you would have had the simulataneous development of the vocal chords. Accident or design?

Nose
It’s really the brain that smells thousands of odors and millions of combinations. It impacts what we eat, when we make love, who just walked into the room, and when we should get out of the house. It filters dirty air and permits us to breath without having to have our mouths open. The nostrils point downward and are placed to receive aroma input, especially before ingesting. Accident or design?

Mouth
The mouth does so much: speaking, tasting, communicating, kissing. The teach allows for consuming food. The tongue allows for taste and swallowing. It also senses texture, helps create an appetite, and aids in digestion. Accident or design?

Touch
Millions of sensory receptors line the human body. Touch tells us when our clothes are too tight or the water is too cold or a blister is developing on our heel. Touch provides comfort and closeness. Many areas are ready to fire off responses when touched – they are hyper-sensitive and chemicals are released when these places are stimulated. Accident or design?

Skin
Skin protects us. It is waterproof, antibacterial, elastic, and flexible, self-repairing, washable, and self-replaces. It makes us look better too. Accident or design?

Our “from another planet – called TOFU” creature will also recognize, upon further investigation, that humans are built for something more than just survival. Humans are overbuilt for the world. We just needed a stick and drum but we have orchestras and Beethoven. And Spielberg and Mozart, and Celine Deion and Einstein and Van Gogh. They take us far beyond mere survival, beyond “competition”. They celebrate each others accomplishments and paint murals to capture beauty and use body language to convey a message. They laugh at each other and write poetry about people and things they love. They are not just trying to “survive”; they are celebrating something – something called life. They can imagine things and display morals. They have a sense of pride in their work. They love to create great scultures or simply doodlings. The coordinate colors and textures and mimic people and animals. They smile and plan for the future. They set priorities and gather food. They dance and perform, write and create. They reason and teach complex ideas. They pray and worship and reach out to a Someone. They show facial expressions and feel regret. They seek justice and long for grace. They deceive and are embarrassed when caught. They remember and hope, taste and touch, see and hear, eat and digest, hold and make love.

And if this “from another planet – TOFU” creature would read the documents of Atheistic Man and Christian Theism Man, he/she/it would theorize that…

Humans are either…
a descendent of a tiny cell of primoridal protoplasm…an arbitrary product of time and place, chance and natural forces…a grab bag of atomic particles, genetic substance…who exists on a tiny planet in a minute solar system in a corner of a meaningless universe, only slightly different from a banana or an amoeba…coming from nothing and going no where…

Or humans are…
a special creation of a good and powerful Intelligent Designer… who made them in His image…with a unique capacity to think and feel and know things…set above all other life forms…to observe all of the rest of creation…discovering how a world works…all the while, engaging this Designer in relationship… encountering His love… and changing the world for the better… and fulfilling a God-given purpose, minus the suffering eventually…on a new earth…

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