Why has God allowed us to discover vaccines and antibiotics if He wanted to use disease to punish us?

Question:  Why God has allowed the discovery of vaccines and antibiotics to cure illness? If diseases are punishment from God then if we cure them we go against the will of God who wants to punish us. If vaccines and antibiotics are discovered because God wants to bless us why did God contradict Himself by sending diseases and then sending the cures of the same diseases he has sent? And if vaccines and antibiotics are a blessing from God why has God delivered these blessing after millions of people are already dead?

Answer:  I am reading a science fiction book called The Final Enemy by Dan Petrosini.  The plot is that a meteor falls to earth in the U.S. and it is discovered that wherever the meteorite goes natural deaths stop occurring.  After much testing the government sends the meteorite on a tour of the United States and then eventually all countries that sign a treaty with the United States and natural deaths basically cease around the world.  But with that comes other problems.  Overpopulation is the main problem, it seems, causing a major food shortage that threatens the entire world.  But the other problem is the ceasing of religious observance.  People don’t need God anymore, or so they think.

In Genesis 3, after Adam and Eve sin, God imposes what I’ll call “futilities” upon mankind.  In birth the woman’s pain will be greatly increased.  What should be an unadulterated experience of joy and meaning will be fraught with pain and suffering.  For the man, the work he does and must do to grow food will be met with plants or weeds that will threaten to choke out what it is edible and make his work frustrating.
God is not telling Adam and Eve or us that we shouldn’t seek to deal with the pain of childbirth or just let the weeds grow.  On the contrary, we will need to fight against these futilities but there will be that futile or useless aspect to them because we will never be able to completely eliminate them.  This level of frustration, however, is essential to our well-being.  God prohibits Adam and Eve from eating from the tree of life and living forever.  Paul says (Romans 8:18-21) that God purposely subjected the world to futility in hope of its future redemption.
Mankind’s greatest temptation is to seek life and peace and joy apart from God and in what He created for us, the world.  And without a doubt there is much the world offers that seems to bid us find our life/joy/peace in it (beauty, relationships, accomplishments) except that this frustrating aspect to life, the futility of it, keeps us from fully finding life there.  And this is a blessing, because were the world to work the way God made it to work originally, if we didn’t die (the ultimate futility) and if our efforts were always rewarded with success and our relationships work out the way we wanted, etc., we would be tempted to think that we were fine without God.  But we are not fine without Him.  We desperately need Him.  Futility built into the system helps us see that.
So God’s purpose in bringing illness and death and frustration and weeds and pain, is not entirely a punishment, as you characterized it, but a necessary consequence of trying to find life apart from Him, as Adam and Eve did and as every subsequent generation has.  These frustrating aspects to life are actually a mercy, helping us move toward Him and find the true source of our life/joy/peace.
He has also made us in His image and that makes us creators and innovators and doers and workers.  We are made to overcome problems and so we have developed ways to kill weeds and minimize pain and overcome illnesses, and yet each of these has also brought with them frustrating problems.  Weed killers poison our foods, pain relievers can become addictive or affect the child in the womb, and antibiotics can serve to strengthen the very bacteria they were meant to destroy resulting in super bugs that are not responsive to antibiotics.  We are not to quit seeking solutions, but we are reminded again and again that the ultimate solution is not in our intellect or abilities but in God and a relationship to Him.

What Does It Mean That a Husband’s Prayers Will Be Hindered?

Question:  Please explain what the bible says about husbands prayers being hindered.

Answer:  The passage in question is 1 Peter 3:7, Likewise, husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel, since they are heirs with you of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered. (ESV)

There are many things that can hinder the prayers of both men and women. James talks about our prayers being hindered by wanting what we ask for to “spend it on our passions” (James 4:3).  Sometimes our prayers are hindered by our lack of faith (James 1:5-8) and other times because we are actually using God to get what we want without really seeing Him as the true and only God and Sovereign (Ezekiel 14:1-8).  And sometimes our prayers are hindered because we are dishonoring what God honors.
That is the case when husbands mistreat their wives, when they fail to see their wives as fellow heirs of eternal life and treat them disrespectfully.  This, Peter says, will definitely put a barrier between them and God.  They are treating someone He values and honors in a dishonorable way, and He will discipline them for that.


Of course, if a wife treats her husband in a dishonorable way her prayers would also be hindered.  Peter is only focusing on the husband in this way, however, in this letter.

Is It Okay to Re-Imagine Bible Stories in a Fictionalized Manner?

Question:  Is it okay to retell Bible stories? I know there are many stories inspired by the Bible; it’s such a powerful book full of wonderful stories, so it’s kind of difficult to be a writer and not be inspired by biblical themes and lessons. However, I’m wondering if it’s alright to re-imagine Bible stories in a modern or fictionalized manner, and if so, what sort of rules should a writer follow when doing so?

Furthermore, I read somewhere that writers have rewritten the entire Bible to read and flow more like a continuous story. Is it acceptable as long as they give it a different title and keep it separate from the actual Bible? What do you make of that?

Answer:  Every time we preach or teach the Bible we are re-telling it.  We re-imagine it in the sense of seeking to understand how it applies to us today.  If you do a fictionalized version of a Bible story that is true to the intent of the original author and seeks to be accurate in regard to the cultural setting I think you do us a service.  You are creating a sermon on Scripture for us.

Yes, a continuous story Bible should identify itself as such.  That’s a helpful tool for understanding the Bible.

Is Jesus God or the Son of God?

Question:  Was Jesus God or the Son of God–did God beget him or was he always around–and did he (Jesus) create the world?

Answer:  Yes.

All of that is true.  Mark 1:1 says Jesus is the Son of God.  John 1:1 says Jesus is God.  John 1:3 it says nothing was made without Jesus.  Colossians 1:15,16 says Jesus is the firstborn of all creation and that in him all things were made.  John 1:18 says Jesus is either “the only [begotten] God” or  “the only [begotten] Son” depending on what the correct text is.  And I put the word “begotten” in brackets because there is a question as to the meaning of the Greek word used here, monogenes.

The word monogenes could mean “only begotten” or it could mean “one and only” or it could mean “unique.”  It is used of Jesus in John 3:16.  But it is also used of Isaac in Hebrews 11:17.  Was Isaac Abraham’s only begotten son?  No, he had sired Ishmael earlier.  But Isaac was his special son by Sarah, the one to whom he was giving his inheritance.  Is Jesus begotten by the Father, or does this term monogenes simply designate him as the unique Son of God as opposed to all created beings who might be designated sons of God?

I lean toward the view that monogenes, when applied to Jesus, means “unique” Son of God.  However, Scripture also says in 1 John 5:18 of Jesus that he is “born of God.”  There is a doctrine that has developed from this called the eternal generation of the Son, which it says is “an eternal personal act of the Father, wherein, by necessity of nature, not by choice of will, He generates the person (not the essence) of the Son, by communicating to Him the whole indivisible substance of the Godhead, without division, alienation, or change, so that the Son is the express image of His Father’s person, and eternally continues, not from the Father, but in the Father, and the Father in the Son.” (See Theopedia)

What this means is that from all eternity God the Father has been in a relationship with the Son by which He has generated the personality of the Son (and He and the Son have “generated” the personality of the Spirit) so that they share the same essence (deity, divine nature).  This makes them entirely equal in every sense of the word so that each is rightly called God, and yet Jesus can also rightly be called the Son of God.  This doctrine makes a lot of sense of the data of Scripture concerning Jesus absolute deity (John 1:1) and yet his submission to the Father in all things.  This makes it reasonable for him to be the one who takes on human nature (the Father and the Spirit did not do this) and to rule God’s kingdom until it can be handed over to the Father (1 Corinthians 15:24).  Jesus is thus “the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being” (Hebrews 1:3), which seems to speak of some kind of derivation from the Father, and yet at the same time exact equality.

This is a difficult concept to wrap our heads around, but then God is the most amazing and unique being of all, infinite and beyond our ultimate ability to comprehend, yet able to correctly reveal Himself to us in true ways that enable us to know Him.

So the answer to all your questions is, “Yes.”

Praying in Public

Question:  If we are not supposed to pray in public “like the hypocrites”, shouldn’t all prayer be private prayer? 

Answer:  There are many examples of public prayer in the Bible.  Jesus’ point was not to avoid praying publicly but to avoid praying publicly in order to receive praise.  We inadvertently fall into this trap when we do pray publicly because we want people to think we’re great Christians as evidenced by the way we pray.  We shouldn’t have that as our focus, but merely be focused on speaking honestly and worshipfully to God on behalf of those with whom we are praying.  Forget about how you sound to others and focus on how you sound to God.

Did Islam precede Judaism?

Fresco with image of Abraham to sacrifice his ...

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Question: I keep hearing that the Bible references Islam before it split from Judaism in the Old Testament. Is that for real, and, where can I find it? It seems like there’s a chance to heal that breach, and the answer is in the Bible somewhere. Just like witnessing to Jews, only more difficult.

Answer: Islam did not start until roughly 600 A.D. You’re probably thinking about how Ishmael and Isaac were separated in a sense as they each fathered separate nations. Ishmael was removed from Abraham’s family when Isaac was identified as the child of promise from God to Abraham and Sarah. Muslims argue that Ishmael was the favored child and meant for the greater destiny, i.e., Islam. In fact, they teach that it was Ishmael and not Isaac who was offered as a sacrifice before God provided a substitute animal. But check out Genesis 21 and 22.

Randall Johnson