Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Is God’s Will Simple to Understand?

[Recently, on a forum I frequent, somebody asked, "Would God require scholars and complicated texts to understand him, or is his will so simple anyone can understand?" Most of the answers I read seemed to assume that the person asking the question was specifically referring to the Christian God, and they all talked about how it was very simple indeed to know God’s will and proceeded to provide the key Biblical scriptures that one needs to read in order to understand God’s will (ironically, each answer quoted different scriptures).

Anyway, rather than assuming which God the OP was asking about, I thought I’d give a slightly broader, more nuanced, response. In my own inimitable style, of course…]

Of course God’s will is simple to understand! After all, He loves all of us and really wants us all to know His will so we can return to Heaven and worship Him for all eternity, right? What sort of monster would require us to know His will in order to avoid eternal torment and then not make it simple to understand His will?
Anyway, here are the six easy steps to know God’s will in all things:
  1. First of all, you just need to decide which of all the many gods worshiped throughout human history is the one true God in the first place. Zeus? Odin? Amun-Ra? Marduk? Quetzalcoatl? Ba’al? Amaterasu-Ōmikami? Tāne? Vishnu? Ahura Mazda? Jehovah (a.k.a. Allah)? Each God has different attributes and offers a different path to salvation (not to mention has different holy books written about Him/Her/It), so it’s vitally important you select the right one. OK, so it’s probably not one of the Gods worshiped by ancient civilizations*, but at the very least you will need to pick between the God of the so-called “Abrahamic” religions (Judaism, Christianity and Islam), the God of Hinduism, the God of Zoroastrianism, the God of Sikhism, etc. Still, it’s probably whichever God your parents just so happen to believe in**, so that’s easy enough.

    * We all know what a bunch of ignorant and superstitious people those ancients all were, am I right?

    ** What an amazing coincidence!

  2. Then, once you've figured out which is the one true God, decide which of the various religions worshiping that God is the one true faith in that God. If you’ve opted for, say, Jehovah/Allah, then you would simply need to decide whether Judaism, Christianity or Islam is the one true faith. Each main religion has very different ideas of what their chosen God wants us to do, so once again it’s vitally important to pick the right religion. After all, what if you pick Judaism and it turns out that the bit about Christ was true after all? Or what if you pick Christianity and it turns out that Muhammad actually was God’s final prophet? What if you dutifully pray toward Mecca five times each day and it turns out that God really wanted you to observe the Sabbath once a week instead? Again, though, it’s probably whichever God your parents happened to believe in, right? Lucky you for being born into the right family and the right culture and the right country, eh? Pity about everybody else who wasn’t so lucky, but what can you do?

  3. Next, once you’ve figured out which is the correct religion, decide which of the many, many denominations of that religion is the correct one. If, say, you picked Christianity as the one true faith, just figure whether the correct denomination is Catholics, Episcopalians, Latter-day Saints (a.k.a. Mormonism), Baptists, Born Again Christians, Seventh-day Adventists, Pentecostals, Methodists, Shakers, Quakers, Lutherans, Calvinists, Anabaptists, Greek Orthodox, Russian Orthodox, Church of Christ, etc. Keep in mind that each denomination interprets the holy scriptures in a different way, and one denomination’s “salvation comes by grace alone” is another denomination’s “faith without works is dead.” A little harder here, since people do tend to convert from one denomination to another and you may not be able to rely on the denomination your parents belonged to. But, still — it can’t be that hard to know which one is the right one, can it? No pressure, though — it’s not like the fate of your everlasting soul depends on it or anything*.

    * Oh, wait…

  4. OK, now that you’ve figured out which is the correct denomination of the correct religion of the correct God, you may also need to decide which particular sect of that denomination really knows what God’s will is. For example, if you selected Baptist as the correct denomination of the correct religion of the correct God, you will now have to decide whether the correct sect is Southern Baptist Convention, National Baptist Convention, Nigerian Baptist Convention, National Missionary Baptist Convention of America, National Baptist Convention of America, Baptist Union of Uganda, Baptist Community of Western Congo, Baptist General Convention of Texas, Baptist Convention of Tanzania, Brazilian Baptist Convention, Progressive National Baptist Convention, Baptist Bible Fellowship International, American Baptist Churches, Lott Carey Foreign Mission Convention, Baptist Community of the Congo River, National Primitive Baptist Convention of the U.S.A., Myanmar Baptist Convention, Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, Baptist General Association of Virginia, Baptist Convention of Kenya, Council of Baptist Churches in Northeast India, Nagaland Baptist Church Council, Korea Baptist Convention, Samavesam of Telugu Baptist Churches, Orissa Evangelical Baptist Crusade, National Baptist Convention (Brazil), Church of Christ in Congo–Baptist Community of Congo, Baptist Convention of Malawi, Garo Baptist Convention, Convention of Philippine Baptist Churches, Ghana Baptist Convention, Union of Baptist Churches in Rwanda, American Baptist Association, Baptist Missionary Association of America, Conservative Baptist Association of America, National Association of Free Will Baptists, Convention of Visayas and Mindanao of Southern Baptist Churches, Manipur Baptist Convention or Baptist Community in Central Africa. Again, each sect is bound to interpret the main doctrine of the denomination in a different way unique to their own culture. I know this sounds daunting, but I’m sure if you pray to God and ask Him (or Her or It), She/He/It will be happy to let you know. Just make sure you pray sincerely (just like everybody else) and I’m sure God won’t steer you wrong*.

    * Just because God apparently steered wrong everybody who picked a different sect than you doesn’t mean He would ever steer you wrong. After all — you’re special! Billions and billions and billions of people on the earth since the beginning of time and all desperately hoping to know what God’s will really is. But they weren’t all special like you are, so it’s OK.

  5. Now that you’ve selected the correct sect of the correct denomination of the correct religion of the correct God, go pick the congregation you think has the most knowledgeable preachers and teachers. After all, the Southern Baptist church down the street may be full of budding heathens and atheists or just ignorant folks who don’t really understand the word of God. At this point, you’re almost there, so you can be sure that God wouldn’t steer you toward the wrong congregation. Just go with whichever one makes you feel the most comfortable and be assured that God has directed you (and you alone, among all the billions of his children, because you are just so danged special*) to the right place.

    * Did I mention just how very special and lucky you are? I mean, just think of the odds! Seriously, you should go out and play the lottery right now.

  6. Finally, once you’ve selected the right congregation of the right sect of the right denomination of the right religion of the right God, all you need to do now is figure out which of the many preachers and teachers within that congregation actually understands what the holy book of that religion actually means. Sadly, each individual preacher or teacher will likely have their own interpretation, so it’s vitally important that you only listen to the one who has it 100% right. Should you shun homosexuals or welcome them? Should you donate money to homeless people or is that just encouraging bad habits? Do women really need to be subject to their husbands’ will or not? Is it enough to just accept Jesus into your heart, or do you actually need to do good deeds and repent for your sins? Is it really harder for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven than it is for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle, or is that just a metaphor? Does “turn the other cheek” mean you can’t own a gun for self-defense? Did God really just promise to “answer prayers” (and sometimes the answer is “no”) or did he actually promise to give “whatsoever we ask for in faith”? Is lusting after a woman in your heart really the same as committing adultery, or was Jesus just being metaphorical again? What’s the best way to “love thy neighbor as thyself” while still preventing transgender people from using the bathroom they feel most comfortable in? Is it OK to vote for somebody who claims to share your values if he talks about sexually assaulting women, mocks disabled people and lies all the time? What, actually, would Jesus do? And so on and so forth.
See? Easy as pie!

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