6. If it was always God's plan to provide salvation through Jesus, why didn't he send Jesus from the very beginning, instead of confusing and misleading generations of people by setting up a religion called Judaism which he knew in advance would prove to be inadequate?
He didn’t set up a religion called Judaism. He set up a people called Jews. People make religion, God makes relationships. He established a covenant (a relational promise) with the Jews to have relationship with them, but that relationship wasn’t fulfilled until Christ came because we needed to see the difference between what was available without Christ and the greater with Christ. Christ didn’t abolish the previous covenant, He made it better. He renewed it to a greater covenant by fulfilling its requirements. His covenant with the Jews was not misleading; it was leading all the while up to Christ. It was pointing to Him. Remember the Church began with Jews. These were Jewish people that saw the fulfillment of everything they had been waiting for in Christ. Some rejected it and clung to laws instead to the reason for the laws. Jesus rebuked them for missing the point of the laws and the Prophets. He came to show them bodily what everything since the beginning of time had been leading up to. He, Himself was born as a Jew and His disciples were Jews. There are many Messianic Jews because they are seeing the truth of Christ in their own Scriptures. It isn’t something separate, it is part of the same faith.
7. Since the Bible states that God does not desire that anyone perish, but also states that the majority of humankind is going to hell, doesn’t this show that God's plan of salvation is a failure even by his own standard? If this outcome is a success, what would count as a failure?
Jesus spent very little time speaking about hell. There are only a few verses where it is even mentioned in the whole of Scripture. I think the Church has made a mistake to spend so much time talking about something Jesus spent so little time talking about. I’ve noticed that the atheists reading my blogspot spend lots of time ranting about hell, when I seldom brought up the subject. The only time I have written on it is in response to their demands that I address the subject. Maybe some churches still spend a lot of time on the subject, but in my lifetime I have not heard it addressed very often and I have read hundreds of Christian books and have been immersed in Christian culture my whole life, still I have never heard so much about hell until I started talking to atheists and hearing how much they bring it up. Jesus is establishing a Kingdom of people who have life in Christ and who are inheriting everything of heaven that belongs to Him. He came to share the good news. He came to give life and give it abundantly. He came to show us how to live the good life. He didn’t come to condemn us. He didn’t come to make our lives darker and more depressing. He didn’t come to oppress. He came to set free, to heal, to love to forgive. This is His message. This is the reality of what He offers.
8. Why didn't God create human beings such that they freely desire to do good, thus removing the need to create a Hell at all? (If you believe this is impossible, isn't this the state that will exist in Heaven?)
If God created humans who freely desire to do good, would not this mean that they cannot do bad? As soon as something is good, that which is not that something is be default bad or evil. So a choice is created. If the choice is removed, freedom is removed.
No, in heaven we have arrived at the fullness of freedom from the bondage of sin because it was dealt with on earth by freely accepting Christ gift of salvation. The chains of sin are broken here and we start learning to walk that that reality now on earth.
The Bible speaks far more about the Kingdom of God and life in Christ than it does condemnation or hell. I think this shows what is important to God is giving us life. He isn't desirous of our not finding life.
9. Is it fair or rational for God to hide himself so that he can only be known by faith, then insist that every single human being find him by picking the right one out of thousands of conflicting and incompatible religions?
God put the desire for Him in us and He put the reality of His existence all around us. Moreover He tells us all about Himself in the Bible. And He came into our world bodily to further show Himself to us. He also shows Himself to the world through each believer. He tells us to go out and be witnesses for Him showing the world His truth.
However, despite all that there is truth to saying He is hidden. Have you ever seen the joy on a child’s face when they find a treasure? The path to God is full of treasures and He wants us to share in all that glory of discovery.
Religions have sprung up because of man’s desire to be connected to God. We have funneled this desire into things that do not satisfy. We invent ways to earn God’s favor and God is all the while telling us we have His favor we just need to learn that we can belong just as we are without earning anything and His love will provide all we need to live life. Religion shows man’s deep desire for God. It proves we have a God need. But it is inadequate to bring us home to Him in life. He gives life, He gives it to anyone who wants to drink of it.
There are many reservoirs of water. If you try and drink the oceans salty water it will not satisfy. If you try to drink from a bitter spring it will not satisfy. If you drink from water that’s full of bacteria it can cause dysentery or worse. But water is necessary for life. But all reservoirs of water are not equal. You need to find the good water in order to have life giving water. It is the same with “religion” you need to find the right source to drink from in order to find what will be good. God provided that source in Jesus and He gave us much evidence of its veracity and goodness. Will we drink up His life or will we choice a substitute source? He doesn’t force our choice. We are free to make that for ourselves.
10. If you had the power to help all people who are suffering or in need, at no cost or effort to yourself, would you do it? If so, why hasn't God done this already?
God has done this and is doing this still. He’s doing it through each believer. He’s doing it directly as well. Muslims are having dreams and visions of Christ and are coming to know Him without ever hearing the Gospel from a missionary. Christians are going into some of the most hostile of territories and bringing healing, miracles, and life to the people and they are hungry for more. Many groups are providing food, drinking water, hygiene instruction, education, jobs, employment training, homes, health care, etc.
A Christian woman named Heidi Baker and her husband Roland went to the poorest country to the most poor people in that country and risk their lives regularly to help the orphans there. They hear about the worse crime ridden neighborhoods and it is there they go to bring life. They raise the dead, they see miracles, but most of all they love the ones society has not loved.
I listened to Rick Warren the other day address a group of Muslim dignitaries and politicians from various nations on CSPAN. He spoke to them about merging efforts to help the poor and needy world wide. He spoke about working together despite our theological differences and aiding this world in a grassroots effort to bring relief to the suffering. His church is doing much toward this end.
A church in
There are thousands and thousands of such stories in the world today.