I give this DVD high marks for effort, but low marks for Biblical accuracy. As a student of the Bible, I found that many of the 'experts' interviewed were more interested in "popular Christian" views than "Biblically accurate" views. That might explain why they almost never quoted the Bible even though they claimed to be speaking for it. Their reasoning was so bad I left the room a couple of times to go find other things to do. Eventually I watched the DVD in its entirety, and was less than pleased at the way Strobel packaged it.
1. Christians will often say that God allows freedom in order to make love possible. Respectfully.. can someone please show me where this is in the Bible? You can find 100 "Christian" philosophers to say it, but can you find one *Bible verse* to say it? If so, please let me know so I can finally get off this soap box. Not only is this concept nowhere in the Bible, but embracing it puts one in the horrible position of being completely unable to explain the myriad of verses where God deliberately hardens people's hearts and blinds their eyes so that they cannot make a moral decision in His favor. [NOTE: There are several reasons to explain why God did this, and I'll be happy to discuss them with you. But the reasons presented in DVD leave no room for this often-repeated aspect of God's character.] Here are a *few* examples of this principle at work:
- Pharaoh (Exodus, specifically Ex 10:1-2 or 14:17, etc, etc. Please read *why* God said He would do these things and note that Paul affirms this same reason in Rom 9:17-18. This side of God never came out in the DVD);
- King Sihon (Deut 2:30)
- Canaanites (Josh 11:19-20. Like it or hate it, please note what this plainly says about God's *intent*. This, too, never came out in the DVD)
- Jews themselves (Deut 29:2-4)
- Nation of Israel (Isaiah 6:9-10. BTW.. let me demonstrate to you how resistant people are to the harsh reality of God's holiness. Read the entire chapter and ask yourself how many Christian songs you've heard that reflect the themes of each verse [there are lots] ... and then ask yourself why no one sings about verses 9-10 of this same chapter. While you're chewing on that, note that while no one sings about v9&10, those verses are directly quoted or referred to in Matthew (twice, actually), Mark, Luke (twice), John, Acts, Romans, 2 Corinthians, 2 Peter and more. Why did all these NT writers feel it necessary to bring up these verses, but you can barely find a preacher in the 21st century to preach them??!!?? Kinda makes you say 'hmmmmm')
- Jews (Is 29:10-12; Is 63
- King of Assyria (Is 10:5-12)
And this isn't only in the Old Testament
- Jews (Matt 11:25-26; Matt 13:13-15; Mark 4:12; Luke 8:10; Luke 10:21; John 12:37-40; Acts 28:26-27)
- (And just to make sure we don't miss anyone) Everyone who doesn't believe (Rom 11:7-8)
Folks, I could go on, but hopefully you see that this is a recurring theme in the Bible. I have my theories on how it all fits, but whatever is going on in God's mind in these verses was not represented at all in this DVD. Sorry, but that's just plain wrong!
2. In answering the question of "why is there suffering", Strobel & company are correct to say that sinners of all stripes (myself included) deserve a fate far worse than suffering on earth. But they made this a minor point, not the main point. Yikes! The Bible is abundantly clear that all sin and all sinners will be punished in hell forever (Rom 3:23; Rom 3:9-18, etc, etc). I think Strobel soft-pedaled that answer to his detriment. IMHO, too often, Christians get sidetracked by God's love that they don't see God's holiness as His central character. Because of this lopsided view of Him, they find themselves unable to explain many things in the world. The fact of the matter is that any day alive on earth, regardless of the pain and misery one endures, is far better than spending that same day in hell. As creatures born in sin (we all are), God has every right to instantly destroy us all in hell ...and will do so. (If you want to know why God keeps us alive at all, Rom 9:22-23 might be one hint) In fact, Jesus spoke more on hell and judgment than any other topic, bar none. More than heaven. More than love. (One might think He was trying to say something, eh?) The good news here is that we don't have to die an eternity in hell just because we were born as sinners. Because God is love, He made a plan by which we can escape the punishment He execute: Jesus, being the only God-Man to walk this earth, was sent by God to the cross to take on the hell that God aimed at us. God punished Him for our sins (Isaiah 53). By believing in Jesus' person, work and message, and dedicating our lives to Him (ie "abide" in Him), we get to take advantage of His death as payment for our sins. God then no longer finds us in need of eternal punishment. Personally, I find that plan unfathomable - but it's the one laid out in the Bible and I embrace it wholly and without reservation. What's even weirder still is that God and Jesus made this plan of salvation *before* they even made the world! That sounds offensive and bizzare - but like it or not, that's what the Bible says. (It even says that many of you will find this offensive and a stumbling block - 1 Peter 2:6-8).
As this relates to suffering - the simple fact of the matter is that man, in sinning, curses himself and separates himself and all his offspring from a holy God. God is not Santa Claus (we need to quit thinking of Him that way). The Bible never paints Him as one who is obligated to step in and rescue man from the consequences of his own actions. Like it or hate it, that's the Bible's take on it. Man's suffering is man's own fault - but regardless of the reasons, beware: an even greater suffering lies in store for all of us. We'd best repent before its too late (This is exactly Jesus' logic in Luke 13:1-5. Strobel and company missed the boat.) Instead of focusing on a "good God in an evil world", they should have focused on a "holy God vs an evil world". That's the way the Bible presents it.
I'm convinced that people will never understand God so long as they don't understand Holiness and Righteousness (as HE defines these terms). This DVD did not help in that regard. When I examine what the Bible has to say for itself, I find Strobel's 8 questions answered to my satisfaction. I wish he would have brought theologians to the table who would explain the Bible's perspective and not their own personal opinions (there was waaaaay too much of that going on).
Granted, scrutinizing the Bible make me ask a whole different set of probing questions, but I would expect nothing less from a God who truly is The Almighty. It makes the pursuit of Him mysterious, amazing, rewarding and worthwhile. Highly recommended!