Short Reflection on the Problem of Evil Essay

Short Reflection on the Problem of Evil Essay.

The question of evil is a common hot button topic among atheists and non-Christians who attempt to disprove Christianity. They argue that an omnipotent and omniscient God cannot exist in a world with so much evil. The argument is used by them to try to prove that Christianity is “internally self-contradictory and thereby to be rejected.” Many claim that a benevolent and caring God would certainly not create evil or allow it to flourish in the world that He created. So, the problem of evil is how to explain that there can be a perfect, all-powerful, and all-loving God that exists in a world with so much moral and natural evil.

First, natural and moral evil need to be distinguished from one another. Natural evil is defined as “evil which occurs in the process of the functioning of the natural order.” People are not responsible for these happenings; they are simply the victims and no one is to blame. The devastation that resulted from Hurricane Sandy is a perfect example of such evil, along with other problems such as cancer and earthquakes.

Moral evil, on the other hand, is defined as “evil produced by activities of moral agents.” This evil stems from intentional action, such as murder, stealing, and adultery. Natural evil is part of the consequences of moral evil that resulted from the fall of man in the Garden of Eden.

The vast amount of evil that exists in the world is not because God created it, but because man allowed it. Man was not was not created by God with a built in evil nature; he was created with a free will that was exercised to purposefully sin. God gave Adam a choice whether to do right or wrong and he failed. The moment Adam chose to sin in the Garden of Eden the rest of the human race would be born in sin, too. God did not force this choice on Adam but allowed him to have complete free will. God is wholly benevolent and did not create evil; man brought it into the world by his sinful actions.

Adam’s wrongdoing also brought condemnation the perfect world God created. Natural evils like illness and natural disasters are a direct result from the moral evil that man commits. Just as this God-given free will brought sin into the world, though, it gives us the chance to show our true love for God. He did not leaves us hopeless and abandoned when sin entered the world; He offers us a way of escape through His son Jesus Christ. There will always be evil in this world until Christ returns in glory one day. The evil that exists, both moral and natural, are not created by God but are a direct result of man abusing his free will and choosing wrongly.

Bibliography

Gerstner, J. H.. “Evil.” Evangelical Dictionary of Theology. E. Walter A Elwell. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2001. 384-385. Print.

Short Reflection on the Problem of Evil Essay

Plymouth Plantation Essay

Plymouth Plantation Essay.

Perhaps what we fail to realize is that the Puritan belief of Divine Providence consumed every single aspect of the Puritan lifestyle. From the moment they woke up, until the moment they crawled back into bed, the inhabitants of the first settlements of New England believed that the cause of every occurrence was the Christian God. Every action, and it’s according reaction, was directly designed and destined to happen because God chose it to be so. William Bradford, one of these Puritans, was not only the first governor of the first Puritan settlement, Plymouth, but was also it’s first historian.

Our first accounts of the Plymouth inhabitants, in turn, come to us by way of Bradford’s detailed accounts of what happened at Plymouth Plantation. However, one can argue that because of Bradford’s Puritan beliefs, his account may be slightly biased, and not completely precise as to what truly happened at the Plymouth settlement.

Or perhaps Bradford’s account is completely accurate, and it is only a matter of the reader’s perceptive of William Bradford’s account.

When taken into account, that the Puritans focused every cause of nature and chance, as God’s will, then Bradford’s account can almost certainly be discarded as a religiously biased novelty tale, slightly based on the truth about what happened at Plymouth, but if viewed at a more intellectual level, then the reader can grasp that although Bradford’s account does reason most of it’s events with Divine Providence, the physical occurrences of the events are completely truthful and factual. From the falling of the “very profane young man…of a lusty, able body”(Bradford, 24) into the sea because of his seemingly haughty nature, to the Mayflower reaching Cape Harbor after suffering a mass loss of sailors and a broken mast (Bradford, 26), the endless appearance of Divine Providence in Bradford’s account is clearly evident proof that the religious installation of Providence consumed every action of how the Puritans approached situations in which they were placed.

Whether it was dealing with the ailing health their settlement underwent the first winter they spent in the New World (Bradford, 23), or their dealings with the indigenous American people they encountered upon their explorations of the lands farther west of Plymouth (Bradford, 30), the Puritans worried little; because whatever was to be was already destined and preplanned by their God, in his plan for their salvation and receiving of his grace. When looking at the account from a modern day, non-religious perspective, it is possible to envision the events as Bradford witnessed them himself. The physical action of a man falling off a boat, and an indian helping the white man grow corn are historical truths in their own rights, and cannot be changed from the truth by any religious perspective.

How and why these actions occurred, however, can be reasoned differently. William Bradford was a brilliant writer, one whom because of his religious background, wrote about events and occasions in a way much different to how we would see them in modern day. This should not however, impact in any way the reliability of the historical context. Religious truths and historical truths have always and will always continue to be clashing titans. Perhaps one day the line that separates the two will disappear, and the real truth will become all that is apparent.

The History of Plymouth Plantation: God
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Written by: Cautionwett

The presence of God is evident in the passage from The History of Plymouth Plantation in every event significant or not. In his diary, William Bradford describes several occurrences in which God played a major role in deciding the outcome. According to Bradford, God can help or hurt according to His will. The first of these displays of God’s will in this passage was of revenge toward a sailor. He was as Bradford described him “a proud and very profane young man… of a lusty, able body.” The sailor would “always be condemning the poor people” of the Mayflower because of their seasickness. The sailor went as far as to say that he hoped to help cast them overboard before they reached the mainland. Bradford believed that God was pleased to smite this young man with a grievous disease and ironically cause him to be the first to die and be thrown overboard. This proves that Bradford’s god is all-powerful and able to seek and gain revenge against those who go against god’s chosen people. In a later reference, God helps “one of his chosen people” survive during a storm.

A young man named of John Howard was coming up from below deck when he was swept overboard. But, because it pleased God, the man grasped a main line and was able to be saved. Bradford believed that because the man was saved he was one of God’s chosen people and, therefore, later went on to become an important member of their society. This incident verifies that Bradford believes that God punishes bad people but keeps his chosen out of harm’s way. In this passage, there are also several allusions to events that take place in past religious writings including the Bible. In one, Bradford speaks of Mount Pisgah, where the Hebrews could see what lay before them. Bradford infers that the pilgrims have it harder because they do not know what lies ahead of them. In another citation he speaks of “wise” Seneca, who said he would rather take 20 years and go by land than in shorter time travel via the ocean.

In some way, Bradford believed that he is similar to other historical religious journeys and he considers that his journey is much like, if not more difficult and significant, than those before him. When they come ashore, Bradford describes the pilgrims falling to their knees and blessing the “ God who had brought them over the vast and furious ocean, and delivered them from all the perils and miseries thereof, again to set their feet on the firm and stable earth, their proper element.” Here, Bradford gives God credit for the pilgrims’ survival. The passage does not say that God indirectly gives the sailors the strength and integrity to enable them safely come to the end of the journey, but it states a direct connection with God and the pilgrims ability to survive their trek.

William Bradford concludes this part of the trip with details on how miserable it is in the new land, and how he doesn‘t mind because it is what God intended. “What could now sustain them but the spirit of God and his grace?“ Bradford asks redundantly. Bradford then speaks of how the future generations should and should not speak of the voyage to the new land. He believes that God will deliver them from evil by helping them survive in a place with no city, no food and no drink. Every event that Bradford selected to describe in his journal has a direct link to God’s will. William Bradford believes that things do not just happen, but are part of God’s plan. This belief is clear in the way he discusses certain occurrences, both honorable and ill fated, pleased God. The fact that Bradford expressed these beliefs in a private journal makes it more convincing that he truly believes in what he writes.

Examination of Puritan Philosophy in Bradford’s “On Plymouth Plantation”

The Puritan people first came to the New World to escape the religious persecution that hounded Non-Anglicans in England. They established the Plymouth Colony in 1620, in what is now Massachusetts. The colony was a reflection of the Puritans’ beliefs. These beliefs, along with the experience of establishing a colony in “the middle of nowhere”, affected the writings of all who were involved with the colony. In this writing, the Puritan philosophy behind William Bradford’s “Of Plymouth Plantation” will be revealed. Some factors that will be considered include: how Puritan beliefs affect William Bradford’s interpretation of events, the representation of Puritan theology in the above mentioned text, and how Puritanism forms the basis for Bradford’s motivation in writing.

In Bradford’s text, there are numerous instances in which his beliefs affect his interpretation of what happens. In Chapter IX (nine) of “Of Plymouth Plantation”, entitled “Of Their Voyage…” , he tells of a sailor “..of a lusty, able body..” who “would always be condemning the poor people in their sickness and cursing them daily….he didn’t let to tell them that he hoped to help cast half of them overboard before they came to their journey’s end”. But, “it pleased God before they came half-seas over, to smite this young man with a grievous disease, of which he died in a desperate manner, and so was himself the first that was thrown overboard”. Bradford believes that the sailor died because God was punishing him. According to Bradford, the sailor’s cursing, and mistreatment of the other passengers displeased God, so God punished him accordingly.

In the same chapter, Bradford tells of another ship passenger named John Howland. At one point in the trip, the Mayflower came upon a violent storm. The winds of the storm were so fierce, and the seas were so high, that all the sailors and passengers had to “hull for divers days together”. During this storm, a young man named John Howland was thrown into the sea, and as Bradford tells us, “it pleased God that he caught hold of the topsail halyards which hung overboard and ran out at length”. Howland caught hold of a rope, and “though he was sundry fathoms under water”, he held on until he was hauled up. Bradford reasons that the man was saved because he was blessed by God. He goes on to say that he “became a profitable member in both church and state, implying that John Howland was one of the so called “Puritan Saints”. To the Puritans, Saints were people whom God was to save, so these people received God’s blessings, and therefore were profitable in Puritan society.

In Chapter X (ten) of Bradford’s writing, entitled “Showing How They Sought Out a Place…”, Bradford tells us about an Indian attack on his people. Some explorers went out to explore the area around Cape Cod. As they are resting, the Indians attack. “And withal, their arrows came flying amongst them.” He continues “Their men ran with all their speed to recover their arms, as by the good province of God they did.”

Bradford belief that the Puritans are God’s “chosen” shows in his writing, and affects his narration of the story. After telling us of the attack, he adds, “Thus it pleased God to vanquish their enemies, and give them deliverance; and by his special providence so to dispose that not any one of them were either hurt or hit, though their arrows came close by them, and on every side [of] them; and sundry of their coats, which hung up in the barricado, were shot through and through.”

In nowhere else does Bradford’s Puritan beliefs affect his interpretation of events in his writing as much as in Book II, Chapter XIX of “Of Plymouth Plantation”, entitled “Thomas Morton of Merrymount”. Throughout the chapter, Bradford tells of a Thomas Morton. His disdain for Morton shows throughout the entire section.

As the story of goes, there is a plantation in Massachusetts called Mount Wollaston owned and run by a Captain Wollaston. On this plantation were indentured servants. Captain Wollaston sometimes went to Virginia on trips to sell some of his indentured servants. On one particular trip, Wollaston puts a man named Fitcher to be his Lieutenant, and thus govern the Plantation until he returned.

But, as Bradford puts it, “..this Morton above said, having more craft than honesty (who had been a kind of pettifogger of Furnival’s Inn) in the others’ absence watches an opportunity, and got some strong drink and other junkets and made them a feast; and after they were merry, he began to tell them he would give them good counsel.” Morton goes on, “I advise you to thrust out this Lieutenant Fitcher, and I, having a part in the Plantation, will receive you as my partners and consociates; so may you be free from service, and we will converse, plant, trade, and live together as equals and support and protect one another.” The servants had no problem with Morton’s suggestion, and without question, “thrust Lieutenant Fitcher out o’ doors….”

Bradford continues the story, furthering his assault on Thomas Morton’s character. He continues, “After this, they fell into great licentiousness, and led a dissolute life, pouring out themselves into all profaneness. And Morton became the Lord of Misrule, and maintained a School of Atheism.” Morton and his fellows also resorted to trading with Indians, and as Bradford puts it, “(They) got much…they spent it as vainly in quaffing and drinking, both wine and strong waters in great excess….” They also “set up a maypole, drinking and dancing about it many days together, inviting Indian women for consorts, dancing and frisking together like so many fairies, or furies, rather; and worse practices.” Later, Bradford tells us that Morton “to show his poetry, composed sundry rhymes and verses, some tending to lasciviousness, and others to the distraction and scandal of some persons, which he affixed to this idle, or idol maypole.”

The fact that Bradford sees Morton as the antithesis of all of his Puritan beliefs lead him to partially misappropriate at least some of his representation of Thomas Morton’s character. He represents Morton as dishonest, and crafty. According to Bradford, Morton got all of the servants drunk, then while they were inebriated, preceded to convince them to throw out Lieutenant Fitcher, and take over the plantation. It is highly doubtful that Morton had to drug the servants to convince them to take over the plantation, as the servants probably didn’t want to be sold in Virginia. Bradford also implies Morton is a pagan. He calls Morton “the Lord of Misrule”, and said Morton maintained a “School of Atheism”. He views Morton as worshipping the maypole, as Morton and his fellows danced around it endlessly, and posted poetry to it. To Bradford, the drunken, hedonistic lifestyle that Morton maintained stood against everything the hard-working Puritans believed in.

Some of Morton’s “crimes” that Bradford told about in his story directly affected Bradford, which could’ve resulted in some of his prejudice towards Morton. For one, Morton was taking away some of the Puritan workforce, by housing indentured servants at his plantation. Also, Morton’s relationship with the Indians most definitely bothered Bradford. Morton traded with them, and later sold muskets to them, even showing the “natives” how to use the muskets. Morton was also “guilty” of consorting with Indian women. Throughout the whole section, Bradford’s Puritan Beliefs at least partially altered his representation of actual events.

Representation of Puritan theology is also heavily prevalent in Bradford’s “Of Plymouth Plantation”. Included in Bradford’s writing are numerous Bible quotes, and praises to God for anything going right during the Puritans voyage. In the chapter called “On Their Voyage…”, Bradford tells of the condition of their ship. Due to the number of storms encountered during the voyage, “the ship was shroudly shaken, and her upper works made very leaky; and one of the main beams in the midships was bowed and cracked, which put them in some fear that the ship could not be able to perform the voyage.”

After much consideration by the mariners, they decided to continue on with the voyage, rather than turning back to England. As Bradford put it, “So they committed themselves to the will of God and resolved to proceed.” Also in the same section, after they landed “they fell upon their knees, and blessed the God of Heaven who had brought them over the vast and furious ocean, and delivered them from….” Throughout the whole piece, there is much praise for God, and numerous bible quotes from Bradford.

Many of the reasons for Bradford writing “Of Plymouth Plantation” stems from his Puritan beliefs. For one, he wanted to establish a link between his Mayflower group (the group that traveled over the sea), and all future groups of Puritans. Right at the end of Chapter IX (“On Their Voyage…”), right at the end of the section, Bradford gives us a speech. He begins, “May not ought the children of these fathers rightly say “Our fathers were Englishmen which came over this great ocean, and were ready to perish in this wilderness; but they cried unto the Lord, and He heard their voice and looked on their adversity” etc. Let them therefore praise the Lord.”

He wanted to show that what his group did was “great”. They endured the persecution of the Anglicans in England, and then sailed over an ocean to an untamed land, and established a colony. Bradford’s story is one of hardship; the kind of hardship that the Puritans believe shows God is testing them. Bradford wants the future Puritans to never forget the hardships that his group had to endure. Bradford has a “sense” that what his first group of Puritans did was grand, and thus he wants to justify the acts of his group.

Bradford also wants to quell any questions or fears that any investors might have had. Bradford’s Puritan background influences a great deal of “Of Plymouth Plantation”. His beliefs sometimes affect his interpretation of events, as in his telling us of Thomas Morton. His Puritan beliefs also form the basis of the purpose of his writing. Still, Bradford manages to accomplish a great deal in this writing. He does immortalize the struggles of his Puritan camp at Plymouth, and he does a good job of accurately depicting the events during those same struggles.

Plymouth Plantation Essay

The Shack: Analysis Essay

The Shack: Analysis Essay.

According to “The Shack”, William Paul Young had to confront the issue of theodicy; how a loving god could allow such overwhelming pain, suffering and evil in the world he created. The overall thesis of the book seems to states that forgiveness is desirable. Matthew 6:15 states clearly the requirements of forgiveness, “But if you refuse to forgive others, your Father will not forgive your sins”. Young takes the time to address forgiveness which will require growth beyond the pain of deep hurt.

On page two twenty seven, one can see forgiveness is not the same as forgetting.

As when Mack forgives the kidnapper so he can move forward in life and happiness but never forgets what happened that horrible day. “The Shack” is a Christian fiction, a fast growing genre in the contemporary Christian culture. A Christian novel explains and illustrates a Christian world view, plot, and its characters; plus deals with Christian themes in a positive way. It communicates in a casual, easy to read message.

The text in “The Shack” comes across as the author preaching his religious believes to the reader, with no other acceptable views.

Towards the end of the book, Young seemed to try and force his own point across. In the last section of the book “The story behind the Shack”, Young reveals that the motivation for this story comes from his own struggle to answer many of the difficult questions of life. Young explains that his seminary training didn’t provided the answers to the questions he pondered. Suddenly one day in 2005, he felt God whisper in his ear that this year was going to be his year of Jubilee and restoration. Out of that experience, he felt God lead him to write the Shack.

Young states that much of the book was formed around personal conversations he had with God, family, and friends. He tells the readers that the main character “Mack” is not a real person but a fictional character used to communicate the message in the book. Young admits that his children would recognize that Mack is a lot like him, and the other characters often resemble family members and friends. Young explained that he initially drafted the manuscript as he commuted to work by train, and intended it primarily for his children.

Although the scenario depicted in the novel is not based on a particular historical event, young admits that it was created by a six-month period in his own life when his eighteen year old brother was killed, his mother-in-law died of a massive coronary, and his five year old niece was killed the day after her fifth birthday. The story centers around a note that Mack received from God to whom he refers as “Papa”. “It states Mackenzie, It’s been a while. I’ve missed you. I’ll be at the shack next weekend if you want to get together”.

The shack this letter refers to is the painful place were the search for his daughter ends tragically. A few years earlier, a serial killer abducted Mack’s daughter Missy. A lead sends them to an old shack where Missy’s blood-soaked dress is discovered. Mack decides to go the shack to see if this is some kind of prank, or if God will show up. God shows up, and Mack spends a weekend at the shack interacting with the different members of the trinity and learning to forgive God and Missy’s killer. As Mack leaves the Shack to go back home he gets in a serious accident.

After he gains consciousness in the hospital, he realizes he did not spend the weekend at the shack, but that his accident occurred on the same day that he arrived at the shack. Ultimately, when bad things happen, when our loved ones perish, when one becomes ill, when our wealth and our friends run away, one has choices to make. Believe in a God, and that he will help in the way one needs, or Cry, scream and hate him because he didn’t do what one thought was the right way. To overcome deep hurt, one has to forgive to move on with life.

The Bible instructs one to forgive as the Lord forgave us; Colossians 3:13 “Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you”. In conclusion, when one forgives the people that hurt us, one can begin to heal. One forgives by faith, out of obedience. Since forgiveness goes against our nature, we must forgive by faith, whether we feel like it or not. Although forgiving is not the same as forgetting, one has to forgive to move on from pain and disappointment to become happy. One must trust God to do the work in us that needs to be done so that the forgiveness will be complete

The Shack: Analysis Essay

Evil Can Only Be Overcome by Good: Is Forgivenss the Way Evil Is Overcome Essay

Evil Can Only Be Overcome by Good: Is Forgivenss the Way Evil Is Overcome Essay.

Evil in the context of this essay refers to moral evil, which is evil that we as human beings originate through our thoughts and subsequent actions. ‘The greatest bulk of human suffering is due either wholly or in part to the actions or inactions of other human beings’. The problem of evil is a serious and enduring challenge for religious faith, as Romans chapter 12:21 states ‘Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good’.

In this the final verse of the chapter, there is an underlying promise that good will eventually triumph over evil, as Paul encourages Christians to not allow evil to overwhelm them but instead to play their part in overcoming evil through doing good.

In modern culture, for example, violence is met with counter violence, injustice with force; the pervasiveness of sin and evil is such that we are compelled to wonder whether the darkness has eclipsed the light. In essence, forgiveness is the means to overcoming or conquering evil by unlearning and breaking the habits of sin and stopping cycles of violence and vengeance.

Habits and practices of forgiveness in the service of holiness, is a way of unlearning sin and evil in general and violence in particular. Embodying forgiveness is the way that offers new life and a hopeful future to those who suffer and to those who inflict suffering. This essay will examine the practice of forgiveness as a way of healing brokenness, being healed by God and by others. The question then is, what is forgiveness? Forgiveness is a process of ‘letting go’, that is not allowing the negative experiences of the past to dominate the future.

Let the past shape the future positively’. From a Christian’s perspective, forgiveness is not so much a spoken word, a feeling felt or an action performed; it is an embodied way of life in an ever-deepening friendship with the Triune God and with others. Due to the persuasiveness of sin and evil, forgiveness must be an expression of commitment to a way of life, one of holiness in which people cast off their ‘old’ selves and learn to live in communion with God and with one another.

It is also a means of seeking reconciliation in the midst of particular sins and specific instance of brokenness. In the broadest context, forgiveness is the way in which God’s love moves to reconciliation in the face of sin. Forgiveness is the only possibility for preventing the consequences of sin from “eating away” at us; it rescues and restores what can still be rescued. An endless chain of evil can be broken by a single act of forgiveness. Why then is forgiveness such a difficult practice?

The forgiver, who is also sometimes the victim is overcomed or overwhelmed by evil and has to wrestling with feelings of hatred, aggression and revenge, but the action of revenge will perpetuate the current of evil, rather than containing it. Forgiveness is then required but is only possible through God’s grace that comes over the one who has been wronged (the forgiver), persuading him to be an instrument of reconciliation and renewal. It’s important to note here, that there are however two types of grace in the central Christian message of forgiveness of sins; Cheap grace and Costly grace.

Cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism, without church discipline, hence it is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross and grace without Jesus Christ. Cheap grace, which is the emphasis in today’s western culture, denies any real need for deliverance from sin since it justifies the sin instead of the sinner, in effect, it offers consolation without any change. This cheap version of “therapeutic” forgiveness create the illusion of caring about the quality of human relations while simultaneously masking the ways in which people’s lives are enmeshed in patterns of destructiveness.

Costly grace is the sanctuary of God, it is discipleship and it is following Jesus Christ. Costly grace requires practices of forgiveness, repentance, confession and love for enemies. It must form part of the practices of the Christian community and life. At the heart of forgiveness, it is also important to learn to be forgiven, as there are people who see themselves as unforgiven. Being forgiven frees us of the burdens of the past and also deepens our relationship or friendship with God and each other. It is the journey towards holiness.

At the centre of Christian forgiveness is the proclamation of God’s Kingdom and the call to repentance so that we can live as forgiven and reconciled people with God and with one another. In other words we are enabled by Jesus’ forgiving love to forgive others because we learn to understand ourselves as sinners who have been forgiven. There is a need for people in general and more specifically in the church, to learn to become more forgiving in their relationship with each other; but the need to also learn what it means to be forgiven by God and by each other must be embodied.

To be forgiven by God does not come apart from an acknowledgement of and confrontation with, human sin and evil He does not overlook or ignore our destructiveness, rather God confronts sin and evil in all of its awfulness. In doing so, God exposes our wounds, both those that have been inflicted on us and those we have been inflicted on others and on ourselves, for the purpose of forgiving us and healing our wounds. Confrontation is important, as it can illustrate the importance of forgiving but not forgetting because in trying to forget the past, unconfronted sin and bitterness find ways to influence people’s lives.

Evil Can Only Be Overcome by Good: Is Forgivenss the Way Evil Is Overcome Essay

The Prodigal Son Essay

The Prodigal Son Essay.

Introduction

     The illustration of the prodigal son is fraught with meaning. So as to have the picture in mind this paper will briefly review the story, which is of a man who had two sons. The younger one asked his father for his share of the property. This was granted, and the young man then took all his belongings and went off to a far country, where he squandered all he had in a life of debauchery. Famine hit the country, and in desperate need he got a job herding swine, but was not allowed even to eat their fodder.

In sore plight, he came to his senses and decided to return home. He would acknowledge his sinful course and ask to be taken on, not as a son, but as a hired servant.

His father, however, seeing his son when far off, ran to meet him and gave him a heartwarming welcome. He was quickly fitted out with the best robe, sandals and a fine ring, followed by a feast with music and dancing.

But the older son, on approaching the house and being told what was happening, was furious and would not join in. His father entreated him, but he only argued back. The father again explained his course of action in a most kindly and appealing way. There the story abruptly ends, leaving it open as to the older son’s final reaction. (Luke 15: 11-32)

     True, this biblical illustration has long been acknowledged and used by several speakers in presenting the truths about human life. The idealism of humans being connected with a supreme being is the primary focus of the illustration as noted in the Bible.  The understanding given to the context of the illustration shall indeed help people realize their situation and thus be able to reconnect with the supreme God who is willing to help them survive the challenges of living. Although the illustration is rather long, many speakers and inspirational mentors find it easier to use to be able to bring out the different points related with the facts about human choices and consequences.

     What did Jesus Christ particularly have in mind as he narrated this particular illustration to his listeners? Most likely, he wanted to show them the impact of their decisions in their lives and what God himself particularly feels about this.

The idea is to awaken the sense of his listeners in realizing the fact that God is affected by every decision that they make as his followers. With the kind of life that Jesus Christ lives, it is noticeable that he met with sinners, tax collectors and other individuals of different walks of life who have been deciding mistakably with their lives during those times. Through this perception, Christ understood that these people needed guidance and the sense of realization that they are being given the importance that they are due as individuals wanting to follow the right path of living.

The Impact of Illustration in the Cycle of the Human Life

     How beautifully Jesus described the forgiving disposition of his heavenly Father! To think that the great Creator of the universe would accept a repentant sinner in such a sympathetic, tender manner! Yet Jesus, who knew the Father best, showed by this touching illustration that that is exactly how the Father treats those who have a change of heart and come “home” to serve him. But this conception of God as a Father who is ready to forgive was not new. Similarly, there were many in the first century from among God’s people of Israel that had forsaken their heavenly Father and were pursuing a wicked course.

However, when they heard the Kingdom message preached by John the Baptist and Jesus it shocked them to their senses. They felt sorry for their sinful ways, and, like the prodigal son, they returned to volunteer as slaves of God. Because of their lowly spirit and genuine repentance Jesus warmly welcomed them, even as he illustrated that his heavenly Father had done in a spiritual way. They became Jesus’ disciples and were sent out by him to preach concerning the kingdom of God.

     Since all have sinned, all can benefit from the humility and contriteness of heart demonstrated by the prodigal son. Not only did he feel sorry for his sins, but he proved his repentance by confessing his wrongdoing and requesting to be allowed to serve his father. If you want the favor and forgiveness of the heavenly Father you must do the same. Do not hold back! Do not let a feeling of unworthiness prevent you from turning to God to serve Him.

The Youth and the Impact of Illustration in their Lives

     Some rebellious youths today have likewise been shocked into reality. Reaping the grim aftermath of fast living—jail, serious injury, sexually transmitted disease—can be a sobering experience indeed. The words of Proverbs 1:32 finally hit home: “The renegading of the inexperienced ones is what will kill them.” When the prodigal son finally faced the truth, he made a courageous decision—to go home and straighten out his life! But how would his father react after having been hurt and betrayed by his son? The account answers: “While he was yet a long way off, his father caught sight of him and was moved with pity, and he ran and fell upon his neck and tenderly kissed him.” Yes, before the youth could make his carefully rehearsed confession, his father took the initiative to express love and forgiveness!

     Usually youths are faced with the challenges of making reasonable decisions in their lives. At times, because of being inexperienced they tend to fail in terms of judging the possible consequences of their present acts. At most, because of these misjudgments, youths tend to affect not only their own lives but also the lives of the people living around then. Without their knowledge, they are hurting their parents and all others who are close to them because of the path of the decisions that they particularly take into consideration as they face their own adventure in living. Of course, setting things straight with God is only a beginning.

Just as the prodigal son apologized to his father, erring youths should try to make amends with their parents. A sincere apology can go a long way in easing some of the pain they have suffered and in securing their support. A youth who wants to please God needs to ‘keep making straight paths for his feet.’ (Hebrews 12:13) This may mean his changing his life-style, habits, and associates. (Psalm 25:9; Proverbs 9:6) Establishing a routine of personal study is also important. Returning to what is right might nor be that easy to accomplish. However with conscientious approach, those who really want to change would naturally be able to attain what they particularly want to reach in terms of returning back to the path of righteousness.

On Religious Matters

     Jesus concludes his story with the father’s appeal to his older son: “Child, you have always been with me, and all the things that are mine are yours; but we just had to enjoy ourselves and rejoice, because this your brother was dead and came to life, and he was lost and was found.” Jesus thus leaves unresolved what the older son eventually does. Indeed, later, after Jesus’ death and resurrection, “a great crowd of priests began to be obedient to the faith,” possibly including some of these of the “older son” class to whom Jesus is here speaking.

In modern times, the implication of the illustration preferably refers to those individuals who have naturally noted that they were with God or they are doing things accordingly to the principles of the supreme one. Yet although they say this, it could be noted through their acts that they are doing otherwise. Moreover, they tend to mock the realities of rightful worship of God. Sadly, as blinded as these individuals are, they also become highly indifferent with the ways by which they are shown the right path that they are supposed to follow. Some scribes and Pharisees may have felt that they were being compared to the older son, in contrast with sinners who were like the younger son. Did they, though, grasp the key point of the illustration, and do we?

It highlights an outstanding attribute of our merciful heavenly Father, his willingness to forgive on the basis of a sinner’s heartfelt repentance and conversion. It should have moved listeners to respond with joy at the redemption of repentant sinners. That is how God views matters and how he acts, and those imitating him do likewise.

Clearly, justice marks all of God’s ways, so those who want to imitate God treasure and pursue justice. Still, God is not motivated by mere abstract or rigid justice. His mercy and love are great. He shows this by a willingness to forgive based on genuine repentance. It is fitting, then, that Paul linked our being forgiving with our imitating God: “[Be] freely forgiving one another just as God also by Christ freely forgave you. Therefore, become imitators of God, as beloved children, and go on walking in love.

Yes, everyone trying to imitate the principles of living that God himself has set as guidelines to the human individuals are able to change their ways freely in accordance to that particular path that God himself accepts to be rightful. With the application of rightful repentance on the process of recovering from past mistakes, God’s assistance could be well assured on the part of those wanting the change.

What About the Older Son?

     Obviously, compassion was given to the prodigal son upon his return. What did the older son feel about this? Apparently, he did not rejoice. A feeling of self-pity filled him and questions about the love that his father has given him had clouded his mind. From this particular illustration, it could be noted that people tend to expect upon being able to follow what is right. Sadly, because of this particular thought, most humans fail to recognize that they have always been appreciated by those people whom they ought to please. The regularity of the matter makes it hard for them to realize that they too are given importance.

     In the story, this particular scene could be notably obvious:

 In the meantime, the father’s “older son was in the field.” See if you can identify whom he represents by listening to the rest of the story. Jesus says of the older son: “As he came and got near the house he heard a music concert and dancing. So he called one of the servants to him and inquired what these things meant. He said to him, ‘Your brother has come, and your father slaughtered the fattened young bull, because he got him back in good health.’

But he became wrathful and was unwilling to go in. Then his father came out and began to entreat him. In reply he said to his father, ‘Here it is so many years I have slaved for you and never once did I transgress your commandment, and yet to me you never once gave a kid for me to enjoy myself with my friends. But as soon as this your son who ate up your means of living with harlots arrived, you slaughtered the fattened young bull for him.’”

     During the earlier times, THE Pharisees have criticized Jesus for keeping company with known sinners, and in answer he has just finished relating illustrations about regaining a lost sheep and a lost drachma coin. He continues now with another illustration, this one about a loving father and his treatment of his two sons, each of whom has serious faults. Today, it is undeniably noticeable that there are those individuals who are critically endowed in noting other’s mistakes.

At times, instead of seeing the appreciation that they are receiving from those people whom they are serving or from those people that they love, they see the idea of being mistreated through seeing what is being done or how others are being treated at their expense. Because of this, the thoughts of being unfair become eminent in the process of human development. With this in mind, it could be noted that there are those individuals who are less able to take notice of the good things that they are able to enjoy just because of envy.

Critique of the Illustration

With heartrending vividness Jesus shows in the parable of the prodigal son (1) why a person would drift away, (2) what can happen while away, (3) what it takes to return, and (4) the welcoming attitude of God. The two sons in the parable may be compared to people who, like anyone else, have come to know the Father, enjoyed the ‘abundance of spiritual bread’ in the household of faith and dedicated their lives to God’s service.

There are various reasons why some, like the younger son, leave the “home” of the heavenly Father. Often it is simply the increasing burden of the “anxieties of life.” (Luke 21:34) Occasionally the influence of bad associates has hindered some from “keeping on obeying the truth.” (Galatians 5:7, 8, 10, 12)

Hard feelings over a doctrinal matter may have caused a number to go “off to the things behind.” (John 6:60-66) Basically, some either consciously or subconsciously have considered the environment in God’s spiritual household to be too confining. These ones, like the prodigal, no longer want to be under the watchful eye of the Father. They seek ease of movement in a “distant country” or a distant area that is considerably away from the principles of Godly ways of living.

Conclusion

Many who tend to rest and refuse to take the necessary steps in living a Godly way of life do not drift back into a “debauched life” as did the prodigal of Jesus’ parable. Still all become aware of the separation from a close relationship with God. They know they have sinned however, because of self-resentment, they intend to feel like as if their wanting of being forgiven is not worthy enough of being considered by God himself. The prodigal son said: “Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy of being called your son,” is how the prodigal felt after he “came to his senses.” Others have felt the same way—unworthy of being called one of God’s family.—Luke 15:17-19.

Is this assumption true? Did the father, who knew that his son’s sins were great, view them as unforgivable? Was he cold and indifferent when the boy reappeared? Not at all! He had been looking for his son. The father ran to embrace his son. The most the son had hoped for was to become a ‘hired man,’ someone really not a member of the household and in some respects worse off than a slave.

Never could he have imagined his father’s response: “Quick! Bring out a robe, the best one, and clothe him with it, and put a ring on his hand and sandals on his feet. And bring the fattened young bull, slaughter it and let us eat and enjoy ourselves.” How wonderfully Jesus illustrated the wholehearted response of the father!—Luke 15:22, 23.

The father knew that the prodigal had already paid a dear price—the emotional scars of “living a debauched life” and losing all his money, the agony of being friendless and without food and shelter during a famine, the shame of eating with pigs, and finally, the long journey home. So, too, God realizes that one truly suffers while “lost” and that it is not easy to return. Yet our compassionate heavenly Father, who is “abundant in loving-kindness,” ‘will not for all time keep finding fault nor according to our errors bring upon us what we deserve’ if we are genuinely repentant and “set matters straight” with him.

References:

  1. NEW WORLD TRANSLATION OF THE HOLY SCRIPTURES. (1984). International Association of Bible Students.
  2. ”Sixty-Second Stewardship Sermons” by Rev. Charles Cloughen, Jr. http://www.catholicstewardship.org/Publication. (October 23, 2007).
  3. Ernest Valea. (2007). The Parable of the Prodigal Son in Christianity and Buddhism. http://www.comparativereligion.com/prodigal.html. (October 23, 2007).
  4. Henri J. M. Nouwen. (1994). Return of the Prodigal Son: A Story of Homecoming. Image Books / Doubleday Publishing Group.
  5. Jill Robbins. (1991). Prodigal Son/Elder Brother: Interpretation and Alterity in Augustine, Petrarch, Kafka, Levinas (Religion and Postmodernism Series). University Of Chicago Press.
  6. Lee & Steven Hager. (2006). Quantum Prodigal Son: Revisiting Jesus’ Parable of the Prodigal Son from the Perspective of Quantum Mechanics. Oroborus Books.
  7. Kenneth E. Bailey. (2003). Jacob & the Prodigal: How Jesus Retold Israel’s Story. InterVarsity Press.
  8. Robert Branner. (1996). Chartres Cathedral: Illustrations, Introductory Essay, Documents, Analysis, Criticism (Norton Critical Studies in Art History). W. W. Norton & Company; 2Rev Ed edition.
  9. Gregory Jones. (1995). Embodying Forgiveness: A Theological Analysis. Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company.
  10. Michigan Historical Reprint Series. (2005). A compendious introduction to the study of the Bible, being an analysis of An introduction to the critical study and knowledge of the Holy Scriptures, the same author. By THomas Hartwell Horne. Scholarly Publishing Office, University of Michigan Library.

 

 

The Prodigal Son Essay