"For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts."
-- Isaiah 55: 8-9
The simple answer here is, it's a mistake to attempt to judge the works of God by the criteria of the mortal world. Instead, to see clearly we need to endeavor to view the world from God's eternal perspective. And the most significant point about the eternal perspective is that it is eternal, not confined to the realm of mortality as our perspective is.
I was taught that God is working in the world every day. But surely, if an infinitely powerful being who wants things to be better did so much as lift a finger in that pursuit, the world would be fixed instantly. Yet it clearly isn’t.
This is a well-known issue in theology known as "the problem of evil." There are many valid answers to it, such as:
- as so much evil and suffering is caused by the choices that people make, to eradicate evil and suffering would require the eradication of free will, which would be an even greater evil.
- God's benevolence, being eternal in nature, exists in a scope that transcends mortality and promises happiness to the faithful eventually, not right now
- God understands that without trials and difficulties, we have no way to grow and learn
- at no point were we ever promised a life of comfort by God. On the contrary, Jesus explicitly said "In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world." (John 16:33, emphasis added)
I was taught that God loves everyone, and wants each and every person to come to him. Yet when I and others like me try to look objectively at our daily lives, we see no sign of him.
Again, this is something we are explicitly warned against doing:
1 The Pharisees also with the Sadducees came, and tempting desired him that he would shew them a sign from heaven.
2 He answered and said unto them, When it is evening, ye say, It will be fair weather: for the sky is red.
3 And in the morning, It will be foul weather to day: for the sky is red and lowering. O ye hypocrites, ye can discern the face of the sky; but can ye not discern the signs of the times?
4 A wicked and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign; and there shall no sign be given unto it, but the sign of the prophet Jonas. And he left them, and departed.
-- Matthew 16: 1-4
5 Now he that hath wrought us for the selfsame thing is God, who also hath given unto us the earnest of the Spirit.
6 Therefore we are always confident, knowing that, whilst we are at home in the body, we are absent from the Lord:
7 (For we walk by faith, not by sight:)
-- 2 Corinthians 5:5-7
Mark 16:17 tells us the proper order of things: signs shall follow (not precede!) them that believe. This principle is brilliant in the way it taps into basic human psychology. Anyone who's spent any amount of time on Internet forums will understand this principle. How many times have you seen someone who demands proof of something they don't want to accept, and then, no matter how many times people actually offer solid evidence, they still refuse to accept it, finding one way or another to rationalize their denial in the face of mounting evidence that they're wrong?
The Lord tells us to avoid that trap altogether: walk by faith, not by sight, and the signs (proof) will follow your belief. And anyone who's learned to live by faith can tell you just how true this principle is. When you open your heart to God and begin endeavoring to live right, that's when you see miracles occurring in your life.
I was taught that the Bible is true, and yet some of its most central teachings are nonsensical at best, and horrifying at worst.
From a mortal perspective, or an eternal one?
Why is he angry at us for being imperfect, when he himself created us that way?
He's not. Nowhere in any book of the Scriptures does it say that. What it says is that his anger comes from the refusal to turn to him and repent, and seek to improve upon our imperfect state with the assistance he freely offers.
Why would he punish us so brutally as a result?
As the poet said, "no man is an island." Our choices have ramifications far beyond what we can see. If we truly understood the totality of the harm that many things that we consider innocuous end up causing, I suspect we would not consider God's punishment for those choices "brutal" at all!
And why would he order the slaughter of massive populations of people, specifying that even the most vulnerable individuals should not be spared?
Again, this looks far less horrifying when the student of history has an understanding of the cultural practices of the populations involved. When a civilization has become so corrupt and degraded that there is no chance for a person born among them to live a righteous life, what is worse? To allow more children to be born into a terrible certainty of a life of evil, or to have compassion on future generations by removing their would-be oppressors and corruptors?
I can definitely understand how these questions could trouble a person. But the answers do exist, and the eternal perspective is the key to nearly every last one of them. If you can look beyond this world, if you can accept that this life is not all that there is, but merely a step along a much longer journey, then the things that happen in this world -- things that seem dark and terrible when taken out of context -- are revealed as perfectly sensible acts of love and compassion from a loving Father who sees and understands far more than we can.
Christianity absolutely does match reality. It's just that there's far more to reality than we can easily observe.