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Todd and Greg Koukl answer questions many have today about the Christian faith, including the Resurrection, the person of Jesus, Jesus being the only way, what about those who haven't heard, to name a few. These are questions that can be addressed winsomely by asking good questions in return and being equipped with the Word of God to be a better ambassador for Christ!
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The Exclusivity of Jesus
Living Life in the Grace and Sufficiency of Christ: Baptism Celebration 2014
The Continuing Story of Easter
Todd and Greg Answer Questions About the Faith
5 Characteristics of Relationships that Succeed
A Tender Word for Pharisees
Stewarding the Life of a Shepherd
Love is Always Better than the Law
Todd Wagner: We're going to dive right in. We have 45 solid minutes of Q&A with one of the leading apologists in our country today. What's an apologist? It is not somebody who walks around apologizing for what they believe. It is somebody who gives a rational defense for the faith. This is my buddy Greg Koukl. Welcome him. He is with Stand to Reason ministries. I will tell you more about that very shortly, but let me just explain to you how Greg and I met.
Eighteen months ago, we did an apologetic conference here, which I highly commend to you to go back and look at. You can go to the Watermark app, which is downloadable for free at the app store, like many of them are, and just go to the media section and look for "Contending with Christianity's Critics." It was September of 2013.
The brightest minds in the business, a guy named William Lane Craig, Ravi Zacharias, Frank Turek, Greg, myself, and others were here discussing all day long questions relevant to what we're going to talk about in short little snippets tonight, and that is all there still available for you. Greg and I met personally then. I was aware of his work and had gleaned from it already, but that is when I got to see his heart and got to know him as an individual.
At that moment I said to Blake and others on the Equipping team, "We have to get Greg back." Greg is the kind of guy we would fancy ourselves very kindred spirits with. Tonight, we're just going to dialogue with you. I commend to you all of his resources that you can get at str.org. They're all available there or at Amazon under Greg Koukl.
We're going to dive in and just do a short Q&A. We'll do some role playing, and if we tear through all of these, which would be no small miracle, we'll interact in different ways, but I think you're going to be encouraged tonight. This is something that will be available that you can go back and listen to and prepare yourself to respond in winsome ways.
So let me just dive in with you, Greg. I'm going to let you run lead on all of these questions. I'll chime in as my flesh forces me, which won't be hard. Here's the very first question. Other than the Real Truth. Real Quick. app or the Watermark app, what's your favorite app on iTunes? Okay, that wasn't a question. It's setting up the one thing I told you I would do. Tell them about the Stand to Reason app.
Greg Koukl: Okay. I'm not really an app guy. I have some, but if you want one that deals with the kinds of things we address, we have put together a fabulous app, the STR app. I actually opened it yesterday. I don't go back to my own stuff very often, but I started cruising through there, and I thought, "Hey, we have some good stuff on here."
A lot of things I've written over the last few years, our Solid Ground newsletter where I deal with issues like the Canaanites, for example, or new books that have come out, like Bart Ehrman's Misquoting Jesus or The Grand Design by Stephen Hawking and Leonard Mlodinow. These things come up, and it raises questions for Christians, so what I try to do is respond to those things in a very thoughtful, thoroughgoing fashion, in a way people can get their teeth into it.
These are all posted there for the last four or five years. If you sign up for our stuff, we send it to you virtually or we'll send it to you snail mail so you get it right away, but you can get it on the app. You can get our podcast there. I do three hours of radio broadcasting every week. This is my twenty-fifth year. What I do is I open the lines, people call in, I do some commentary, I start taking questions, and we interact. I have Christians calling. I have non-Christians calling. I have people who agree with me, who disagree.
I try to take the tactical approach I taught yesterday for the 400 or so who met here at the church. The subtitle of the book Tactics is A Game Plan for Discussing Your Christian Convictions. I take those principles and put them in play. So if you're listening to the podcast, you can be a part of this. You can tag along with me and listen over my shoulder as I engage these challengers, in many cases, in a way that is winsome and attractive and friendly but also productive and persuasive.
All of this is going on on the radio show. You can podcast that. You can get it on the app. These are all things that are available there. I do many things, kind of like we did. We did a couple of episodes today for your Real Truth. Real Quick. I do the same thing. It's not quite as quick as he does it. I'll take a four- to seven-minute vignette once a week as a video blog and deal with an issue and address the camera and talk to you and help you walk through this.
Let me tell you a secret, though, about Stand to Reason. Our goal isn't just to tell you what to think. We're not just giving out information. I want to help you to get a rhythm of how to think about these things, how to work through these kinds of issues. What are the tools that will help you to do that? My background and my training is in theology and philosophy. I have advanced degrees in both, and I try to bring both of those into play but in a way people can follow.
I'm a translator. I'm going to throw the ball so you can catch it. A big part of our training is to help you to be a better, what we call, ambassador for Christ. Ambassadors have qualities in three areas: knowledge, wisdom, and character. The way we characterize it at Stand to Reason is knowledge is an accurately informed mind, wisdom is an artful method (that's the tactical approach), and character is an attractive manner.
Everything you do with us, whether it's our podcast or our video blogs or our writing material or I come to speak, I'm trying to help you be a better ambassador for Christ. An incarnational approach, really, to taking our message out there.
Todd: Love it. That's why I want you to know about that resource. I said this morning one of the kindest things you can do if you're a friend with somebody is share other friends you have with them. That's why Greg is here. I want you to know one of the places I go to learn, be sharpened, reminded, quickened, and excel still more. This is one of my friends I am continually spurred on by, and I am glad to share him with you tonight.
Let's dive in to, first of all, answer a question that came out of the message this morning, and then I'll give one of the classic questions that you can show exactly what you do on the radio program. A question from this morning. We talked about the two miracles, the incarnation/crucifixion and the resurrection. You mentioned the word ransom this morning. We talk about how a ransom is something you usually pay to a kidnapper to get your kid back. So the question then becomes…Who did God through Jesus pay the ransom to?
Greg: This is a great question, partly because there is some confusion theologically on this in the broader Christian community. Keep in mind that when the Scripture communicates spiritual truths it trades on figures of speech, and we have the same thing here. Figures of speech and metaphor, similes, those kinds of things, are leveraged to be able to capture something important, but sometimes if you push the figures too far you kind of go off the reservation, and that can happen in this particular case.
Todd: It happens a lot when people are interpreting parables. Jesus is using figures of speech, and they try to build theological constructs out of those stories. The word ransom… Tell us how that happens with that word.
Greg: A ransom is the purchase out of slavery by the payment of a price. Generally speaking, that's how this word is used in the New Testament. So what is the price that was paid? Well, the Scripture says clearly. I think it's Peter who says, "You've been ransomed, not with silver or gold but with the precious blood of Christ." The payment price is the blood of Jesus.
Okay, what is the slavery we've been rescued out of? The slavery we've been rescued out of is slavery to sin. "If the Son shall set you free, you are free indeed." Anyone who sins is a slave to sin. If the Son will set you free, you're free indeed. So slavery to sin and slavery to Satan. He is a slave master. We see a number of places in Scripture where it talks about the world being held in the power of the Evil One.
This is where we have to be careful that our metaphor doesn't take us off the reservation, because the payment price that was paid by Jesus was not paid to Satan. Even though Satan has control of the world after a fashion, in part because man surrendered that control to Satan at the fall… He obeyed Satan rather than God. He wanted to be free of God, but he didn't get free; he just surrendered from God and to Satan, and now Satan is manipulating a lot of things.
There are three passages in the New Testament that say basically the same thing. The whole world is in the power of the Evil One. So we are enslaved to him, but when Jesus died, the price he paid was a payment for the crimes we have committed against the Father. Jesus paid the Father, because it is the Father who is owed perfect obedience. Jesus perfectly obeyed the Father in everything. That was the point I made today. We didn't. We disobeyed, so we deserve to be punished.
The great trade I talked about was when we trust Christ we get his perfect obedience applied to our account. That's called justification. He gets our sin, which he pays for on our behalf. That's called substitutionary atonement. He died in our place. So even though we are being rescued from slavery to both sin and Satan, the ransom that was being paid was being paid to the Father, because the Father was the one offended by our sin, not Satan. It is him we owe our allegiance and fealty and obedience to, and he is the one we have disobeyed.
Jesus said in Matthew 10, "Do not fear him who can kill the body but not the soul." He said, "Rather, fear him who can throw both body and soul into hell," and that isn't Satan. God owns hell. That's where perfect justice is done. Our fear is not to be of men, the point Jesus is making in Matthew 10. The fear of man is a snare. Our fear is to be of the Father who we owe. We can fear him in an appropriate way, because we no longer have to fear his judgment, because Jesus has taken the anger of God upon himself to pay for our crimes against him.
Todd: Let me read to you this text from Romans, chapter 3, verses 21-26, which talks about why Jesus died. I'm going to give you another question we have today about the resurrection that's related to it, but listen to this. "But now [in Jesus] apart from the Law the righteousness of God has been manifested, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets…" In other words, the Law and the Prophets anticipated this moment.
"…even the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ [our Lord] …for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus; whom God displayed publicly as a propitiation…" A fancy word for as a satisfaction or appropriate ransom.
"…in His blood through faith. This was to demonstrate His righteousness…" The his there is God the Father. "…because in the forbearance of God He passed over the sins previously committed; for the demonstration, I say, of His righteousness at the present time, so that He would be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus."
In other words, the Father waited to bring execution and judgment against sin, because there could be no final and full and perfect payment for sin except a final and full, perfect eternal sacrifice to satisfy a final and full, perfect eternal creature, Jesus himself. The ransom was paid to the Father by the Father in the person of the Son. The question people ask about the resurrection… We're going to make a big deal next week about the bodily resurrection of Jesus. Does it matter that it was a bodily resurrection? And if so, why?
Greg: Well, if it wasn't a bodily resurrection it wasn't a resurrection. Right? What died? The body. What gets raised? The thing that died. This is very straightforward and very simple. Jesus' body died on the cross, and his body was resuscitated, resurrected, three days later that Sunday morning. The resurrection was something that demonstrated a theological reality. I cited some of those this morning.
He was declared with power to be the Son of God by the resurrection. So we know Jesus was God, as he claimed, because he raised himself from the dead. Some people say, "Wait a minute. I thought God raised Jesus from the dead." Yes, God raised Jesus from the dead, but what did Jesus say about the resurrection that was to come? He said, "Tear down this temple," which the writer then identifies as the body of Christ, "and I will raise it up on the last day."
If God raised Jesus from the dead and Jesus raised Jesus from the dead, guess what. Jesus is God. The resurrection demonstrates that, but it doesn't just demonstrate that he is the one he claimed to be, the divine Son of God, but also that what he claimed to do through the cross was verified through the resurrection. He was raised for our justification. We know we have been justified by God. That means we got his righteousness because he got our blame and then rose from the grave three days later to demonstrate that he accomplished what he set out to do.
So the resurrection is really central here. What's critical is that it isn't just some spirit floating around but it's the body of Jesus. Another way we know the body of Jesus rose from the dead is because the tomb was empty. It wouldn't have been any good to talk about the resurrected Christ if there was still a body in the tomb. The tomb was empty. We know this as a point of historical fact.
Todd: There are a lot of faith systems that believe in an afterlife, but only the Christian faith deals with the actual resurrection…not reincarnation into another body but a resurrection of the body we have.
Greg: That's right. Additionally, the fact that there was a resurrection gives us a grounds to know Christianity is true. No other religion, virtually, has a thing called apologetics. You mentioned apologetics doesn't mean walking around saying you're sorry all the time. That's what husbands do. We can defend the faith because we have evidence to demonstrate Christianity is true.
So much so the apostle Paul can say in 1 Corinthians 15 that if Jesus actually did not come out of the grave…that is, if we are believing in the resurrection contrary to fact…we of all people should be pitied. You ought to feel sorry for us. Two days ago, I sat on an airplane next to a gentleman who was of the Jainism religion. Jainism is a religion from India, and they have extreme respect for life.
In fact, when he told me he was a Jain I said, "Where's your mask?" because they often will wear masks so they don't breathe in microbes and destroy microbes. They believe in reincarnation. So as I drew him out, asking him questions about his own point of view, a very friendly conversation, I asked him, "What are the reasons you think Jainism is actually true?" That's a very important question.
Anybody asking a Christian that question should be able to hear some answers. There are answers to that question in Christianity, whether Christians can answer it or not. We have evidences to demonstrate our view is true. Do you know what he told me? He said, "I just believe it." Well, that's true of almost every religion in the world, but it is not the case of Christianity.
Think of the gospel of John. At the end of the gospel of John, John tells us the reason he wrote his gospel. He said, "Many other signs and wonders Jesus performed that have not been written in this book. Jesus did a lot of miracles I didn't include, but these things I did write in order that you might believe that Jesus is the Son of God and in believing have life in his name."
John says, "You want the evidence? I just gave you a whole biography filled with evidence so you can have confidence that Jesus was who he claimed to be." There is no other religion in the world that can step up to the plate and do that kind of thing like Christianity can do.
Todd: When we're talking about Christianity being a message of hope… I just talked about the bodily resurrection. Some people are like, "Hey, I can't wait to die to get out of this body. I don't like the way I look. I don't like the disability I have." What would you say to somebody who doesn't like the way God made them, and what role and what place does the resurrection have in giving them hope that this bodily resurrection is going to be a good thing?
Greg: Well, two thoughts come to mind on this. One of them is why is it you don't like the body God gave you? It might be that people are assessing themselves with the wrong standards. That might be one thing. The body is marred by sin, and some more so than others. There are congenital defects and things that would not be part of the system if it weren't for the fallen world we live in.
Todd: First of all, let's just acknowledge that anything that comes into us through sickness or disease or injury is all part of the fallen world.
Greg: Characteristically, all of that. Yeah, these are corruptions, in a certain sense, of our body. We look at our body and say, "Man, I don't like this. I have bad knees, and my back aches. Who wants this body?" Well, a lot of that stuff is because of the fall. This is just the decay that's characteristic of the fall.
I want you to think for just a moment about a competing religion to Christianity in the second century. It was called Gnosticism. Gnosticism came out of Greek philosophy and kind of crept its way into Christianity and so twisted and distorted it that it almost destroyed Christianity, apart from the power of God and the providence of God.
The gospel of Thomas, as some of you might have heard about, is a Gnostic gospel. It advances this alternate view. In Gnosticism there was a radical dualism. What I mean by dualism is there was an acknowledgement of an immaterial world and a material world. Now we have that in Christianity, obviously. You have material stuff and immaterial stuff that exists in the world.
That's part of the Christian worldview, but what the Gnostics had done was characterize all of the spiritual stuff as really good and all of the physical stuff as really nasty, and then this played out in different ways for different Gnostic groups. Notice spiritual good; material, physical bad. Sometimes Christians inadvertently and unwittingly have adopted this view.
They almost want to spell self as F-L-E-S-H, as if self and flesh in the sense of being fallen and corrupted are the same things. The Christian answer to Gnosticism is the incarnation. That is, God didn't think material stuff was bad. He took material stuff onto himself in the incarnation. In fact, the Christian apologists of the second century (Irenaeus, for example) answered the Gnostic challenge by the incarnation of Christ. God became man in Jesus.
So having a physical body is not a bad thing. It's a good thing. In fact, when we die, our souls or spirits, our immaterial selves, are in a sense wrenched from our material bodies in an unnatural way, and we are no longer clothed. God's purpose is to redeem everything and eventually restore our non-physical self with our physical self, creating the unity God originally intended. That's the resurrection body. That resurrection body is going to be the clothing our souls wear.
We will then feel most complete the way God intended. Your back is not going to hurt. Your knees aren't going to hurt. You're not going to look as ugly as you do. You're going to look the same, but it won't seem ugly to anybody. You know what I'm saying? You won't be wearing glasses like me, no hearing aids, none of that stuff, because we are going to be unified with a wonderful, beautiful resurrection body, where all the original glory God intended for human beings is going to shine through undiminished.
Todd: Yeah, all things become shadows in the light of you. What's going to happen is we're going to fully see the beauty of God. We're going to be fully satisfied in him; therefore, we won't need to look at ourselves for any satisfaction. The problem with all of us is that we keep looking in the mirror to find satisfaction. Even if you find it for a fleeting few years in your 20s, it doesn't last for long.
Here's the deal. The reason your ego hurts is it's broken. I mentioned this briefly a couple of weeks ago in a message where I talked about things that call attention to themselves are things that aren't working properly. If your knee hurts, you think about it. If your knee is working fine, you don't ever think about your knee. The only time you think about your knee is when it's hurting. You never think about your toe. Stub your toe. You'll think about your toe.
The reason you think about yourself is because your self is broken. Why is your self broken? Your self is broken because it's meant to live in relationship with God. You and I, as part of the fallen human race, have disconnected ourselves with God, and now it hurts, so I think about it all the time and am dissatisfied with it all the time. When God restores us to him fully in the glorification that happens at the resurrection…
That's why you don't need to worry if you go, "I wanted to be six-foot-whatever in the resurrection" or "I wanted to wear a size 2 in the resurrection." I don't know if you will, but I do know this: you won't care, and neither will I when I look at you, in the same way God doesn't care when he looks at you now.
But you won't walk around with a limp, and you won't have half an arm, if that's eaten by a shark or you were born, like my friend Nick Vujicic, with no arms and legs. I believe his resurrected body is going to be as God intended it. Anything else you want to add to that, other than asking my forgiveness for calling me ugly? You don't need to state the obvious. We're answering difficult questions.
Greg: When you speak the truth, you don't have to apologize for it. I was actually thinking, though, on the wisdom in your comment about when you're drawing attention to something it's an evidence of brokenness, and when you're whole and complete it's like you can lose your attention on yourself.
This is Passion Week, and the Upper Room Discourse, which is the longest discourse of Jesus in the New Testament, one of four major discourses… It happened in the upper room, and it's in the gospel of John from John 13-17. It starts with Jesus washing the disciples' feet. It's interesting the way the text characterizes it. I'm just going to do my best paraphrasing from memory.
It says that Jesus, knowing where he came from and knowing where he was going to, having loved his own, loved them till the end, or to the uttermost. This is a text that describes that Jesus was completely at home with himself and with the Father because he knew who he was, so he didn't have to prove anything. Because of that, he was capable of humbling himself and washing his disciples' feet.
Those are the verses that introduce his act of humility to his disciples as a model for them (and all of us) to act toward each other, to humble ourselves. He was able to do that because of that. That's a great observation you made. I just wanted to back it up with that passage.
Todd: Thank you. Here's a question you're going to get hit with. Those were fairly theological, wrapping up some clarity from this morning. Let's just say somebody grants us that there is a God, that God does exist. We'll maybe even come and have that conversation. Let's just say we start with the premise, "There is a God." How do we know the God who exists is the Christian God, not part of the Hindu family of gods or the Islamic view of god?
Greg: Well, this is where the tactical approach I talked about yesterday and is in the book Tactics is going to be really helpful, because there's an ambiguity right from the get-go when somebody says, "Okay, I admit there is a God. How do we know which god it is?" Well, what I'm not clear on is what kind of god they have in mind when they say there is a god. So that's the first question I'm going to ask. "What do you mean by God?"
Now I'm not trying to be harsh or problematic or difficult. I'm just trying to get clarification. "So you believe in a god. Why do you believe in God?" Well, maybe they believe in God because the cosmos couldn't exist without something appropriate to cause the cosmos. Okay, good. Big bang needs a big banger. To me, that's good thinking, but that does imply some intelligent God and not just some vague force.
Probably, if somebody is willing to admit God exists, they're referring to a personal God, because only a personal God can answer the kinds of needs the universe needs an answer for. Why is there design in the world? Because there's a designer. Why is there a big bang? Because there's a big banger. Why is there morality? Because there's a moral law maker. All of these are a personal God.
Once you zero in on the probability that it's a personal God and not some force, well, you've limited it to basically the monotheistic religions of the world. The three major ones are Christianity, Judaism, and Islam. There are a couple of smaller ones, not to give them the short shrift, but now you've simplified the task. Now I think it's fair to ask the question…Has that God attempted to communicate?
We could speculate all day long about God, and there are certain things we can know about him. He's powerful. He's probably pretty intelligent. He's out there. This is kind of Romans 1 stuff. But when it gets down to the details, pretty much God has to reveal himself so we know some particulars about him. Is there any evidence that that has taken place? Well, this brings us generally to those things that claim to be revealed texts, Bibles of some sort, but I want to simplify the issue. Jesus of Nazareth claimed to be that God.
The narrative story of the Bible starts, "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth." So now you have a personal God. Okay, who is that God? How does Jesus' story start? John 1:1-3: "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. […] All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being." Verse 14: "And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth."
Now in answer to your question, "Which god is it?" Jesus of Nazareth, the person who people, generally speaking, have a lot of respect for, Christians and non-Christians alike… This man claimed to be that God. He's putting himself front and center as a candidate for the answer to that question, "Which god?" The question then can be asked, "Did he deliver the goods? Did he have the bona fides? Did he show his claim to be true?"
This is one reason this week is so important. We are celebrating the resurrection of Christ. If Jesus got out of the grave, the way the historical record says he predicted he would, well, then his claim to being that God is secure. This is why Paul will say in Romans 1, "He was declared with power to be the Son of God by the resurrection of the dead."
By the way, the book of Romans was written mid-50s, within 20 years or so after the event, and in the book of Romans, there you see it, right at the outset: a high Christology, Jesus risen from the dead. This idea of Jesus being God didn't develop in the fourth century, like Dan Brown and others have suggested. This was the earliest, most primitive testimony of the Christians: "Jesus is Lord." There they meant the Lord, not just a nice guy we respect and tip our hat to when we pass him by.
Paul is declaring, mid-50s, that Jesus Christ rose from the dead and this demonstrates his divinity. The resurrection, the deity of Christ didn't develop after 200 or 300 years as people made myth out of the man. This was right from the outset.
Todd: In fact, the early debate amongst the church was not "How could Jesus be God?" It was "Are we sure he was a man?"
Greg: That's exactly right. Remember I mentioned the Gnostics in the second century? The Gnostics thought Jesus was God. They just didn't believe he was a human being. So a belief system arose called Docetism from the word dokein which means to appear. What they believed was that God did not become a man in Jesus; he just appeared to be a man, but he never took on that nasty material, physical stuff, because he couldn't be polluted in that way.
The fact is Jesus was a human being. He was born like a human being was born. He lived the life of all human beings. He was fully human, but he was fully God at the same time. He was the God-man.
Todd: So ultimately, your answer to "How do we know the Christian God is the real God…?" If there wasn't a resurrection, we couldn't be sure, but because of the resurrection event it seems to separate him.
Greg: You're right on that. If there was no resurrection, that wasn't in play. There are other lines of argument we can offer, but the resurrection is really, really powerful. It is adequate to do the job. Or you could look at the life of Jesus of Nazareth himself, the kinds of things he did. If God became a man, what would you expect of that human being? You'd expect power over the natural realm. You'd expect ability to heal. You'd expect power over the demonic realm. You'd expect wisdom and insight and all of the things that it looks like in the historical record we see characteristic of the life of Jesus.
Todd: The ability to create.
Greg: Exactly. There you go. So it's all of these things wound together. Resurrection is huge on our side, but it's not the only thing on our side. There's a whole bunch of other stuff that fits in well. The key here is, strategically, if you want to make a case for your point of view you go to Jesus. Jesus is the guy. We have historical records of the life of Jesus. He's the most well documented person of antiquity.
We have a lot of information on him, not just Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John and Peter and Paul who were writing biographical information about Jesus in the text. We have 17 other sources from secular sources that make reference to Jesus that we can cross-reference with. We have a lot of information. Plus, Jesus of Nazareth is universally respected. Did you ever notice this? Say in conversations about the issue of homosexuality. Really controversial.
You'll hear people say things like, "Well, Jesus never said anything about homosexuality." Here's my response: "Why should that matter? Why should anybody care what Jesus said?" Well, I know the reason why. Because they revere Jesus as a religious figure. It matters what he said. That's why they want to get Jesus on their side. Now that's an admission that Jesus is someone to contend with.
I won't deal with the question itself for the moment, but I want you to see that the challenge is an acknowledgement that people who raise that really respect Jesus. I say, "Okay, fine. Let's deal with Jesus. Let's go back to him. Let's see what he said. Let's see what he did and let Jesus speak for himself." When Jesus speaks for himself, people change their minds about him. Well, actually, one of two things. They either fall at his feet and worship him or they crucify him. There are two extremes, but Jesus is someone to be contended with.
So when people are upset with me when I say Jesus is the only way, I say, "Wait a minute. This isn't my idea. I didn't invent this idea. If it were up to me, come on down; you could be in my heaven. But it's not my heaven; it's Jesus' heaven, and Jesus is the one who says the gate is narrow that leads to eternal life and the way is broad that leads to destruction. So if you want to get angry, get mad at him."
It's easy to take exception with Koukl. It's a lot harder to take exception with Jesus of Nazareth. So whenever you can go to Jesus, when you can put it on Jesus, when you can bring him front and center as the authority or the person to contend with, you're in a really strong position.
Todd: I'm trying to listen like you and ask the questions you would ask as he's talking. Let me just go back and say this. First of all, what about that whole idea of Jesus being the only way? That's fine for us in the Bible Belt. What about the folks who have lived in Afghanistan underneath the Taliban their entire life, and they're killed if they even look at a Bible or bring up a question about Muhammad not being God's prophet? What kind of God would send them to hell if they reject a Jesus whom they've never heard?
Greg: Well, there are about half a dozen things in your challenge that are all from right here, and these are among the most difficult to deal with. I'll tell you part of the reason it's difficult. If I told you the true answer, a lot of people wouldn't like it. There is a little bit of a tendency, I think, among Christians to want to sanitize God, to want to tame him in the eyes of other people so other people can say, "Well, okay. That sounds reasonable."
I think God is reasonable, but that does not mean he always acts and does things the way that would comport with what we think is sensible and right. As C.S. Lewis put it, Aslan is not a tame lion. (Aslan is the Jesus figure in The Chronicles of Narnia.) Let me start by saying this. Nobody goes to hell because they reject a Jesus they never heard of. Nobody goes to hell because of an accident of geography or an accident of time.
The reason people are condemned by God is because they have rejected what God has shown them. They have rebelled against him and have gone their own way in rebellion. This is universally taught throughout the Scripture. You just cited Romans, chapter 3, which speaks very directly to this issue. In fact, the first three chapters of Romans Paul is developing an argument, and in those chapters he is making the case that no one is without excuse.
Are you a Jew? You don't have any excuse. You have the revelation of God, but the revelation of God condemns you because you rebelled against the revelation of God. Hey, maybe you're a moral person who is just judging people by your own moral code. Paul says in chapter 2 of Romans you're condemned too by your own standard, because you don't even live by the standard you profess is the right standard. You violate your own standard.
What about the person who has never heard the gospel of Jesus, who has never heard about Christ? Well, what Paul says in Romans 1 is they may not have heard about the Son, but they sure have heard about the Father. The Father's witness is everywhere. That's when he starts out his argument in verse 18 of chapter 1 and following.
But what do people characteristically do? I shouldn't say characteristically. I should say universally, according to Paul. People say, "Well, you don't know about that person in Afghanistan." You're right. I don't know about them, but God does. I have to go to what God has to say about this. What God says is human beings have the glory of God manifest to them, and they suppress the truth in unrighteousness.
The language there is really important, because the words Paul uses to describe that is it's like holding down a spring or trying to keep a beach ball underwater. You have to put a lot of pressure on to keep that beach ball down, and if you're not careful, it's going to pop up. Well, that's what Paul says people are doing with the revelation of God. God's power and his glory and his existence are clear for everyone to see, but what do they do?
Instead of honoring God as God, they either reject God entirely or they go after false characterizations of God. Now are they getting deluded a little bit from the outside? Is Satan in there messing with things? Sure, but human beings still bear a responsibility for their basic rebellion. So nobody goes to hell because they've rejected Jesus. They go to hell because they've disobeyed God. I know this, because we have a clear picture of the judgment.
The judgment is in Revelation, chapter 20. Every person comes before God and is judged, and what does the text say? "According to their deeds." If you're here this morning, you heard me talk about a certificate of debt that was pinned to Jesus' cross, decrees against us. That's the books that are open, essentially, in the book of Revelation. Metaphoric language, but it's clear what's being communicated.
God is making a list and checking it twice, and this is not good news, but the significance of this is that God's justice will be clear. When he judges anybody, he is going to judge them on their own behaviors, that they rebelled against God time after time after time. Every mouth will be closed, which is also a verse in Romans 3, because every person will be accountable to God in virtue of that.
So, are there people who have never heard about Jesus who are going to hell and be condemned? The answer is yes, of course that's the case, but they aren't going to hell by accident. They are being judged for their rebellion against God, and when God judges, he judges justly. There is not a person on the planet who deserves God's mercy. God's mercy is given as an act of his grace, unmerited favor. God doesn't have to save anybody.
He didn't save any angels. The angels that rebelled? Forget about it. It's over. There's no salvation plan. But because of the kind intention of the will of God (Ephesians 1), God became a man to rescue us. "Even while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us." Those of us who get rescued get rescued by the mercy of God. Those who get condemned get condemned on their own merits according to their own deeds.
Todd: Let me give that to you in hopefully a simple way. All that Greg said there… He went right through Romans 1, Romans 3, and other Scripture. Bottom line, we know God is just. Nobody would want to embrace a God who is just. They ask the question from the perspective "Only an unjust God would send people to hell who have never heard about Jesus." Start with agreeing. "I believe and agree with you that God is just."
Secondly, nowhere does the Bible teach that people go to hell because they've rejected a Jesus Christ of whom they've never heard. Thirdly, nowhere does the Bible teach that there is any other way to have a relationship with God except through Jesus Christ. Acts 4:12 (among others), John 14:6 (if you want to pin it on Jesus, he thought that), and there are over 100 other verses Greg graciously has put in a book for us called…
Greg: Jesus, the Only Way: 100 Verses. It's a little bitty $2 booklet we sell at Stand to Reason, but it has all of them there.
Todd: This is what Jesus thought. Fourthly, what the Bible does teach is that the reason men go to hell is because they reject the revelation they have received. They've rejected his invisible attributes, his eternal power, his divine nature, which have been (Romans 1) clearly seen through that which has been made. Or the violation of their own conscience.
Are y'all with me? Can you go back over these? God is just. No one goes to hell because they reject a Jesus whom they've never heard. The Bible doesn't teach that. Thirdly, there is no other way. Fourthly, they go to hell because they reject the revelation of God they already have, God the Father. Then fifthly, if you love God the Father, you'd better take seriously his command to do all you can to take the gospel to all of the people in Dallas, Texas, and everywhere else he's going to send you to tell them the good news of what Christ has done.
I love what Spurgeon did when he was asked this question. This is a great tactic. Spurgeon was asked, "Can people who have never heard of Jesus go to heaven?" He goes, "I have a better question for you. Can people who say they know the Father but don't tell other people about Jesus go to heaven?" In other words, you can't help but talk about the God who saved you if you're one of those whom God, by his grace, has saved, as you've been overwhelmed with his glory in creation, as you've received revelation by grace through the preaching of the gospel.
What I will tell you is those folks who are in Afghanistan that all they ever had was Islam (and a perverted view of it, some imams would say)… There are other revelations in conscience. They know that if God is there and just he won't take their best effort, and yet they continually try and convince themselves of that.
Greg: I want to add something to this since you brought up Islam. You may not be aware of this. Let me backstep for just a moment. If there are people in these areas who are genuinely seeking the true God on his terms, God will find them. Period. There are all kinds of stories you can read about. I'm thinking of Eternity in Their Hearts by Don Richardson.
There are examples in that that are unbelievable. God moves heaven and earth to bring the message to the person who is genuinely seeking him. What is happening in the world of Islam now is that there are conversions that are happening all over the world as a result of God speaking or revealing himself supernaturally to Muslims.
Todd: Tom Doyle, who goes to Watermark, who ministers in that part of the country, has written a tremendous book about that. It tells story after story of that very thing happening right now.
Greg: It's happening so much that when I meet a person who was formerly a Muslim and now a Christian I always ask them if there was any supernatural element in their conversion, and you can do the same. More often than not, they tell me, "Yes, there was." In fact, two weeks ago I interviewed a friend I've known since 2005. His name is Nabeel Qureshi. His book is called Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus. This you can find easily on the Internet. He tells his whole story.
He is not just a Christian, but he is working for Ravi Zacharias now and traveling around the world telling his story. He talks about his conversion and how God worked not just through a Christian apologist, David Wood (who I met here in Dallas in December, and Nabeel as well), but how it wasn't enough to get better arguments, because his heart was not only hardened but he was a Muslim apologist, for goodness' sake. He was a defender of Islam.
He told me, "You guys had better apologetics than I did. You had better reasons to believe in Jesus, the Jesus of the Bible than the Jesus of the Qur'an." But that wasn't enough, because he still was digging his heels in. Then God gave him a series of dreams that really turned the corner for him. These are great examples of the people who seem to be geographically isolated who seek the true God under his terms, and God will find them. This is happening all over the world.
Todd: Tom's book is Dreams and Visions: Is Jesus Awakening the Muslim World? These are current, twenty-first-century testimonies of just that. By the way, I was just over in the Middle East. I had tremendous conversations with Muslims and Jews alike. One of the things I've said to my Muslim friends after I'm done engaging them, talking about different things… I talk to them about Isa.
I just say, "Why don't you ask Allah?" which is just the Arab pronunciation of Lord or God. They, of course, mean something different with "God" when they say that. I say, "Why don't you just pray to Allah? Just say, 'If Isa is more, if Jesus is more than I think he is, would you show me that?'" He's God's problem, not mine. My job is to love him, which, by the way, is the great apologetic always.
One last thing I want to say about this. When people ask questions, they're controlling the conversation. When somebody starts a conversation with this and they ask, "What about the person who is in the middle of nowhere who seeks God and doesn't know about Jesus…?" He said what I agree with. If there's somebody who does that, Jesus will appear to them, but what I would go back and say is the Bible says that person doesn't exist.
Psalm 14, Psalm 53, Romans 3. It says, "There is none righteous, not even one. There is no one that seeks God." That includes Todd Wagner and Greg Koukl. God sought us, and because he sought us he awakened us to him. He's seeking little girls who grew up in Taliban villages and revealing himself to them. Meanwhile, he tells me to go, or better yet, he tells me to be faithful right where I am.
I'm not telling you you need to go to Afghanistan. If God tells you that, get your butt over there, but what I'm telling you is right now you're going to live tomorrow in Dallas, and he says, "Preach the Word. Share the gospel in love." So make sure you do that, because you're not going to be held accountable for that little girl you never met, but you're going to be held accountable for how you responded as a servant right here in good ol' Dallas, Texas. And believe me, the gospel needs to be preached in Dallas, Texas.
There might be somebody… I'm trying to listen like you, and I want to make sure we get to this one. We'll do two more that I think are central apologetics you have to hear. I want you to hear Greg speak to this. "Jesus never said I can't be a homosexual and love him." You said that earlier, and everybody quit listening until we answered that. What would you say to the person who says that to you?
Greg: Jesus never spoke out against gay bashing. He never spoke out against child abuse or wife abuse. He never spoke out against slavery. Why do I bring up these illustrations? Because even if it's true that Jesus never weighed in on this issue, nothing can be concluded from that about his attitude about homosexuality or slavery or gay bashing or child abuse or anything like that. There are multitudes of things that are clearly and obviously wrong that Jesus did not weigh in on.
The fact that he didn't explicitly weigh in on anything doesn't mean he was in favor of that kind of thing. That's the first point. By the way, do you see the point I'm making? This is really important. Just because Jesus didn't object to it in the text doesn't mean he thinks it's just fine, because if we're going to reason that way, then there are all kinds of things we're going to be in favor of that probably aren't good or we're going to put on Jesus as being in favor of.
So that's the first point. There's a logical mistake there of drawing that kind of conclusion from Jesus' alleged silence. Here's the second thing. This is a low Christology. What I mean by low Christology is it's treating Jesus merely as a human being who's a great teacher and a prophet. The Scripture identifies Jesus not just as a man but as the God who started everything. That's why I cited John, chapter 1. "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God."
In fact, this one who became flesh is called the Word of God. Therefore, the Word of God, God himself, the Creator of everything, is responsible for everything that is in the Word of God. So if the Word of God taken as a whole weighs in against homosexuality… It doesn't matter who did the writing. If the Word of God is the Word of God and Jesus is God, then Jesus is on board with all of it, because he inspired it in his divine nature. Do you see that point?
Thirdly, Jesus was a Torah-observant Jew. Jesus supported the legitimacy of the Torah within its proper context a number of times. He said, "Not a word or a letter of the law will pass away." You can't get rid of that law. It's going to be fulfilled eventually, but you can't just get rid of it. What does the law that God (Jesus) gave say about homosexuality? Well, in the theocracy it was a capital crime.
Now please understand I am not saying homosexuality should be a capital crime here. What we are talking about is not how we adjudicate moral issues in our culture compared to the theocracy 3,000 years ago. What we're talking about is Jesus' understanding of homosexuality. If he was God, then we have God's perspective reflected in the Old Testament on this issue. So we have a number of lines of argument that help us to understand what Jesus believed about the issue of homosexuality even though he did not speak about homosexuality, per se.
Fourthly, he did weigh in on marriage. How did he weigh in on marriage? The topic was divorce, but he answered the question about divorce by going back to the creation order. And what does he say? From the beginning, here's the way it has been: Male and female, God created man. The two become one flesh. That's God's order. Whenever we deviate from God's order, we have corrupted his purpose.
By the way, this is deviation that's even heterosexual in nature. One man, one woman, committed, joined together forever. That's God's purpose. You break that purpose in any way, shape, or form, you're corrupting it. It isn't just homosexuality that's on the dock here. It is all kinds of heterosexual sin, which many Christians who are really upset about homosexuality are really fine with, unfortunately.
Any perversion of that order God describes there as the creation order is something that is inconsistent with God's purposes. So when it comes to the same-sex marriage issue, he has spoken. There's a whole lot more I could say about that, but if you are a follower of Christ, you are obligated by fidelity to Christ to have the same views on marriage he did, and if you don't, then you are putting yourself above your Lord and Savior who is God himself.
Todd: Which is a bit problematic.
Greg: Yeah. No duh.
Todd: Is that not clear? Did you hear that simple, logical construct and loving response? This is the kind of stuff you can get from Greg and his colleagues. It's the kind of stuff I'm trying to begin to introduce through other mediums, but it's already there in many forms at str.org. Now, one more, because almost every conversation you get into is going to drive back and go, "Well, that's what you believe because you're a follower of Christ and you believe the Bible is God's Word. I don't believe the Bible is God's Word. What makes you so certain the Bible is God's Word?"
Greg: I give a talk called Has God Spoken? which gives six reasons why we should take the Bible for its own claim. That is, it is not just a book by men about God but a book by God to men about himself. Those are the only two options. Either the essential authorship is human or it's divine. If it's divine, God can work through human beings to write it.
Obviously, human beings wrote the words down. It wasn't automatic writing either. It wasn't Paul in a trance. "What are you writing, Paul?" "I don't know. It's in Greek." You know, that kind of thing. No, God worked through human beings, so human beings were an element, but was the substantive author, the primary source, divine or human? That's the question I ask.
I look for, in a sense, fingerprints of the divine in the book. Do we have evidences of the supernatural there? Then I talk about prophecy and about the unity of Scripture and about the miracles that are recorded historically accurately there in the text and the power to change lives and survival through time and persecution and a lot of different things. Six different points I make.
At the end of the talk, here's what I tell my audience. I think people are stimulated by that. I gave them something to think about. I put a stone in their shoe. Then I say this: "I think these are all good reasons to believe the Bible is what it claims to be, the very Word of God, but those aren't the reasons I believe the Bible is the Word of God." Those aren't the reasons you believe the Bible is the Word of God.
If you're a follower of Christ and believe in the Bible, I'll bet you never heard that talk before. You still believe the Bible is the Word of God. How did I come to believe the Bible is the Word of God? Because I encountered the text itself. I went to the text. I read it. I just encountered it, and in that encounter I was changed.
When Jesus spoke to the masses, he didn't say, "I have some things to say, but let me give you six reasons why I'm speaking for God here. One, two, three, four, five, six. Okay, now we got that in place, listen up." No. Jesus just spoke, and people listened to him. They marveled at his wisdom and his insight. They were changed by his words.
In fact, when they sent the soldiers to arrest Jesus, they came back empty-handed. They said, "Where's Jesus? Why didn't you bring…?" The soldiers said, "No man speaks as this man speaks." My basic strategy for getting people to take the Bible seriously is to try to get them into the Scripture.
The Jain who sat next to me on the plane two days ago… When I asked about why he believed in Jainism, he said, "Well, I just believe," and I said, "Have you ever considered Jesus of Nazareth?" He said, "No, I haven't. I've actually never thought of that." I said, "Do you mind if I give you a gift?" He said, "No."
I said, "I would like to give you a biography of Jesus written by one of the people who were closest to him. I just want you to read it. I don't want you to jump around and find things you like." It was the gospel of John. I pulled it out of my bag. I had it with me. I handed it to him, and he said, "Thank you." I said, "Just start at the beginning and go to the end. It will take you an hour to an hour and a half. It's not that hard. Let Jesus speak for himself." And there I was.
I knew if God was in this he would read the text and that would do all the work for me. I don't need to give him six points. Now what do the six points do? They protect us from making the mistake the Mormons make. The Mormons say, "Read the book, pray about it, and see how you feel. If you get the burning in the bosom, you know the Book of Mormon is of God." I'm not making light of this, but it is a tragic error, because they are using a merely subjective test to determine whether this is of God.
I think subjective element is really important. I just argued for it, but what will protect us from being misled by our feelings? Objective reasons, and that's where the six reasons come in. God has given us both. He has given us the testimony of the Scripture itself when we read it, and he has given us reasons we should take it seriously that are separate from our subjective experience. It's the best of both worlds. We have the subjective experience of a relationship with God. We have objective evidence to demonstrate our hope is not misplaced. You only get that in Christianity.
Todd: You only do. You might be thinking, "Well, what do you mean? Why is that objective and the Book of Mormon is subjective?" One of the reasons is the Bible is anchored in history. You can go back and test it. It's verifiable. It's not nonsensical. Something is nonsensical by nature if you can't make sense out of it.
If a guy sits under a sycamore tree and has a vision from an angel, you can't test it except subjectively, but here is objective evidence. God dared to anchor his story in history. You go look at the archaeological evidence. You go look at him saying on this date, "This is going to happen on that date." That's all the objective stuff Greg is talking about that I'm sure makes up your six points.
Greg: That's true. In the points there are these issues you just pointed out. Keep in mind the Book of Mormon is a record, allegedly, of Jesus visiting North America. It reads like a historical narrative. The problem is there's not a shred of evidence that any of those events ever took place. Massive civilizations that are recorded there didn't leave a shard. They didn't leave a nail or a coin or anything.
You go to the Middle East, you go to Israel (many of you have done that) and you can find it all. It's all there. You can walk in the steps of Jesus, basically. That's the big difference between the history of the Book of Mormon and the history of the New Testament.
Todd: They may not know this. Eden was in Kansas City. Right? In that general region.
Greg: I haven't read the Book of Mormon, so I couldn't tell you.
Todd: It's in the Midwest. That's where they largely believe it is. Unfortunately, there's nothing to suggest, as we've already made abundantly clear. Let me close. Greg and I will stand down here. There are a myriad of questions we obviously didn't get to. I wanted to get to ones that would inform almost every question. I want to point you to resources that will help you be equipped. It is essential that you keep growing.
By the way, not in every apologetic answer… One of the things I love about Greg is Greg is good at two things: asking questions and sharing God's Word. I don't know how much you saw Scripture being a part of answers. That's why Paul says, "You don't need to tell them six reasons to believe in God's Word. Preach the Word." It wouldn't hurt you to go back and find out four reasons or five reasons or six reasons the Bible is the inspired Word of God. What you do need to know, though, is the Word of God. Share it with them.
I'll say this in wrapping up. A friend at work is a Buddhist. Don't think you have to go study up on Buddhism to love them. Take them to lunch and say, "You're a Buddhist. I don't know very many Buddhists. What do Buddhists believe? Tell me some more about that." Then begin to engage them with, "Have you ever considered…? Why do you believe that?" These are all questions in the book we have for you called Tactics.
What you want to make sure when they ask you "What do Christians believe?" you don't want to say, "Go to str.org, and Greg will tell you." If you have to do that, if you don't know what you believe, there's a good chance you don't believe it. If you walk out of this room and a Buddhist is there saying, "Tell me about Jesus. How do I know God? How can I be forgiven for my sins?" that's not a Buddhist problem; that's a you problem.
Father, I pray for my friends right here that they would know you. If there's anybody in this room who does not know who you are, who they are, why there is a separation and a problem, and how that problem was solved by you graciously on our behalf through your Son, and what it means to believe biblically, not just to have knowledge or agreement but to have fundamental faith, biblical belief, and then to grow in every way you intend us to as your ambassadors, as children who walk with that King, who speak of his love, who model it with their lives, all the while only boasting in your life given for us, would you deal with them tonight?
Would you allow us to share with them that hope? Would they check that little box in their Watermark News that says, "I want to know more about what Christians believe. How can I have a relationship with God through faith in Jesus Christ?" so that we might sit with them personally, ask them questions, and preach the Word. Lord, we pray this week that we would be on mission right here in this city, that we'd be faithful, and that we would love as you have loved and do as you would do as we abide with you.
Lord, we need you. Thank you that you've met every need for us. We thank you for faithful servants like Greg, and I pray, Lord, that you would continue to bless his ministry and that we would follow in his steps to learn as he has learned, that we might teach as he has taught. In Christ's name I pray, amen.