Helping teens respond to questions about their faith — part 3

My friend Edgar asked for my opinion on some questions from some of his Sunday School students.  I see the same sorts of questions from adults as well.  My goal is to provide some brief, concrete answers.

First, I think it is important to have a game plan with questions like this.  Whether answering a skeptic or equipping a believer to answer the skeptic, my goal is always to give clear, thoughtful answers that address the question and then point to the word of God as quickly as possible.  When in doubt, I’d rather someone read the Bible than listen to me.  God’s word made many promises* about what it will accomplish but contains no such promises about anything I say.

I highly recommend reading Tactics: A Game Plan for Discussing Your Christian Convictions to learn how to navigate conversations like these (only $2.99 for the Kindle edition — you can’t afford not to buy it!).  The burden isn’t all on you, and the conversations don’t have to be hostile.  There are many ways to ask polite questions to get people thinking more carefully and to highlight their errors.

Here is the third question:

How do you deal with questions around homosexuality? This is a tricky subject because this is a high school audience and sexuality has to be taught respectfully and with sensitivities to the teens and young ladies in the classroom.

This is a huge and contentious issue, and one that Satan is using to keep people from the faith and to divide entire denominations.  Many people use the homosexual issue as an excuse not to even consider Christianity.  That may tempt some people to gloss over the topic or misstate what the Bible says.

Yes, we should be sensitive with it, but when you consider about how aggressively the world pressures us with its false views I think we should be more bold in equipping young people about the details.

Make no apologies about what the Bible really says, because it couldn’t be more clear.  Bible-believing Christians and even two out of the three types of pro-gay people** (religious or not) can see these truths:

  • 100% of the verses addressing homosexual behavior describe it as sin in the clearest and strongest possible terms.
  • 100% of the verses referring to God’s ideal for marriage involve one man and one woman.
  • 100% of the verses referencing parenting involve moms and dads with unique roles (or at least a set of male and female parents guiding the children).planned
  • 0% of 31,173 Bible verses refer to homosexual behavior in a positive or even benign way or even hint at the acceptability of homosexual unions of any kind.

Then there is the question of love.  If you really love people you won’t affirm behavior that is spiritually, emotionally and physically destructive.

But do you have to convert people to your views on homosexuality before sharing the Gospel with them?  No.  Of course you shouldn’t water down the truth, but what you really want to do is share the Gospel and let God do his work on their hearts.  As I noted in this post, you don’t have to fix someone’s sins before telling them the truth about Jesus.  The point is to let Jesus do that!  We should approach all people with humility, because we all have temptations that we’ve given into.

It is easy to quickly affirm what the Bible says (“Yes, homosexual behavior is a sin”) but then shift to the Gospel (“But even if it wasn’t a sin you would still be a sinner in need of a Savior . . .”).

Don’t be shy about pointing out the lies of the LGBTQ movement.  People aren’t “born that way,” and even if they were that wouldn’t justify acting on the behavior.  Quoting the Bible doesn’t make LGBTQ people commit suicide any more than saying “don’t get drunk” makes alcoholics kill themselves.  “Same-sex marriage” is an oxymoron and those unions can never produce children or ever provide a mother and a father to a child, so the government has no good reasons to get involved in those relationships.

Make no mistake: The LGBTQ lobby wants to silence Christians.  Lots of us may end up in jail before this is over.  It may not be long until you won’t be employable if you don’t affirm the lie that the behavior isn’t sinful.

Here are some links that go into more detail.  This is a crucial issue so I encourage people to read them.  Feel free to use the PowerPoint slides if you like (I prepared them for a series of Sunday School lessons).

Problems with pro-gay theology  

Responding to Pro-Gay Theology  

Responding to same-sex marriage arguments

PowerPoint slides: Refuting pro-gay theology

Remember that if people are sincere in their questions and aren’t just using them as excuses to justify their rebellion against God then it is completely legitimate to let them do some of their own homework, such as reading a book like Is God a Moral Monster?: Making Sense of the Old Testament God.

If they don’t want to do more work or read the Bible, it may be pearls-before-swine time and you should obey Jesus’ command to move on.  Pray for them and perhaps God will make them spiritually alive in the future.  You will have done your work as an ambassador and an apologist (defender of the faith):

2 Corinthians 5:20 We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God.

1 Peter 3:15–16 (ESV) but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame.

* Hebrews 4:12 For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.

Isaiah 55:10 “For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven and do not return there but water the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, 11 so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.

** The three general types of pro-gay theology people: 1. “The Bible says homosexuality is wrong but it isn’t the word of God” (obviously non-Christians) 2. “The Bible says it is wrong but God changed his mind and is only telling theological Liberals” (only about 10 things wrong with that) 3. “The Bible is the word of God but you are just misunderstanding it” (Uh, no, not really.)

Helping teens respond to questions about their faith — part 2

My friend Edgar asked for my opinion on some questions from some of his Sunday School students.  I see the same sorts of questions from adults as well.  My goal is to provide some brief, concrete answers.

First, I think it is important to have a game plan with questions like this.  Whether answering a skeptic or equipping a believer to answer the skeptic, my goal is always to give clear, thoughtful answers that address the question and then point to the word of God as quickly as possible.  When in doubt, I’d rather someone read the Bible than listen to me.  God’s word made many promises* about what it will accomplish but contains no such promises about anything I say.

I highly recommend reading Tactics: A Game Plan for Discussing Your Christian Convictions to learn how to navigate conversations like these (only $2.99 for the Kindle edition — you can’t afford not to buy it!).  The burden isn’t all on you, and the conversations don’t have to be hostile.  There are many ways to ask polite questions to get people thinking more carefully and to highlight their errors.

Here is the second question:

If God is morally good, all loving and kind, why did he command the stoning of people, or the annihilation of entire peoples (man, women, children, babies, etc)? Why does God allow evil at all?

This is a great opportunity to ask clarifying questions.  Typically, it will highlight that the skeptics know very little about the issues they are questioning.  They are often just repeating sound bites they have heard from Richard Dawkins and the like.

I encourage you to never dodge this topic!  At a minimum you have an opportunity to share this truth: God used the most evil act in history to bring about the greatest good in history.  Jesus was the perfect man (far beyond our comprehension) but was betrayed, given an unjust trial, brutally beaten and then nailed to a cross like a piece of meat until He died.  That was the most evil act in human history.  Yet it brought about the greatest good: The salvation of countless sinners who could never be reconciled to God on their own.  So never underestimate God’s ability to appropriately punish and redeem evil. (Hat tip to John Piper)

Then you can ask questions like this:

  • Who was stoned, and why?  Do you understand the context of how the Jews were set apart as special people and were to be a witness to the world?
  • Who was annihilated?  (No “entire peoples” were annihilated, and there was no genocide, though the inhabitants of the Promised Land were supposed to have been completely eliminated in a one-time cleansing.)
  • Why did God command the land to be cleared out?  (The skeptic probably doesn’t know that God had given them 400 years to repent, yet they continued to offer child sacrifices and more.)
  • If God were to eliminate every bit of evil from the universe at midnight tonight, where would you be at 12:01?  Remember, you would be judged based on his standards.  You don’t get to compare your best traits to your neighbor’s worst traits.
  • Do you want God to completely remove your ability to disobey him?  That would make a great prayer!
  • Do you think you are in a position to sit in judgment of God?  If there is a God, would we be in a position to dictate the terms and conditions to him?
  • Would a loving and kind God let sins like child sacrifice go unpunished?  (Young children were literally placed on burning hot statues to be killed.)

Those kinds of questions can provide opportunities to point to what the Bible really says, and can put God’s actions in perspective.  One of our biggest problems is always looking at things from our viewpoint, and forgetting that ultimately it is all about God and his glory — and rightfully so!

Remember that if people are sincere in their questions and aren’t just using them as excuses to justify their rebellion against God then it is completely legitimate to let them do some of their own homework, such as reading a book like Is God a Moral Monster?: Making Sense of the Old Testament God.

If they don’t want to do more work or read the Bible, it may be pearls-before-swine time and you should obey Jesus’ command to move on.  Pray for them and perhaps God will make them spiritually alive in the future.  You will have done your work as an ambassador and an apologist (defender of the faith):

2 Corinthians 5:20 We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God.

1 Peter 3:15–16 (ESV) but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame.

* Hebrews 4:12 For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.

Isaiah 55:10 “For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven and do not return there but water the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, 11 so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.

Helping teens respond to questions about their faith — part 1

My friend Edgar asked for my opinion on some questions from some of his Sunday School students.  I get the same sorts of questions from adults as well.  My goal is to provide some brief, concrete answers.

First, I think it is important to have a game plan with questions like this.  Whether answering a skeptic or equipping a believer to answer the skeptic, my goal is always to give clear, thoughtful answers that address the question and then point to the word of God as quickly as possible.  When in doubt, I’d rather someone read the Bible than listen to me.  God’s word made many promises* about what it will accomplish but contains no such promises about anything I say.

I highly recommend reading Tactics: A Game Plan for Discussing Your Christian Convictions to learn how to navigate conversations like these (only $2.99 for the Kindle edition — you can’t afford not to buy it!).  The burden isn’t all on you, and the conversations don’t have to be hostile.  There are many ways to ask polite questions to get people thinking more carefully and to highlight their errors.

Here is the first question:

What do I say to an atheist friend when he says he can be good without God?

This is a classic question.  Remember that we know the truth about atheists: Romans 1:18–20 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.

So you can approach the conversation with the confidence that deep down they know the truth.  They can’t go three sentences without making moral claims that assume an objective morality  — that is, that some things are always wrong — e.g., torturing babies for fun.  Side note: Sometimes atheists will rationalize that some things are acceptable for perpetuating the species (rape, abortion, etc.), but you can eliminate those arguments by adding “for fun” to the deed in question. Everyone knows those are wrong — or if they don’t, you should probably leave the room for your own safety!

One of the techniques from the Tactics book is to ask questions such as, “What do you mean by that?”  So in this case you could ask the person what he means by “good.”  That puts the burden on him to define the terms, and he is likely to tip his hand by pointing to some universal moral truths.  After all, if there is no God, then the universe came from nothing, life came from non-life and it evolved to everything we see today.  Therefore, there is no ultimate meaning or accountability in life.  If you steal from or kill your neighbor that wouldn’t be immoral.  Why should you care if he thinks it is immoral?  He just evolved to think that way, but you obviously would have evolved differently.  Sound bites about “human flourishing” or the like just assume that human flourishing is a moral good.  But they have to prove that, and simply coming up with a new phrase assumes what they should be proving.

You could tell him that technically he could do some good thing without God, but he would have no grounding to say the act was truly good.  If Darwinian evolution was true, then real morality is a fiction invented by these random chemical reactions in our brains.  He may think something is “good” but there would be no logical grounding for it.

You can also point out that the existence of evil is proof of God’s existence, not the opposite.  Remind them that all sins against an eternal and holy God will be judged perfectly and that they can pay the penalty for their sins themselves for eternity or they can trust in Jesus’ sacrifice on their behalf.

You can also remind them of how they won’t be judged based on how their best traits compare to their neighbor’s worst traits.  Every one of their thoughts, words and deeds will be judged on the standard of Jesus — Romans 2:15-16 They show that the work of the law is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness, and their conflicting thoughts accuse or even excuse them on that day when, according to my gospel, God judges the secrets of men by Christ Jesus.

Remember that if people are sincere in their questions and aren’t just using them as excuses to justify their rebellion against God then it is completely legitimate to let them do some of their own homework, such as reading a book like Is God a Moral Monster?: Making Sense of the Old Testament God.  If they don’t want to do more work or read the Bible, it may be pearls-before-swine time and you should obey Jesus’ command to move on.  Pray for them and perhaps God will make them spiritually alive in the future.  You will have done your work as an ambassador and an apologist (defender of the faith):

2 Corinthians 5:20 We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God.

1 Peter 3:15–16 (ESV) but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame.

Summary: Can people be good without God?  Technically,  they can do some good things but they can’t explain how they would qualify as truly good in a godless universe.  And in a more meaningful sense, they aren’t good at all.  They need Jesus.

Romans 3:9 For we have already charged that all, both Jews and Greeks, are under sin, 10 as it is written: “None is righteous, no, not one; 11 no one understands; no one seeks for God. 12 All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.” 13 “Their throat is an open grave; they use their tongues to deceive.” “The venom of asps is under their lips.” 14 “Their mouth is full of curses and bitterness.” 15 “Their feet are swift to shed blood; 16 in their paths are ruin and misery, 17 and the way of peace they have not known.” 18 “There is no fear of God before their eyes.” 19 Now we know that whatever the law says it speaks to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be stopped, and the whole world may be held accountable to God. 20 For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin.

* Hebrews 4:12 For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.

Isaiah 55:10 “For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven and do not return there but water the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, 11 so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.

Is Christianity too narrow?

Shouldn’t there be other ways for God to save the world?  John recently asked if there were Too few means to salvation?

One common complaint against Christianity is the doctrine of exclusivism.  The teaching that there is only one true God and only one true religion is something some people just find objectionable.  Whether they find this to be arrogant, narrow-minded, elitist, or worse; they think the idea that there is only one way to God in order to be saved is distasteful.  But what if Jesus wasn’t the only way and there were more than one way to salvation?  How many would be sufficient?

It is a logical question to ask, especially in our culture.  Even many of those filling church pews each week sit in judgment of God and his word and think that the truth that Jesus is the only way to salvation is too restrictive (because there are “only” 100+ passages affirming that truth).  They are ironically exclusive in demanding that others be inclusive.

And of course, if Jesus isn’t the only way then He isn’t a way at all.  If Christianity — and Jesus himself — claimed that He was the exclusive way to salvation, then if even one other religion is correct then Christianity is false.  Those who claim the name of Christ while saying that other paths can lead to salvation should reconsider their views.

It is hard to imagine something more obvious than this: You must meet the creator of the universe on his terms, not yours. He starts off perfectly fair, giving all what they deserve. Then He becomes extremely unfair by offering grace to those who accept the sacrifice made on their behalf.

God is completely inclusive in the sense of offering salvation and forgiveness to all who come to him on his terms. Any type of sinner, any age, any culture, any gender, etc. is welcomed.

God is completely exclusive in that if you reject his terms then He will reject you.

1 John 5:11-12 And this is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life.

Complaining that there is only one way to salvation is the height of ingratitude and another symptom of Romans 1-style rebellion and suppressing the truth in unrighteousness. If God offered two ways, then people would complain that there aren’t three, and so on.

Just get on your knees and thank him that there is a way at all!

One of the commenters at the link said this:

Of course, it is difficult enough to exonerate god for the behavior of god (such as described in the Bible).

He expressed the typically incoherent thoughts of atheists. They insist on the fantasy that the universe came into being without a cause, that life came from non-life, that life evolved to caterpillar/butterflies, elephants, humans, etc. and that there is no ultimate accountability for your actions. And then they can’t go three sentences without making moral judgments! If they were slightly consistent with their worldview they’d “know” that Darwinian evolution was the sole cause for all religions, including Christianity and my conversion from atheism to the belief in the evidence for the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. So why are they critical of the products of evolution? Why do they make moral judgments when they would “know” that there is no such thing as universal morality that and that we would agree with or even care about their standards? These Romans 1 poster children tip their hands at every turn.

Romans 1:18–20 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.

More bad news: You’ll be judged on the standard of Jesus, not by comparing your best traits to your neighbor’s worst traits. All your deepest, darkest secrets will be brought to light and judged by a holy and perfect God.

Romans 2:15-16 They show that the work of the law is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness, and their conflicting thoughts accuse or even excuse them on that day when, according to my gospel, God judges the secrets of men by Christ Jesus.

It is foolish and rebellious to think that you get to define whether God exists and what He must be like. Repent and believe while you still have time. Eternity is a mighty long time to suffer for your foolish pride. Seek God on his incredibly gracious terms and not only will your past, present and future sins be completely forgiven, but you will have the righteousness of Christ imputed to you.

Jesus — fully human and fully divine — came to live the perfect life in your place and to die for your sins.  That is worth celebrating.

Addressing a common atheist objection: “I didn’t get a good answer to my question about God, so He doesn’t exist”

This comment from an atheist on the epic Richard Dawkins / Wendy Wright post* represents a common objection of skeptics:

My troubles began when I was being prepared for my first communion. I asked our chaplain “who moved the stone” since the Gospels are contradictory. He could not give me a satisfactory answer. Then I discovered many other contradictions in time and place – how, I reasoned can any of this be offered as proof of anything – I still don’t have satisfactory answers. Can you answer me?

Many atheists have similar stories about how they left the faith because they didn’t get satisfactory answers to their questions. The Jodie Foster character in the movie Contact made much of that (though ironically the rest of the film was a testimony to the principles of Intelligent Design!).

But their conclusion is illogical. While I wish all Christians were better versed in apologetics as they are commanded to be, just because the person you asked gave you a bad answer or got defensive doesn’t mean solid answers don’t exist. These stories are perfect examples of why atheists give up all too easily once they’ve “stumped” an authority figure. It is more evidence that they are suppressing the truth in unrighteousness. There are countless places to dig deep into the difficult questions of life and Christianity if you really want the truth.  Check out any of the apologetics links to the right.

Romans 1:18–20 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.

Romans 2:15-16 They show that the work of the law is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness, and their conflicting thoughts accuse or even excuse them on that day when, according to my gospel, God judges the secrets of men by Christ Jesus.

It is foolish and rebellious to think that you get to define whether God exists and what He must be like.  Repent and believe while you still have time.  Eternity is a mighty long time to suffer for your foolish pride.

So if you are an atheist, keep searching and don’t use flimsy excuses.  And if you are a Christian, study a little more and know of other resources to which you can point authentic seekers.  And don’t get defensive and give lame answers if you can’t answer the questions.

—–

* 400+ comments and counting, and that is without the many I’ve deleted for violating the commenting guidelines.  Every few months some atheist site links to it and I get tons of traffic, though not necessarily the good kind.

One of the best blog posts I’ve seen. Really.

And I’ve read tens of thousands.  There is a reason that Matt Walsh’s blog readership is growing like crazy.  He has great writing and a sense of humor along with a solidly Christian worldview.

This is one of the best apologetic pieces I’ve seen, and a terrific eye-opener for the atheists who just spout silly sound bites.  Via Why do you Christians always throw the Bible in my face? | The Matt Walsh Blog.  Go read it all.

Seriously, it hurts. Stop it, will ya? Yesterday I walked by a church and the pastor barreled out of the door, ran into the street, screamed “BIBLE!” and chucked it right at my head.

Well, that didn’t LITERALLY happen. But he did say, “good afternoon, God bless,” which is basically the same thing.

In any case, Christians are always shoving their religion in people’s faces. Everything they say, every position they hold, every thought they express — it’s all RELIGION. Even if they don’t explicitly say, “I think this because of my religion,” we all know the score. If it comes from RELIGION, as a secularist, I must hate it. If it’s been heavily influenced or transformed by RELIGION or RELIGIOUS people, I must hate it. That’s why I’m not a big fan of art, architecture, democracy, science, medicine, philosophy, astronomy, the university system, the abolition of slavery, America, Natural Law, Natural Rights, mathematics, the justice system, literature, music, and civilization.

Devious. Devious Christians. It’s like they have this secret plot and they use all of these methods to subversively give glory to their fake sky wizard. That’s a good line, isn’t it? I take this idea of God; the uncaused cause, the first mover, the Creator, the Absolute, the Answer to the riddle that no quantum physicist has ever been able to solve, and I equate it to a “wizard.” As if belief in dimensions of existence that transcend our physical plane can somehow be fairly compared to belief in magical Disney creatures. It’s an effective tactic, isn’t it? Aquinas, DaVinci, Shakespeare, Washington — most of the intellectual giants and great leaders in the past two thousand years have been guided by this conviction, but I can utterly dismiss it with one sarcastic and belittling phrase. There are thousands and thousands and thousands and thousands of pages of Christian apologetics written by some of the smartest men and women to ever walk the face of the Earth, yet I can chalk it all up to something as absurd as the Tooth Fairy. And you know what? I can do that without even reading ANY of those pages! You know why? Because I’m a critical thinker, my friend.

A critical thinker — I think about criticizing things. And then I do, without understanding the depth, enormity and beauty of that which I mock.

Stupid Christians. Stupid Christians and their “truth.” You know what they do, don’t you? They all meet in dark rooms around small tables and plot their continued peaceful takeover of the planet. That’s why they prowl all over the Earth, trying to spread their “message” to the disaffected masses. These people – they’re everywhere. You can’t find a single corner, crevice, desert, or third world wasteland that isn’t infested by Christians and their “charities”, and their “hospitals”, and their “ministries”. Believe me, I’ve tried. Sure, it’s getting better here in this country. Christians did the work of settling, building and establishing our nation, but then, in the 1960s, us anti-theists chimed in and said, “thanks, but we’ll take it from here.” There just wasn’t nearly enough nudity, drug usage, and nihilistic apathy, and we knew there never would be if Christians kept running the show. Oh, AND we led the Civil Rights Movement.

Well, the icon of Civil Rights was a reverend, but still.

I’ve tried to escape these Christians. I went to Ethiopia, thinking, surely, I’ll be free of their propaganda in this forsaken pocket of poverty and misery. But what did I see? Christians. Christians down there in the muck and the dirt, serving and loving and healing. Nobody else. Just them. They can never mind their business, can they? Oh don’t give them credit for this “charity.” They’re only doing it out of obedience, reverence and faith. Selfish jerks.

And so I left that place and I traveled east, and then south, and then back north, and still I found them. Everywhere, I found them. I found them in places where their kind is tortured, murdered and persecuted. But they remain. They stay and they spread their Gospel like a virus. It’s quite sad to see those who are brainwashed by it. They smile in the face of pain and sing songs of praise — PRAISE — while they suffer. Christians are far more ravenous and extreme in destitute countries. Hopefully the Christians in America never borrow even a fraction of the enthusiasm and passion that their brothers and sisters in the Third World possess.

 

Parts of the Pachyderm

A favorite updated for your reading pleasure.  If you haven’t encountered the “parts of the elephant” argument yet, you probably will.  Even some people who claim the name of Christ use it to bolster their “all paths lead to God” mistake.

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IMG_0098

Greg Koukl of Stand to Reason has an excellent piece called the Trouble with the Elephant.

The ancient fable of the blind men and the elephant is often used to illustrate the fact that every faith represents just one part of the larger truth about God. However, the attempt is doomed before it gets started.

In the story, multiple blind men feel different parts of an elephant and describe it in different ways.  Someone who is not blind then points out the truth to them.

The typical application of the story is that religious pluralism is true – i.e., we’re worshiping the same God in different ways.

A good question to ask anyone who repeats this parable is, “Where do you fit into the story?”  If he is one of the blind men, then why would he have anything to offer you?  If he claims to be the person with sight, then what are his qualifications that he understands this world and you don’t?

Note that the blind men are describing different parts of the elephant, but it is still an elephant.  But if one religion says God is personal and another says He is impersonal, then they can’t both be right.  You can’t be an elephant and not an elephant.  I wrote more on the irreconcilable differences in the essential truth claims of religions in Religious Pluralism is Intellectually Bankrupt.

In a sense, the whole story is self refuting.  While the principle message is that we can only know a certain piece about God, the message itself claims to have the big picture.

It also has a rather odd premise: The “real” religion would be to follow every religion.  That way you’d have the whole elephant.

The only way the parable would work is if the elephant described itself to the blind people – sort of the way the God reveals himself to us in the Bible.  As Koukl says:

If everyone truly is blind, then no one can know if he or anyone else is mistaken.  Only someone who knows the whole truth can identify another on the fringes of it.  In this story, only the king can do that–no one else.

The most ironic turn of all is that the parable of the six blind men and the elephant, to a great degree, is an accurate picture of reality.  It’s just been misapplied.

We are like blind men, fumbling around in the world searching for answers to life’s deepest questions.  From time to time, we seem to stumble upon some things that are true, but we’re often confused and mistaken, just as the blind men were.

How do I know this?  Because the King has spoken.  He is above, instructing us, advising us of our mistakes, and correcting our error.  The real question is:  Will we listen?

Remember that if the elephant illustration is true, then Christianity is false.  The Bible teaches 100+ times that Jesus is the only way to salvation.  This is an argument that no Christian should use.