Brett has 4 min. to answer questions about fearing God, Yahweh, and other religions.
If perfect love casts out all fear (1 John 14:18), how are we to fear God?
Is it possible there is a "God", but Yahweh is just another manmade deity?
As Christians, How should we handle visiting places of historical and cultural interest like temples that were made for false gods?
Melinda: Hello there folks. This is Melinda the Enforcer, and this is the Stand to Reason STRask podcast. We have a special treat this week. Instead of Greg Koukl, who's suffering in Hawaii, we've got Brett Kunkle.
Brett Kunkle: I like that you characterized it as a special treat.
Melinda: Of course it is. It's always a special treat. Brett is our student speaker here at Stand to Reason. Speaking of students, there's a special event coming up in April why don't you tell people about?
Brett Kunkle: That's right. We have the Rethink Student Apologetics Conference for the first time in Birmingham. Birmingham, Alabama. It's April 21st and 22nd. It's a Friday night, Saturday. Briarwood Presbyterian Church is hosting their fantastic church in the Birmingham area. We already have over 600 students-
Melinda: I think 672 as of this morning.
Brett Kunkle: Yeah. We just ended the early bird registration. We're going to see at least 1,000 students there-
Melinda: Yeah. It's pretty exciting.
Brett Kunkle: ... so we're excited about that. If you are anywhere near that area, in fact-
Brett Kunkle: ... you don't even have to. You can fly. There are groups-
Melinda: That's true. There are planes.
Brett Kunkle: I've talked to people that fly in every single Rethink conference that we do. There's nothing like it. It's the premier student apologetics conference in the world.
Melinda: If we do say so ourselves.
Brett Kunkle: In the world.
Melinda: Of course it is. Yeah, even people on the East Coast, it's not that much of a drive for them to come down to Alabama.
Brett Kunkle: That's right. Correct.
Melinda: It's kind of reachable from some new areas. Where should they go if they want to sign up?
Brett Kunkle: Go to RethinkApologetics.com, and there'll be a menu, drag down menu. You can click on all the information for the Alabama Birmingham conference.
Melinda: Good. Well, the format of this podcast is the same as ever. Just because Greg's not here, Brett's still on a timer. Four minutes. The questions come from our listeners who post them on Twitter, using #STRask, thus the name of the podcast. So, you're ready to get going?
Brett Kunkle: I think so.
Melinda: Okay. We'll still use the bell.
Brett Kunkle: All right.
Melinda: You could exceed four minutes.
Brett Kunkle: I like the time limit because I run out of things to say.
Melinda: I know. It's not as much of a challenge for other people besides Greg. You know?
Brett Kunkle: Some people have the gift of, what it called?
Melinda: That's a gift? The gift of gab?
Brett Kunkle: The gift of talking.
Melinda: Yeah. It's a spiritual gift. The first question comes from RealChadSeal, the real one, not the fake one. First John 14:18. If perfect love casts out all fear, how are we to fear God?
Brett Kunkle: Great question. I think-
Melinda: Are you the Real Chad Seal?
Brett Kunkle: That was the one I sent to myself. That was an easy one. I think there's different senses of the word fear. I think in the first John 4 passage, it seems to be talking about fear is in being afraid because it associates it with punishment, right? It says fear has to do with punishment there, and so then the one who isn't, who fears is not made perfect in love. Whereas when we talk about the fear of the Lord, I think we're talking about not being afraid of God, as much as what we're talking about there is the sense of awe and respect that we have towards God. Now, and reverence.
There seems to be somewhat of a fine line there between fear, being afraid, and fear, having reverence and respect for someone. Now, when you have reverence and respect for someone, that can be awe-inspiring. I think sometimes we go too far today in talking about God is love and perfect love casts out fear, and he-
Melinda: Of Percival and ...
Brett Kunkle: Yeah. Certainly, there's an aspect of that.
Melinda: He's my boyfriend or husband.
Brett Kunkle: Right, right. Certainly, I think Jesus could communicate to the closeness with the Father that we can have when he addresses him as Abba, but there's also this other side of the coin where there is a reverence or respect. I think that's the fear of the Lord that like the Proverbs talks about. Where you have in first John is a different kind of fear where you're afraid. You're afraid of punishment. That actually is not consistent with the Gospel. Those who've embraced the Gospel and have been justified and who have the righteousness of Christ imputed to them, we have nothing to fear. We don't have to be afraid of punishment because Christ took all that punishment on us. As we're perfected in that love, as we go deeper in our knowledge and experience of the love of Christ, that casts out that fear, that being afraid of God. I think it's just you're talking about two different kind of fear.
Melinda: Terrific. Nice and succinct. Next question comes from Mike Peel, Jr. Is it possible there is a God, but Yahweh is just another man-made deity?
Brett Kunkle: Yes. Certainly, that's a possibly. This is where I always, I hear Jim, J. Warner Wallace's, his… some of his Cold Case Christianity ringing in my ears, where he always talks about the difference between possibility and probability. We've all talked about that. Certainly, there are lots of things are that are logically possible. It's logically possible that there's a God who exists, but it's just not Yahweh. That's certainly a possibility, but what we want to deal with is not just in mere possibilities. It's possible that God does not exist. Okay. So, that's a possibility.
What we want to do is we want to figure out what is most reasonable to believe? Yes, maybe the universe is theistic. There is a God, but who is that God? Well, this is where we want to, I think, follow the evidence, look at what the best explanation is, and look at who are the candidates for this? That's where I think we reason to the conclusion that Yahweh is the best explanation or is the candidate, is the one true God of this universe. We want to move beyond mere possibility into what's most probable, what's most likely.
Kind of the way to do that, I think, with this particular issue because there're certainly people who are theists, who don't think that it's Yahweh. It's Allah instead. What might be ways that we would go about doing that investigation to figure out, well, okay, what's the identity of this being? This is where we would look at, I think, God's action and God's speaking. If we have any claims of divine revelation or if we have claims of divine action, we investigate those things. We look at those things to help us see if they can't give us a way to detect who this being is.
I think when we do that, when we look at particularly something like divine action in the resurrection, we have evidence for Yahweh. When we look at divine revelation in contrast to other claims of divine revelation, because yes, we understand. We're not the only ones who make claims of divine revelation. The Muslim's got his. The Mormon has his. Lots of people make these claims, but when we then inspect it, we look for things like the historical reliability or the transmission of the text and then evidence of divine fingerprints. I think we can make the case that God has expressed himself, has revealed himself in the Holy Scriptures, in the Bible, and therefore, has identified himself as Yahweh.
It's certainly possible, but whether it's most probable is that the God that exists is the Yahweh of the Bible.
Melinda: I'm curious, perhaps, why Mike Peel Jr. here used the term Yahweh. That's an Old Testament term. Do you think ... Not that Mike Peel, Jr's attempting to do this, but maybe this comes from critics that somehow see a different God described in the Old Testament versus the New Testament, so the true God may be expressed in the New Testament, but Yahweh's that mean one?
Brett Kunkle: Yeah, yeah. That could be. That could be kind of what's motivating some of this question. My response to that is, well, yeah. The God of the Old Testament is different than the God of the New Testament. He's often characterized in these more kind of ... He just seems more human. He gets upset. He's jealous and these kind of things. For me, I think when I look at, I think, two things in particular. Number one is I guess looking overall at the Old Testament, I do see a God who matches up with the God of the New Testament. I think it's over-exaggerated the difference between the God of the Old Testament and the God in the New Testament. I mean I think, we think, "Oh, God's wrathful," in the Old Testament. Well, Paul in Romans 1 talks about the wrath of God being revealed from heaven.
We hear Jesus talking about hell and eternal destruction and these kinds of things. I think those are exaggerated, the differences. I think we see the same loving and just God in the Old Testament, Yahweh, that we see in the New Testament. No, the God of the Old Testament wouldn't be kind of the man-made one and the God of the New Testament's a really revealed one. I think we have the same God, consistent throughout, consistent in his character.
Melinda: Yeah, I mean even from the very beginning, Genesis 1, we actually have a God who wants relationship with us. That's really the whole story-
Brett Kunkle: Yeah, and-
Melinda: ... of the Old Testament and the New Testament, and that's-
Brett Kunkle: There are-
Melinda: Even though he's disciplining his people sometimes or not his people sometimes, that's what he's seeking. Relationship. To bring us into relationship.
Brett Kunkle: Exactly. We see that in the Old Testament. We see his grace and loving kindness and patience in examples in the Old Testament, too.
Melinda: Lots of patience.
Brett Kunkle: Yeah, lots of patience. I mean the nation of Israel. Think about gracious.
Melinda: Yeah. Okay, next question comes from GlizDJ. As Christians, how should we handle visiting places of historical and cultural interest, like temples that were made for false gods? I picked this one out because I also, I was watching the Antiques Roadshow last night. This woman brought in what turned out to be a Nepalese devotional plaque that would've hung on a wall and there was one of their ... It wasn't Vishnu, but there was one of the gods. Actually, they had no idea what it was. Did it come from the father or grandfather or something like that? It turned out to be worth a lot of money. I was just thinking, "Man, I would get that thing out of my house so fast and take the money." I know there's nothing inherently demonic about it, but it was just sort of like, "I would not want that thing in my house."
Brett Kunkle: It's creepy.
Melinda: It sort of brought up like should Christians have things like that even though if they're just antique pieces or going to temples? You take students on mission trips. You go to some of these places.
Brett Kunkle: Yeah. I kind of tip my hand on what my answer's going to be, but when we go to Berkeley, we not only engage with atheists, but there is actually a Hare Krishna temple that's a few blocks from the Berkeley campus that we take students to. We arrange a tour. We go in. We sit down in their main ... I don't know what they ... It's not called a sanctuary, but where they have their different idols. We're sitting there in the presence of these idols. We have one of their representatives talk to us, explain to us, kind of what they do, what their views are, what they do with the idols. We'll watch people worship those idols. I-
Melinda: You actually watch them worshiping?
Brett Kunkle: Well, people will come in while we're there.
Melinda: Will come in and do their obeisance or whatever it is. Yeah.
Brett Kunkle: Although we have been ... Yeah, Alan and I have both taken students to mosques, where they have allowed to observe and-
Melinda: During a service?
Brett Kunkle: Yeah, we'll watch during a prayer service. I don't think there's anything wrong with that. I actually think that it's a great opportunity for us to number one, teach people about those different views, and then number two, to give them exposure, so they're not so fearful of those things that would hopefully lend itself to engaging. Frankly, being an American, going into a Hare Krishna temple's kind of a weird thing.
Melinda: Very weird.
Brett Kunkle: There's kind of this weird factor you have to get over. Now that I've gone more, I'm more comfortable with their rituals and that kind of thing.
Melinda: Don't get too comfortable.
Brett Kunkle: I'm not comfortable obviously with the spiritual things, right? I understand there are principalities, and there are spiritual forces at work, but I'm okay going into that place. Number one, knowing a calm and confidence that the Holy Spirit is with me and that the power of Christ overshadows any dark power out there.
There's a confidence that I think you can convey and model and have, but then, you can go in and shine the light of Christ in that dark place. We engage in conversation. We engage in apologetics. We've shared the Gospel with these other folks and talk about the differences in our views, right there in their own temple. I don't have any problem with it. I think it's a great opportunity to teach, especially young people. They just come to life after these. Afterwards, we'll always debrief. We always will talk about, "Okay, what did you see? What did you experience?"
Melinda: You're always very methodical and careful about preparing them ahead of time to go in-
Brett Kunkle: That's right.
Melinda: ... and then debriefing afterwards, so that's it's not only an educational experience, but they learn the right lesson from it too.
Brett Kunkle: That's right. Yeah, so there's teaching and training that happens before and after. We go in with the experience, but I want to equip young people to go into a dark world and be ambassadors for Christ. I think part of that is modeling it for them, taking them with us, and showing them ... Of course, there's limits. I'm not going to take them into a brothel, all right? Or something like that, but I'm okay with taking them to the Buddhist temple or the Muslim, the Islamic mosque, or the Hare Krishna temple or have atheists come in. I think this just prepares our young people for much more engagement. I think too many people in the church have been fearful or disengaged from the world. I think a lot of Christians are so disconnected from any non-Christians that they don't even ... They're not engaging with the Gospel at all, so ...
Anyway, this helps, I think, facilitate some of that.
Melinda: Yeah, so when they run into opportunities on their own, they're not as afraid because they've already engaged under kind of a controlled environment.
Brett Kunkle: Yeah, yeah.
Melinda: Would you have a $20,000 Hindu devotion plaque in your house?
Brett Kunkle: $20,000? I would get the money for that as soon as possible.
Melinda: The answer would be no because you'd sell it. That's what I would do. I'd say it did look a little creepy. Anyway, that's it for this episode, folks, I'm Melinda the Enforcer with Brett Kunkle. We post two episodes every week. You send us your questions on Twitter using #STRask. Thanks for listening. We're here for Stand to Reason.