#STRask - September 14, 2017

In 4 min. or less, Greg answers questions about denying Jesus, logic and Christianity, and God writing on our hearts.

Can a Christian deny Christ at the threat of death and still receive salvation? 

What do you say to people who say logic and Christianity are incompatible?

Why can God implant knowledge of the moral law in every human, yet He didn't implant knowledge of Jesus and the plan for salvation?

Download the mp3...

 

Transcript:

Melinda:

 

Hi there. I'm Melinda, the Enforcer, and I'm here with Greg Koukl. This is our short podcast, #STRask. Greg is on a timer. He's got four minutes or less to say something profound and meaningful and life altering. No pressure. Send us your questions on Twitter using #STRask. That's how we got the name of the podcast, because we had the hashtag first.

 

Greg Koukl:

 

Shall we tell them about the motion graphic?

 

Melinda:

 

Yes, please do.

 

Greg Koukl:

 

Oh, we're thrilled. We have actually a number of motion graphics that we've done. It's like a ...

 

Melinda:

 

They know what they are.

 

Greg Koukl:

 

... Sophisticated cartoon that tells a theological story, kind of something like that. You don't think that's a good description?

 

Melinda:

 

Well, not all motion graphics tell a theological story. Just go ahead. Okay?

 

Greg Koukl:

 

They make a theological point.

 

Melinda:

 

The audience knows what a motion graphic is. You're the one that needs the explanation.

 

Greg Koukl:

 

We have produced a new one for The Story of Reality and based on the book by the same name.

 

Melinda:

 

Did you write a book?

 

Greg Koukl:

 

I have written a book. This motion graphic is going to launch on our website, the Stand To Reason website.

 

Melinda:

 

It has by the time this goes up.

 

Greg Koukl:

 

Okay, it has. We'll have launched on all our social media. What we're hoping will happen is not you just watch it and enjoy it and be edified by it, but we hope you share it because it's kind of a perfect share. It's a perfect video to share with someone that you want to start a conversation with about God and about Christianity and about spiritual things. It's a perfect share for somebody that you've already started the conversation with and you want to have a tool to offer added perspective with. It's a tool that you can share on your social media pages, your Facebook, your Twitter, all of that stuff. We've made it here to help you and encourage you, and also to take something you could pass onto other. That's basically it.

 

Melinda:

 

Yeah, and kind of those couple things seem to focus on non-Christians. It's really something to share with other Christians too. The reason you wrote the book is because a lot of Christians have various pieces of the puzzle of the Christian worldview, but they don't know how they fit together.

 

Greg Koukl:

 

Exactly right.

 

Melinda:

 

They're just random pieces, so the whole point of this is to help Christians understand the Christian worldview better, the Biblical worldview, and because every Christian needs to be an evangelist, needs to be an effective spokesperson and ambassador for God, which means they need to understand the message they're conveying and how it all fits together.

 

Greg Koukl:

 

What's nice about this approach, I think, is it gives the big picture of Christianity, the essential parts of it, I use five words to describe that, and in the order that they take place. You see that this isn't just theological information. It's actually a story. It's an account of the unfolding history of the world moving toward a particular end. It's kind of all captured in there.

 

Melinda:

 

Yeah. There's a lot of theology in there, but it explains why it all fits together. It's not just like all this head doctrine. It explains why this is the story of reality and equips Christians then to understand their own faith better, and therefore be more confident ambassadors to be able to explain it more coherently to others.

 

Greg Koukl:

 

Nicely put.

 

Melinda:

 

Thank you.

 

Greg Koukl:

 

You ought to be on the air.

 

Melinda:

 

Thank you. Had to create a podcast to do it. Let's get going on this. Like Greg said, that's on all of our social media and it's just ready to share. Hopefully you enjoy it too. It's a good thing to show your church, even small groups and stuff. It's just a good way of framing part of this evangelistic task that we all have.

 

 

First question comes from rolfrums. We answered one last week from, yeah last time. "Can a Christian deny Christ at the threat of death and still receive salvation? I recently watched the film Silence about martyrs.", and I guess it suggested that. Can a Christian deny Christ at the threat of death and still receive salvation?

 

Greg Koukl:

 

You know, this was an issue the early church dealt with. There was a group called the Dontanists, I think, or the Donatists. What had happened is in the face of extreme persecution there were some who denied Christ, but then after the persecution ended they want to come back. The question was "Can we receive them back in fellowship and good conscience or good order?" The issue there was whether they could receive communion or not. Some said yes and some said no.

 

 

I'm kind of caught between two theological realities here. Jesus said "If you deny me before men, I will deny you before my father who is in heaven." Now this he said, I think this comes up in more than one place, but one place I was just reading the other day is in Matthew chapter ten. Matthew chapter ten is when Jesus is sending the disciples out on a short-term mission. Then he told them what they were in for and it wasn't a pretty picture. He said they will be beaten and they will be flogged and they will be maligned and they will be disparaged and they will be betrayed and they will be killed, but he says, "don't fear them. Don't fear them. Don't fear them", three different times. Then in 32, "Anyone who confesses me before men, I will also confess him before my father who is in heaven. But whoever denies me before men, I will also deny him before my father who is in heaven. Do not think that I came to bring peace on earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword."

 

 

Those are strong words by Jesus, and he's making this statement in the context of a promise of brutal treatment Christians will receive. Now, here's my struggle. Jesus said this, and taken at face value it seems once you deny Christ, that's it, you're out forever. I don't think a person is out forever. I think that any sin can be repented from and forgiven. I think I have lots of theological reasons, Biblical, scriptural reasons to believe that.

 

 

How do I square that with Jesus' statement here? I think the threat of death is going to influence people in one of three ways, a person who is making a profession of faith. The first way is the Christian, the person who is making a statement of faith or following Christ is going to stand firm and then suffer death as a result of standing firm.

 

 

A second group is somebody that is not a genuine Christian, but part of the Christian group, and they are going to say, "No way. I'm not giving up my life for this", and they're going to go away and deny Christ, and that's it. They're never going to come back, because now the die is cast for them. They never were real believers to begin with, and now we see their true colors.

 

 

I think there are going to be people, and there were in the past, that genuinely love the Lord, but simply could not face the challenge that persecution presented to them and are going to deny Christ, yet still like Peter denying Christ three times before Jesus' crucifixion, are going to lament, have remorse, repent, and return. I think that's because their faith is still genuinely alive in them, even though they have this terrible moment of weakness. Though, we could all understand that. Before God, the question is what is God going to do. I think Jesus in Matthew 11 here, or rather 10, is talking about that second group. You going to deny me before men, you're out of here. You have no protection from me before the Father. Someone though who comes back, I think, just like Peter did, falls under the mercy of the cross and the forgiveness of the cross. That would be my take at this point.

 

Melinda:

 

Yeah, I think that's a good take. While we would have that assurance that even that could be forgiven, anticipating persecution at the threat of death we should not count on taking that out. Right?

 

Greg Koukl:

 

No, that's correct.

 

Melinda:

 

We should encourage ourselves to be faithful. We should build that courage.

 

Greg Koukl:

 

You know what, Alan, who goes to the Middle East every year to teach, soon after those 20 Christians were beheaded on the beach by ISIS had an opportunity ... See, I don't know. Either he went to visit the families or he talked to a Christian there who had visited the families.

 

Melinda:

 

I think so.

 

Greg Koukl:

 

The second?

 

Melinda:

 

I think the second.

 

Greg Koukl:

 

The Christian who visited ...

 

Melinda:

 

This was last year, I think.

 

Greg Koukl:

 

... The families said they were amazed because they went to comfort the families, but the families turned out to be a comfort for them. What the families went through was praying for the release of their loved ones, who had been captures by ISIS. They knew they were going to face this kind of challenge and this test, so they were praying for their release. When they realized that they would never be released unless they recanted their faith, they prayed that they would never recant their faith and suffer death rather than deny Christ, which is what happened to every single one of them.

 

Melinda:

 

Also, if you just think that if we weaken in that moment and do deny Christ but then come back and confess and ask for forgiveness, Jesus is so gracious that he'll give it. It's just a little example like that just shows how magnificent Jesus' grace is to us.

 

Greg Koukl:

 

Yeah. To lend credibility to that, because the language here is pretty harsh, "If you deny me before men, I will deny you before my Father who is in heaven.", now in the case of this third category that I talked about, Jesus denying before the father who is in heaven, I think that's kind of like the final judgment kind of scene, not like moment by moment. If a person returns back and is confessing Christ and he's not denying Christ, and we're speaking of a genuine thing here, he has been a Christian all along but out of weakness has denied. Now he's returning and repenting. Then that gives occasion for in the final moment for Jesus now to be dealing with that person as a repentant sinner who is confessing Christ, not denying Christ. Therefore Jesus himself will not deny him before the Father under those circumstances.

 

Melinda:

 

Well, and you brought up the example of Peter denying Jesus, which occurred after Jesus made these remarks.

 

Greg Koukl:

 

Right. That's a good point.

 

Melinda:

 

Obviously Peter was forgiven and God used him magnificently.

 

Greg Koukl:

 

Yeah, sifted like wheat but rescued.

 

Melinda:

 

It shows just the complete extent of God's mercy and grace to us.

 

Greg Koukl:

 

Denied Christ with an oath.

 

Melinda:

 

Three times.

 

Greg Koukl:

 

Yes, under less duress, by the way, than someone who is ...

 

Melinda:

Than death.

 

Greg Koukl:

 

Yes.

 

Melinda:

 

Okay, next question comes from quirkyproton93. "What do you say to people who say using logic in Christianity is a way to avoid disappointment?"

 

Greg Koukl:

 

I'm just pausing because I'm not sure what that even means.

 

Melinda:

 

I'm not 100% sure either. Let's just say logic and Christianity don't go together, or maybe we're using logic to try to shore up the weaknesses of Christianity.

 

Greg Koukl:

 

Well for the reason that he gave ... To avoid disappointment? If we have good reasons for things, then we ought to believe them. I can't even make sense of the question.

 

Melinda:

 

Okay, well, let me ask a different question.

 

Greg Koukl:

 

Read it again.

 

Melinda:

 

Are logic and Christianity inconsistent?

 

Greg Koukl:

 

No. Why would they be? I don't understand that either.

 

Melinda:

 

Because it's faith.

 

Greg Koukl:

 

Okay, well that presumes that faith is inconsistent ...

 

Melinda:

 

Isn't faith just like blind faith?

 

Greg Koukl:

 

That presumes that ...

 

Melinda:

 

Turn against all logic and facts and just ...

 

Greg Koukl:

 

Right. I'm just walking through this Colombo style. The question then presumes ... I'd ask why would it be inconsistent, and I want somebody else to tell me. If they say, "Well because it's faith", I said, "Okay, what's the problem there?", "because faith is contrary to logic". "Well, where'd you get that idea?" I mean, there is nothing about these kinds of statements in any way shape or form that is in the least bit compelling, and this is why I have to keep asking for justification of this rather remarkable claim. I know lots of Christians make it because they're in environments that people say these things, but people ought to be questioned who say these things as to why you would ever think such a deal.

 

 

Look, at the end of John, the gospel of John, John gives the reason that he wrote the gospel. Here's what he says. "Many other signs and wonders Jesus performed that have not been written in this book." Later on in that same chapter he says, "If all the things that Jesus ever did had been written, they would fill up all the books. There's a lot of remarkable things that he did that I haven't mentioned, but these signs and wonders", which is miracles, "I have written in order that you would believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and in believing have life in his name." John says, "the reason I wrote the entire gospel is to give you reasons", that would be logical rationales, "for putting your confidence in Jesus who is the Christ the Son of God."

 

 

You have good reason to believe this. Jesus said, "In order that you may know that the Son of God has the power to forgive sin, I say to you, arise, take up your pallet and go home." The guy got up and got out. That's in Mark two. Notice he is taking a physical miracle and he's using it as a rationale in the physical arena to prove something that cannot be seen in the nonphysical arena. That's an argument. That's logic. Duh.

 

 

The scripture is filled with that kind of stuff. It's just chock-full. Paul says to Festes, "these things", or maybe it's Agrippa, "These things have not been done in a corner. You know about these things." It says in the beginning of the book of Acts that Jesus appeared to them with many convincing proofs. Duh. I mean, it's just there everywhere. It's everywhere. In the teeth of such statements, how people can make these comments that faith is blind is beyond me. It may be that they haven't seen these things. They absorb this from their community and they think, "Well, that's the way this works, nobody gets to answer any questions that are asked, and so we just believe.", and so that's kind of the way their community operates. Therefore their eyes don't see these kinds of things that are all through the scripture.

 

 

If you go in the book of Acts from like 16, 17, 18, 19, you've got all kinds of occasions where Paul is reasoning as was his custom, and some are persuaded. Wow, how'd that get in there? Well, it's in there a lot. This is the standard MO of those who took the gospel out. These people, by the way, who were trained by Jesus himself.

 

Melinda:

 

Mm-hmm. Next question. I was just thinking also ... The question is "Are Christianity and logic compatible?", so it's not challenging Christianity directly. It's acknowledging Christianity might be true, and so therefore God might. If God exists and he's revealed the Christian doctrine to us, he created reason too. Why wouldn't it be compatible?

 

Greg Koukl:

 

I agree. Listen, the world is made the way God made it. Reason and logic are gifts that God has imbued us with. I think these are maybe features of his own character, but he's given us the abilities, the native capabilities, to use them. Animals don't have this in the same way. I have no reason to believe that. Humans do. We're able to use these things, but we use them to discover what the truth is.

 

Melinda:

 

Time to put my eyedrops in. My reminder.

 

Greg Koukl:

 

Is that what that little?

 

Melinda:

 

Yeah.

 

Greg Koukl:

 

I thought it was because your phone liked the point I was making, so it was giving a little ...

 

Melinda:

 

Yeah, it was a thumbs up. Yeah, it was a happy sound. Yeah, when Siri hears things she likes ... Well, and Christianity and logic going together has not been historically a problem.

 

Greg Koukl:

 

That's right.

 

Melinda:

 

A century or so ago when modern science began, and which was dominated by naturalism, began taking hold, some parts of Christianity, the Church, reacted by withdrawing, by separating faith and reason. Others challenged them, but others decided to separate them. This has really just been a modern development.

 

Greg Koukl:

 

A fairly recent phenomena. Right, that's correct.

 

Melinda:

 

Which, unfortunately instead of engaging with the challenges, they basically retreated.

 

Greg Koukl:

 

Think of the great thinkers of the Church, whether it's Anselm, or Augustine, or ...

 

Melinda:

 

Aquinas.

 

Greg Koukl:

 

... Aquinas. You've got ... Wow, those are just the A's.

 

Melinda:

 

Yeah. Then the reformers, all the reformers.

 

Greg Koukl:

 

Right. Jonathan Edwards.

 

Melinda:

 

Fabulous minds. They reasoned all this stuff out from the scriptures, from what was revealed. Okay, last question. Let's do this in two minutes. "Why can God implant knowledge of the moral law in every human, yet he didn't implant knowledge of Jesus in the plan for salvation?" All of us have the moral law written on our hearts. God wrote it there. Why didn't he write belief in Jesus and salvation in there too?

 

Greg Koukl:

 

Well, I think that these are apples and oranges. I'm trying to ... I don't see a problem at all personally, but somebody apparently does, so I'm trying to think how could I make a distinction. What distinction is there that might be helpful to that person? When we talk about moral knowledge we are talking about an innate capacity. These are functional categories. They do things for us. It's like our capacity for mathematical awareness. We still have to learn our sums, you know and our multiplication tables, but it resonates with something inside of us that allows us to understand those kinds of things. It's like our cats aren't doing sums. This is not part of their nature.

 

Melinda:

 

Your cats don't?

 

Greg Koukl:

 

No. However, when you talk about Jesus being the Savior, that is a particular piece of knowledge. It isn't a capacity. It's a piece of information. Now, what God has given us is certain capacities that allow us to discover knowledge and to assess whether knowledge is truthful or not and rational categories that are also part of the intuition. Rational categories, moral categories, aesthetic categories, these are faculties. These are part of the machinery in the workings. When I say machinery I want people to picture a process of events taking place.

 

 

It isn't a chunk of information. Jesus being the Savior is a chunk of information that the machinery is equipped to assess or discover. That's why I say it's an apples and oranges kind of thing. What God has given us is the moral sense, so we could see our own moral need and our ability to assess offerings like that. He has put eternity in our hearts, which is a hunger and a longing for kind of a, what should I say, an integration point that's bigger than ourselves. All of these things God has done for us. I don't know why he's obliged to put a piece of information in there as well, simply because he's done these other kinds of things. It's not because he's not capable. He certainly is capable, but what he's done is he's built a certain type of human being that now is in the position to have the desire and the capacities and the faculties to discover the things that are really important, which includes their need for Jesus.

 

Melinda:

 

Yeah. I agree with you. It's apples and oranges. Our moral knowledge, our consciences, those are kinds of categories of things we know, but our situation with Jesus, with God, is that we're in rebellion. It's a state of affairs. It's a relationship. You don't just implant that with some information to change it.

 

Greg Koukl:

 

By the way ...

 

Melinda:

 

A lot of people get that information and they never do change.

 

Greg Koukl:

 

That's right.

 

Melinda:

 

They stay in rebellion.

 

Greg Koukl:

 

The problem isn't getting the knowledge. It's the gift of faith regarding the knowledge that makes the difference. That God doesn't give to everyone for reasons only he knows.

 

Melinda:

 

Mm-hmm. Well, that's it for this episode. Two episodes every week, Mondays and Thursdays. Don't forget our motion graphic that we have on our social media platforms. We'd appreciate you sharing that with people and hope you enjoy it too. Send us your questions on Twitter using #STRask, the name of the podcast. I'm Melinda, the Enforcer, with Greg Koukl, for Stand to Reason.

 

 

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