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Imagine a woman telling you, “I’m transgender. Please call me Michael.” What do you do? Here's how to answer with truth and compassion.
Most of us have answered a knock on our door, only to discover a smiling, well-dressed couple—Watchtower publication in hand—standing on the other side, waiting to talk with us about the gospel according to the Jehovah’s Witnesses.
I grew up in a Christian home. I came to Christ at five and was baptized at six. My family was committed to the local church. My dad faithfully taught Sunday school, led small groups, and was even an elder. My mom was always involved in ministry as well. I grew up attending Sunday school, Royal Ambassadors, and Awana. As a teenager, I was the model youth group kid, a student leader in high school, and a ministry intern as a senior, even committing my life to full-time vocational ministry before I graduated. Then I met Dr. David Lane.
It’s not unusual for people to dismiss the Bible because it was “only written by men.” How do you respond when you hear this What evidence would you give that the Bible is not just a human invention, but rather a supernatural revelation?
Once I was sitting on an airplane next to a stockbroker. He asked me what I did for a living and I told him I was a writer. When he asked what I wrote about, immediately I faced a problem. I wanted to tell him that I write about religion, specifically Christianity, but I didn’t want him to make a mistake many people make when they think about those two things.
Lately I’ve been enjoying my nine-year-old Annabeth’s theological common sense. “Papa, why don’t atheists believe in God?” she asked. “Well, for a number of reasons,” I said. “Partly because they can’t see Him, so they don’t believe in Him.” “Can they see atoms?” she offered. “Good point. But I think they’d say that doesn’t count since they can still detect atoms with scientific instruments, something they can’t do with God. They won’t believe in anything they can’t measure scientifically.”
The billboards read: “No God? No Problem. Be Good for Goodness’ Sake,” and “Are You Good without God? Millions Are.” The point was clear: Morality in no way depends on belief in God. And why should it? Atheists can be good, too. New atheist Christopher Hitchens regularly challenged his religious opponents to suggest a single act of goodness they could perform that he, the atheist, could not accomplish with equal success.
The images are sadly familiar. Buildings ripped from their foundations. Corpses mingled with debris. Parents and friends grieving for lost loved ones. Flowers and candles and makeshift memorials. New Orleans, Newtown, New York, Littleton. In one sense tragedies like these will never be old news. And when new disasters inevitably arrive, the question on the lips of so many is an age old query: “Where was God?” One Wrong Answer
I never like the question, “Do you take the Bible literally?” It comes up with some frequency, and it deserves a response. But I think it’s an ambiguous—and, therefore, confusing—question, making it awkward to answer. Clearly, even those of us with a high view of Scripture don’t take everything literally. Jesus is the “door,” but He’s not made of wood. We are the “branches,” but we’re not sprouting leaves.
Three years ago I sat on a short bench in a small stone church on the outskirts of Oxford. In a tiny graveyard outside was a flat tombstone with the name “Clive Staples Lewis” etched into the granite. The pew my wife and I were sitting in was the same place C.S. Lewis occupied with his brother Warnie every Sunday morning for decades as they worshipped together at Trinity Church.