Christian Living

#STRask: August 10, 2017

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Published on 08/10/2017

In 4 min. or less, Greg answers questions about catering a same-sex wedding, visits from dead relatives, and preparing for attacks on students’ faith.


  • How can I explain to hostiles the difference of catering a same-sex wedding vs. an event where gays are present?
  • How should I respond to a friend who lost her daughter and tells me her daughter visits her and interacts with her?
  • What are three good resources to give teens going to college (and their parents) to prepare them for attacks on their faith?


Melinda: Hi there, I'm Melinda the Enforcer. Greg Koukl's sitting here next to me dancing with his hands.

Greg: Well it's such a good dance rhythm there and I like to ding you with my hands.

Melinda: Well I know that.

Greg: Timing to strike. Ding.

Melinda: So I was at Petco yesterday and at the checkout stand and the UPS man happened to come in. And he's the same UPS man here at the office.

Greg: Does this have any spiritual significance?

Melinda: Well there's a reason here let me tell you. The checker and he were talking a little bit and she was telling him what was in a couple of boxes that he had delivered the previous week and she said there was a monitor in one. And I said, "You mean like a big lizard?" And she said, "Yeah." The UPS guy said, "That's why I tell you guys not to open the boxes til after I leave." However do you remember when you gave me the name Enforcer, at the time I was still teaching and I suggested, well instead of Enforcer maybe Monitor like a hall monitor, and then Greg said, "Well if you want to be known as a giant lizard from southeast Asia go ahead."

Greg: There you go. And I am thinking about ...

Melinda: My possible names.

Greg: Making the change. Melinda the Monitor.

Melinda: Well you know.

Greg: Did you ever see her tongue?

Melinda: Melinda the Monster. 'Cause it's my job. All right, let's get to questions. You send us your questions on Twitter using #STRask, and we do our best to control Greg and put him on a timer.

First question comes from DBCooper444. Now isn't DB Cooper the guy who is the only unsolved, yeah, DB Cooper is the one unsolved plane hijacking in American history. The FBI never found him, this was from like 1972.

Greg: Well now we know. Here he is.

Melinda: He's tweeting us. Okay, “how can I explain to critics the difference ...”

Greg: Who remembers that?

Melinda: Somebody who's well-read and educated in American history. “How can I explain ...”

Greg: That is the hallmark of higher education. I remember the name of the terrorist they never caught.

Melinda: Listened to it on a podcast. Stuff You Missed in History Class.

Greg: Trivia.

Melinda: Wasn't in my history class. “How can I explain to critics the difference of catering the same-sex wedding versus an event where homosexuals are present?” So what's the difference between making a wedding, a baker ...

Greg: No I get it.

Melinda: I know, I'm just rephrasing. Baking a wedding cake for a same-sex wedding versus serving people who come in who happen to be gay. Selling them a cupcake or a slice of cake.

Greg: Or catering a wedding where homosexuals might be there because the issue is, the wedding itself, is not tied to a celebration of a same-sex, in this case, homosexual event. And a celebration of it, a normalizing of it. This is just a wedding where people come to and they're not checking their sexual preferences at the door to make sure that there's nobody got the wrong sexual preferences. To me it's such an obvious example of apples and oranges. I'm not sure what the point is. The point is not that Christians don't want to serve homosexuals. That has never been the point and I have never run into anybody who has held that view. All of these establishments that have gotten in trouble with the law by balking at serving a same-sex wedding, all of them serve people regardless of their sexual proclivities and homosexuality isn't the only one.

Melinda: Well in some cases – the baker up in Washington state, these customers, she'd served them many, many times when they came in, but when they asked her to make a cake for their wedding, same-sex wedding, that's when she said I just don't want to do that. You're welcome here, I'll serve you, I don't want to make that cake.

Greg: So here is a distinction though that many people on the left in these issues are not willing to make because it doesn't work in their favor. And the distinction is that there's a difference between serving a customer and serving an event, which by nature is morally offensive to the person doing the serving. When you serve a customer regardless of their proclivities, like I said – and by the way, they don't just have to be sexual, everybody's got, you are not in any way, shape, or form celebrating or abetting the popularity or legitimacy of that particular proclivity.

But this is precisely what's going on when you bake a cake for a same-sex wedding. You are participating in the celebration of something that many people think is just flat out wrong, and not just wrong-headed, but immoral in many cases. And it seems to me they ought to have the latitude to say no to that and this not be confused with somehow discriminating against homosexuals. It is a discrimination, but it's not against homosexuals, it's against a certain type of event. Regardless of who happens, what the sexual preferences of those people at the event. It's unrelated to that. Except for in the most extraneous way. Yes, a same-sex wedding is about same-sex couples who are attracted to each other, want to tie the knot. But the problem isn't serving the same-sex couples, it is serving the same-sex wedding. And that is a very different kind of thing.

Melinda: I've heard two comparisons just recently that I think are really helpful. One is artistry. I guess there's another case somewhere about a man who makes posters and similar kind of thing came up. And you could in a certain sense talk about baking as an art too, in every other context we would champion not forcing an artist to have to do their art in a certain way or to do art they think is against their principles and yet here now though they want to impose that on these artists. These people who create something.

The other comparison I just saw the other day. Twitter. Twitter and Facebook are coming down and what they perceive and in many cases is, offensive posts. Twitter and Facebook though have excluded posts from Christians about, for instance, same-sex marriage as offensive language. So why are they allowed to not allow that on their forums and yet bakers and artists and flower makers – florists – have that imposed on them?

Greg: It's because it's not principled. It all depends on who's ox is getting gored.

Melinda: But I think if we try to make some of these comparisons, that's a way of trying to at least illustrate it.

Greg: I think the point that you made earlier is the best point. These vendors all serve homosexuals. Their objection is not participating in a particular kind of event. And any reasonable person ought to see the difference there. In fact, when the shoe is on the other foot, you gave one example of that, but look when a gay printer is asked to print things that he considers homophobic for example, he shouldn't be required to do that. Not in my view. It seems to me there been cases like that that have come up and been defended from the left. Why is it okay on their side but not okay on our side? It's what's yours is mine and what's mine is mine too. That's kind of the attitude it seems to me.

Melinda: Okay, next question comes from Emily Steele because I couldn't pronounce her Twitter name. “How should I respond to a friend who lost her daughter and tells me that her daughter visits her and interacts with her?” This is a tough one, huh? The truth of it is easy, but the ...

Greg: It's tough because there's so much emotionally at stake here. I guess I'd want to start by asking, why is it that you think your daughter is visiting you? And I don't know by the way if this person claims to be a Christian or not, the one who's having these visitations. Necromancy was prohibited in the bible. And necromancy is calling on the dead. Now I'm not saying that in this particular case the woman is calling on her deceased daughter but the whole idea of living humans being connected at all with the dead is a serious concern in the bible. Which is a very good argument against praying to saints. And it's one that seems to be completely dismissed by the Catholic church and others who practice this behavior. But we are prohibited from calling on dead people. The domain of the dead is not our domain to be messing with. God just prohibits it. In fact it was a capital punishment. Capital crime in the theocracy.

I would want to, especially if this was a Christian, I would want to vigorously encourage the believer not to entertain this kind of thing, though I can see how she would want to because of the pain emotionally that the loss of her daughter would cause her. If she's not a Christian, the same kinds of things could be said. Maybe not with the same familial kind of attachment. We have a brother or sister in Christ that's different from a stranger. But what I'd want to say is, there's a reason why these things that God Himself commanded these things not to be done. They're dangerous. There is a real world out there, a spiritual realm, and the dead can't come back, and Jesus made this clear in the account of the rich man in Lazarus. The dead can't come back.

And the only occasion they have in the bible was a very exceptional case and that was Samuel who came back to Saul, and he was conjured by the witch of Endor, and that witch was really surprised when he showed up. And then he predicted Saul's death and the death of his two sons which happened the next day. So there was judgment to be had as a result of that act of calling him back from the dead. This is not a good thing.

Melinda: Obviously, this woman is pursuing this, entertaining this, because she needs comfort. And whether she's a Christian and already knows, needs to be reminded, or a non-Christian that needs to be brought into that comfort. In either case, I think trying to redirect her source of comfort, and that's in Jesus.

Greg: Right. And in the body of Christ.

Melinda: And in the resurrection.

Greg: It's a hard thing. I know there's a book called, The Severe Mercy– Sheldon Vanauken –that I noticed really at the top right now in one category in Amazon and it's probably 50 years old. He describes encounters similar to that with his wife, although it's not entirely clear whether he thinks he's a veridical or not. In other words is his dead wife really appearing to him or is he having a vision of that or he's just imagining that to cope with his own grief. But in any event, that might give credence in some people's mind to this kind of thing and they take it the wrong way. Just categorically this is a serious problem.

Melinda: There's just an article – can't remember if it was the New York Times or some other major publication – last week about how people are becoming more interested in the spirit world, in the occult or in things like ghosts and stuff. And the point was is that, this isn't what the New York Times made, but I've seen others make the point that when you give up Christianity, the comfort, the confidence, the rest that Christianity, the meaning, the significance that Christianity grounds in the bible, you're going to need to still find somewhere else. And so when you lose somebody, you need comfort, you want hope and so then now they think they're being, she's being visited by her daughter. That's the way to do it.

Greg: There's a very real ...

Melinda: Opportunities for reminding people or bringing the gospel to people.

Greg: It's a very real desire for comfort that's expressed by that, but there's a very real danger as well.

Melinda: Next question. And this just two minutes. “What are three good resources to give teens going to college and their parents to prepare them for attacks on their faith?”

Greg: All right you ready? Tactics.

Melinda: In Defending the Faith. By Greg Koukl.

Greg: Yeah, it's actually Tactics, a Game Plan for Discussing your Christian Convictions. You had the old subtitle, which we had for years and years and years.

Melinda: I can't remember it all. You keep changing titles. Changed The Story of Reality midstream. Is that the next one you're going to recommend.

Greg: The Story of Reality.

I'm a little embarrassed about this. I have to admit.

Melinda: But there's a reason you wrote these books.

Greg: I wrote the book to meet a need and I think the books, both these books, meet both of these different kinds of needs in a very effective way. And I think that the public has voted in favor of my judgment on that. Here's the way I want to put it. If somebody would have written these books I'd still recommend them because The Story of Reality lays a foundation. It's evangelistic and apologetics kind of mixed in together by laying the foundation of what the Christian view of reality amounts to. And the Tactics books helps people to maneuver in conversations, and many have told me that this just simply changed their lives. If that's the way it's being received by people and that's the help they've found from these books, then I suggest these would be good books to have.

Now I think a third one you want to consider ...

Melinda: For parents. A Practical Guide to Culture by Brett Kunkle.

Greg: Yes, well Practical Guide to Culture's a good one for parents, but this has to do more with raising children I think than sending somebody off to the university. There's some good things in there but I'm thinking in terms of content of dealing with the challenges that they're going to be facing. As followers of Christ. And this is where there are a handful of other books that are kind of full over to apologetics books. I'll just say I think one of the best ones out there, and it's been out for a while, but it's still a really good one is, I Don't Have Enough Faith to be an Atheist. It covers a lot of the big ... Frank Turek and Norm Geisler. It covers a lot of the basic grounds and I think that that's going to help people to know how to respond to these challenges that they're experiencing in culture.

Melinda: And then send your kids and you can come to one of our ReThink Apologetics conferences. Send your kids to Summit Ministries during the summer.

Greg: Absolutely.

Melinda: Impact 360 also has a gap year that Jonathan Morrow teaches. That's another good one.

Greg: Hume Lake has gap year too called Joshua that I'd recommend, I'm familiar with the program.

Melinda: Okay.

Greg: Lots of resources out there. That's a good place to start.

Melinda: And of course, start early, don't wait until their senior year.

Greg: Right.

Melinda: Or their college year. Start from the very beginning. So that's it for this episode. New episodes Mondays and Thursdays. Send us your questions on Twitter using #STRask. Even if you're wanted by the FBI. Tell us where you are DB Cooper. I'm Melinda, the Enforcer, with Greg Koukl, for Stand to Reason.