Tactics and Tools

#STRask: August 28, 2017

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Published on 08/28/2017

Greg’s on a timer and answers questions about what to do when reasons don’t work, the Bible as history, and rejecting Jesus.


  • How do you reason with someone who doesn’t want to reason?
  • What do you say when someone insists that the Bible is not history?
  • If one only knows Jesus through poor examples and therefore doesn’t want to be Christian, will they go to Hell? Did they reject real Jesus?


Melinda: Hi there! I’m Melinda The Enforcer, and this is #STRask, and I got Greg Koukl next to me, telling him to turn your attention to this. What are you working on over there?

Greg: Oh, I’m just-

Melinda: Music starting!

Greg: I know, but I’m just multitasking, getting stuff ready for the other radio show-

Melinda: Oh, okay-

Greg: You can jabber for a little while, while I finish what I’m doing-

Melinda: No, you’re the expert on talking by yourself in this room. Not me-

Greg: Okay-

Melinda: I need somebody in here to talk to.

Greg: I’ll be an expert on talking. You’re the expert on jabbering. Okay, I get it.

Melinda: I said, “Talking by yourself,” which in some situations is not mentally healthy-

Greg: Yes, but I get-

Melinda: But in other situations it’s called a radio show-

Greg: Yes, there you go. I get paid to do that!

Melinda: It’s the second, yes, but I need someone to talk to.

Greg: All right, what’s up-

Melinda: You don’t need anybody to talk to you, you just talk. This is our short podcast. You submit your questions on Twitter and use #STRask and we get into seeing unique kinds of questions sometimes. We still have the long podcast.

Greg: What do you mean sometimes? All the rest of them are like boring and dull and-

Melinda: I said unique-

Greg: Yeah, and then you said, “Sometimes.”

Melinda: Well, they’re not all unique. They’re just some of them.

Greg: Unique and interesting, sometimes.

Melinda: Unique and interesting together.

Greg: Okay.

Melinda: Some are unique. Some are interesting. Some are unique and interesting.

Greg: Sometimes.

Melinda: Well, not all the time. But Greg’s still here on Tuesdays 4 to 6 p.m., talking to you live. Give him a call. He’s back from vacations and speaking and back treatments and everything else that’s kept him away. He’s here pretty regularly on Tuesdays now. Just really quickly, coming up, Greg is going to be speaking in September. You’re done for August. You’re speaking-

Greg: Right-

Melinda: In September on Saturday the 9th in the evening at Olive Branch Christian Church in Corona, California-

Greg: Mm-hmm.

Melinda: And on September 28th, you’re speaking. I don’t know if you noticed this yet-

Greg: Mount Vernon Nazarene University in Mount Vernon, Ohio-

Melinda: It’s because I gave you the list in front of you. Yeah. There’s an evening session there that you can go to. You can find this on our webpage: STR.org/training/events.

Greg: Yeah, not to mention, though I will-

Melinda: And-

Greg: Re-think!

Melinda: Exactly-

Greg: September 22nd, 23rd. We have 770 signed up now with more than four weeks to go-

Melinda: Right. Which is actually right on par with last year, which we were close to sold out but not quite. So, the point is-

Greg: Get moving-

Melinda: You’re not guaranteed a seat if you wait til the last minute-

Greg: That’s right! We mean that genuinely. This is not a marketing ploy. That church can only hold 2,000 people.

Melinda: Only-

Greg: Well, that’s quite a bit, but when you –

Melinda: We had 1800 last year-

Greg: If we’re looking at the kind of growth curve year-to-year, year over year, we’re going to be full to the brim.

Melinda: Re-think is our student conference, junior high through college. Get your youth leader at church to bring the group. Bring your kids. Bring your grandkids. Get the kids on the block!

Greg: Adults allowed. We’re not carding at the door-

Melinda: No. But we prefer you to bring kids with you-

Greg: We want ... Yeah, it’s geared for that, but there are others who just come for the fabulous conference because they know we don’t dumb things down for the kids-

Melinda: No, and they listen in rapt attention-

Greg: Mm-hmm.

Melinda: All right. A lot of kids, even Christian kids may have short attention spans. They may not pay much attention to substance of stuff much, but they listen to this. They’ll really be interested. They’ll be challenged. They’ll, I think in a lot of ways, find out that they can integrate their faith and their intellect, and they can have confidence with the challenges that they’re facing from the culture in school because Christianity is true and it makes sense. It holds together in coherent worldview.

All right. Let’s just get going. First question. We talked about this at the staff meeting. How do you reason with somebody who doesn’t want to reason?

Greg: Well, one thing that I, as always kind of an ace in the hole for me, is that human beings are made in the image of God. They have to live in God’s world. This means that they are reasonable or maybe a better way of putting it is rational creatures that are capable of reasoning, and indeed they can’t get away from the process.

I realize that now, the culture now, especially the younger people are not well-tutored in that. They don’t reason well. They just feel strongly about things, and they think that’s all that’s necessary. They end up making a lot of foolish mistakes. However, they still do respond to reason in general. That’s why when you disagree with them on something or they disagree with you, they’re going to give you a rationale of sorts, may not be well thought through, but some kind of rationale as to why they’re right and you’re wrong. They do believe in reason, even if they’re not reasoning well at the moment. Okay? That’s one thing just to keep in mind.

But I know the feeling. You’re talking to somebody. They’re making all kinds of mistakes in thinking. They’re emoting a lot. They think that’s an argument, and it’s just really difficult to get through to them. This is where there is another avenue that sometimes at Stand to Reason or Stand to Reason type folk give a little bit of short shrift to and that is the existential avenue. When I say existential, I don’t mean like the philosophers. I mean like the individual awareness of their condition, the human condition.

Humans have a need to be valued. Humans have a need to be in relationship. Humans have a need to make sense out of their world. Humans have a need for forgiveness to deal with the wrong in their lives. The Scripture says that God has put eternity in our hearts. This is another thing that is part of the state of man that he can’t get away from. When I say man, I mean mankind, men and women. They can’t get away from that. I was thinking, and I mentioned this at the staff meeting, when I spoke the first time at Cal, at Berkeley, that I spoke on an academic issue moral relativism, but I then used that to leverage into the existential concern and that is our awareness of our own guilt.

You can say moral relativism is false. Therefore, some form of moral objectivism is true. That’s academic. That’s kind of like ... that’s a left-brain. Okay. Fine. Then, I go, “Well, this has explanatory power. It helps us to understand why we feel guilty. Why do we feel guilty? Maybe because we are guilty!” Now, I’m just transitioned into the human experiential element, the awareness of our own guilt, and then I spoke directly to that. The answer to guilt is not denial. That’s relativism. The answer to guilt, I told them, is forgiveness. This is where Jesus comes in.

You see, when I said the answer to guilt is forgiveness, and I’ve said this to a lot of audiences, I always have this sense that something is going on that is deep inside the person that is unrelated to their intellect, apologetics. But is related to their deep yearning and hunger to be made whole, morally, even if they don’t want to admit it. It’s in there. What this means is when we are dealing with people who won’t listen to reason, sometimes we just shift gears and we speak to the existential state of that individual. Their brokenness, their fallen-ness, their hunger for communion with God, all of those kinds of things. We gear our message towards that, which, by the way, is what most people do, don’t apologetics. They talk about the mercy of God and the rescue that God provides through Jesus.

That’s something we should not ignore in the way we engage people.

Melinda: We were talking about this in staff meeting and somebody pointed out. I mean, very often people have other reasons than rational ones-

Greg: Yes-

Melinda: And you have to take enough time to get to know them to understand some of those. One person in our staff was referring to a woman in this church who, after her son came out as gay, now re-interpreted the scriptures and wanted the church to re-interpret the scriptures as affirming same-sex unions.

Greg: Right-

Melinda: Right. Well, she’s coming from fearing for her son, rejection, all that. She’s coming from an emotional place, not a rational place-

Greg: Right, right. It’s not like she’d reassess the text-

Melinda: Right-

Greg: And realized she had the wrong interpretation.

Melinda: So, sometimes you have to, not only ... in addition to the existential, you have to take enough time to perhaps understand enough about them to see if there’s something else going on with them. You might reassure a parent like that. That God still loves her son, and the church still is loving, but we don’t have to affirm everything-

Greg: Right-

Melinda: There’s other things going on with people. Sometimes we have to make sure, we have to remember that we need to love every person we’re talking to and not just try to win an argument, and sometimes take it a little more time to get to know them and figure it out.

Next question. This came from ... this was a leftover question in the comments that didn’t get answered last week in our Facebook Live event with you and Tim about Bible contradictions. What do you say when someone insist the Bible is not history?

Greg: Well, back to Columbo here. Why would they say? I want to know what they mean by that. Okay? I presume they would answer something that this is just recording stories-

Melinda: Legends?

Greg: That somebody made up, or legend, but it’s important to get them to spell it out. Okay? Because then the next question is going to be why do you think ... what are your reasons for thinking that it is a legend or a myth.

Mythology works a certain way. It’s a certain genre. Legends also are a particular genre. They have certain characteristics. History looks different than legend and myth. That’s the background information. So, you want to draw that person out and say, and ask them why would you think it’s not history? Because the vast majority, and if I’m guilty of anything I’m understating, of scholars, of, say, the life of Jesus, which is what we’re talking about believe that the primary source historical documentation that we have for Jesus’ life – we know them as Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John – are reliable historical documents. No. Just to qualify. It doesn’t mean they believe every particular in there, but they don’t think—

Melinda: But they approach them as historical documents.

Greg: Historical documents because that’s what they understand them to be and for good reason. There’s a series of good reasons why one would take some document as reliable historically, and these, they’re certain canons of requirement for that kind of thing. These documents satisfy those requirements. Some people are going to balk at the miracles and things like that.

Notice that they’re not treating these as legends. They’re historians, and they’re treating them as history that might be corrupted in some way, so they’re going to sift through them. But, certainly, it’s history first even if they might have been, in their view, corrupted with supernatural stories.

Melinda: We have to understand them as historical documents of their time. We can’t expect them to have been written according, in the historical style of the 21st century-

Greg: Right. Exactly right! This is something that Tim and I were talking about there on that Facebook Live, which is available—

Melinda: On our Facebook page-

Greg: Stand to Reason’s Facebook page, yeah. You can go there, too.

Melinda: I’m sure we tweeted out the link last week after it was over.

Greg: Yep.

Melinda: So you can go back to our Tweet history.

Greg: Or you can go down the Facebook page and scroll down to find it, right?

Melinda: Yeah, it should be there. Okay. Last question for this episode. Comes from RemaYoga, if one only knows Jesus through poor examples, and therefore doesn’t want to be a Christian, will that person go to hell? Did they reject the real Jesus?

Greg: Well, I think this question reflects a little bit of a misunderstanding. Nobody goes to hell because they reject Jesus, real or otherwise. If you look in Revelation 20, we see details of the final judgment. In the final judgment, what we see is the dead are judged according to their works. Jesus said, “Every idle word a man speaks, he shall give account of in the day of judgment.” The way I put it: He’s making a list and checking it twice.

God doesn’t miss anything. God does not miss a single thing. Consequently, when the final judgment comes, people’s lives will be laid bare before God, and they will see how thoroughly they have disobeyed God in virtually every area of their life, thought, word, deed, motive, intention, everything. A rebellion against God. Their judgment against ... The judgment against them will be just. Now, Jesus is the anecdote. He’s the rescuer.

If you don’t accept the rescuer because you have a false or distorted understanding of Him, you’re still responsible for the crimes you’ve committed against God. It doesn’t change the culpability of a person because of the false characterization that they might have been exposed to.

The answer is no. I guess, I’d have to look at the question again. Yes, they are going to be judged, regardless of whether the characterization of Jesus is accurate or inaccurate or regardless of whether or not they had the characterization of Jesus at all. They will be judged by the light that was shone them. This is kind of a broad general lesson that we get out of Romans 1, but Romans 1 was also clear that those so judged will be found wanting. In the words of Paul, they are without excuse.

This isn’t going to be an excuse either that they had a bad characterization of Jesus or something like that. I know some people would like to take refuge in that, but this is not a biblical escape route or backdoor for something out of judgment. Well, that person didn’t represent Jesus properly. No. God is going to judge everybody based on their own life, according to their own deeds. That’s what it says in Revelations 20.

Those books that are open, I call it the Books of Death in the Story of Reality because they are not the Book of Life, they’re the book that are used to deliver the judgment of death on the person who’s broken God’s law.

Melinda: We’re judged according to our own merit unless we accept Jesus.

Greg: If our name’s written in the Book of Life, then we are covered. Then we get forgiveness that we do not deserve because our own works unveil against us-

Melinda: Right-

Greg: And this is why we need Jesus. But, if we have Jesus, we are under His protection. He is our defense attorney, but in virtue of the fact that He has paid for the crimes that we have committed against God.

Melinda: Yep. While the offer of salvation is broad, the motive, so to speak, of salvation is narrow because it’s only Jesus. Jesus is the only way because He’s the only one who paid for our sins and can offer forgiveness-

Greg: Only one who solved the problem.

Melinda: That’s it for this episode.

Send us your question on Twitter using #STRask. If you want a longer answer than four minutes, talk to Greg directly. Give him a piece of your mind. You can call on Tuesdays between 4:00 and 6:00pm. The information’s on our website. We post new episodes every Monday and Thursday for #STRask. I’m Melinda The Enforcer, here with Greg Koukl.