In this special episode with a live audience, Greg still has 4 min. to answer questions about different religions worshipping God and “born this way.”
- Do Muslims, Jews, and Christians worship the same God?
- As a Christian, what’s the most effective response to someone who states that “they were born this way,” in regards to homosexuality?
Melinda: Hi there folks, I’m Melinda the Enforcer and I’m here with Greg Koukl. This is actually a special day, I’m telling our audience listening to the podcast, because we’re recording this right now in front of a live audience at our book release party. I guess the word leaked out that you have a new book.
Greg: I don’t know how that happened.
Melinda: This is the STRask podcast, the podcast where “STR” stands for Greg “surviving tremendous ridicule” by me. I guess we just had a raffle for the people here and somebody won being able to come to the office, our studio, to sit in on the live broadcast. I just want to warn you to keep your expectations down, because our...People come thinking, “Oh, the STR world headquarters,” and we’re in a room bigger than our headquarters. It’s a-
Greg: Right now.
Melinda: We’re in an office park, corner of an office park, the sign is fading, every room has multiple uses. We built a studio in the corner of my office, so just don’t get too excited, okay.
Greg: Every worker has multiple uses too.
Melinda: Yeah, that’s for sure. Greg was talking a little bit before to the audience here about how long basically this topic of the book, The Story of Reality, has been in the works. 15 years. He’s been doing that talk, he’s been talking about it, he’s been teaching his kids the five points. Don’t ask me to name them, okay. People would ask me, “Well, when is he going to finally write this book?” I’d say, “I don’t know.” Greg, it’s kind of like a pregnancy, Greg just has to gestate on the material and it’s like an elephant, even longer. Who knows when it’s going to come out? It finally comes out and when he does write a book, it’s a really good book, because they only happen like once every ten years. The book was due at the end of last January and when Greg realized he needed more time, he asked me, he says, “Can I take some time away from the office, just come in for the broadcast, not come in for staff meetings, be able to focus on this?” I said, “Sure, that sounds good.” Well, six months...Six weeks turned into six months where he was...We were missing his leadership. I mean, it’s just the truth. We were missing his leadership at the office.
Greg: I have a very capable executive director, just so you know. They were in good hands with Melinda.
Melinda: Well, and I missed his partnership and I have to confess, I was bugged at times. A friend of ours, Curt Swindoll, we were talking. We had dinner last August and talking about how long this took and he turned my perspective completely. I don’t know if I ever told you I was bugged, but you probably could tell, you know me. He said, “You haven’t been absent, you’ve been focused.” That was really the case. This was something Greg had to focus on and I have to tell you, since the weeks that the book came out, we’re just overwhelmed by the response. We just sit in a little office in Signal Hill, California, hunkered down doing our jobs and we don’t always have a sense for the reach. We’ve just been really encouraged and excited and it was definitely worth all the time that Greg had to focus in away from the office on that. Anyways-
Greg: Thank you.
Melinda: I just wanted to say that.
Greg: For the record, I’m glad to hear all of that. I’ll alert the press.
Melinda: Let’s get going on the first question.
Greg: All right.
Melinda: That’s what this podcast is for. Still got a timer, Greg has four minutes or less and I still have a bell.
Greg: All right.
Melinda: All right. The first question comes from Steven, “Do Muslims and Jews worship the same God, though each may have an incomplete or inaccurate understanding of Him?”
Greg: Wow. I’m glad we start with an easy one I could do in four minutes. I’ll give you the summary right now and I’ll do my best to break it down. That is, I think Jews worship the same God as we do, though under a different description. I think Muslims worship a different God. Now, a point could be made that we believe that God is triune and therefore, being a central part of God and Jews rejecting the triunity of God, this would mean that they don’t worship the same God. Well, I think that works for the Muslims, all right, but I don’t think it works quite the same way for the Jews, all right. When you...Even though Muslims claim to follow the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, their revelation about that God, I mean, the functional revelation is a very different revelation, and it leads them to very different conclusions about the nature of that God. For example, the God of Islam you can’t have a relationship with. In fact, the notion of having a relationship with God is an obscene notion to Muslims because it reduces God in a certain fashion, okay. There are other particulars that are very, very different. I can’t get into a whole taxonomy here, but even though their God is a personal God, so Christianity and Islam and Judaism are the three great monotheistic religions of the world, and there is a kind of loose kinship between the three, the loosest kinship is with the Islamic conception, and they’re working from a separate revelation that distances in terms of content the god of Muhammad from the God of the Bible, all right. In the case of Jews though, I think it’s different, because the Jews are only working with half a revelation. It wasn’t until the New Testament that the teaching of what we call the trinity, became more explicit. What I mean by that is not that the trinity is taught explicitly in the New Testament, but the parts of the trinity are taught explicitly in the New Testament. We assemble them as clear expressions of the text and then we find a name for it, which itself isn’t in the Bible, but the concepts are all there, okay. The reason that I think...This comes from Fred Sanders who’s an expert in the trinity, the reason why the trinity is not really evident, in terms of the details of God’s character to the New Testament, is because there was really no reason until the new covenant, and the sacrifice of the Son, and the giving of the Holy Spirit, for those distinctions to be made, all right. The Old Testament you find hints of that if you look back in, but principally the revelation is unitarian. It is the same God being used revealed in the Old Testament as in the New Testament. The New Testament gives more detail of the same God than the Old Testament did, and therefore the Jews not having the New Testament, or not acknowledging the New Testament are not going to draw the same conclusions about the details. The core God in my view is the same. It’s the same God under a different description. Their description is non-Trinitarian, our description is, and even though I think Trinitarian doctrine is central to who God is, I understand why they haven’t gotten that far yet. Now, there is some controversy on this and people have different points of views, but that’s mine and the reasons for it.
Melinda: When you’ve answered this in the past, you’ve talked about the law of identity and for two things to be identical, everything you say about one has to be true of another. You just brought this topic up that the Jews believe God is essentially a single unity-
Melinda: Not three persons-
Melinda: Christians believe God is essentially...That’s the timer.
Greg: Okay. You’re done, Melinda. Thank God for the bell, right?
Melinda: Yeah, but I’ve got the control, so...
Greg: That’s right. She’s the Enforcer, right?
Melinda: If the Jews and the Christians are saying something essentially as different about what they believe about God, how can they-
Melinda: Just simply have an incomplete view?
Greg: Yeah, this is...When you’re dealing with strict identity, any difference between two things is enough to demonstrate that they are not the same thing, because when you’re talking about the law of identity, one thing is identical to the other. You’re not talking about two things, but one thing. Greg Koukl would be identical with the President of Stand to Reason, okay. We’re both the same, we’re identical, okay. The difficulty comes when there is...The time when I don’t think it’s appropriate to enforce this rule rigidly is when parties are in fact referring to the same entity, but under, as I expressed earlier, a false description. If somebody...Let’s say you knew somebody that changed her hair color and you were talking to somebody else about that person and you said, “She was a brunette.” They said, “Well, the person that I know by that name is actually a blonde.” Now, that person can’t be both brunette and blonde at the same time, right? Well, but it turns out they’re talking about the same person, but one has some faulty description of the other, okay. Now, the key element here is how central that element is to the identity of the individual and this is where there’s going to be a difference of opinion on this question of whether Jews, for example, believe in the same God as we believe in? Because there is something really essential, not just accidental, that’s different between them. At this point, this is why I think bringing in this distinction that I made that they’re really working with the same revelation, they’re just missing information that is a later revelation of God that they are not acknowledging. For my money, that justifies me saying that we both worship the same God, though under a different description.
Melinda: Can I be both brunette and gray at the same time, because I color my hair?
Melinda: Okay. Next question comes from James, “As a Christian, what is the most effective response to someone who states that they were ’born this way’ in regards to being homosexual?”
Greg: Well, I’ll use Alan Shlemon’s question, taking a tactical approach here, and the question is, “How do you know you were born this way?” It’s a very fair question, because it really requires information that no individual has. All they have is their own self-awareness that, “As long as I can remember I’ve had these feelings,” but from what we understand about the psychodynamics of the development of same-sex attraction, these things can start very, very early in life beyond any real conscious awareness of sexual development. It would certainly fit for somebody who is not born this way, but their same-sex attraction is developmental. That is, it’s a result of things that developed in their lives. It makes sense that they would describe it as being born that way, because that’s the way it seems to him, but being born that way in this particular case is a clinical matter. It turns out, that there is no clinical evidence, scientific evidence, if you will, of any kind that demonstrates that homosexuality is innate or constitutional. There is no gay gene, there is none of that. Now, this is something you will never see from TIME Magazine, or Newsweek, or in the National Geographic, because it’s wildly politically incorrect. Alan who...Alan Shlemon at Stand to Reason who goes deep into these issues and he...Alan, just so you know, Alan is really, really careful, okay. We’re all careful at Stand to Reason. Alan is way over the top, because in these controversial issues like Islam, and homosexuality, and evolution, and the ethical issues that he deals with...We figure the first person to get shot at Stand to Reason is probably going to be Alan. He’s got to make sure that all his T’s are crossed and all his I’s are dotted, all right. What Alan assures me, is that there is nobody in the field, pro-gay, anti-gay, Christian, atheist, nobody in the field that says that homosexuality is innate, nobody was born this way, the evidence does not go in that direction. I’ll tell you one other thing they all know, they all know that it’s not immutable. It changes. What was really surprising to them is there are a whole bunch of young people that were struggling with same-sex attraction when they were teenagers that by the time they were young adults, they had no longer any same-sex attraction. When I say struggling, maybe I shouldn’t put it that way. They had same-sex attraction and then they just changed with no intervention. That was a surprise to them. That’s how malleable this whole thing is. If somebody says, “Well, I was born that way,” I think it’s a fair question to ask, “How do you know you were born that way?” Then maybe offer some of the evidence that demonstrates, or at least just refer to the evidence that nobody in the field thinks that’s the case that you were born this way. Now, for the sake of Christians, just so you know, a lot of Christians say, “Well, you weren’t born that way, it’s chosen.” Well, behaviors may be chosen, but the same-sex attraction generally is not something that’s associated with the will. There are some exceptions with that and some more famous rockstars and stuff or personalities that have come out and say, “Well, I’ve just chosen to be lesbian for the time being.” That really infuriated the LGBT crowd, but that was their honest assessment and we see evidence of that in certain cases, particularly with lesbian women. For the most part, it’s developmental. That is, something is going on early on in life that sets a person into this direction. With male homosexuals, this is fairly well worked out. No homosexual is born that way.
Melinda: Recently, we both read Rosaria Butterfield’s book. Greg interviewed her on the long podcast not too long ago and Rosaria’s a Christian and part of her regeneration as a Christian was her leaving behind being a lesbian. For a number of years, 10, 15-
Greg: The lifestyle.
Melinda: Right. She talks though about, she was deep into that lifestyle, the politics of it. She taught at Rochester University in queer studies and she mentions-
Greg: She has a Ph.D, I mean...
Melinda: Yeah, but she mentions in the book that among the activists, specifically lesbians probably, they actually don’t like this idea that they were born that way, because for them it’s a political statement to say, “I am choosing this. I’m choosing this lifestyle. I’m choosing to behave this way.”
Greg: The reason I said she walked away from the lifestyle is to correct a misunderstanding that some have, and I think Rosaria would be really insistent on this point. She became a Christian and because she was a follower of Christ, she walked away from a wrong lifestyle. She didn’t...It isn’t that she became a Christian and then that changed all of her sexual desires and she prayed away the gay. She left the lifestyle at great personal cost, emotional and community cost. She loved these people, all the people in the community, and it was a vibrant community in many ways, but she realized what the truth was and her lifestyle then became more and more informed by what was true. Now, she ended up getting married and that’s a whole other story and you can read about that in her two books relating to this. I wanted to underscore that her choice to move away from lesbianism was not based on a change in her sexual appetites, it was a change in her understanding of what was true, and right, and good. Then of course, being in possession of the Holy Spirit makes all the difference to be able to accomplish that of course, but it was based on being faithful to God in her lifestyle.
Melinda: Yeah, she says in the book that becoming a Christian isn’t necessarily going to take away those sexual attractions, but in her case she realized that a commitment and obedience to Jesus required following everything in the Bible. That’s why I really love her book, Openness Unhindered, for all Christians, because it’s really a book about the transforming power of God’s grace and what it means to follow Jesus and obeying Him. That happens to be her story about it, but it’s really application to all of us, because we all have to follow Jesus and give things up. That’s it for this episode. I’m Melinda the Enforcer, with Greg Koukl, for Stand to Reason.