Greg answers questions about dying for Christianity, the miracle of conversion, and creating a film with a pro-LGBT message.
- What in Christianity is worth dying for?
- If miracles by definition are rare, would you not consider a conversion to Christ a miracle, since those are not rare?
- Is it wrong to be involved in creating a film with a pro-LGBT message?
Melinda: Hi there folks, this is STRask, #STRask, because that’s the name of the podcast and where you send us your questions. I’m Melinda “The Enforcer” with Greg Koukl. Hello.
Melinda: That’s it, just one word?
Greg: I just can’t win here, you know. Hey, what’s happening?
Melinda: I get irritated when you get all crazy.
Greg: Yeah, right. Hi. It’s me.
Melinda: Just maybe somewhere in between. Not the extremes.
Greg: All right. Hello, Melinda.
Melinda: Not dancing and doing air guitar and picking your nose. Pretending to. Don’t look like that. You know you’ve done that to try to make me laugh. I hated myself for laughing. Anyways here we are. On #STRask, the short podcast with short answers. Greg is on a timer. You ready to go?
Greg: Wait a minute. Let me get my finger out of my nose.
Melinda: Shut up.
Greg: All right. I’m ready. Rock and roll.
Melinda: This comes from tpanda: “What in Christianity is worth dying for?”
Greg: All right, well top down, our confession about God and Jesus. There was some discussion a couple of years ago I think now where some journalists...
Melinda: It was like fifteen years ago, because it was during the Iraq War. Yeah, I know time-
Greg: No, no. It wasn’t that long ago.
Melinda: Yes it was. Anyways, whatever.
Greg: Whenever it was, there were journalists who were captured by Muslims, and told to renounce Christ or something like that. They did, and because they renounced Christ, their lives were spared. There was some discussion about whether that was the right thing for them to do or not. I remember-
Melinda: Of course, we don’t even know if those guys were Christians.
Greg: We don’t even know that. I do know there were other talk show hosts that said, “Hey, it does, it doesn’t matter, you know.”
Melinda: Just get out of the situation.
Greg: “When you renounce...” The point was that obviously this is a renouncement under duress. Therefore, just like a confession under duress, it doesn’t count. No one’s going to believe that you are really renouncing Christ or God or whatever. I just simply disagree with that. I’m recalling now fairly recently within a year or so, there were twenty Christians who were beheaded on a beach somewhere in the Middle East.
Melinda: Libyan Christians, right.
Greg: Yes, and all they had to do was renounce Christ, and their lives will be saved. We had some - Alan in particular, when he was working in the Middle East last summer - had some indirect contact with these people. The report back was that Christians went to try to comfort them in the loss of their loved ones. It was really quite the reverse. Those that went to visit them were encouraged by these relatives of the martyrs whose attitude was, “We’re praying to ask God to rescue them from the circumstance.” When it became clear that the only way they would be rescued is if they would renounce Christ, they were praying that they would stay faithful.
They knew that when they were beheaded, it was because they remained faithful to Christ. This is something that is worth losing our life for. By the way, if not that, what? Do we really want to say that, and maybe some will, I think, that there’s nothing worth dying for? That is, worth some people will risk their life not expecting they will die, but know it’s a possibility. People go to war or run into a building or things like that. In this case, though, they know they will die if they do not recant. The question now is is anything, if that isn’t enough justification for giving your life, then what is worth dying for? What else is worth? What higher than God? It strikes me when you say, “Not that, not even that,” our lives then become the most important thing in the universe. I just think that’s the wrong attitude.
Certainly that. Then the question becomes, now I think down the line, what kinds of doctrines would you risk dying for? Probably in history, there has been occasions when people were dying for doctrines. I know this happened with Christians by other Christians or others in Christendom.
Melinda: Some of the reformers in England and Scotland the early reformers.
Greg: Certainly here in England. I’m thinking, who’s the fellow there that was burned at the stake right there in Oxford? They put a spot on the street where it happened?
Greg: Not Tyndale. Tyndale was before him, but he was one of that crowd. There were a whole lot of people that were executed because of their work at distributing the word of God to the average person. It took it out of the hands of the laity, which at that time was the priests of the Catholic Church. It wasn’t just Catholics versus Protestants. There were, you know...We were talking at another time about being baptized again. There were the Anabaptists who would teach that you should be baptized again if you believe in Christ as an adult, even though you’ve been baptized as a child. Boy, they got it from both directions. The Anabaptists were brutalized for all kinds of Christians.
Melinda: Some may also not realize that Martin Luther was hunted. There was a price put on his head. He had to hide for many, many years. In fact, he got a lot of his work of translating the New Testament into German done while he was in hiding.
Greg: Right. Now, I wouldn’t die for baptism, personally. It’s, many Anabaptists were murdered because they believed that. That doesn’t mean they chose to die for that. They were murdered as the representatives of a group that some thought had heretical notions. I’m thinking of Martin Luther too. Yeah, and look at the people nowadays who have a price on their head because of the teaching against Islam, and in favor of Jesus being the son of God. I actually think that the things that we ought to proclaim and the face that we ought to hold onto and proclaim, even though it brings risk to us in certain environments, that list, it runs a little bit deeper than just-
Melinda: Denying Christ.
Greg: Denying Christ. Quite a bit deeper, probably. That doesn’t...It’s...I had another thought. No, I lost it. Yeah, it does, and there are Christians now that are dying, putting their lives on the line for that, just as Martin Luther did for the Gospel proper. What is the Gospel? What is justification? The idea that justification is by grace alone, through faith alone, through Christ alone, all of the Solas. These were actionable offenses in their time.
Melinda: The account that you gave us about the Libyan families praying for their family members to be released, but then praying that they would not renounce Christ, it just strikes me that they may...Obviously, it was a very difficult thing for them to do, but it also seems like it took little or no thought on their part. I think some of these Christians living in these other parts of the world have to live with these possibilities much more than we do in the West. They’ve thought about some of these things, about what they’d be willing to die for.
Greg: Yeah, they decide in advance. They know where their loyalties lie. We have Christians in our country now who sadly are waffling under the duress of name calling.
Melinda: Yeah, just peer pressure.
Melinda: Next question comes from Floods34: “If miracles are by definition rare, would you not consider a conversion to Christ a miracle, since those are not rare?”
Greg: Well, see all of...The answer to this turns on the definition of a miracle, okay. I wouldn’t say that miracles are by definition rare. What if, look at the Virgin birth, okay? That’s a miracle. What is it that makes it a miracle? Is it that it’s a miracle that it’s unique and it hasn’t happened before? What if it happened to ten people? Would it be any less a miracle if God did that with ten people? I don’t think that’s a part of the definition. Plus there’s an excellent two volume work out right now called Miracles by Keener, Craig Keener. K-E-E-N-E-R, that is really meant to make the opposite point.
David Hume’s famous argument against miracles in the nineteenth century was that, and that has taken hold of the intellectual crowd since then, is that you are not justified in believing something that is so unusual and rare, so to speak. Any testimony to something so bizarre is going to be so outside of the normal, natural bounds of things that you will not be justified in believing it to be true. I kind of butchered that a little bit, but it’s pretty close to that.
Greg: Some Humeans are kind of cringing. It’s kind of like that. What Craig Keener’s trying to show is miracles aren’t rare. Period. Here is the testimony after testimony after testimony. He goes into great detail. That’s why there are two volumes. They’re thick. They’re not pop. This is not pop Christianity stuff. This is dense. There are thousands. I almost said tens of thousands, but it could very well be, over ten thousand footnotes in this. It’s very, very well researched. It’s an superb book. I commend it to anyone who wants to claim that miracles are rare. I don’t think they are rare.
They are not commonplace, but that isn’t like they happen every day to every person, but even if they did, again depending on how you define miracle, which has got to be something kind of out of the ordinary and an act of God and some other things too, I still don’t think that miracles being rare is going to be part of the definition.
Melinda: In the beginning of Jesus’ ministry, it seems like, I mean as many miracles as are mentioned in the Gospels, that there were a whole lot more because there were, the word was getting around. There were times he had to sort of tamp down the conversation and say, “Don’t go talk about this,” because the word could get out, and they could come after him sooner than his time was ready.
Greg: That’s right. In fact-
Melinda: He goes to his hometown early in his ministry after he’s already done some miracles in Galilee, and they expect him to do miracles there, because they’ve heard about all the other miracles he’s done other places.
Greg: Some tricks. Right, right.
Melinda: He was doing a lot.
Greg: John says, in the end of his gospel that, “If you took all of the wonders that Jesus performed, you could fill the books of the world.” It’s hyperbole, but it does make a point that Jesus was working miracles all the time. He says he selected a few to put in his Gospel to encourage our faith in Jesus. This is the end of John chapter twenty. In any event, it gives the impression that Jesus was working lots of miracles. Would we want to say, “You know, Jesus, you did like fifteen in a week. We’re going to just have to quit calling this a miracle, because you know, you’re just over your quota of miracles, so now they’re just going to have to be kind of pretty cool things. And if you do very many more, we’re just going to have to call them ordinary.” No, I don’t think that makes any sense.
Melinda: What is the definition of a miracle?
Greg: I don’t know. I-
Melinda: You’ve got an idea.
Greg: Yeah, I just offered some. Keener says that it’s an act of God. I mean, that’s a piece of it. There are a lot of things in our lives that are acts of God. One that was suggested in the question was regeneration.
Greg: Conversion. I don’t think when we’re discussing miracles, we want to include that in with our definition. We want to distinguish the kinds of attesting miracles that were done by Jesus and the prophets, etc., from something like the wonderful act of God called regeneration. Philosophers have struggled with definitions for a long time. That’s part of the difficulty of miracles.
Melinda: Would you say part of the definition of a miracle is going against the laws, the normal laws of nature?
Greg: No, that’s one that’s regularly taken exception with by philosophers. That is, it’s not like you’re going contrary to the laws of nature. What they want to say is that you are, that the laws of nature are just exempted here. They don’t apply under these circumstances. That might be mincing words for some people. In these more refined conversations about this definition, there are reasons why they want to make that kind of distinction. That’s a little beyond me right now. That’s why I can’t recall all the particulars. This is part of what I’ve read.
Melinda: Okay. Next question, “Is it wrong to be involved in creating a film with a pro-LGBT message?”
Greg: Well, is LGBT, lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender.
Melinda: Bisexual, transgender. Q plus-
Greg: That is the pro...Let’s just call it the pro-homosexual message. Is homosexuality good or bad? This is our first question. If as a Christian, you are convinced as I am that homosexuality is an egregious wrong before God, then how do we justify and again involve, that word involve was a little...It depends how involved one is. How do we justify having a significant role in advancing a film that encourages people to do what God calls abominable?
I think the hard part there is, “Well wait, maybe I’m just like a tech at, in Hollywood, and all I do is flip switches and turn the lights on, and focus, whatever. You know, and does that really count?” This is where somebody’s going to have to make their own decision. I think Hollywood’s a tough business to be in because so much of the stuff that’s produced is not just ungodly, but it’s anti-God.
I have friends, as you do, Melinda in the industry. Some of them have, could be much, much higher up in the business than they are if they hadn’t said no to a lot of things they said no to out of conscience. I think, in general, I think it’s wrong to be significantly involved in an enterprise that promotes something that God says is wrong.
Melinda: You’ve, I mean some people we know in the entertainment industry, they’ve asked you your advice in the past about taking a role on, this or that. In general you’re, a general principle has been even if the role you’re playing is a bad, evil person, what is the general message of the program or whatever it is?
Melinda: If it’s telling the truth overall, you could participate as that evil character if they’re shown to be evil.
Greg: Sure, you-
Melinda: A pro-LGBT message is not telling the truth.
Greg: That’s correct. If you aren’t careful about how you characterize this, then you wouldn’t even be able to play a movie in the Bible. You wouldn’t be able to play Judas. Judas was bad. The message, and that’s the big thing. Is the message being communicated here? Does it characterize things in their accurate sense? I was a big fan very early on, a long time ago, when I was in high school, of Camelot. I loved that movie. Camelot has a very big adultery theme in it. It showed the destructiveness of adultery. I think there it told the truth about it. It didn’t tell a lie about it. That’s the distinction you’re talking about.
Melinda: Okay, that’s it for this week, folks. This little studio’s getting hot and stuffy. I’m going to get out of here and let you spend two more hours in here.
Greg: That’s right.
Melinda: Just breathing your own carbon dioxide. You can send us your questions on Twitter. Use #STRask. We post two episodes every week, Mondays and Thursdays. I’m Melinda The Enforcer, with Greg Koukl, for Stand to Reason.