In 4 min. or less, Greg answers questions about the web and Christianity, Heaven, and what if Christianity is false?
- Is the internet and easy access to information hurting belief in Christianity?
- What will Heaven be like? What will we do in Heaven?
- How would it affect your life if you suddenly recognized that Christianity is just another false man-made religion?
Melinda: Hello there. I’m Melinda the enforcer. This is #STRask Podcast. Greg Koukl showed up yet again, two in a row.
Greg: Did you get new glasses?
Melinda: Well, I bought them a couple years ago, but I had them at home. I actually bought them at Anthropology because I like them. They were reading glasses, but I had them fitted with my prescription for my desk.
Greg: Oh, okay.
Melinda: You like them or are they weird?
Greg: Well they’re a little more styling than I’m used to seeing you wear.
Melinda: Yeah they are. That’s very true.
Greg: They are nice.
Melinda: Thank you. They’re kind of blue cat eyes. If you live long enough, styles come back. I started off with cat eyes.
Greg: Yeah, these were popular in like 1962.
Melinda: In the ’60s. Yeah. My first pair of glasses were cat eyes and they had little jewels in the corner. These don’t have jewels, they’re blue.
Greg: Not quite. They have a little insignia though kind of thing.
Melinda: Yeah, there’s a little thing there.
Greg: It’s just suggestive of the old days.
Melinda: Yeah. A modern update.
Melinda: That’s me, a modern update of an old thing.
Greg: Just wondering. Something looked different.
Melinda: Yeah, that’s it. Greg is back here again. This is the Thursday episode of #STRask. Send us your questions on Twitter using that little code and I will find your question and most likely pose it to Greg. You ready to go Greg?
Greg: Yes, ma’am.
Melinda: Got less than four minutes to answer. Is the internet and easy access to information hurting belief in Christianity?
Greg: Well, that’s a little bit hard to say. I’ll just make a conjecture. I think that in a certain sense it’s neutral. I think that those who are looking for reasons to be confident in Christianity will find things and their confidence will be strengthened. I think those looking for reasons to attack Christianity will find that too, and then their own skepticism will be strengthened. Then you have the cross over effect. That is you have Christians who find things on the internet that shake them up, and that’s enough to give them their walking papers. Then you have the opposite. J. Warner Wallace began listening to Stand to Reason while he was still an atheist, the podcast. There are a lot of people who come to our website who are not Christian, but find the kinds of things on there that God uses to bring them to Christ.
My temptation is to think that on the issue of apologetics it is largely neutral. However, when it comes to other issues like moral issues, a lot of people walk away from Christianity for moral reasons. They find that it begins making a moral demand on certain behaviors. Now the internet is most popular for pornography. I mean, that is the single ... That is the thing that gets, from what I understand, more traffic than any other thing, and most other things combined. Does this have an impact on Christians? Yes, and it isn’t good. It’s adequate to undermine their effectiveness as followers of Christ, and I think also can be used, can be a factor in completely walking away from Christ.
I’m thinking, I’m not going to name any names here, but I’m just thinking of people that I’ve heard for example that were pastors that got involved in illicit relationships and got caught and decided to give up Christianity and their pastorate and all that rather than give up their relationships, which stuns me because some of these people I knew. I’m just so surprised. There is obviously a corrupting influence of this kind of thing, of illicit sexuality in the lives of believers. Kids go away to college and one of the biggest problems that they have there with regards to Christianity is not the apologetics, so that’s part of it. It’s the moral issues. They are confronted with circumstances where they could do what they want when they want with no one giving them a hard time, and many times even applauding their expression of sexual freedom. Unless they are very committed to Christ and self-governing, they give into this. Then that becomes the real reason behind some of their so-called academic objections to Christianity, their apologetics issues.
I think when it touches on the academic side, the pros and the cons of Christianity, that goes either direction. When it touches on the moral issues, definitely the pornographic element of the internet has devastating capabilities in the lives of Christians. This is why ... Just don’t even go there. Don’t even go close to that.
Melinda: Yeah. It almost seems quaint to think 15, 20 years ago we as communities we would argue about putting playboy magazines behind the counter in drug stores so that kids couldn’t just walk up to them and get them.
Greg: Or X-rated movies in hotel rooms that you could subscribe too.
Melinda: Yeah, and now of course, kids have access to all this stuff on the internet.
Greg: Yeah. Those X-rated movie things have just gone out of business because of the availability of the internet and a keystroke so to speak.
Melinda: Yeah. I think also just for the sexual pressure that is put on students when they leave home, I mean just how widespread all this is, and the internet seems to allow for there to be even more peer pressure of “everybody is doing this, everybody is expected to have sex. You can’t not.” I think that becomes an even more powerful force than it was before.
Greg: Right, I think that’s part of it, but I think the most powerful aspect of the internet is the anonymity.
Greg: That is, you have complete access and complete privacy.
Greg: That, I think more than anything else. I remember when Jim Dobson was still with Focus on the Family and there was a national appeal that he headed up to get Hiltons and Marriotts, et cetera, to take this stuff off the TV set so you couldn’t just choose and purchase that movie or whatever while you were there. He said, “It’s one thing for men to try to hold the straight and narrow when there are other supports around, but when they’re all by themselves, they have a moment of weakness, it just takes a second to kind of hit that button on the TV and get it.” You’re right, now that sounds kind of quaint as we look back on it because it’s so far beyond that.
Melinda: The anonymity of that hotel room is now any time on your device.
Greg: On your device. At least in the hotel room, the video still showed up on the bill.
Greg: Now you don’t have any ... There’s no way to track it. History can be erased, all that kind of stuff.
Melinda: Of course these are these moral things, pornography being the prime example you’re siting, are foot holes that Satan will then use to erode our faith.
Greg: That’s right. It’s very, very powerful. Exactly.
Melinda: Yeah. Josh McDowell has been doing a lot of work in this area of ...
Greg: “One Click Away” I think is the title.
Melinda: ... Yeah, pornography and how widespread it is and sounding the alarm of helping parents of churches and talking about the importance that parents in churches have to face this head on. If you go to his website, josh.org or josh.com, there’s lots of information there. I know I saw him a couple months ago and they were coming out very soon with like a new book or curriculum or something like that. It’s a good resource for lots of stuff there.
Okay, next question comes from Ehammil. What will heaven be like? What will we do in heaven? I know you talked about heaven a little bit.
Greg: In The Story of Reality, yeah.
Melinda: Right. You kind of struggled with that chapter because you really wanted to try to give people a taste of what heaven was like.
Greg: Yeah, and this is the difficulty because you can read books about people who went to heaven and decide for yourself whether these are credible or not in terms of how they describe what heaven is like. You know, when I read those books, in some ways I’m encouraged, but other ways it seems like ... I’m not sure exactly how to express this. It’s almost like a holiday picnic or something. It’s just like everything is fun and dogs are running in the flowers, and we’re looking at the sunset. I don’t know.
Melinda: Floating around on clouds, relaxing.
Greg: Whatever, yeah. I mean, it’s a real place. Earth is a real place that is remade for us. Something about these stories are meant to capture this, and there visions that people have had, near death experiences. Here’s what I did for The Story of Reality, though. I kind of pursued C. S. Lewis’ approach. Instead of trying to describe what heaven, in a sense, looks like, I tried to describe what we know heaven will in a certain sense be like. For example, what I talked about was how we would be clean. We have never experienced being fully clean. Now, we understand as Christians that we’re forgiven, and that’s really refreshing and uplifting, but we understand we are forgiven even though we are still dirty. We are sullied, not only with our own sin, and the sin others have committed against us, but the sin we have committed against others. That’s always a factor.
What will it be like when there will be no sense of being dirty, but we will be fully and completely cleansed? I think this has enormous existential ramifications, that will have an enormous impact on the way we experience that new life. That, I think, that’s one thing I tried to focus in on. I tried to focus in on the idea that we will be with the Lord. There’s so many things that get in the way of the wonder of that relationship. I’m always aware of my personal inadequacies in terms of intimacy with God, but there won’t be anything to be in the way of that. We will be his and he will be ours, in addition to all the other wonderful things that we will experience there. For example, being reunited with people that are Christians that we love. As they say at funerals, “Don’t worry, they’re in a better place. You’ll see them again.” Well, that isn’t true of everybody. They’re not in a better place and they’ll never be seen again. For the Christian, we have that promise.
All of that is wonderful, but then there’s going to be this other thing. It’s hard to get our hands around it so to speak. It’s very esoteric. It’s just beyond us to really sink our teeth into, is that being with God. Here’s the way Lewis put it. He’s just a marvel as far as I’m concerned. He said, “The door that we have been knocking on all of our lives will finally be opened.” Wow, that almost takes my breath away. To me that has a greater impact on my heart than all of these descriptions of frolicking in fields with rainbows and flowers and whatever like I read in those books.
Melinda: It’s like complete and continuous satisfaction. I mean, even the satisfaction in things that are meant to be enjoyed in this world, it’s still temporary and fleeting.
Melinda: Absolute, complete and continuous satisfaction.
Greg: Every once in a while I have a dream that I’m in heaven. I have this in a certain sense momentary or fleeting sense of rest, in the sense that there’s no stress. There’s no stress like “I’ve got to do this. I’ve got to accomplish that. I’ve got this thing to do. I’ve got the other thing.” Even when we’re relaxing and resting here and now on vacation, I don’t know about you, but for me a lot of it is hard to stop. There’s things to do that are important. I like accomplishing things. I like getting things done. I don’t really enjoy just sitting for very long. In this dream, I am involved in activity, but there is a sense in my soul that there is no obligation pressing on me of any kind. That itself creates a wonderful sense of rest.
I didn’t write about that in The Story of Reality, but that is something – again, existentially, in terms of my own experience, of feeling about it that I have. Once in a while, it’s been a long time, but once in a while I have a dream like that where I just think, “Wow, there is safety. There is rest.” If you think about someone, a very good relationship where you’re – maybe marital relationship or friendship – where you’re together and you feel completely safe with another person, there’s a certain sense when something inside of you lets go and relaxes. Well, that’s the way it’s going to be in heaven. I don’t think of pictures of things about heaven. I think of ...
Greg: ... Of this sense of things. That’s what I tried to capture in The Story of Reality.
Melinda: A lot of Christians forget that God is going to create a new heaven and a new earth. We were created to work, and we will have work and activity, but like you said it won’t ...
Greg: It won’t be toil.
Melinda: ... It won’t be toil. It will be restful and fulfilling and all that kind stuff.
Greg: Satisfying, that’s right. That is a reality. There’s a new heavens and a new earth, so our abode will be on this earth, but it’s going to be so completely different.
Melinda: Well, not this earth, another one.
Greg: Well, that’s part of the debate. This earth will be remade, so it’ll be recognizable. In any event, my point is not to focus in on those. That’s part of the wonder that’s hard.
Melinda: No, I know, but I just wanted to add that because a lot of people ...
Greg: Pardon me.
Melinda: ... I think I was reading N. T. Wright that really made me kind of remember that, because a lot of us just sort of think heaven is the final destination, and it’s actually not.
Greg: Right. We’re kind of locked into this gaze upon God and nothing happens except for just in this rapture and this whatever.
Melinda: That’d be okay.
Greg: You know who has got a good book about this? It’s called Heavenby Randy Alcorn. He answers ... The book is very thick and it answers lots of questions. He goes through the text and tries to explain it. That’s some place some people could go.
Melinda: Okay, good. Next question, two minutes. How would it affect your life if you suddenly recognized that Christianity is just another false manmade religion?
Greg: Well, if I said it would not affect my life very much, that would be an indicator that Christianity was not having much of an influence on my life right now.
Greg: If that were the case, you know if I fulfilled that requirement right there, I discovered Christianity was just another manmade religion, it would turn my life completely upside down. Okay. Everything that ... My life has a telos, it has a direction. Virtually everything – it’s moving towards a goal – and virtually everything about the goal of my life is tied up with The Story of Reality. Christianity is a picture of the way the world actually is. It’s almost like asking a person, “What if you found out that you weren’t really the person you think you were, but that was all a fantasy and you’re really somebody else that’s very different?” You would think that changes everything. I think that would be the case for me.
Though there’s a certain momentum to the virtues in my life. You know, I’ve tried to build over time certain virtues that would carry me through. I think this is what a lot of Christians would say: “well not much would change because my values would still be the same.” To which then atheists could say, “well, then God doesn’t determine what your values are”. I think they’re mistaken in that case. I think they’re just identifying the fact that you build a momentum, you build character and then you live those values out even if the foundation for those values you discover is gone. It’s kind of like ethical habits.
Melinda: They’re kind of ingrained at that point, yeah habits.
Greg: Ethical habits are still going to be largely in place, but there’s a lot of other things that would change. Then I’d start thinking there is no real deep virtue in me saying no to things that would give me certain pleasures. Why would I say no when I can experience pleasure by something that I no longer think is wrong.
Melinda: This is the only chance for pleasure.
Greg: This would be the only chance for pleasure if the alternate worldview was some kind of materialism. It would change significantly. It would change everything on the deepest level. I don’t know why anyone who is a follower of Christ, who is a committed follower of Christ would say any different.
Melinda: Mm-hmm. Good. Well, thanks. Appreciate that. Send questions on Twitter using #STRask. We pose them to Greg. Put him on a timer. We post two new episodes every week, Mondays and Thursdays. I’m Melinda, the Enforcer, with Greg Koukl for Stand to Reason.