Christian Living

#STRask: March 30, 2017

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Published on 03/30/2017

In 4 min. or less, Alan answers questions about introducing apologetics to your church, annihilationism, and “the platinum rule.”


  • I may be able to do two one hour adult Sunday school classes to introduce apologetics at my church, what should I present?
  • If annhilihationism is undoctrinal because God will not destroy what He creates, how come sentient animal souls are destroyed?
  • What do you think about the platinum rule: “Treat others the way they want to be treated?”


Melinda: Hi there. This is Melinda the Enforcer. This is #STRask the podcast. This is STR’s short podcast. And I’m here again with Alan Shlemon. Hi Alan.

Alan Shlemon: Hello.

Melinda: You don’t dance like Greg or do weird things as the show starts.

Alan Shlemon: I don’t. My wife wishes I would.

Melinda: She wishes you would dance?

Alan Shlemon: Yeah. Well she did, she was a ballet dancer for, I don’t know, 18, 20 years.

Melinda: Well, I can definitely see that, but she doesn’t want you to ballet dance does she?

Alan Shlemon: No.

Melinda: She likes to dance?

Alan Shlemon: She does all kinds of dancing. Yeah, so I mean, she made me take ballroom dancing at one point, and a whole bunch of other things, so. I don’t know. I don’t have a lot of coordination with my body. I don’t trip or anything when I walk, but when it comes to dancing, yeah.

Melinda: Okay.

Alan Shlemon: I just, I don’t.

Melinda: Well, I’m not saying the dancing Greg does there at the opening is necessarily beautiful.

Alan Shlemon: Well, that’s true.

Melinda: Or elegant either. It’s just sort of obnoxious.

Alan Shlemon: Because I’ve seen that. Yeah it is.

Melinda: But -

Alan Shlemon: I could dance obnoxiously, that’s it.

Melinda: He’s usually trying to make me laugh at the beginning of the show, or do something to throw me off. So, this is our short podcast. You send us your questions on Twitter using #STRask, and then usually Greg, sometimes Alan, and sometimes Brett, has four minutes or less to answer the questions. And we try to give a decent and substantive answer in that time. You can’t give all the details, but you can give the core of the answer. So, let’s get going. First question comes from Relevant Belief, “I may be able to do two one-hour adult Sunday school classes to introduce apologetics at my church. What should I present?”

Alan Shlemon: Well, I would first thank the person who’s given that opportunity. So they could win them over and have other opportunities even after these two opportunities to teach these Sunday schools.

But I guess three things come to mind when I think about maybe introducing someone or a group to apologetics. The first is something that a lot of us at STR do, and that is we typically will try to role play a person who is not a Christian to a Christian audience. So, in other words, I know Brett’s done this where he’s role played an atheist. I do this where I role play a Muslim. I know Tim Barnett sometimes, I think he role plays a Jehovah’s Witness, but I’m not sure, but I know he’s done an atheist thing as well. But I would see if you can, if you feel that you are able to do this, but if you can, I strongly encourage you to do so. And that is at least for the first maybe, I don’t know, 10 or 15 minutes, just role play a person, a skeptic, a Muslim, a Mormon, an atheist, whatever it might be to the Bible study, or is it -

Melinda: Sunday school.

Alan Shlemon: Sunday school, sorry, Sunday school and what this does is, it shows people the need for apologetics, because oftentimes what happens is when a believer role plays a non-believer, the Christians often don’t have a good answers or responses, or behave in a way that is becoming of an ambassador for Jesus Christ to the person role playing a non-believer. And what this tells the audience, it tells the Bible study, I’m sorry I keep saying Bible study, Sunday school leaders and the people watching is, “Man, you know what, we’re not doing a great job of responding to some of these really basic challenges that are being raised.” And so this in essence communicates the need for apologetics without out rightly just saying, “Hey, you know what, the church needs apologetics. The church needs to be doing so and so.”

Melinda: It helps them feel the need.

Alan Shlemon: Yeah, they feel the need, and it becomes very real. So, I would try to do that for, at least at some point. Preferably at the beginning of those two opportunities. The second thing I would do is, I would probably try to present, at least a minimal case, or I should say an apologetic for apologetics. In other words, I would try to show why the Bible, why the Apostle Paul, why Jesus teach that apologetics is something that is Biblical and commanded by scripture. And it doesn’t have to be that the whole session is on that, but I would certainly lay that out. Because I think a lot of people think that this is some sort of optional thing, “Oh, understanding the life of the mind and apologetics. Well, that’s just an extra thing. It’d be like studying all the different views on the rapture, you know,” and I don’t think that’s the case. I think scripture, and Jesus, and Paul taught it, modeled it, and it’s commanded for us to all learn it. So, that would be a second thing that I’d incorporate in those two days.

And the third thing I’d say, is try to find some practical apologetic teaching that people can turnaround and use right away. And I always go back to Greg’s material on tactics. Tactics is excellent introductory apologetics material, because first of all, it’s very fun to learn and to practice. Number two, it’s very easy to learn, and number three it can be used immediately. People can stand up after the Sunday school is over, and turnaround and start asking, “Well, hey what do you mean by that? How did you come to that conclusion?” And you just even see audience members joke about that immediately after they stand up, and start to dismiss and move on to something else, they remember those two questions. And so, again, they’re practical, they’re easy, and I just think audiences respond really, really well to them. So, I’m sure Greg would be fine with you, you know, borrowing that.

Melinda: I think that’s why he wrote the book.

Alan Shlemon: That’s right, that’s why he wrote the book. So.

Melinda: But yeah, and it’s training that’s, whatever the question that comes up, it can be used. You don’t have to memorize, you know, memorize or learn the answers to certain questions and hope those are the questions that might come up in a conversation. This is just ways to maneuver in a conversation about any topic.

Alan Shlemon: That’s right, yeah. Tactics can be applied to absolutely any topic, in any situation, and with anyone. So, it’s so practical. So, I would recommended those three things.

Melinda: And I don’t think we talk about this enough here at STR, but like your first, I think it was your second point, I think we have to connect, really connect it back and show why apologetics is really just part of evangelism. Most Christians, even if they don’t do it, know they have a duty to evangelize.

Alan Shlemon: Right.

Melinda: But a lot of times, they don’t engage in it, because they’re uncomfortable, they’re afraid of the questions they may get asked. And really more and more in our culture, many people we talk to aren’t even going to have a basic understanding of Christianity anymore. They don’t have the basic, we don’t have a similar worldview that we can draw on. And so, you’re going to deal with more objections, and more challenges, and more questions than you would have 30 years ago in evangelism.

Alan Shlemon: That’s right. I mean, people who care about evangelism, which should be of course all of us since we’re all called to proclaim the message of reconciliation. But if we care about evangelism, and we’re evangelizing other people, chances are the other people that we’re witnessing to aren’t all going to say, “Yes, I believe what you’re saying. I’m going to accept Jesus Christ right here.” There’s a good chance that there’ll be something that will come up in their mind that will be a cause or a reason why they will not accept the Gospel. The very next words out of your mouth are going to be apologetics. They’re going to be like, “Oh well, tell me what’s going on? Did you misunderstand something? What’s going on?” And that’s going to be then apologetics. And so, that’s why I often say, if you care about evangelism, you should care about apologetics, because apologetics is a means to the end of evangelism and sharing the Gospel.

Melinda: Next question comes from John Cogan, “If annihilationism,” excuse me, “If annihilationism,” that’s a hard word to say when you have a cough.

Alan Shlemon: Yeah, we should pray for you too. Greg’s back and your cold.

Melinda: There’s just like H sounds in there that put a lot of air through. “If annihilationism is undoctrinal because God will not destroy what he creates, how come sentient animal souls are destroyed?”

Alan Shlemon: So, the question presumes this idea that God will not destroy what he creates, and I don’t know if that’s exactly true. Because God created the heavens and the earth, but it sure seems like God’s going to destroy those and recreate them. I think the more...the better way to characterize this idea of God not destroying what he creates, is to say, especially as it pertains to annihilationism, is that God will not annihilate an image bearer of Himself. So what that means is human beings are made in God’s image, and so therefore, so the argument goes is that God will not snuff out image bearers by annihilating them. And instead, that’s why Hell is sort of an internal quarantine where God puts human beings that are made in His image in that place, because he would rather do that, rather than to annihilate them.

Now, the question is about, also has this idea, well how come sentient animal souls are destroyed then? Because they have souls, we have souls. And I think the distinction here would be that human beings, yes, they do have souls, but we’re also made in God’s image, which is something that animals do not have, they are not made in God’s image. So while we, I would argue, have a spirit, which is that group of capacities that allow us to relate to God, I don’t think animals have that. Animals are not made in God’s image in that sense, and so therefore, for God to destroy an animal is not a big deal. He’s not destroying an image bearer of Himself. And for that matter, like the heavens and the earth, I can destroy them and then recreate them in the afterlife, if he wants. I sure hope so, because I’ve seen a lot of baby - I follow an Instagram feed on baby animals, and they’re super cute.

Melinda: I know.

Alan Shlemon: I know. I just shared that, but I probably shouldn’t’ve in public, but that’s me.

Melinda: That you admit that you do that. So, you mentioned that God’s going to destroy the heavens and the earth and recreate them. So, why couldn’t he do that with human beings? Destroy us, annihilate us, and then in the future recreate us?

Alan Shlemon: Well, our bodies in a sense do get destroyed when we die. We are separated from our bodies, but then, our bodies are resurrected and reunited with our souls at a future time. But that’s different than God annihilating our souls, and destroying them. Our souls will continue to exist for an eternity. And so, as I said earlier, yeah destroying the heavens and the earth and even animals is not a big deal, because no image bearer of God is being wiped out. Whereas in the case of a human being being annihilated, including not just his body but his soul, well then God’s wiping an image bearer of Himself. So, I think that’s the distinction. I mean, we could be wrong about Him not doing that, but that’s the relevant distinction in my mind.

Melinda: At least for the question between the animals and humans.

Alan Shlemon: Right, as it pertains to animals and humans, yep.

Melinda: The next question C. Annaker, “What do you think about the platinum rule, treat others the way they want to be treated?” I haven’t heard of this platinum rule is that something?

Alan Shlemon: Well, yeah. So, I haven’t heard a lot about it, but obviously, the platinum rule is a variation on the golden rule. So, of course Jesus talks about the golden rule.

Melinda: Is platinum better or worse than gold? I’m not sure.

Alan Shlemon: Well, I guess it depends on like if it’s a race or something like that, bronze medal, silver medal, gold medal, and then is there, I don’t know, I don’t know if that’s how it goes. I don’t think that’s the purpose of the question.

Melinda: Okay.

Alan Shlemon: I think what’s going on here, obviously the golden rule being, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” In other words, treat other people the way you’d want to be treated. You know, ask yourself, “Would I want to do this? Would I want somebody else to treat me this way?” If not, then don’t do it to the other person.

Now, the platinum rule seems to be a variation of that, “Treat others the way they want to be treated.” So, the question is well, what do I think about that? I mean, obviously, they’re drawing upon Jesus’s words and His fairly well-known golden rule, but I don’t know, perhaps they don’t like it’s coming from Jesus. And they think they’re sort of improving on it by saying, “Well, really it’s not about treating others the way you’d want to be treated, but rather treating others how they would want to be treated,” as if that’s like a greater good. And I mean, in a sense, it’s not a huge deal on its own. Right? I mean, sure if you meet somebody and you know they prefer to be treated this way, well, that’s not a big deal.

My only concern would be, because I don’t know kind of what’s behind this question. I mean, if they’re for example, engaged in say sexual sin, and they’re like, “Well, I want to be treated in a non-judgemental way. I want to be able to come to church, and engage in sexual sin, and not be called out in my behavior.” Well, that’s not something that we are free to comply with. Yeah, they might want to be treated that way, but if that’s what is going on behind the question, then I think we don’t have the freedom to follow that rule. And I would hope that any Christian would think, “Man, if I’m engaged in sin then I would want other believers to call me out in sin, because man, I don’t want to be in a place where I’m disobeying God, and you know, and doing something that is willfully sinful, you know.” So, I mean I think that’s what’s going on here, some sort of variation.

It’s probably maybe the context isn’t even about non-Christians, or about Christians but perhaps even about non-Christians. I don’t know, but to me, that’s kind of what I see just a variation on the golden rule, and you know, thinking that it might be better to say, “No, let’s care about how other people want to be treated.” Which again, is not bad in itself, but depending on how they want you to treat them, that may not be possible for you.

Melinda: I mean, there may be people who want to be mistreated, and yet, we couldn’t do that.

Alan Shlemon: Right.

Melinda: And nobody should do that.

Alan Shlemon: That’s right. There’s probably a lot of examples of situations where people might want to be treated a certain way, but that would not be the moral thing to do. So.

Melinda: Because they’re, like in the previous questions, they’re image bearers, they have intrinsic value.

Alan Shlemon: Right.

Melinda: They’re not masters of their own destiny.

Alan Shlemon: Yeah. And I think, I mean perhaps we’re even thinking about this too much. I think Jesus is just giving a good general principle, “Hey look, when you behave, just ask yourself the question. Would you want someone to do what you’re about to do to them? Would you want them to do that to you?” Like no, this is a great way to sort of intuitively ask yourself, whether what you’re about to do is right. You know? So, I think it’s a great example, I mean great principle that Jesus gives. I endorse Jesus’s principle.

Melinda: I’m sure he’s happy to get that endorsement.

Alan Shlemon: “Thank God Alan agrees.”

Melinda: Well, thank you Alan very much for your wisdom, and for endorsing Jesus, we appreciate that. Thanks for sending us your questions on Twitter, keep sending them in using #STRask. We gather them every single week and have a list, and we’re working our way through them. This is the second episode this week. We post every Monday and Thursday. And don’t forget the regular podcast. It’s still every Tuesday 4-6 PM. Call in, usually talk to Greg, but talk to Alan or Brett sometimes, and you can have a longer conversation with them about, more in depth topics. So.

Alan Shlemon: That’s right.

Melinda: Thanks Alan for doing this, we appreciate it.

Alan Shlemon: Yeah, you’re welcome.

Melinda: I’m Melinda the Enforcer for Stand To Reason. Buh-bye.