Greg discusses whether it is necessary that the Christian read his Bible to follow Jesus, his preferred Apologetic Methodology, if formal church membership is biblical, and if “mother nature” is the same as God.
- Is it necessary that the Christian read his Bible to follow Jesus? Is it sin if the Christian does not read his Bible?
- What is your preferred Apologetic Methodology and why?
- Is formal Church membership biblical?
- Is “mother nature” the same as God? If not what else to say? Substituting God for Mother Nature seems like taking his name in vain.
Melinda: Hi, this is STR Ask. I’m Melinda the Enforcer with Greg Koukl.
Greg: You hit a high note there, didn’t you?
Melinda: I’m a girl. I do have high notes.
Greg: It was kind of a higher, “Hi!”
Melinda: You wanted me to remind you to say where you are right now.
Greg: That’s right. I am in Wisconsin right now. Man, I’m probably catching a fish even as we speak.
Melinda: You’re actually on your way to Wisconsin.
Greg: I’m on my way to Wisconsin?
Greg: Oh, that’s Tuesday.
Melinda: This is posted on Monday, the day after Mother’s Day.
Greg: Oh, I am on my way to Wisconsin. That’s right. I was supposed to be leaving two days early. That’s right. I was supposed to leave two days earlier, but then we got a call from Craig Hazen.
Melinda: An email.
Greg: An email.
Melinda: They needed you.
Greg: They needed me.
Melinda: To fill in for J.P. Moreland. Second string for J.P. is pretty good.
Greg: Man, it is very hard to turn that down. He has done so much for me, and Craig is such a dear friend. I’ll be down on Oceanside on...
Melinda: You have been down on Oceanside.
Melinda: You have been down on Oceanside.
Greg: Well, I have been.
Melinda: Right now, you’re on your way to Wisconsin right now.
Greg: Yeah, I guess there’s no reason for you to mention it.
Melinda: It’s tough living in the future.
Melinda: It’s very confusing.
Greg: Boy, was it a great session.
Greg: I did so well.
Melinda: How did you do fishing? Since you predicted the future.
Greg: I think it’s going to be a great time, actually, in Wisconsin, because I contacted one of my fishing buddies up there. He says, “Hey, the weather is just right. You’re coming up. It’s going to be prime.” He put a “prime” all caps. That’s like yelling. Prime! Pre-spawn action.
Melinda: Your voice hit a high there.
Greg: Well, I was trying to imitate the all caps thing, yeah. Anyway.
Melinda: This is a short podcast. We don’t have time for your fishing stories.
Greg: Okay. I’ll tell you the fishing stories when I get back.
Melinda: On the long podcast. By the way, don’t forget we still have the long podcast, the regular podcast, where we go in depth in topics. You can still call in with questions and comments, give Greg a piece of your mind, have a discussion with him. Not just submit 140 characters on Twitter. There’s a virtue for that, but there’s a virtue for the long program, too. Tuesdays, 4 to 6 pm.
Greg: I thought I was going to be fishing.
Melinda: Well while you’re fishing, we have Brett sitting in and then Alan sitting in.
Greg: When Alan gets back from New Zealand, we’ll want to hear about that.
Melinda: By now, he’s back from New Zealand.
Greg: He is back. Welcome back, Allen.
Greg: You’re right. It is kind of hard living in the future.
Melinda: It’s hard to keep everything straight.
Melinda: Here we go, which is why the B theory time doesn’t work, because everything happens now.
Melinda: Okay. First question. On this podcast, you submit your questions on Twitter, use #strask so we can find them. That’s the name of the show. This comes from taco_terrance. “Is it necessary that the Christian read his Bible to follow Jesus? Is it a sin if the Christian does not read his Bible?”
Greg: Well, yes it is necessary. Okay? I’m just going to...
Melinda: It’s the bread of life.
Greg: Yeah. I’m going to offer a generalization, but I want to qualify it. Being a Christian is not based on how much you read your Bible. It’s based on what you believe, that is trust regarding Jesus. When you become a Christian, you are a follower of Jesus, and it is very hard to follow Jesus if you don’t know anything about him. You can’t just say...
Melinda: Even if you do know about him, if you aren’t constantly feeding yourself from his Word, and teaching, and letting the Holy Spirit work there.
Greg: It’s easy to forget. The way I put it, Melinda, is that I think that my time in Scripture continues to remind me of what reality is actually like. I have many voices in my life – fewer than most frankly, because I’m not a TV watcher – but I have many voices nevertheless telling me what reality is like, and they’re wrong.
Melinda: Are they all in your head?
Greg: You know what I’m talking about.
Melinda: That’s another discussion.
Greg: That’s right. There are people evangelizing all the time, and it’s one of the reasons that if we don’t evangelize our children and disciple them, somebody else will. Everybody is out discipling after a fashion. What I need is to have my mind renewed by being in the Word. There’s an ebb and flow to this. Sometimes I’m more in than others. When I’m traveling a lot, and I’m up at 0 dark thirty, and I get back late, and I have a full day, I don’t spend a lot time in the Word. It just isn’t the way it works. Other times, I have to refresh and renew and have that working in me on a regular basis so that my life is informed by Biblical things.
Being a Christian doesn’t require that you read the Bible. It requires that you trust in Jesus, but being a disciple of Jesus requires that you read the Bible and that if you’re not a disciple of Jesus, then it’s hard to make sense of what you are, because a Christian is a follower of Jesus. The disciples were first called Christians in Antioch. Those in Antioch understood that Christians were those who followed Jesus. I’m going to put it that way.
I think the second half of the question was, “If you don’t read your Bible, is it a sin?” Well, if you’re never reading the Bible, then you are not doing as God wants you to do. If you are not doing as God wants you to do, that’s the definition of sin. Now that doesn’t mean that we’re at a position to say every time a person is idle and not reading their Bible, we charge them with sin. That’s not really the point of it, but if a person is never spending time nurturing that relationship with God for which he was made, then he is not doing as he ought before the Lord. When you don’t do as you ought, that’s a sin.
Melinda: There have been times in my life where I haven’t read the Bible regularly and times I’ve rediscovered, and I am committed to the rest of my life how important it is. I think of it like Psalm 1, either I’m a tree...
Greg: Firmly planted.
Melinda: Firmly planted by the stream and healthy and growing and drawing from God’s water.
Greg: Streams of water whose leaf does not wither...
Melinda: We’re all so withered and spiney.
Greg: This is just a perfect example.
Melinda: In bad shape.
Greg: You are able to draw from the teaching of the Word to remind yourself of what you need to prosper, and there’s the instruction right there in Psalm 1.
Melinda: We need a constant flow of it through our lives.
Greg: I remembered better than you did, but that’s not...
Melinda: You’re better at memory. I get the point of it.
Greg: Just saying, that’s all.
Melinda: Sorry. You can’t remember people, but you can remember Bible verses. That’s good.
Next question comes from drakejoe52153869. Hope that’s not his phone number. “What is you preferred Apologetic methodology and why?” First, maybe explain to some people what Apologetic methodology is.
Greg: Sure, yeah. There are different ways to approach the project of defending the faith, so there are classical Apologists. There are people who do presuppositional Apologetics. There are evidential. There are historical Apologetics. There are these different categories that people have identified. There are one-steppers, and there are two-steppers. There are just lots of different ways to approach this project. However, they all really fall into two categories, two main categories, that are philosophically similar to families.
You have what’s called presuppositional Apologetics. Presuppositional Apologetics is the domain completely of reformed people. Reformed theology, Calvinistic, that is all who our presuppositionalists are, Calvinist, and there are reasons for this. It isn’t like you can’t be a presuppositionalist, but it’s because of certain theological commitments that are the impulse to presuppositional Apologetics. If you don’t share those commitments, then you’re probably not going to be compelled by that approach. It isn’t like they’re saying, “Sorry, you’re not Calvinist. We won’t let you join.”
There’s presuppositionalist, and then there is, the way I put it, everybody else, because everybody else is kin with each other in their ideas and methodologies in a way that presuppositionalists are not. There is a different approach based on different theological commitments. By the way, you can be reformed and not be a presuppositionalist. That’s the way I would identify myself. RC Sproul is an example of critical presuppositionalism, wrote a book against it, but a classical Apologist himself yet still reformed.
All the other ones fall in a similar category that you might label evidentialists. I would be in that category. I’m an evidentialist that is sensitive to presuppositions. In this regard, I would say I’m a lot like Francis Schaeffer.
Melinda: Taking the roof off.
Greg: That would an example. Francis Schaeffer did take advantage of presuppositional techniques. Taking the roof off is an example of one of those. Another one is called the preconditions of intelligibility, and so you do a transcendental argument. What that means, in fancy language, is there are certain conditions that have to be in place for anything to be intelligible. That is for you to have an argument, you have to have laws of logic in place.
What kind of universe is something like laws of logic at home in? Well if you’re not a theist, it’s going to be hard to make sense of all of that. The preconditions of intelligibility are the kinds of things that are only at home in a theistic universe which then becomes an argument for theism. The idea there is, without even looking at any of the evidences, the case would go, we could just look at what is necessary to have any kind of argument at all, and atheism would be excluded and some form of theism has got to be true.
On the presuppositions of atheism, you can’t make sense of the world. On the presuppositions of theism, you can. You can’t have an argument even on the presuppositions of atheism, but they do have arguments. That means deep down inside, they must be, at some level, presupposing a Christian worldview or at least knowing about it even though on the surface on another level, they are rebelling and adopting a foreign presupposition. That’s the presuppositionalist approach.
An evidentialist has a very very different kind of approach, though he can use presuppositional tools.
Melinda: Just real quickly, why is it, at Stand to Reason, we don’t really talk about the methodologies very much?
Greg: Well I don’t think it matters.
Greg: I think if you look at Jesus and the disciples and the way they defended the faith, if you will, they gave reasons, rationale, arguments, resurrection fulfilled prophecy. They referred to Scripture, which is a big thing for presuppositionalist, and I think it’s important. It has its place as well. My goal is just to mimic the apostles and Jesus. Give a reason for the hope that’s within you.
Melinda: Next question comes from jesse_yoder on Twitter. “Is formal church membership Biblical?”
Greg: The way to answer that is to go back to Scripture and find something that corresponds with formal church membership. I don’t know of such a passage. I’m pausing, because I want to be careful with my terms. I’d say it’s not Biblical. Now there is a difference between non-Biblical and un-Biblical. Non-Biblical means it has no reference in Scripture. It doesn’t show up. It doesn’t mean it’s wrong. If something is un-Biblical, at least the way I’m using the terms, it means that it goes contrary to Scripture, and that would be a problem.
I would say church membership is non-Biblical, but it’s not un-Biblical. It’s not in the Bible, but that doesn’t mean it’s contrary to the Bible. There are some practical benefits for having it. I’m not against it as a general practice. I just don’t think it is a requirement for being a Christian or to being part of a vibrant community of Christians in a local setting.
Melinda: Now do you think, because in the early years of the church, most towns, it wasn’t like they had multiple congregations to choose from. If you went to church, you were automatically a member of that congregation.
Greg: Yeah, because there weren’t other choices. You wouldn’t go to one place here and down the street.
Melinda: By attending a place was your formal membership.
Greg: Yeah. It would be informal in membership.
Melinda: Well yeah.
Greg: It would be de facto membership.
Melinda: Sometimes, perhaps, to carry out some of the functions of the church, some kind of formal membership is helpful, because things like church discipline. I can’t think of others right off the top of my head, but some of the functions of the church are better carried out when there is a formal association of membership as opposed to just informal where you bounce around to different congregations.
Greg: I think more in church polity than in discipline. I think that if there’s a reason that a church has to vote to get something done, you want the people voting who have explicitly identified themselves as members of that congregation and that community, not just, “Okay, whoever is in church today, you raise your hand. We’ll take a vote.” You have visitors, you have stray folk, or whatever. There’s a way of maintaining a little bit of order and having the people that are the meaningful members of the community participating in the decision-making of the community. I think that’s a practical benefit for it.
Just like in the early times, you said, if there’s only one community there, that was membership. You’re just going to it. That’s the way it is for a lot of people. I don’t know of that... I’m trying to think of the churches that I had long-term relationships with. I don’t know that I ever formally signed my name and said, “I am a member.”
Melinda: You were a pastor at Hope Chapel. You didn’t...
Greg: I never signed it.
Melinda: Well at Hope Chapel, they would talk about, because it was a very large church with a lot of people coming...
Greg: That’s right.
Melinda: Then they also talked about the book-signed members.
Greg: That’s true, but that... I guess, maybe. I don’t recall, but I must have been. Book-signed members are people who can vote about things.
Greg: That was the practical concern that I was talking about. I think there are practical advantages for church polity, but what I think is important is that you’re associated with a local community whether it is, in an sense, formal or not. You need to be a de facto member of a community.
Melinda: Last question comes from welch64. “Is Mother Nature the same as God? People who talk about Mother Nature, are they basically talking about God? If not, what else to say? Substituting God for Mother Nature seems like taking his name in vain.”
Greg: Well it’s not taking God’s name in vain, because you’re not using God’s name. You’re talking about Mother Nature, so you might be taking something away from God, but you’re in violation of that commandment. When people say “Mother Nature,” they are trying to... I have actually pointed this out many many times to people, that they actually believe the universe is designed for a purpose. This is why when we look at the intricacies of the natural realm, we invoke a person, because it appears that a person has actually done something, but we don’t invoke Father God. Instead, we invoke Mother Nature. The reason we don’t invoke Father God is because we don’t God. There is something self-presenting about the teleology of the universe, the order of the universe, the design of the universe. We cover that with Mother, Mother Nature. “Look at the glories of Mother Nature.”
I’ve asked audiences sometimes, “Why do we say Mother Nature?” “Oh, that’s just a way we talk.” Yes, but why do we talk this way? We really believe, if we’re naturalists and physicalists and materialists, that it’s just time and chance. The cosmos is all there is, ever was, and ever will be. There’s no order to it. It did not have us in mind. Why do we say “Mother Nature?” It’s just because, as Richard Dawkins admitted in the opening paragraph of his book “The Blind Watchmaker,” speaking here of the biological realm, he said it’s a complex world that has the appearance of having been designed for a purpose. Now he says the appearance is deceiving, because it hasn’t been designed for a purpose. It was the blind watchmaker that did it. The blind watchmaker is his way of referring to Mother Nature.
People use the phrase “Mother Nature” to get rid of God, not to refer to God. I think there’s a little bit of dishonesty there, because it is a tacit admission that the world looks designed and a person’s involved, but it’s also an attempt to say the person who is involved is nobody.
Melinda: Didn’t Mother Nature do a butter commercial?
Greg: Yes. That didn’t last long, because they learned it wasn’t nice to fool Mother Nature, and apparently, they got on her wrong side. They ended that particular series.
Melinda: That’s it for this week, folks. You can send us your questions on Twitter. Use #strask, the name of the podcast. We post a new episode every Monday and Thursday, twice a week, available in the usual places. I’m Melinda the Enforcer, with Greg Koukl, for Stand to Reason.