Wednesday, July 20, 2005

True Faith or Theological Oblivion?

What do you think it means when someone quips, "keep speaking your truth"? Does it mean that there are several different "truths" out there? If so, my question is, how can they all be correct at the same time?

The third question above is similar to what Christian Apologist Greg Koukl asked New Age guru Deepak Chopra on a recent episode of "Faith Under Fire." But like many other non-believers of the Christian faith, Chopra attempted to trap Greg with the question. This is the question which, inevitably, most Christian apologists are asked.

However, this particular question is not asked in order to find the truth. Nope. It is more often asked as a mechanism to trap the Christian while engaging in debate. You see, if someone words a question right, they can win any debate.

Dr. Chopra asked the question during his debate with Koukl. It was a classic case in point. In fact, I have heard Larry King ask this very same question several times, especially when interviewing Christian evangelists like Billy Graham. Dennis Prager has asked Greg this question when he was a guest on his radio program. What is the question?

Here's the question, as was presented in Chopra's own words on the "Faith Under Fire" episode: "Then you're saying that people who don't believe just like you are going to Hell?"

Fortunately, Greg was able to share that this wasn't the point that he was making. Greg's point was different. Since Chopra and he were grappling with serious issues no one could avoid - God, truth, salvation, eternity - everything rides on their answers.

Their discussion wasn't idle banter. Ideas have consequences. Everyone is inevitably involved and eternity is at stake. If Chopra is right and Koukl is wrong, he loses. If the reverse, Chopra loses - and so does everyone who reads his books, attends his seminars, or watches this debate and believes what Chopra says.

Second, Dr. Chopra's goal was not to clarify a theological point. In the course of this debate it was obvious that he was losing ground, so he offered up a challenge he hoped would tip Greg off balance, with the goal being to discredit Greg with the audience.

I watched this debate and saw this as it happened. It was so obvious to me that Chopra was attempting to gain "debating points" rather than addressing the true, serious issues being discussed (i.e. God, truth, salvation, eternity).

If Greg had answered directly - "Yes, people who don't believe just like me are going to Hell" - the debate would have been over. Chopra's query would have succeeded at painting Greg with an ugly stereotype, and he knew it.

People wouldn't have heard, through Greg, this important exchange about faith and truth, the voice of Jesus calling all men to repentance, offering reprieve and rescue from a judgment they will all face. Instead, they would hear exactly what Chopra intended them to hear: conceit and condescension, an ideologue wishing people into Hell simply because they disagreed with him.

Are you involved in Christian apologetics? Does this sound familiar to you?

This confrontation between Koukl and Chopra taught me a lot! It taught me that "the" question misses the point. It taught me that I need to tell them everything is at stake and everyone is at risk, including you and me!

Each of us will have to stand before God and give an account. That's the reality, and it's not good news because we're all guilty in the final analysis.

But there is another reality that is good news. God has provided clemency if anyone accepts the pardon He offers through Jesus Christ. What could possibly be better than the kindest mercy of all - complete forgiveness instead of the punishment that we all would deserve?

This encounter between Koukl and Chopra taught me that I can sidestep the traps set by skeptics and scoffers while still telling the truth. If you are a Christian and are reading this I'm sure that you can relate that this is not always easy. Jesus' claim that "Unless you believe that I am He, you shall die in your sins (John 8:24)" is less popular now than ever. As ambassadors for Christ, we must be prepared to clarify Jesus' point.

This encounter between Koukl and Chopra taught me not to let anyone twist the truth. Whether they do it subtly with semi-flattering words like, "keep speaking your truth"; in other words, "that's true for you but not for me"; or whether they do it more directly in order to paint you or I as a conceited, condescending, sterotypical ideologue in front of others with their main purpose being so that they can discredit you.

Here are some great comments that were posted regarding this broadcasted episode.

***

KP stated:

"Messengers of an Impersonal God?

I watched Greg Koukl and Deepak Chopra discuss the future of faith on Lee Strobel's Faith Under Fire last night. Dr. Chopra has written numerous books on New Age spirituality that have sold millions of copies. Greg did a superb job of representing the gospel in content and character, modeling the qualities of an ambassador that he and the folks at Stand to Reason seek to instill in others. He repeatedly demonstrated the problems with religious relativism and exposed the fact that, contrary to his denial that he is dogmatic, Dr. Chopra adheres to a theological position of which he seeks to persuade others.

As a sign of respect for Jesus, Dr. Chopra said that his teaching in the Sermon on the Mount is among his favorites and that he carries a copy of it with him. However, he considers Jesus only one among a number of God's messengers. Not only is this a contradiction of the biblical witness to Jesus' uniqueness, it's also unintelligible given Dr. Chopra's own concept of the nature of God. You see, Dr. Chopra emphatically denies that God is a personal being.

The concept of messenger presupposes two activities, both of which can only be performed by persons. The first is that of sending or commissioning.

The summer before I went to college I worked as a messenger for a law firm in Manhattan. They sent me and my co-workers on various assignments to deliver important documents to other firms and businesses. I didn't decide what my destination was to be. Nor did I decide at what times I would go on these errands. All of that was dictated to me by my employer. The messenger is one who is sent by someone not something.

The second activity presupposed by the concept of messenger is communication. A messenger is one who conveys a what? That's right - a message. The task of a messenger is to convey some kind of communication from the one who sent him or her to the recipient. If I were to tell you that my toaster wanted me to tell you something, you'd think that I was either joking or something was seriously wrong with me. That's because we know that toasters and other impersonal entities don't communicate. So, how Dr. Chopra explains the concept of an impersonal God having messengers, I don't know. I don't think he can."

***

JRW stated:

"I only got to see from about 20 minutes after the hour, but Greg Koukl of Stand to Reason graciously, fairly, kindly, steamrolled Deepak Chopra on Faith Under Fire last night. I mean, it wasn't even fair. Wasn't even close. TKO first round, except the fight kept going. I have no idea how Greg managed to wrangle the whole hour---the biggest draw-back to Faith Under Fire has been that you have to address big issues in picoseconds, and sometimes you just can't do that very well. So, to get the whole hour with a single "opponent" was quite the coup, and resulted in a much better encounter with a much clearer result."

***

I sent the following statement in to the show:

"This broadcast was absolutely fabulous! Greg Koukl pointed out the fact that people can have differing beliefs regarding faith, but that it is logically impossible for them all to be true at the same time.

His trust in Jesus Christ and God's Word stood in direct contrast to Deepak Chopra who admitted "embracing his uncertainty." Koukl's view demonstrates a steadfast and true faith where Chopra's view can only lead to theological oblivion."




12 comments:

Traci said...

The question is not really "How many truths are there?" But rather "How can anyone claiming to have THE truth treat others with such disrespect and hatefulness?" Jesus taught LOVE. Judging is not the job of humans. Judging belongs to God. When we judge others by telling them they are not doing "faith" the right way, we are taking on the job that rightfully belongs to the creator. How dare we presume to know what that higher power will do regarding another person. We are all imperfect and it would take a better spirit than any one of us to really know what the reasons are behind anyone's words and actions. Peace.

Christinewjc said...

Traci,

Jesus told THE truth during his 3 year ministry on earth. In fact, he claimed, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except by me." For this, he was hated, disrespected and accused of blasphemy.

Yes, Jesus taught about love. He also taught about truth, faith, hope, the reality of mans' sin, the penalty for sin, the need for mans' repentance, how to receive forgiveness, God's grace, judging RIGHTLY, loving others as he has loved us.

Jesus also talked more about hell in the Scriptures (and that it is a place to be avoided) than about heaven. His first visit to this planet was for salvation. His second and final visit will be the Judgment.

In several encounters with people, Jesus pointed out their sin (the woman at the well living with a man who wasn't her husband), and sometimes, he also pointed out the sin of those around the person being accused (the adulterous woman). He did not condemn the woman caught in adultery, but neither did he condone it. He told her, "Leave your life of sin." This is what Christians are to do as ambassadors and messengers from Christ. We are called to help people find Christ and live life to the fullest. Jesus said, "If you love me, you will keep my Commandments." He didn't come to abolish the law, but to fulfill it. This was because we, as imperfect, free-willed and sinful human beings are incapable of keeping the law perfectly. But when born again, the Holy Spirit indwells and helps us avoid sin because we love Jesus and desire to obey Him.

I can share more detail about any and all of these comments if you are interested.

Many people, unfortunately, misinterpret the Bible verses on the topic of judging. People often quote the Bible as saying, "Do not judge others." What it actually says is, "judge rightly," and that means according to the teachings of the Bible. Jesus judged rightly when he stated, "Unless you believe that I am He, you shall die in your sins (John 8:24)" Do you deny that this is a judgmental statement?

God is holy and righteous as well as loving. In previous posts, Stephen asked you which is more loving? Then he gave you a series of choices. You "judged" what would be right out of all of those choices. What does this tell you?

Traci stated: "When we judge others by telling them they are not doing "faith" the right way, we are taking on the job that rightfully belongs to the creator."

Let me ask you. Does it matter in Whom or what we place our faith in? How do we know which is correct and which is incorrect? Is there a way to know for sure? Yes. The Bible is God's Word to mankind, contains the ONLY way for sinful man (all of us) to be reconciled to Holy God. The Scriptures reveal absolute truth and, most importantly, the Person of truth, Jesus Christ, to show us the way to peace with God. I notice that you often place the word "peace" at the end of your comment. Jesus Christ is the Prince of Peace, my friend, and I pray that you find Him because he is waiting for you! That "better spirit" that you mentioned in your post is the Holy Spirit of God and he takes residence in the hearts of all who believe in Jesus Christ. He is there, right now, on the outside, knocking at the door of your heart every day of your life. The question is, will you let Him in?

On_Fire_For_God said...

Christine,
Thank you for a great lesson in, amongst others, evangelism. One of my fears when confronting a non christian is to seem too "Holier than thou." And /or to seem to the other person judgemental. I will copy this post in my documents if I may.
Thanks and God Bless you!
Lepido (On_Fire_For_God)

Anna said...

Hi Christine -

I think every Christian has faced this question at one time or another. This post was great. I wish I had seen the debate.

Our discussions are not limited to particular sins. EVERYONE is in the same boat with regard to needing salvation. We all have been given a free will. However, the Bible tells us our choices have consequences. Deuteronomy 27 and 28 is a classic example of this. All through Proverbs a certain course of action is urged with the consequences of obeying or disobeying given.

God knows what will bless our lives and He knows what will cause us to be destroyed physically, emotionally and spiritually. So He urges us to choose life. His Word is our standard, our plumbline if you will. It is the owner's manual, God's love letter to us and His revelation of who He is all rolled up into one.

Blessings,
Anna

Traci said...

Christine, I spent my entire life studying the bible up until 7 years ago. I could sit here and debate with you forever. The truth is while it would be interesting in the extreme, it would get neither of us anywhere.

I came from a religious organization as convinced they are 'right' as you are convinced you are right. If I were still a member of that organization I would be telling you how wrong you are to believe in hell among other things. The fact is I am no longer part of that organziation for reasons that you would never understand.

Stephen's question to me was just that...a question to me. I made no judgement, I made a choice. There is a difference.

I appreciate that you believe with all your heart that you're right in your words and your scripture quoting and all of that. I applaud you for having such strong beliefs.

My point is...and was when I wrote my first reply to you...every person who has a belief system, has that set of beliefs for a reason. They may believe the words in the bible and they may not. You may tell them they're going to hell and perhaps they will...but maybe they won't.

The real truth about life is that we are all different, we all come from different places and we all have specific reasons for the things we believe and the things we do. To say that the bible you read is better than the Koran that muslims read is simply human arrogance.

Whatever comes after this life, if anything, is not for those of us here to know at this moment. We BELIEVE we know what comes after but...do we really? Have we ever seen it?

And, if it turns out that you are right and all of us who don't believe as you do actually die when Jesus or God comes to this earth a second time, well then you can stand up and flap your tongue in victory while we are all too dead to do anything about it.

I choose to believe differently than you...and I made that choice based on a lifetime of bible study, people study and life study along with a goodly amount of indoctrination and brainwashing. I will spend the rest of my life searching and praying and meditating and perhaps I will be a better person for it all. Perhaps I won't be. That, my dear, is not for you to judge. You are one human being in a sea of human beings. Nobody gave you, or any other person, the right to tell another soul what to do or what to believe.

Yes, we were made with free will. Yes, we get to make choices. Yes, sometimes we make inappropriate choices. Yes, we face the consequences for those choices. Whatever happens...the end result is the same.

We are all human beings...on this earth together...for this moment in time. Whether you stand watch as the rest of humankind is burnt up in a fiery burst, or those of another religion stand and watch you destroyed by the hand of god while they inhabit the earth forever...right now...at this moment...what matters is humanity.

I will believe for the rest of my days that telling someone they are wrong because they don't believe as you do...is not the way to reach their heart. That is my belief and my choice. My days of judging anyone are over. It is not my job. Nor is it yours.

Peace to you and yours Christine.

CrackerLilo said...

About multiple truths, it's very simple.

Answer this question: What is the best soda?

I think Diet Pepsi with Lime is the tastiest. But some people are allergic to lime, or just plain hate it. Some prefer Coke. Some want sugar. Some can't have caffeine. And some people don't drink soda at all!

But if I say "Diet Pepsi Lime is really good," and my mom says "Diet Coke is really good," and my L'Ailee says "A Powerade is so much better than any soda," is one of of us lying?

Or are we each speaking *our* truth as we know it?

Christinewjc said...

Crackerlilo,

You think comparing one's choice about a particular flavor of soda is comparable to one's choice regarding the future destiny of their soul?

Jesus is speaking in these verses:

Matthew 16:26 (NKJV)- For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?

Mark 8:36(NKJV) - For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?

Same verses, NLT:

Matthew 16:26 (NLT) - And how do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul in the process? Is anything worth more than your soul?
Footnote:
Or your life; also in 16:26b.

Mark 8:36 (NLT) - And how do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul in the process?
Footnote:
Or your life; also in 8:37.

Christinewjc said...

Traci,

I can see that you are not prepared to answer any of the questions in my previous post. You choose to use precisely the same comment (though worded a bit differently) that Chopra and others who try to discredit Christians in order to "win an argument" often use.

Just like him, you hoped others reading here would hear exactly what Chopra intended them to hear in his debate with Koukl: "conceit and condescension, an ideologue wishing people into Hell simply because they disagreed with him."

I wonder. Did you even read the original post? If so, did you understand what was being said? If so, is it that you choose to ignore the important points being discussed?

Must be.

You also ignored my follow-up post questions.

My next question will probably go unanswered (just like my previous questions to you) because it is similar to the one that Jojo asked. Most of our questions have been simply ignored by you.

In case you missed Jojo's, here it is:

Jojo stated: "Hello! I have been reading your posts here and am curious as to what you believe about God. Could you tell me about your faith and beliefs?"

My questions: Have you given up searching for true faith? Or, do you now submit to something similar to what
Chopra admitted to: "embracing his uncertainty"?

CrackerLilo said...

You think comparing one's choice about a particular flavor of soda is comparable to one's choice regarding the future destiny of their soul?

No, but soda's a real and documented thing that most of us have experienced.

It's called an analogy, dear.

Saltnlight said...

traci:

" Judging is not the job of humans. Judging belongs to God."

You are so very wrong. 1 Cor 5:3 Even though I am not physically present, I am with you in spirit. And I have already passed judgment on the one who did this, just as if I were present. verse 5 hand this man over to Satan, so that the sinful nature may be destroyed and his spirit saved on the day of the Lord.

Because we have the Word of God we do know what God will do with the one who refuses His dear Son who poured out His life on the cross, and to the one who continues to live an unrepentant life.

Saltnlight said...

tracie:
There is nothing more sad than to read what you wrote here. It says, mind is closed and will not reopen for business.

I do not know where you were 7 years ago as you "studied the bible" mbut it is evident that you were not filled with the Holy Spirit for had you been you could have understood far better than you so at this time. May I say,being part of a religious organization and being botn again and having a relationship with the living Christ are two distictly different things.

Being born again only comes to those who beleive and trust in Christ through faith. Faith is that wonderful thing that says I will trust no matter what I do or do not understand. See, Tracie if we understood all we would be Gods but there is only one God.

We have not seen the hell that awaits unrepentant man but by faith we believe that God is not a liar. You say we don't know there is a hell because we haven't seen it well, HEB 11:1 Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.

Tracie, these are mysteries to the unsaved but clear for the ones who belong to God.

"based on a lifetime of bible study", wrong bible study, done in the flesh and not in the Spirit.

I do not see where Christine told you or anyone else what to believe or how to believe it. I think she was trying to give you the truths that would save your soul. It is entirely up to you to take or reject them. There is no need for you to become mean and bite the hand that offers food. The last statements you made were harsh and unnecessary.

Though it is sad but, you have made your choice.

Saltnlight said...

Crackerillo:
And a very poor one at that since we are discussing the life that spends eternity in either heaven or hell, and the perfect sinless Son of God Who gave His life to save you and me.

The point was and is your eternal existance, not some choice in what to eat or drink or wear.