2018 Summer Academic Series: Skeptics Night
Dr. Bennett: Good to see everybody. Good. Alright. I’m Chip. I am the pastor of the church. We’re excited to have another academic series starting for this summer. This will be videoed. It will be, eventually, put on the web. It will eventually go onto the mobile app as well. So, it should be a great night. Let me give a couple of background things before we get started, and then we’re going to get into it because I don’t want to waste too much time here with preliminary things. A couple of real quick things that would be important for everybody. We are asking you to write your questions on 3x5 cards for a couple of reasons. One, because we’re recording this, we want to make sure that the questions get adequately conveyed to those who would watch via the mobile app or the internet. We also know that if you can write your question without having a microphone in your mouth, you might be more inclined to ask a real, personal question that might feel a little foreign if you were the one that had to ask it in public. So, we want to make sure that we honor all of that by the way we’re doing it.
So, please, please, please get your questions ready. We will collect them. We’re going to do everything that we can to answer all the questions, but please understand we only have five hours. Right? No, sorry. We have two hours. And we’re going to try to maximize that to the best of our ability. Once again, I want to communicate this to everybody. This is the third year that we’ve done our academic series. These evenings are educational in nature. They’re not doctrinal. We’re not trying to convince you to some position. We’re really here to do this as an educational forum. So, everything that’s said up on the state tonight doesn’t always necessarily reflect what Grace Community Church believes or anything like that, and everybody up on stage is going to probably have some differing opinions on stuff. I’ve not filtered them. I’ve not told them, “You’ve got to answer it this way.” I’ve said, “You answer it however you want to answer it and we’ll deal with it because we don’t want to bridle anybody.” This is what we’re doing here. The biggest reason I do these academic series’ is because I want Christians to realize that we can have disagreement on certain issues and we can still be people that love Jesus. And that’s really important to understand.
So, that being said, we’re going to get kicked off. If you have your questions, you can go ahead and start passing them down. We’ll have some ushers come and get them. And then, if you could, if possible, if you have in your row some room that you could scoot down — and I know that nobody likes to do that. We like to have our own space and you don’t like to get close, probably, to the person next to you. I understand. Hopefully they showered today. Anyway, please, please, please make sure that you can scoot down so we can get as many people in here, because it seems like more people are still coming in and we want to do our best to make this as comfortable as we can.
So, that being said, questions, if you want to start getting them, we’ve got buckets coming around. We’re going to do this. I want to bring to the stage the three professors that we’ve got here for this evening. Come on up, guys, and I’ll introduce you. Come on. Give these guys a big hand. Alright. We’ve got there guys here. We’ve got Dr. Braxton Hunter. Braxton is a pretty talented and well-known apologist. He’s shared the stage with William Lane Craig to Mike Licona to all those guys. A really talented individual. Johnathan Pritchett, Dr. Pritchett is here. He is a New Testament guy, all around apologist and does a lot of stuff. A lot of podcasts, a lot of debates and so on and so forth. And then we have Dr. Leighton Flowers here as well. His area of expertise is soteriology.
So, everybody here sort of does their defense of things in a different way. It’s like doctors. You know? You’ve got specializations. So, in apologetics, which is a defense of our faith — a lot of people think that apologetics is like we’re apologizing for the Bible or we’re apologizing for Jesus. It’s a word that means to give a defense. So, basically, what we’re going to do is do our best to do that. And I do want to say, once again, there are no questions that we don’t want you to ask. One of the things that I’ve tried my best to do as the pastor of Grace Community Church — because I realize this is the case — is many people don’t go to church because they say that they won’t allow you to ask the real tough questions. That’s what we’re doing here tonight. Ask away. We’ve got a great panel, some smart people, and they’re going to be able to do their best to answer the questions. And we’ll try to get through as many as we can.
So, that being said, do we have some questions that can start coming up at least here, and then what I’m going to do is start off real quickly with a word of prayer. Hopefully those questions are on the way up while I pray. Let’s pray. Dear Heavenly Father, we thank You so much for Your goodness and Your mercy. We thank You for the fact that You have sent Your Son, Jesus, so that we could be forgiven and that we could have eternal life. Lord, I pray tonight that, as I know there’s probably people in the room that don’t have any Christian affiliation at all, there might be people in the room that would consider themselves spiritual, but not necessarily Christian. There’s people in the room that would consider themselves a Christian, but maybe they’re thinking about not being a Christian. There’s people in here that are Christians that are looking for answers so that they can continue to be Christians. There’s just a lot of diversity in the room. So, Lord, what I pray tonight is that all of us that are up here on this panel would be sensitive to all of that. And I pray, Lord, that the questions that are really burning, and questions that need to be answered, I pray that You would give us the grace, and the panel the grace to answer the questions in a way that is beneficial to those who are asking.
So, we thank You for all of this. We thank You for the ability to gather and do what we do here. In Jesus’ name we pray, and everybody said, “Amen.” So, here’s the bucket. Oh, man. We’re going to be here forever. Alright. Here we go. B-32.
Alright. First question. Go for it, guys. Here we go. Are you ready? Where do dinosaurs fit within the Bible? Y’all — I ain’t answering.
Dr. Hunter: Are you serious? Well, this is actually a great question that has some underpinning theological issues that relate to textual issues that really have to do with the age of the earth and things like that. So, the best way I think to answer this is to say that within Christianity, within orthodox Christianity, that we would say, “Okay. He’s still my brother if he holds this position or that position.” There are various views related to the first chapter, the first few chapters of the book of Genesis. Particularly Genesis 1. People that take what is known as a “young earth” perspective that believe that the earth is only a few thousand years old, those would kind of be the people that might be more inclined to take a position that dinosaurs and men were living together contemporaneously. Other believers hold to an “old earth” perspective, that the earth is much older than that. Whatever science says. Four billion years old, and the universe itself thirteen to twenty billion years old. And we don’t think — I’ll speak for myself. I don’t think that based on which position you take there it means that you’re not a Christian or I have to break fellowship with you. Even people who hold a position such as theistic evolution, which I don’t hold, where a person believes that God used evolution and that that somehow fits. I wouldn’t say that they’re not my brother.
For some people, though, that hold those positions — the young earth position — and think that dinosaurs lived contemporaneously with man, they would say — some of them would say, not all of them, that if you don’t take a very literal, historical view of Genesis 1, and really Genesis 1-11, then you are undermining major doctrines in the Bible. And so, for that reason, we shouldn’t consider you to be a brother or sister in Christ. I just think that that’s silly. If I talk to 10 people within my own church about the end of the Bible, Revelation, I get 12 different answers about what it means. And yet, if someone has a difference of opinion about something in Genesis 1, we want to divide fellowship over it. I just think that’s silly, but that’s what’s going on there with the placement of dinosaurs. As for myself, what’s the correct answer? This is a great way to start of a Q&A: I don’t know.
Dr. Bennett: Alright. A real heavy one here right now. Who’s going to win tonight? Golden State or Cleveland? Let’s answer this together as a church. Who thinks that Cleveland’s going to win tonight? Okay. That would be the Golden State is probably going to win. There you go. There’s your answer. Okay.
Irreducible complexity. A Christian chemist I spoke to said irreducible complexity is no longer a strong argument because some proteins have been found to self-order. Comments?
Dr. Pritchett: So, there was a guy named Michael Behe who came up with this idea of irreducible complexity. He said, “Well, you can have evolution. But, at some point, you need room for the work of God and design to do it.” And then other people came up with some counter theories and counter evidence to say, “No. We’ve discovered that proteins can self-interlock and break down and form new things.” To me, here’s the thing about all these scientific questions. When apologists talk about science and they’re not scientists, they don’t know what they’re talking about. I don’t know what I’m talking about when I’m talking about science. But here’s what I do know: If somebody comes along and says, “Because evolution is true, therefore Jesus didn’t rise from the dead,” that’s a non sequitur. One has nothing to do with the other. I’m not convinced of evolution, but if I became convinced of evolution, I might rethink how I interpret Genesis. I won’t rethink whether or not Jesus rose from the dead. There’s a huge chasm between the two. I know Christians that work in our seminary who do affirm evolution and they still affirm Jesus rose from the dead. Because, no matter what process God used, He’s still the creator. So, I don’t think much about those kind of issues. I understand how people are curious. We live in a science-enamored culture. We look to science to answer more questions that scientists should be allowed to answer because it’s way outside of their field.
I think science is outside of my field, so I don’t try to answer. I’ve read some of the stuff about irreducible complexity. It’s just not something I focus on. Evolution will not be a barrier for me to — well, now Jesus didn’t rise from the dead because we evolved from some primordial soup. Well, that’s God’s prerogative. I don’t know for sure. I don’t personally think so. But, to me, it really doesn’t matter if this argument about irreducible complexity gets debunked. The track record of science ever figuring a lot of things out is actually kind of bad, and they always change their mind every so often since they started doing science. And I expect that to go on. But the arguments for where I start with is the death and resurrection of Jesus. So, while scientists want to hash that out, I’m going to defend the faith, not arguments for or against evolution.
Dr. Bennett: Okay.
Male: Let’s argue about the suit we’re in, you know? Let’s really talk about what’s inside of it. More than just the vessel — you know, we’re talking about biology. That’s just the vessel. That’s just a reflection of the Spirit that created it.
Dr. Pritchett: I made a C in biology, by the way.
Dr. Bennett: I’m trying to group this —
Male: I can say how it relates because it relates by the main atoms in your body are nitrogen, carbon, oxygen and hydrogen. Hydrogen’s going to relate to water, oxygen’s going to relate to air, fire is going to relate to nitrogen and earth’s going to relate to carbon. And that’s the cross right there. God’s on the cross. Jesus is on the cross. That body’s on the cross. That’s what that body’s made of. That’s what your atomic structure is made of.
Dr. Bennett: Alright. There’s a couple of questions, and I’m trying to group because some of this is in a group. There’s the questions of how do you explain there really is a hell or a heaven? How does hell relate to a good God? So, there’s some questions about hell. Does the idea of hell take away from the goodness of God? Does it take away from — so, those are some general questions that have been asked. You guys can fire away at that.
Dr. Hunter: Okay. There are two questions I hear there. One is, “Is there any good evidence or reason to believe in an afterlife; heaven or hell?” And the other question is, “How does that make sense? How does hell make sense of a just and all-loving God?” I think that those were the two questions that were posed there. Now, in terms of the first of those two questions, is there any good evidence of heaven or hell, I would say two things. First of all, heaven and hell are somewhat system-dependent beliefs. By that, I mean if Christianity is true — and there’s good reason to believe that Christianity is true and you can trust the Bible — well, then I think there’s good reason to believe that heaven and hell are real because I think we’ve shown that the Bible can be trusted. Beyond that, and this is where you might get out your tinfoil hats and think that I’ve really gone crazy here tonight, but I actually think that there is some — now, I don’t want to go wholesale with this, but I actually think there is some good evidence that comes to us from these near-death experiences that we hear so much about so often about today. I actually have a book called “Death is a Doorway” in which I spend two chapters talking about this. And at Liberty University, Gary Habermas is an expert on this within Christianity today. There are so many people now who have had so many similar experiences in this realm that I think it counts as evidence.
Now, what I don’t personally get into is, “Well, what about what they experienced when they’re in the afterlife?” That’s irrelevant. That’s not as relevant to me as can we demonstrate, with good evidence, that they were aware of things they shouldn’t have been able to be aware of when they had no heart rate and no brain wave activity? And these are written up in medical journals by medical professionals who are oftentimes atheists or irreligious. And so, I think there is some good evidence, actually, that comes from those. You’ve got to be careful in which ones you look at, and I give a way of doing that in my book. But as far as the justice of God, Christian philosophers and thinkers have given various answers to this. But if we take the traditional view of hell that it is an everlasting state of separation from God, I admit that that is something that should give most Christians pause. I mean, if you think that you can just brush that off, I don’t think you’re taking it seriously enough. I think that question should be taken seriously. But I think our own innate sense of justice leads us to the conclusion that there is some sense in it, even if it’ll never be emotionally satisfying. I think it can be intellectually satisfying. And I’ll just say this quickly and then I’ll conclude on that. But if I were in my house and my neighbor had a cat and the cat was whining at the window every night — now, how many of you are cat people? Raise your hands. Okay. God will forgive. How many of you are dog people? Dog people? Oh, blessings on you. May your children rise up and call you blessed. We have a dog named Indiana. We named the dog Indiana.
So, if my neighbor has a cat that’s whining at my window every night and it drives me crazy to the point that one night, in a fit of rage, I strangle the cat to death — which I would never do, cat people. But if I did that, there’s a penalty for that. We realize that there should be some justice brought. I don’t know what it should be. Maybe I spend the night in jail. Maybe I pay a fine. Maybe it’s different state by state. I don’t know. But there’s a penalty — and there should be — for, let’s say, sinning against the cat. Right? Not very big. I don’t know what the penalty is because I don’t usually strangle — I don’t ever strangle cats. Okay. But, on the other hand, if I strangled my neighbor, now the penalty is equal to my own life. Right? I might go to prison for the rest of my life. I might receive capital punishment. Who know? Because my life is equal to his in value because we’re both human beings made in the image of God. So, if there’s a penalty for sinning against a cat, not very big by comparisons — sorry, cat people — and if there’s a penalty for sinning against a man, equal to my own life, what would the penalty then be for sinning against an everlasting God? I think your own sense of justice that you could walk through those leads you to the conclusion that it’s an everlasting penalty. And so, even if we can’t emotionally satisfy, I think intellectually we can. And I think it makes great sense of the cross because the everlasting person, the Lord Jesus Christ, paid the everlasting penalty on our behalf so that we would not have to pay the everlasting penalty if we would put our trust in Him and repent of our sins. So, I think that’s intellectually satisfying. Emotionally? Probably not. But intellectually.
Dr. Bennett: Okay. This is sort of going back to the first one, but there’s a lot of these questions. How do you answer skeptics of Christianity who challenge the validity of the Bible based on the Genesis origin story in light of current science? Age of the earth, Darwin, etcetera? Somebody fire away at that one.
Dr. Pritchett: Okay. In Genesis, you have the most debated — not just with non-believers, but among believers. More debated than Revelation, even. And more contentions. But you do have a lot of options. Again, I don’t know anything about science, but when I went to Evansville, Indiana to take this new job, close by was this thing called the Creation Museum. I went and you see the dinosaurs and the people, like in the Flintstones, walking together. And you’re like, “Okay. There’s that.” And they talk a lot about science stuff at the Creation Museum. And then I went down the road to the caverns. The direct opposite of that — Ken Ham, creation answers in Genesis, young earth, seven little days, six thousand years. I go in and I find this cavern where they have books by this man named Hugh Ross who’s a physicist who believes that the cosmos is 14 billion years old. They start talking about how these caverns — it was operated by Christians, and they talk about how these caverns had developed over millions and millions of years. It was very interesting and beautiful. And, because I’m not a scientist, unlike — sometimes scientists get a little snobby and they’re like, “Well, this science over here at the Creation Museum, that’s fake science. But the Hugh Ross is real science.”
And then the atheist scientists will say, “We’re real science and both of them are fake science.” I don’t know. I’m not a scientist guy. But it could be this. It could be Hugh Ross is right and God developed the cosmos over 13, 14 billion years and you can square that with Genesis. He thinks he can square his view with Genesis. The way I understand Genesis is it has nothing to do with science. It’s establishing that God had created and ordered the cosmos from chaos to demonstrate His power and sovereignty over it and to tell the Hebrew people that God is God and all of the little false gods all around Canaan and Babylon and everything else, those gods don’t exist. God put the sun and the moon in the sky. Do you know what that means? They’re decorations for Yahweh’s people to track the festivals. That’s what it says. What that means is there’s not a god powering that sun and there’s not a god powering that moon. I think that’s what is going on in that text. And then there’s ways to interpret Genesis like I do that has nothing to do with questions about science because Moses was not interested in modern scientific questions. He was writing to his ancient audience, not for our contemporary audience. But we can still derive what Moses is trying to communicate in those texts. Yahweh is the sovereign creator who brought order to chaos for His good pleasure.
Dr. Bennett: I think the most important thing with Genesis — and I’ll just jump in here because this is a contentious issue. There are Christians that view Genesis differently. They just simply do. The question is is when we read Scripture, what literature are we reading? Because, you know, obviously when David says, “God covers me with His wings,” we don’t think that God’s a bird. Does anybody think God’s a bird? No. So, we understand that there’s language being employed in Scripture that could be taken in a different way. The question is what is going on in Genesis 1? And I think the most important thing to realize is that what the Bible is definitely telling us is that the world did not happen just by happenstance. God is the creator of the world that we live in. And that is something I think all Christians can agree on. Whether the days are literal 24-hour periods, the Hebrew word is “yom,” that’s a debatable issue. The way it’s written is debatable. But I think the most important thing when people say, “Can we square Christianity with some of the things that science says?” my response would be that Scripture probably isn’t addressing the questions you and I are asking in 2018. It’s addressing questions that were going on in the ancient Near East many, many, many thousands of years ago. And they saw the world differently. We see a blue sky world, a blue world where the globe is there. We see, from satellites, pictures. They thought the world was held up by foundations. They thought there was a firmament above because when it rained they saw the blue sky. So, they figured it was water up there.
Those are some of the things that you’re being told in Genesis. And so, to try to mine that for current science probably is a little bit of a reach biblically, but I think the important thing is that we understand and we affirm that this world did not happen just by happenstance. There was a good that created it, and that’s what Genesis is telling us. It just supposes God created.
Dr. Flowers: And I would add to that what you mentioned earlier, Dr. Pritchett, with regard to the crucifixion and the resurrection. When people bring these questions with regard to Genesis or with regard to the age of the earth, oftentimes when you’re directing them, instead of getting caught up in the debate over all of these secondary matters, if you go back to the resurrection and you can establish the resurrection, then it’s easier to say, “Okay. If Jesus is who He says He was, and He was raised from the dead, then can you trust that He created the earth in the way He created the earth? Can you trust that this took place? Can you trust that the flood took place?” In other words, if you can establish that Jesus is who He says He is — that He’s either a liar, lunatic or Lord, as C.S. Lewis is known to make that argument. He is who He says He is. He either is a really, really good liar, He was either a lunatic that’s just crazy, or He really is the Son of God, who He says He was. And He really did raise from the dead because He said He rose from the dead. So, if He really did raise from the dead, then all of these other things are secondary to that. And I think when you bring people back to the resurrection, you bring people back to the crucifixion, it’s not necessarily saying we’re not going to address those questions. That’s why we have things like this. There are volumes written on the Genesis and how that plays out. But in the normal, day to day conversations that many of you would be having with friends or skeptics, when they begin to ask those questions, instead of feeling like you have to have a doctorate degree in science or become a biologist in order to answer those questions, you don’t. You can point people back to the crucifixion and point people back to Christ.
Dr. Pritchett: Yeah. What’s interesting about all of those questions is as much as you think Christians and non-Christians debate Genesis and science, Christians and Christians actually debate this a lot more among each other than they do with lost people. I would love it for more Christians to go talk to atheist scientists than we’re doing now. Go have those conversations because right now we seem to be in a holding pattern where the Church wants to argue about how we interpret this passage or that passage. And we forget that there’s actually other people that we could go talk to. And when they want to talk to us about what they want to talk about, we listen. And then we say, “I may not know the answers to those questions, but I know an answer to the question of your heart problem.” And then you take them back to the Gospel. And so, I would be happy to see more of us talk to scientists who don’t believe and not even talk to them about science. Let them say what they want to about science, and then we get to the Gospel.
Dr. Bennett: Good deal. Isn’t it arrogant of you to claim the only correct religion is the one that is Jesus-centric or the Christian religion? That attitude says that Buddhists, Jews, Muslims, etcetera are all wrong.
Dr. Hunter: I’ll take that one if it’s okay. First of all, it’s not arrogant to express what you think is true about the nature of reality. We don’t think that religion is subjective in the sense that, “Well, this is my favorite thing, just like my favorite football team, and you’ve got your favorite football team.” We can argue about who’s the best football team. It’s not like that. Those are both football teams. We’re saying that there is —
Dr. Flowers: Unless you’re the Dallas Cowboys fan.
Dr. Hunter: Yes. Well, I don’t watch sports ball, so there you go. But we believe that Christianity actually represents the truth about the nature of reality. And, frankly, I’ve always been a little bit confused by the claim. I understand the sentiment that’s there, and I want to be sympathetic to that. I really do. But I’ve always been a little bit confused about the claim that Christians must be arrogant — now, there are arrogant Christians, but that we must be arrogant because our position is what we call the exclusivity of Christianity; that Jesus is the only way. Because what every Christian should be saying is not, “I’ve got the corner on the truth. Look how impressive I am that I have the corner on truth.” No. We’re actually saying, “We are people who are broken. We are people who make horrible mistakes. We are people that don’t have much figured out. But He knows the way. Jesus knows the way. Jesus is the way.” And so, it’s not me. It’s not that I have the corner on the truth. None of us see it as clearly, but He can actually get us there. He’s the way. He’s the one who has the answers. So, flatly, I’ve never really understood why it should be the case that Christianity claiming the exclusivity of Jesus means that we’re arrogant because we hold that to be true. But as far as other religions, I’ll tell you what. I think that there are true things found within other religions. And so, I don’t think — is Islam false? My answer would be for the most part. They do affirm that there is a god. Now, I don’t agree with how Muslims describe god. But do you understand what I mean? Like, I think there are truths within other religions, but if you want the truth, the way, the life, that’s found in the Lord Jesus Christ, I would say.
Now, if the question is really that individual Christians are arrogant sometimes with respect to other people, now that is a problem and we should be very respectful and loving of other people as we present that truth with them.
Dr. Flowers: One of the greatest illustrations I’ve heard about that was if you were caught in a fire and a fireman busted in and said, “Don’t go that way, don’t go that way, they’re already closed off. You’ve got to go this way. This is the only exit.” No one would call that fireman arrogant or bigoted or any of those other names. You would call him a hero because he’s telling you what he believes is the truth. This is the only exit for your safety. And so, for Christians, if we truly believe that Jesus is who He says He was, the Son of the Living God, the only way, then it’s not arrogant of us to tell people that’s the only way. It’s loving and gracious for us to do so, but that’s why the Bible also says to speak truth in love, not with arrogance, not with pride, not looking down upon them like you have something figured out that they just don’t have figured out. But, like Dr. Hunter was saying, we don’t have all the answers. We’re weak and frail. We know the one who does and point them back to Christ.
Dr. Pritchett: Right. And I want to add — is anyone here familiar with Penn and Teller, this atheist comedy magician duo? Well, Penn Jillette makes the case — he’s a hardened atheist, but even he recognizes that if any one of you in this room believes that Christianity is true, and if any one of you believes that if I don’t believe that I’m going to spend all eternity in hell or I’m going to be annihilated in hell or something and you don’t tell me, you’ve got a problem. That’s sadistic if you don’t tell me about that Jesus. Now, he doesn’t believe in Jesus, but even an atheist like Penn Jillette recognizes that if you believe that and you don’t tell anyone about it, that’s arrogant.
Dr. Bennett: Yeah. And I would even go on to add that as Christians, we’re not the ones that are telling you that Jesus is the only way. We’re simply recording what Jesus said to us. He said, “I am the way,” in John 14:6. You’re welcome to look it up. “I am the way, the truth and the life, and no one comes to the Father except through me.” That is a claim He made, not that I made. And if I’m a follower of Jesus, I have to go with that statement. And so, we can all have the choice. We can go, “He was wrong,” and that’s a choice that we can make, or we can go, “He was right.” And if He is, and we’ve decided to follow Him, we don’t have any other choice as Christians but to say, “Hey, we don’t believe that the other ways are the ways to get you to the Father. We believe that Jesus is the only way.” That is not an arrogant proposition. That is just us simply sharing with you what we truly believe. And so, do Christians do it arrogantly? Yes. Have I done it arrogantly? I’m sure I have. So, we apologize for that, and if we come across that way at times, or snarky, that’s on us. We apologize. But, we do believe, fundamentally, that Jesus Christ is the only way to heaven because that’s what He said, not what I’m saying.
Let’s continue on here. People say there is no more speaking in tongues today. Why? Who’s answering that one?
Dr. Hunter: Not me.
Dr. Pritchett: Well, I’ll go first and then I’ll let Leighton talk about it.
Dr. Bennett: Go ahead. Get you some tongues.
Dr. Pritchett: Okay. People say that and people are wrong. I don’t see anywhere in the Bible that it says people will stop speaking in tongues until Jesus returns. That’s what I see about all the — the Holy Spirit doesn’t go out of business and get stingy with the gifts just because it’s 2,000 years later. That’s what I believe.
Dr. Bennett: That was funny.
Dr. Pritchett: Now, I say that and guess what? I don’t have the gift of healing. I don’t have the gift of tongues. I don’t have the gift of prophecy, and my track record is horrible. You’ll know that. I mean, I don’t make prophecies because they would have to kill me because that’s what you do to false prophets. At least in the Old Testament, right? So, I don’t have any of those more charismatic gifts. But the reason why I still believe it — and I don’t believe that every time someone is on television saying if you touch the screen you’ll be healed or get a million bucks. I don’t believe all that either. But I am cautiously aware that just because I don’t have that kind of experience with the Holy Spirit, I have different kinds of experiences with the Holy Spirit. I can’t believe that the Holy Spirit has given me a gift to teach people and that somebody was dumb enough to hire me to do it. So, that’s a blessing. And I don’t believe that the gifts of hospitality, the gifts of faith, the gifts of teaching — those are no less miraculous gifts of the spirit than being able to speak in tongues, being able to heal, being able to be used by God to prophesy. And I believe that God is sovereign enough that He gives the gifts as He sees fit, as it says — the Holy Spirit sees fit — and that those gifts can be manifested through His gifted believers as God chooses for them to. Not at our own beckon call that we demand the Holy Spirit let us speak in tongues whenever we feel like it. That’s my view of it. Other people have different views.
Dr. Hunter: Really?
Dr. Pritchett: Yeah.
Dr. Hunter: Okay.
Dr. Pritchett: I’ve just never — I used to believe that all those gifts ceased until I looked at the Bible and couldn’t make it work for me.
Dr. Hunter: Yeah. If we’re going to be educational about it, we could say that there are two views on this. One is called — at least. One is called cessationism; that these gifts ended with the Apostles. The other is continuationism. I was probably raised as a cessationist. We probably all three were. I just see absolutely no biblical data to demonstrate that position. Now, I could be wrong. And, if I’m wrong, I’m happy to be shown I’m wrong. It doesn’t cost me that much to be wrong on this issue. But I would agree with Dr. Pritchett on this point. Now, the question of what exactly the gift of tongues is is a whole separate issue, and I’m hoping you don’t have a notecard on that.
Dr. Bennett: Okay. These are in the same vein, and so I’m going to ask them. And I realize there’s a couple of different questions here, but it’s in the same vein, and it has to do with gays and lesbians. The question: Are gays and lesbians going to hell? And Christians who are gay and lesbian who are trying to follow Christ are growing in numbers. So, over the next three to five years, how will the acceptance of these folks be in the Church? That’s a legitimate question.
Dr. Flowers: Yeah. And that is very difficult to address simply because of the environment we’re in today with so many people lumping in certain lifestyles or choices with other issues that are taking place within the Church. And including whether it’s race issues or power struggles and those kinds of things, and that makes it even more complicated and more politically difficult to handle. But we, as Christians, when we look at this, if we’re not addressing this issue with the kind of anger and angst that sometimes comes with it because of the way it’s being addressed within the political atmosphere, then we need to come with it like we would come at it with any other sin. In other words, all of us are fallen short of God’s glory. All of us miss the mark. That’s what sin is. Missing the mark. Right? And so, God created us in a certain way that if we are doing and living as He created us, then we’re hitting the mark. We’re doing it right. And that means we’re living in accordance with the way He created for us to be. And none of us are hitting that mark. Some people are missing that mark with regard to their sexuality. That may not be your sin, but it may be somebody else’s sin and it as just as sinful as your sin. Does that make sense? In other words, when you become overly judgmental about the other person’s missing of the mark and you paint that as a worse missing of the mark than your missing of the mark, then it’s really hard to be gracious and loving towards that individual. And when you recognize, instead, “I’ve fallen and I’ve messed up in my own life, and I will never hit the mark.”
Only Christ has done that, and that’s why we all need His forgiveness and His grace. Does that mean you can’t have a stance on what you believe marriage is, for example, and how marriage has been defined by the Scriptures and throughout human history as between one man and one woman? No. But you can do that lovingly. You can say, “I believe that marriage is between a man and a woman in love,” while still being gracious towards somebody who disagrees with you about that. And you can also demonstrate that I am not perfect and I don’t have everything perfect either, but I do believe that a God created for a man and a woman to be together in order to procreate, and that seems to be also demonstrated by nature itself as even the animal kingdom, in order to multiply, in order to survive, even if you’re a Darwinist evolutionist, you have to believe that even that worldview would say this is what’s natural, this is what’s demonstrate-ably good and right.
Dr. Pritchett: Demonstrably.
Dr. Flowers: Demonstrably. That’s right. We were joking with each other about that. But this is one of those issues I think that we have to approach as Christians with an extra measure of grace because the world, many times, isn’t showing that kind of grace to those who are struggling in this issue. And for those who are in the Christian world — and I think in this Church. If you’re here and that’s something that you’ve had issues with — same-sex attraction — this church, I know by getting to know your pastor, welcomes you here. In other words, if you’re struggling with same-sex attraction, he’s not necessarily saying, “Hey, that’s not sin,” or, “That’s not a problem.” What I think this church, as well as the church I go to, would say, “You’re welcome to attend this church.” I love the statement you said in the car the other day that you can belong even before you believe.
Dr. Bennett: Yes.
Dr. Flowers: That’s such a gracious attitude of a church. I love — I want to be at a church like that. I want to be at a church that says you can belong here even before you — you don’t even have to believe in our Jesus, but you belong here.
Dr. Bennett: You can move and come here.
Dr. Flowers: I would love to. I love it. But that’s an attitude of grace. And I think that those in the homosexual world who are living with that and have been shown a lot of hatred in their life, I think if they see the Church that is willing to have them belong even though they may not believe the way you do, they’re going to be attracted like moth to a flame. They’re going to be attracted to that because they’re going to see that this is a place that loves them even though they don’t necessarily agree with everything that they believe. And that’s, I think, a mark of grace.
Dr. Bennett: And I just want to say something because they’re professors. I’m the one pastor on stage. I mean, I am a professor too, but I’m a pastor. If you’re here tonight and you struggle with same-sex marriage and you struggle — or with same-sex attraction, whether it be gay, lesbian or whatever it may be. Let me just say on behalf of people that do what I do — let me apologize that the Church has not always been as welcoming and loving and as gracious to you as we probably should have been in many ways. And some of it’s because it’s difficult, at times — I mean, I’m a heterosexual guy. I’m married. I have six kids. There’s some things I understand, there’s some things I don’t understand. So, please give me some grace too as we work through things, but we still, as Christians, we still believe that Scripture is inspired. And so, we go to Scripture and when we look at Scripture, we see that it appears to be clear in Scripture that God’s intention for sexuality was between a man and a woman, and that’s the way God intended it, that the marriage bed would not be undefiled. That does not mean you don’t have attraction. It does not mean that you don’t have struggle. It does not mean that we need to take you in a back room and put some oil on your head and all of a sudden you come out differently. I understand that. But, just like me, I have issues in my life that are still not fully developed. I do not always walk like Jesus. I do not always do the things that I’m doing. I am a work in progress. And what we want to do here at Grace is we want to be a church that’s not a courtroom. We want to be a church that’s a hospital. We want to help everybody who’s broken, which is everybody in this room, try to figure out where they’re at with Jesus and help them walk after Jesus and help them make that move towards Jesus. That’s why you can belong here before you believe because we believe that when everybody gets attracted to Jesus and gets into a relationship with Jesus, we believe He will work with you the way He needs to work with you in whatever way that is. And we want to create an atmosphere for that.
And I think if more churches in America took that position, I think it would be healthier. So, if you’re struggling with that stuff, you know you’re welcome here. But please do understand that we’re also trying to be fair to Scripture. And I hope that you would respect that from us that we’re not trying to be nasty. We’re really just trying to be fair to Scripture. Do y’all have anything else you want to say?
Dr. Pritchett: Well, I was just going to add that nobody goes to hell because of their sexual orientation. You go to hell or heaven, in my view, based on where you stand with Jesus. That’s first and foremost.
Dr. Bennett: That’s right. That’s right.
Dr. Pritchett: And I think that was one of the questions. It was part of the question, so I just wanted to address that. Where you stand with Jesus is what determines those things, not your sexual orientation.
Dr. Hunter: And, also, I would say to that that it’s been made clear by the pastor now, and both of my partners here on stage, that we do think that the Bible indicates a certain design for sexuality. And because of that, my closest friend from high school left the faith, however you want to explain that doctrinally. He claimed to be a Christian. He was preaching the Gospel. He was trying to see people saved. And ultimately, when he began to experience same-sex attraction, at first, he made an attempt to square it with Scripture, as many people do, but ultimately, he, in his case, he felt like he was being dishonest with himself. The Bible did seem to have a certain design for sexuality. And, as a result, it led to a degradation in his faith to where he know, “I can either choose the Bible, or I can choose this lifestyle,” and he chose the lifestyle. And, today, he’s an atheist. Now, what I think we should do, I really think we should do — I’m not a pastor, but I have been a pastor. And I think that when someone comes to the point where whether or not God supernaturally delivers them from sexual desire, when a person comes into the Church and says, “I’m going to live according to the biblical design as it’s laid out in Scripture,” they’re giving up something. And I think we should really celebrate people like that who submit to what Scripture teaches on this when it is really difficult for them to do that. I think we ought to celebrate and champion those people in the Church.
Dr. Pritchett: That’s right. We live in a sex-crazed culture. And, for some reason in the Church, this issue about same-sex attraction keeps coming up again. When we talk about celebrating people who want to affirm God’s design for men and women, that’s in marriage. And there’s a lot more heterosexuals in the Church that are not being chaste than there are homosexuals in the Church not being chaste. So, that’s like the least popular thing anyone could ever say: Stop having sex unless you’re married. But guess what? Stop having sex unless you’re married.
Dr. Bennett: Yeah. So, that segues in. What does the Bible say about premarital sex and living together out of wedlock?
Dr. Pritchett: I just answered that question.
Dr. Bennett: Okay. There you go.
Dr. Pritchett: No. I’m serious. I believe that the Bible has a prescription for that, and I believe that we need to — not even virginity, but the virtue of chastity. Virginity is a binary state. You’re either a virgin or you’re no longer a virgin. And some people, because maybe they weren’t a virgin by the time they became a Christian, all they hear is Christians talking about, “Stay a virgin until you’re married. Stay a virgin.” Virginity is not the virtue as much as chastity is, because chastity — if you’re not married, you could either be chaste or not chaste, and God wants you to be chaste until you’re married. And so, I think that Christians — heterosexual or homosexual — if you’re not married to someone of the opposite sex, don’t have sex. I think that’s the biblical prescription.
Dr. Bennett: Yeah. And I would say that it’s interesting in 1 Corinthians 6:18, one of the few places that you’re actually told to flee a particular sin is sexuality. Flee it. That’s what it says. You know? So, I mean, it’s obviously a struggle in many ways, and it’s not just a heterosexual or a gay or a lesbian issue. It really comes down to what’s appropriate for sexuality and where is the place? And the answer from everybody here would be that we think the Scriptures —
Dr. Flowers: Well, I would just point out for those that see that as — again, it’s almost like the fireman analogy from earlier.
Dr. Bennett: That’s right.
Dr. Flowers: That that’s bigoted or that’s narrow minded or that’s arrogance or those kinds of things. A lot of the times they’ll see Christians saying these kinds of things and think the same thing. And the way I would explain it to my four kids is I’d point to the fireplace. We usually sit in the living room. I point to the fireplace. There’s a great place for a fire in this house, and it’s right there. If the fire is taken out of there, then it becomes a danger for us all. And the same is true when it comes to sexual activity. Sexual activity in the right place, it provides warmth. It’s good. It’s right. It’s a good thing. It’s a God thing. It’s not something we should be shameful about. It’s something we should celebrate. You should talk to your kids about sexuality and all the things that God’s created sex for. It’s a great, wonderful, wonderful thing — in the right place. If it’s taken out of its right place, it becomes something that can damage you, it can destroy the home. And when somebody understands that, then is that narrow minded to say you should keep the fire in the fire place? No. It’s reasonable. It makes sense. The same is true when it comes to that. If you just help people to see that, you’re not trying to be unreasonable, you’re not trying to be narrow minded. You’re trying to actually set up boundaries that are going to protect them. And some people see that, especially teenagers — and I’ve worked with teenagers most of my life. A lot of teenagers say, “You’re trying to take away my freedom.” No, son. I’m trying to give you freedom. It’s when you follow His precepts, when you follow His guidance, that’s when you find freedom. It’s when you take it out of His precepts, that’s when you become addicted. That’s when you get in bondage. And it’s only when you follow His design that you truly find true freedom.
Dr. Bennett: And that goes back to He is our Lord and Savior, which means we follow Him, we don’t try to get Him to do what we want Him to do. What’s God’s view on divorce?
Dr. Flowers: He hates it. He hates divorce. But it’s not the unpardonable sin. This drives me up the wall when I have seen how Christians treat people who’ve gone through divorce. It’s absolutely amazing to me that some Christians — and I’ll just apologize for Christians in general who have treated divorce as if it makes somebody untouchable, makes somebody unable to be used in ministry or in reaching people or in helping others. I just don’t find that in Scripture. I see in Scripture that God is a redeemer of broken hearts and relationships. He’s the one who restores the broken. He’s not one who casts them aside because they’ve been broken. So, it’s not the unforgivable sin. It’s not something that God can’t heal. He absolutely can. But God hates divorce. He doesn’t want the divorce to take place. He doesn’t want divorce to happen. But, again, the New Testament does allow for certain reasons for divorce. Obviously, physical abuse and those kinds of things, I think, would be a just reason for separation, and looking for a counsel and getting out of that situation as soon as possible. You don’t need to stay in an abusive home that you’re being, especially, physically hurt or abused, and looking for help when you need it. But, at the same time, what I would just say with regard to your own marriage, it shouldn’t be a safety hatch either, and if you’re struggling and if you’re hurting in your own marriage in the sense that you’re just having relationship issues, fight for your marriage. Churches like this, that’s why they’re here. They’re here to help you to find counsel, to find people who can walk with you through the struggles you have in marriage. And guess what? Every one of us have been married. I’ve been married for almost 21 years now. We all have struggles. I’ve been to a marriage counselor, and I’m not afraid to tell people that because by me, as a minister and a pastor saying I’ve had marriage struggles and I’ve had to be to a counselor, it gives the people that I’m ministering to permission to say, “Yeah, we’re having marriage struggles too, and we need to go see a counselor.”
There’s nothing that’s shameful about seeing somebody to help you in relationship struggles. I actually worry more about people who have never seen anybody with regard to how to get counseling. You should have somebody in your life that’s counseling you. Whether it’s a pastor, whether it’s an older couple or an older friend, or a professional counselor. You should have somebody helping walk through those things with you because marriage is hard and you have to fight for it and you have to work for it.
Dr. Bennett: That’s right. I agree. If accepting Jesus is the only way to salvation, everlasting life, what would you say about people who are never exposed to the Gospel? For example, third-world countries.
Dr. Hunter: This, even though Dr. Flowers just finished his statement, this is one his favorite things to discuss. It really is. So, Leighton, take it away.
Dr. Flowers: Yeah. This is the question about the fate of the unevangelized. What about those who never hear the Gospel? It seems as if — it seems unfair, you might think, that someone has to believe in Jesus in order to go to heaven. And if they never hear about Jesus, are they going to spend eternity in hell, separated from God, if they’ve never even heard who Jesus was? And I think the Bible does give us some clarity on this. It’s not explicit, but I think that we can see some principles through Scripture to help us understand the answer to this question. In Romans 1, for example, Paul explains in his understanding of Gentiles. But, back in those days, a lot people hadn’t heard about God, and about Jesus in specific. The way that Paul referred to those people were they were Gentiles. You’ve got the Jewish people. They know the Law. The know the Torah. They know about God. They know about the coming Messiah. But then there’s those Gentile folks out there who don’t know anything. And so, what Paul is explaining in Romans 1 and 2 is that everyone has revelation. Everybody has the conscience built within them to know the difference between right and wrong. And what I believe — there’s some debate on this even among Christians, but what I personally believe is that God will hold each person accountable for the level of revelation that they’ve been given. In other words, God is going to bring enough light and enough revelation for you to believe in that amount of light and that amount of revelation. And if you accept and you believe the revelation He’s brought, the Scripture seems to indicate in other passages that if you’re faithful with a little, He will entrust you with more. And so, what I happen to believe is that those who trust in the light and the revelation they’ve been given, that God is faithful to bring them more light. And I’ve seen this happen. Many of you probably can give testimony to people having dreams about Jesus in far off lands.
My brother was a missionary over in Turkey. He would come across Muslims who had had dreams about Jesus and it would open up a door for him to be able to tell that person about Jesus. And they were open to the Gospel already because they’d had that dream. In other words, God has at His fingertips His ability to get more specific news to people, even in far off lands. And I believe God’s a just God. I believe He’s good and we can trust Him. And, therefore, when it comes to issues like this, I believe that whatever decision we come to, we can always conclude God’s good. He’s going to do the right thing and He’s going to do the just thing. And I believe, based upon many passage of Scripture, the just thing is that God will judge people not upon things that they’re ignorant of and that they’ve never heard of, but He will judge based upon the light and the revelation they do have, and those who are faithful with the little amount of light that they have been given, God will grant them more light. He will bring them more revelation because He’s a good God and He desires the salvation of all people. And I think He’ll bring enough revelation for all people to be able to respond and to know Him.
Dr. Bennett: Okay. How do we deal with what can appear to be a lack of condemnation for what we modernly believe to be ungodly behavior in the Old Testament? Example, biblical instructions on how you’re allowed to beat your wife. Going along with that, why is the God of the Old Testament different than the God of the New Testament? Somebody jump on that bull and ride it.
Dr. Hunter: Well, it’s a good question. We talked a little bit about this last night with the young adults. I think it’s a good question. You know, you have to take some of these things individually. Individual texts. Give me a text and we’ll deal with that text. Let’s begin with this: If you pick up a good book that I would recommend to each of you like “Is God a Moral Monster” by Paul Copan — that would be a good book on this issue, also on issues relating to war in the Old Testament and slavery. These are all things that are called — within the field, they’re called the “atrocities” of the Old Testament. That book is, I think, a good primer on this. What Paul Copan argues — and many Christian thinkers have argued this for a long time — is if you compare the Old Testament Law to something like the Code of Hammurabi, you would see a drastic difference between the two. You would see such an improvement over the other laws of other pagan people groups compared to God’s people and God’s Law. And God meets people where they are. He meets people where they’re at at that particular time. And to try and change everything all at once would maybe have not been manageable, but it begins a trajectory that we see playing out further in the New Testament, and I think right on up to today, where there is a trajectory toward the ideal which, of course, is no beatings and nothing like that. As for the biggest thing, I think, that often comes up, which is the slaughter of the Canaanites, where God instructs His people, Moses and Joshua, to carry the people forward into Canaan and to wage war and take the land that God has given. I think what happens a lot of times is people miss the fact that the Bible tells us about these people that were living there that for over 400 years God had been waiting for a time to bring judgment. If we believe that justice is a good thing — I think everyone in here would agree that we kind of know justice is a good thing. If we found someone who was engaging in genocide in some other country today, for example, if someone was doing something horrendous, there was a holocaust going on or something like that, and we were to capture that person, regardless of your political opinions, we would all probably agree that some sort of justice, some sort of judgment needs to be brought on this particular person, this dictator or whoever did this. Right? And we would think that if we didn’t do that then it wouldn’t be good. There would be something less than just that had been accomplished here.
If God tells us through Scripture, through Moses in Genesis and then on throughout the Torah and then on into the story of Joshua, that these people, for over 400 years, had been violent, murderous, incestuous people who worshiped a false god and caused their children to pass through the fires — which means engaging in child sacrifice — and He had waited for 400 years, giving them every opportunity to repent, and yet these people hadn’t? It was high time that some justice had been done. Some judgment needed to take place. And if it didn’t, then God wouldn’t be a God of justice, really. And so, when He sends these people in here to do this, the question that arises is, “Okay, that makes sense of these pagan idolaters, but what about the children and people like that?” And the answer there would be you’ve got to — if you’re going to analyze the biblical perspective on this, you can’t merely take on part of the worldview and say, “Well, okay. God told the Israelites to go in there and kill a bunch of people.” Death to the world seems like the end. Death seems like the worst imaginable thing. But if Christianity is true, then death is not the end. And though these children in these countries that Joshua was to go in and to wage war — if these children were to live, the would’ve lived and grown up to become pagan idolaters as well, in most cases, more than likely. But, instead, when the war is waged and the judgment takes place, they wake up in the arms of a loving Savior. And so, as awful as it is — and, again, I got the question on hell, I get the question on this. I get all the great questions. But is that emotionally satisfying? Probably not completely, but I do think that it’s intellectually satisfying.
Dr. Pritchett and I have a podcast all the time, so if you like what you’re hearing from him, you can get more of it. But I’ll tell you something: We believe that if you plug in justice — the justice of God, that justice must be done — and you plug in the love of God, that He is a merciful God and loves people and all that, you get, I think, an answer that makes sense of things like this.
Dr. Bennett: Okay. Is Allah the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob? And is the Christian God the same god in which the Muslim faith calls Allah?
Dr. Pritchett: No.
Dr. Pritchett: Well, when you say do we worship the same god, Muslims don’t believe that we worship the same god. And because Jews even reject the New Testament revelation, they don’t believe we worship the same god either. So, me just saying “no,” I’m agreeing with most Jews and probably all Muslims. Because we believe about God that God is one being and three in person. Father, Son and Holy Ghost. Now, there was a time where if you were in a Muslim country and you believed that, they would kill you for it. That’s not the same god. And for us to say it sounds good for us to say that is actually disrespectful to Islam because they don’t believe that. And it’s, for me, telling a falsehood if we said yes because if you believe in the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, three persons in one being, you don’t believe it either. And so, it’s okay to be honest and say, “Yes, we have differences. We don’t believe in the same god.” We believe that the New Testament reveals God as triune, as a God who, from all eternity, had been in community within Himself. They don’t believe that. So, I want to be respectful to Muslims and say no.
Dr. Hunter: The reason that people often say that these three religions worship the same —
Male: [Inaudible 01:00:46] Jesus is prophet and Jews don’t believe Jesus is a prophet.
Dr. Hunter: I’m sorry?
Male: Does Islam believe that Jesus was a prophet?
Dr. Hunter: Muslims believe that Jesus was a great prophet, but not the incarnate Son of God.
Dr. Pritchett: Okay. But, before we continue, I just want to say that everyone else had to write down their questions. So, to be respectful to everyone else who had to write down their questions, it would be helpful if you would just write down your questions and take them to the front like everyone else had to do in this room. Thank you.
Male: Yes sir. Thank you.
Dr. Hunter: But the reason that people say that Muslims, Christians and Jews all worship the same god is because we are the Abrahamic religions. You often have heard, probably, that phrase. Abrahamic religions. It’s because Christians and Jews and Muslims all point to the God of Abraham as the one true God. The difference is, as Dr. Pritchett has clearly articulated for us, that Jews and Christians describe that god differently because Jews don’t affirm the Trinity, like Dr. Pritchett said. But Muslims and Christians don’t affirm that same god either because Muslims don’t affirm the Trinity. But, on top of that, they describe god very differently. It’s a very extreme form of determinism that Muslims believe in, and I don’t really have a lot of time to explain that, but it’s just that everyone kind of is doing what god determined in a very extreme way that they do. Furthermore, voluntarism is a belief that is there among Muslims, which means that it’s not that god does what is good and goodness flows from his nature. It’s that whatever god does, even if it was different than what he did before, now becomes good. And that is not what orthodox Christians have always affirmed. We affirm that goodness flows from God’s nature. He doesn’t decide arbitrarily on what is good, nor does He appeal to some standard outside of Himself. It flows from His good nature. So, while all three religions may point to the God of Abraham as the one true God, they describe god differently enough that in no real, meaningful sense can we say they all believe in the same god.
Dr. Flowers: What I would just point out in the field of evangelism and reaching those in the Muslim faith, for example, that — my brother, again, working that field, one of the things that I’ve learned visiting him and talking with him is that many Muslims, just like you have with Catholics or Christians, you have a very nominal kind of Muslim, meaning they don’t really practice the faith. They just call themselves Muslim because they live there and there’s a lot of people in the Church that are the same way. Or, here in the United States, it’s the same way with Christianity. They’re more nominal. And so, they don’t even know as much as Dr. Hunter does about Islam. In other words, they haven’t studied these things. They don’t know these things. And so, what oftentimes can be done if you’re evangelizing or you’re talking to a nominal Muslim, is you can actually use and talk about what they have learned about their version of god to redirect them to say, “Here’s the one true God,” almost like what we see Paul do in Acts when he says, “Hey, you see your statue to the unknown god? Let me tell you about that unknown god.”
And so, I think that there’s ways in which we can bridge gaps in our evangelism and talking to someone without offending the Muslim by trying to necessarily down play their heritage or anything like that. But, instead, direct them to, “Hey, did you know that the Quran actually talks about Jesus? The Quran actually says some good things about Jesus. Let me tell you about what I’ve learned about Jesus.” And you can redirect maybe the nominal, the surface level things that they know about their faith to the true faith of Christianity.
Dr. Bennett: What would be the unpardonable sin? How would I know if I committed the unpardonable sin? And, if you were walking and you were saved, how would you know that you did the unpardonable sin? So, can you talk about the unpardonable sin?
Dr. Flowers: I think there’s some dispute on this among theologians as well, but my personal belief is that the unpardonable sin is the sin of continual rejection of the call of the Spirit to repent and believe in Him. In other words, if you continually reject the call of the Spirit, you resist Him, then that is the one thing that’s unpardonable. If you continue to resist the Holy Spirit, continue to resist His call upon your life and you perish or you die in that state of unbelief, that is the unpardonable sin. If you’re worried that you accidentally committed the unpardonable sin in some past in your life, then you don’t need to — you didn’t. Okay? The fact that you’re —
Dr. Bennett: Get out of jail free card, baby! Right there. You came here tonight and you got it. There you go. I love it.
Dr. Flowers: So, as long as — in other words, if you want to believe and you want to be saved, you can. There’s nothing hindering you from repentance and faith. God wants you to be saved.
Dr. Bennett: Okay. These go together. What are your thoughts on prosperity theology and how can Christians reconcile TV pastors asking for a 54 million dollar jet because God told him that’s what he needs to preach the Gospel? Does this type of stuff help or hurt you in your job? It definitely doesn’t help us as pastors, but I’ll let you guys answer.
Dr. Hunter: You know, I’ve found something. There are good — there are honest and dishonest lawyers. There are honest and dishonest police officers. There are honest and dishonest mechanics. But I don’t necessarily question the trustworthiness of every car mechanic because I’ve had a car mechanic do me wrong in the past. And so, are there preachers that preach things that I think are damaging to the Christian faith? Absolutely. But that doesn’t mean that you have reason to question a particular pastor in your area. You should find out what he believes. Now, on the question of the prosperity Gospel, some of the godliest people that I know are sick and poor, where some within the prosperity Gospel would say that you would be wealthy and healthy if you’re serving the Lord. Often, those people wear glasses, and I don’t understand exactly what’s going on with that. But, no. Honestly, I would say that yes, it hurts Christianity and the message of the Gospel going out, and that saddens me. But there are honest and dishonest, and right and not right — correct and incorrect — positions and people serving in every capacity in life, and it’s no different when it comes to television preachers. I’ll never be a television evangelist. I don’t have the hair for it.
Dr. Bennett: I just would — what I would say is this: I think that the best way to answer it is this: Paul says in Philippians 4 that he’s had plenty and he’s had nothing. I think that Christianity can run the whole gamut. I just would say this: I think that a Christian can have things, but I think it’s a problem when things have the Christian. So, I don’t think that we should shun somebody because Paul says, in 1 Timothy 6, “Charge those that are rich in this world to be this way.” So, there are going to be some Christians that do have tremendous wealth. There’s also going to be Christians that are poor. The problem with the prosperity Gospel is that it would teach that everybody should be wealthy or everybody should be healthy, and that’s just common sense that that’s not the case.
Dr. Pritchett: But I think that we as believers have a calling to rebuke it because it is a justice issue because the health and wealth prosperity preachers prey upon the poorest in the communities. So, because of that, and because what they do is so sickening and devastating to people’s lives, taking what little scraps of money that they can scrap together to get by and take it and go live in enormous, ridiculous-sized mansions and have the audacity to ask for 54 million dollar airplanes — I mean, we flew coach. It was fine. They could fly coach too. But it sickens me to see them prey upon them. So, it is our job to rebuke them loudly and stand up for the poor and defenseless and see that they are not oppressed by people claiming to be Christians. I’ll just leave it at that.
Dr. Bennett: Alright. There you go. We’re going to work with Dr. Pritchett and get him comfortable with telling you what he really believes. He’s struggling, but he’s going to get there. Okay. If a person remarries after divorce, is it adultery? And, specifically, when no adultery was involved in the marriage but there still was a divorce. So, is that adultery?
Dr. Pritchett: I don’t understand this issue because there’s a passage where Jesus talks about this. And there’s this phrase: “And marries another.” But I think that there’s a lot of confusion there because Jesus and Paul — and Paul goes out of his way to say, “You didn’t hear this from Jesus, but I’m telling you now.” Jesus gives the exception clause of adultery. Paul then goes a little bit further than that and says, “Well, I say this, not the Lord, that if the unbelieving spouse wishes to leave, they’re free to go.” Okay? So then, people will say, “Well, okay. Then there’s two exceptions, not one.” But then, why did Paul feel like after — he talks about Jesus and then he talks about himself in his context. He felt the liberty, pastorally, to create a new exception that didn’t originate with Jesus. And he went out of his way to say, “This tradition is not a Jesus tradition.” Why did he do that? I think it’s because both of those things, what they have in common, is they undermine the shalom. They undermine the peace that God intends for believers, and that’s exactly where Paul goes to when he wants to justify. You are called to a life of peace, so let the unbeliever leave.
So, what’s going on with both of those things? What do those exceptions have in common? Does that mean that those are the only ones, or are there not more? Well, I think that there are more because I would include what he mentioned earlier with physical abuse and serious physical abuse because that, too — you’re called to a life of peace. And if your spouse is beating the snot out of you, that’s not peace. Because what all of those things have in common is it undoes that peace, it undoes — the man leaving his family and cleaving to his wife, that becomes impossible in certain situations and certain contexts. So, in Paul’s context that came out as if the unbelieving spouse wishes to go — if they wish to stay, then maybe they’ll be saved through you. In our context, we know that there is spousal abuse going on. And I would say, as a pastor, that Paul saw this undoing of the Genesis ideal, and we see that in these abusive relationships. It undoes that. But God has called you to peace. So, if the only way to get yourself safe is a divorce, I think it’s permissible and I don’t think Paul would object and I don’t think Jesus would object either. And so, I don’t think that if you then go on and remarry that you’re living in sin. But, even if you are, Jesus still dealt with that sin, too, at the cross.
Dr. Bennett: Okay. You guys would know this because you’re Baptists. I have no idea what this question refers to at all, so you guys can jump on this one. Pastor Robert Jeffress, Senior Pastor of First Baptist Church in Dallas — dude, your place, man. Dallas. Get you some of this. Here we go. It says he wrote a book called “A Place Called Heaven.” Can you give comments on that?
Dr. Flowers: I am not familiar with that book, so I cannot. I’m sorry.
Dr. Bennett: Okay. I don’t know it either. Does anybody know it?
Dr. Hunter: I don’t know that book.
Dr. Flowers: I prefer Braxton’s book, Heaven is a —
Dr. Hunter: Death is a Doorway.
Dr. Flowers: Death is a Doorway. Yes. It’s a good book.
Dr. Bennett: Okay. Let’s continue. I would like to know your thoughts —
Dr. Hunter: Amazon. $15.99.
Dr. Bennett: Do you want to do podcast and YouTube channel too?
Dr. Hunter: Proceeds go to feed starving children. Mine.
Dr. Flowers: And it’s not for a jet.
Dr. Hunter: Yeah. You’d all be best — since you opened it up, you’d all be my best friends if you subscribed to our YouTube channel —
Dr. Pritchett: It’s named after him.
Dr. Hunter: YouTube.com/BraxtonHunter.
Dr. Bennett: Okay.
Dr. Hunter: I’m serious.
Dr. Bennett: I would like to know your thoughts on mediums. Do people have the ability to communicate with loved ones who have passed?
Dr. Hunter: Okay. Here’s my answer to that. I don’t know, but I’ll say this: We have, on our podcast — I really am not pushing my podcast. This is just what we do. But, on our podcast, we take different world views and we talk about those world views and what a Christian response to those would be. So, we talk about Islam, we talk about Wiccan, we talk about atheism, we have even talked about issues with Christianity. And what we repeatedly find — don’t we, Dr. Pritchett? — is that in situations like, say, Mormonism where Joseph Smith claims that he had a supernatural experience, and his followers claim that they have a burning in their bosom — that’s how they phrase it. A burning in the bosom that demonstrates that it’s true and testifies to them that they’re true. Pritchett wants to give them a new medication called “Bosom Buddies” that they can take when that comes up. But, no. Honestly, though, seriously, we want to be respectful, but when Muhammad claimed that he had an experienced with the angel Gabriel, when mediums have things like that, we don’t — I think some of those things are not really real. Okay? But Christianity actually can account for people having supernatural experiences that are real but are not of God. And that is because it is also — just I said heaven and hell are system-dependent beliefs. If you believe Christianity is true, then, along with that, if you believe in the authority of the Bible, then you get heaven and hell and things like that, guess what else you get? You get the demonic. And so, what I would say to a Mormon person or to a particular medium or someone visiting a medium is that I’m not going to tell you — because often they’ll say, “Who are you to judge my experience?” I’m not. I don’t doubt that you had a real experience. Maybe you didn’t, but I don’t doubt that you may have. The question is what was the content of that experience? And it may not have been of God. And I would say, in those cases, it’s not of God.
Dr. Pritchett: It’s never of God.
Dr. Bennett: Wow. Okay. Pritchett, tell us what you think. Let’s see here. Hypostatic union. All my life, I’ve been interested in one of the important relationships, which is sometimes overlooked and not mentioned much with God the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, and have studied and researched the connection with human earthliness and divine trinity. Many times during researching different articles, I stumble across the hypostatic union, which I understand and believe in Jesus to be two natures; human, divine, God, man. But I need some guidance on one particular issue. During the walk that Jesus was on in the New Testament, it said that Jesus talks with God the Father, and many times was also witnessed by the disciples and John the Baptist. Please explain so we can understand more clearly how this communication took place, a voice from human earthliness being in the divine and whether, in the case of Jesus’ baptism, it was the Holy Spirit, also God, as one of the Trinity, or since His hypostatic union was a miracle from God also had the capability of communicating between the two.
Dr. Hunter: I could — are you guys having trouble? I can answer.
Dr. Pritchett: I want him to talk about it.
Dr. Hunter: I don’t know. I mean, look, folks —
Dr. Flowers: Well, I could’ve said that.
Dr. Hunter: I mean, honestly. First of all, let me tell you something that I said last night. For those of you that are fascinated by answer giving or defending the Christian faith, this is kind of something I say at conferences a lot, and I teach it to our students at Trinity. I believe that everyone in this room, even if this is the first time you’ve ever heard of Christian apologetics, Christian defense, you can go out of this room tonight and be a Christian apologist. Now, it may not be that you’re able to give the answers like we are on other questions besides this one, but you may not be able to be an answer giver tonight, but did you know you can be, immediately when we’re done here tonight, an answer finder for people? And, oftentimes, that’s to essentially say, “I don’t know, but I’ll go find that for you.” And, you know, “I don’t know,” — I love “I don’t know.” “I don’t know” is one of the greatest innovations of Christianity. Being willing to say it to people. Because, when I was a pastor — and this is not true of your pastor. But, when I was a pastor, I wasn’t as spiritual as he is, and I felt that I had to be able to thump the pulpit and say, “Thus saith the Lord,” even if I didn’t know what the Lord thus saith about a particular thing. But when I found a freedom — and, really, some of you might be thinking, “Well, they stand up on a stage and answer questions. That’s really tough, man. Isn’t that nerve wracking?”
It used to be. But when I discovered “I don’t know,” it became a bulletproof vest for me. Say, “I don’t know.” Because if you say something and you don’t know but you say something anyway, that is how cults form. I just want you to know. But, no. It is a good question. To get to the question, it is a good question. In particular cases where we don’t have, necessarily, the whole story about how a particular thing — the Bible is not there, necessarily, to answer all of our interests. There are things we’d like to know. I’d like to know more about angels, frankly. The Bible doesn’t ever set out to tell me about angels. I learned the information I have about angels indirectly when angels are involved in a story or something, most of the time. So, it doesn’t answer all of the things we’d like to know. How did God communicate specifically to particular humans? And it’s not just Jesus that this happens with. How did God communicate in those cases? Did the necessarily hear a voice? Was it an inner voice? Was it an inner voice that they heard but knew was real? I don’t know. But He did. That’s the answer I would give.
Dr. Bennett: Anybody want to take on the hypostatic union? The question I think, really, was how could Jesus be God and still be talking to God if He —
Dr. Hunter: Oh, yeah. Let me go ahead and finish that one. Yeah. So, I talked about this last night. Some people have the question, “Is Jesus talking to Himself in cases like that because He is God?” Right? But, remember, let’s go back to what we talked about earlier that separates us from both Judaism and Islam in this respect. We believe that God exists as one being, the Trinity. One being, God, but three persons. Now, often, Muslim apologists — like there’s a well-known Muslim apologist named Shabir Ally. Oftentimes, they will point to us and they will say, “That is contradictory to say that you have three, but one.” And I will say, for most of my Christian walk, I probably believed in a contradiction because I didn’t know how to describe it. If you said, “Three Gods, but one God,” that’s a contradiction and it’s impossible. If you said, “Three persons who exist as one person,” that’s a contradiction and that’s impossible. But if you say, “One God who exists as three distinct persons, but they’re a part of one Godhead,” that may be mysterious, but it’s not a contradiction. Now, if you’d like a good image that the historic Christian faith has used for this, it would be that of a triangle. A triangle is one triangle, but it has three distinct points. Each of those points is distinct. It’s not the same as the other points, but it is a part of one essence; triangle. Right? And so, in that way, I think it handles it. Jesus is not talking to Himself when He’s talking to the Father, but He’s still God. Right? So, I hope that helps.
Dr. Pritchett: Fully God and fully man. So, He’s not 50% man and 50% God. Not even 100% man and 100% God. He’s fully man in the hypostatic union and fully God. And, like I said last night, some things about the Bible are weird, and some of them are mysterious. We should embrace that. It’s kind of cool. You know? Let it be weird. Let it be mysterious and dig it.
Dr. Bennett: Yeah. I would just say that if you, anybody in here, feels like that you have a complete understanding of God and you have Him figured out, you have an idol. You do not have the Living God. Because the Living God is far above anything that we could ever even begin to understand. We only have what He’s revealed to you and me because the secret things belong to Him. And that is a passage. Deuteronomy 29:29. So, here we go. The last chapter of Mark contains three endings. My wife was quoting the scorpions and drinking poison this morning. Man, we probably need to — we could have a counseling session on that one. Alright. Since it’s a late addition, like the woman caught in adultery — which would be John 7:52 through John 8:11 — how do we see the Scriptures as inspired and inerrant?
Dr. Flowers: Well, the reason whenever you open your particular text it’ll have in the footnotes that this didn’t exist in the earliest translations or in the earliest manuscripts is for you to know that there may be some question as to its validity. It’s not to try to make you doubt the rest of the Scriptures or to undermine the purpose of what the Scriptures are there for. It’s there to be honest with you. And that’s one of the things I appreciate about Christianity is it doesn’t try to hide that there are uncertainties, just like it doesn’t hide the mistakes of Paul or the mistakes of Peter or the mistakes of David. We just come right out and say, “Yeah. Here are some things that we’ve dealt with.” And so, within our text, we don’t try to hide that these passages are uncertain. We just put them in there for you to be aware that they’re there, but they didn’t exist in the earliest manuscripts, so there are some questions to their validity. And so, those kinds of things, to me, don’t make me doubt the authenticity of the Scriptures. They actually make me go, “Oh. These guys are being honest enough to let me know what we know about the manuscripts,” and we’ve got thousands upon thousands of different manuscripts that we have pulled from to pull together a very reliable source, much more reliable than any other ancient text that we have at our disposal.
And that should actually give us, I think, some more comfort in knowing that people are being forthright with us with regard to some of the questions in the translations of the manuscripts and the carrying of the manuscripts. We don’t have the autographs, meaning the original manuscripts. So, a lot of the debate that takes place over quote, unquote, “inerrancy,” and all those kinds of things, it’s all based upon manuscripts we don’t have. What I like to point people to is what the Scriptures say about themselves. What do they say? They’re profitable for rebuke and correcting and training in righteousness. They’re good for what they were created to do. Is everything that we have always perfect? I don’t think it is. But I don’t think Peter was perfect either, and he was trusted to carry the message. I don’t think Paul was perfect, but he was entrusted to carry the message. That’s what’s so great about God. He chooses imperfect vessels to carry a perfect message. And He does it perfectly, and He does it sufficiently. And so, it’s just like if we were — if people ran inside and said, “We just saw a car accident,” and you’ve got four different accounts of the car accident outside. You might conclude, “Well, there must not have been a car accident because there was four different accounts.” Or would you think, “Hey, maybe they had four different angels of that accident out there? Maybe there’s different ways they viewed it.”
In other words, I think the discrepancies actually make it seem more real to me. What would make me doubt whether it really happened is if they all came in and recited the exact same phrase to me. Then I would go, “Okay. There’s collusion there. Somebody’s messing something up here. Somebody has made up something and given everybody a script to memorize. This is not real.” The fact that we have divergence and differences in the testimonies of Scripture, I think, shows to me that it’s even more reliable and more real and does exactly what it’s intended to do.
Dr. Bennett: Did Jesus have the ability to sin, being fully God and fully human? Posse non peccare, non posse peccare.
Dr. Hunter: Do you want me to take that?
Dr. Pritchett: Okay. Well, we might have differences of opinion up here. Does anyone understand what it means to say, “It’s logically possible that something’s true?” That doesn’t mean it’s actually true, it just means that there’s no contradiction in it. It’s logically possible. It’s logically possible that invisible unicorns are having a rave party on the rings of Saturn, but I don’t think there is one. But there’s nothing contradictory about it. It could be the case, right? So, the way I like to say this is if Jesus was tempted in every way that we are but did not sin, and if He was fully human, exactly as we are — or will be fully human again. I don’t think that we’re fully human right now until we become like Jesus in the resurrection. I could say, yeah, in His humanity, is it logically possible? Yeah. I can go with that. It’s logically possible. Do I think it could’ve ever happened? No. And did it ever happen? No way.
Dr. Hunter: Well, I could live with that. I think that — first of all, I’m open to changing my opinion, and we talk about this once a month at least. I think that God’s nature is good. God has a good nature and I don’t think that God acts contrary to His nature. Goodness is a part of His nature. I don’t think that He acts contrary to His nature. And so, I don’t think, because what we are saying — let me just break this down and get a little bit complicated, alright? When he said, “Logically possible,” the way that philosophers talk about logical possibility is they say there are possible worlds — now, these are not worlds that actually exist. Possible worlds and impossible worlds. Just a thought experiment. An impossible world would be a world that has married bachelors in it. Okay? That world is not possible, and do you know why? Because married bachelors are not possible because, by virtue of being married, they’re not bachelors. And, by virtue of being bachelors, they’re not married. Do you understand what I’m saying? So, if you say, “There’s a world with married bachelors in it,” no. That world does not exist. But a logically possible world is a world where there’s nothing but bunnies running around. Right? I mean, maybe that’s impossible, but, you know, that’s fine. If I were to say that it’s even logically possible that Jesus would’ve sinned, then I would be saying that there is some possible world in which we can imagine Jesus sinning. And I do not believe such a world exists. Now, that’s my view. That’s the view of a lot of Christian scholars, but I’m open to the possibility that Dr. Pritchett’s view is correct. And, after we’re done tonight, you can rest assured that in the hotel room he’ll give me all the reasons why his view, and all his views, are correct.
Dr. Bennett: That is true. Yeah. That’s not even a possible world. That’s reality.
Dr. Pritchett: Scholars disagree, but this is not an angels dancing on the — how many angels dancing on the head of a pin. This is actually kind of important, but it’s important for two reasons. You want to affirm that God cannot sin in any possible way and that Jesus is God, so Jesus should not be able to sin in any possible way. But, at the same time, other scholars like me want to say yeah, but we’ve got to take that fully man seriously. We’ve got to take that he was tempted seriously, not just — it can’t just be like me going to tempt a tank with a rock and say, “I’m going to beat you,” and then just nothing happens. That’s not — to me, I don’t know if that’s temptation in the same way that I’m tempted where there is that potential for danger.
Dr. Bennett: F.F. Bruce in his commentary to the Hebrews — a great New Testament scholar — makes an interesting point. He says that Jesus being tempted as we are, yet without sin, that Jesus actually experienced a temptation that none of us can because He took it all the way to the end and didn’t give in where we always give in. So, His temptation was dramatically even — so, whether posse non peccare — theologians have been arguing this stuff — posse non peccare is possible not to sin, or non posse peccare, not possible to sin. The point is that Bruce makes the point that Jesus because He never gave in, He experienced a temptation that none of us could ever experience.
Dr. Hunter: Amen. Yeah.
Dr. Bennett: I think that’s a really cool point. So, in today’s culture of the catch-and-release dating scene — I’m definitely getting older because I don’t even know what that means. Wow. In today’s culture of the catch-and-release dating scene, and bombardment of sexual temptation in social media and elsewhere, what are we missing as a Church? Why are we so often failing to be different from the world? How do we best create and sustain godly, biblical dating and marriage relationships?
Dr. Hunter: Leighton, why don’t you answer that?
Dr. Flowers: How does a young man keep his way pure? By living according to God’s Word. It goes along with the answer that we already talked about with the fireplace; that God has created us and designed us for sexual activity in marriage. So, I’ll refer back to that answer. I think that that really sums up that God’s not trying to take away your freedoms by giving us guidelines. He’s actually helping us to remain free and to grow in our relationships. So, I think that’s probably sufficient.
Dr. Pritchett: Well, one of the things that we need to, as a Church in this kind of sex-crazed culture that we mentioned earlier, one thing we need to get ahold of and proclaim is guess what? God’s smarter than everyone in this room. Shocker, right? He’s actually smarter than us. And we should trust that when He gives us these kinds of commands, that we can go to a world that has — what was it called? Catch-and-release? That’s like fishing — this catch-and-release dating culture and say, “Look, how’s that working for you?” Well, interestingly, I read something on social media — which is probably the last place you should read things. But I read something on social media where this lady was writing about 20 years after Sex and the City premiered. Twenty years ago. Yes, that’s how old you are.
Dr. Hunter: It’s more than that, isn’t it?
Dr. Pritchett: Well, it premiered 20 years ago. Well, okay. I saw the article today. It was talking about 20 years ago Sex and the City came on television and the women who bought into that lifestyle of just, okay, consequence-less sex. And they’ve discovered, guess what? There was no such thing. And these women were talking about how unhappy they were embracing that lifestyle. And oh, by the way, in the show, Sarah Jessica Parker’s character, and all the other characters, ended up settling down, but these women have found out that they were unable to. Now, men, it’s a little bit different. Men in this catch-and-release, men have always been predators. You know? Chasing women. But, look —
Dr. Hunter: I like the disclaimer that you gave before this night began about not all the views necessarily — I just want to re-emphasize this.
Dr. Bennett: Yeah. We put Pritchett in the middle because we knew we might have to hold him back.
Dr. Pritchett: But look, we need to stand up and tell me, and more and more women these days that are buying into this sex-crazed culture, it’s like, look, God is smarter than you. There are consequence for all of these actions. So, why don’t you stop for a moment and think you don’t know what’s best for you compared to what God knows is best for you. And we can sell that. If it comes down to the Church giving a vision of lifelong faithful marriages, which we don’t always do good at, but if we can sell that vision of romance versus cheap sex, we’ll win that fight in the culture every time.
Dr. Bennett: The bottom line is, guys, if we’re Christians, we’re supposed to love our wife like Christ loved the Church. And women are supposed to love their husbands. If we both do what the Bible says that we’re supposed to do, we’re going to have healthy marriages. If we don’t do that, if we’re just trying to get what we want at the exclusion of someone else, we’re going to have bad marriages. If you’re dating somebody, realize that if you don’t marry them, they’re going to be somebody else’s husband or wife. So, don’t fool with them because it’s somebody else’s. It’s common sense.
Dr. Hunter: And you wrapped that up in a really nice bow, so I don’t want to ruin that beautiful, dainty mop, but let me say this. Let me add to it if it’s okay, Pastor. I think I was raised — I’m an imperfect man, but I was raised really well. My parents did a great job. I want to say that my parents raised me that the only good reason to date or to seek romance is to find a wife. That is the only good reason was to find a wife. And so, I plan on raising my kids that way. You do not just date just for recreation. You don’t date for just — there is a purpose and a meaning for this romance, and that, to me, seems like a logical conclusion on the basis of what you just said, which is that’s somebody else’s wife if you don’t plan to marry here.
Dr. Bennett: Yeah. Okay. Let’s see here. Whenever tragedy occurs, we often hear “thoughts and prayers,” but oftentimes it feels like prayer’s not enough. Are we praying wrong? What’s the purpose of prayer? Y’all don’t even pray, so how are you going to answer that?
Dr. Hunter: I was still thinking about what I just said and not sure I heard the question.
Dr. Bennett: Yeah, it’s okay.
Dr. Flowers: I would say that prayer sometimes is helping us to realign ourselves with the thoughts of God and to — it’s almost like taking that deep breath to say, “Okay, God. Help me to see Your redemption in this pain. Help me to see what You can bring, even from this hurt. Help me to live well even in the midst of this struggle. Help me to remain faithful even what I don’t see the end here. I don’t see where this is going that could possibly be good, but I’m trusting in You. Though I can’t trace Your hand, I trust Your heart.” Those kinds of things within prayer sometimes balance us and help carry us through those most difficult times of life. And you can’t whitewash that. Obviously, those of you in this room who have experienced an immense amount of pain can speak to this and the importance of prayer, meditation, being still and knowing that He is God. Not just about bowing your head and closing your eyes and saying wrote words, but just being with Him, hearing His still small voice, being quiet, stopping the noise. Sabbath, which is rest. It’s not just about a day you’re not supposed to go mow the lawn, or a day you’re not supposed to go to Chick-fil-a. Okay? It’s about really resting. It’s about being with Him, and that is so important, that peace, the shalom he was talking about. That comes with Sabbath. That comes with prayer. That comes with rest. That comes with being still. And that carries — at least for me in my own life. That carries me through not only just suffering and trials, but just through life in general, just through the busy, hectic lives with cellphones and work. And, as I say that, my phone is buzzing in my pocket right now. You have to learn to be able to put everything aside and stop. And that’s what prayer is. Prayer is stopping and resting in Him.
Dr. Pritchett: Yeah. I agree 100%. I just want to add: Read the Psalms. Read the Psalms. Read the Psalms. If you read the Psalms, you will find every possible expression of human emotion from frustration and anger to peace, joy and happiness all directed to Yahweh. He’s a big enough God to handle your gripes, your complains, your anger — even towards Him. And we would do well to not think that we’re being to impious that if we are honest with God because He knows anyway. So, in tragedy, it is okay to express those things to God and He’s still going to love you no matter what you say to Him. I mean, David was challenging God: “Wake up, O sleeper. Where are you?” You know? And it’s okay. And I do want to say the last part of that question was, “Are thoughts and prayers enough?” No. Because James 2 talks about this. If you just give somebody well wishes and then you’re on your way, does that faith save? No. A saving faith is a faith that works through love. So, if you are distant from somebody and it’s on social media, and all you have to offer is thoughts and prayers, fine. But if you can do more to those who are experiencing suffering and you can do more for them, then thoughts and prayers and action is what is required of us as Christians.
Dr. Bennett: Alright. That’s good. Okay. This is a theological trick bag, so just get ready. Once again, the views expressed up here might not necessarily be the views of Grace Community Church or Chip Bennett or Tom Jones, but this is going to be interesting. So, once you are saved, are you always saved? And, understanding that we are saved by grace, what role does sanctification play in being saved if you’re once saved, always saved? Two different questions, but the same —
Dr. Pritchett: Yes. There’s differences of opinions on this stage, actually, so —
Dr. Hunter: Let me answer it from this perspective first, because I think this encompasses all of our views here. Often, there’s a view that’s called either “perseverance of the saints” or a nuanced view, that we don’t think is exactly the same thing, called “eternal security.” Denominations like the Southern Baptist Convention would hold to eternal security. Some Presbyterian churches would hold to perseverance of the saints. The idea that you can’t lose your salvation. Now, often what is mischaracterized about those who do not hold that view is that they always think that you can sin enough that you lose your salvation. And that is not necessarily the case. Oftentimes, what the view is of people who do not hold to a view of eternal security or perseverance of the saints is that Jesus died for your sins and you don’t sin enough to lose your salvation. Jesus paid for your sins. But, if you apostatize, if you defect, if you walk away from Jesus, it’s in Him that the everlasting life is. So, if you walk away from Him, you’ve walked away from the everlasting life. Now, with those two views, which are both represented on this stage right now, let me say this for sobriety, and then they, my compatriots, can answer: I think that how those two groups would describe a situation is like this. Say a person becomes a Christian, they’re living for the Lord, it seems, they’re reaching other people for Christ, they’re doing amazing things in the Church and then, someday, they become an atheist and aren’t serving God at all. The people that believe you can apostatize in the sense that I just described, or walk away or whatever, are going to say, “He was saved, and now he’s not saved. We need to reach him so that he is saved.”
The people that would hold a view of eternal security might say, “He never really was saved. They went out from us because they weren’t of us. If they were of us, they wouldn’t have gone out from us. But now, we need to reach him so that he is saved.” So, both groups would describe what has happened a little differently, but both groups would agree we need to reach that person for the Lord Jesus Christ. So, I want to lower the stakes a little bit even though there are differences on this stage as far as that goes. Now, if someone believes that you can sin enough to lose your salvation, then I think we have questions about what did Jesus really do on the cross.
Dr. Pritchett: Yeah. I want to say nobody on this stage actually believes you can lose your salvation. Okay? Salvation isn’t lost. Salvation is in Christ. Salvation is of the Lord. Okay? People can be lost. Right? People can walk away from Jesus. It can’t be snatched from His hand, but people do walk away and we witness that. Some people — like I said, the Bible uses a lot of language for this. “Depart from me, I never knew you.” Never knew you. Others, you know, they went out from us to show that they never were of us. But the Bible also says that those who don’t abide are cut off and tossed in the fire. It says that people shipwreck a faith. Do they have faith? How can you shipwreck a faith you never had? Right? So, some people have talked about that. It talks about falling away. Right? Being cut off. All of this language. And yeah, some of that language is really, really scary, which is why we have questions like this because, you know what? Those things are in there to scare the people who are wavering in their faith. But if you’re worried about losing your salvation, it’s like worrying about committing the unpardonable sin. You’re probably not going to. And guess what? Going through periods of doubt does not mean that you have lost your salvation or you’re out of Christ because you doubt. In fact, I’ve had periods of doubt in my life. Periods of doubt in my life, where do I go for certainty? It’s not apologetics books. I go to the God that I’m doubting, which means I’m doing okay.
Dr. Flowers: I think the easiest way to put this is I believe in the eternal security of the believing one. In other words, if you’re not putting your trust in Him, then you don’t need to feel secure. The reason I say that is because I don’t want to give somebody a false hope of their salvation if they’re not trusting in Him. Your hope is in Him. Your trust is in Him. So, if you’re not trusting in Him, I want you to be concerned about that. I want you to come talk to your pastor. I want you to talk to a loved one. I want you to talk to somebody. So, if you’re not trusting in Christ, if you’re not putting your hope in Him, then you need — that should be a huge red flag going off in you. I need to examine the faith, as Paul said. Examine your faith to see if you’re in Him. In other words, trust in Him. And so, what I don’t like from — and I’ll talk about my Southern Baptist upbringing — is this get out of hell free card kind of mentality of saying, “Hey, you walked an aisle when you were seven years old. You prayed this magic prayer. You got dunked in water. Voila. Alakazam. No matter what you do for the rest of your life now, you’re going to go to heaven. So, you can go walk away from God, blaspheme God, do whatever. Hey, you’ve got the get out of hell free card because you did the Baptist thing.”
That is dangerous. That is just plain dangerous, and most people who are objecting against the once saved, always saved position, or the eternal security position, they’re objecting against that form of it. That kind of thing that says, “Well, because you walked an aisle, you said this prayer, you got dunked in water, now you don’t have to think about your salvation.” That’s almost like saying, “Hey, did you get married? Do you have a marriage license? Did you walk up the aisle? Oh, you haven’t spent any time with your spouse since then? You haven’t been with her? You haven’t raised kids with her? And you’re trying to convince me you’re married?” Still, just because you had an experience of walking an aisle with her years and years ago, nobody would do that in any other relationship. And so, I don’t think that we, as a Church, should propagate this idea that because you had some kind of religious experience or you walked an aisle and you said a prayer, that now, hey, that person doesn’t need to think about their security or their relationship with God. I would say just the opposite is true. You should have every reason to listen to those warning texts and take them very, very seriously because He’s trying to warn you about the condition of your soul, and you should listen to the Scriptures.
Dr. Bennett: Yeah. Well, the warnings are in Scripture. I think what all of us up here can agree on — because we all have some different takes on that whole deal — is that none of us up here believe that any church or any Christian should live in eternal insecurity. And that’s the important thing is that you shouldn’t be — I mean, I grew up — I did. I grew up in a tradition where I was saved on Sunday and, by Sunday night, I was lost until Wednesday. And then, on Wednesday night, I got back to church and I got saved again. But by about Thursday morning, I was out again. And then, by Sunday morning, I was in again. And then, by Sunday night, I was out again. And so, that’s called eternal insecurity. And I don’t think anybody needs to live in that. I mean, if you love God and you’re trying to follow God, I don’t think you need to worry about where you’re at. And I think that’s the question. I think what we all would say we really have an issue against is that Jesus didn’t call us to make a decision. Jesus called us to a relationship.
Dr. Pritchett: John 15 is the declaration of dependence for all of us who trust in Christ. Abide in Him and you’ll be fine.
Dr. Bennett: With all the multitude of translations, each translation potentially changing words, phrases, etcetera, how can we be sure that the message we read today is the true, original message? I’m going to jump on this. I think that — just being honest here — yes, there are many translations. But a translation doesn’t mean that you’ve got something wrong. “Como se llama” in Spanish, most people would say that’s, “What’s your name?” Okay? Literally, it’s, “What do you call yourself?” So, if I’m going to translate “como se llama,” am I wrong if I say, “What do you call yourself,” or if I say, “What’s your name?” I’m not wrong. It’s the same thing. It’s just a different way of phrasing it. Most of the things that we have in Scripture are just rephrasings of things, and people act like that somehow takes away from the intent of Scripture. When you’re translating from one language to another, you’re going to get a little bit of variance. There’s nothing, if you’re reading any of the Bibles that we have — you can read the NIV, the ESV, the NASB. Any of those Bibles that you read, they’re 99% of every single thing you’re reading is just exactly about the same thing in all the other translations. And I think we hear the people that are not Christians attack some of these things and erode our faith. I don’t think there’s any reason in the world to think that we don’t have an accurate translation of what Scripture says when we have more documents for the New Testament — nobody — I mean, I teach Plato’s Republic. Nobody questions whether Plato’s Republic is right and I think there’s two or three manuscripts for it. There’s 5,700 manuscripts for the New Testament. Somebody who doesn’t think that we have an accurate reading of Scripture is not being fair to the facts.
Dr. Hunter: I’d say, first of all, stay away from the New World Translation. That is the Jehovah’s Witness translation of the Bible. It is not a reliable translation. But I agree with everything that your pastor, Dr. Bennett, just said. You know, we talk about — you’ll hear people like Bart Ehrman talk about all the thousands of differences between the manuscripts that we have, and there are so many differences in the manuscripts that we don’t even know how many differences there are.
Dr. Bennett: Can I jump in real quick? If you have a question, on our website — since you’re promoting yourself. On our Grace website, and on our mobile app, we have Sam Lamerson who came in and did an academic series a year or so ago on textual variance with Bart Ehrman and how we can trust that. Mike Licona came in at another time, who’s a great apologist, and answered some other questions. So, if you have more in-depth stuff that you want to look at, you can go onto the mobile app or the website at Grace Community Church and look at academic series and look those things up and spend another two hours on those particular things. But, go ahead and fire away.
Dr. Hunter: But you’ll hear them talk about and try to impress you with all the thousands of differences among the manuscripts that we have, but what they don’t necessarily always tell you — some of them do — is that some of those differences are one manuscript says, “Jesus Christ,” the other one says, “Jesus.” The other one says, “The Lord Jesus.” It didn’t change really anything with the meaning, and those differences don’t affect — the differences that we have do not affect major doctrine. Now, whenever we have different manuscript traditions, like the one that the King James Bible and the New King James are based on, and we have translations based on older manuscripts like we do with some of the newer translations, but they’re still all, like Pastor Chip just said, they’re all still giving you the same message. It might be interesting to know that there are translations, like the New American Standard, that are more literal translations trying to give you more of a word-by-word as best they can. And then there are, on the other side of the spectrum, like The Message, which is more of a paraphrase than a translation. And then, smack in the middle, you have stuff like the New International Version that is a translation that occasionally paraphrases things that wouldn’t make any sense to you because it’s a Hebrew idiom that you wouldn’t understand because we don’t use it anymore.
But these are trustworthy. You know? So, they’re giving you the same message, and the message is what matters. And I don’t think that these kinds of translations that you’re going to find at your Christian bookstore, for the most part, are trying to pull the wool over your eyes.
Dr. Bennett: It’s 8:53 and we’ll try to answer a few more questions, but I do want to say that bringing people in and doing something like this does incur expenses. And we want to take up an offering. And so, you don’t have to give, and we’re not buying a 54 million dollar jet. We’re flying people in coach and everything. So, we will take up an offering. We’re just going to pass the buckets. We’re not going to stop and any of that stuff. I want to continue to do questions, but we will do that. If you’d like to give and you’d like to support more nights like tonight so we can do these things, it’d be nice if you would give. If you don’t give, that’s fine. We’re still going to do these events. But it does help offset the costs if that’s the case.
So, here’s what we’re going to do right now while those buckets will eventually be — were we not ready for an offering? Sorry if I just dropped it on you.
Female: Just a second.
Dr. Bennett: Okay. And so, I’m going to do a rapid fire. So, you guys, if you can stay within 30 seconds, just a quick answer. Yes?
Female: We also have child care until 9:00.
Dr. Bennett: Yes. So, yeah. We’ll get you out by 9:00. That’s why I’m saying we’re rapid fire. Okay. Here we go. Real quickly. In the Old Testament, more than once, sea monsters are referred to. Is that exactly what it means? Sea monsters or large fish?
Dr. Flowers: I think it could be large fish.
Dr. Bennett: Large fish. Okay.
Dr. Flowers: I don’t think — you watch some of the Discovery Channels, they look like monsters, some of the things you see down there.
Dr. Bennett: I’ve never caught one at sea. I’m not a fisherman. So, let’s see here. We know we came from Adam and Eve, but where did the wives come from? After God flooded the earth, we know that there was Noah and his wife, but who else was there to help repopulate?
Dr. Hunter: I think this may sound bothersome to you, but I think that, in a literal reading of that story, then what we had is brothers marrying sisters. And we had couples after Noah, that you don’t have a problem there.
Dr. Bennett: Why are some elected to be saved and some never come to the Lord?
Dr. Hunter: You want us to answer that in 30 seconds?
Dr. Flowers: I will refer you to Soteriology101.com, that’s my podcast, and I actually talk about election, predestination and the fact that, in my view, I used to be one who believe that God elects certain people for salvation and not others. I actually now hold to the view that God provides salvation for every man, woman, boy and girl and that anyone may be saved. And if you want more information on that, that’s what I wrote my dissertation on and that’s what the podcast is about. Soteriology 101.
Dr. Bennett: One of the seven statements Jesus makes from the cross is paraphrased, “Today you will be with me in paradise.” Since Jesus, on that day, was not in paradise because He died and He was in a tomb, where did the criminal go?
Dr. Pritchett: Greek has no punctuation, so it depends on where you want to put that comma. I tell you today, you will be with in paradise. I tell you today you will be with me in paradise. I think that we can over analyze phrases to where we can get ourselves into puzzles that we shouldn’t be. The point is the thief on the cross was going to heaven to be with Jesus.
Dr. Bennett: Is there any truth to being slain in the Spirit? Can I answer that? Let me answer this. In John, we have a passage where Jesus, the soldiers are coming and Jesus says to them, “I am,” and they all fell back and went down. Okay? So, if that is slain in the Spirit, we have a biblical reference of people falling backwards because Jesus said something. So, there’s at least a biblical reference for something. I don’t know that every time somebody hits somebody on the head on TV or it happens in a church, I don’t think anybody could guarantee that any of that is always true, but I think we ought to be careful in saying what God can and can’t do because He is God.
Briefly explain carbon dating and why they are now saying they have issues with this method of proof. Bless you.
Dr. Pritchett: I’m not a scientist.
Dr. Hunter: I don’t know. I love I don’t know. Well, I mean, it’s going to have an impact on the age of the earth question again, right? And we’ve already said that we believe that there are people that are faithful believers on both sides of that question. Even if you think that evolution is beyond the pale, it’s still that young earth and old earth Christians still argue about these things. My understanding is that there are problems with certain types of dating. But, again, I’m not a scientist, so I don’t have an opinion beyond that. But it has to do with the age of the earth.
Dr. Flowers: If only scientists would say the same thing when they’re asked theological questions, we’d be in a lot better place.
Dr. Hunter: Amen.
Dr. Bennett: Why and how were the books that aren’t part of the Old Testament and New Testament not included?
Dr. Pritchett: There was not a consensus in the early Church of the use of the books that were left out. Now, during — people don’t know this, but the Apocrypha wasn’t technically canonized into the Catholic Bible until the reformation. So, the reason why we have the books that we have is because they were either written by an eye witness or an apostle and they brought along the Old Testament canon that Jesus affirmed that probably, because of the Septuagint, which was the Greek translation of the Bible that the New Testament authors used, we take all of that because the earliest Church can attest for using the 66 books you have in your Bible. Other letters were disputed but had around 325 or [inaudible] and we pretty much had the canon. Now, that said, I think people like Dr. Bennett and I, we don’t have a problem with people reading the book of Enoch, for example. Or you read — it’s actually mentioned in Jude, in 1 Peter. Referenced. If you want to read the wisdom of Solomon, or Tobit is one of my favorite stories from the Apocrypha. It’s a great story. I don’t think — you shouldn’t be scared of it. Just recognize that it’s not inspired Scripture. But it does help us as New Testament scholars to get into what were the Apostles reading for the New Testament, and it’s pretty clear that they share some ideas with that, with those documents, and they have differences with those documents. And it’s really interesting to see both the similarities and the differences.
Dr. Bennett: Okay. Well, it’s 8:59 and as Nanette, our children’s director, let me know that we do have childcare till 9:00. So, we’re going to call this night. Let me ask you a question. Has everybody enjoyed tonight? Has this been good? Okay. Good. And can we give these guys a hand for being here? Part of my deal as the pastor, I want to also provide an opportunity for people to have an education, because I’m also a professor and I think these are great venues. We’ll continue to do this throughout the summer. We’ll be bringing in some other people and I hope you can join us when they come. We’ll have a quick word of prayer dismissal. We will stay up here. There are some questions that were not answered. I’m sorry. We actually answered this many, so we did pretty good. If you have some questions, you can stay later and ask us up here. We’ll stay. But, let’s close in prayer.
Dear Heavenly Father, I pray right now that You would give us all traveling mercies as we leave. Most importantly, right as we leave here, Lord, I do pray that if there is anybody here this evening by chance just happens to be here that is not a Christian, Lord, maybe they’re at a place where they may feel like they’ve been trying to do life on their own, and maybe it’s not working. Maybe tonight they felt like maybe they didn’t stumble in here just by accident. Maybe they were here because it wasn’t by accident. And they’re sort of feeling anything or thinking something about Christianity. Lord, I pray that they would know that they can come talk to any of us or anybody with a Grace name badge on. We will be happy to talk to them about that with no judgment and just total love. Lord, I pray that if somebody’s feeling that, that they would come forth and make that decision here as we dismiss. So, Lord, send everybody out of here. I pray that we’ve been encouraged in our faith. I pray, Lord, that we see that the local Church can actually talk about things that are difficult, that we can disagree as Christians and we can still be Christians on things because we believe that Jesus rose from the dead and He’s going to return someday.
So, we thank You for everything. In Jesus’ name we pray, and everybody said, “Amen.” And, last word, if you go to Grace Community Church because you came out on a Wednesday night does not give you a free get out of jail card for Saturday or Sunday services. I’m just kidding. God bless everybody. Have a great night.