This article was reprinted from http://home.christianity.com/ministries/rzim/70364.html
Christianity.com was pleased to have apologist Dale Fincher, from Ravi Zacharias International Ministries, recently join us for a second exciting chat event in which he fielded a range of challenging questions from the Christianity.com community. Below you will find the transcript for this event, which includes some great answers to the tough questions posed.
ServingHim says, Hello everyone. We are so glad you could join us tonight for our second chat with apologist Dale Fincher, our special guest from Ravi Zacharias International Ministries. Dale is a speaker and professional actor and has an amazing ability to bring the arts and apologetics together. So get ready for an exciting discussion and begin submitting your tough questions!
damien_jourdan asks, Without relying on the Bible, how do we know that God loves us and wants us to worship Him?
Dale Fincher says, This is a good question. Of course, the Bible makes God, who seems far, draw near- for in the Bible are recorded the actions of God as he relates to men and women. But to the point of the question, Chesterton made a statement that I agree with: he said, I believe in Christianity, not because a couple of things point to it but because almost everything points to it. So I look at the world in which I live and I see it surrounded with beauty. Why beauty? Evolution doesn’t account well for beauty. For evolution says the only explanation for things are their survival power. I don’t see how all the different colors of fish in the sea and all the beautiful flowers in my wife’s garden are a product of evolution. They don’t seem necessary. So this gives indication that God likes beauty, in a similar way that we like it. I also see morals in the world. Again, evolution has a hard time accounting for these… and with morals, we find that they are there to help us live the proper kind of way respecting property and others. So, in brief, I see that God exists and that he’s concerned that I’m living the right kind of way and enjoying the world in which I live in a beautiful way. So how do I know that I’m supposed to worship him? well, when we hold things in high respect, say mother Teresa, we do so because of their moral behavior… and we sometimes hold people in high respect because they are so beautiful. Beautiful celebrities are an example of that, though sometimes their behavior we recognize as not being great. So, if we can see these things in humans, I suspect based on a couple of the arguments above that God expects the proper response from us for his goodness and beauty. Of course, the Bible tells us we worship him in the beauty of holiness. Here both beauty and goodness come together in worship and, let me remind you, worship is the greatest expression of which we are capable. Thanks for the question.
susheel asks, Do you have any concerns about the way the gospel is presented nowadays? Most of the time, we talk to non-believers about “God having a plan for them” or “God will give you peace”… What is the crux of the gospel message?
Dale Fincher says, I do have concerns about this, as the questioner obviously does. I don’t like to think of Jesus as a guy who hands out prizes or as a dictator who will give you the ocean front condo as long as you go with his plans. I think sometimes we are so concerned about rescuing people from hell that we forget what Jesus was telling people. Jesus says that there are two kingdoms- one of light and the other of darkness. He says that the way of darkness is broad and the way of light is narrow. He says that if anyone comes after him, he must deny himself, take up his cross and follow him. He seems to be saying that you are designed to be sold out to Him. Anything less is not following. We see this in practical experience. What if I told my wife that if she married me, I’d buy her a big house to live in. That’s kind of a shabby offer when you think about what marriage is really all about: two people giving their lives for each other in a daily process. God requires an even greater allegiance. Apart from him there is nothing else. As C. S. Lewis said in Till We Have Faces, “to walk out of God’s will is to walk into nowhere.” I recently heard Dallas Willard speaking on discipleship. The great commission is a call to make disciples, not just converts, not just rescuing people from hell. And what we need to understand in our churches is that discipleship must not be an option! Why else come to Jesus, if not to have the best kind of life? Jesus offers this in a radical way, but it requires a complete embracing.
damien_jourdan asks, When Jesus died, did He die for everyone? If so, then why does it matter whether we believe in Him or not?
This is a good question, but I think it has some assumptions in it. The assumption is that if Christ died FOR everyone, then all will be redeemed. But the FOR means that Christ righteousness is available to everyone not that all will accept it. It’s the APPLICATION of Christ’s death that is important. If I put out one hundred dollars for all my friends to have a piece of, and if only three of them come and split it among themselves, …that doesn’t mean that I didn’t give the money FOR all my friends. Rather, it needed to be taken. The Bible says in Ephesians that Christ’s righteousness is a gift but gifts must be received with the free choices of humans. I hope that helps clarify the distinction between availability and application.
calvinkaya asks, I have learned from my experience that Epistemology (How you know what you know) is very important in sharing the gospel. Could you please tell me what is the role of epistemology and How can I use it in evangelism?
This is a great question. In the culture in which we live, many voices are saying that truth is relative, that all religions are the same, and that you can’t trust the Bible. I find epistemology very helpful, especially for those who have in interest in philosophy or want to go deeper in understanding the Christian faith (note: many people in our culture know nothing about epistemology, so sometimes you have to refrain from using the technical philosophical jargon). Many agnostics and atheists talk to me about how I know anything and I find epistemology helps in this regard: there are different sources by which we know things 1) perception: this is using our five senses–a very direct way of knowing things scientists often say that this is the ONLY way we know things, and that is false 2) intuition–that gut sense–nobody teaches a mother how to take care of a baby but they somehow have that knowledge 3) introspection: nobody but me can look inside me and tell me what I’m thinking and feeling 4) testimony–this is not as strong as the above three- HOWEVER, when I hear someone else’s testimony about an event and if that person seems to be of good character, then there’s a very good chance that what they are saying is true. The Bible is one huge testimony after another. If many people used their senses to see and feel the risen Christ then there’s a very good chance that Christ rose. 5) memory–self explanatory–I use my memory of other things all the time. Even scientists use memory to remember sense perceptions they had of previous experiments 6) inference–when we have two things we know and it helps us see a third thing. An example is that when I’m indoors and I see someone come from outdoors who has speckles of water on their shirt…I infer that it’s probably raining outside. So, in helping people see that we don’t just know things by sense perception, which is exactly what our culture seems to rely on when it comes to knowledge, it will open up someone to see that maybe it could be possible. It just might be true that someone’s testimony 2000 years ago about Jesus of Nazareth rising from the dead might be true. I believe it is.
damien_jourdan asks, How can we know or be sure that the Bible is true?
Before I begin, let me recommend F. F. Bruce’s small book “Are the New Testament Documents Reliable?” There are several approaches to answer this- let me be brief with two. First, we find many other ancient books true. The works of Plato, for example. There are very few manuscripts of Plato and those are dated many, many centuries after Plato died. But scholars do uphold those as being reliable and universities across the globe find Plato foundational to much modern philosophy. The New Testament documents are much closer to the actual dates. I believe we have some that are within the lifetime of those who may have seen Christ or are descended directly from those who saw Christ. According to scholars, we have to treat the NT documents the same as those of Plato. And what’s more, there is even more reliability because they are so close to the actual event. Myth takes a long time to develop in a culture. The Jesus story is no myth, even on secular standards of historic documents. The second way I’d answer this is to look at how the stories are told. Look at the resurrection, for example. If I were fabricating this story in the ancient world…I would not use WOMEN to find the empty tomb. I would use men. Why? Because women were not treated as a reliable witness in the ancient world so the bestexplanation for the women finding the empty tomb first in the Gospel Narrative is because it actually happened. There are many more examples like this, but if you look at Bruce’s book, it will cash it out more than I can here.
calvinkaya asks, I would like to know how should I share the Gospel with Muslims? I am an online Turkish Muslim evangelist to Turkey.
Good question. Let’s look at the epistemology question above. In reflection on it, in our society, we don’t rely on testimony so much as we do on sense perception. But Muslims aren’t the same way. Three things come to mind when thinking about reaching out to Muslims and giving them knowledge that they’ll accept. 1) They respond well to a community of love. They themselves do a lot to help in their community, though there are so many factions of Muslims in the world warring with one another, one wonders how long they can last before they see through the guise of hatred. 2) Muslims accept visions dreams as a means of knowledge. I know the story of an official in a middle eastern country. He was a Muslim and had dreams almost every night for seven years and in those dreams he saw Jesus speaking to him. After seven years, he gave his life to Christ. The dreams have stopped. Muslims think God communicates through dreams and visions and so they listen well to them. 3) The scripture. Muslims regard highly their holy book. And most of them have never heard or read the Bible. For them to be exposed to the Bible and how coherent and story-like it is of God’s actions in the world they will be impressed with it. Of course, there are some apologetic ideas regarding Islam as a belief system. One example is, “Who was Allah loving before he created?” He has no answer, for Allah needed creation in order to love anything. But the Christian God has the Trinity in which the Father loves the Son and they two love the Spirit. So the Christian God did not need anything in order to love- in the Trinity there was community already and this is one argument I find helpful in explaining the problem with Islam in an ideational way. I hope this helps and good blessing in taking the name of Christ to Turkey!
diffenbaugh asks, Do you have any advice for those of us having trouble discerning the voice of God in what he may be calling us to do with our lives, specifically someone new to the faith and with many skeptical non-believing friends and other prominent voices in their life?
I think this is a good question and one that many struggle with. Let me answer the second part of your question first: It will always be difficult to follow Christ if you allow those who care nothing for Christ be major influences in your life. What we hang around is what we become–says the old adage. So I would recommend a new believer to find a church to get plugged into where people will honestly care of them and help show them how to follow Christ. And this leads to the first part of your question: the voice of God is clear in Scripture. And this is always the first place to go when discerning the will of God. What is God calling you to do? He’s calling you to follow Jesus Christ. What does that mean, to follow Jesus? I think Matthew 5-7 does an excellent job explaining it. Jesus is speaking (Jesus is, after all, the smartest man who ever lived) and he says to see God’s kingdom you should do the right thing to your neighbor and think on what is good- and all of this is in light of the Kingdom of God and what it means to be a citizen of it. As to your calling, I would recommend to look at your giftedness. What gives you passion? What makes you excited? This is probably the area where you have giftedness. But also talk to those who care about you and ask them what they see in you that you are good at. And whatever you find to do, says Paul in the Bible, do it unto Jesus. That is, be a citizen of the kingdom of God and follow Jesus in whatever you are doing. I don’t think God has a roadmap for you such that if you don’t do that one job then you’re going to be a failure. I think God’s concern is that you are like Christ. And then be like Christ wherever you are. Last time I recommended a Dallas Willard book: Let me recommend it again here because it deals with this issue head-on. Here are two: “Hearing God” and “Renovation of the Heart”
cma asks, Christ led a sacrificial life and I was taught that I too must be willing to die for my Lord. In today’s age that doesn’t seem a very appealing way to live, so my question is as a true Christian what must a person sacrifice in this life and to what extent?
Let me answer it in one word: everything. Jesus says that if you save your life, you’ll lose it; if you lose your life for his sake, you’ll find it. Paul says we are to be a living sacrifice, which is your spiritual worship. So the way I see it, if we don’t give our all to Christ, we aren’t living the abundant life. C. S. Lewis points out very well in “Mere Christianity” that the paradox of Christ is that when you give yourself to him, you’ll find you have more of your own self than ever. in our western culture, we don’t get killed for our faith..but I think it is easier to die for Christ than live for him. In dying, we get the whole thing over with at once. In living, we have to go through the mundane days of obedience. I agree with you that it doesn’t seem ‘appealing’–at least not at first. But once you’re in it, you don’t want to trade it for anything. If Jesus really is the smartest man around, he must know what he’s talking about. And he says that the thief comes to steal kill and destroy but He (Christ) comes that you may have life and have it to the fullest. Is a full life appealing to you? Look to Christ.
susheel asks, Many Christians I know are satisfied with using their own experiences as proof of the reality of Christ. Is it really necessary to know why we believe what we believe?
I think this is an important question. But the question already assumes a WHY. People say the reason WHY is because of their experiences. That sounds like a reason to believe to me. But even more importantly, are you asking the Muslim, the Hindu, the atheist, the pantheist, and others to do the same? Is experience alone the test for all truth? I hope not. If it is only on experience, there is no way to decipher between two contradictory experiences. if a Hindu has an experience and a Christian has an experience, which God is right? I think this is what has led to pluralism in our culture and it is not rational. If Jesus says, I am the way, that means there is no other. But I don’t look to my experience alone to determine that. I look to what God has said. How else do we know Jesus but by looking to what he said and then relating to him in that way. So, yes, it is necessary, else I would really wonder what you believe at all.
damien_jourdan asks, Non-Christians expect Christians to be living spotless lives, and when they fail to do so they point fingers and conclude that therefore Christianity is false — after all Jesus seems to set the bar pretty high of what His followers would be like… How should I respond?
This is important and a difficult one to answer. Let me give it a try. I am a Christian, not because of other Christians. In fact, I’ve met a lot of lousy Christians in my life. Even more, I’ve met a lot of people who are lousy humans but they use the label “Christian” to make themselves look better (I guess). Does this mean that I, like the non-believer, am not a Christian? I don’t think so. Christianity is about Christ. I am not impressed with Christians, but I am impressed with Christ. So I follow him, because even though others (including myself) have a hard time of it sometimes… he didn’t have a hard time of it. I don’t claim to be able to empower non-believers to live a good life. But Jesus can if they allow him to form their souls. In our culture, I believe that many Christians do a lame job of following Jesus because, as I mentioned in a previous answer, most people aren’t taught how to follow Jesus. So what do we expect of people who receive Jesus as their Savior but are not taught how to follow Him? I expect them to come up pretty short. Whose fault is that? Well, many factors, of which our culture is part of it. But let me add one more thing: I find that whether Christian or not most people claim that they know what goodness is and that they should be good people and that most of them, in their honest moments, have a hard time doing that too. So we’re all hypocrites in some sense. Now the question is: who will help us? I think only Christ can help us with this predicament. The Bible calls it sin. It also says that Christ died for the unrighteous (all of us) so that he might bring us to God. Our goal is to be brought to God and to be transformed by Him in the process. This is a long journey…but it doesn’t negate the truth of Christ. Again, look to Christ. He is the one that is claiming to be the answer. It’s our job to point to him with our life and always allow him to be the final authority.
ServingHim says, Unfortunately, we are out of time tonight. Thanks so much for chatting with us Dale!
Dale Fincher says, You’re welcome.
ServingHim says, Do you have any final thoughts you would like to leave us with?
Dale Fincher says, It is always difficult to give big answers to so many good questions when limited by this kind of medium. But let me challenge each of you, whether Christian or not, that the Bible as well as many other resources can give many answers beyond what I have written here. Be honest in your search and in your growth towards God’s kingdom. Christ promises to be with those who seek him. God Bless all of you for being here tonight.