can't let this one slide…

I asked God to make it clear to me when to keep my mouth shut and when to open it back up and what to say when I do open it.

Disclaimer: I will inevitably fail at this Discernment Test. There will be many (hopefully not too many!) times, I’m sure, that I take matters into my own hands without listening for the prompting of the Holy Spirit. But this time it’s pretty clear. I have something to say.

If this is your first time to the blog, I’ll quickly catch you up. Over the past couple weeks we’ve been discussing matters of faith off and on. I don’t have statistics, but I’m guessing that a majority of people reading this blog are followers of Christ. They (and I) believe that He is the Way, the Truth and the Life. Our Savior, Redeemer and friend.

But not all you share that faith–and I hope you know you’re welcome here. Take Andrea for example. Andrea is a nice, smart guy (an Italian friend of mine and Gabe’s) who enjoys a good discussion and is curious to know why we Christians won’t budge from this belief system of ours–a faith that seems to defy logic much of the time.

I’ve made a decision not to keep going ’round and ’round with Andrea. I want him to know that I care for him as a person more than I care about winning an argument. I’m going to pray for him and let God speak to his heart. He knows this and said the other day–I suppose there’s no way I could convince you to spend in a more useful way your time instead of praying for me, right?

You suppose correctly, friend.

But Andrea asked some very, very poignant questions yesterday that struck a chord in my heart. Questions that could lead to something much bigger and better than another “religious” debate. I have some answers simmering in my head, but I’d like to open it up to some of you first.

Here’s what he said: Ali (and Gabe in the past) and I think every Christian clearly says that in your “relationship” there is NO WAY for a person to reach God. Only God can reach the person. So there is NOTHING I could do to reach god. Even simply “accepting him” is an act towards, and you say that I can’t reach him. How could I reach God, Christ or build this “relationship” if I can’t do ANYTHING?

Another aspect: how can a person who’s NOT in a Christian nation being saved? Due to this “one-way” and “here only” method, a person in Africa will perish in Hell, since he has no chance to know your god. Am I correct?

So if I wanted to become Christian, how can I, since I can’t reach him?

So, tell me, friends, is there no way to reach God? Is there anything I can do? Is it true that I can’t come to God; I have to wait for Him to come to me? Is there hope for people in “non-Christian” nations?

And the biggest question of all–If I wanted to become Christian, how can I, since I can’t reach him?

Andrea and Gabe have had several chats via the computer over the past few years. And Gabe said tonight that he has told Andrea on several occasions–“Andrea, you’re chatting with me for a reason. There’s a reason you keep coming back. If you don’t “need” anything, if there are no gaps in your life, then why are you here?”

So, here are my “light and easy” questions for your holiday Friday (and I’m hoping that some of you are still here to answer them, rather than off eating watermelon and waving sparklers):

For those of you who follow Christ: How would you answer Andrea’s questions?

And for Andrea: Why are you here, friend? What keeps pulling you back?

And that’s it.

Stay tuned next week for “God Showed Up at my Garage Sale,” a Super-Fun Give-Away, an Interview with Amanda, and some other fun stuff!

And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him. (Hebrews 11:6)

Happy Independence Day, my fellow Americans! And Happy Weekend to the rest of you!

11 thoughts on “can't let this one slide…

  1. Kimberly

    I was just reading NT Wright’s “Surprised by Hope” wherein he discusses the resurrection of Jesus, and why it is pivotal to Christianity. I realized when reading it that it is very hard to keep all those points in my head at the same time. It is useful to be able to have some apologetic writing on hand, as well as knowing the basics. However, even Wright comes down to saying that a person can never be “reasoned” into the Kingdom. It requires an act of faith.

    “Lord, I believe, Help me in my unbelief….”

  2. Cheryl

    I just wanted to pop in again to say that I so appreciate what has been shared here so far. So glad you all joined in, most of your answers are much better than mine 🙂 Thanks to all of you.

  3. Gail

    Romans 1:20 says, “For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.”

    I think that speaks to some of the discussion about how will people know Him who have not heard. I’m not saying it’s complete revelation or that we are absolved of the responsibility to tell the world. But I firmly believe that all will be held accountable to what has been revealed. And creation reveals a lot.

  4. Tarah

    OK, when I read through all the comments by Andrea a few days ago, I had one thought on my mind. And, that was that I wished he could hear or read some Ravi Zacharias. Rather than try and answer some of these questions myself, I often point people to others who do a much clearer job of it. Sometimes I think if I post a link, noone will really read it. But, I did actually spend some time at Andrea’s link on expelledexposed.com. I looked for compelling answers to the things that I found most interesting about the film. I have to say there wasn’t much. I am sure that Stein selectively presented things in a way that best supported his view, isn’t that generally true of any documentary with an agenda? And of course there is always an opposing response. However, there was nothing in expelledexposed.com that made me think they had done any different. Nothing compelling as far as brand new evidence….only some research that they mention (on the carbon latticework) that has yet to actually succeed or prove anything. They don’t even mention the one statement that I found most memorable….which is Dawkins final comment on the way back origin of life…..Alien life forms. Seems to not have been mentioned anywhere on the site.

    Anyhoo, since I took the time to read Andrea’s link…..perhaps he would take the time to look at mine? At the bottom of this comment is a YouTube clip of Ravi answering a question about the authority of the Bible. And, if you do a YouTube search on Ravi, you will find many more clips of his time at secular Universities answering people with tough questions such as yourself, Andrea. I would have posted many other such links, but I trust that if you want to read them….you can easily search for them on YouTube or Google.

    Here is another quote of his I found interesting regarding whether the Bible is all we need for good apologetics. (in light of your comment on how the Bible can’t itself be proof of it’s inerrancy) And I know Ravi also does a great job with philosophical and logic arguments for the existence of God. You may really enjoy him….I think he speaks particularly to the logical and philosophical thinker.

    Interviewer: “What do you say to a pastor who says, “Apologetics is just philosophy, and we do not need that. All we need is the Bible”?

    Zacharias: I desperately wish it were that simple. When pastors believe and teach, “all we need is the Bible,” they equip their young people with the very line that gets them mocked in the universities and makes them unable and even terrified to relate to their friends. If pastors want their young people to do the work of evangelism — to reach their friends — that line will not get them anywhere. Even the Bible that Christ gave us is sustained by the miracle of the Resurrection.

    The Resurrection gave the Early Church the argument that Christ is risen: We saw, we witnessed, we felt, and we touched. The apostle Paul defended this gospel. He went to Athens and planted a church there. In Ephesus he defended the faith in the school of Tyrannus. We also need to become all things to all people.

    If a pastor says, “All we need is the Bible,” what does he say to a man who says, “All I need is the Quran”? It is a solipsistic method of arguing.

    The pastor is saying, “All I need is my own point of reference and nothing more than that.” Even the gospel was verified by external references. The Bible is a book of history, a book of geography, not just a book of spiritual assertions.

    The fact is the resurrection from the dead was the ultimate proof that in history — and in empirically verifiable means — the Word of God was made certain. Otherwise, the experience on the Mount of Transfiguration would have been good enough. But the apostle Peter says in 2 Peter 1:19: “We have the Word of the prophets made more certain … as to a light shining in a dark place.” He testified to the authority and person of Christ, and the resurrected person of Christ.

    To believe, “All we need is the Bible and nothing more,” is what the monks believed in medieval times, and they resorted to monasteries. We all know the end of that story. This argument may be good enough for those who are convinced the Bible is authority. The Bible, however, is not authoritative in culture or in a world of counter-perspectives. To say that it is authoritative in these situations is to deny both how the Bible defends itself and how our young people need to defend the Bible’s sufficiency.

    It is sad that some people think a person who asks, “Why the Bible?” is being dishonest. This is a legitimate question.”

    I won’t presume to speak for every believer here, but I know for myself….my faith is not solely based on the Bible in and of itself. The Bible’s authority is reinforced by compelling historical, scientific, and experiential evidence. To argue that I believe it simply b/c it says it’s true or just because I do…..I can certainly understand why that is a mockworthy to those who think differently. I believe this generation must either be ready to give an answer to any question put to them that makes sense or point the questioner to someone who can. We need to be as well read and well informed as we can, and not be afraid of reading opposing viewpoints, which in the end will only strengthen and affirm the Truth. Andrea, I wish you the best as you search for the truth.

    Here is that link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pHRP0I2SrVs

  5. Missy

    A good article, I think:

    http://www.epm.org/artman2/publish/church/If_no_one_seeks_after_God_unless_God_draws.shtml

    And just to add to that, I think the concept of “there is NO WAY for a person to reach God,” comes from Romans 3:10-12:

    “‘There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands, no one who seeks God. All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one.'”

    The concept is that man doesn’t seek God on his own, because man in and of his sinful self, wouldn’t desire to. That if man does seek after God, it is because God is at work in his heart.

    But the Bible also clearly states in John 3:16 “For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him, will not perish, but will have everlasting life.”

    That’s just one of very many (Alcorn’s article mentions others) where the Bible refers to “man” believing in or seeking after God.

    In response to what I think is the question: what about those who never hear, I would point to Romans 18-20.

    “The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness, since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities – his eternal power and divine nature – have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.”

    Now, since the concern is for someone who is in a situation where they may never hear the gospel or see a printed Bible, I will say that God says they can know about His existence simply by looking at Creation. Considering the remoteness of their existence, I would assume that if the Bible hasn’t reached their part of the world, then they most likely haven’t read through a modern Science textbook which would point them towards Big Bang Theory and Evolution. So, obviously no stumbling block there. 😉 (Sorry, couldn’t help but tease about or different views there)!

    The bottom line, Andrea, is that you ask some (just some) of the same questions that believers struggle with. There is a lot in this world that just doesn’t make sense in terms of our ideas of what justice and fairness look like. If God is good, then why doesn’t He just save everyone? If God is good, why do people suffer? Why do people who commit their entire lives to Him suffer? Where is the goodness in that? The honest truth is, none of the answers we have will sound “good” to you if you don’t believe in Him. They’re going to sound foolish at the very least, if not crazy.

    This is what I can tell you that God says about Him/us:
    1. We’re all sinners.
    2. God is perfect and sinlessness is His standard.
    3. We can’t be sinless on our own.
    4. God sacrificied His own Son in our place.
    5. Accept Him, and you will have relationship with Him and forgiveness for ALL sin (past, present, future).

    So, whether you accept or reject all the other things you find question with in the Bible (crazy boat stories with lots of animals, angels, demons, a sea parting in two, a man walking on water…), the truth is the above statements summarize the only thing God is calling you accept or reject. What do you do with His son? He’s not asking you to understand all the rest right now (or even believe it)! He is not going to measure you someday on whether or not you thought Noah really lived 950 years. He’s simply going to hold you accountable for what you did with His son. So if I can encourage you to dwell on something, dwell on Christ. Accept or reject, and then worry about all the rest.

    (P.S. Sorry, but my kiddos just woke up from their naps, so off I go! I apologize for not checking ^^^what I just wrote and hope it makes sense)!

  6. Rachel

    Where in the Bible does it say there is no way to reach God – that He must reach us? Are you referring to “Faith comes by hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ” (Romans 10:17)?

    Then yes, God reaches out to us (all of us) through His word. Who doesn’t have access to the Bible? At this point, most people do. Therefore, we are all able to come to God.

    When I say that, I am also including people all over the world. It doesn’t matter what nation you are from.

    Andrea asks the same question that that the Jews ask in Acts 2 (by the way, they were from all different nations as well – Acts 2:5):

    When the people heard about Christ, they were cut to the heart. and said to Peter and the apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?”

    Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. This promise is for YOU and YOUR CHILDREN WHO ARE FAR OFF – for all whom the Lord our God will call.”

    And then those that accepted were baptized. Later in the chapter it says they devoted themselves to the apostles teaching (establishing the “church”).
    Act 2:37-47

    When he says, “For all whom the Lord our God will call,” he is talking about those who will accept Jesus and live their lives for him. It doesn’t mean God picks and chooses and denies certain people. That just isn’t Biblical.

    How can one know God? Through Jesus Christ – His son.
    Christ said, “Whoever acknowledges me before men, I will also acknowledge him before my Father in heaven. But whoever disowns me before men, I will disown him before my Father in heaven.” – Matthew 10:32-33

    Then what? (Acts 2:38 as above) and the rest of the New Testament teaches us how we ought to live.

    God’s grace is there. No matter who you are or where you live.

    The Bible is all you need to come to the Lord. His word is flawless (Prov 30:5).

    Hope that helps!

  7. Lisa H

    Marla,
    Thank you again. I’m so glad you “couldn’t let this one slide.” I was thinking along the same lines late last night.

    Kelly,
    Love your response. Exactly what I was going to say.

    Just to add a few things:

    God will never turn away anyone who seeks Him and wants to know Him. The best way to know Him is to read the Bible. If you read it with an open mind, and honestly seek Him, He will make Himself known to you. A good place to start is reading the book of John.

    In case anyone wants to look up the verses that Kelly mentioned, here are the references:

    Matthew 11:28
    Jeremiah 29:13
    Ephesians 2:8,9
    Acts 16:30,31
    Romans 10:9
    Romans 10:13
    John 3:16
    Mark 16:15

    Andrea,
    You might be interested in the works of Ravi Zacharias. http://www.rzim.org

    Also, “The Case For Christ” by Lee Strobel

  8. Marla Taviano

    Kelly, I love you so much I could cry.

    Friends, don’t be afraid to chime in with just a brief thought or verse. I know it’s intimidating, but Andrea’s soul is in GOD’s hands. Don’t worry that your “piddly” words won’t help. If God is prompting you to say something, please do.

    Unless, like me, you have very little to add to what Kel-Kel said.

  9. Kelly MARLA'S Cousin ;)

    Yeah, I like Andrea, he’s cool, but I’d have to quit both of my jobs to have the time to devote to going “’round and ’round” with him. 🙂

    There are a couple things I want to say, but I’m in the middle of a radio show. I’ll take a stab at it anyway…

    Andrea: No, it’s not true that you can’t come to God. Not at all. When we say that there is nothing you can do to get to God, that’s referring to earning your way to heaven. Doing good deeds, being a good person, or obeying rules can’t get you to God.

    The bible is full of statements about coming to God. Off the top of my head… “COME to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” “You will SEEK me and FIND me when you SEARCH for me with all your heart,” the numerous times Jesus says “FOLLOW me.” All of that implies action. But the action is believing, not being good enough to earn God/heaven on your own merits. There are many more, but I’m pressed for time here.

    The Bible says that We are saved by God’s grace through our faith. Salvation is a GIFT from God, not the result of our good works. So no matter how many rules you follow, or how many good deeds you do, the only way to heaven is through faith in Jesus. That’s where “there’s nothing you can do” comes in. You can’t work your way to heaven. That doesn’t mean you can’t COME to God.

    The question was, if I wanted to become Christian, how can I, since I can’t reach him? A man in the Bible asked the same question:

    “what must I do to be saved?” The answer was: “believe in the Lord Jesus and you will be saved.”

    Also from the Bible:

    “If you CONFESS with your mouth that Jesus is Lord, and BELIEVE in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.”

    “Everyone who CALLS on the name of the Lord will be saved.”

    You also asked “how can a person who’s NOT in a Christian nation be saved? Due to this “one-way” and “here only” method, a person in Africa will perish in Hell, since he has no chance to know your god. Am I correct?”

    Nope. 😉 All people in all nations can be saved the same way. There is no “here only” method at all. The Bible says there is “one way,” and that way is Jesus.

    “God so loved the WORLD that he gave his only son, that WHOEVER believes in him WILL NOT PERISH, but have eternal life.”

    Jesus wasn’t born in America. Americans weren’t the first Christians. We may seem to be the most vocal about Christianity, but we are by no means a “Christian nation.” Many, many Americans are just like you, in that they think we’re nuts. 🙂 I don’t have the proper time to go into this much, but there are millions of believers worldwide… The largest Christian church is in Korea, not the US. People in all nations–including nations where Christians have to meet in secret to avoid persecution–have relationships with Jesus. I grew up in Southeast Asia, and there are many believers there who share their faith with others. In Africa, there are people who believe and do the same. Jesus said to “go into all the world and make disciples of EVERY nation,” and that’s what people have been doing. And they did so in your neck of the woods before ours. 🙂 Every nation will have a chance to hear.

    Sorry for the choppy, hurried response, but it’s all I can manage at the moment.

    I could talk for hours and hours and days, and never change your mind, Andrea. And I don’t want to change it. There’s absolutely nothing I can say to prove to you that God is real, and that the way to Him is Jesus. All I CAN say is that he has proven it to me. Over and over and over again. And my life doesn’t make sense without him.

    The questions you are asking us, ask God. Challenge HIM like you’re challenging us… He’s up for the challenge, and He’s got the answers you’re after.

  10. Cheryl

    Okay, I’ll get things going though I do not have the complete answer by far. Also, there’s no question that these this part of theology/faith can get confusing and murky really fast.

    First, in a sense, no we cannot come to know God unless we hear or read about Him/are somehow introduced. Because of original sin, we do not naturally have a relationship, it was broken at the fall. We do not naturally believe in Jesus, instead we run away in sin.

    So does that mean we believe that people in non-Christian areas (whether right here in the US or somewhere else) die and go to Hell because they have had no exposure to Christianity. As hard as it is to say, yes. Is it fair in our human minds? No. Do we understand why the rules were set that way, again I’d say no for at least myself. Do I struggle with that? Yes. And there are lots of other things I don’t fully understand either as I mentioned in the other discussion between Andrea and I.

    However, do my questions there negate or override my entire faith? No, I still believe the concepts around John 3:16 which are at the core. That is where I get my comfort for daily life and assurance of what happens to me when I die.

    Is there hope for those who haven’t heard the Gospel message yet? Yes, God tells Christians to share the good news. He doesn’t ask, He commands and expects. So Andrea, that’s partly the answer to your question. Do the rest of us have anything else to do besides being concerned about your beliefs? Sure, we have jam-packed lives, but we also are commanded to not just sit on the knowledge we have and hide it away. We are to reach out and that’s what we’re doing friend. Hopefully, at least that part you can understand for now and if so, it’s a start.

    Cheryl

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *