Apologetics

The Only Solution to Western Erosion and Islamic Resurgence


The reason I wrote the book MUSLIM: What You Need to Know about the World’s Fastest-Growing Religion is that despite its incoherence, the Muslim cult (by the way, it is a cult — a cult of Arabian paganism, Judaism, and Christianity, and a muddy mixture of all of them at best), this cult one-billion-six-hundred-million strong and growing, is poised to fill the vacuum left by a Western culture that is slouching inexorably toward Gomorrah. Demographics are alarming. While polygamist Muslims boast a robust birthrate, native Westerners are moving rapidly toward self-extinction. Filling that void are multiplied millions of Muslims who have little or no intention of assimilating into Western culture.

Equally grave is the specter of global Islamic jihadism. That is calling it like it is. A global Islamic jihadism network that is now exacting mass genocide on Christians in the East and ever-multiplying terrorist attacks throughout the West. Just before I went on air, I did an interview with the Associated Press. During that television interview, I wore a button, and that button has the fourteenth letter of the Arabic alphabet on it: ن. The reason I wear it, as I explained to the AP reporter, is that I stand in solidarity with Christians who are facing mass genocide in the Middle East, which is squarely in the blind spot of the West. This symbol, the fourteenth letter of the Arabic alphabet — we use the word “nūn”; that is how you pronounce it, to describe this letter — has been scrawled on churches and homes of Christians throughout the Middle East, as they have been taken by Muslims. It is not just ISIS; other people have been plundering the homes of Christians as well. So I wear this, although it is used as a term of derision by Muslims against Christians who serve the Nazarene, Jesus Christ. I wear it in that I am standing in solidarity with my brothers and sisters in Christ who are being maimed and murdered. Most of them I will not see this side of eternity, but I will see them in eternity. What more can I say?

We are witnessing the cobelligerency of fantastically wealthy Saudis. They are spending billions of dollars exporting virulent Wahhabism to the West. We think about ISIS or ISOL or Daesh, or whatever you want to call it, the fact of the matter is we have an alliance — because we are addicted to the alliance’s oil — we have an alliance with Saudi Arabia, the very country that is exporting something equally as bad or perhaps worse than ISOL itself. Exporting this virulent form of Sunni Islam to the West.

Worse still, Western governments, academic institutions, and media outlets are bent on exporting a false narrative respecting the religious animus that is animating global Islamic jihadism. I hope when you hear the monikers that are used on television, you will insert these words, at least mentally in your mind, for what is really going on. The best moniker to use is not radical Islam; it is global Islamic jihadism. That of course serves to recapitulate a problem, but what begs our attention are solutions.

Some might suppose that the solution lies in an aggressive use of Western military power. Now, that is wholly necessary in some cases, just as World War II was wholly necessary, but it is not sufficient. Sebastian Gorka, who was part of the Trump administration until, I guess, he could not stand anymore the political correctness going on in this regard, he wisely noted that you cannot win a war if you cannot talk honestly about your enemy. I should also say that the problem is not ultimately fixed either at the ballot box, because, as with military might, political activism plays a necessary yet insufficient role. The despotism of militant egalitarianism, radical individualism, multiculturalism, political correctness, and religious pluralism are not magically redeemed by political victories. That ought to be pretty clear to us by now. Even during the Reagan Revolution, illiberal liberalism — I love that moniker because it shows just what we have to deal with: an oxymoron — illiberal liberalism continued, even during the Reagan years, to hold sway in the educational, entertainment, and environmental industries, the very industries that create, manipulate, and disseminate ideological constructs that are driving Western civilization in a very, very dangerous direction.

Again, that is why I wrote the book MUSLIM: What You Need to Know about the World’s Fastest-Growing Religion. I am using the acronym MUSLIM so that you can remember, or get your arms around, what Islam is all about.

The only real solution to a disintegrating West, to a resurgent Islam, is what the prophetic pen of Os Guinness wisely designated renaissance. In other words, it is the power of the gospel, however dark the times. “The challenge,” said Guinness, “is to shake ourselves free from the natural despondency of those who look only at circumstances and at the statistics of decline and gloom.” As Christians, we do well to realize that the West has been one place before, and now it appears that the West has almost been lost a second time. Now partly in response to the courageous faith of those who have achieved it twice before, but more in response to the Great Commission itself, it is time, it is high time, to set our minds and hearts to win back the West to our Lord again.

— Hank Hanegraaff

This blog adapted from the September 7, 2017 Bible Answer Man broadcast.

Apologetics

Sally Quinn, Hexes, and the Truth about the Occult

Speaking about a true evaluation of things, I wish Sally Quinn had a true evaluation of things. I was reading USA Today, and the headline in huge, huge type was “Sally Quinn Has Cast 3 Hexes, and Worries They Worked.” She, of course, is a veteran journalist and founder of a website, ironically enough, called On Faith. She describes her lifelong belief in the occult, and worries that she once put hexes on people, and those hexes actually worked.

You read the article (it is in a question-and-answer format), and in response to questions, she pointed out that she has “psychic abilities.” She says, “My mother put hexes on two people,” and, boy, did they work; those people “died.” She said, “I saw her do it,” and then “when I was in my late 20s and early 30s, there were three people who hurt me in some way, or [hurt] somebody I loved, and so I decided to put a hex on them.” When she was asked, “How do you put a hex on someone?” She said, “There’s sort of a ritual. I light candles and music and fire and notes,” and she said, as a result, “one person died right away, another person got fired immediately and then died, and then the other one died right away.” Evidentially, two died instantaneously.

Quinn’s brother said to her, “You’ve really got to cut this out. This is bad karma,” and, “In some way, you have put out bad energy and it comes back at you threefold, and you’ve just have got to stop this.” When she heard that, she said, “I never did it again,” although she has been tempted. She says, “Believe me, since [Donald] Trump was elected, and since the election, I can’t tell you how many friends have asked me to put a hex on Donald Trump, and I won’t do it. I just said no. I don’t do that anymore.” In other words, she is not going to murder another person. It worked for her mother, did not have to use a knife, sword, didn’t have to use a gun. Just had to learn the ritual and use a hex.

The USA Today Q & A ends with her saying, “I…had this epiphany, which was that all of the things that I had believed in, all of the magic that I had believed in, was just as legitimate as organized religion, of Islam or of Judaism or of Catholicism, or of Protestantism. And it was just that it wasn’t organized in that way and that therefore didn’t have that respect….So I began to see that all religion was magic, and it is.” She also says, “I can’t understand that any God who was omniscient and all good could allow suffering, and that’s the big hurdle I have about a confessional God.”

I think it is important for us in light of Sally Quinn’s new book Finding Magic, it is instructive and incumbent upon us to discuss a couple of things. She does not believe in a confessional God because a confessional God would not allow suffering. What’s the Christian response? Secondly, she is involved in occult practices, or at least she was, and I think by looking at the title of her book (although I have not read it), she still is into the occult to some degree. She is just not killing people anymore with her hexes. It is a pretty disturbing thing, and we need to talk about the world of the occult as well. This is another example of why it is necessary for Christians to always be ready to give an answer, a reason for the hope that lies within them and do that with gentleness and respect.

Now, what Sally Quinn is into is the world of the occult. I thought that I would spend a few moments talking about the world of the occult because this is one of the core values of the Christian Research Institute: to counter cults and this occultist kind of behavior Quinn’s involved in.

It is kind of interesting, even in the article she was not going to divulge all the secrets, and that is quite common because the actual idea in the Latin (i.e. occultus) has inculcated in it this idea of hidden or secret. But, of course, now she has taken the world of the occult, and it is no longer in the closet. It has been glamorized. Think about this: you don’t like someone; you can kill them. You do not even have to go to court. This kind of sorcery or magic is an attempt by occultists to harness paranormal powers for private purposes. What they do is they use these ritualistic formulas — Quinn talks about “candles and music and fire and notes” but doesn’t want to elaborate beyond that — they use spells, incantations. What they are trying to do is harness what they perceive to be the natural and spiritual powers of the universe in order to satisfy their own desires. Someone hurts you, someone does not love you as they should, you feel jilted? Well, put a hex on them, and then they will pay. It is just a matter of learning how to harness this power.

What does God say about that? First of all, God lets us know that it is lame. There is no real inherent power here. It is mythological. It is not real. But, God warns the Israelites that these very practices would inevitably lead to their downfall (Deut. 18:9–13). Not only that, but He rebuked the Babylonians. He rebuked them because they supposed that they could bypass His power through their many sorceries and potent spells (Dan. 2:1–23; Isa. 14:1–23). That is the germ of the issue. It is seeking another power other than God. It is trying to supplant the one who created the universe and stamped His imprimatur upon us with a counterfeit. In doing this, they are believing in a kind of spiritism that is completely bankrupt. Ouija boards, the crystal ball, the idea of conjuring up the dead, all of this is something God spoke out against very, very strongly warning those who practice spiritism by saying, “I will set my face against the person who turns to mediums and spiritists” (Lev. 20:6 NIV).

In the Bible, we see something very graphic in this regard. Sally Quinn really could not kill anybody with her hexes. That is delusional. God, however, has the power of life and death. You see in 1 Samuel 28, Saul — who was made the first king of Israel — turn from God to hexes, spiritualists, to the witch at Endor. As a result, he thinks that through a witch, he can get answers that he no longer wants to get from God. Remember, in the story, Samuel appears, and the witch is bewitched. She is absolutely terrified because she certainly was not expecting this. Samuel was raised from the dead not by an occult power, which would be impossible, but by God. That was done as a severe warning. You see that warning carried out in the life of Israel’s first king because with the warning came the result. Saul died (1 Sam. 31).

We should never turn to anyone but to the true and living God. The bottom line when it comes to spiritists is prostitution. When they are involved in that kind of prostitution, they end up cutting themselves off from all that is true, right, and good.

I was also very intrigued by Sally Quinn saying, “I can’t understand that any God who was omniscient and all good could allow suffering, and that’s the big hurdle I have about a confessional God.” This, of course, brings up one of the questions that is asked over and over again by those who disbelieve. That question is asked to those whom believe, and those who believe need to answer, and when they answer, they give a reason for the hope that lies within them, and hopefully they can do that with gentleness and with respect.

At first blush, when that question is asked — when you are asked the question about evil or suffering — there might seem to be as many responses as there are religions. In truth, there are only three: pantheism, philosophical naturalism, and theism.

Now pantheism, we get rid of the first two quickly; it denies the ultimate existence of good and evil. Why? Because in this view, God is all, and all is God.

What about philosophical naturalism? That is the worldview that undergirds evolutionism. Well, philosophical naturalism supposes that everything is a function of random material processes, and thus there can be no such things as good and evil in the ultimate sense.

Theism is the only possibility, and only Christian theism answers the question to suffering and evil in a satisfactory matter.

Let us boil this down to three things. First of all, freedom of choice. Christian theism acknowledges that God created the potential for evil when He created humans with freedom of choice. We choose to love or hate. We choose to do good or evil. The record of history bears eloquent testimony to the fact that humans of their own free will have actualized the reality of evil through their ungodly choices. God is not the author of evil. He created the potential for evil, but He did that by granting humans freedom of choice.

There is a second point. Without choice, love is meaningless. A lot of people do not like to hear this, but it is true. God is neither a cosmic rapist who forces His love on people nor a cosmic puppeteer who forces people to love Him. Instead, God, who is the personification of love, grants us freedom of choice. Without freedom, we would be little more than preprogrammed robots.

The final point I would like to bring out in this regard is the fact that God creating the potential for evil by granting us freedom of choice is ultimately going to lead to the best of all possible worlds. It is going to lead to a world in which there will be no more death, mourning, crying, or pain. Those who choose Christ will be redeemed from evil by His goodness and will forever be free from sin.

We live in a fallen, sin-cursed world, and many people suffer as a result of the sin not only of a cursed world but the sin of people. Lives are taken away by drunk drivers, by murderers. We should also recognize that the gravity that keeps us on the planet is the same gravity that enables fatal falls. In that, we realize that even natural disasters — we have just experienced in Houston, Texas, one of the worst devastations in the United States of America, hurricane Harvey and now hurricane Irma, looks like its sight’s set directly on Florida — and a lot of suffering can come out of that. In the midst of suffering, there has to be a word of encouragement. That word of encouragement is this: we look forward to a place, a universe, in which it no longer groans and travails but is liberated from its bondage to decay, as Paul puts it in Romans 8:18–25, and we too ourselves will be liberated. So we look forward to that which we do not yet have, and we expect it earnestly.

— Hank Hanegraaff

“When you come into the land which the Lord your God is giving you, you shall not learn to follow the abominations of those nations. There shall not be found among you anyone who makes his son or his daughter pass through the fire, or one who practices witchcraft, or a soothsayer, or one who interprets omens, or a sorcerer, or one who conjures spells, or a medium, or a spiritist, or one who calls up the dead. For all who do these things are an abomination to the Lord, and because of these abominations the Lord your God drives them out from before you. You shall be blameless before the Lord your God. For these nations which you will dispossess listened to soothsayers and diviners; but as for you, the Lord your God has not appointed such for you” (Deuteronomy 18:9-14, NKJV).

Apologetics

The Secret and Joel Osteen: An Even Greater Problem than American Christianity’s ABC moment.

We do live in an anything but Christian moment. Sometimes it has been called an “A-B-C” (anything but Christian) moment. It is a moment in human history in which we are not only being attacked in the West by a liberal liberalism but we are also being invaded, as it were, by militant Islam. The demographics alone are alarming. Perhaps there is even a greater problem, which is the problem of a church ill-equipped, and ill-prepared. A church that is gorging on empty calorie diets. A church that is no longer a leavening force within the culture. If there was ever a time in which the church needed to stand up and be counted, it is now.

Let me give you just a little anecdote. There was an article in USA Today entitled “How Conor McGregor’s Belief in Law of Attraction Will Help Him Beat Floyd Mayweather.” This of course was about the Floyd Mayweather vs. Connor McGregor fight which took place on Saturday. Connor McGregor talked about the law of attraction in this article. He said, “It is the most powerful thing in the world…the belief that you are able to create whatever situation that you want for yourself and no one can take it from you. It is believing something is already yours.” McGregor went on to say, “If you can see it here and you have the courage enough to speak it, it will happen…you are creating that law of attraction and it will become reality.” Vocalizing desires then makes them real. McGregor predicted as a result of the law of attraction that he would win in just two rounds. He lost, of course, in the tenth round.

Now, that anecdote is interesting to me for this reason: it does not just come out of midair. It comes from a book that was a mega bestseller called The Secret by Rhonda Byrne. She told the world that she had discovered the secret to life, and boy did the world take notice, Oprah Winfrey at the top of the list. What was the secret? The secret was the law of attraction. Rhonda Byrne got the law of attraction from the New Testament. She says it is quite easy; the New Testament gives it to us in “three simple steps”: ask, believe, receive. Then she goes on to point to herself as the principle example. In order to transform herself from fat to thin, she had a method; she thought thin thoughts. In fact, she said she did not so much look at fat people because if you see people who are overweight and observe them, that is going to be a negative consequence. She says as a result of the secret, “I now maintain my perfect weight of 116 pounds and I can eat whatever I want.” In other words, for her, the error was to think that food [i.e., overeating] was responsible for weight gain.

That kind of rhetoric, at first blush, may seem merely silly, but there is a clear and present danger in the reasoning. Just as her followers must avoid fat people for fear of becoming fat as well, they must avoid cancer victims for fear of contracting cancer or, for that matter, poor people for fear of becoming poor. In other words, you have to avoid the very people that Jesus exhorts us to care for. Do not even look at them, according to Rhonda Byrne.

What I found to be remarkable about Byrne is that she is remarkably open with respect to The Secret’s dark underbelly. She points out events in history where masses have been lost. Why? Again, the law of attraction. They attracted horror to themselves. Thoughts of fear can attract them to being in the wrong place at the wrong time. “We are attracting everything to ourselves” and “There is no exception,” says Joe Vital, a law of attraction devotee. Thin thoughts produce thin bodies. On the other hand, six million Jews brought the horror of the Holocaust upon themselves. Or, think Houston. In Houston, there are millions of people attracting fifty-seven-trillion liters of floodwater to fall on Houston because they are thinking negative thoughts — at least that is the logical extension of her view.

For Rhonda Byrne, the jinni is the law of attraction, but this has metastasized, because it is not just being taught in the world under a quasi-Christian framework; it is being taught overtly in the church. In Houston, you have Joel Osteen. He is explaining that you have to begin speaking words of faith over your life; your words have enormous creative power; the moment you speak something out, you give birth to it, it is a spiritual principle, and it works whether what you are saying is good or bad, positive or negative. When Osteen describes the genocide of nearly one million Rwandans, the implications are never far from the surface. Wherever and whenever tragedy strikes, words are at the center of the narrative. “Think about it,” exhorts Osteen in Become a Better You: 7 Keys to Improving Your Life Every Day, “Your words go out of your mouth and they come right back into your own ears…and those words will produce exactly what you’re saying.” As proof, Osteen invokes the Bible. Says Osteen, “The Scripture tells us that we are to ‘call the things that are not as if they already were’” or were already in place. The problem here is he has taken a text, and he has distorted the text. He is quoting from Romans 4:17 and, as he must surely know, that text says nothing of the sort. It does say something of the sort, it is just that he has put a spin on it. The spin is that we are to call those things that are not as though they already were. But what does the Bible say? It says it is God who calls those things that are not as though they already were.

All of that ought to be a warning that we are within the church buying into a form of New Thought metaphysics carefully packaged for Christian consumption. Now the atheist world, the materialist world, looks at this and says, “See how easily Christians are misled! How gullible they are!” But, this is a caricature of Christianity. It is not the real thing.

What I am saying is this: yes, we face a threat from a liberal liberalism. Just think about the transgender movement. Now sex is no longer tied to biology. Think about gender fluidity. There are fifty-seven or more varieties now. Think about same-sex marriage. All of this is a threat to the historic Christian faith and to Western civilization. Then we have the demographic issue of millions and millions of self-aborting Europeans meaning that through the social structure now in vogue, the death rate exceeds the birthrate, and filling the vacuum (as vacuums are always filled) are millions and millions of polygamous Muslims. Yet, you wonder, somehow or other, how in the world could Islam be in bed with a liberal liberalism or vice versa? Does not seem to make much sense? But it does when you come to think about the reality that, right now as I speak, Christianity is seen as the obstacle that has for too long been dominant within Western culture, and it must be unseated. Now you have, as I said, strange bedfellows. In the midst of this milieu, a crumbling church and me talking to you on the Bible Answer Man broadcast saying, if you will be salt and light, you can exercise the power of one, and make a difference. And if you think the power of one is not significant, think Martin Luther. Or, think about Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn. Or, in a negative sense, think about Joseph Stalin or Mao Zedong or Pol Pot. We can make a difference, but it is not because words create reality; it is because we are called by God who does create reality to be empowered by the Spirit and to go out and make a difference while there is yet time.

— Hank Hanegraaff

For further related study, please access the following articles:

What Is The Secret? (Hank Hanegraaff)

The Secret Revealed: Assessing the Latest Self-Help Phenomenon (Robert Velarde)

Osteenification and What It Portends (Hank Hanegraaff)

Christianity in Crisis, 21st Century: Wealth and Want (Hank Hanegraaff)

Christianity Still In Crisis: A Word of Faith Update (Bon Hunter)

What’s Wrong with the Faith Movement (Part 1): E. W. Kenyon and the Twelve Apostles of Another Gospel (Hank Hanegraaff)

What’s Wrong with the Faith Movement (Part 2): The Teachings of Kenneth Copeland (Hank Hanegraaff and Erwin M. de Castro)

God Is Love, but Is Love God? (Elliot Miller)

Addressing the ‘Positive Gospel’ of the Metaphysical Movement (Dean C. Halverson)

See also our e-store resources:

Christianity in Crisis, 21st Century by Hank Hanegraaff

The Osteenification of America by Hank Hanegraaff

This blog is adapted from the August 29, 2017, Bible Answer Man broadcast.

Apologetics, In the News

Eclipses, False Prophets, and Intelligent Design

I would be remiss if I did not mention today (August 21, 2017) being the quintessential day with respect to the solar system. The United States experiences this perfect solar eclipse that is visible from Oregon to South Carolina. It is like a seventy-mile-wide belt hugging the nation’s midriff. What I find interesting about this is a lot of things, but I have seen modern-day prophecy pundit using this as some kind of a portent, some kind of an omen, a stellar event to be imposed on a biblical passage. Listen — this is not about exegesis; it is about eisegesis. It is about taking something and imposing it on Scripture. I often talk about this as the this-is-that fallacy. This in the stellar universe is that in the Scripture.

You know it is always the secular news agencies that have to call us to account and, in the process, rightly marginalize Christianity or at least a caricature of Christianity. Newsweek, for example, observed “various evangelical groups in the U.S.” viewing Monday’s eclipse “as a link to something biblical.” What is that something biblical? It is Joel 2:31. Remember that famous passage in Joel? “The sun will be turned to darkness…before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord” (NIV).

Well, obviously the New Testament writers — we always put the magnifying glass in the hands of those writers — they make plain that Joel 2:31 was fulfilled during Pentecost (Acts 2:20; cf. v. 1). This is apocalyptic language. Judgment language ultimately having nothing whatsoever to do with astronomical events in the skies. The sun will be darkened, the moon will not give its light, the stars will fall from the sky, the heavenly bodies will be shaken, the sky will roll up like a scroll. This is all judgment language. How do we know this? We know that by reading Scripture in light of Scripture.

My point is precisely this: the prophecy pundits seem to be helping Christianity in reverse. Instead of showcasing the Grand Designer in today’s total eclipse of the sun, what they are doing is marginalizing Christianity through their sophistry, their sensationalism, and their Scriptorture.

The real message in today’s solar eclipse is one of Intelligent Design. Think about it. Imagine the probability of a sun four-hundred times the size of the moon, and four-hundred times further away such that it can be perfectly eclipsed by the moon. Now, there are certainly some like Bill Nye the Science Guy who think this to be a function of pure chance, and render Earth a mere insignificant speck of soil adrift in a meaningless universe. I have that sort of imbedded in my psyche. I could not believe what he was saying. He went through this whole thing, “Everything is meaningless,” and as a result, he comes to the conclusion, “I suck.” “I” being Bill Nye. He was talking about himself. “I suck.” I am not going to debate him on that point.

The fact is, the truth we ought to be communicating is that Earth is a singularly privileged planet that is designed for discovery. Why not remember that the Earth is situated between two arms in a flattened spiral galaxy — I’m talking about the Milky Way — it is not too close to the core to be exposed to lethal radiation, or comet collisions, or light pollution that would obscure observation. Not only that, but the atmosphere of our privileged planet is both oxygen rich for survival, and transparent for discovery.

Here you have a moon the perfect size and distance from Earth to stabilize rotation and to facilitate human habitability. Not only that but the moon and the sun’s relative size and distances from the Earth provide perfect solar eclipses. By the way, they happen all the time; we just do not see them. This plays a vital role in the development of modern science. For example, perfect solar eclipses played an essential role in the determination of the nature of stars and, interestingly enough, confirmation of Einstein’s general theory of relativity. To understand more on this, check out The Privileged Planet DVD. This is the perfect time to get it because now people are talking about stellar events and often in the Christian context improperly. So, this is the perfect time to watch The Privileged Planet. When you do, you will come away with a new appreciation for the universe in which we live and the one who spoke and the universe leaped into existence.

The bottom line: “The more we learn and see about the universe, the more we come to realize,” as Guy Gardner once put it, “that the most ideally suited place for life within the entire solar system is the planet we call home.” If you think about the temperatures on this planet: closer to the sun, we fry; farther away, we freeze. Think about ocean tides; they are caused by the gravitational pull of the moon, and they play a crucial role in our survival. If you have a moon that is significantly larger with a stronger gravitational pull, you have devastating tidal waves that would submerge large areas of land. Conversely, if the moon is smaller, tidal motion would cease, and then the oceans would stagnate then die. If you look at the temperatures and the tides, or even tap water, the Earth becomes testimony to the one who spoke, the uncaused first cause, who has revealed Himself in time and space through the Incarnation.

We never take Handel’s Messiah or Da Vinci’s Last Supper and pawn them off as the result of blind evolutionary processes. If that is true, we should never, ever do that with the planet we call home.

One of the most astonishing discoveries of the twentieth century is that the universe is fined tuned to support intelligent life. It is balanced, as it were, on the fine edge of a razor. Just think about gravity for a moment. If it were stronger or weaker, the universe would not and could not support intelligent life. Again, this cannot be attributed to chance because of the infinitesimally small range of values that are involved. Chance is infinitely more likely to a life prohibiting universe than a life-sustaining universe. The only plausible source of the fine tuning of the universe is an external transcendent incalculably powerful intelligent personal mind. That mind we call God. He is the uncaused first cause.

The more we learn about our universe, the more we say with David, “The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they display knowledge. There is no speech or language where their voice is not heard. Their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world” (Psalm 19:1–4).

Why this point on this program today? It is simply because we as Christians have an opportunity to point to a privileged planet as a way of pointing directly to God. Instead, we are doing the inverse, at least the people who have the biggest megaphones in the Christian world today. I am talking about the this-is-that fallacy. Who calls them to account? Well, it happens to be the secular world who is convinced that we have Christians who are mining the subjunctive, cultivating the seed of threat buried in each unrealized instance such that they can say, “Look, this portends to be the end of the world” or “This portends to be judgment of God.”

Well, would God judge those who are disobedient? Yes, but we are not the ones calling the shots, nor are we the ones that can say how and when God’s judgment falls. The Old Testament prophets could do that. You know what is interesting about the Old Testament prophets? They used to do that pointing the finger at the false prophets. The false prophets “who prophesy lies in my name” says the Lord. The false prophets “who wag their own tongues and yet declare, ‘The Lord declares.’” The false prophets “who prophesy false dreams” (Jer. 23:25, 31, 32 NIV). The false prophets who, well, essentially want to sell their books to an unsuspecting, gullible public. Then there are those who are on the fence about ready to consider the claims of Christianity and then they realize, “Wow, this is just a bunch of nonsense.” They kind of fall out the back doors of the auditoriums where they were seekers, and they write off the Christian faith or as Jeremiah speaking for the Lord says they “‘lead my people astray with their reckless lies, yet I did not send or appoint them. They do not benefit these people in the least,’ declares the Lord” (Jer. 23:32 NIV).

We have an opportunity to use a stellar event as a witness. Let us not tarnish it by Scriptorture, sophistry, and sloppy journalism. We have an opportunity to use an event that everyone is talking about as a springboard or an opportunity to share the fact that God created the universe, that we are the crowning jewels of His creation, and that we have been created for something more, a universe restored, our bodies restored, and a new heaven and new earth where indwells righteousness. All of this is not a trivial matter, because we will be held to account on Judgment Day. We will be held to account by the very one who knit us together in our mother’s womb. Instead of just passing time, let us make time. Let us not just be men of our time; let us be men that make our time.

— Hank Hanegraaff

This blog is adapted from the August 21, 2017, Bible Answer Man broadcast.

Apologetics

On Racism, Protest, and Civil Destruction

There is something that is rattling around in my mind. I have been thinking about this since about 5:00 a.m. You have no doubt seen the images yourself. They have been played and replayed a thousand times. Maybe a million times. The image of Takiyah Thompson as she climbs a ladder in Durham, North Carolina, puts a noose around the neck of the Confederate soldier statue — by the way, a soldier who symbolized service at the pleasure of the Democratic Party — the statue was toppled, and then spitting and stomping egged on by Takiyah commenced.

I was wondering, Who is this Takiyah Thompson? I did a little research. She is a member of the Workers World Party, a Marxist-Leninist group formed in 1959. She is a supporter of the North Korean totalitarian regime. She is an anti-authority agitator fond of equating the police with the Ku Klux Klan. She is anti-Christian. She is pro-Muslim. I think more than that, she is emblematic of a radical leftist movement that rightly regales in the condemnation of white supremacists but utters nary a word against Islamic supremacists — Islamic supremacists who consider non-Muslims to be but dhimmis.

To those who may wonder why the fragile fabric of our democratic republic is fraying, I think a short review of history can be very, very helpful. An apropos place to start is Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1712–1778). He sowed the seeds of what eventually blossomed into the French Revolution. In his view, secure property rights were to be abolished at all cost. He was the father of the very communist thought espoused today in America by people like Takiyah.

Rousseau, of course, left his mark on Karl Marx (1818–1883). Karl Marx believed that “the history of all existing society is the history of class struggle.” In his view, with the proletariat in charge and the bourgeoisie vanquished, we would have a godless heaven that would magically appear on Earth, sort of like John Lennon’s song, “Imagine there’s no heaven….” Well, a hundred million or more deaths later, people like Takiyah should know better, but that is precisely the problem with people who are ignorant of history.

You know, Rosseau marked Marx, but Marx marked Vladimir Lenin (1870–1924). Like Marx, Lenin was not constrained by morality. His dictum was revolution. Revolution after revolution history moves closer and closer toward the utopian paradise of communism and farther and farther away from the moral constraints of Christian capitalism, i.e., the idea of responsibility associated with wealth.

I have personally witnessed the skulls and bones of those murdered by socialist experiments just last year in Cambodia. Similar happenings occurred in places like China, in Cuba, with Communist fascism all over Eastern Europe and now exacting unspeakable horrors daily in North Korea. Think about Mao Zedong’s Little Red Book along with the Little Red Book of Pol Pot; they are both enduring reminders that ideas spell consequences. In this case, consequences in the red blood of tortured masses.

For Takiyah, Marxist mayhem must become part and parcel of a great American revolution. One thing you will not find in her protesting, her pillaging, or her pulling down is the bust of Charles Darwin (1809–1882) or, for that matter, the bust of the Greek philosopher Epicurus (341–270 BC), who was the real evolutionist, the first evolutionist. Why? Because Takiyah believes in evolution and in those like Margaret Sanger (1879–1966) who took Darwin’s eugenic epic and enshrined it an idea as American as apple pie. Eugenic engineering was not tacked onto Darwin by the Gestapo; it was a core value of his evolutionary premise. One wonders why Takiyah is not outraged at Planned Parenthood, which is in full neo-Nazi neo-eugenic frenzy today? Eugenics has been all over the news with the elimination of Down syndrome babies, which is now considered to be enlightened.

Darwin’s emphasis, of course, was on survival of the fittest and the struggle for existence, but Fredrich Nietzsche (1844–1900) went beyond survival. He championed the will to power of the fittest. He was fully committed to the destruction of Christianity because the Christ of Christianity cared for the poor and the downtrodden, and of course evolution is all about survival of the fittest and the struggle for existence. Again, ideas have consequences. One only needs to think of how Nietzsche died. A mad man repeating, like a hideous drum, “I am dead because I am stupid, I am stupid because I am dead, I am dead because I am stupid, I am stupid because I am dead,” over and over again, as he embraced his insanity.

As the apostle of atheism, Nietzsche heralded the darkest century the world has ever known. That is, until perhaps the twenty-first century, a century in which people have forgotten history and applaud Takiyah Thompson and people like her. She is now the quintessential poster girl of a robust neo-Marxist-Leninist revival and that in America.

White supremacy is self-evidently evil, but what of the liberal liberals who destroy Down syndrome babies made in the image and likeness of God? By the way, I think we ought to remember that Dr. John Langdon Down (1828–1896) labeled Down syndrome as Mongoloid idiocy. Why? Because he thought it represented a throwback to the Mongolian stage in human evolution, and that is the evolutionary idea.

You know, Darwin was very, very clear. People often times talk about The Origin of Species, but Darwin was most clear in The Descent of Man. People ought to read that. These books should not be banned. Read it. Then you will see evolution in its stark racist perspective. Darwin said it was the Caucasian that would beat the Turkish hollow in the struggle for existence. Then he said at no very distant date, an endless number of lower races will have been eliminated by higher civilized races throughout the world. He was very, very clear when he talked about the races themselves. In Darwin’s perspective, the whites were on top, the Australians were somewhere in the middle, but blacks were on the bottom, and in his eugenic fervor, he believed that Jews and blacks were feeble minded. Evolution is an idea with distinct consequences. Again, white supremacy is self-evidently evil, but what of the liberal liberals who are now using the evolutionary paradigm? They contend Down syndrome babies are unfit; they affect the gene pool and thus affect the process of evolution.

What of global Islamic Jihadism? Just to show how wacky things can get, CNN’s Wolf Blitzer wondered yesterday on television if perhaps the crimes in Barcelona were a copycat of the white supremacist murder in Charlottesville, Virginia. After all, in both cases, the weapon of choice was automotive.

What agitators like Takiyah are really after is the destruction of the nuclear family, the elimination of borders and boundaries, the subversion of states committed to the rule of law, or whatever utilitarian means produce results. It does not matter if it is liberal liberalism, fabricated news, or Islamic terror. Barcelona and Brussels are just a prelude to what is to come.

We are reaping the results of our own settled choices. Only a Christian community willing to do for the truth what Takiyah and those like her are willing to do for a lie can stem the tide of a civilization in chaos. Make no mistake, we are fracturing from within. A liberal liberalism at the root. (An oxymoron, by the way.) We are being pounded from without. Terror being only the wave the undertow being far more insidious. Perhaps the greatest problem is Christians who are not salt and light. If Christians were doing for the truth what Islam is doing for a lie, we could as yet redeem our culture.

— Hank Hanegraaff

For further related reading, please access the following:

The Original “Fight Club:” Understanding the Philosophy of Karl Marx (C. Wayne Mayhall)

You Say You Want a Revolution (Bob Perry)

Margaret Sanger: “No Gods, No Masters” (Bob Perry)

Identity: A “Christian” Religion for White Racists (Viola Larson)

Was Ayn Rand Right? Capitalism and Greed (Jay Richards)

The Myths Christians Believe about Wealth and Poverty (Jay Richards)

Jihad, Jizya, and Just War (David Wood)

Ideas Have Consequences (C. Wayne Mayhall)

This blog is adapted from the August 18, 2017, Bible Answer Man broadcast. Information on Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Karl Marx, Vladimir Lenin, Charles Darwin, Margaret Sanger, and Fredrich Nietzsche drawn from Benjamin Wiker, 10 Books that Screwed Up the World: And 5 Others that Didn’t Help (Washington, D.C.: Regnery Publishing, Inc., 2008).

Apologetics, Uncategorized

Christian Cultural Shapers

I am particularly excited about a book that I want to put into your hands. We are talking about it all this month. It is by John Stonestreet and Brett Kunkle, entitled A Practical Guide to Culture: Helping the Next Generation Navigate Today’s World. I want to start with something written in this book, which has to do with changing culture. It goes all the way back to World War II and the statement that “Somebody…had to make a start.” In other words, someone had to make a start with respect to changing the culture instead of being simply an imitator of the culture.

There was a girl named Sophie Scholl. She was just twenty-one years old. She spoke those words, “Somebody…had to make a start.” She said them “to the chief justice of the People’s Court of the Greater German Reich shortly before he ordered her execution.” That was back on February 22, 1943. Sophie and her brother Hans (my dad’s name) and their friend Christoph Probst were convicted of treason in a kangaroo court and sent to the guillotine. Stonestreet and Kunkle write,

Hans Scholl led the underground resistance movement known as the White Rose. From June 1942 until their arrest, Hans, Sophie, and several other University of Munich students covertly authored anti-Nazi pamphlets and distributed them on campus and to nearby communities. Retribution for their crimes was swift. Within four days, they were detained, accused, tried, convicted, and executed. Within weeks other members of the White Rose were rooted out and faced similar fates.

Raised in a nominally religious German home, the Scholl siblings came to a real personal faith in Christ while at the university.

Imagine that! The conversions of the Scroll siblings motivated their actions. In The Fabric of Faithfulness Stephen Garber writes,

Brother and sister began to find a place to stand. Reading the Scriptures in light of the challenges presented by their culture, having conversations with friends about the world and their place in it, meeting older, wiser people who offered them their time and their books — together they molded a vision about what was real and true and right.

Stonestreet and Kunkle observe,

Many Germans, including Christians, chose to remain silent and do nothing to resist Hitler and the Nazi regime. Others embraced the evil Nazi ideology. But the Scholl siblings’ faith that drove them from the sidelines into what Dietrich Bonhoeffer called “the tempest of the living.” Hans was supposed to meet Bonhoeffer, perhaps the most famous figure of the German resistance, but never did. Instead, Hans was executed the very day the meeting was scheduled to take place.

Hans and Sophie shared more with Bonhoeffer than antipathy toward the führer. Whether they knew it or not, they also shared Bonhoeffer’s theological vision for culture, which might be summarized this way: “We are Christians, and we are Germans; therefore we are responsible for Germany.”

That was their view, and therefore they wanted to make a difference. This begs the question: “What is cultural success?” Well, it is “a life lived like Hans and Sophie Scholl.” A life “deeply engaging the moment in which God has placed us and courageously navigating the threatening currents, knowing that we serve a cause, and a God, far greater than ourselves.” Think about that from A Practical Guide to Culture: Helping the Next Generation Navigate Today’s World.

Cultural success is recognizing that God has placed us here at this moment in history. He did not — like Hans and Sophie, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, and C. S. Lewis — place us at the time of World War II. He placed us at this time in history. This particular time in history. Therefore, at this particular time in history, we cannot simply look back to what others did, although we should and we just did with the anecdote and example of Hans and Sophie, and we cannot look forward to other generations and what they may do. God has placed us here, right now, for a purpose, and to make a difference while there is yet time.

I think about the smoke of the crematoriums wafting over the steeples in the German countryside, and I so often wonder why at that time were German pastor and parishioners strangely silent. Yet, as I wonder about that, I can stop wondering immediately when I look at the present-day church capitulating to the culture. Well-known Christian leaders (I am not going to name them; you know who they are) are strangely silent about the epic waves that are threatening to submerge the Christian church. For some, it is a matter of self-preservation. In the case of World War II, a lot of people tried to justify their apathy by blaming Jews for the Great War. Others believed that Jews were fatalistically destined to face wrath of antichrist; therefore, they did nothing. Then you had people like Hans and Sophie or Dietrich Bonhoeffer who said, “If we claim to be Christians, there is no room for expediency.” Thus, he was willing to denounce a Nazi regime that had turned its führer into an idol and a god. But, not just that — he was willing to denounce a confessional church more concerned with its own survival than with the sin of anti-Semitism and slavery. Bonhoeffer famously said, “When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die.” That is precisely what happened on April 9, 1945. Bonhoeffer was just thirty-nine years old at that time, and he experienced the ultimate cost of discipleship by special order of Reichsführer Heinrich Himmler. Bonhoeffer was hanged at the concentration camp at Flossenbürg. He is a man who was willing to shape culture and today is still remembered when we talk about the culture wars.

— Hank Hanegraaff

Apologetics

Canaanite DNA and the Reliability of the Bible

According to an ABC affiliate in Omaha, Nebraska, “Ancient Canaanites survived biblical wrath, DNA evidence shows,” and “you may even know somebody who derives their ancestry from the group of people.” In other words, the ABC affiliate is saying the ancient Canaanites survived biblical wrath, DNA evidence shows this, and so as a result of that the Bible has to be wrong.

This is fairly tame, of course, when you start looking at what else has been written in this regard. This is a question that has been asked over and over again, and this question is a question that has arisen as a result of what has been written, most of which is very sensationalistic. For example, “Study disproves the Bible’s suggestion that the ancient Canaanites were wiped out” — The Telegraph. “The Bible got it wrong: Ancient Canaanites survived and their DNA lives in modern-day Lebanese” — Pulse Headlines. “DNA vs the Bible: Israelites did not wipe out the Canaanites” — Cosmos. Then there is the Washington Post; “Now a study of Canaanite DNA…rules out the biblical idea that an ancient war wiped out the group.”

What is the message here? The message is that the Bible cannot be trusted. The Bible is fraught with error. These stories often cite Deuteronomy 20 as proof. The research study says that “DNA retrieved from roughly 3,700-year-old skeletons at an excavation site in Lebanon that was formerly a major Canaanite city-state shows that ‘present-day Lebanese derive most of their ancestry from a Canaanite-related population, which therefore implies substantial genetic continuity in the Levant since at least the Bronze Age.’” Levant being the epicenter of the Middle East.

The bottom line: if all of this holds up, as further research is done, modern-day Lebanese people are descendants of the ancient Canaanites. But, even if that research holds up — it may or may not, but even if it does — the research does not disprove the Bible. It does something very, very different from disproving the Bible. Instead, this new genetic study is simply one more confirmation of the biblical account. All you have to do again is to learn to read in the sense in which it is intended. The Book of Judges explains that the Israelites never drove Canaanites out completely. In fact, if you read the text, there are passages that say the Canaanites will become “thorns in your sides and their gods will be a snare to you” (Judges 2:3 NIV). The dominant biblical language of driving out indicates that extermination passages are not to be taken in a wooden literalistic sense. Driving out or dispossessing is different from wiping out or destroying. You cannot both drive out and destroy at the same time. The point here is that God’s commands to destroy the nations inhabiting the promise land of Canaan should never be interpreted in isolation from their immediate context. The command to destroy them totally, as we see in Deuteronomy 7, is contextualized by the words, “Do not intermarry with them…for they will turn your sons away from following me to serve other gods” (vv. 3–4 NIV). The aim of God’s command was not the obliteration of the wicked but the obliteration of wickedness.

Furthermore, let me say this: God’s martial instructions are qualified by His moral intent to spare the repentant. No greater example of that can be given than Rahab. Remember Rahab was a Canaanite. She was also a prostitute. Probably more well known for being a prostitute than a Canaanite, but Rahab and her whole family were allowed to live among the Israelites (Josh. 2:1–24; 6:1–26). Not only that, but Rahab the prostitute came to hold a privileged position in the lineage of Jesus Christ (Matt. 1:1–17; cf. v. 5), which underscores a very significant point, not only that God unequivocally commanded Israel to treat the aliens living among them with respect and equality (Deut. 24:14–15; 17–18) but that there are blessings for those who repent. Of course, the concern for foreigners clearly demonstrates that the mercy shown to those who by faith repented of their idolatry and were therefore grafted into true Israel is a maxim. It is a principle. Blessing for those who follow and cursing for those who rebel (Deut. 16:1–19; 27:19).

This idea that the Bible has been disproven comes as a direct of result of people not being able to read the Bible in the sense in which it is intended. Here is why I wrote my book Has God Spoken: Proof of the Bible’s Divine Inspiration. In the first half of that book, what I do is demonstrate that the Bible is divinely inspired. It is a trustworthy authority. But, in the second half of the book, I teach people the art and science of biblical interpretation so that these kinds of passages are not used to discredit the Bible but when they are you have an answer. This is one of the things that I lay out in some detail in Has God Spoken.

— Hank Hanegraaff

For further related study, please access the following:

How Can Christians Legitimize a God Who Orders the Genocide of Entire Nations? (Hank Hanegraaff)

Killing the Canaanites: A Response to the New Atheism’s “Divine Genocide” Claims (Clay Jones)

Was Israel Commanded to Commit Genocide? (Paul Copan and Matthew Flannagan)

Also consult the following books:

Has God Spoken: Proofs of the Bible’s Divine Inspiration by Hank Hanegraaff

Did God Really Command Genocide? Coming to Terms with the Justice of God by Paul Copan and Matthew Flannagan

Is God a Moral Monster? by Paul Copan

Apologetics

The Multifaceted Effects of Sin

I recently heard that when we do something wrong to another person, it is not only a sin against God but also a sin against the other person. Is this correct? Can we also sin against another man or woman?

That, I think, is a profound question. That is the kind of question I like to take on the Bible Answer Man broadcast. This is a profound question. When a man steals from another man in violation of the eighth Commandment (Exod. 20:15), we know from Scripture that he clearly sins against God. But, the answer to the question is he also sins against the individual in taking what does not belong to him. It is a sin against God. It is also a sin against humankind. This is why the Lord taught us to pray, “Forgive us of our sins, for we also forgive everyone who sins against us” (Matt. 6:12).

If you read Matthew 18 — the parable of the unforgiving servant — Peter comes to Jesus and asks, “Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? Up to seven times?” Remember what Jesus said? “I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven” (Matt. 18:21–22 NKJV). In other words, you always forgive. If you have been forgiven a debt that cannot be quantified, we should never consider withholding from those who sin against us. How many times shall I forgive? It implies that we do forgive our bother and our sister. Ephesians 4:32 is also, I think, a passage that underscores this point. “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you.” There are many other passages.

We are told by the apostle Paul we ought to forgive because our sin is not only against humanity but also a sin against Christ. A sin against Christ is a sin against the body; a sin against the body is a sin against Christ. I think even more interesting in answer to a very interesting question is 1 Corinthians 6. You can sin against your own body. You think about humanity, it includes you. For example, “He who unites himself with the Lord is one with him in spirit;” therefore, we are to “flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a man commits are outside his body, but he who sins sexually sins against his own body. Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God?” (1 Cor. 6:17–20 NIV). This adds a whole new dimension to it. He who sins sexually sins against his own body.

The answer to your question is multifaceted. It is a great question. You also sin against a person when you sin against God. In short, you can sin against another man or another woman. You can sin against your body. You have the body of Christ, your own body, and you have Christ, who is the head of the body.

We daily ask God to forgive us of your sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9). One of the reasons I think this is a particularly important question is that today we have all kinds of popular preachers who are telling you that when you sin, do not ever ask for forgiveness, because asking for forgiveness is tantamount to spitting in the face of God, so, please, please never ask for forgiveness. But, I have been absolutely astounded at how rapidly that perversion has become part of the ethic of the body of Christ, how quickly people have embraced that kind of spiritual cyanide. Well, what is the antidote? The antidote is to learn discernment skills. When someone says something like that, you do not look at the power of their radio or television platform; you test what they say in light of Scripture, and hold fast to that which is good (1 Thess. 5:21; 2 Tim. 3:16–17; Acts 17:10–12).

— Hank Hanegraaff

This blog is adapted from the July 20, 2017, Bible Answer Man broadcast.

Apologetics

Abortion, Infanticide, and the Devolution of Western Civilization

When we say, “We do what we do because life and truth matter,” I use life in the sense of the experience of life and the knowledge of life. Experiencing Christ, not just knowing, but as it has been well said, knowing. There is a difference between cognitively apprehending something and having a real experience with the one who knit us together in our mother’s womb. But, obviously we are also very interested in the foundational principle of all anthropology, and that is human life. We live in a culture today in which life is considered from a different perspective (as the culture becomes more and more materialistic) than the perspective that was viewed in Western Civilization by the Judeo-Christian tradition.

I read something in a recent blog by Jerry Coyne, who is an evolutionary biologist at the University of Chicago. He is now not only defending abortion but he is indeed defending infanticide. This is all part of the slippery slope that we are now on as a culture. Coyne writes, “If you are allowed to abort a fetus that has a severe genetic defect…,then why aren’t you able to euthanize that same fetus just after it’s born? I see no substantive difference that would make the former act moral and the latter immoral.” I can say that on one level he is absolutely right. In other words, if you can abort a late-term child, why not take the next step and abort a child a few days after the child is born? The problem here is a failure to recognize that child has personhood from the moment of conception.

But, Coyne is not alone. I think of Francis Crick, who was codiscoverer of the double helix structure of DNA. I bring him up because he had a partner, James Watson. In one of the most chilling quotes I have ever heard, Crick’s codiscoverer of the structure of DNA said that, “because of the limitations of present detection methods, most birth defects are not discovered until birth; however, if a child was not declared alive until three days after birth, the doctor could allow the child to die, if the parents so chose, and save a lot of misery and suffering.” Think about the chilling effect of those words. After all, everything becomes subjective when we live in a materialistic culture. You see the child now, and the child does not suit your fancy, well, you make a choice, and you let that child die. Well, not just let that child die; you take active steps in order that the child, in fact, dies.

This is precisely what Peter Singer was talking about. He is the famous Princeton ethicist. He said that “newborn human babies have no sense of their own existence over time. So killing a newborn baby is never equivalent to killing a person….If a decision is taken, by the parents and doctors, that it is better that a baby should die, I believe it should be possible to carry out that decision, not only by withholding or withdrawing life support…but also by taking active steps to end the baby’s life swiftly and humanely.” All of this arbitrary, depending on what you think the quality of a person’s life actually is.

Just last week in the New York Times, Gary Comstock said, “It seems the medical community has few options to offer parents of newborns likely to die.” The implication is you have to expand those options.

Going back to Coyne, the reason we can expand those options is because human beings after all are no different than bananas or dogs. Says, Coyne, “The reason we don’t allow euthanasia of newborns is because humans are seen as special, and I think this comes from religion — in particular, the view that humans, unlike animals, are endowed with a soul.” He is a materialist. He certainly does not hold to substance dualism. Everything for him is just a function of brain chemistry and genetics. Once you start teaching this philosophy, you become an instrument for the devolution of civilization, which is already essentially fragile.

Coyne is not just a guy on a street corner with a megaphone or a loud voice. He is a respectable professor in what is thought to be a respectable university, and he is telling people, the students that are impressionable, that there is no such thing as morals, there is no such thing as right or wrong, and there is no distinction between an animal and a human being.

These are serious times. Times in which we as Christians need to be ready to give an answer. This is not optional. The reason the culture is devolving is because we as Christians are not doing what we as Christians are called to do. You can repeat it over and over again, and hopefully it can become stuck in your memory trace — salt and light. We are called to be salt. We are called to be light. If we are not salt and light, culture devolves, and civilizations are lost. Right now, without any hyperbole, I can tell you that Western Civilization hangs in the balance, and that by a very thin thread. Ethics and morality are now a function of the size and strength of the latest lobby group. This is in direct opposition to being firmly rooted in scientific and spiritual standards. Thus, with no enduring reference points, societal norms have been reduced to mere matters of choice.

— Hank Hanegraaff

For you created my inmost being;

you knit me together in my mother’s womb.

I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;

your works are wonderful,

I know that full well.

My frame was not hidden from you

when I was made in the secret place.

When I was woven together in the depths of the earth,

your eyes saw my unformed body.

All the days ordained for me

were written in your book

before one of them came to be

(Psalm 139:13–16 NIV).

Blog is adapted from the July 20, 2017, Bible Answer Man broadcast.

Apologetics

Eugene Peterson and the Imitation of Culture

I read an article by Jonathan Merritt, who happens to be controversial in his own right concerning moral issues, but he wrote an article on the bestselling author Eugene Peterson changing his mind about gay marriage.

In the article, Merritt quotes Eugene Peterson saying, “I wouldn’t have said this 20 years ago, but now I know a lot of people who are gay and lesbian and they seem to have as good a spiritual life as I do. I think that kind of debate about lesbians and gays might be over.” He goes on to say, “It’s not a right or wrong thing as far as I’m concerned.” As far as performing same-sex weddings, he says, absolutely, “Yes,” that would be something that he would do.

Now, when I read this article, the first thing that came to my mind was, “Changed his mind? Are you kidding me?” More than twenty years ago, he published The Message (MSG). It has been a cottage industry within the evangelical Christian community. In that paraphrase of the Bible — I’ve said this many times over the years on the Bible Answer Man broadcast — Peterson attempts to squeeze the New Testament into the mode of today’s politically correct culture. In other words, instead of being a change agent, being an initiator, we become politically correct and imitators.

As cultural imitators, of course, we cannot correct or rebuke, for that would not be politically correct. We should not argue with anyone in the family of God who thinks hell is a myth. Think Peterson’s endorsement of Rob Bell and the book Love Wins, which denounces hell as little more than a fantasy or a myth.

Cultural imitators, above all, do not mention homosexuality. Better yet, they take it out of the biblical text, which is precisely what Peterson does in 1 Corinthians 6:9, where he refrains from mentioning homosexuality, as opposed to the Greek text. Here is how Peterson puts it: “Those who use and abuse each other, use and abuse sex” (1 Cor. 6:9 MSG). Obviously, someone who is in the gay lifestyle, someone who is a homosexual, would not have a problem with Peterson’s text in the least in that they do not consider sodomy an abuse of sex. In their view, homosexuality is simply an alternative lifestyle.

As significantly, I think we should ask, “On what basis does Peterson have the temerity to replace a sin not mentioned in the biblical text ‘use and abuse the earth’”? (1 Cor. 6:9 MSG). That is gratuitously inserted into the text as a substitute for homosexuality. So, he replaces one sin with what he considers to be I guess a greater sin.

I find it strange that so many people are making a big deal out of this now. I find it ironic. Sixteen million copies later. Long ago, Peterson showed his colors and despite the fact that he has tampered with the text in a substantial way, the Message, continues to be popularized and glorified in the Christian world.

There are many examples of problems with the Message I can give. It is not just— as egregious as the example I just gave — it is not just that. Think about what he does with the Lord’s Prayer. Here is how Peterson renders it in the Message: “Our Father in heaven, Reveal who you are. Set the world right; Do what’s best — as above, so below. Keep us alive with three square meals. Keep us forgiven with you and forgiving others. Keep us safe from ourselves and the Devil. You’re in charge! You can do anything you want! You’re ablaze in beauty! Yes. Yes. Yes.”

The Lord’s Prayer is a model prayer, and every word of that prayer has incredible significance. For example, did you notice in Peterson’s version, there is no “Hallowed be thy name”? When we pray “Hallowed be thy name,” it is an incredibly important part and petition of the prayer. It is to put emphasis on God first, exactly where the emphasis belongs. Our daily lives ought to radiate far greater commitment to God’s nature and holiness than to our own needs; therefore, to pray “Hallowed be thy name” is tantamount to praying that God be given the unique reverence that His holiness demands. That His Word be preached without corruption or without alteration. That our churches be led by faithful pastors who do not perform same-sex marriages because now that is the politically correct thing to do. That our churches be preserved from false prophets. That we would be kept from language that profanes the name of God. That our thought lives remain holy. That we cease from seeking honor for ourselves and seek instead that God’s name be glorified.

I loved what Augustine said about this, it is memorable: “And this is prayed for, not as if the name of God were not holy already, but that it may be held holy by men.” In other words, that God may so become known to them, that they shall reckon nothing more holy, and which they are more afraid of offending” (Augustine, Sermon on the Mount, 2.5.19). The glorious truth of this petition is that while we were once impotent to hallow His name, God has hallowed us through the sacrifice of the very one who taught us these words. Once His light shining into our darkness would have been terrifying, but thank God, for like Isaiah, He has touched our lips with a burning coal, and whispers through our pain, Your guilt is taken away, your sin atoned for.

I know what I am saying is not popular, probably not even with my audience. The politically correct thing is to laude a paraphrase of the Bible that has sold sixteen million copies. It is a cottage industry in the evangelical Christian world. But, I think these things ought to be said, and the reason they ought to be said is when we start to take God’s words and alter them not only in a slight way but in a dramatic way, we become our own pope. We start to pontificate to people what we think is right in an ever-changing culture. In other words, we want to keep up with the size and scope of the latest lobby group, and truth is, therefore, is in a constant state of flux. Politically correct or not, I feel that these things need to be said. I would be remiss with my platform, which is not a platform seeking popularity or to be politically correct, I would be remiss with this platform if I did not mention that, after reading an article like the one I just read.

I think it is homophobic in the extreme not to tell people the truth about the principles and precepts of Christ, about the teachings of the Bible in their unadulterated clarity. That is not the way to treat other people. It is not the way to love other people. It is not the way to be kind to people. My doctor has told me the truth about my condition. Had she not told me the truth about my condition, I would not be taking the chemotherapy that I am taking now. The drugs that I am taking now. She told me the truth because she wanted to cure.

A lot of people will ask the question, and I think gratuitously in some cases, “Well, do you not think homosexuals are going to heaven?” That is a misplaced question. It is asking the wrong question. It is not a matter of whether a homosexual is going to go to heaven, it is a matter of whether or not a homosexual or a heterosexual or any person on the planet wants to follow Light — The Light of creation, the Light of Christ, the Light of conscious — and as they do, they will learn more and more about the King of kings and Lord of lords, and the parameters He sets around our lives and learn that He does so not because He is a cosmic killjoy but He does so that our joy might be complete.

Imagine now the person in a lifestyle that robs them of joy, encountering the text in an adulterated fashion. You have to ask, “Does that help or hurt?” It is sort of like if my doctor gave me a therapy that was not really a therapy for my particular disease. Again, the point is this: as we learn more and more about the principles and precepts of Christ, of our Father who is in heaven, we follow them. But, it is hard to follow them, when there are now all kinds of people who are pontificating different messages. That is the problem when you have a cottage industry that proliferates this stuff and when you have just about anybody being able to hang up a shingle today and then — think about the temerity of this — taking the text of Scripture and altering it in light of Deuteronomy 4:2, “Do not add to what I command you and do not subtract from it, but keep the commands of the Lord your God that I give you” (NIV84). If that is not enough, Proverbs 30:6, “Do not add to his words, or he will rebuke you and prove you a liar” (NIV84). Or Revelation 22:18–19, “I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: If anyone adds anything to them, God will add to him the plagues described in this book. And if anyone takes words away from this book of prophecy, God will take away from him his share in the tree of life and in the holy city, which are described in this book” (NIV84). These are sobering words.

Dr. Adolph Saphir says this about the Lord’s Prayer, or what I call the Prayer of Jesus:

It is a model prayer and, as such, commends itself to the most superficial glance — approves itself at once to the conscience of man. It is beautiful and symmetrical, like the most finished work of art. The words are plain and unadorned, yet majestic; and so transparent and appropriate that, once fixed in the memory, no other expressions ever mix themselves up with them; the thought of substituting other words never enters the mind. Grave and solemn are the petitions, yet the serenity and tranquil confidence, the peace and joy which they breathe, prove attractive to every heart.
The Prayer is short, that it may be quickly learned, easily remembered, and frequently used; but it contains all things pertaining to life and godliness. In its simplicity, it seems adapted purposely for the weakness of the inexperienced and ignorant, and yet none can say that he is familiar with the heights and depths which it reveals, and with the treasures of wisdom it contains. It is calm, and suited to the even tenor of our daily life, and yet in times of trouble and conflict the church has felt its value and power more especially, has discovered anew that it anticipates every difficulty and danger, that it solves every problem, and comforts the disciples of Christ in every tribulation of the world.
It is the beloved and revered friend of our childhood, and it grows with our growth, a never-failing counselor and companion amid all the changing scenes of life. And as in our lifetime we must confess ourselves, with Luther, to be only learning the high and deep lessons of those petitions, so it will take eternity to give them their answer.

It is the model prayer, and Jesus made every word count. Words of the prayer He taught us to pray are treasures of incalculable value lying deep beneath the cobalt waters of a vast ocean. Like the siren call of the mermaids, His words beckon those snorkeling with burnt backs in shallow tide pools to dawn scuba gear to descend into the prayer’s glorious depths there await unfathomed resources and riches that can scarcely be described to those living on the surface. While the prayer of Jesus is not a prayer mantra, it is a prayer manner, as such it has been eloquently described and used by the church throughout its history. This is precisely why it is for me a very serious matter to tamper with the Word of God.

Someone brought to my attention the fact that Christianity Today produced an article entitled, “Actually, Eugene Peterson Does Not Support Same-Sex Marriage,” with the subtitle, “In retraction, popular author affirms ‘a biblical view of everything’ — including marriage.” If he indeed retracts what he said, that would be wonderful. Retracts what he said twenty years ago in the Message. Retracts his tampering of the text in 1 Corinthians 6, starting with verse 9. Retracts his version of the model prayer or the elimination of “Hallowed be thy name.”

What Peterson said according to this article is that he was asked “a hypothetical question: if I were pastoring today and if a gay couple were Christians of good faith and if they asked me to perform their wedding ceremony — if, if, if. Pastors don’t have the luxury of indulging in hypotheticals….And to be honest, no is not a word I typically use.” The article notes that Peterson “went on to state, because of the biblical view of marriage, he would not marry a same-sex couple.” So, he said “yes” because “no” is not a word that he would typically use.

“When put on the spot by this particular interviewer,” says Peterson, “I said yes in the moment. But on further reflection and prayer, I would like to retract that. That’s not something I would do out of respect to the congregation, the larger church body, and the historic biblical Christian view and teaching on marriage. That said, I would still love such a couple as their pastor.” Good for him. “They’d be welcome at my table, along with everybody else.” I hope he does not mean the Communion table. This is a popular view now within evangelicalism, that regardless of a sin, a perpetual sin, a sin that is a clear violation of the principles and precepts of the King of kings and Lord of lords, you serve them Communion. “Gay or straight, there is no hate here” I think is the manta typically used for the occasion.

There is a further point to be made here. (I do not know if the article goes into this, I only scanned it; I do not think it does.) Peterson’s retraction, his ambiguity as it were about the words “yes” and “no” is not the salient point to begin with. What he said, he said within a context. In the Merritt interview, Peterson said, “I wouldn’t have said this 20 years ago, but now I know a lot of people who are gay and lesbian and they seem to have as good a spiritual life as I do. I think that kind of debate about lesbians and gays might be over.” On the one hand, he is saying he is affirming the orthodox position, the historic position of the church, on the other hand, he is saying that he thinks that kind of debate about lesbians and gays might be over. He goes on to say in context, “People who disapprove of it, they’ll probably just go to another church. So we’re in a transition and I think it’s a transition for the best, for the good. I don’t think it’s something that you can parade, but it’s not a right or wrong thing as far as I’m concerned.” It was not just the ambiguity of substituting a word that he typically does not use, the word “no,” with the word “yes”; there is a full-orbed explanation that precedes it.

Now, I do not want to cast dispersions on anyone when Peterson outright says in retraction that he now affirms the biblical view of everything. The problem here is this: what is the biblical view of everything that he is talking about? Because when I read his version of the Bible, it is not just the things that I have mentioned, it is many other things that he has said as well in terms of changing the biblical text to his particular version.

Think about John 14:28 where he says, “the Father is the goal and purpose of my life.” Where the Greek says, translated into common English, “the Father is greater than I.” Or, John 3:5, “I tell you the truth, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit;” well, Peterson’s version says, “Unless a person submits to this original creation — the ‘wind-hovering-over-the-water’ creation, the invisible moving the visible, a baptism into a new life — it’s not possible to enter God’s kingdom.” Or Matthew 5, I can go on and on about this, “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect;” Peterson changes to “Grow up. You’re kingdom subjects. Now live like it. Live out your God-created identity. Live generously and graciously toward others, the way God lives toward you.” These are substantive changes. I understand this is not a translation but a paraphrase; yet, you still have to stay within the range of meaning that is being elucidated by the Spirit of God, you cannot add your own suppositions to the biblical text, “use and abuse the earth” as he does in 1 Corinthians 6, and you cannot eliminate.

I think it is critical that this issue is raised. If Eugene Peterson is confused, I do not know. Certainly, I want to give everybody the benefit of the doubt, but this is not a small issue; this is an issue on the front burner of civilization.

— Hank Hanegraaff

This blog is adapted from the July 13, 2017, Bible Answer Man broadcast.