THE HARD QUESTION PAGE
Hard Questions Answered
— How can we know that the Bible is TRUE?
This is a great question. It strikes at the foundation of our faith as Christians. If the Bible is not TRUE, then we Christians have no faith. It’s such a big question that only a very brief response summary can be given here.
Many well-meaning Apologists have spent a lot of time and effort addressing what could be considered “auxiliary” elements of this question while missing the main point. Some examples might be that the Bible was written very shortly after the actual events, or that it was translated and copied accurately, or that it contains some accurate scientific information, or that archaeological evidence today confirms it’s history. But this only proves that it COULD be true, much like a textbook or encyclopedia in today’s culture, not that it is THE TRUTH.
Christians believe that the Bible was inspired by God. In other words, we believe that the Bible really does represent the very Words of God, the absolute truth. There are three compelling pieces of evidence that the Bible is TRUE: historical, philosophical, and personal.
For those who may not have studied the Bible in depth, the ten commandments are the foundation of the Torah, which is the foundation of the Old Testament, which is the foundation of the New Testament. Therefore, the ten commandments are the cornerstone of the entire Bible. The amazing thing about the ten commandments is that they were given directly by God Himself to over 2 million eyewitnesses (er, “ear-witnesses”, since they heard God speak the very words). The significance that all of these witnesses have conveyed the same story of that amazing and unexplainable event down through the generations to their descendants, that the Jewish religion of today hinges on that one account being true, cannot be overstated. Compare this to other religious “major revelation claims” like the Quran in Islam or the Book of Mormon in Latter Day saints, revelations that had zero other eye/ear-witnesses besides the person who claimed to hear from God.
Second, overall the Bible gives the best explanation of the reality around us. Everyone inherently knows a few basic things: that this amazing world could not have come from nothing, that there is something wrong with the world today, and that it SHOULD be fixed. Those are the big ideas in life, and ones that philosophy and religions are trying to explain. The Bible alone provides an internally consistent and accurate worldview to explain those observations.
Third, Jesus Christ, the most attested person in all of history and a major figure in every major world religion (even besides Christianity), clearly taught that the Bible was true. His profound wisdom, the miracles he performed, and the prophecies he fulfilled are universally recognized, and His resurrection is the most documented event in the ancient world. His audacious claim to be God rested on the fact that the Bible was true and that it spoke of him.
Taken in sum, these three “proofs” give an overwhelming evidence that the Bible is the very Word of God, TRUTH itself that we can believe in.
— What is a good response to someone who says, “Aren’t guilt, truth, morals, and beauty all just social constructs?”
Good question. As with many things, it is ALWAYS helpful to ask clarifying questions in the beginning of a
conversation. Anytime someone embeds an assertion in their question (that “these things are all just social
constructs”) you should ask that person what evidence they have to supports this. As Christians we often think
that since we claim to have THE truth, that it is our duty/responsibility to chase down every assumption or
assertion delivered to us. First of all, this is not ultimately beneficial for the questioner, and second, it is certainly
not sustainable for us. For example, in this question several very different types of claims are being lumped
Let’s start with: truth. Are they saying that truth itself is a social construct? Does that mean nothing is actually
true, ie reality doesn’t really exist? This philosophy is called relativism and it just doesn’t hold up to honest and
rigorous intellectual analysis. A simple illustration is the person who makes the statement, “There is no absolute
truth”…is that statement absolutely true? It is easy to spot the internal contradiction of this kind of nonsense.
No one actually lives like they believe there is no absolute truth, ie they acknowledge objective things like gravity,
magnetics, electricity, etc. Even though everyone lives like there is absolute truth, Christians actually have an
intellectual justification for the existence of truth: God defines it.
Next, let’s consider: morals. Morals are a measure of our behavior against a standard. Are morals a “construct”?
Yes. A “social” construct? It depends what you mean by “social”. Most people think of morals as “right and
wrong”, not just “different”. It really comes down to what defines the standard. If it is just a tally of people’s
opinions, then adherence to that standard doesn’t seem very compelling. Guilt is a subset of morality. When you
know your behavior doesn’t meet the moral standard you feel bad, ie “guilty”. Christians have a clear standard of
a moral standard: the Bible.
Finally, let’s look at “beauty”. If beauty is objectively defined as proportion, balance, complimentary colors, etc,
then it is objective. If not, then “beauty is in the eye of the beholder”. If the elements of beauty are simply
sterile metrics of physical properties, it isn’t very meaningful. But Christians believe that God created the world
to be beautiful and for humans to be able to recognize its transcendent beauty as a means to point us to Him.
This certainly isn’t the first place to start with in an Apologetic proof, but it is another supportive proof that
makes the most sense in a biblical worldview.
At the end of the day, a lot of Apologetics is asking good questions to clarify what is really being asked, which
often results in a better final question, and ultimately a more productive conversation.
— What is a “worldview”?
A “worldview” is simply how you view the world, ie how you answer the big questions in life. At some point every curious person looks at the world around them and faces three fundamental questions:
1. Where did everything come from?
2. Why does the world seem “broken”?
3. How does it get “fixed”?
How you view “reality”, and how you view “God”, and how you view “mankind” will determine how you answer these big questions and how you live your life. If you are consistent in your “worldview” you will build a cohesive narrative that tells a story of the universe that meshes with your personal experience. But sadly, most people have never thought through this topic and are therefore unprepared to handle the questions that come their way. Or worse, when faced with blatant inconsistencies in their “worldview” they are forced to abandon the questions, or even worse, progressively defend more and more contradictions.
As Christians we are called to be intellectually honest and logically rigorous in our reasoning about ourselves and the people and world around us. Here is a brief summary of one way to categorize various types of worldviews today through the lens of how they view God:
1a. Biblical Christianity: God is exactly as He is described in the Bible. The Bible is the ultimate authority on who God is. (this is ideally what all “good” churches are trying to teach)
1b. Incomplete Christianity: God is as He is described in the Bible, but perhaps not all attributes or achievements/predictions/facts are fully embraced. (this is what a “Jewish” worldview would be considered, it is VERY close to a “Biblical Christianity” worldview)
1c. Compromised Christianity: God is similar to what is described in the Bible, but modified to conform to certain cultural or societal pressures. (this describes many of the “progressive/liberal” churches in the US today)
1d. Corrupted Christianity: God is loosely based on descriptions in the Bible, but other outside texts trump the Bible with additional (and contradictory) characteristics. (this describes Jehovah’s Witnesses, Mormonism, Islam, etc)
2a. Secular Humanist: There is no God. Man is supreme. (this generally describes Atheism)
2b. Socialism: The state has replaced God. (this can be very similar to Secular Humanism, with the additional political system of the government as divine)
3. False Gods: The gods are creations of men. They did not create the universe, they do not have ultimate sovereign authority over everything. (this describes Hinduism, animism, Buddhism, Greek/Roman gods, etc)
4. New Age Spirituality: Everything is God. Morality and truth are whatever you want them to be (relativism). (this describes Relativism)
At the end of the day the subject of worldview should not be some esoteric academic pursuit, but something that is tangible and useful to everyone. In fact, even elementary school children can be equipped to understand their own worldview – God created everything, our rebellion against Him destroys all that is good, God offers salvation if we repent and return to Him – and to quickly recognize the deficiencies of inconsistent worldviews.
— Who made God?
The short answer? No one. No one is needed to make God because God is not a created entity. It is important to distinguish between things that are created and things that are not created.
This confusion often comes up in the discussion of origins. People will try to equate the beginning of the universe with the beginning of God. Christians ask unbelievers, “where did the universe come from?”. The logic is fairly straightforward:
- The physical universe obviously can’t be eternal: scientific laws like entropy (gradual decline into disorder) and an expanding universe are clear evidences of this, and the philosophy of an eternal historical past isn’t logically viable (i.e. you can’t have an infinite number of years of history of the universe before our present).
- But the universe obviously can’t have come from nothing either: this has been intuitive to thinking people for millennia: ex nihilo nihil fit (Latin for “out of nothing, nothing comes”).
In other words, both science and philosophy conclude that the universe must have been created in the finite past. And a created universe must have a creator. That is why the Bible states that one of the strongest evidences for God’s existence (as Creator) is that the universe exists (i.e. there IS a creation).
Psalm 19:1, 3-4 – The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork. They don’t speak a word… yet their message has gone throughout the earth, it travels around the world.
Romans 1:20 – For his [God’s] invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made.
People often mistakenly reason that since the UNIVERSE must have been made by someone, that GOD must have been made by someone too. But this is a logical error. God is quite different from the physical universe; He is supernatural. In contrast to other religions, the Bible teaches a God that is OUSTIDE our physical universe (i.e. timeless and immaterial) and therefore has no need of being “created”.
— When is it okay for Christians to disobey the government?
This is a difficult question, and we do not feel there is a clear cut answer for all Christians at all times. The proper response is a combination of biblical principles and personal conscience. Nonetheless, progress can be made towards a solution. It is often helpful to ask the right questions and review relevant examples when thinking through complex issues such as this.
Let’s start with the Word of God. Two Bible sections are often referenced when considering this topic:
Rom 13:1-2 – Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment.
Acts 5:29 – But Peter and the apostles answered, “We must obey God rather than men.”
God created the world and governs it by His supreme unquestioned authority. If society would acknowledge and submit to that one plain truth our laws and governance would be so much simpler!
The crux of this question has to do with whether or not the commands from the government are “legitimate”. The thoughtful Christian will ask certain kinds of questions as they reflect on difficult subjects like these: Do the government commands contradict their own foundational rules? This was the case with the American Revolution, and why many Christians at the time felt they had a duty (or at the very least a right) to take up arms. Do the government commands reach beyond the authority that God has assigned it as an institution? [the other institutions being the family and the church] This was the case for homeschooling in Oregon, which was originally outlawed in some areas but today enjoys widespread freedom and acceptance. In this example, the ultimate responsibility for the education of children has been assigned by God to parents (Deuteronomy 4:9, 6:7).
Two relevant examples from the life of Daniel are also instructive. The first involves refusing to do something the state has required: worshiping an idol (Daniel 3). The second involves doing something the state has forbidden: praying to God (Daniel 6). In both instances obedient followers of God willfully and deliberately disobeyed orders from the state. And in both instances there were grave and serious consequences: in the first it was a fiery furnace, in the second a lion’s den. Finally, in both instances the result was a clear testimony of God to the civic leaders who were moved and influenced by the obedience of brave and godly people and by the power and provision of God.
In closing, Peter and the other apostles did defy the ruling authorities in the events of chapters 4 & 5 in the book of Acts. But it is important to note that these apostles were “beaten” as a result of their actions (the same word used to describe the scourging Jesus endured in Luke 22). If we do decide to disobey the government we need to be ready to accept the consequences, whatever those consequences might be. As Christians we will sometimes suffer righteously for God, but our suffering has a purpose. Jesus gave us this reminder:
Mark 13:9 – But be on your guard; for they will deliver you to the courts, and you will be flogged in the synagogues, and you will stand before governors and kings for My sake, as a testimony to them.
— My Mormon friend said the Bible condones their religious practice of baptizing for the dead (1Cor 15:29). What do you think?
This is an interesting question. The Mormon church believes that going to the temple and baptizing yourself in place of people who have died allows those people a chance at paradise.
This is a great example of why theological doctrines should never be built on one verse. Context is crucial. Context of the surrounding verses, chapters, and even the whole book. The verse mentioned in the question states:
1Corinthains 15:29 - “Otherwise, what will they do who are baptized for the dead, if the dead do not rise at all? Why then are they baptized for the dead?”
The first thing to notice is that nowhere else in the Bible are believers instructed to Baptize for the dead. Nor is it ever mentioned in historical writings that the early church actually did this, or encouraged it. In fact, it is in direct contradiction to the Biblical notion that we need to respond to God in this life.
In this chapter, Paul is arguing against those who say there is no resurrection, and this is one in a series of arguments against that notion. During the first century, several pagan religions had the practice of baptizing for the dead in many areas around Corinth. There are several traditional interpretations of this verse, and one possibility is that Paul may be referencing these practices when he says “they” are baptized for the dead, not “we.” Paul’s point here could be that even these Pagans inherently know something about the afterlife. It’s all part of his argument for the widespread acknowledgment of the resurrection of the dead, not a prescription for us to follow these practices.
Taking this verse out of context, as the Mormons do, and creating an entire ritual of baptism for the dead is hardly justified. Great question, keep ‘em coming!
— Is Kanye actually Christian and should we listen to his music?
Kanye West (or any celebrity for that matter) is subject to the same criteria for being a Christian as any other person. What does the Bible say?
Romans 10:9 – If you openly declare that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.
If Kanye has repented of his sins and submitted to Christ as Lord of his life then he, like anyone else, has become a Christian. The Bible says a true Christian will bear fruit (Matthew 7:16-20), so time will tell whether or not Kanye’s conversion is authentic. And before we criticize and judge whether or not we think his fruit is sufficient (Matthew 7:1-5), remember that we are all in a process that the Bible calls “sanctification” (being made more holy) that will make us look more and more like Jesus.
Ephesians 4:22-24 – Throw off your old sinful nature and your former way of life, which is corrupted by lust and deception. Instead, let the Spirit renew your thoughts and attitudes. Put on your new nature, created to be like God—truly righteous and holy.
Should we listen to Kanye’s music? Much of his music before his conversion is not edifying (even if it has some Christian themes), and some of it is even explicitly inaapropriate. However, his latest album (after his announced conversion), “Jesus is King”, has many lyrics that are very biblical and God-honoring. What music we listen to is a personal choice.
It’s also helpful to remember that God does not call us to follow after human celebrities because of their fame. But he can use anyone where they are to bring him glory if they are willing to submit to him.
1Corinthians 1:26-29 – Brothers, consider your calling: Not many are wise from a human perspective, not many powerful, not many of noble birth. Instead, God has chosen what is foolish in the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen what is weak in the world to shame the strong. God has chosen what is insignificant and despised in the world—what is viewed as nothing—to bring to nothing what is viewed as something, so that no one can boast in His presence.
–I heard about a Christian girl who committed suicide. Did she go to heaven or hell?
Great question. This is what the Bible says:
John 10:27-29 – My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand.
Suicide is wrong because it is taking a life made in the image of God (your own). But people don’t lose their salvation because they sin, whether it is taking a life or telling a lie. So whether or not she went to heaven or not is the same criteria for all of us: had she truly believed in Jesus as Lord and confessed Him as her Savior? Suicide is a very delicate and painful subject for those who have lost loved ones in this way.
— “Ontological”? “Teleological”? What do those even mean?
These two words are types of arguments for the existence of God. You bring up an important point that we need to remember. Apologetics can often involve the discussion of complex subjects, and when this work is undertaken by the “intellectual community” (ie those with advanced degrees or those who make a living writing books and giving lectures on these subjects) confusing terms can sometimes be introduced. This isn’t necessarily bad, it can be useful in summarizing volumes of discourse into an abbreviated form, but it can be dangerous. It can give the impression that if you don’t understand these words then you’re not smart enough to participate in the discussion. This is just not true.
“Ontological” simply means “study of being”, or “study of existence”. The “Ontological argument for the existence of God” is complicated, but in its simplest form says if we define “God” as the highest form of being that we can imagine then he must exist. One of the problems with this argument is that it relies on human reason as the ultimate authority without justifying that position. It is not a very compelling approach.
“Teleological” means “study of the end of something” or “study of something’s purpose”. The “Teleological argument for the existence of God” is also complicated, but in its simplest form says that since the universe seems to have been designed for a specific purpose (ie supporting human life) then it must have been designed by God. One of the problems with this argument is that it equates the high statistical probability of something as irrefutable proof. It is not a very compelling approach either.
Unfortunately, one of the problems with these types of arguments is that they don’t really accomplish what they intend to. At best they are a clever philosophical or evidential justification for some kind of “higher power” to exist. But this higher power is not specified as the God of the Bible. Therefore the main task of proving that the God of the Bible exists, which is the only way to introduce the concept of sin and salvation, still remains. While these arguments can be an interesting thought experiment for those deeply embedded in the topic, they can be alienating because of their terminology, and are not necessarily very effective. The use of these arguments is not recommended.
— Why are there Christian soldiers, when the Bible says ‘Thou Shalt Not Kill’?
Great question! The Bible calls us to examine and think and reason, so it’s good to always tackle these kinds of questions head on!
The original Hebrew in this verse says “lô’ râtsach” which literally means “do not kill the innocent in premeditation”. When the King James version (which you quoted) translated the Hebrew in 1611 it used the word “kill” because at that time in the English language “kill” was used as we use the word “murder” today. But the English language has changed a lot in 400 years. Modern Bible versions now translate this as “You shall not murder”. So Christian soldiers are certainly allowed to “kill” the enemy in war, but never to “murder”. Again, great question, keep ‘em coming!
–How do we know that Jesus is God, and not a creation, like the Jehovah Witnesses say?
It really is one of the best questions we can ask, since the deity of Christ is one of the central doctrines of our Christian faith.
The Bible holds the clear answer. The book of John holds many convincing proofs (especially since it has Jesus’ own words), but that truth is found literally throughout the Bible!
John 1:1, 14 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God… and the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.
John 10:30-33 (Jesus speaking) “I and the Father are one. ” The Jews then picked up stones again to stone him. Jesus answered them, “I have shown you many good works from the Father; for which of them are you going to stone me?” The Jews answered him, “It is not for a good work that we are going to stone you but for blasphemy, because you, being a man, make yourself God.”
Colossians 2:9 For in him [in Christ] the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily
So there really is no question that the Bible says Jesus is God, and that Jesus himself claimed it. Now let’s move to the issue of whether or not Jesus was created (which is a bit of a misnomer, since God by definition isn’t created). The JW’s ignore the clear teaching of Scripture:
John 1:3 All things were made by him [the Word – Jesus], and without him was not anything made that was made.
Colossians 1:16-17 For by him [Jesus] all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created by him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together.
If Scripture is so clear, how do they come to this incorrect conclusion? As ironic as it may seem, they use the preceding verse of Colossians:
Colossians 1:15 He [Jesus] is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation.
They claim that the word “firstborn” means he was born, which means he was created. But is that how the Bible always uses that term? Many words have a large “semantic range” (a fancy phrase for “they can have different meanings”) that depend on the CONTEXT. “Firstborn” can literally mean “the first one born in a family”, but it is also often used as a title of supremacy. Here is a clear illustration of the concept:
Genesis 41:51-52 Joseph called the name of the firstborn [son] Manasseh… The name of the second [son] he called Ephraim.
Jeremiah 31:9 …I am a father to Israel, and Ephraim is my firstborn.
Even though Manasseh was born before his brother Ephraim, it was Ephraim whom Jeremiah recorded as God calling the “firstborn” because of the position he held in God’s kingdom (you can read Genesis 48 for more context on this). In light of this, I think a good interpretation of Colossians 1:15 is “Jesus is the physical manifestation of Creator God Himself. He is supreme over the entire universe.”
As you can see, if you come to the Bible with incorrect presuppositions, or only consider a few verses, or take phrases out of context, you will end in confusion. But taken as a whole, especially with submission to the Holy Spirit as our guide, the whole counsel of God is plain truth, truth that sets us free!