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Apologetics: Does God Exist?

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Do You Have to Clean Up Your Act to Become a Christian?

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Author Interview

Ten Questions Every Christian Must Answer

By Chris Carpenter Program Director - How many times have you been asked a question about your faith by a friend or family member and have then proceeded to mumble and stumble through an answer that is semi-incoherent?  More times than you would like, right?  The truth of the matter is that despite years of dedicated service to our savior, Jesus Christ, even the best of believers don’t always have the right answer.

In the new book, 10 Questions Every Christian Must Answer, Drs. Alex McFarland and Elmer Towns seek to provide thoughtful responses to questions that sometimes make Christians want to bury their head between the pew Bible and church hymnal in shame. Program Director Chris Carpenter recently sat down with Dr. McFarland to discuss why he believes the ten questions they selected are the most important for Christians to be able to answer, the question he believes is the most critical, and whether Jesus is the only way.

Why did you think this type of book needed to be written at this time?

People like lists. Human beings like lists, and I travel and speak quite a bit. I'm in a different church almost every weekend. By the grace of God over the last 17 years, I've spoken in 1,350 American churches, about 150 college campuses, and I would keep journals of the questions that sometimes Christians struggle with. You know, doubts and questions about faith. And then even skeptics and atheists that I would meet on the road or debate at colleges. And the questions would come up you know “How do you know there is ultimate truth?” “How do you know God exists?” “Where did the universe come from?”  “Can I trust the Bible?” “What about Jesus? How do you know Jesus really rose from the grave?” And then questions about, “If God is love how can there be a Hell?” And so I just was listing all these questions and kind of isolated what numerically added up to be the 10 most common questions that Christians need to know how to answer.

I'm sure you had dozens of questions. You just rattled off a bunch off the top of your head.  How did you boil it down to these 10?

They were chosen pretty much by the frequency with which I heard the questions. I had a child ask me if there would be ice cream in Heaven. Valid question, not one of the 10 most common though. And, by the way, I hope there will be ice cream in Heaven. You know I've had a lot of weird questions -- do I believe in Big Foot or something like that. People have off-the-wall questions, but we felt like these ten were the common ones we were hearing over and over. And so, another reason that we need to answer these, not only because people are asking the questions, but because more than ever in American life, dozens of beliefs are competing for the hearts and minds of people.

Christianity is not the only kid on the block anymore. And the Church, if we're going to obey what the Word of God says, Mark 16:15, “Preach the Gospel to the whole world”; Matthew 28:18-20 “Make disciples”; I Peter 3:15 “Be ready always to give an answer to anyone who asks a reason for the hope that you have.” Well, we need to ramp up and drill down deeply and know what we believe, know why we believe it, and be able to share it effectively. And so this book hopefully will do that.

From your perspective are these the 10 most important questions or the 10 questions that made the most sense to answer right now?

That's a good question. We felt like they were not only ones that were commonly asked, but are vital. Think about this, the Christian Gospel says “God loves you, but yet humanity sinned. Sin separates us from God, but in His love God has made a solution to the sin problem. He, Himself, took on a human body. Jesus Christ God incarnate. He died.” I mean, think about the love of this, that the appropriate measure of God's wrath that you and I deserved, Jesus endured on the cross. The punishment of God that we deserved was poured on Jesus. He rose from the grave, and anybody who comes to Christ in faith and repentance. Repentance means to turn away from sin and embrace God and to receive Jesus as your Lord and Savior. That good news, that Gospel is true. Compelling lines of evidence show it to be true. But here's my point. If you don't believe in truth, if you don't believe that there's an objective, moral standard that we've violated, if you don't believe that God exists, if you don't believe that Jesus really lived and rose from the grave, if you don't believe there is a Heaven to be won, and a Hell to be avoided, then the Gospel won't make any sense at all. And so we felt like these were very key foundational things that you have to be able to establish if a person is to understand the Gospel and receive Jesus into their life as their Savior.

Of these 10 questions that are in your book, is there any one that you feel is the most important question or answer?

The most common question that is close to people's heart is what we would call the problem of “pain and suffering”.  And let me say this, intellectual skepticism is always preceded by emotional pain. We prop up our unbelief with a lot of sophisticated sounding jargon, but I've debated atheists, I've dialogued with thousands of people over the last two decades. Intellectual skepticism is always preceded by emotional pain. “I prayed to God and my mother still died of cancer.,” someone might say. Or “I tried to live right and do right, and yet I still got laid off and now I'm going to lose my house.” And people want to know “Where is God in my hurt and my pain?”  “If God is love, if God is wise, if God is powerful why is there evil and suffering?” It's because there's sin in the world.

I don’t want to give away the entire book but could you give me a thumbnail answer on at least one of the question you answer?  Here goes, “Is Jesus the only way?”

People don't like that, do they?  Here's the question. Did Jesus speak for God, or did Jesus speak as God? In our touchy-feely, 21st century politically correct world, people don't like the idea of one way. In fact, I speak in a lot of public schools where I encounter this question with teachers. My mother was a teacher for 25 years, and I've had parents say to me, “Look, my son missed these problems on a math test,” but they don't use red ink. They don't like to mark it wrong. It's like, keep trying harder. Well, as bitter a pill as it is for us to swallow, I mean, two plus two equals four. Two plus two doesn't equal three; it doesn't equal five. If you say two plus two equals five, if I really care about you, I shouldn't simply say try harder. I just say, you know what, I love you, man, but you're wrong. I can only help you if we admit where we went wrong, and then go towards what would make it right. With the concept of Jesus, let me tell you, Jesus said you've got to believe in Jesus to go to Heaven. Luke 13:3, “If you do not repent, you will perish.” Here's one for you, “John 8:24, the words of Christ, He said, “If you do not believe that I am He,” in other words, the Savior, “If you do not believe that I am He, you will die in your sins.” I ask people when I debate at colleges,” Okay, Jesus claimed to be the one and only way of salvation. Was he right or was he wrong?” Now, I've had people go, ahhh. Because that means, very few people want pass judgment on Jesus. It's like, Jesus was wrong. Because, if somebody says Jesus was wrong, I say, “Okay, let me see your resume. Virgin born?” “No.” “Walked on water?” “No.” “Can you conquer death?” “No.” I mean, people bristle at the notion that there's one way to be forgiven, but that's what Jesus claimed about himself, and He coupled that amazing claim with an amazing level of proof, rising from the grave. So, it's been said when you come to a rock, you can stand on it, or stumble over it.

After people read 10 Questions Every Christian Must Answer, as an author, what do you want them to get out of this?

That's a good question. The reason we do anything is for the glory of God. Why do we ramp up and answer the questions? Well, because the world's going to Hell in overdrive and people are lost. Yeah that's true, but I would encourage people, and this is what I want in the books and the seminars, you name it, everything post-salvation should be a decades-long thank-you note back to Jesus. I want my life to be a worship offering to God. And I would pray that my book would increase the worship of the true and living God. Psalm 115 says this, “Not unto us O Lord, give glory, not unto us, but unto Thy name give glory for the sake of the truth.” We're doing this because it's true, but we're also doing this for the glory of God. The worship and the exultation of the name of Jesus. That's what we are about.

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