In this episode, Sean and Craig Hazen discuss some of the most challenging questions about Christian faith. They discussed this together at Yorba Linda Friends Church. Join them as they give succinct and clear answers to these important questions.
Chris Ward: I got to tell you, I have been looking forward to this weekend for a really, really long time. There's a verse in the book of 1 Peter 3:15, some of you may have heard it before. But this verse says the following it says, "Always be prepared to give an answer." Some translations actually say there, "Always be prepared to give a defense to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have." And what we find from that verse is one of our calls. One of our responsibilities as Christians is we are called to know how to defend our faith. We are called to know how to answer questions that we get about what we believe and why we believe what we believe. Well, these two men who are sitting with me here on stage, not only have they dedicated their lives to living out this particular verse, but they have actually best of all, I think, dedicated their lives to training you and me how to live out this verse. And they have dedicated their lives to showing just how true, just how defensible the Christian faith is, an arming us with the knowledge and the tools so that we can know that and we can share that with other people. So it is such a huge treat to have Sean and Craig with us here this week. And you guys thank you so much for coming here.
Sean McDowell: Thanks for having us.
Craig Hazen: You bet. Absolutely.
Chris Ward: And as we begin I was wondering you guys if each of you could just say a few words about yourself, introduce your... You both teach at Biola so both talk about your roles at Biola, what you're doing in God's kingdom and then maybe also a little bit about your families, just so we can get to know you better.
Craig Hazen: Yeah, I've been at Biola for about 20 years now. I started this graduate program in Christian apologetics back then. And it's grown to be like the top ranked program in the world, I'm just thrilled about that. It's really a kingdom movement to see people get re-engaged to not only present the gospel clearly, but then to be able to answer the tough questions that people ask in a very skeptical secularity. So it's a thrill to see that happening. And I have a doctorate in Comparative Religion and Religious Studies from UC Santa Barbara, of all places. It's not exactly where you go to study to become a new follower of Jesus, but it was a great challenge. Of course, I know most of you for goodness sakes, my wife and I have been going here off and on for 25 years. So good to see you all. I mean, we're friends, right? I mean, not like Quakers, but actual friends. And that's good to know. But my wife Karen's back there and [inaudible] ends and my kids are all adults now so I don't care much about them they are all [inaudible].
Chris Ward: Sean.
Sean McDowell: I teach in the program with Craig, I teach apologetics. It is my seventh year at Biola and I love it. There's nowhere else I would want to be. Before that, I taught high school Bible Theology Apologetics Worldview for a decade, and then went back, started working on a doctorate hoping I could be at a place like Biola. Craig called me my last year and invited me over and it was a no brainer. So I still teach part time in a Christian school, just three mornings because my family's there and I have a heart for the next generation to get to just speak and right on top of that. I have three kids, my son is 15. And last night when I was here in the middle of the service, he texted me a picture of these Jordan shoes that he found for cheap at Ross, and he's going to turn them for a profit. So he's learning about the wonders of capitalism.
Chris Ward: Entrepreneur there.
Sean McDowell: Right?
Chris Ward: Yeah, very good.
Sean McDowell: He is going to be good. And then I have a daughter who's 12, who's into surfing and volleyball and then a son who's six, who's right there, playing Minecraft while boring dad talks. But at least he's with me so we're having a good time this morning.
Chris Ward: Thanks, you guys. I feel like we should have a sponsored by Biola on the back of[crosstalk] Sorry [APU]. Sorry, Matthew. Hey, you guys. We have just a ton to cover today. So we're not going to waste any time. Over the past few weeks, we've solicited some questions from the congregation. I sat down and wrote down some questions that I get asked that I'm not sure I always answer the way I'd like to. We also have with us our high school ministry in our services here this weekend, and in preparation for that, we got some questions from them. And so we're going to go right to it.
So Craig, I'm going to ask the first question, okay of you. And the first question is this, in some recent messages from this stage, I have talked about that we live in a world that's just full of different religions. In fact, according to one website I came across, there are as many as 4200 different religions in the world today, which as I've shared with all these people means they're 4199 groups of people who believe something different than what we believe. Now, as you said, you did your doctorate in Comparative Religions, you've taught that the different religions comparing religions at Biola, so my question for you is, what is it that makes Christianity so special? How does Christianity measure up against the other religions that are out there?
Craig Hazen: Yeah, no, I'm not much of an expert in this because I've only studied 1197 religions.
Chris Ward: A few more to go.
Craig Hazen: No, but I actually... My graduate work was really kind of a trajectory that started when I first became a Christian. When I first became a Christian as a senior in high school, I'm going, "What about the Buddhists and the Muslims and the Hindus and you name it? What about... ?" I felt a little insecure clinging so tightly to Christianity when I didn't know anything about the others. And so that kind of led me on a long trajectory to end up doing graduate work in Comparative Religions at a very secular school. But it also gave me an amazing opportunity, as a Jesus loving Bible reading Christian, to go into these graduate programs and study Buddhism and Islam and so on, and then compare it to Christianity. And so let me give you the bottom line of doing this comparative study over the years. Here it is.
Christianity is weird. We signed up for a strange one we did, so I say that in this context, that when you say religion, something pops to mind, there's a category. I've discovered Christianity just doesn't fit that category well at all. Well, let me give you a few examples of things that set Christianity apart from the big pack of world religions. And I mean, in a dramatic way to where I wouldn't go the other direction on any of them, I would stay focused on Jesus Christ.
The first one is this. Christianity is testable. It's testable. Now, what I mean by testable is this, that you can offer evidence for it, you can offer evidence against it. And the evidence actually means something. I mean, you can decide whether to be a follower of Jesus Christ or not based on the evidence in the case. Now, maybe you're thinking, "Well, can't you do that with other religions?" Well, no, you really can't. And so this is something I love to talk about, in fact, oh, there's going to be a conference. If you like this kind of material, we have a conference planned for March 13th and 14th, where I'll flesh this out in more detail, because I'll have a good hour to do it. So it's not only the testability, but there's something else too, salvation in the system. Every religion has a system of salvation or enlightenment or something like that. But in Christianity, the salvation, that reconciliation with God is a free gift from God. It's free, he just gives it to you. It's crazy. If you compare that to the other great world religious traditions, there's no crawling over jagged rocks for miles to put some offering in some temple, there's no sitting in arthritis producing lotus positions for hours on end. There's none of that. He just gives it to you. It's really extraordinary.
And here's the third one. I've got more right here. I'll give you one more. One reason that Christianity is set apart from the other great world religious traditions is that Christianity has Jesus at the center. Now maybe you're thinking, "Well, of course it does. It's Christianity, of course it's got Jesus. How does that make it special?" Well, it makes it special in that every other religion in a major category wants to have Jesus at the center as well or somewhere near the center. In other words, they want to own Him, because He is the universal religious figure. So if you're shopping for religion, it makes perfect sense that you would start your shopping spree with Christianity because it has the universal figure right at the center and has from the very beginning. I have a lot more to say on that but I'll just stop there.
Chris Ward: So in light of that follow up question. And, Sean, I'd love to get your thoughts on this, in light of how unique Christianity is, in light of what Craig said, it's testable. And in fact, we did a message a few weeks ago on the resurrection of Jesus, the reasons to believe the resurrection of Jesus, in your opinion, as you go out and defend the faith to other people, what is it that keeps people from putting their faith in Jesus? Or maybe asked another way, what are some of the primary objections, struggles that people have with crossing the line of faith and trusting in Jesus?
Sean McDowell: I think there's divine supernatural struggles and there's kind of a human way to look at this. I took a group of students on a trip to Israel, this was about a decade ago, we were meeting with the Christian archeologists there. And I said, "Do you have mythicists here in Israel?" And mythicist is a small but growing movement that claims Jesus never even existed. And he kind of laughed because of course not. I said, "Well, why not?" He said, "We don't agree on a lot here, Muslims, Jews and Christians in Israel, but everybody agrees at least minimally, that Jesus existed." We know where the Mount of Olives is, we know where the Sea Gulley is, we know where Jesus was born, probably where Jesus was buried. We know these things. And I said, "If the evidence is so strong, then why don't more people believe in Jesus?" He said, "I think it's because of spiritual blindness." And he's right.
We have to look at these tough questions people have, but we can't forget, we're in a spiritual battle. Paul says in Ephesians chapter six, that we don't fight against flesh and blood, but against spirits and principalities. So there are supernatural forces at play, in terms of somebody coming to believe. Now, from a human level, I think some people just have a faulty view of what it means to be a Christian. Every single person I've talked to, that's been in the faith or said they're in the faith and walked away, if I probed enough at its heart, I find some bad mistaken theology, about the character of God, about salvation. People think they're rejecting the faith, but they're rejecting a straw man of it, which is why good theology is so important.
And the other reasons people struggle with is they look at Christians and they've just had a bad experience in the church. They've been treated in un-Christian like manner, they've seen hypocrisy, and why would I want to join that club when Christians have treated me this way. For other people, it can be moral. I mean, believing in Jesus changes everything. It changes everything. It's not like you believe in a geometric theorem and then you move on with your life. Jesus said, "Pick up your cross and follow me." Now I've heard Christians say, "Well, my cross is that my boss is just so demanding. Or my neighbor listens to loud rock music." When Jesus said pick up your cross, He meant be ready to die and follow after me. So for a lot of people, it's they count the cost and realize following Jesus changes how I spend my time, my money, what I do with my body, you're asking too much. I want to be the author of my life. I'm out.
Chris Ward: Do you have any additional thoughts on that Craig?
Sean McDowell: No.
Chris Ward: No? Okay. Sounds good. Kind of follow up to that and you touched upon it, Sean, and this is for either of you, Craig. I'd love for you to answer it too, is this idea that recently there's been in the news, some big name people who have been very closely identified with the Christian faith, I'm thinking of a former pastor by the name of Joshua Harris, a singer-songwriter by the name of Marty Sampson, we've sung some of his songs in this church, who recently very publicly went on social media and declared either that they're really struggling with the Christian faith, or in one case, even seemingly walking away from the Christian faith. How do we make sense of people being so closely connected to the Christian faith, all of a sudden beginning to take steps away from it?
Sean McDowell: There always has been, and there always will be people who walk away from the Christian faith. Think, Judas.
Chris Ward: Yes, right.
Sean McDowell: I'm not comparing these two people to Judas. That's not my point. But since the time of Jesus, there's people who said they are followers and for different reasons, walk away. That's why Hebrews 6:10 says, "Stay strong in the faith. Stay grounded, avoid sin, reject false doctrine." So this has always happened. I want to know, because it feels like with these two big profile cases recently, what's happened to all these leaders. I step back and I say, is there really an increase in people walking away? Or do we have these things called smartphones, and everybody has social media, and a certain culture looking for these stories to bring to our attention. And I think that's more what's going on than more people walking away.
I got an email two days ago from a friend of mine, one of the top scientists in the world in his field, and he sent me a link to a former atheist who's a scientist, who just became a Christian and he's releasing a new book. You've probably never heard of him, because his story as dramatic as it is, doesn't fit the narrative of the kind of news some people are looking for, like these two figures. So I think we just have to step back and when we see some people not being faithful to cause, like Paul said, "Follow me as I follow Christ." Remember the number of Christians who are being faithful to this. But I also think on top of it, when this happens, we as a church need to look within. And part of me says, I mean, Joshua Harris wrote a fascinating, insightful book at 21 years old. Why are we holding anybody up who's 21 as an expert of something within the church, who then goes to seminary after being a pastor in 2015? I think we're quick to kind of have this celebrity culture approach rather than saying, "We got to know scripture. We got to know theology and not play by the script of the world."
Craig Hazen: Yeah, I'd also say that I think John's exactly right about the level of impact this really was having but given social media and so on, we were focused on it, and made the headlines. But it kind of breaks my heart to hear these kinds of things, because there are more people than you might imagine, you kind of think, "Well, I finally came of age and I'm kind of giving away the mythologies and the fairy tales that I grew up with." Oh my goodness, it's not like that at all. You see, the evidence is so good that I cannot not believe in God. I cannot not believe in God. And it's not just because I feel Him or I experience Him, no, I mean, just from pure scholarship and logic and all that kind of thing. If my life crumbled, I'd still have to believe in God, because He's there, there's just no escaping it.
So when I see something like that, I wonder what's really going on? It does remind me a little bit about what's going on in John chapter six. In John chapter six, Jesus says this outrageous thing, there's a group of people, he's given a message and he says this, "You've got to eat my flesh, and you've got to drink my blood or you have no life in you." For goodness sakes, people start to turn and walk away the text says, and I mean, for goodness sakes, it wasn't a vampire convention. It was a group of Orthodox practicing Jewish people who were listening to Him and they're like, "Who can take such a teaching," and they start to walk away.
I mean, think how troubling that would be to everybody there, well Jesus wheels around to the 12 and go, "Are you going to walk away too?" And I love Peter's response. He's always abundant respond person and this was right on the money. He simply said, "Where else are we going to go? Where else are we going to go?" And the subtext there is very important. In other words, we've seen those other messiahs coming through town and those prophets and those miracle workers and those guys who have real flair with speech and so on, but you Lord, they don't hold a candle to you. Where else are we going to go? And I wish we could get that, Christians like we see in the news rounded up and really give them an introduction, the fact that this stuff really happened. It's not a figment of our imagination. And where are you going to go? Where are you going to go to be right with God and to live eternally? There's only one source.
Chris Ward: And as I said, we have our high school ministry with us in our services and you co-wrote an incredible book Sean, a few years ago called or just as last year called 'So That Next Generation Will Know'. And this book is about, as the tagline says, preparing young Christians for a challenging world. It's all about how to train up the younger generation to know their faith, to defend their faith. Well, in preparation for this weekend, we asked our high school pastor, Trevor Holtz, to send some of the questions that he gets most asked by his high school students, and I read over them this past week, and they're excellent questions, and I don't just think high school students struggle with them. I think all of us have struggled with these questions from time to time.
And so I'd love to ask you a few of these that they asked. First question is this and this is a big one, and I'm sure you guys get asked it a lot. And that is the issue of pain and suffering. And the question goes like this, how do we make sense of all the pain and suffering in the world? If God is all powerful and all good, then why is there so much pain and suffering in this world?
Sean McDowell: This is probably the toughest question that we have to wrestle with. Because it's not just intellectual, it's personal. We've experienced pain, we've seen pain and at times, some of us have all felt like, "If I was God, I would stop this, why doesn't God stop it?" You have to keep in mind though, that it's not just Christianity that has to answer the question of pain and suffering. Every single worldview has to make sense of this. So the question is not, "Can I tell you exactly why you're suffering?" And answer every single component of the question of evil and suffering, if that's your expectation, then you're going to walk away disappointed. The question to me is which of these 4200 world views-
Chris Ward: [crosstalk]
Sean McDowell: ... offer the best intellectually and emotionally satisfying answer, and that's why I'm a Christian. So here's one piece of it, so much more can be said. But how Christianity uniquely approaches this is through the person of Jesus. So the 1800s, there was a priest by the name of Father Damian who heard about a colony of lepers who were living together on the island of Molokai, without any pastor to care for them. So with his own volition, he went to be their pastor. He changed their wounds. He prayed for them. He fed them, he preached to them, he buried those who had passed away. And he did this for a dozen years. And then one fateful day he stood up in front of this colony of lepers and he said two words that changed everything. These two words changed it all. He stood in front of them, opened up his robe showed the first signs of leprosy. And he said, "We lepers." He had become a leper. Now did they know that he loved them before he got leprosy, of course, but on that day, everything changed, didn't it? Now he understood and second, they realized he gave everything, including his own life, because he loves them. The question is, who is Jesus more like, Father Damian before he got leprosy? Or after?
And I think you know the answer to this, the unique and I mean unique in the spirit of what Craig was talking about, Christian answer to the problem of suffering and pain is not that God has just sent a book as wonderful as the Bible is or an angel or a prophet, but God has sent His own son into this creation he made and willingly suffers and understands our hurts and our pain, takes it upon himself, lays down his life, so we can have eternal life. So when you ask where's God when I suffer, the answer is he's right there suffering with you. That's why Hebrews 4 says, "We have a high priest who sympathizes with our weaknesses."
You ever been betrayed by a friend? You can't say, "God you don't understand." He's like, "Yeah, actually one of my top 12 betrayed me." If you're in physical pain, you're like, "God you don't understand." Jesus is like, "Yeah, I was crucified. Pretty sure I understand." That's what Hebrews means. So God is there suffering with us, and promises to comfort us through His Holy Spirit and the church as we suffer, and to redeem that for eternal life. I think we can only make sense of suffering in light of eternity.
Chris Ward: Yeah.[crosstalk]
Sean McDowell: In light of eternity, which is why Mother Teresa said, "When viewed our suffering now in light of eternity, it's like one dingy night in a hotel room." And I think she experienced enough suffering to have the authority to say that.
Chris Ward: Your point is so important. All 4200 different worldviews and religions has to make sense of pain and suffering.
Sean McDowell: That's right.
Chris Ward: It's a problem for those who don't believe in God. It's what worldview makes the best sense of it. Another question that comes from our students, another really big one. And this deals with the issue of marriage and the issue of sexuality. At this church, we have taught, the church has taught for thousands of years, the traditional view that marriage is between a man and a woman. These days, that view is looking increasingly outdated. And so in light of that, two questions, one, are we fighting a losing battle in this area? And then two, what do you do if a loved one, a friend, family member comes up to you and says, "I think I'm experiencing attraction for a member of the same sex."?
Craig Hazen: Sean has written a lot on this, go for it man.
Sean McDowell: Okay.
Chris Ward: Did you just pass the... ?
Sean McDowell: So if I frame the question, which side should I be on? And I want to make sure I'm on the culturally winning side, you probably should abandon the historic Christian view, because of all the momentum seems to be against it. But that's not the standard by which I decide which side I'm on on a particular issue. The question is not do we win as Christians? The question is, are we faithful to what Scripture teaches? That's what God holds us accountable for. So I look at Scripture from Genesis 1 all the way to the end, there is a certain view of marriage that Jesus taught. And what I know is that, it's actually when we align our lives with God's design, that's when we're really free.
By the way, it's part of the Christian tradition, that it's kind of an insurgent movement. And sometimes you're on the more narrow road compared to the larger road. Think of Elijah in the Old Testament, he flees, he's like, "God, I'm the only one, everybody's abandoned your path," but he stayed faithful to the cause. So no matter what culture does, let us be faithful lovingly and graciously to what Scripture teaches because it's that truth that sets people free.
Now your second question which is related but a little different. What do you do if somebody comes out to you so to speak, and shares same sex attraction, I've had a number of students share with me the first time about their same sex attraction. I'll just tell you how I respond, is when students come out to me, I'll simply say, "Thank you so much for trusting me enough to share something so intimate and important to you. I just want you to know that this doesn't change anything about our relationship. I care about you, I love you. I am with you through this thick and the thin and God loves you too." There can be a lot of shame tied to this issue. And friends, we have to lead with grace, and then we can get the scripture, then we can get to the question, what does it mean to love God in light of my same sex attraction? But please, can we just lead with grace and with kindness.
And you look at how Jesus dealt with people. And I'm not saying same sex attraction is sin. That's not my point within itself. But how Jesus dealt with people caught in sexual sin. He showed grace and he showed mercy and he showed love. Let us lead with that.
Chris Ward: Just to pause, just for a second here. Yeah, you can applaud that. I'm listening to both of you talk. I really get the impression that both of you kind of know what you're talking about, right? I mean-
Craig Hazen: We fooled him good.
Chris Ward: ... You've done this before I get the sense. Final question that we get from our students is along the lines of the following. I'm a senior, I'm graduating at the end of the year. I'm planning to go to a non Christian school. I know I'm going to get some challenges to my faith. And that brings up the whole issue. I think the biggest challenges we get to our faith as Christians these days, come not from members of other religions, it comes from those who believe that science, that evolution, that the physical world can explain everything that we see around us. And so a couple of questions come out of that. I want to direct the first one at you Craig, I know that you actually, I think, taught biology at one point, subject of evolution, what do you think about evolution? Can evolution adequately explain how our world came to be?
Craig Hazen: Yeah, I was a biology major in college and ran a biology research lab for a while and I took the very best courses I could get my hands on in terms of evolution. So I really gave it a good try. I was a young Christian, didn't really know all the ins and outs of how evolution interacted with Scripture and all that, but I gave it a really good shot. I got to tell you, it was one of the most disappointing aspects of my whole experience in higher education. So I would go to the office hours when the professors would be there and we'd have chats about their side, and I would ask them questions. And by the way, I didn't march in and go, "Clearly this isn't going anywhere." No, I simply said, "Help me understand why, for instance, natural selection, just doesn't seem to be a powerful enough engine to drive evolution. And yet it's central to the whole operation." They'd say things like, "Yeah, who knows? We know it's true, but we're not sure how it all works out."
Well, that has caught up with him. I remember back in 1985, a book was written by an Australian medical researcher, by the name of Michael Denton and I loved the title, it was called 'Evolution, a Theory in Crisis', and that was in 1985. And he laid the groundwork for showing how this house of cards was going to begin to fall, and it has. We are in a period now where molecular biologists who are studying the development of proteins and all the intricacies inside yourselves are scratching their heads and saying, "We haven't a clue how Darwinism applies to these little machines, and all that's going on inside. So we don't have a clue. We can't explain it." In fact, when we do the mathematics as to how proteins and DNA molecules are produced in biological systems, it's off the charts. It's like we need billions of universes to make this work. Not only that, they've actually been having semi hush hush meetings, top evolutionary biologists, trying to figure out how it works, because they've all come to the basic conclusion that natural selection can't really be the engine for evolution.
Now, if you are a high school student and you're thinking, "Cool, I can't wait to go throw that at them in the biology lab." You might want to be a little careful with how you position this. Go in not as a know it all, but go in asking questions. Simply saying, "I heard this the other day," or, "I read a report from this particular conference where skeptical scientists got together, help me understand what's really going on here." I guarantee that's the best way to begin to cause doubt in terms of Darwinism with your new made friends in biology labs in college.
Chris Ward: Another question related to this area of science and Christianity, science and the Bible deals with the subject of miracles. And there are some 'scientific minds' out there, who say that there's no such thing as miracles, they can't believe them. They've never seen a miracle before. And so therefore, the very fact that the Bible talks about miracles, shows to them that the Bible is just a book of fairy tales. So I'm going to ask you, do miracles happen and what do we make of the miracles of the Bible?
Sean McDowell: One of the leading New Testament scholars in the world, his name is Craig keener. He comes out with an academic commentary like every 12 months, I seriously don't know how he does it. He's brilliant and committed. Well, about seven, eight years ago, he did 1000 page, two volume academic analysis of the state of miracles today very carefully footnoted, simply called miracles. And essentially his conclusion was, he said there's hundreds of millions of Christians alive today, across denominations, across where they live, across all these different kind of boundaries, hundreds of millions who believe they have personally seen or experienced the miraculous. In fact, he says, basically the same kind of miracles you see in the New Testament, the deaf hearing, the blind seeing, even some cases of the dead being raised again.
Chris Ward: Wow.
Sean McDowell: And it's so powerful to read this because he documents it all carefully. So anybody who simply says the miraculous doesn't happen, I say you've got to at least read these two volumes, because hundreds of millions of Christians think so. Now let me ask you a question, by show hands and not yet till I qualify this, how many of you would say you believe you have personally seen or experienced the miraculous? What I mean by this is not during Christmas, you got this amazing parking spot the day before Christmas, I mean something that can't be explained naturally has the fingerprint of God on it, you've seen or experienced the miraculous personally, how many of you by show hands?
Friends, every church I'm in it's this many hands, every church. Now one example on top of this, so that's kind of a macro view, just this summer in my class, I was teaching our program and the resurrection and students showed me the first peer reviewed in a medical journal case of a miracle that I've ever seen. And this is documented in a medical journal, and I'll show you where to find it if it interests you. A kid was born at one year old, began to have projectile vomiting and this kid was diagnosed so that's called gastroparesis, which limits the quality and quantity of your life typically, could not eat without what's called a J-tube attached to his stomach. When he was 16 years old, had an evangelist come to their church. And this evangelist told an amazing story about part of his stomach being severed, and God healing him. Meets the student, he goes, "Let me pray for you because God can heal you too." This kid says, "When he was praying for me, my whole body, I felt this shock going up and down my body," goes home that night, and has the first meal without the tube ever in his life within a month, completely healed.
Friends, this is amazing. It's a peer reviewed medical journal. Even the writer of this is like, "We can't really explain this. It can't be placebo." You try to make sense of it. So if you want to find it, just search peer reviewed miracle, throw my name in there, it'll come up and you can research it for yourself, but there are powerful cases of the miraculous happening today. It doesn't mean God always performs miracles, many times he doesn't. But there's good reason to believe that many times he does.
Craig Hazen: Yeah, I use an example in the book 'Fearless Prayer', if you've read it, you'll remember this. It's a memorable story about a fellow from Ghana named Kojo. Kojo came to Southern California to do an MA degree in Christian Apologetics. And then he was going to go back to his native country and do ministry, answer tough questions that the people in Ghana have. And so he disappears after he does the degree and I haven't seen him for a while, and he comes back to the States and he stops by Biola for a visit. And he's telling me about just the amazing ministry that the Lord has given him. He spoke before the Parliament of Ghana. He's doing crusades all the time. People are coming to the Lord right and left.
But he was telling me about this one tour they were doing out in bush villages, and he's like, "Yeah, so we went here and we saw a number of people come forward, accept the Lord. Went to this other place and yeah, another really wonderful evangelistic time. Oh, yeah, and a mother walks in with her dead son, lays him on the little stage we had built. We prayed for him and he came back from the dead. And then we went to the next village... " I'm like, "Kojo, back the truck up man. Tell me about this." He goes, "Yeah," he goes, "Yeah, it doesn't happen everywhere we go, but we always pray. And we see God act."
Now, here's the important part. So I go, "Kojo, tell me, why don't we see that very much in North America." And he laughed at me, he goes, "That's easy. I can't believe you're asking." I go, "Okay. I don't know the answer. Help me understand." And he goes, "Well," he goes, "Look, I'll put it this way, it's because you have 911." And what he meant was, you can pick up the phone and dial 911 and you can have emergency services descending on you in minutes. "We don't have 911 in Ghana," and he says, "Now I'm sure you pray, you might pray while you're running to get your cell phone and so on. But when you don't have a service like that, your mind just has to go somewhere else other than your cell phone. So we go to prayer, and we pray. And guess what, because that we probably pray more often. And because we pray more often, I think we see more things going on. We simply have," and here's the phrase, "We simply have a stronger supernatural mindset. Here in the West, you guys are blessed to have 911. It's the common grace of God that has given that to you. But that kind of-"
Chris Ward: So you are saying, call 911, right?
Craig Hazen: Yes, call 911.
Chris Ward: I just want to make that clear to everybody.
Craig Hazen: It's a blessing of God. And but he says, "Because of that, it makes you a little less quick to pray." And he says, "I think that makes a huge difference." And I think he's right about that.
Chris Ward: Absolutely. Let me ask you this question. I'm curious about it. And once again, related to the science issue. Let's say that you had someone come to you, who does not believe in God, doesn't believe therefore that the Bible is the word of God, and you wanted to try and get them to open up their mind to the idea that maybe their view is wrong and that there is a God, you can't use the Bible, again, because they don't believe the Bible is God. How would you go about it? And since we're running low on time, you have 30 seconds to tell us. Just kidding, you have longer than that.
Craig Hazen: Oh, we use this technique to demonstrate the truth of the resurrection of Jesus all the time. If you went to a secular university campus, guess what? They're not particularly thrilled when you open up the Bible. You know why? Because it's violent and homophobic and misogynistic and everything else. And so we have a technique, it's called the minimal facts approach to the resurrection where we take the facts that we gather from top scholars over the last say 50 or 70 years, writing in English, French, German, Russian, Spanish, we gather all the facts that these scholars think are true. And some of these are not believers. In fact, some of them are ranked atheists. But everybody across the board, there's a certain number of facts they all agree with. The evidence for the resurrection is so good that we can use that body of material and still get historical proof that Jesus was alive at point A, dead at point B and alive again at point C, without even cracking open scripture. That's how good the evidence is.
Chris Ward: That's great. One of the questions I get asked a lot as pastor is the question about the hiddenness of God. And if I'm honest with myself, I struggled, I've struggled with it in the past, and it's just this idea that God sometimes seems really hard to find. And so my question is, and I'll ask this of you, Sean, why doesn't God make himself clear to us and what he wants? Why sometimes does God seem so hard to find?
Sean McDowell: As we look in the Scriptures, I think God makes it clear that He has made Himself known sufficiently, but not exhaustedly. Through creation, through conscience, through the historical Jesus, through scripture, through the church, through miracles. For those with eyes to see and ears to hear, God has made Himself known. But oftentimes when we're hurting and suffering, we want God to respond a certain way, and it feels like he's not there. So I go back to the Scriptures, and I look at some of the people like say, David, a man after God's own heart. Even David had moments in his life, where he wondered why God seemed to be absent and hidden. So as I look at David, I go well, given when he lived and he was in the lineage of Jesus, wrote a lot of the Bible, if he feels like God is hidden sometimes, then I'm probably going to have that experience as well. So if our expectation is that God will show up when and where I want him to, then we're probably going to walk away disappointed.
But if you look in the scriptures and say, when should I expect expect God to be present? How should I expect him to speak? Then I think we'll see it very differently. So for those struggling with a hiddenness of God, one thing to do is to go back and look at the evidence, like Craig said, evidence for the resurrection, evidence for creation, evidence for the historical Jesus. And we're emotionally struggling, but we're reminded how powerful the evidence is, that can carry us through, be a part of carrying us through when we're hurting and wondering why God is not there. Second, open up and read the Psalms. Even David, a man after God's own heart, a bunch of the Psalms are what we call complaint Psalms, where David is like, "God, your silence, God, my enemies are trying to kill me. Why don't you answer my prayers." And I read that and in a strange fashion, it's encouraging because I go, "Gosh, I feel that same way. God is still present, even though I don't necessarily feel it."
Craig Hazen: When we feel that God is hidden, there's also something very positive that I've seen come from this in other people and even in my own life, to where it does drive me to Scripture, "God, where are you?" And I'm looking through Scripture and seeing if he has something for me. It drives me to consult His spirit, Holy Spirit, please show yourself and it also drives me and others I know, to be surrounded by Christians who are really the presence of God in this age. And so by getting in your midst, I think God becomes less hidden.
Chris Ward: And this relates very much to the subject of prayer. And you mentioned this earlier, Craig, but you wrote what I believe, and I told you this, is the most encouraging faith building book on prayer I've ever read before. It's called 'Fearless Prayer'. And what's unique about this book is the whole book is designed to answer and explain one verse in the Bible, John 15:7, where Jesus says, "If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you." And I think that's one of those verses that we come across in the Bible we read, but we're not exactly sure we believe that it's true. We don't always act like it's true. So since you wrote a whole book on it and you're here with us, and since I want to save these guys a couple of bucks here.
Craig Hazen: No.
Chris Ward: Can you explain what is actually going on in this verse here, just kidding, buy the book, it's awesome. But just tell us a little bit about that.
Craig Hazen: Jesus, don't let that happen. So I'm sitting in my comfortable Bible reading chair, a decade ago or so, and reading through the Scriptures, and I'm in the Gospel of John and I run into John 15, and I hit verse seven, and I'm like, "Wow, what's going on here?" It says, "If you abide in me and my words abide in you, ask for anything and it will be done for you." Yeah, and I'm like, "I don't really believe that." And I think it was the Holy Spirit knocking on my head, "Wake up [Hazen]". So that actually sent me on a time of exploring that passage and all that surrounds it, and actually practicing it too for quite a while. And so the result is this book. And I got to tell you, the bottom line is I think Jesus really meant it. How about that? I know, shocking. So I think he really meant it. And this is huge. Now, some of you may, and there's all kinds of objections people bring up and I kind of toured the country asking Christian leaders and pastors questions about this particular passage. It's just a whole wild bunch of theories on this. But one really said, "We're just not, it's a conditional Hazen, and we're not fulfilling the conditional," right? If you do this, then you get the stuff, right?
Well, guess what? I think we are fulfilling the conditional. In fact, here's a little proof. Here you are on a beautiful Sunday morning. You could be out sailing or surfing or waxing your skis for the coming winter, who knows what you would be doing? But here you are coming to a church and singing and worshiping the Lord Jesus Christ and gathering, and giving money for goodness sakes, what are you going to do with that? And you're doing all these things. It seems to me that you are abiding in Him. You want to be more like Him, you want to grow and your Word and His Word is abiding in you. I know some of you, you listen intently to Chris's messages and you listen to other things, broadcasts on the radio and worship music on the way to work. And you read the Bible regularly, you're immersed in His Word, how in the world are you not fulfilling this conditional?
Well, get this. If you're interested in doing His kingdom work and moving His purposes forward, if that's your desire, bearing His fruit, and you're abiding in Him and His word is abiding in you, you can take this to the bank, you can ask for anything and it will be done for you.
Chris Ward: Amen.
Craig Hazen: Some of you aren't believing.[crosstalk]
Chris Ward: We talked, Craig or Sean, we talked about sort of 'The Next Generation Will Know', you have a couple of other books that you've written recently, 'New Kind of Apologist', and 'Is God Just a Human Invention', talk more about those.
Sean McDowell: Sure, after September 11, a new very aggressive kind of atheist group began to try to tell people, in particular Christians, how bad and wrong the Christian faith is, using social media, using YouTube, and really now have a new voice and access and influence into this generation. So Pastor [Fred] and I said, "Let's come up with the 17 biggest objections, miracles don't happen. Jesus didn't claim to be God, a loving God wouldn't send somebody to hell, why do people suffer," etc, and just write thoughtful gracious responses to equip Christians to have confidence, to have spiritual conversations that this is really true.
So that was the heart of this God is just a human invention. So that's kind of the what we believe so to speak, 'A New Kind of Apologist' is like, how do we actually do this? So one thing, how do we have spiritual conversations with people, some real practical tools? And second, how do we tackle some of the most thorny issues of our day? Race, poverty, transgenderism? So we put chapters on there just giving Christians hopefully scientific and philosophical and biblical wisdom to spiritually engage our culture on some of these tough issues. So that's what those two are about.
Chris Ward: And then we have another book, Craig, that you wrote in the back 'Five Sacred Crossings'. That is a really unique book because it's a fictional book but it's meant to lead people to Jesus, right?
Craig Hazen: Yeah, I wrote it for Christians to be blessed by it, but it turns out the non Christians are loving this book. I get emails every other week from atheists and skeptics who read the book and go, "Wait a minute, what was going on here really?" They didn't know I was dragging them kicking and screaming to Jesus. And so it's a lot of fun, and there's still some summery weather out there, so if you want one last beach novel, there it is for you.
Chris Ward: And all these books are going to be for sale at the end the service at the bottom floor at the back. Well you guys, if you can believe it, we are out of time, that went really fast, right? A lot faster than one of my sermons. Hey, you weren't supposed to laugh at that, you laughed a little too hard at that. One final question. I'd love each of you to ask it very quickly here. I am sure there are a lot of people right now that are very interested in this but overwhelmed maybe, we just scratched the surface today. I'm a fan of the wisdom that says just take the next step, just do the next thing. What is one next step that people can take?
Craig Hazen: Well, other than visiting the bookshelf back there, mark down March 13 and 14 for an Apologetics conference. We're going to have Lee Strobel and folks like J.P. Moreland and Clay Jones, and really key thinkers in some of the areas we[crosstalk]-
Sean McDowell: And that's here on this Campus.
Craig Hazen: It's going to be right here. So mark that down, now block it off and protect the date. So we want to see you here.[inaudible] for you.
Sean McDowell: There's levels of things you can do. We'd love to have you in the master's program. You're like, "I'm motivated," and you really want to know this stuff, we have a certificate program. Another thing is actually, at Biola, I'm one of the co-host, it's called The Think Biblically Podcast. Once a week, sometimes twice a week. On a big worldview issue, many times apologetic issues, we bring on guests and just want to help you think Christianly about different areas in your life. 30 minutes, the average commute, put it on double speed, you can do it in 15. So The Think Biblically Podcast is just one resource that's out there. But my encouragement would be this, I love the way you frame this, is you might look up here and go, "Gosh, these guys study this. I don't even know where to start." Don't compare yourself to us, don't compare yourself to another pastor, just say what's one step I can take forward? And the reality is you read one book on Apologetics and you know more than most people in America actually do.
Chris Ward: That's true.
Sean McDowell: That's a positive step forward. So just ask where am I at? How can I think more Christianly? And I'm telling you, as you start to develop your mind to know answers, God will bring people into your life, I think supernaturally, miraculously, to use this to help people, either Christians hold on to their faith or non believers on their journey into the kingdom of God. That's what this is about. And it's pretty exciting that you and I can be a part of that in different ways.
Chris Ward: That's awesome. Sean and Craig, thank you so much for being here this week.
Sean McDowell: Thanks for having us.
Chris Ward: Can we thank them for being here?