·“Every other religion is wrong.”
·“God sends good people to Hell.”
·“Homosexuality is a perversion.”
·“Evolution is a myth.”
·“God is ultimately responsible for suffering in the world.”
·“Husbands are to lead their families.”
·“America is a Christian nation.”
In Hell? Yes! Dr. Robert Jeffress issues a bold wakeup call to all believers–from college students to grandparents–to stop apologizing for and start proclaiming the tough but essential truths that Christians have historically embraced. And he provides the finest biblical, scientific, and historical evidence needed to defend these core beliefs in a culture turned hostile to God's truth.
Dr. Jeffress believes the secular spirit of political correctness is holding the church hostage. And the tragic result is that the revolutionary, life-changing, positive message of the Christian faith is being watered down.
If you are weary of a Christianity that waffles and wavers about controversial issues–if you are ready to stand up and compassionately yet forcefully and intelligently say, “This is what I believe and here’s why”–then this book is for you!
|Publisher:||The Crown Publishing Group|
|Product dimensions:||5.50(w) x 8.10(h) x 0.90(d)|
About the Author
Read an Excerpt
Truth is abhorred by the masses,” cautioned the seventeenth-century Jesuit priest Baltasar Gracian. If you don’t accept that observation, try making any one of the following comments around the break room at work, or even in the Sunday-school room at church:
• “Only Christians will go to heaven; everyone else is going to hell.”
• “The husband is the head of the family.”
• “Homosexuality is a perversion.”
Then just sit back and watch the fireworks explode! You’ll most likely hear the terms intolerant, bigot, uneducated, and arrogant hurled at you (and those are just some of the nicer words you can expect). By the way, don’t be surprised if you hear such harsh judgments coming just as frequently and forcefully from the lips of Christians as from non-Christians. In increasing numbers believers are either abandoning or holding much less tightly to the truths that have been historically embraced by Christians. Such a charge certainly demands support, so let me offer some from both personal experience and statistical evidence. First, my story.
Big Stink in a Small Town
I pastor a large church in a medium-size town two hours away from Dallas, Texas. Situated right in the middle of the Bible Belt, our church has been described by Christianity Today as the new “Mecca” of evangelical Christianity. A few years ago a member of our church brought me copies of two children’s books from our local library: Daddy’s Roommate and Heather Has Two Mommies. Both books tell the story of a child being raised by a homosexual couple. In Daddy’s Roommate, a young boy’s parents divorce so that “Daddy” can live with his homosexual lover, Frank. The little boy is understandably perplexed by the relationship and asks his mother about his father’s new “friend.” The mother gently explains that “being gay is just one more kind of love” and that “Daddy and his roommate are very happy together.”1 When the little boy asks what Daddy and Frank do, Mom explains that Daddy and Frank live together, eat together, and sleep together. Each activity the mother explains is accompanied by a drawing, including one showing Daddy and Frank together in bed.2
It just so happened that the week the books were brought to my attention, my sermon–part of a series on the book of Genesis–was on God’s destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. One of the applications I made at the close of the message was that no society can afford to condone what God has condemned and that there comes a time when Christians need to take a stand against evil. I read from Daddy’s Roommate and focused on the picture of two men in bed together. “Here is a library book–purchased with your tax dollars–promoting sodomy, which is illegal in the state of Texas, is largely responsible for one of the deadliest epidemics in history (AIDS), and is an abomination to God.…
It is time for God’s people to say, ‘Enough!’”
I explained that I had already spoken with the librarian about removing the books, but she had refused to do so. So I asked our church to petition the city council to remove the books. To make it easier for the city council, I also decided not to return the books to the library so that the council’s decision would be whether or not to repurchase the books I was keeping. (I later wrote a check to the library to cover the cost of the books.)
I could never have imagined the firestorm that ignited as a result of that message. Media outlets including the New York Times, Associated Press, NBC television, ABC radio, and Rush Limbaugh carried the story. PBS sent a crew to Wichita Falls and filmed a documentary on the furor that divided our city. I was fervently denounced by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), People for the American Way (PFAW), the American Library Association (ALA), and Americans United for Separation of Church and State (which later threatened our church’s tax-exempt status). The editor of the local newspaper wrote an editorial condemning me for promoting censorship and suggesting that I should be jailed for my act of civil disobedience.
When we eventually persuaded the city council to pass a compromise regulation giving three hundred adults the right to request that a book deemed offensive be moved from the children’s area to the adult section of the library, the ACLU filed suit in federal court to overturn the council’s action. According to some legal experts, the ACLU won that challenge, not because the regulation itself was unconstitutional, but because the council’s actions were influenced by people of faith.
But what surprised me most during that two-year ordeal was the reaction of many Christians to our church’s stand against homosexuality. One prominent minister of a large denominational church in our community stood in his pulpit one Sunday during the furor and said that he was “not called upon to judge, but to tell others about love.” A letter to the editor of the Times Record News several days later praised the open-minded pastor:
Hurray for Dr. _________.… None of us are here to judge and those who choose to actively seek to influence others should do so in a positive manner. We have enough trouble already with hatred and intolerance. Churches have too long been a place where people go to elevate themselves above others, to look down their noses in disdain at the rest of the world. These people have ruined the meaning of the word “worship.”… Pastors such as Jeffress who have such hatred in their hearts toward any group or individual should be immediately dismissed from any position of influence.… I urge the congregation of First Baptist Church to replace Jeffress with a kinder, more compassionate pastor.3
Apparently the letter writer’s tolerance and compassion extend to everyone except pastors who don’t share her viewpoint. Other Christians piled on charges of intolerance, bigotry, hatred, or simply poor judgment in causing a division in our community by taking on a “political” issue. Most alarmingly, when these Christians were reminded of the biblical teaching on homosexuality, common replies included:
• “Those prohibitions were unique to the culture then, but they don’t apply today.”
• “Science has taught us a lot about homosexuality since the Bible was written.”
• “That may be what we believe, but not everyone accepts the Bible.”
Of course, all of those responses beg the same question: Are there absolute truths that apply to all people at all times, regardless of their faith–or lack of faith?
The Rise of Relativism
Recent surveys tell us that the majority of both Christians and non-Christians answer that question with a resounding “No!” Researcher George Barna already knew that only a minority of both Christians and non-Christians believed in moral absolutes that transcended time and culture. One would think the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, which were almost universally denounced as evil, would increase the number of people believing in moral absolutes. In reality, the opposite occurred. A survey conducted in the aftermath of the attacks revealed that fewer Americans accepted the notion of absolute truth than prior to September 11. By a 3-to-1 margin, adults said that truth is always relative to a person’s individual situation. This view was even more prevalent among teenagers–only 6 percent believed that there is such a thing as absolute moral truth.4
But surely the statistics would be different among Christians who would naturally regard the Bible as the source of absolute truth, right? Don’t be so sure. Barna’s survey revealed that 68 percent of born-again adults and 91 percent of born-again teenagers rejected the concept of absolute truth.5
Now you can understand why the three incendiary statements mentioned at the beginning of this chapter are guaranteed to illicit such a negative reaction not only from unbelievers but from professing Christians as well. We have bought into the concept of relative truth, a concept that is best explained by the simple dictum “Everything is right sometime, and nothing is right every time.”
It’s no wonder, Barna notes, that substantial numbers of Christians believe that activities such as homosexuality, cohabitation, and pornography are permissible in some circumstances. “Without some firm and compelling basis for suggesting that such acts are inappropriate, people are left with philosophies such as ‘if it feels good, do it.’ ”6 Or as another writer says, “Being good is now defined as feeling good.”
But the fallout from the wholesale rejection of absolute truth (which, as we will see later, is really just a replacement of one set of absolutes for another) is not confined to morality. The all-out war against absolute truth in favor of relative truth explains why people bristle when someone says, “Jesus Christ is the only way to heaven,” “America is a Christian nation,” or “Abortion is murder.” The greatest sin in our culture today is to claim to be right about anything. Author Allan Bloom, in his book The Closing of the American Mind, writes,
The study of history and of culture teaches that all the world was mad in the past; men always thought they were right, and that led to wars, persecutions, slavery, xenophobia, racism, and chauvinism. The point is not to correct the mistakes and really be right; rather it is not to think you are right at all.7
So what? you may wonder. While we may sigh and shake our heads over our culture’s rejection of absolute truth, what real difference does it make in our lives? Let me cite just three of many ramifications that occur when a society embraces relativism (the rejection of absolute truth).
1. Relativism encourages immorality. This is the most obvious result of jettisoning the concept of absolute truth–and it will eventually touch your family. For example, if there are no moral absolutes, then why shouldn’t all sexual activity be permitted, including pedophilia (sex between adults and children)? “But,” you may say, “that’s different because it involves an adult forcing a child to have sex. Coercion in sex is wrong.”
Yet if there are no absolute moral principles that transcend time and culture, who has the right to say that the rape of a child is wrong? The relativist will answer, “Society has the right to formulate its own standards of morality, and in our society we have decided that pedophilia is wrong.”
May I remind you that only forty years ago society deemed homosexuality a psychological aberration and outlawed homosexual practice in most states. Yet today it is generally accepted–even among Christians–that while homosexuality may be wrong, every person has a right to choose his or her own sexual behavior.
Forty years from now we may hear the same arguments for legitimizing pedophilia that have been so successful in normalizing homosexuality:
• “Pedophiles do not choose pedophilia; they are born that way.”
• “Why force pedophiles to hide their sexuality and live in shame?”
• “Don’t pedophiles have a right to happiness through the full expression of their sexuality?”
This possibility is not as far-fetched as it first appears. Carson Holloway, a political science professor at the University of Nebraska, claims that a growing movement toward normalizing pedophilia is the latest manifestation of the trend toward discarding moral absolutes. In a lecture presented at the Family Research Council on July 10, 2002, Professor Holloway discussed how our nation’s standard for morality has digressed to the point where “anything sexual is morally permissible, so long as it takes place between ‘consenting adults.’ ”8 But Holloway has strong reason to believe such a standard is fluid. Why deny a twelve- or thirteen-year-old child the right to “consent” to sex with an adult?
Those who defend pedophilia claim that children today are “so much more worldly-wise about these matters…that they can, in some cases, be the instigators of intergenerational sexual activity.”9 This trend toward normalizing pedophilia can be seen in the decision of the United States Supreme Court in April 2002 that permitted the distribution and possession of virtual child pornography. The Court reasoned that the federal statute prohibiting virtual child pornography did not apply if the pornography had social, political, scientific, or cultural value.10 In essence, their ruling followed the lines of the one-man’spornography-is-another-man’s-art argument.
Some psychiatrists are also jumping on the bandwagon to normalize pedophilia. In July 1998 the American Psychological Association’s Psychological Bulletin published “A Meta-Analytic Examination of Assumed Properties of Child Sexual Abuse Using College Samples” by Bruce Rind, Philip Tromovitch, and Robert Bauserman. The paper contended that sex with a child may not always be harmful to the child as long as the child “enjoys” it. Although the American Psychological Association (APA) did not endorse the paper, Dr. Laura Schlessinger observes that its willingness to publish such a paper without careful scrutiny is a thinly veiled attempt to normalize pedophilia.11 Although the APA at present has an anti—child molestation policy, what is to keep that policy from changing just as the APA’s designation of homosexuality changed to one of acceptance in the 1970s? After all, in a world of no absolutes, any kind of behavior is permissible.
2. Relativism discourages evangelism. Recently I was watching a popular talk show, and the topic was “Is There Only One Way to Heaven?” The host allowed various audience members to voice their predictable complaints that insisting on one way of salvation was arrogant and hateful. However, one poor soul summoned the courage to stand up and say, “My Lord and Savior Jesus Christ said, ‘I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life. No man comes to the Father but by Me.’” The host responded, “My dear, I am glad you believe that. You have every right to believe that for yourself. But you have no right to try and coerce me to believe that way.” Notice the two assumptions that undergirded the host’s comments.
First, the host assumed that Jesus’s claim that He is the only Source of salvation applies only to those who choose to believe it! Put another way, truth is truth only to those who choose to accept it as truth. The absurdity of such a premise will be explored further in the next section.
The other assumption is not quite so obvious, but it is extremely dangerous. In the host’s mind, voicing your belief in absolute truth is “coercion.” To claim that Jesus’s words apply to everyone is to engage in intolerant and hateful speech. This assumption leads to another frightening consequence of relativism.
3. Relativism promotes persecution. In a society that rejects absolute truth, the only vice that cannot be tolerated is the sin of intolerance. Thus, those who assert that Jesus Christ is the only way to heaven or that homosexuality is wrong are engaging in hate speech. Why? Because, according to the relativist, such assertions, by inference, mean that the Hindu or the homosexual is inferior and deserving of mistreatment by society. Thus, “hateful” speech must be silenced even if it means violating constitutional rights.
If you think such a statement is overly dramatic, just consider what is happening in Sweden, a country long known for its tolerance of all lifestyles. In May 2002, 56 percent of that nation’s lawmakers passed a draft bill that would make pastors who label homosexuality “immoral” subject to prison terms of up to four years. The powerful homosexual lobby in Sweden is pushing for the draft bill to eventually become a constitutional amendment. If the bill becomes law, Sören Andersson, president of the Swedish Federation for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Rights, pledges to aggressively track down and report “hate speech irrespective of where it occurs.”12 Annalie Enochson, a Swedish parliament member who is also a Christian, predicts the frightening consequences of such a law: “That means people coming from the [homosexual] lobby group could sit in our churches having on the tape recorder and listen to somebody and say, ‘What you are saying now is against our constitution.’”13
That kind of persecution is not as far away from our own country as you might think. In Canada, Hugh Owens placed an ad in a newspaper quoting passages from the Bible denouncing homosexuality. Three men filed complaints with the Saskatchewan Human Rights Commission saying that the ad “cut their feelings to the quick” because it contained Bible verses that denounced homosexuality. Owens was fined $4,500 by the commission for engaging in “offensive behavior.” You may ask, “But what about Owens’s right of free speech?” The commission determined that Owens was permitted to speak out against homosexuality–just as long as he did not cite passages of Scripture. (I promise I’m not making this up.) Disparaging remarks about homosexuals combined with passages from the Bible “expose or tend to expose homosexuals to hatred or ridicule” and are therefore subject to punishment.14
Owens’s crime was not that he spoke out against homosexuality, but that by quoting the Bible, he dared to suggest that his statements were more than his personal beliefs and thus were applicable to everyone. That kind of “intolerance” cannot be tolerated and must be silenced, according to the relativist. And the silencing process is beginning in our own nation.
On May 5, 1995, Judge Samuel B. Kent of the District Court for the Southern District of Texas mandated that any student who dared to mention the name of Jesus Christ in a graduation prayer would be sentenced to six months in jail. Here are the judge’s words:
And make no mistake, the court is going to have a United States marshal in attendance at the graduation. If any student offends this court, that student will be summarily arrested and will face up to six months incarceration in the Galveston County Jail for contempt of court. Anyone who thinks I’m kidding about this order…[or] expressing any weakness or lack of resolve in that spirit of compromise would better think again. Anyone who violates these orders, no kidding, is going to wish that he or she had died as a child when this court gets through with it.15
How’s that for an example of tolerance! Apparently the judge believes that the First Amendment to the United States Constitution, guaranteeing freedom of speech and worship, applies to everyone except Christians who pray in Jesus’s name. Gracian was right. “Truth is abhorred by the masses.”
My primary concern, however, is not with society’s rejection of absolute truth, but with the growing number of Christians who are waffling in their convictions regarding some of the basic tenets of the faith. To be blunt, I’m sick and tired of wimpy Christians…and they’re all around us. For example:
• A Christian leader is interviewed on a popular talk show and asked whether a moral Muslim is going to hell. He responds, “That’s not for me to decide. We must let a good and loving God make that determination.”
• A Christian mother is invited to offer a prayer at her PTA meeting and closes her prayer with “In Your name” instead of “In Jesus’s name” so as not to offend non-Christians in the audience.
• A Christian serving on the local school board caves in to pressure to reject a science textbook that mentions creationism as an alternative to evolution by reasoning, “Although that is what I believe personally, we must respect the separation of church and state.”
Instead of boldly holding out the light of truth in “a crooked and perverse generation” (Philippians 2:15), Christians are increasingly hiding or even extinguishing the light of absolute truth in order to blend in with the darkness of the world. George Barna eloquently explains what happens when Christians reject absolute truth and embrace relativism:
When a majority of Christian adults…proudly cast their vote for moral relativism, the Church is in trouble.… The failure to address this issue at its root, and to do so quickly and persuasively, will undermine the strength of the Church for at least another generation, and probably longer.16
What Is Truth?
In the chapters that follow, we are going to examine seven of the most “politically incorrect” truths that I believe Christians need to reclaim in order to once again become the salt and light Jesus exhorts us to be. These truths are routinely denounced and attacked on television talk shows, in high-school and college classrooms, and even in many churches across our nation. Those who dare to make these seven claims will be subjected to social, academic, and even legal persecution. Yet, in spite of the venomous attacks against these seven “outrageous” truths, we will discover that they are grounded in theological, scientific, and/or historical evidence. Here they are…
1. Every other religion is wrong. Regardless of what you hear today, all religions do not lead to God. In chapter one we will answer the most popular objections to the claim that Jesus Christ is the only Way to God.
2. God is ultimately responsible for suffering. Why would a loving God allow famines, earthquakes, terrorist attacks, murders, and deformed babies? If God is all-powerful, why doesn’t He stop such horrendous suffering? Even unbelievers understand that when we attempt to let God off the hook for such suffering in the world, we are unintentionally incapacitating the Almighty. In chapter three we will discover why God is willing to take ultimate responsibility for everything that happens in His universe.
3. God sends good people to hell. Other religions do not only lead people away from the true God, they also lead people to a literal hell. In spite of the wholesale rejection of the concept of hell by non-Christians as well as many Christians, there are strong biblical and philosophical reasons for believing in the reality of a place of eternal torment. We’ll explore these arguments in chapter two.
4. Homosexuality is a perversion. Are some people born with a predisposition toward homosexuality? If our sexuality were biologically predetermined, why would we label homosexuality as immoral? In chapter four we will explode seven common myths about homosexuality.
5. Husbands are to be the leaders of their families. Should the idea of wives submitting to their husbands be relegated to the Stone Age? In chapter five we will rediscover what the Bible really says–and doesn’t say–about the roles of husbands and wives in marriage.
6. Evolution is a myth. Some people claim that evolution’s explanation for the origin of life belongs in the classroom, while creationism should be left in the church. In chapter six we will explore both the scientific and theological reasons for rejecting evolution.
7. America is a Christian nation. You’ve probably heard that (1) our nation’s founders were secularists or deists, not Christians, (2) those who came to our country in search of religious freedom came from a variety of religious backgrounds, and (3) the separation of church and state is a foundational principle of our Constitution. In fact, all of these statements are historically inaccurate, as we will discover in chapter seven.
Why do people today react so violently against the above statements, which, until recently, were generally accepted by a large segment of the populace? While each one of these statements is guaranteed to offend some groups, taken together they represent a philosophical point of view that is in disrepute today: the notion of absolute truth. The late Ray Stedman gave a simple definition of absolute truth: “Truth is reality, the way things really are.”
But is it possible to define “the way things really are”? And if it is possible, how do we go about discovering that reality? For nearly seventeen hundred years, the Bible was viewed by many as the source of absolute truth. During the Age of Reason, however, the modernist (or rationalist) replaced the religionist as the judge of truth. “Reality can be discovered through investigation. Only what can be observed and measured is real,” the modernist claimed. Thus, science replaced the Bible as the arbiter of truth. Only what was scientifically verifiable could be labeled “true.”
While modernists rejected the supernatural claims of the Bible because they could not be observed, at least modernists and Christians had one thing in common: They believed in the concept of truth, though they differed on how that truth was discovered. Modernists found reality through the microscope, while Christians discovered reality through the Bible. Yet, although they did not agree on the content of truth, they were in agreement on the concept of truth.
However, the age in which we live today rejects even the concept of absolute truth. Instead, truth is whatever an individual or society determines it to be. For example, our society may decide that euthanasia (the killing of those who are hopelessly ill to prevent their continued suffering) is wrong. Yet a country wracked with the AIDS epidemic may permit euthanasia for the well-being of individuals and society. Who is right? Today, many–often called postmodernists–say there is no absolute right or wrong. It depends on the situation. Remember the maxim “Everything is right sometime, and nothing is right every time”?
You can see how such thinking impacts Christianity. Today non-Christians–whether or not they are familiar with the term postmodern–are no longer trying to determine whether Christianity is “right,” but whether “it is right for me.” When a Christian shares his or her faith with an unbeliever, instead of a vociferous objection to the truth claims of Christianity, the more likely response is, “I’m glad that works for you, but I’m searching for my own truth.”
The reason for this brief philosophical explanation is to help you understand why many people react so violently to the seven claims we will discuss in this book. The postmodern thinker or relativist says, “If Jesus Christ is your Savior, fine, but don’t try to force that belief on me. If you believe that homosexuality is wrong, I have no argument with that, but don’t say it is wrong for everyone.” Again, the greatest sin to a postmodernist is claiming to be right about anything.
This book, however, is built upon the philosophical foundation of absolute truth, or as the late Francis Schaeffer called it, “true truth.” These theological, sociological, scientific, and historical realities apply to everyone at every time, regardless of individual or societal preferences.
These seven claims are built on three premises concerning absolute truth:
1. Absolute truth is universal. Once, while listening to a talk-radio program, I heard a perfect example of how even Christians have unwittingly embraced the postmodern concept of relative truth. The debate was over displaying the Ten Commandments in public schools. The conversation went something like this:
CALLER:We have a responsibility to post these commandments in the schools since they apply not only to Christians but to everyone. God said He would bless any nation that keeps these commandments and judge any nation that disregards them.
RADIO HOST: I’m a Christian, and I agree with you. These commands do apply to everyone, but not everyone believes like you and I do.
CALLER: But that’s the point! The commands do apply to everyone, regardless of whether or not they accept them.
RADIO HOST: But don’t you understand? We believe that, but not everyone does.
On and on the discussion went. Do you see the philosophical conflict?
The Christian radio host, voicing the relativist’s point of view, believes that the universal applicability of the Ten Commandments applies only to those who believe in the universal applicability of the Ten Commandments. That would be like saying the law of gravity applies only to those who believe in the law of gravity. If someone jumps out of an airplane without a parachute, his fate is certain regardless of whether or not he believes in the reality of gravity.
By the way, everyone believes in absolute truth, whether or not one realizes it. Let me illustrate what I mean. The person who claims that there are no absolute truths is guilty of asserting an absolute truth! She is making the absolute judgment that nowhere in the universe are there truths that are applicable to everyone. How can she make that claim with such certainty?
In his book The New Absolutes,William Watkins argues that instead of rejecting absolute truth, relativists are simply replacing old truths with new truths. For example, an old truth was that life began at conception and should be protected. That truth is being replaced by a new “truth”: A woman has a right to choose what happens to her own body. Since the relativist believes this right belongs to everyone, he is declaring an absolute truth.
An old truth was that the propagation of Christianity was good for America. That truth has been replaced with the new truth that all religion should be banned from the public square and that government should always be neutral (translation: hostile) toward Christianity. That’s a new absolute truth.
An old truth was that in issues of morality, there were definite rights and wrongs. But that old truth has been replaced by a new truth: Instead of judging, we should tolerate behavior we find objectionable.
The irony of what my friend Josh McDowell calls the “new tolerance” is best expressed by philosophy professor Leslie Armour: “Our idea is that to be a virtuous citizen is to be one who tolerates everything except intolerance.”17 Or, as one public-school administrator said, “It is the mission of public schools not to tolerate intolerances.”18 The relativist fails to see (or acknowledge) that to label intolerance as “evil” is to make an absolute statement.
My point is painfully obvious: Everyone believes in absolute truth. The only question is, Which absolute truths will you accept? And this leads to a second observation.
2. Absolute truth is revealed. Through the years many have disagreed with President George W. Bush’s tough stance against Iraq, North Korea, the Taliban, and other oppressive regimes. After all, some ask, what gives the United States the right to impose its values on others?
In his book Bush at War, Bob Woodward reveals what has motivated the president to intervene on behalf of those who are suffering starvation, torture, and prison brutality under totalitarian societies. It is Bush’s belief in absolute truth, which the president expressed this way in an interview with Woodward:
There is a human condition that we must worry about in times of war. There is a value system that cannot be compromised–God-given values. These aren’t United States—created values.
There are values of freedom and the human condition and mothers loving their children. What’s very important as we articulate foreign policy through our diplomacy and military action, is that it never look like we are creating–we are the author of these values. It leads to a larger question of your view about God.19
The relativist believes that truth is constructed by individuals and society. Since no two people and no two societies are alike, the relativist rejects the one-truth-fits-all notion. Thus, when he is pressed, the relativist cannot make a logical argument against a government’s choosing to starve and torture its citizens. After all, who says such actions are wrong? One college professor has expressed his dream of a liberal utopia based on the premise that cruelty toward one’s fellow man is the greatest offense. But being a moral relativist, he admits that he cannot prove why cruelty is the greatest sin in the world or, for that matter, a sin at all. He admits that this “moral law” is based on his own preference.
Adolf Hitler’s vision of utopia was based on an entirely different principle: the elimination of the Jewish race and all other non-Aryan races. In a world without absolute truths, who has the right to label the professor’s vision “good” and Hitler’s version “evil”?
Everyone believes in absolute truth. The question is how we derive that truth. President Bush–and millions of others–believe that truth is not formulated by individuals; rather, it is received by individuals from a Higher Source. Man’s responsibility is not to develop truth, but to discover it.
Where is this truth to be found? For two thousand years Christians have believed that the Bible is the repository of God’s eternal, nonnegotiable truths. While there are sound philosophical, scientific, sociological, and historical reasons for accepting the seven controversial truths we will explore in this book, ultimately they are all built on the presupposition that the Bible is God’s perfect and complete message to humankind.
The evidence for believing that the Bible is such a book goes beyond the scope of this volume. However, may I suggest that if you struggle with this issue–or know someone who does–you might consider reading the excellent book Seven Reasons You Can Trust the Bible by Dr. Erwin Lutzer. Dr. Lutzer simply and forcefully explains the historical, scientific, and archaeological evidence for accepting the Bible as God’s perfect and complete revelation.
3. Absolute truth is exclusive. In a sincere effort to promote harmony during an argument, someone might say, “Well, perhaps we are both right.” In a relativistic culture it is much more acceptable to say “we’re both right” than to claim “I’m right and you’re wrong.” But if there is such a thing as absolute truth, then it only follows that there are also absolute untruths. Why do we find it so difficult to label certain ideas or values as wrong?
I believe it is because we have confused the concepts of diversity and pluralism. Diversity is the acknowledgment that there are a variety of opinions. For example, we must acknowledge that there are thousands of religions in the world. However, pluralism goes one step further and says that given the diversity of beliefs, no one belief system can claim to be “right.”
Yet the person who accepts the notion of absolute truth must logically be willing to label some beliefs as wrong. For example, author R. C. Sproul, recalling the Senate hearings in which Anita Hill accused Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas of sexual harassment, confessed that he wasn’t sure who was lying and who was telling the truth. But he was absolutely sure that “they both couldn’t be telling the truth.”20
Similarly, not all religions can be telling the truth about God and man. For example, Christianity claims that eternal salvation is received as a gift from God, while Islam claims that salvation is earned through good deeds. While it is possible that Christianity and Islam are both wrong, it is impossible for both of them to be right. If Islam is right, then Christianity is wrong, and vice versa. Absolute truth by definition rejects other truth claims.
Yet there is a difference between rejecting beliefs and rejecting the people who hold those beliefs. Unfortunately, the pages of history are filled with examples of Christians who have used their grasp of the truth as a club with which to oppress, persecute, and marginalize others. In the final chapter of this book, I will discuss how Christians can stay on the offensive with their beliefs without being offensive to others.
Nevertheless, we cannot allow the abuses of some to push us into what one writer refers to as a “forced neutrality” in which we dare not express any idea that might offend another person. Instead, as William
Watkins writes, it is time for a renewed intolerance:
We must violate the new tolerance and become people marked by intolerance. Not an intolerance that unleashes hate upon people, but an intolerance that’s unwilling to allow error to masquerade as truth. An intolerance that calls evil evil and good good.21
If you are weary of a watered-down version of Christianity that wavers and waffles about controversial issues; if you are tired of dodging some of the hard questions that non-Christian friends, neighbors, or work associates ask; if you are ready and willing to stand up and compassionately, but forcefully and intelligently, proclaim, “This is what I believe…and here’s why,” then you are going to enjoy our time together in the pages that follow.
Reading Group Guide
1) Wimp-Free Christianity
1.When, if ever, has a non-Christian or Christian challenged your belief in one of the seven politically incorrect truths that are discussed in this book? Which of these truths do you think is the most difficult for people to accept? Why?
2.Explain the difference between absolute truth and relativism.
3.What do you think is the best example of how relativism has impacted society’s view of morality during your lifetime?
4.What is the relationship between relativism and evangelism? How has relativism impacted the church, especially in evangelism?
5.Do you believe that society’s move toward embracing relativism will lead to widespread persecution of Christians in this country? Why or why not?
6.Which of the seven truths presented in this book do you find most difficult to embrace? Why?
7.What is the author’s best argument for the existence of absolute truth?
8.What do you hope to gain from studying the material presented in this book?
2) Chapter 1: Every Other Religion Is Wrong
1.Have you ever been in a debate with someone about the exclusivity of Christianity? What was his or her greatest objection to the belief that trusting in Christ is the only way to be saved?
2.How would you answer Phil Donahue’s objection that “a good Jew” goes to hell while a Nazi has a chance to go to heaven if he trusts in Christ at the last moment?
3.In what ways has our society’s understanding of tolerance changed?
4.How would you answer the charge that exclusivity promotes hatred toward unbelievers? Doyou believe there is a kernel of truth in that argument? Why or why not?
5.Do you believe that every single person on the planet who has never trusted in Christ as his or her Savior is doomed to hell? Why or why not?
6.Christianity is often charged with promoting anti-Semitism. What is the best argument against that charge?
7.Suppose a close friend or family member who is not a Christian says to you, “How can you be so judgmental in believing that I am going to hell and you’re not?” How would you respond to that person?
8.Think of a friend or family member who is not a Christian, and take a moment right now to pray for him or her, asking God to give you an opportunity to share the gospel with that person.
3) Chapter 2: God Is Ultimately Responsible for All Suffering
1.What event in the world in general, or in your world specifically, has caused you to question God’s love or His power to stop evil?
2.How does the presence of evil in the world actually argue for the existence of God?
3.Do you believe that human freedom limit’s God’s control over His universe in any way? Why or why not? What scripture(s) supports your position?
4.Do you believe that God has two wills: a “perfect will” and a “permissive will”? Why or why not?
5.If you can, describe an experience in your life when God used short-term suffering to produce something good.
6.What words of comfort would you offer to a parent who has just lost a child and is asking, “Why did God allow this to happen?”
7.What are some of the pat answers Christians often use to explain suffering in the world? Why do you think we feel so compelled to offer such explanations?
8.Which of the insights about suffering in this chapter was most helpful to you? Why?
4) Chapter 3: God Sends Good People to Hell
1.What is the most difficult aspect of hell for you to accept? Why?
2.Why do you believe the idea of hell has fallen into such disfavor today?
3.Do you believe the “fire” of hell is literal or symbolic? Why?
4.How would you respond to the God-is-too-loving-to-send-people-to-hell argument?
5.Do you believe that every person on the planet must know and trust in Jesus Christ to escape hell? Is there some other provision for some people to be saved apart from the personal knowledge and acceptance of Christ? What scripture(s) supports your position?
6.Do you believe that the residents of heaven will be aware of the occupants of hell? If so, how do you think people will be able to enjoy heaven knowing that some of their friends and family members are suffering in hell?
7.What was the greatest insight you gained about hell from this chapter?
8.Do you think churches and individual Christians should emphasize the doctrine of hell, especially with unbelievers? Why or why not?
5) Chapter 4: Homosexuality Is a Perversion
1.Do you have a friend or family member who is homosexual? What, if anything, do you think Jesus would want you to say to this person about his or her lifestyle?
2.Do you believe that Christians unfairly emphasize the immorality of homosexuality while ignoring other sexual sins? If so, why do you think that is?
3.Do you think homosexual activity between consenting adults should be outlawed–as it is in some states? Why or why not?
4.Do you think marriage or civil unions between homosexuals should be legalized? Why or why not?
5.If a Christian homosexual came to you and said, “I’m miserable and want to change my lifestyle, but I don’t know how,” what specific counsel would you offer?
6.Are evangelical Christians unfairly portrayed as bigots for their stand against homosexuality? Why or why not? If so, what can they do individually and corporately to change that perception?
7.How has our culture’s shift toward relativism changed people’s feelings toward homosexuality? In what specific ways do you see that change manifested? Do you believe that change has penetrated churches? If so, in what ways?
8.Taking the first question a step further, how would you respond if your son or daughter announced that he or she was gay?
9.In what ways has this chapter changed your attitude toward homosexuality?
6) Chapter 5: Husbands Are to Be the Leaders of Their Families
1.Before you read this chapter, would you have characterized yourself as an egalitarian–believing that husbands and wives have equal authority in the home–or a complementarian–believing that God has assigned the husband the leadership role in the family? Has this chapter changed your view? If so, how?
2.Do you believe that the principle of submission also applies when the husband is not a believer? Why or why not?
3.What counsel would you give to a wife who told you she was being physically abused by her husband? How would you support your answer biblically?
4.In what ways have conservative Christians distorted the principle of submission in marriage?
5.Have you noticed Christians’ attitudes about submission in marriage changing in the past ten years? If so, to what do you attribute this change?
6.The author used an example of one instance in which a husband’s request to his wife (“Don’t go to church.”) not be honored. Do you agree with the author that a wife should politely refuse to violate the command to not “forsake the assembling together of yourselves”? Why or why not?
7.If you are a wife, do you find submission to your mate difficult? Why or why not? If you are a husband, what are some specific ways in which you can place your wife’s desires above your own?
8.How would you answer someone’s charge that the Bible teaches that women are inferior to men?
7) Chapter 6: Evolution Is a Myth
1.What is evolution? Differentiate between microevolution and macroevolution. How would you answer the question, “Do you believe in evolution?”
2.Why is theistic evolution–the belief that God used the evolutionary process to create life–neither good science nor good theology?
3.Do you believe that the earth is billions of years old or thousands of years old? Why? Do you think there is room for legitimate disagreement on this question? Why or why not?
4.How would you answer the following objection to allowing the presentation of creationism with evolution in the public classrooms? “Because of the separation of church and state, creationism should not be discussed in public schools. Let the churches and synagogues present creationism and the schools present evolution.”
5.Of the four fatal flaws in the evolutionary theory, which do you believe is the worst? Why?
6.Why is evolution just as much of a religious philosophy as creationism?
7.Given the tremendous odds against the random assembling together of protein molecules to produce life, why do you think so many people insist on evolution as the best explanation for the origin of life? Do you think the evidence presented in this chapter is powerful enough to change people’s opinions about evolution? Why or why not?
8.What do you believe is the evolutionist’s strongest argument for his or her position? What is the creationist’s strongest argument for his or her view?
8) Chapter 7: America Is a Christian Nation
1.What is the most outrageous example you have seen or heard of government’s attempts to remove any acknowledgment of God from the public arena?
2.Why do you think the efforts to deny our nation’s unique Christian heritage have accelerated so rapidly in the last fifty years?
3.How would you answer the person who asks, “If we allow Christian prayers to be voiced in schools, what is to keep Hindus or Buddhists from being able to voice their prayers publicly?”
4.At a presidential inauguration a few years ago, Franklin Graham was widely criticized for ending his prayer with the words “In Jesus’ name, Amen.” Given the religious diversity in our nation, do you think Graham should have ended his prayer this way? Why or why not?
5.How has the understanding of the separation of church and state changed over the years? What insight did you gain about this principle from reading this chapter?
6.If your child were asked to pray at a public gathering, but the person in charge of the gathering asked your child not to mention the name of Jesus, what would you advise your child to do?
7.What, if anything, do you think Christians should do to help our nation reclaim its spiritual heritage?
8.How would you answer a Christian who says, “Christians have no business getting involved in politics; Jesus didn’t and neither should we”?
9) Becoming a Velvet-Covered Brick
1.Do you agree with the premise of this chapter that Christians are sometimes too harsh in their presentation of truth? Do you think that Christians tend to err on the side of harshness or softness when it comes to voicing their convictions?
2.The author shared an experience on an airplane in which he resisted the urge to “dump” the gospel on a Jewish man instead of listening to his concerns and continuing to correspond with him. Do you agree with the author’s decision, or should he have shared the gospel with the man, not knowing whether he would ever see the man again?
3.If we are going to influence our culture, we must go where the “fish” are. Do you think the trend toward homeschooling and Christian schools encourages isolation from the culture rather than influencing the culture? Why or why not?
4.What can we do to encourage our children to become influencers rather than victims of the culture?
5.Can you identify several non-Christians whom you are seeking to lead to Christ? If not, what could you do to become more engaged with unbelievers?
6.What do you think causes unbelievers to reject the truth of Christ? Are they more turned off by Christian truth or by Christians?
7.How do you explain the dichotomy between the tenderness with which Jesus treated some unbelievers (the Samaritan woman, the woman caught in adultery, and the thief on the cross) and the harshness with which he dealt with the Pharisees and other religious leaders?
8.Ask God to bring to your mind the name of one non-Christian you know whom you might be able to lead to Christ. Take a moment to pray for that individual, and then ask God to give you an opportunity to develop a deeper relationship with him or her. What one thing could you do for that person that would demonstrate a genuine concern for him or her?
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
This book isn't for people who want their ears tickled and it will most certainly be a SHOCK to the Bible illiterate. However, any honest reading of the Bible will confirm that Jeffress isn't saying anything that's incorrect. We live in a time where it is politically incorrect to say there is any absolute truth and to call anything a sin. Jeffress is clearly showing that the Bible does, in fact, say there is definite, absolute truth and that the holy and loving God does classify a host of things as sin. This book isn't for people who want to make up their own theology and it's not for those who aren't willing to make an honest search of the Bible for themselves, so that they can see this isn't "hatemongering," it is, in fact what the Bible says. This book doesn't make me hate anyone. It doesn't shock me because I've studied the Bible a long time. I suggest you skip this book if you are too lazy to compare it to the Bible for yourself. Skip it if you plan to approach it without putting a personal bias aside. Your bias will certainly obscure what Jeffress is saying then you'll come on B&N and misrepresent it in a review.
I think he does a good job making his points and I agree with much of what he says but wonder why he uses "she" so often such as when addressing an evolutionist's beliefs. He does this several times. Just curious.