Hell? Yes!: And Other Outrageous Truths You Can Still Believe
| Seven Outrageous Truths You Can Believe and Why
| 1 Every Other Religion Is Wrong
| 2 God Is Ultimately Responsible for Suffering
| 3 God Sends Good People to Hell
| 4 Homosexuality Is a Perversion
| 5 Husbands Are to Be the Leaders of Their Families
| 6 Evolution Is a Myth
| 7 America Is a Christian Nation
| Becoming a Velvet-Covered Brick
"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.” 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.
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 coun-cil’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 influ
ence.… I urge the congregation of First Baptist Church to replace
Jeffress with a kinder, more compassionate pastor.
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.
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.
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.’” 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.
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 Chris-tians—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.’ ” 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.”
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. In essence, their ruling followed the lines of the one-man’s-pornography-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. 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.” 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.’
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 homosexu-ality—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.
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.
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 persua
sively, will undermine the strength of the Church for at least
another generation, and probably longer.
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 1 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 3 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 2.
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 4 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 5 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 6 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 7.
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 postmod-ern—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.” Or, as one public-school administrator said, “It is the mission of public schools not to tolerate intolerances.” 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? Fair question.
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 moth
ers 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.
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 pro-fessor’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.”
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.
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.