“Why is the Bible full of contradictions? . . . How can God be love and yet send 4 billion people to hell because they don’t believe?” And last month, Marty Sampson, a former songwriter and worship leader with Hillsong said he’s losing his faith because he couldn’t find answers to questions like these. This week on The Roys Report, leading Christian apologist—Dr. Michael Brown—will join me to answer tough questions like these about Christianity. Dr. Brown has spent over 40 years researching and discussing these questions. I really hope you can join us for The Roys Report, this Saturday morning at 11 on AM 1160 Hope for Your Life and on Sunday night at 7 on AM 560 The Answer!
Michael L. Brown is the founder and president of FIRE School of Ministry in Concord, North Carolina, Director of the Coalition of Conscience, and host of the daily, nationally, syndicated talk radio show, the Line of Fire, as well as the host of the apologetics TV show, “Answering Your Toughest Questions,” which airs on the NRB TV network. He became a believer in Jesus in 1971 as a sixteen year-old, heroin-shooting, LSD-using Jewish rock drummer. Since then, he has preached throughout America and around the world, bringing a message of repentance, revival, reformation, and cultural revolution.
He holds a Ph.D. in Near Eastern Languages and Literatures from New York University and has served as a visiting or adjunct professor at Southern Evangelical Seminary, Gordon Conwell Theological Seminary (Charlotte), Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, Fuller Theological Seminary, Denver Theological Seminary, the King’s Seminary, and Regent University School of Divinity, and he has contributed numerous articles to scholarly publications, including the Oxford Dictionary of Jewish Religion and the Theological Dictionary of the Old Testament.
Dr. Brown is the author of more than 35 books, including, Our Hands Are Stained with Blood: The Tragic Story of the “Church” and the Jewish People, which has been translated into more than twelve languages, the highly-acclaimed five-volume series, Answering Jewish Objections to Jesus, a commentary on Jeremiah, and numerous books on revival and Jesus revolution. His newest books are Jezebel’s War With America: The Plot to Destroy Our Country and What We Can Do to Turn the Tide (2019) and Not Afraid of the Antichrist: Why We Don’t Believe In a Pre-Tribulation Rapture (2019).
Dr. Brown is a national and international speaker on themes of spiritual renewal and cultural reformation, and he has debated Jewish rabbis, agnostic professors, and gay activists on radio, TV, and college campuses. He is widely considered to be the world’s foremost Messianic Jewish apologist.
He and his wife Nancy, who is also a Jewish believer in Jesus, have been married since 1976. They have two daughters and four grandchildren.
JULIE ROYS: Is the Bible full of contradictions? How can God be love and yet send 4 billion people to hell because they don’t believe? Welcome to The Roys Report, brought to you in part by Judson University. I’m Julie Roys. And today, we’re going to be tackling tough questions like these with leading Christian apologist, Dr. Michael Brown. You may remember that about a month ago, Marty Sampson—a popular songwriter and worship leader with Hillsong—said that he was losing his faith. And the reason that he gave is that he couldn’t get answers to difficult questions about his faith. On Instagram, Sampson posted—and I quote, “How many preachers fall? Many. No one talks about it. How many miracles happen? Not many. No one talks about it. Why is the Bible full of contradictions? No one talks about it. How can God be love and yet send four billion people to a place, all because they don’t believe? No one talks about it.” Well, in response, Dr. Brown wrote a gracious, open letter to Sampson. In it, though, he challenged Sampson’s claim that no one talks about these things. “What is surprising,” Dr. Brown wrote, “is that Marty seems to feel that ‘no one’ is talking about challenges to the Christian faith. ‘No one’ is discussing difficult intellectual issues. ‘No one’ is engaging the apparent contradictions or interpretive problems in the Bible. I can only ask—with sadness rather than condemnation—‘Marty, what Christian world have you been living in?’” Well, Dr. Brown goes on to note that many people have been talking about these things. And numerous books have been written to address these issues. What’s more, Dr. Brown has been participating in scholarly debates on difficult questions for more than 47 years. But I think Dr. Brown hit the nail on the head when he wrote that “What I fear is Marty’s shocking lack of awareness of a massive array of solid apologetics material is not his alone. . . . There are probably plenty of other believers who find no outlet for their own questions and concerns, leading to apostacy—or deep, secret doubt—rather than an intellectually sound and vibrant faith.”
Well, when I read that, my heart just broke because I do believe Dr. Brown is right. There are good answers to these questions about faith. I’ve asked these questions. I’ve sought these answers. And what I found it’s that there’s really good answers but few people actually discover them.
So I contacted Dr. Brown, who’s a friend and a repeat guest on my former radio show. And I asked him if he’d be willing to appear on The Roys Report and answer some of these really tough questions. And he agreed because Dr. Brown loves doing this sort of thing.
Honestly, I can’t think of anyone better than Dr. Brown to respond to these questions. For those of you who aren’t familiar with Dr. Michael Brown, he’s a Jewish believer in Jesus, and the founder and president of FIRE School of Ministry. He’s also a prolific author and host of the radio show Line of Fire—and the TV show, “Answering Your Toughest Questions.” Dr. Brown also holds a Ph.D. in Near Eastern Languages and Literatures from New York University. And he has served as a visiting or adjunct professor at numerous seminaries, including Southern Evangelical Seminary, Gordon Conwell Theological Seminary, and Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. So, Dr. Brown, welcome. I am so glad that you’re able to join us.
DR. MICHAEL BROWN: Well, thrilled to be back on the air with you, Julie.
JULIE ROYS: Well, you know, I should mention that the questions that we have today, Dr. Brown, are ones that I’ve actually gotten on social media by just querying the listeners and followers on their questions. And those of you who don’t follow us on Facebook, that’s easy to do. You just go to Facebook dot com slash reach Julie Roys. And Roys is spelled R-O-Y-S. And likewise on Twitter our handle is at reach Julie Roys. So, we’re going to be getting to, I have a few, a long list of questions. I don’t know if we’ll get to all of them. But before we go to those, I would love for you to answer the question that Marty Sampson asked because I think these questions are, probably, if you did like a top 10 of questions that are out there, that are challenges to the Christian faith, these would be at the top. So let me just start with that first one about how can a loving God send people to hell who don’t believe in Him.
DR. MICHAEL BROWN: Right. Well as Marty phrased it, it would be basically, simply for not believing. As if there’s no guilt in our lives. As though there are no choices that we make. So the question I would ask everyone is ‘Are you glad that you’re here or would you rather have never existed?’ Well since the vast majority of people don’t kill themselves, that means that we’re still glad we’ve had the opportunity to live. And the second question is ‘Would you like it if God made you in a certain way so that you were basically a robot? Programmed to operate a certain way. No freedom of choice from here to the rest of your life. You can make no choices but you won’t suffer.’ Everyone say ‘no, let me have my freedom.’ I mean that’s what we want more than anything–the right to determine my own life. So, if we do that, then we’re going to have choices. And there going to be right decisions. There’s going to be wrong decisions. There are going to be things that we do that have negative consequences and things with positive consequences. And there is a punishment for sin, and it is death and judgment. Many things don’t get fixed in this world. They get dealt with in the world to come. But ultimately God has said, “Listen, the whole world was guilty. Everybody’s guilty. Everybody deserves condemnation and judgment. But rather than putting it on you, I’m going to put it on my Son, who doesn’t deserve it.” And if you will cry out to Him, you’ll find mercy and you’ll have eternal life. So, God is going out of His way to say to humanity you don’t have to die. You don’t have to suffer. You don’t have to reap what you’ve sowed. If we refuse His mercy, we’re basically choosing our own destruction, we’re choosing our own judgment. Now, there are many other questions. What about those you never heard the message? What about those raised in different religions? All I can say is the God that bent over backwards by sending His son to die for what we did, is a God who’s moved by compassion and kindness and love and mercy. And is not vindictive and mean-spirited. So I don’t understand how everything works or why but I know that God is not at fault. He’s not to blame. And that He has reached out to us with extraordinary love. So when I look at Him, look at Him through the lens of the cross, cause that’s the nature of God. He’s not vindictive, mean-spirited tyrant. He’s not the way Richard Dawkins described Him as a misogynistic petulant, megalomaniacal God—that’s not who He is. He’s a God who loved us enough to send His son. So, if I reject His mercy, then I’m the one basically damning myself, condemning myself. And the other question is, do we not want there to be judgment in the world to come? If there’s sin, if there’s injustice, if things have been wrong in this world, do we not want there to be a world to come that fixes the rights and wrongs and sets things the way they should be? So again, I mean, we could go on for hours cause it’s a massively difficult question. But the short answer is the way Marty phrased it, misses the whole point.
JULIE ROYS: Well, it reminded me of something, I think it was the late R.C. Sproul said once. When somebody asked him, you know, what about the innocent person in Africa who’s never heard? And his reply is, “I don’t think there’s an innocent person who exists in Africa or anywhere else on the world.” And that’s what you’re getting at. We do kind of look at it like, we’re innocent, not in need of a Savior because we sort of minimize our sin, don’t we?
DR. MICHAEL BROWN: Oh yeah. We don’t recognize the nature of sin, the depth of sin. And there’s so much to say here. How does it work out with an eternal hell and people boiling forever? I would say, rather than come up with a certain image of hell, perhaps based on tradition, understand that the most hellish thing about hell is the forfeiting of eternal life and separation from God. And that’s something that basically people choose. If I don’t want to be with Him in this world, why would I want to be with Him forever? And does He have the right to banish those in the world to come who have banished Him in this world.
JULIE ROYS: And we are judged according to what we know. So I think it’s kind of hard isn’t it? Because none of us know God. We don’t know how He judges. And don’t you think people will be judged maybe by a little different standard depending on what they know and how much they’ve been taught?
DR. MICHAEL BROWN: Clearly the Word addresses that in many different ways, and sometimes quite overtly, saying that those who know versus those who don’t know will be judged more severely. I know when my Dad passed away in 1977 at the age of 63. So here I’m from a Jewish family, not a religious Jewish family but Jewish enough that we didn’t believe in Jesus. Was not an option. I come to faith—was a heavy drug user. Begin sharing the gospel with my dad. He starts attending church services. He was proud of his son, he’s going to hear me preach or whatever. Started to read the New Testament. And I remember him asking one day, “When am I going to feel something?” I mean he was that sincere and open. And I thought great. Little by little God’s working in his life. And then suddenly he’s gone. And what happened before he died? Did God open his heart? By receiving me did he somehow receive the Lord? Is he lost? I mean, these are agonizing questions. It’s my father. And I wrestled with it and wrestled with it. And then one day it hit me. How merciful is God to me? How longsuffering is He to me? How patient is He to me? How much does He put up with my folly even now that I’m a believer and seeking to follow Him. That’s the nature of a father, my Heavenly Father. He’s not schizophrenic. So, on that day of judgment, I know whatever He does will be right. I know whatever His verdict is, for every human being, it will be right. It will be nothing unjust, unfair. Maybe from our vantage point here, things can seem unjust and unfair. But let’s look at the whole picture in revelation of God.
JULIE ROYS: Okay, that’s Dr. Michael Brown. You’re listening to The Roys Report. I’m Julie Roys. We will be right back. And when we come back, we’ll tackle that question about isn’t the Bible full of contradictions? Stay tuned. We’ll be right back.
JULIE ROYS: Is the Bible full of contradictions? If God is all powerful, then why do bad things happen to good people? Welcome back to The Roys Report. I’m Julie Roys. And if you’ve wondered about conundrums like these, today’s show is for you. That’s because leading apologist, Dr. Michael Brown, is joining me to answer these difficult questions—which most of you have submitted to us. And so we’re going to give him a chance to answer those. And if you’d like to join the live, online conversation about this show, just go to Facebook.com/ReachJulieRoys. Or on Twitter, our handle is @ReachJulieRoys. Also, I want to mention that today, I’m giving away five copies of Dr. Brown’s newly-released, revised edition of Our Hands are Stained with Blood. As I mentioned a little bit earlier, Dr. Brown is a Jewish believer in Christ. And this, I’ve read this first edition of his book, Our Hands are Stained with Blood, and it’s an outstanding book chronicling the history of Christians and the Jewish people. And it’s a hard read because we have not, as Christians, acted the way that we should have acted towards Jewish people for a very long time. But this is one of those books that I just think is a must read for all Christians. So again, I’m giving away 5 of those copies. If you’d like to enter today’s giveaway, just go to JulieRoys.com/giveaway. So, Dr. Brown, before the break I’d said I wanted to answer that second question—that Marty Sampson, this Hillsong worship leader who said he’s losing his faith that he asked—which was about isn’t the Bible just full of contradictions and how do you deal with that. So, how do you?
DR. MICHAEL BROWN: The first thing is we’re not afraid of the question. That’s one of the biggest things. That we want to create an environment where people are free to ask questions. It’s one thing to be a mocker, a skeptic, and you’re just trying to tear down. You have no interest in really learning. You’re talking about a sincere seeker or a believer. Many times, they struggle, even fall away from faith because they’re not allowed to ask questions. So, first thing we want to say—great question! I love it! I’m so glad you’ve been reading the Bible that carefully. So there are many apparent contradictions. Some of them go away just by digging a little bit deeper and getting a further understanding. Some of them go away when we realize that we have thousands of manuscript copies, which God has graciously preserved for us of the Bible. And sometimes it’s a minor manuscript error. Some of them go away when there’s a new archeological discovery or a new linguistic discovery. And then we realize—ahh, okay—this thing seems to be saying something different, that actually different. Some of them confirm the accuracy of accounts. Like apologist J. Warner Wallace points out, famous as the cold-case detective as a policeman. That when he started studying the Gospels and looking at the eye-witness accounts, he said, “these ring true.” Because they’re not all saying everything the exact same way. So, when you do investigations and interviews at the sight, say of a car accident, you talk to ten different people who were there. One looking down from the window of your apartment. Another coming the other way in the car. And three people walking on the street. Another in the car behind. Another in one car that got hit. They all tell the story differently. But then there’s an internal harmony when you put it all together. That’s what often happens with apparent contradictions. And there are others that we just don’t have answers for right now. Was there an ancient copyist error that became part of the text–and the original text was accurate? There’s a copyist error. Could it be that we just need more historical background? Those that remain as apparent contradictions tend to be very, very minor. Sometimes difference in numbers. How many people were killed in a battle? That Kings says it one way and Chronicles another. But in terms of the overall truths of the faith, none of them are threatened by manuscript error. None of them are threatened by apparent contradictions. The overall message overwhelmingly clear. And here’s the other thing to remember. Would the editors that copied, say the Gospels, would they have continued to copy accounts that they knew were completely contradictory? Would people who know each other put accounts out and the accounts are completely contradictory? Is that logical? And if this was sacred to the writers wouldn’t they think, oh I got to fix this? This just seems to contradict itself. So often, a lot of it comes from a particular scientific mentality we may have of how stories are told, or how things are related. And that’s now the way it would have been in the ancient world. You know, I’ll just throw out one little thing. I don’t believe the Bible, when it gives us the creation account, which we have in poetic form, in literary form of different kinds. That when you have it like Genesis 1 and then creation references in Job or other things. I don’t believe the main goal is to teach science, but to teach us about who God is and how He orders the universe. I don’t mean the Bible contradicts science but that the main focus is not to teach us about science. But let’s say that the goal of the Bible was to teach scientifically accurate truth. And therefore, it said that the earth went around the sun. That would mean that everyone who lived up until around 1500 or so would’ve thought the Bible was in error. Because the science of the day taught it one way. And then since then, how many scientists have been, “Oh, scientists are, are sure about this.” And then 50 years later we reverse it? So that’s the whole thing. The Bible is timeless and speaking in a way that’s timeless. And therefore, uses observational language about the sun rising and the sun setting. Why is that wrong for the Bible to do? But we do it today, even though we do it today, even though we know that the sun doesn’t rise and set. So we need to treat things fairly and rightly. But whole books have been written, multiple books, examining Bible contradictions. And the great majority of them go away when you did a little deeper.
JULIE ROYS: Well, and I find when I had this question posed to me by friends who, you know, are skeptics, when they say the thing about contradictions. I usually come back to them and I say, you know what, there are some apparent contradictions in Scripture and I’ve studied some of them. And I’m just wondering which one bothers you the most? And by and large, they don’t know a single apparent contradiction. They’ve just heard that the Bible has contradictions. But when you look into them, there are good explanations. And, like you said, the ones we’re not quite sure about often can be resolved later. Hey, give an example though of one that was seen as a contradiction and then we later found out was not. Or that may just be a matter of different perspectives.
DR. MICHAEL BROWN: Yeah so, let’s take for example in II Samuel 24, it says that the anger of the Lord incited David to number Israel. And then in I Chronicles 21, it says that Satan incited David to number Israel. And people think these are contradictions. No, Samuel is written hundreds of years before the exile. Chronicles is written after the exile. In terms of dating of books, books that mention Satan by name, or Job, which even though it has an ancient history and ancient pedigree, such to be written much later. My commentary on Job comes out in a number of weeks (inaudible) for years. And then Chronicles was written after the exile and that’s when, along with Zechariah, which is at that same time, there’s overt mention of Satan. So basically, it’s two different perspectives of the one account telling us what happens behind the scenes. God is angry with David. The next account telling us the means by which God allowed David to be incited, mainly through Satan. So, you know, people have asked me that many a time. It’s just understand the chronology. Understand that before the exile, when there was so much idolatry in Israel, God could not give a clear revelation of Satan. Even the Genesis account with the snake, there’s not clear revelation of “the Devil.” Right? So, if you gave that to Old Testament Israel, they all would have worshipped the Devil. Cause he’s pretty powerful. He’s the one bringing all this bad stuff on them, we should follow him because he can lift it off. So, it was only after the exile, when idolatry was largely purged from the nation, that God could give a further revelation. And then take us behind the scenes. And now by the time we get to the New Testament, all of it is come out into the open.
JULIE ROYS: Well, I want to go to the questions now that were submitted by folks. And we only have like a minute and a half left. So I’ll probably have to pose this question and we’ll wait ‘til the next segment for you to answer it. But Kim Zody Ruppert, she writes:
“Is God really omnipotent and in charge of all things? If so, why when bad things continually happen to good people and the most faithful, do we say that the devil is at work or it’s their doing and not God?” It’s a little bit similar to what you just answered. We have about a minute if you want to start tackling that.
DR. MICHAEL BROWN: Right, so let me again, big questions. But here’s the short answer. God in his omnipotence has given us free will. God in his sovereignty has given us choices just as He gave the angels choices. So when we see things happening that are contrary to the revelation of God and Scripture, but rather have the nature of Satan, who is a liar and murderer by nature. And who is a destroyer and who’s a tempter and a deceiver. That’s when we see the enemy at work. God does not deceive us. God does not tempt us. But these are things Satan does. Even in the book of Job, it’s Satan who goes out and does these horrific things to Job who was a righteous man. So we recognize the marks of Satan. And what are we told in Scripture? Resist him, steadfast in the faith. Ephesians 6—put on the armor of God. James 4—resist the devil. I Peter 5—resist the devil. So, we’re at war. There is a battle. That’s the way God in His sovereignty set it up.
JULIE ROYS: Well, that’s apologist Dr. Michael Brown. I’m Julie Roys. You’re listening to The Roys Report. We will be right back after a short break.
JULIE ROYS: Welcome back to The Roys Report, brought to you in part by Judson University. I’m Julie Roys. And today, we’re tackling skeptics toughest questions about Christianity with leading apologist Dr. Michael Brown. So, if you’ve wondered how Scripture could say that God wishes no one to perish, but at the same time says that some were created as objects of wrath—you’re going to want to stick around. We’re going to get to some of these tough questions. Also, if you’re just joining us and you want to catch the complete show, you can do that. After the broadcast, I’ll be posting the entire audio as a podcast to my website, JulieRoys.com. Also, today, I’m giving away five copies of Dr. Brown’s newly revised edition of Our Hands are Stained with Blood. This is a book retelling the tragic story of the church and the Jewish people and is a must-read for every believer. So, to enter that contest, just go to JulieRoys.com/giveaway.
So, Michael, a listener, Michelle Lane, she wrote, “Many verses speak of election, and that God chose certain people and created others for destruction. And Paul’s answer to the question, ‘How can it be your fault because who can resist His will?’ is simply, “Who are you to question God?” But in other parts, it says things like God isn’t willing that any perish, that He loves the whole world. So how can both these things be true?”
DR. MICHAEL BROWN: Alright, so a Calvinistic answer would be that when scripture says, “God loved the whole world,” it means people from all over the world. And that Jesus did not die to save the whole world, or to make salvation possible for the whole world, but rather to save the elect. And, “I’m not willing that any should perish” would mean that not any of the elect would perish. So, for Calvinists, that’s how it fits. They would say 1 Timothy 2, that you should “pray for all men to be saved” means “all classes of men.” 2 Peter 3, which I just quoted, “not willing that any should perish” means “any of the elect.” And I was a Calvinist for 5 years—1977 to 1982. And I embraced these arguments, and especially Romans 9 seems to state things very plainly. But first, Romans 9 is not dealing primarily with Salvation issues but rather called to service, if you’ll read it through. That’s the first thing. The second thing is Paul is challenging an attitude. Alright, Paul is challenging an attitude by saying, “What if?” “What if this was God’s plan?” And “What if this is how He did things? And who are you to argue against God?” In which case we all shut our mouths, we all fall down on our faces and say, “let God be God.” But if you keep reading until the end of Romans 11, Paul’s conclusion is God has shut up all men in disbelief that he may have mercy on them all. And someone might say, “‘all’ just means ‘Jews and Gentiles.’” Yeah, that’s the whole world—who is there outside of Jews and Gentiles? And in 1 John 2, where John says that Jesus is not just the propitiation for our sins but for that of the whole world. So, I understand election in terms of God chose before the foundation of the world that He would for the whole world that He would have a people in His Son. And He was working throughout the world to bring that to pass. And to be part of that elect group, you must respond to His offer of grace. So, salvation is all by grace—we can never pat ourselves on the back. We’re saved by grace; We’re kept by grace; It’s God’s goodness, grace and mercy from the beginning to the end. We understand that. And yet, John 1:12, “As many as many as received Him, to them He gave power to become the children of God.” And Paul makes plain in Romans that faith is not a work. So, the Word of God comes, faith comes by hearing, Romans 10. Faith comes alive as we hear the word now. But we receive God’s grace or reject it. If we reject it, we will not become part of that elect company. The election is in His Son. We are then chosen in Him. That’s how I understand the chosen-ness and the election. And therefore, it all works out in terms of those verses. There’s no contraction between them.
JULIE ROYS: So, let me ask another related question. Daniel Haaning wrote in. And he said—this is a question about you, specifically—but he’s charging that you teach a “faith plus works false gospel.” That you don’t believe “once saved, always saved.” How do you respond to him?
DR. MICHAEL BROWN: I teach the biblical gospel as best as I can. And what’s interesting is that “once saved, always saved” is something that large parts of the body don’t believe and have never believed. Salvation is all by grace, through faith. But God does not force you to stay in His house. I just have to ask Daniel, what about all the verses that warn us against falling away? Do we throw those out? Are they unreal? Is Hebrews 2 and Hebrews 3 and Hebrews 4 and Hebrews 6 and Hebrews 10 and Hebrews 12—are all those verses about the danger of falling away not real? When 1 Peter 2 warns against it, when Jesus says, “If you deny Me, I’ll deny you.” So, “salvation by works” would be, “I have to add my good works to God’s grace. I have to try harder; I have to pray more; I have to be super-holy; And if I don’t work hard enough, I don’t get in.” That’s “salvation by works.” “Salvation by grace” is “God freely forgives us; He empowers us to live a Godly life; And if we refuse His grace, and choose to walk away, we have forfeited it.” That’s not “Salvation by works.” And what we do know is God calls us to holiness. And the idea that some have—I’m not accusing Daniel of this—that some have, in the “once saved, always saved” camp, is that once you pray a prayer and say, “Lord forgive me,” no matter what you do, no matter how you live, you get in. That’s not the gospel. The proof, as James Minoy says, “The only proof of new birth is a new life.” And Jesus says in Matthew 7:21, “Not everyone who says to Me, “Lord, Lord” will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only those who do the will of My Father.” So, God gives us the grace to do it, empowers us to do it, calls us to do it. On my worst days as a believer, I’m still saved. If I did something stupid and died that moment, that sin doesn’t damn me. We’re not saved by our good works and good efforts. But if I refuse God’s grace, if I deny it, if I walk away, if I say, “I choose sin and I no longer want You,” He doesn’t force me to stay in His house. That’s not “salvation by works.” That’s me rejecting the grace of God. I live by grace in the love of God 24-7 and never ever-ever-ever worry about losing my salvation. Because He’s promised to keep me. And I love Him. But, should some insanity of spirit happen to me, and I decide I’m just going to walk away, those warnings are going to warn me very clearly.
JULIE ROYS: Well, and this is the classic debate between Calvinism, which you referenced, and Arminianism. And Calvinists would say that you can never fall away. But if someone does fall away, then they’ll say, “Well that person was never a believer to begin with.” But as the Arminian would say, “No, this person walked away.” There’s a sin of apostacy. It’s a difficult question. And I think sometimes theologians like to wrap it up with a really neat bow and, you know, a nice clean box. And I’m not sure it does. But I do believe, wasn’t it Martin Luther who said that we’re saved by faith alone, but saving faith is never alone?
DR. MICHAEL BROWN: Yeah, and here’s the other thing. Calvinism is not, “once saved, always saved.” As you exactly stated it, Calvinism is, “perseverance of the saints;” That someone that’s truly saved will not ultimately fall away; If they backslide, they’ll return; If they do fall away, they were never truly saved. I’m not a Calvinist, but I don’t find that dangerous. I just believe you can rob someone of their assurance in the here and now because you think, “I don’t really know if I’m in ‘till I get to the end.” But to me, I don’t even debate the doctrine. What I say is this: Do you want the Lord? Do you want Him to be your savior? Well He’s going to keep you. Don’t sweat it. Don’t worry about it. If you think, “I can do whatever I want. I’m going to leave my wife; commit adultery; Do this; Do that; Get drunk; Get high and just live however I want; And experiment with different religions that I’m still in.” No, no! Be warned.
JULIE ROYS: That’s not the gospel of Jesus Christ. Absolutely.
Well again, that’s Dr. Michael Brown. I’m Julie Roys. You’re listening to The Roys Report. And we will be right back after a short break.
JULIE ROYS: Well, how do you answer challenges to the Christian faith? Welcome back to The Roys Report. I’m Julie Roys. And today, we’re tackling some of the toughest questions concerning Christianity from listeners like you. And joining me to do that is leading apologist, author, and founder of the Fire School of Ministry, Dr. Michael Brown. And if you want to connect with directly with him, just to go ASKDoctorBrown.org. And also, I want to underscore that we’re giving away five copies of the revised edition of Dr. Brown’s book, Our Hands are Stained with Blood. And to get that you just go to JulieRoys.com/giveaway. Again, Julie Roys dot com slash giveaway and you can enter the giveaway for that book. And also, at my website JulieRoys.com, we will have audio of this show so you can share it with friends afterwards or if you missed any portion you can go back and listen to it. But Dr. Brown what I’d like to do now is, we do have a lot of questions, and I think we’ve been taking, you know, more time with some of these but we’re going to hit some of these quickly now. So, let me just fire some away. The first one is by Verna Adams-Pobo, and she writes, “What is the point of praying when God will answer according to His will? What is the point of praying in faith, believing God for the answer and still He does not answer?”
DR. MICHAEL BROWN: First, when we pray, we spend time with God. We become influenced by Him, we draw close to Him, we fellowship with Him, we lean on Him, we talk and so prayer is communion. But secondly, God’s will is that He responds to prayer. Many things don’t happen because we don’t pray. Many things don’t happen because we don’t pray in faith. God’s not going to do everything He wants to do without us because that’s how He set it up. So, for example at the end of Ezekiel 22, He said He was not going to pour out His wrath if He found one person interceding. He couldn’t find any and so He poured out His wrath. James the fourth chapter says that you don’t get because you don’t ask and then when you ask, you ask, you ask consumed in your own lust. So, when we ask according to the Father’s will, we ask in faith. Not only do we commune with Him, our faith is built up as we see Him answer. And when we don’t pray, we don’t see answers. One of my friends, many years ago, said, “When I pray, coincidences happen.” It’s just one of those things.
JULIE ROYS: (Laughter) Okay, this question is by Kevin Hander who says, “Did Jesus know when He was young, who He was or did He at some point have it revealed to Him? I know what I think but I’d like to hear it from a scholar. What do you think?”
DR. BROWN: Right, well, we know when he’s 12 years old that He’s conscious of God being His father in a unique way. That’s clear. But I don’t believe that when He was a baby, when He was an infant, that He knew every language on the planet. That He could tell you Einstein’s theory of relativity, that He knew every verse of the Bible before it was written. I believe He developed as a human being. I mean, Luke tells us about Him growing in wisdom and stature. So, my understanding is at some point in His development, as He’s meditating on Scriptures and communing with God, He begins to get a revelation of who He is. So I don’t think it just happens one moment but a rising of consciousness in studying of Scripture, communing with God, He becomes more and more aware of who He is and the fullness of His mission. But as far as I know, we’re still speculating on that answer. What’s your take, Julie?
JULIE ROYS: I tend to go towards the line that He knew from the very beginning. But I guess I’ve never really thought about it that deeply. I’ve never had that posed to me before. But since He was fully God and fully human.
DR. BROWN: Was He able? Right, right, but was He fully human? In other words, was there any willful setting aside of certain divine prerogatives? Did he fake when He was like, “Ima, Abba.” Was He faking that? You know, was He . . .?”
JULIE ROYS: Right, He must’ve been bound by His own humanity and His cognitive, I mean, development. I mean we know a baby, an infant, can’t even think full thoughts. So, I would say that. But I would say, I would more tend towards that He was aware of it by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit from the very, from as soon as He could cognitively, you know, be able to know that. But maybe not, I don’t know.
DR. BROWN: So, that’s something—does a two-year-old grasp that, four, ten? That’s what I’m saying. To me it’s something that grows. The other thing is we know He gets hungry, tired, grieved, in other words He has physical limitations. He has human emotions. So, anyway it’s an extraordinary question. It’s a wonderful question and one that’s worth Holy meditation.
JULIE ROYS: Yeah. Well, here’s a related question to that. The idea that Jesus never thought He was divine seems to be coming up a lot lately. Would love to hear what you have to say about that one.
DR. BROWN: Yeah, well John’s gospel is obviously the clearest place to go. We know in the synoptic gospels—Matthew, Mark and Luke—He talks about “for this reason I came” or being sent. There’s that consciousness. That no one can know the Father except the Son and those whom the Son chooses to reveal Him. There’s a certain stature He has. And in Matthew 28:19 and 20, the Great Commission, He’s included in the baptismal formula with the Father and with the Spirit. I mean, how’d He get there? Why do you baptize in the name of a glorified man? But then in John’s gospel, very clearly in John 8:58, He does says, “before Abraham [was], I am.” So not just pre-existed but that identifiable, “I am, I am He” before Abraham. We know in John 10, He and the Father are one but in a unique way so that in John 14, He says that “I am in the Father and the Father is in me.” And then we know in John 17, He speaks of the glory that He enjoyed with His father before the world began. And then in John 20 when Thomas falls to his feet and says, “My Lord, my God,” He doesn’t say, “Don’t say that!” It’s like, now you finally get it! So, if you’ve seen Him you’ve seen the Father. That’s out of the Lord’s own mouth.
JULIE ROYS: Yeah, I don’t know how people could say He wasn’t aware He was divine. To me it’s pretty clear throughout the Scriptures that He does. So here’s another one. Zacharias Rivera asks, “Many ask how we could base what we believe in solely on what the Bible says but can we really trust the Bible?”
DR. BROWN: Yes, we can really trust the Bible on several levels. One is when it lays out for us the history of the people of Israel—scattered among the nations and then regathered back to the land in unbelief. Somehow miraculously preserved even though disciplined. This never happened. No people has been out of a homeland, as a nation, for century after century, in country after country and then somehow maintains an identity and then returns to the ancient home. This never happened and yet God sketches it out. The fact that Jerusalem will be the center of world controversy. How did God know that if it’s not God? How did the prophets know that? You have those things. The ongoing relevance of Scripture, in every generation, in every culture, is miraculous and unprecedented. But to me the biggest proof is not just the prophecies, the messianic prophecies, things like that, which are striking and amazing. And clearly point to the Divinity of the Book. But God has spoken certain things to us about who He is and given us promises. And when we really cry out and when we really seek Him, and when we really lean on Him, He does the things that He promised. It’s not we just snap our finger and we don’t get all the miracles we want to get. And people suffer and we don’t have answers for everything. But ultimately the God of the Bible, saved me, changed me, transformed me and has been with me in amazing and extraordinary ways now for almost 48 years. So, I trust the Bible because I’ve come to know the God of the Bible. And then in studying the Scripture, now intellectually as well, I can trust what’s written.
JULIE ROYS: Hank Kruse asks, “Why does a loving and all- powerful God allow evil to exist?” Why not just wipe it all out?
DR. BROWN: Yeah, yeah. Well, if he wiped it all out, he’d wipe all of us out as well. And if, should He have wiped me out when I was a heroin shooting, LSD using rebel, stealing money from my father. I was evil then. The fact is, if He’s going to create beings that can love Him freely, He has to give us free choices. And with free choices we can choose to obey or disobey. When we choose to disobey, evil is then actualized. So, God will ultimately judge and deal with it but right now, it’s for the best of the human race that He doesn’t wipe out evil. Because if he wiped it out, none of us would be left. That would be the end of the human race. He is patiently working to bring people to Himself. Love can’t be coerced. Love must be freely chosen. Therefore, we’re going to choose good or evil. But God is working in the midst of evil to perfect us, to strengthen us, to try us and test us so that we can grow and become something that we never could have become if not for passing through this difficult fallen world.
JULIE ROYS: I remember once, my husband and I used to do a lot of youth ministry and we used to hang out at Denny’s. And this is back when people were allowed to smoke at Denny’s all the time. And these high school students would show up and they’d be smoking away. And I remember just asking the Lord, you know, preserve my lungs somehow through that. But I remember one of these students came up very, I mean just angrily saying that, you know. “Why did God?” (And He referenced the Holocaust, you know). “Why did God allow that horrible thing? Why doesn’t He wipe out all evil right now?” And I said to him the same thing that you just said, you know. “So you’d like him to wipe out all evil right now, you know, immediately?” And he said, “Absolutely.” And then I asked him, “Are you without sin?” And I said, “So.” And he said, “No.” And I said, “So He’d have to wipe out you.” And I don’t think he’d ever thought about that. And I think, again, it’s you know, it’s back to that other question, you know, about the innocent person. We just lose a sense of our own sinfulness. I think especially in this day and age it’s something that we’ve just moved away from. We really don’t recognize our sinfulness. We judge our holiness based on, sort of like, God grades on a curve. Like where everybody else is and we just miss it. We miss God’s holiness. And I think it’s really devastating to our entire worldview, so.
DR. BROWN: And, you know, the other question is—let’s say it’s only the really bad people, you know. Where do you, where does one draw the line? And then when they’re all gone and you saying the other people aren’t going to commit evil acts? You know, that’s the tragic, and shocking, and unbelievable thing. The most monstrous acts we ever hear of—the horrific mass murdering of the Holocaust. The torturing of a little child and burying them alive. Whatever these things that take place today. Unimaginable! Those are fellow human beings! And then when we search our own hearts, no we’re not thinking of things like that but how wrong have our attitudes been or how proud have we been or how judgmental or lustful or greedy or selfish? Those are evil things in God’s sight. What about gossip? Here, if God was going to wipe out evil in the world, let Him just look at Christian social media for a month and we’d all be gone. Cruelty, the ugliness, the bigotry, the gossip, slander. That’s who we are. So, I’m very thankful for God’s patience. I’m very thankful for His mercy.
JULIE ROYS: Well, here’s one not specifically about the faith or the gospel but I think one that’s worthy of an answer. We only have about a minute or so left. But, someone, Brandon asks. He wants to know, as someone who works across denominational lines, what you believe is the greatest problem or challenge in the American church today and what you recommend be done about it?
DR. BROWN: Well, the overall to me, the overall greatest problem in the church is lack of consciousness of God. We are very secular, earthly, worldly in our thinking. We know how to do it, make it happen. If we were much more God conscious, we’d walk more in the fear of the Lord. And with that, there’d be a greater unity. But as far as denominational lines, and things like that, there is often a lack of honor and respect for others. I’m talking about within the Body. There’s often a lack of recognition that you have something I need and I have something you need. So rather than being so prideful that we think we have it all, let’s recognize we need each other. And in a day and age like today, when the faith is under such assault from so much of society, we really do need each other. And if we can still have our differences, still have our distinctives but humble ourselves and say hey what can I learn from you, how can I help you? Then I think we’ll do much better to come together. Major on the majors and let us have our own little distinctives where we they fit.
JULIE ROYS: Oh, Amen. I so agree with that. Well, just to wrap up. In Luke, the gospel writer says, “I have carefully investigated everything from the beginning so that you may know the certainty of the things you’ve been taught.” You know, I truly believe that God can handle our questions. And He wants to answer these tough questions so that our faith isn’t a giant leap, but maybe more as my grandpa used to say, “It’s more like a small step based on prior experience and evidence.” Just want to encourage you. Keep seeking answers if you don’t have them. Again, my thanks to Dr. Brown for joining me today. And just as a reminder—if you missed any part of this show, you can get it at JulieRoys.com. Hope you have a great weekend and God bless!