Is the Bible just like “Game of Thrones,” except if you don’t read it, you go to hell? And speaking of hell, does anyone really believe in a place of eternal torment? Or is that just a fable pastors preach to scare people into becoming Christians?
In this episode of The Roys Report, Julie tackles these accusations raised by viral TikTok sensation, Abraham Piper.
Abraham Piper is the son of the extremely well-known author and preacher, John Piper. Yet unlike his father, Abraham isn’t defending and promoting Christianity; he’s mocking it—especially evangelical and fundamentalist Christianity.
Joining Julie to discuss Abraham’s challenges is leading apologist, Dr. Michael Brown, whose spiritual journey is the opposite of Piper’s.
Unlike Piper who was raised in a Christian home but abandoned the faith as an adult, Brown was raised Jewish and became a heavy drug user and drummer in a rock band before coming to faith in Christ. Perhaps because of that background, Brown approaches challenges to the faith with compassion and understanding.
Dr. Michael Brown
JULIE ROYS, DR. MICHAEL BROWN, ABRAHAM PIPER
JULIE ROYS 00:00
Is the Bible just like Game of Thrones, except if you don’t read it, you go to hell? And speaking of hell, does anyone really believe in a place of eternal torment, or is that just a fable pastors preach to scare people into becoming Christians? Welcome to The Roys Report, a podcast dedicated to reporting the truth and restoring the church. I’m Julie Roys. And today we’re going to be exploring the TikToks of Abraham Piper and if you haven’t heard, Abraham Piper, son of the extremely well known author and preacher, John Piper, is a TikTok sensation. In fact, Abraham Piper currently has nearly 1 million followers. Yet unlike his father, Abraham isn’t defending and promoting Christianity. He’s mocking it, especially evangelical and fundamentalist Christianity. Here’s just a sampling of what Piper has to say.
ABRAHAM PIPER 00:46
Evangelicalism is a toddler tradition that’s cousins with Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy. And a snot nosed little sibling of mainline Protestant denominations. So yes, I’m out here saying fundamentalism is bizarre, anti intellectual [explitive].
JULIE ROYS 00:57
So as you can tell Abraham Piper doesn’t pull any punches. But how should we as Christians respond to his attacks on the Bible, hell, missions and just a whole range of topics that we as Christians hold dear? Well, that’s what I’ll be exploring in this podcast with leading apologist, Dr. Michael Brown, and I think you’ll find that not only does Dr. Brown have credible answers to the questions and the claims that Piper makes, he also has a really tender and humble heart, especially towards skeptics. So really looking forward to discussing these TikToks with Dr. Brown, but before I do, I’d like to thank our sponsors, Judson University, and Marquardt of Barrington. Judson is a top ranked Christian university providing a caring community and an excellent college experience. Plus the school offers more than 60 majors, great leadership opportunities and strong financial aid. Judson University is shaping lives that shape the world. For more information, just go to Judsonu.edu. Also, if you’re looking for a quality new or used car, I highly recommend my friends at Marquardt of Barrington. Marquardt is a Buick GMC dealership where you can expect honesty, integrity and transparency. That’s because the owners there, Dan and Curt Marquardt, are men of integrity. To check them out, just go to buyacar123.com. Well, again, joining me today is Dr. Michael Brown, a leading Christian apologist and the founder of Ask Dr. Brown Ministries, and the Fire School of Ministry. Dr. Brown also hosts a nationally syndicated radio talk show as well as TV shows on GodTV, METV and NRBTV. But perhaps most importantly, I found Dr. Brown is more than just a knowledgeable resource. He’s someone who’s compassionate towards skeptics. And perhaps that’s because Dr. Brown used to be a heroin shooting, LSD using Jewish drummer in a rock band. And he understands skeptics, he loves skeptics, and he’s not afraid of the tough questions. So Dr. Brown, welcome. I’m so glad to speak with you again.
DR. MICHAEL BROWN 02:56
Oh, great to be with you, Julie always is.
JULIE ROYS 02:58
So Dr. Brown, you’re going to be on the hot seat today. And what I’m going to do is play several of Abraham Piper’s TikToks attacking different aspects of the Christian faith. And then I’m going to ask you to respond to that. But before I do that, I’d love for you to tell us a bit about your own faith journey so people know where you’re coming from. So would you give me like the three to four minute version of your own journey to faith and how you came to know Christ?
DR. MICHAEL BROWN 03:22
Yeah, absolutely. And it’s quite relevant as your listeners will see. So I was born in 1955, in New York City. My dad was the senior lawyer in the New York Supreme Court. Mom and Dad, both Jewish happily married. We moved to Long Island when I was about seven years old. I started playing drums when I was eight years old. Beatles came to America when I was nine years old. So this is just kind of the culture of the day. I was bar mitzvahed in 1968 at the age of 13, but we were not religious Jews. So this was this was like a special thing to do. And it was more of a big social event than a spiritual event. And then what happened was that same year I went to my first rock concert. I saw Jimi Hendrix in concert and that appealed to me and playing drums and wanting to be in a rock band and kind of the breaking of the rules and the whole craziness of the day I got caught up in it. When I was 14 a friend asked me if I wanted to try smoking pot and I thought wow you know the rock stars do it and plus you’re not supposed to so that elicit appeal you know, proverb says that stolen water is sweet and food eaten in secret is delicious. We’re not supposed to have it. It has an appeal. And I quickly got into heavier drugs. The lighter drugs that everyone was doing didn’t really affect me so I got into heavier drugs. And that became part of my identity being this heavy drug using kid by the time I was 15 I was shooting heroin. I got the nicknames Drug Baron, Iron Man, I thought this is it. I’m living the life I want to live getting high playing drums in a rock band going to rock concerts. And of course you know that that illusory feeling of everything going great is a myth when it comes to drugs. And so 16 years old, my two best friends, fellow band members, like these two girls, these girls are attending a little gospel preaching church, Pentecostal church. So they talked about healing miracles. The girls started going, they weren’t living for God. But they started going because their dad had been praying for them. Their uncle was the pastor and it was Pentecostal. So it was like kind of interesting and different. And my friends started to go to hang out with the girls. And they found that interesting as well. And then the pastor was preaching a lot from the book of Revelation and end time stuff. So they come home from church, we’d be hanging out getting high together, and they’d be telling about what they learned from the Bible. But then a little by little, God started to change them. So I thought, okay, I’ve got to go and pull them out. And that was August of ’71. So with all my pride and rebellion and anger and drug addictions, you know, everything in my life, I go to this church service, long haired hippie kid, and the people were so sweet, loving, gracious to me. I thought, whatever. They have their religion, I have mine. They started praying for me. I had no idea they were praying for me. And the Holy Spirit started convicting me. I felt miserable about the way I was living. And by the end of that year, I just knew in my heart, I knew Jesus was real. I knew he died for me, I knew he rose from the dead. His love filled my life. And I said, God, I will never put a needle in my arm again. That was December 17 of ’71. I was free from that day on. And then my dad said, Michael, that’s great, great you’re off drugs, but we’re Jews, we don’t believe this. You need to talk to a local rabbi. So right out of the gate, brand new believer a meeting with this learned rabbi, he’s about 11 years older than me, fresh out of Jewish Theological Seminary begins to lovingly challenge what I believe, brings me to meet other rabbis. So from day one, what I believe was challenged and I remember him telling me because I was memorizing verses in English and reading the Bible in English, if you don’t know Hebrew, it’s meaningless. Gotta learn Hebrew. So I started college, I started studying Hebrew in college. They only had modern Hebrew. So I taught myself biblical, that’s what got me on the way to the Ph. D. and Semitic languages was being challenged by the rabbis. So and then all of my education was in secular universities, so Queens College, and then NYU for my Masters and PhD, so I never studied with anyone who agreed with me. And here and there, some of the professors were downright hostile. And they were brilliant! And they challenged my views of Scripture. So I was exposed to that from day one, my faith being challenged. And I knew that Jesus had changed my life. And I knew he was real in my life. At the same time, I knew that if I was on the side of truth that it could withstand scrutiny, it can withstand testing. So I determine Okay, I’m going to take these challenges seriously. I’m going to study, I’m going to look at the objections, and I’m going to read about the objections I’ve exposed myself to more. I’m going to challenge what I believe to say, Okay, is this true or not, is it accurate or not? And the more I studied, the more my mind was in harmony with my heart, the more I saw, hey, there’s solid answers for all these things. And then where my own experience didn’t seem to line up with Scripture, I thought, Okay, I have to pursue that as well. Should I believe what I believe about healing? Should I believe what I believe about the things of the Spirit? Everything can be challenged if we’re truly seeking the truth and that’s why I’ve been involved in apologetics in defense of the faith these decades because I’ve seen we have solid answers for the skeptics, for the mockers, for those with sincere questions, for a whole range of things philosophical and scientific and biblical, and historical and theological and moral. There’s a reason that the Bible has stood the test of time.
JULIE ROYS 08:42
And it’s interesting listening to your journey is almost the flip of Abraham Piper’s journey. Because here, he started out in a Christian home where faith was emphasized, it was strong years. On the other hand, you started out without any faith and sort of sowing your oats young, but then came back to the Lord. But the thing that I love about you is that because I think you’ve had this journey where you had your faith pushed against so hard, you’re not afraid of skeptics, and you’re not afraid of the questions. And so I feel like you come at it with a compassion towards them. And I think maybe as evangelicals sometimes we can feel kind of threatened. And that comes out kind of ugly, in a way, you know, because I feel like, I feel like he’s very honest. What he says is, you know, blasphemous at times, it’s offensive at times. Yet at the same time, I think he’s expressing what a lot of people feel. And so, you know, I’m really looking forward to diving in. And I hope, as we go through this, that we can, you know, keep somewhat of an open mind towards him and towards those who are like him, who I’m sure will be listening as well as people who are evangelical. So let me just play some of these TikToks and give you an opportunity to respond to them. But the first one is one where he actually speaks and gives advice to those who are living with their evangelical parents right now. So take a listen.
ABRAHAM PIPER 10:05
I want to say something quickly to a very small subset of my audience, namely young people who still live with their evangelical parents, but find themselves doubting the faith that they were raised in. I know that can be a stressful situation. And I want to offer you one simple fact and just hope that it’s helpful. Here it is, it couldn’t be more straightforward. It is not disrespectful for you to disagree with your parents. Don’t let anyone make you feel bad for following your own curiosity instead of their lack of curiosity. That’s manipulative. Sure, it might be hurtful, that you’re on your own path, but that’s on them. If someone’s offended that you’re thinking for yourself, that’s only their responsibility. If you’re kind and fair, but also take ownership of your own mind and follow your own thoughts, even if they lead away from your parents religion, that’s not rebellious. You can’t change how they’re gonna respond or react. But you can know inside yourself that you’re all right. You’re all right. Oh, there’s so much more that could be said. But I’m out of time. Come along for more, if you think that’d be helpful.
JULIE ROYS 11:00
Hmm. So that’s Abraham Piper’s advice to young people. And I know, as a parent, I listened to that. And there’s a part of me that says, Oh, God helped me not to be that parent, right? who responds so threatened that a kid doesn’t feel safe to ask those questions. But let’s just start there. Speak to these evangelicals who, they grew up evangelical, but now they’re having all these questions. What do you say to those people that are in that camp right now?
DR. MICHAEL BROWN 11:00
I partially agree with what Abraham said and I partially disagree. The reason that I partially agree is that, having questions is not rebellious. Look, if someone was raised in a Muslim home or traditionally Jewish home, or a Buddhist home or Hindu home, I’d want them to have questions. If they were raised in an atheist home, I’d want them to have questions. So the idea that you can’t question what your parents believe would almost suggest that, whatever a parent believes must be true. So, in that regard, with respect to your parents, say Look your my dad and mom and I respect you. But I have questions. I’m not sure if I believe this. There is nothing disrespectful in that attitude. When he mentions the parents lack of curiousity, it may not be lack of curiousity. It may be they went on their journey. They did their searching. And they know why they believe what they believe and they’re dogmatic about it, and they feel these are life and death issues, and their raising their kids in that. So there is that judgemental element of referring to their lack of curiosity. But here’s the key – the parents have to be secure enough in what they believe that they are not threatened by their children’s questions or curiosity. I have been around all too many spiritual leaders and elders who are threatened by questions, who are threatened by doubt, and the moment you raise them, they get mad at you or they judge you or you don’t ask those kind of questions and there is something wrong with you. And for Abraham to push back against that, I believe, is the right thing to do. So what I would encourage young people to do is to appeal to their parents and say, Look, I’m not trying to be rebellious. I’m not trying to pick a fight. I just don’t know if I believe this. I don’t know if I believe the bible really is the word of God or if Jesus really, I have honest questions. Could you help me sort this out? If you come to a parent like that, unless there is just something wrong with the way they are parenting, they should say, OK. Let’s find this out together and then we as a body have to help them know where resources are, where they can get answers. There is a verse in Jude. In fact, I turned this verse into a chapter in my newest book, Has God Failed You: Finding Faith When You’re Not Even Sure God Is Real, has a chapter called Permission to Doubt and it’s based on the verse in Jude that says, Have mercy on those who doubt. So there is a doubt in scripture which is the result of double-mindedness and sin and willfully refusing to submit to God. But there is another doubt which is, I don’t know. I wanna believe; I’d like to believe, but I’ve got questions. Jude says, Have mercy on those who doubt. Parents, I urge you, when your kids come with questions, don’t surpress the questions. Don’t brow beat your kids. Say, you know, that’s a good question. Let’s get answers for it together. And then you can really help them on the path of truth.
JULIE ROYS 20:04
Hmm. I think he’s right, though. And I think that’s a good point that you make that I, I think a lot of believers don’t really think about hell. And we don’t think about eternal realities, and we get way too comfortable with the fact that we’re saved, you know, right? We’re saying, yeah, and our neighbor isn’t. And it’s, it’s heartbreaking, I think, sometimes our our lack of concern about the lost and so I, you know, I appreciate in a way him bringing that to the forefront and making, I mean, for me, it’s convicting even to say, How much do I live with that reality in the forefront of my thinking? But I think we have to admit, it’s a tough one. Hell is just it’s a tough doctrine to deal with. And entire books have been written on it. And I think it’s one that Christians do well to wrestle with, and to entertain those questions from unbelievers. And let’s move on to another one that he takes a shot at. And that’s the Bible. I mean, the most sacred book to Christians, and yet, he says, hey, it’s got some really horrific parts in it. So should we really be teaching this to children? Here’s what he says. And you can’t stuff those doubts. They will eventually surface if you don’t deal with it. And I remember when I was in my 20s and I was wrestling with doubts myself. I’m so glad that I found a community where I could just express them. And I grew up in a home where I could express them. My parents were never threatened by our questions and so I’m just very grateful for that and I know that there are a lot of evangelical kids who don’t experience that. And so I have some empathy for, you know, Abraham when he talks about that. It’s hard for me to imagine John Piper being that way, but I don’t know. I didn’t grow up in his home. But again, I think a lot of people feel that and often don’t find that safety. So, I think that’s a valid point that he brings up. Let’s move onto what I think is one of the toughest Christian doctrines that’s out there. And that is the doctrine of hell. None of us likes to think about hell, but yet it is a reality. It’s one that Jesus talked a lot about. But Abraham Piper, you know, he really takes this on. So, here is what he has to say.
ABRAHAM PIPER 20:07
Do millions of people think they believe in a literal hell? Sadly, yes. But here’s something fun. Almost none of them do. Not really. Even the abrasive fire and brimstone preacher doesn’t really believe in a literal hell. Here’s how we can tell. If they allow themselves even a single banal luxury, they’re proving they don’t believe. How are you going to take your family to Outback after church when millions of people are buring alive? Do you know how many people being their eternal torment while you eat that soggy fried onion? Like four hundred and eighty! That’s on you. Now if hell is real and literal then it’s a front lines situation. The few faithful fighting to protect the rest of us from the pit of fire we’re heading towards. Nobody who really believes would take a break for trivialities. If they read a novel or watch tv. Can they go out for a nice dinner? Can they take a long weekend in the mountains? No way! Unless they don’t give a sxxx. But let’s give them the benefit of the doubt. There are people who try to take things seriously, but it’s psychologically impossible. A true believe wouldn’t even be able to hold down a job. How are you gonna spend time phlebotomizing or whatever when people are falling into the flames right now and you have the lifeline? If a supposed hell-believer is a functioning member of society, and most of them are, thank goodness, they don’t actually believe. Their core humanity won’t allow them.
JULIE ROYS 20:07
OK. So Dr. Brown, does Abraham have a point here? I mean, about hell, that if we really embraced, if we really thought about hell, we really wouldn’t be able to function as normal people. What do you say?
DR. MICHAEL BROWN 20:07
Yeah. So, number 1, I agree with much of what he says. But then, number 2, as in the first, I have some disagreement. Let me first say where I agree. In the 1980s, I preached a message called Four Things That Christians Don’t Believe. The four things were: God, salvation, heaven and hell. My thesis was that, if we truly believed in the God of the bible, if we truly believe in the power of salvation, if we truly believed in heaven and hell, we would live lives differently then we live. And the fact that we are so complacent, the fact that we don’t even bother to share the gospel with our neighbor that we think is going to hell, the fact that our emotions go up and down more based on what happened in the sports world or the stock market or the latest news flash then what happens to people’s souls, that indicates to me that we don’t really believe a lot of what we say we believe. The people that really do believe, they are much more in prayer, they are much more in anguish of heart, they’re much more open to share the gospel, they’re much more willing to make sacrifices to reach others with the gospel. And there are plenty of such people in America and around the world. That’s why many people leave the comforts of America, to go around the world, to reach those who’ve never heard the gospel. Because they genuinely believe that people are perishing. So, when he points out the hypocrisy that much of the American church, I don’t doubt it. I’ve written about it for decades and mourned over it and searched my own heart to see where it is in my own life. That’s on the one hand. On the other hand, there is an understanding of hell which is not necessarily Dante’s Inferno. In other words, that we know, that God will judge righteously. That we know that there must be a payment for wickedness. We know this world can’t be all there is. That there must be something to set things right. And we trust that God will do what’s just and fair. And there’s a time to mourn, and there’s a time to dance. So sometimes we’re in prayer and agonizing over the fate of the lost, and we grieve over it. We mourn over it. But then, we also celebrate the goodness of God. And we also enjoy our families. In other words, we are people who are complex in our humanity and in everything in life there is sad times and there are glad times. So, on the one hand, yeah, there is hypocrisy because we preach it, but our lives don’t give evidence that we believe it. On the other hand, those who really do believe it and reckon with it recognize there is a rhythm of life. And Jesus himself, who certainly took eternal realities seriously, we know in scripture that he’d also tell his disciples, Let’s come away. And there are even times of joy and celebration and God’s presence. So it’s both and, not either or. But I think about what Leonard Ravenhill Used to say (died in 1994 at the age of 87) was a great revivalist and man of prayer. It’s on his tombstone “Are the things you’re living for worth Christ dying for?” So if Abraham’s video gets people thinking more about the consistency of their lives than good. It accomplishes something.
ABRAHAM PIPER 21:08
You want to know one of the silliest things about being raised about evangelical? Children are expected to read the Bible. If that doesn’t seem weird to you, stick with me for a second. You might think of the Bible as For God so loved the world, or that one emotionally lucid moment Paul had when he wrote about love, and now everyone reads it at their weddings. But those are the boring parts to a kid anyways, while other kids are learning to read with comics or whatever normal parents have around the house. Here Sunday kids are 6,7,8 years old, devouring stories of Jezebel being defenestrated and then eaten by dogs or Judas’ bowels bursting out or Noah’s sons laughing at him when he was passed out drunk and naked, or Lot’s daughters who got him drunk and then [deleted] him so they could have babies. And those are just a few highlights off the top of my head decades later. The good book is full of children’s stories like these. It’s basically Game of Thrones. Except f you don’t read it, you go to hell. I almost forgot about all the times I went back to Song of Solomon so I could read about breasts. I’m thinking maybe the message of God’s Word didn’t land on me like it was supposed to do. Hey, if you’re deconstructing, good for you. There are a lot of serious thinkers out there that can help you navigate this stuff. But if you just want to roll your eyes at how weird it all was, that’s what I’m here for. Stick around if you want to.
JULIE ROYS 22:08
Again, it’s hard to listen to him speak so irreverently about scripture. And honestly, if you read the story of Jezebel, you know what she did to the prophets of God, her getting thrown out of a window and killed doesn’t seem that awful. It seems like exactly what she had coming to her after all the people that she killed and tormented. At the same time, those stories in the Old Testament. Yeah, they seem weird to I think somebody who’s just glancing over the top of it like he is. Let’s talk about some of those things he brings up. Why does God put these sort of shocking in some ways stories in the Bible?
DR. MICHAEL BROWN 22:48
Yeah. And this one, I really think he’s, he’s missing it from beginning to end. First, the Bible’s about real life. The Bible is not just some little cartoon book about a lamb walking across the field and a deer in the forest. It’s about real life. And real life is dirty and messy and painful. And if the Bible didn’t deal with these issues and didn’t tell stories even that embarrass some of the biblical heroes, then we’d be criticizing it. We’d be saying it just sanitizes everything. It’s not realistic. It’s this is no use doesn’t deal with human depravity. And, you know, so we be taking for that level. A second thing is, the Bible doesn’t glorify these things. In other words, it talks about Jezebel, who is a very wicked woman who caused tremendous suffering in the people of Israel and was responsible for many, many deaths herself as you said. She’s thrown out of a window. And then when they go to bury her later, they find that dogs have eaten just her hands feet are left. It doesn’t present things the way a modern movie would. With all the gore; never celebrates the gore. Even when it’s so much sexual sin, it doesn’t do do it in a way that titillates your interest or causes some kind of vulgar thoughts, it tells the story and says there are really bad consequences. This is real life, this really happened, we can really learn from it. Thirdly, there is age appropriate teaching. Obviously, if you have a kid that’s a voracious reader, and just, you know, at seven years old is going to read the Bible cover to cover, they’re going to have more questions, although they’re not going to understand a lot of what they’re reading. But the fact is that any responsible teacher is going to teach in an age appropriate way. Look, even if you’re teaching some of what Paul writes in Romans, you’re not teaching an eight year old about it just because it’s beyond their understanding. So you break it down into simple principles. And he knows that as well. You know, and as for Song of Solomon, isn’t it wonderful that the Bible can celebrate human love? Isn’t it wonderful? And even there, it’s not in some deeply central way and the image is put in ways that’s anything but sensual. In other words, its not some, you’re not reading pornography. You’re reading beautiful poetry and love expressed in beautiful poetic terms. But we’re always saying the Bible’s against sex. No, the Bible’s against sexual immorality. The Bible’s against sex outside of wedlock. Sex itself, within the context of marriage is a gift from God and something beautiful, and also the means that he gave us to procreate. So it’s beautiful that we have something in the Bible celebrating the beauty of human love. If that wasn’t there, that would be criticized. There’s a reason that people prize the Bible. There’s a reason that people risked their lives to get the Bible into different countries. There’s a reason literally, were there certain parts of the world where they can’t get their hands on a Bible, if they get one. And they’ve got 50 people in the congregation, they rip it into pieces so that they can each take different parts and read it. It continues to bring words of life, it continues to transform. And the amazing thing you take, like the teachings of Jesus, a little child can understand them, and a great scholar can understand them. That’s the depth and beauty and wisdom of God’s Word.
JULIE ROYS 26:15
And he doesn’t just take aim at just the Old Testament stories. He also takes aim at some of the New Testament and in particular, two books of the Bible, Revelation, and Romans. And I think he’s missing it on these, but let me play it and then we’ll discuss.
ABRAHAM PIPER 26:32
What book in the Bible is the most overhyped? I’d say Revelation, because people try to make it seem I don’t know, real when it’s just an old man’s dreams, and he keeps telling us about them. And a dragon was there, and a serpent was there. And a beast was there. And Jesus was there and he was spitting people out of his mouth. Okay, John, okay. Oh, and I’d also say Romans is tied with Revelation for most overhyped. Jonesing for the Apostle Paul is like saying Kerouac is your favorite author. Sure, go for it. But the rest of us might be letting it affect our opinion of you. Well, that was cathartic. Now you go.
JULIE ROYS 27:09
Hmm. Two things came to mind when I heard this. One is Revelation, it being not reality or reality, you know, reminds me of Paul, when he said, Well, if there’s no resurrection, then we’re the worst to be pitied. However, if there was a resurrection, then everything that we believe and that we’ve given ourselves to will turn out in the end to be worth it. So I feel like yeah, you’re right. If it’s not true, if there’s no resurrection, if there’s no second coming, then yeah, Revelation is, you know, some old man’s dreams. But he doesn’t know that. And I don’t know how he can claim to know that. Secondly, when he talks about Romans, I’m thinking of, I used to do a lot of music. In fact, you and I played together once, because you came to speak where I was doing a youth ministry at the time and, and I was leading worship, and You, You jumped in and took the place of the drummer and you lead worship, and it was really, really fun. But just that experience that I had, I remember my drummer, he had grown up in a Christian home. And he had gone off to music school and had rejected Christ. And then he came back and he was drumming with me. And one of the nights after we had lead worship somewhere, and I didn’t realize this was his spiritual condition. He didn’t know the Lord at that point. And he said, he came home and there was something in one of the songs that took him to Romans. And he stayed up all night long, reading the book of Romans, and he said, Julie, for the first time, I understood grace. And the next morning is when he became a believer or overnight reading Romans, he became a believer for the first time. Because through the book of Romans, he understood God’s unmerited favor towards him. And so when Abraham Piper talks about this book that I know, has radically changed somebody I know personally, and this was like, over 20 years ago, and he’s still walking with the Lord. That bothers me. Because I know that these books are so powerful. How do you respond to what he said?
DR. MICHAEL BROWN 29:08
Yeah, again, this tells me more about Abraham than it does about the Bible. When you talk about the book of Revelation, there’s a reason that it’s so stunning to people. There’s a reason that there’s so much interest in it. There’s a reason why it continues to fascinate. You know, go ahead, write your own book and see if millions of people will read it and study it. it’s what is known as apocalyptic literature in the ancient world. So it’s painting everything in terms of symbols and cosmic powers and cosmic battles. And you can read it in your generation and find spiritual application and meaning and then the ultimate triumph of God’s kingdom and the ultimate Destruction of the Wicked and and the bringing in of an eternal age of blessing and joy and peace forever. And the testing and suffering through which we go, you can read it today, you can read it 2000 years ago, you can read it 1000 years ago and every generation finds it relevant. As for Romans, Romans is stunningly brilliant. I’ve been studying Romans for almost 50 years now. And I’m still amazed at the inspiration that Paul received from God and the genius of Paul, in writing what he does, where he lays out the state of the human race, where he shows how both Jew and Gentile alike have sinned are under God’s judgment, where he lays out the incredible revelation, as you mentioned, of grace through faith, where he talks about the life in the spirit, and yet the battle we have with the flesh, when he lays out God’s amazing purposes for Israel, how it’s Israel’s rejection of Messiah, that opens the door for the message to go to the Gentiles. And then the practical teaching in the end of the book and when he teaches us to overcome evil with good. And when he shows us the purpose of authority and how walking in love fulfills the law, it’s, it’s just mind boggling. And then his use of the Old Testament in the midst of it. And again, I don’t mean to insult Abraham here, because I’ve agreed with some other points that he’s made. And only God knows his heart. And perhaps it was his dad preaching a lot on Romans that made him bored of Romans or reacting against Romans. But for him to put these books down, would be like, for me, meeting with Albert Einstein as a young man, and he shows me I’ve discovered something amazing, it’s E=mc squared. And I thought, That’s stupid. That reveals my ignorance rather than Einstein’s genius. And it could well be that, unless we humble ourselves before God, that he’s not going to reveal his treasures, that he’s not going to show us the beauty of what’s there. But if we humble ourselves, then we’ll be amazed by the wisdom by the beauty by the truth of God’s Word. And by the power of these two books, Romans and Revelation.
JULIE ROYS 32:04
The one thing that I think Christians can appreciate about Abraham, and we’ve been disagreeing with him and pointing out what we don’t like about some of what he said, but I do think at the same time, he highlights things in evangelicalism that are just a little bit off. And you know, for example, he talks about how, when he was a kid, he was told that there were satanic messages in rock and roll and you can, you know, there are things that are evil within rock’n’roll music, for sure, but I mean, sometimes it’s, you know, the whole backtracking thing. And it got weird. When I was a kid, and people were always trying to find these hidden messages that was there. And he also talks about short term missions. And I think he has a point here. Let me play this, and then we’ll discuss.
ABRAHAM PIPER 32:53
My son had to wear a tie the other day, and I asked if he needed help. And of course, his answer was I know how to tie a tie Dad, which was news to me, because he’s never really had a reason to wear one. I remember exactly when and why I learned to tie a tie. I was 10. And I was going on a missions trip by myself. What’s a missions trip you ask? It’s a white saviors evangelical vacation that other people pay for and the org I was going with required dressing up on Sundays, and whenever interacting with the public, that’s the need to tie my own tie. This requirement was alongside memorizing the KJV not talking to girls and running a mile every morning. Oh, guess where the missions trip was to? One of the darkest places on earth – Florida! That’s right. 10 year old me and my cohort of other preadolescents took the message of Jesus and His ghastly demise to Orlando. I mean, if I had to guess who’s going to get bathed in the blood of the Lamb, I would put my money on Florida, man, why am I even telling you this story? Tying a tie missions trip, Florida? I don’t know. Suffice it to say I looked dapper as [expletive] during my DC talk puppet shows. Alright, this is getting way too niche. I gotta go.
JULIE ROYS 33:53
Alright, there’s parts of that, that I have to say I laughed at. And I had to say, Yeah, I do wonder what the wisdom is of sending a 10 year old on a short term missions trip to Orlando, Florida. And we have gotten as Christians way behind these short term missions trips, and some of them are fantastic. And they change people’s lives for a really long time. But I know I’ve told my children when they go, you know, people are paying money for you to have an experience so that for the rest of your life, you can have a heart for the places you go to. But you owe them something by going because they could spend that money a lot better. And a lot more, you know, as far as if we’re talking about actually getting missions work done, just by giving the missionary some money and they could use that to get a lot done where they’re at. And there they are long term. So I think he has a point with these things. And I think the way that often it comes off as a white Savior. I think some of that’s valid. What do you think Michael?
DR. MICHAEL BROWN 34:51
It’s not valid from my own experience with young people going out on short terms missions trips. Again everybody’s raised differently. Is he giving the impression that it’s a normal evangelical that you have to run a mile in the morning? I mean, it’s this exaggerated picture and people can look at and think, oh, that’s, that’s how it was. And I have no idea if he was 10, and went on a missions trip to Orlando. And that’s that’s his recollection. Maybe it’s accurate, I don’t know. But everyone I know that’s going on short term missions trips. And I know a lot of people have done it over the years, the whole thing is to go into another part of the world that’s different than your world, where people have less than what you have, and to go and serve them. And to have your own heart and mind opened by it. Most of the people that I know that are full time missionaries around the world today, and some have been on the field for decades. Most of them went on short term trips early on. Maybe as older teenagers, early 20s, you know, some as children, but they went on these trips. And that’s what that’s what lit a fire in their hearts, like, I’ve got to go help these people, I got to leave what I have, and go serve these people and find out ways where I can make their life better. I think everyone, young and old, should go on at least one missions trip, to get them out of America to get them out of their own culture. And at the very least create a hunger in your heart to pray for these people, maybe contribute financially to help improve their lives, maybe support missionaries that are out reaching them, it’s not going yourself. So I know, Julie that I can often put things through the lens of my own experience and I tend to be very positive, optimistic person seeing the best, as much as I’m always warning about where things are at and the dire state of America. I mean, overall, I’m tremendously positive, optimistic and seeing the best side of things. So I’m sure that people have had bad experiences. I’m sure that people have gone in the big effect of them is like, I’m so grateful now for my iPhone. These superficial kinds of things, but done rightly, this is really effective. So again, it’s this exaggerated picture that’s being painted. And then people joining and mock along with it. It’s like, okay, let’s get the 10,000 positive stories out there. Let’s get the million great testimonies out there. Let’s get those going viral as well, because that’s what it’s going to take to balance the message.
JULIE ROYS 37:25
And I do, I don’t want to by what I said, indicate that I’m against short term missions, I’m not my kids have been dramatically changed by their short term missions experience and have had life changing experiences. And I think of one of the places that we went, where we worked with orphan kids, and we are still supporting some of those kids, and they’ve grown up a lot. And it’s been fun to watch them grow up and to know their environment and where they live and what it’s like in their country. And so I am for short term missions. But at the same time, I also know this is a big question with missiologist, discussing how little sometimes we put towards long term missions, and we’re spending so much money on short term. So I think that part of it, there are some valid things and you do have kids from the US going over and staying in hotels and calling it a missions trip. And sometimes it’s more of a glorified vacation. And so I think it just depends, and I think we need to be critical in the way that we we evaluate those at the same time. I think they’re highly valuable. This brings us to the last one that we’re going to look at and it’s on whether or not Abraham Piper is an atheist or not. And I have to say when I when I listened to this one, my heart broke for him. But this is him describing why he’s not an atheist.
ABRAHAM PIPER 38:46
If you’ve ever quit a religion, did you become something else? Because you don’t have to. I didn’t always realize this. I grew up fundamentalist Christian and for years, as I was quitting, I asked myself, What am I now instead? Am I a mainline Christian? Am I a progressive Christian? Am I horror of horror, an atheist? I didn’t want to land anywhere. And then my curiosity and my reading expanded, I resonated with cXXXXX, And the tension he famously noted. Does that mean I’m an absurdist? I couldn’t stop underlining Seneca or Marcus Aurelius. Does that mean I’m a stoic? If so I’m not a very good one. And then along came Alan Watts. Me am I supposed to incorporate Eastern philosophy too? Who has time for this? So I read the Tao de Ching. And that made so little sense, I knew it must be true. Does that mean I’m a Taoist? What’s the difference between that and Zen? How does a Westerner become a Buddhist? What does it become a Buddhist even mean? I don’t know any of this. I don’t know enough to be anything. And that was my breakthrough. I don’t have to know enough to be anything because I don’t have to be anything. I don’t have to say what I am. I can be nothing. I’m nothing.
JULIE ROYS 39:44
And this is so much of what I hear from Abraham is, hey, let’s not be so serious. Let’s all lighten up. Let’s not think about eternal realities, because they probably don’t exist anyway. And so here he is someone who hasn’t figured it out and he’s basically telling everybody it’s okay to just let’s just blow it off kind of let’s, let’s not even try to figure it out. And I, you know, it broke my heart because I can remember when I was wrestling with my faith and for me, I came back to, Whom have I in heaven but You? And on earth, there’s nothing I desire but you. And realizing that there is nothing else out there, once you go beyond Jesus. And I think it’s interesting that he’s honest enough to say, I haven’t found anything. And I know there’s people listening that because of so much of what I report on, and they’ve experienced so much disillusionment in the church, so much pain in the church, that they’re like, I’m done with church. And when it comes to their faith, they’re like, I don’t know. And so I feel like what Abraham’s doing in just saying, let’s just lighten up and forget about it, you know, eat, drink, and be merry, because tomorrow we die. But where is that going to lead us? So speak to that, Michael.
DR. MICHAEL BROWN 40:55
Yeah, and my heart goes out to Abraham, he may not want our sympathy, he may say he’s, he’s very happy. But hey, I’m not mad at him. I’m praying for God to really open his heart and reveal him. I don’t know if he ever really knew the Lord, if he was raised in Christianity, and never really knew the Lord, or if he once really did know the Lord, and have an experience with God. Again, only God knows. And I’m not sitting here as his judge. But life doesn’t allow you to just be nothing. Because there’s too much pain. There’s too much suffering. And there are too many questions. And there are too many issues. And if we’re no different than a bug, I mean, you think of it. If there is no God, who created us with purpose, and we are just the the random end results of a freak evolutionary process, then in reality, we’re no different than a bug. And there is no problem of evil. Because a human being killing 10 other human beings, or an earthquake killing 1000 human beings, is no different than a spider eating a fly. It’s just what happens and survival of the fittest or, you know, just freak things. Something in us says there’s gotta be more something in us says, okay, this is it, getting older, and this is it, you just reproduce, so another generation can reproduce. And another generation can reproduce that, that the people people know, there must be more. And God put it in our hearts, Ecclesiastes 3 says, that God’s put eternity in our hearts that we would seek Him. And that’s, why people are questioning. And that’s why people are struggling, even the so called religious nuns, and when yes, those who’ve dropped out of church and have no religious affiliation, many of them are superstitious. Many of them are getting into New Age type things, or witchcraft or other occult things. It’s normal, because there’s something inside of us telling us that there has to be more, and then the dreams inside of us that never get realized and fulfilled in this world. And the injustices that never get righted. There’s this understanding that there must be more. And what I would say to those who’ve been hurt, or have questions, or their faith didn’t seem to line up again, it’s why I wrote the book, Had God failed You? because to some, it feels as if he did, that, I would encourage them to seek God with every fiber of their being to say, if you’re really out there, if you really put me here, if there’s really a purpose for my life and the lives of others, I must know. Nothing is more important than knowing that. Let that cry, let that question, rise from your heart, from the moment you wake up to the moment you go to sleep, as you’re working through the day and doing what you’re doing. If you’re really there, I need to know I need to understand why I’m here and who you are. And if you’re not there, then you’re not going to respond. Or if you’re an indifferent God, then you’re not going to respond. I was being driven to the airport from Pittsburgh a couple days ago, talking to the driver, 55 years old, his family was Baptist, he himself was not Baptist. And he said he prays daily, he believes there’s a God but that no one can really know this God and it’s more like a karma kind of thing for him. And I said to him, Do you believe that if God created us that he can speak to us and reveal himself? He said, Yeah, but who knows this one says this, and this one in the Bible says that. I said, Have you ever asked God, God, if you really there, would you make yourself known to me? He said, No one’s ever asked me that question. And I’ve never thought of it. 55 years old. He said the way you asked it, he said, No. I’ve never done that. But I’m going to. So don’t believe what someone else says their testimony may influence you get you thinking, but you have to know God for yourself. You know, we talked about Hell and difficult issues. But the thing that I know 49 years of walking with the Lord, he’s incredibly patient, and incredibly long suffering, and he doesn’t treat us the way our sins deserve. Otherwise the whole human race would have been wiped out a long time ago. And the ultimate expression of who he is, is that he sends His Son to die on the cross,that whoever will can believe in him and receive eternal life and be spared from coming judgment. And God is not desiring that anyone perishes. So whatever realities there are about judgment, Hell, these difficult questions, the ultimate revelation of God and scriptures that God is love, and that he sends His Son to die for us. I would encourage folks to look at Jesus, and listen to Jesus and find out who he really is. And when they do, it’ll be life changing.
JULIE ROYS 45:50
And I love that you bring that God said, If you seek me with your whole heart, you will find me. So I do just thank God for your ministry and for your encouragement along those lines. And I just appreciate your willingness to take the time and to answer these things that Abraham Piper is saying, so thank you so much, Dr. Brown, great spending time with you again.
DR. MICHAEL BROWN 46:11
Yeah, and Julie, let me say this to you. I have appreciated your integrity over the years and your pursuit of truth. I know it’s cost you a lot. But it’s how we have to live. So I know you want to honor the Lord and pursuing truth has been painful and difficult, but but in the end, it will help. In the end, it’ll bring healing in the end unless we recognize what’s wrong. We can’t fix it and do what’s right. So bless you for your ministry as well. I appreciate it.
JULIE ROYS 46:35
Oh, thank you for saying that. I appreciate that. And thanks so much for listening to The Roys Report, a podcast dedicated to reporting the truth and restoring the church. I’m Julie Roys. Again. If you’d like to find me online and stay in loop with everything that’s going on with The Roys Report just go to Julieroys.com. Also, please subscribe to The Roys Report on Apple podcasts or Google podcasts. That way you’ll never miss an episode. And while you’re at it, I’d really appreciate it if you’d help us spread the word about the podcast by leaving a review and then share the podcast on social media so more people can hear about it. Again, thanks so much for joining me. I hope you have a great day and God bless.