I mentioned in a previous article (“Answering 10 Questions about the Christian Faith”) that, as a university professor and a Christian scholar, I have been asked literally thousands of questions in my 30 plus years of teaching and engaging in Christian apologetics professionally. In fact, in the early 1990s, I worked at the Christian Research Institute (CRI) where I cohosted the Bible Answer Man radio program. In those days I fielded questions in a talk show environment.

Today I continue to answer questions, but now many come online and on social media. Answering questions about the Christian faith is necessary. The Bible encourages inquiry and Christians are called to answer people’s questions (1 Peter 3:15–16).

What follows are 10 more selected questions I was asked online over the last couple of years. Again, my answers are intentionally concise, which reflects how I respond online. Much more could be said on these important topics; please see the resource section for further information. I hope these brief answers will help you in your engagements with people who ask similar questions.

Q1: Why wasn’t Jesus sent to die for the world’s sin before the Flood of Noah? Why wasn’t the Law given to Adam and Eve after they sinned? Why are the two vehicles of salvation delayed by God? Is this proof of man’s evolution about salvation?

A: Both “lowercase” law and gospel were given right after Adam and Eve’s sinful rebellion (called protoevangelion: Genesis 3:15). According to the biblical doctrine of original sin, Adam and Eve represented humanity (Romans 5) and thus all people sinned in their rebellious acts, experiencing moral corruption, guilt, and separation from God. The Flood is part of God’s just judgment that will come in its fullness on Judgment Day. The people who lived before Christ’s atoning sacrifice were saved prospectively (accepting the promise of a future Savior). People who live after the coming of the Savior are saved retrospectively (looking back on a historical Savior). Thus, historic Christianity sees a continuity in salvation.

Q2: Since the Bible is all-sufficient it is not in need of any man’s interpretation, right?

A: When evangelicals say the Bible is sufficient they typically mean it is all that’s needed to convey salvation and how a follower of Christ is to live. Yet the Bible is a written text and thus has to be interpreted. It seems the real issue is whether we have interpreted the Bible responsibly. We seek to lead out the text’s intended meaning (exegesis) rather than read into the text our own meaning (eisegesis).

Q3: We are finite and God is infinite. Why then is God described as a male? Isn’t such a distinction limiting God from his infinite persona? He’s a king, a father, a he. Are we putting infinity in human-shaped boxes in order to understand God?

The triune God of historic Christianity is a purely spiritual being without a physical body and therefore without a sex or gender as we humans have. Some of God’s characteristics are ones we traditionally associate with a male or a father. Other characteristics are ones we traditionally associate with a female or mother. Yet Jesus Christ, who is both fully God and fully human, was a male and he taught us to call God “father.” It might be helpful to think of “father” as an analogy. That is, God is both like a human father (providing for his children) and unlike a human father (doesn’t have a wife and isn’t married). Thus the term “father” isn’t meant to be used univocally (the same exact meaning) nor equivocally (a completely different meaning) but analogically (both like and unlike).

Q4: You don’t actually interpret the Bible. You accept Christ and allow the Holy Spirit to explain it to you by continuing to read more and more of God’s Word, at which point it will all come together and make perfect sense—knowing there can be no contradictions. Correct?

A: Reading a text is interpreting a text. A reader tries to discover the author’s intended meaning. Readers do that by understanding the genre, the language, and the context. Even Jesus interpreted the Hebrew Bible (sometimes differently than his religious community did). All Christians read the Bible but sometimes they interpret or understand it differently. As God’s inspired Word we believe there will be no contradictions, but that doesn’t guarantee we have read and interpreted it correctly.

Q5: I find the Christian discussion of end times to be a difficult and confusing topic. Am I alone?

A: You are not alone.

In my small book Christian Endgame (82 pages), I offer what I think is a clear, careful, and objective primer that emphasizes prudent biblical thinking about a controversial and challenging topic.

Without telling you what I personally believe, I simply (1) discuss the ground rules of the Bible’s apocalyptic literature, (2) identify and explain the major views of historic Christian eschatology, and (3) note their major strengths and weaknesses. I then allow you to form your own critical judgment and interpretation.

In other words, I work hard to report carefully, but you ultimately decide.

Q6: Does God gives us pain in order that we would seek him?

A: Discovering that temporal realities cannot provide ultimate fulfillment in life is often deeply disappointing (existentially painful). But in that disappointment comes a severe mercy (a painful gift) from God who will not allow us to find ultimate fulfillment in anything other than himself. Thus, existential dissatisfaction is severe but it directs us to God, which is a great mercy. For believers in Christ, pain and life’s disappointments keep us tethered to the Lord. This is, in my view, the central message of St. Augustine’s classic book Confessions

Q7: What do you think of the Jesus depicted in the gospel narratives?

A: Having read through the four gospels again recently, I offer three reflections that struck me afresh:

(1) Jesus is an extraordinary miracle worker and healer right from the get-go. He seems especially drawn to people with extreme needs who express a sincere faith.

(2) Jesus is highly critical of religious hypocrisy but reaches out liberally to sinners who repent.

(3) The ones who are most confident about Jesus’s true identity are the demons Jesus encounters. As they are driven out the demons refer to Jesus in divine terms (the Son of God, the holy one of God).

Q8: Why aren’t people more persuaded by arguments?

A: In my view there’s a difference between argument on one hand and persuasion on the other. People are persuaded based on rational, irrational, or nonrational considerations. So successful persuasion isn’t a guarantee that the argument is sound or cogent.

Q9: Aren’t all Christians simpletons?

A: All of them? Athanasius, Augustine, Anselm, Aquinas, Ockham, Pascal, Galilei, Copernicus, Kepler, Descartes, Boyle, Leibniz, Newton, Maxwell, Mendel, Kelvin, Lemaître, Gödel, Jaki, Lewis, Sandage, Polkinghorne, Plantinga, Wolterstorff, Swinburne, Craig, McGrath, Wright, Ratzinger, Adler . . .

Q10: What do you do when you encounter a clash of ideas and opinions on social media and you strongly suspect a genuine respectful exchange of ideas isn’t going to happen?

A: I try to make sure my reasoning is careful and my delivery is respectful. Then I end the exchange and allow others who may read my comments to form their own judgments on the matter. By the way, I crashed and burned a few times before I learned this strategy.

I hope these questions and my brief answers will motivate you to think carefully about the historic Christian faith.

Reflections: Your Turn 
Which question are you most interested in? 

Resources

Here are five books I’ve written to address various questions about the Christian faith:

Check out more from Reasons to Believe @Reasons.org

About The Author

Kenneth R. Samples

I believe deeply that "all truth is God’s truth." That historic affirmation means that when we discover and grasp truth in the world and in life we move closer to its divine Author. This approach relies on the Christian idea of God’s two revelatory books - the metaphorical book of nature and the literal book of Scripture. As an RTB scholar I have a great passion to help people understand and see the truth and relevance of Christianity's truth-claims. My writings and lectures at RTB focus on showing how the great doctrinal truths of the faith (the Trinity, the Incarnation, the Atonement, creation ex nihilo, salvation by grace, etc.) are uniquely compatible with reason. This approach reflects the historic Christian apologetics statement - "faith seeking understanding." I work to help myself and others fulfill Peter's words in 2 Peter 3:18: "But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and forever! Amen." As an RTB scholar I have a great passion to help people understand and see the truth and relevance of Christianity's truth-claims. • Biography • Resources • Upcoming Events • Promotional Items Kenneth Richard Samples began voraciously studying Christian philosophy and theology when his thirst for purpose found relief in the Bible. He earned his undergraduate degree in philosophy and social science from Concordia University and his MA in theological studies from Talbot School of Theology. For seven years, Kenneth worked as Senior Research Consultant and Correspondence Editor at the Christian Research Institute (CRI) and regularly cohosted the popular call-in radio program, The Bible Answer Man, with Dr. Walter Martin. As a youth, Kenneth wrestled with "unsettling feelings of meaninglessness and boredom," driving him to seek answers to life's big questions. An encounter with Christian philosophy in Mere Christianity by C. S. Lewis led Kenneth to examine the New Testament and "finally believe that Jesus Christ is the divine Son of God, the Lord and Savior of the world." From then on, he pursued an intellectually satisfying faith. Today, as senior research scholar at Reasons to Believe (RTB), Kenneth uses what he's learned to help others find the answers to life's questions. He encourages believers to develop a logically defensible faith and challenges skeptics to engage Christianity at a philosophical level. He is the author of Without a Doubt and A World of Difference, and has contributed to numerous other books, including: Lights in the Sky and Little Green Men, The Cult of the Virgin, and Prophets of the Apocalypse. He has written articles for Christianity Today and The Christian Research Journal, and regularly participates in RTB's podcasts, including Straight Thinking, a podcast dedicated to encouraging Christians to utilize sound reasoning in their apologetics. He also writes for the ministry's daily blog, Today’s New Reason to Believe. An avid speaker and debater, Kenneth has appeared on numerous radio programs such as Voice America Radio, Newsmakers, The Frank Pastore Show, Stand to Reason, White Horse Inn, Talk New York, and Issues Etc., as well as participated in debates and dialogues on topics relating to Christian doctrine and apologetics. He currently lectures for the Master of Arts program in Christian Apologetics at Biola University. Kenneth also teaches adult classes at Christ Reformed Church in Southern California. Over the years Kenneth has held memberships in the American Philosophical Association, the Evangelical Philosophical Society, the Evangelical Theological Society, and the Evangelical Press Association. The son of a decorated World War II veteran, Kenneth is an enthusiastic student of American history, particularly the Civil War and WWII. His favorite Christian thinkers include Athanasius, Augustine, Pascal, and C. S. Lewis. He greatly enjoys the music of the Beatles and is a die-hard Los Angeles Lakers fan. Kenneth lives in Southern California with his wife, Joan, and their three children.



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