Welcome to the Q&R (Question & Response) page for ECHO: Ascent. Over the past year, we undertook to demonstrate the importance of thinking critically about the issues surrounding our faith. We started with Truth. This topic is the most important topic within all of the discussions we have had over that past year. Everything we have talked about since September (when we started our talk on Truth) derives its meaning from the topic of Truth.

Here is the ECHO: Student Ministry Facebook page and on there is all of the video sessions we have recorded and posted over the past Fall semester of 2020 (This includes talks given on various topics, followed by the Q&R for that particular topic as well). We covered topics such as Truth, Reliability, and Authority of Scripture, The Gospel of Mark Q&R, The Historicity of the Resurrection of Jesus, as well as the Decision Making and the Will of God.

We have since started a Podcast. Which we will be posting our first season here in the next few weeks.

We are so excited to dive into the topics that concern our students and their culture! Please leave any additional questions in the comments section and we will address them as soon as possible.

Below are the questions that our students asked during our Q&R Sessions on Truth.

Topic 1: Truth

The topic of truth is fundamentally the most important topic we covered this past year.

Session 1: What is Truth?

S1Q1: If we’re told that we would be killed if we believe in God, what would you do?

S1A1: This is a very interesting question as it pertains to the idea of truth. We must understand that the limitation on a person’s ability to believe whatever they want is the right of a person intrinsically. In his book, The Gulag Archipelago, the author (Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn) speaks about this idea, in that people’s rights, in general, were being infringed upon. As citizen’s in a free society this is what we are required to stand against. Any person has the right to believe anything, however, that belief does not mean it is true.

In the end, as a follower of Christ, I would hope that I would choose to abandon this life for the sake of the truth. That a supreme being (according to Aquinas) has caused existence and has moved toward his creation in love and care in order to have a complete relationship with them. If he is willing to die for me, I would hope I would be willing to die for him.

S1Q2: In Biblical times would the flat earth be a truth? Q: What about things in science that we believe to be true now that may be found out to be false later (i.e. the Earth to be flat)?

S1A2: The short answer is, no. The simple reason being that our understanding of the truth or fact of the shape of the earth has changed. This is the idea that truth does not change, but our belief about certain facts is what changes. This is actually an example of this point. Another is the idea of gravity. We did not know why things fell to the ground, but we knew that things fell. It wasn’t until Newton’s work with mass and attraction that we were able to describe and predict how gravity works (Note: Einstein really made a lot of headway there as well).

S1Q3: Can a belief based on coherence appear to be a truth based on correspondence?

S1A3: Coherence is understood a something that fits together. So, a story can be coherent but also not true. These are considered conspiracy theories, or really good fictional stories (i.e. Stranger Things, Lord of the Rings, Starwars, etc.,). However, we know these stories are not true, because they do not correspond to what is actual, or what is real. So, the answer to this question is, yes, but it is not because of coherence that something is true, it is because the story that is able to be understood (i.e. coherent) is represented in reality, it corresponds to what is real.

S1Q4: Is it correct that things we now call “true” could be proven false later?

S1A4: Yes! See the question “In Biblical Times would the flat earth be a truth?” This is why we need to hold some things loosely. But we need to remember that it is our belief or understanding that we correct or completely reject because we have found it to be “false.”  However, axioms, or basic principles technically termed as First Principles, are premises that are true by definition. That means there is nothing needed to prove them to be true, they are just true (i.e. A=A, or Law of Noncontradiction, Law of Excluded Middle aka either/or). These concepts cannot be proven false. Proving these principles false requires the very use of the principles themselves in order to make sense. Understanding these First Principles allows us to build out a further understanding of truth (e.g. God exists or God does not exist. It cannot be both, the being of God must either exist or not exist).

S1Q5: How do we discuss the real truth with someone who has a different belief of what their “truth” is?

S1A5: Two answers to this question. First, ask questions. It is often the case that someone seems to have “different beliefs,” but the same values (i.e. do not murder, telling a lie at the cost of someone else is bad). So, focus on the values that we all have in common and build out to the ideas that lead to those common values. Second, note that just because someone has a “different belief” doesn’t mean you are wrong, nor you are right. But remembering first principles, logic, and civil discourse, are the key ingredients for discussing differences in “beliefs.” Regardless of the subject, these beliefs may be around.

S1Q6: What’s the truth when it comes to Gender identity and who you’re attracted to?

S1A6: This question is a very big question. Our hope is to answer these questions between 100-200 words. This is much bigger and requires much more attention than we can give here. However, scripture does have something to say about gender, sexuality, mental health, equality, justice, and identity. All such topics are vitally important to this topic. Here is a list of resources that can help you navigate this topic.

Mark Yarhouse, is a leading Psychologist who has an incredible knowledge of the subject of gender identity and its effects and challenges: https://psychologyandchristianity.wordpress.com/. Mark has also written extensively on the topics. I would recommend Understanding Gender Dysphoria, as well as Understanding Sexual Identity, as to very good resources that can help navigate from a Christian worldview.

Session 2: How do we know what is True?

S2Q1: If killing innocent people is wrong what would you say about killing a “guilty” person like Hitler?

S2Q1: This question begs the question of what does “guilty” mean? What level of guilt is ascribed the person? And what does God say about the atrocities being committed that need human intervention? Which ultimately raises the question of can one the justification of killing a guilty party be rectified based on the Biblical narrative?

Take the Canaanites as a prime example of this. In a series of articles by Clay Jones, he writes about the atrocities these people committed. The details of these articles are too graphic to post here, but the historical documentation he has compiled displays a level of evil that any society would recognize as inhumane and sub-human. He then builds out the case that America is not far off from the things these evil people did (he speaks of the details of sexuality within that society and compares it to America specifically and western society in general with staggering parallelism).1

These people were destroyed! Completely and totally obliterated; at the command of God Israel carried this out. And when Israel failed to follow the command of annihilating these wicked and dehumanizing nations and societies, they fell into the same sins and atrocities as these nations. So, to answer your question in unabated precision, it is my opinion that yes, killing a person like Hitler would be completely justified in one had the opportunity to do so and save the lives of countless others from the evil and atrocities committed especially if those evils are done “in the name of Christ.”

1Emphasis added within historical documentation. If you would like to see the articles feel free to reach out to myself, or Randy, for the content. It must be stated that it is mature content and is not appropriate for all audiences.

S2Q2: “Is something worth believing if it’s rational…” It is hard for us to wrap our minds around God, and that He created everything. Wouldn’t God be irrational?

S2A2: A concept is not considered “irrational” because it is hard to understand. A concept is understood as “irrational” because it cannot be understood based on the understanding of what is true. In other words, something that is difficult to understand can still be true, while something incredibly simple to understand can be false (i.e. The Trinity vs. a Unicorn). So, no, God is not irrational because he or the idea of him is “hard to understand” or “wrap our minds around.” But rather First principles and the laws of logic point out, a supreme being is actually very rational.

S2Q3: Can we actually know any truth or is everything just our belief of what truth is?

S2A3: With 100% certainty? These types of things are not as common as one might think. You can have a “perfect induction,” like all of the words on this page are in black ink. This is testable, isolated to this sing page, so therefore it is observable. But there are certain things you cannot know with 100% certainty.1 But you can still know something based on 1st principles. Take, for example, You say, “I do not exist.” You are confirming your own existence in order to make such a claim. Said a different way, you know you exist because to deny you exist means you must exist to deny it. It is starting with this premise that allows you to understand certain things with more reasonable certainty. This is done through the logical and observational ideas of inductive and deductive reasoning.

1 See I Don’t Have Enough Faith to be an Atheist, 62-65, which lays out some foundational elements for knowing certain things, through the use of induction and deduction.

S2A4: So one “day” in the story of genesis isn’t necessarily the same as our 24-hour definition of a day?

S2A4: This question falls more into the science discussion which we will have later this coming spring in our “Science and God” discussion. However, the question as it pertains to what is true is a great example of the oversimplification of the biblical text. We must understand poetry and genre, not to mention the point of the Bible. Let’s start there. The point of the Bible is not to be a scientific textbook. So, when you hear the term day (with no other descriptive attachment, e.g. see Ps. 90.4 and 2 Pet. 3.8), then it is safe to say that the original intent of the use of the word is the length of a day (e.g. 24 hours). However, this does not distract from the point of the passage in and of itself (remember it is not saying evolution is false, nor is it saying evolution is true, it actually says nothing about evolution at all). Because within a literary form of the genre this is poetry and it is the express the beauty with which a supreme being, with supreme power, cerated in a supreme way. We should not, nor can we, make the Biblical account say more or less than it does.1

1For more of a discussion on this topic and a great explanation of a tough passage see,

The Big Book of Bible Difficulties: Clear and Concise Answers from Genesis to Revelation, by Norman L. Geisler and Thomas Howe, pg. 32-33

The lost world of Genesis One: Ancient Cosmology and the Origins Debate, by John H. Walton (An expert in Ancient Near Eastern thought and history).

For two very dense articulations of Intelligent design and how science and God are not mutually exclusive, see

Darwin’s Doubt: The Explosive Origin of Animal Life and the Case for Intelligent Design, by Stephen C. Meyer (who also authored Signature in the Cell).

Scient & Faith: Friends or Foes? By C. John Collins.

S2Q6: When you said that everyone believes killing someone is wrong, did you take into account the Incas, Aztecs, (Cultures that believed in human sacrifices, Nazis, etc.,)? 

S2A6: These cultures, in particular Incas, Aztecs, Canaanites, or other societies that killed someone for typically religious reasonings, had a very high appreciation for human life. That is why they are sacrificing humans and not goats. Humans are more valuable than goats. “Sacrifices played an important role in this system. As the food of the gods, it is arguably the most important provision to sustain their presence, favor and the smooth operation of the cosmos.”1 However, it is this exact idea of garnering “favor” and main “the control center” of the cosmos, or even one’s particular world, that leads to a problem. It leads us to think we can control the God who created everything. This is why the second commandment of the Ten Commandments is “You shall not make for yourself a carved image or any likeness of anything that is in Heaven above or on the earth beneath or that is in the water below. You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I, the Lord, your God, am a jealous God, responding to the transgression of fathers by dealing with children to the third and fourth generations of those who reject me…”2

A distinction within this answer needs to be made. Nazi’s were not doing human sacrifices. They were exterminating what they considered to be rodents; people who did not hold to the same values they did, an idea not too far from our current society. We must be cautious when we hear people talk about “a unity” to only align with their definition and application of unity. This is actually tyranny masquerading as unity.3 

1 John H. Walton, Ancient Near Eastern Thought and the Old Testament: Introducing the Conceptual World of the Hebrew Bible (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2006), 132-33, Logos Edition. This particular reference also talks about “Conventions for the transference of the foods…” in that the item needed to be completely destroyed in order to make it to the “para-human world.”

2 NET Bible Exodus 20.4-5.

3 Speaking of the absolutely appalling travesties and actions undertaken by Stalin and the Soviet Union, a much more disgusting and wretched society, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn said in The Gulag Archipelago 1918-1956, “There always is this fallacious belief: ‘It would not be the same here; here such things are impossible.” Alas, all the evil of the twentieth century is possible everywhere on earth.” To this which I would add, even in America.

S2Q7: How can the Big Bang co-exist with Christianity because in the bible it states that God created the Earth in 7 days when the Big Bang doesn’t correlate with that?

S2A7: Understanding the importance of exclusive statements is really important for this answer. First, and foremost, the literal and figurative meaning of Genesis is a question for our discussion on Origins. Second, the Big Bang and God creating the world in 7 days are not “mutually exclusive.”1 The concept of the Big Bang needs an “ignition.” Science points to the Big Bang as being the origin of reality. This means that there had to have been something to start, or ignite, the explosion.2 A Christian merely posits that God is that ignition. Establishing this idea that God is that ignition, we can then articulate the idea that Genesis 1 & 2 have a poetic narrative feel to them. So, while some things in poetry are taken as factual (i.e. historical events well attested to), poetic license (i.e. John 6.53 – you must eat Jesus body and drink his blood in order to be saved), even in today’s literature, needs to be taken into account.

1 See Ch. 3: In the Beginning There Was a Great SURGE, in I Don’t Have Enough Faith To Be an Atheist. In this chapter, the authors talk about how they actually see the Big Bang as evidence for God’s existence not as an argument against it. 

2 This is the Law of Causality – a condition or situation which brings about a certain effect. In other words, the Law of causality states that nonbeing cannot cause being (see Geisler, Christian Apologetics, 2nd ed., 10). For a much deeper discussion of this idea see ch. 5 – “The First Life: Natural Law or Divine Awe?” in I Don’t Have Enough Faith To Be An Atheist.

S2Q8: How literally can we interpret the Bible (Genesis) ex: if we argue that parts of Genesis are a metaphor, does that question the validity of the whole Bible?

S2A8:  There are two pretty dominant campgrounds on this (think about a state park campground). You have the campground that there is only one “literal” interpretation of the passage (i.e. it says seven days, it means seven 24-hour days and nothing else). The other campground is that it is poetry and more of a mythological discussion regarding the idea of a deity creating all of reality. But this is no different than any of the other creation accounts we have discovered (i.e. the Enuma Elish – Babylonian mythological writing speaking of the origin of the gods and reality). Think of these two campgrounds on opposite sides of the forest, with lots of little “backcountry” campsites. These backcountry sites are different variations of these two ideas.1

The answer falls to purpose. We must understand that Genesis is not giving you a scientific understanding or explanation of how God created, other than that he caused it to happen. The Bible is not a scientific text, as we think of a scientific textbook. It is a text to reveal to you the author of science, the creator of reality. The Bible has implications for science, and when held in this light, science also has implications for the Bible. So, when you read Genesis 1-11, read it like you would a beautiful description of an artist painting his masterpiece, or an architect building a temple, rather than a treatise on the inner workings of biology.2

 

1 Two resources which would be good to look at that fit right in the middle of this forest would be the description from a scientific exploration in Frank Turek and Norman Geisler’s work, I Don’t Have Enough Faith to Be an Atheist chapters 1-6; as well as John H. Walton’s work, The Lost World of Genesis One: Ancient Cosmology and the Origins Debate, see specifically chapters 10, 12, 13, and 18.

2 In his video lectures on YouTube, Dr. Jordan B. Peterson, an agnostic, sees the stories in Genesis as vitally important to understanding the Bible, society, our current culture, the human condition, and much more. He articulates a lot of this in his book 12 Rules For Life: Your Antidote For Chaos. However, he expresses a lot of his content in video form on his YouTube Channel. His videos although lengthy give a great look at how to interpret the Biblical narrative through a scientific lens that still holds true the interpretation for most evangelical Christians.