Ask Kasey Leander (September 17-21, 2018)


(Carson Weitnauer) #1

Hi friends,

@Kasey_Leander is available to answer your questions! Personally, I feel a kinship with Kasey as we are both ardent fans of the beautiful game. By which, of course, I mean ultimate frisbee.

In addition to this, Kasey is thankfully a highly trained and incredibly kind apologist. His heart is to serve the church and to graciously welcome the spiritually curious into a relationship with Jesus.

I know that you will benefit from his insights and care as you ask your questions. I believe that your input and his responses will benefit each of us as we seek to grow to maturity in Christ.

If you want updates for future weeks with the RZIM team, join the @Interested_In_Ask_RZIM group or update your notifications to ‘watching first post’ for the #ask-rzim Category.


Kasey Leander’s bio:

Kasey Leander is a Fellow with the Oxford Centre for Christian Apologetics (OCCA). Prior to his time at OCCA, Kasey earned an undergraduate degree in history and PPE (Politics, Philosophy, and Economics) from Taylor University. While at Taylor, Kasey served in various ministry roles on campus and was active in student government. He has also worked briefly in politics, serving as an intern in the US Senate in Washington, DC.

Through all this, a love of discussing the big questions of life has led Kasey into full-time apologetics ministry. As an OCCA Fellow, he enjoys speaking on topics such as the need for God in moral reasoning, the philosophical underpinnings of popular culture, and the historical basis of the Christian message. In a world of increasing ideological divergence, Kasey’s great joy has been exploring the peace, truth, and clarity of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Kasey originally hails from Colorado Springs, Colorado, and is a huge fan of Chipotle, good books, and ultimate frisbee.

(Bill Brander) #3

I am in week #6 of the RZIM course, which is week #1 of morality. (I can see why some of us need two weeks to grasp these concepts.) So, at the end of week #1, I must confess that I am still not comprehending the topic. Ergo, a question of Kasey, please.

Objective morality, how do you describe it and attribute it to God?

Thank you


(Joel Vaughn) #4

Hi Kasey,
My question is about Paul’s admonition about women in 1 Timothy 2. Apologists often bring in the cultural context of the time and place, which is no doubt important to consider. But on its own that doesn’t explain the relevance of Paul’s reference to Adam and Eve. The reference to childbearing also seems like a nod to Eve. (This is not to say that such a superficial reading of this passage does not also pose problems.) The Adam and Eve reference seems a little more relevant to the situation in 2 Tim. 3:6 than to anything in 1 Timothy; it begs the question of why it is important to remember that Eve was deceived. And then there’s the fact that immediately after this part about women, the 3rd chapter goes into describing potential overseers and deacons as married men, and seems like it is only talking about the wives of these potential leaders in 1 Tim. 3:11. How does an egalitarian and contextual reading of 1 Tim. 2 make sense of the Genesis story and the subsequent qualifications for church office?

(Samuel Biswas) #5

Hi Kasey,
I have 2 questions.

1.As people are born with the faith of their family and traditionally they follow it ( as they don’t have a choice of their birth religion) ,so how would it be fair if they aren’t aware of the Gospel. Now I understand their are religious conversions from one faith to another but as a matter of fact much of remains with the faith of their origin. So how do we answer this issue.

2.We as Christians believe that man cannot save his life by works no matter how good it be. Could you please explain why man cannot be saved by works as I hear most of the time the first part but the latter one remains unanswered. This will help me to engage with people of other Faiths.

Thank you.

(Kasey Leander) #6

Hi Bill-

Great to meet you, and thanks for your question! I’ve heard the RZIM course on morality is fantastic, so I’ll be eager to hear your thoughts as the week progresses.

I’ll post some of my initial thoughts, but I would love to hear more from you too, to see if I’m hitting the mark!

So, here’s the simplest answer answer to your question: objective morality is the idea that right and wrong are not defined by what anyone says about them. In other words, they are true facts about the universe, regardless of anyone’s thoughts or opinions, just like 2+2 will always be 4, even if everyone you ever meet says otherwise. Sometimes people will talk about “moral realism,” which is more or less the same thing: morality = REAL, not something people made up.

The alternative to objective morality is moral relativism , which teaches that right and wrong are not objective facts about the universe, but are actually different for each person ( morality = RELATIVE, it changes depending on your perspective. Another word for this is “subjective morality.”)

I’ve always found it hard to imagine a world where moral relativism is true, because it leads to some astounding conclusions. For example, if right and wrong are only in the eye of the beholder, nothing is truly good or bad- the only thing that matters is how you feel about it. Hitler’s actions, for example, would be no more right or wrong than Mother Teresa’s: they both would only be doing what was right in their own eyes.

The question of morality looms large in the public discourse, and it’s important for us to understand why. This is where God enters the picture.

For Christians, morality has always been objective: it has existed outside of anyone’s opinions, because it has always been determined by God and his character! The Bible is chalk-full of descriptions of God as the perfect judge who establishes righteousness. Like it says in Psalm 89: “Righteousness and justice are the foundation of your throne; love and faithfulness go before you.”

In the Christian worldview, our perspectives don’t change the facts of right and wrong- it would be like trying to change the sum of 2+2 (or like stubbing your toe on a sharp rock. Just like objective morality, that rock ain’t going anywhere- it’s your toe that’s going to take the brunt of the impact!)

But without God, what happens?

This is the debate that is raging in philosophy and culture right now.

Some people say that right and wrong are still objective facts, even if God doesn’t exist. But the natural question to ask is, “says who?”

Obviously, in a world without God, people still think things like murder and robbery are wrong… but we can just as easily ask, “why does it matter what people think, especially since people so often disagree with each other?”

As a result, the route many people have taken is the route of moral relativism: that right and wrong aren’t objective truths, so the best bet we have is to just do what we can to get along.

To many, this seems like a good compromise! But there are a lot of problems that inevitably arise.

  • What do we say to people whose actions are clearly evil- (murderers, rapists, dictators) if their morality is merely a matter of opinion? Were the crimes of Hitler, Mao and Stalin only bad from our point of view?

  • How can a society that has abandoned truths about right and wrong continue to head in the “right” direction?

  • Why should we rely only on our feelings about right and wrong when they lead us astray in so many other areas?

There is so much more to be said on this question, so I’ll wait for your response and we can take it from there!

Further resources:

Have you heard Ravi’s answer to this question at University of Pennsylvania? It’s awesome (though obviously I’m insanely biased :wink:)

If you haven’t read it, I also would highly recommend the first chapter of Mere Christianity called “The Law of Human Nature.” CS Lewis is the OG (original gangster) of Christian apologetics for a reason- he’s clear, compelling, and fun to read.

Third, if you haven’t heard me ramble on about this topic long enough, here’s a talk I did at MIT entitled “Do we need God to make moral judgements?” It’s on this page, if you scroll down!

Sorry for the massive post Bill! Looking forward to hearing your take!

(Kasey Leander) #7

Hi Joel!

Glad to see you’re going for the jugular with the classic most-difficult-verse-in-the-entire-Bible question :stuck_out_tongue_winking_eye: In all seriousness, I really appreciate you bringing it up, and the consideration you’ve obviously put into it already.

As my friend Nathan Rittenhouse likes to say about difficult conundrums, “thousands of trees have given their lives to answering this question.”

That’s definitely true of 1 Timothy 2. A lot of intelligent, godly Christians have disagreed over what this passage means. Unlike them, I’m not an expert- my thoughts are still being informed as I learn more! So- while I can’t give a systematic answer to everything you’re asking, I definitely want to give you a few considerations that have helped me frame the debate.

Here they are:

First, if the Bible is the word of God, then it has to win out in our lives, even if its message contradicts huge swaths of culture. Every Christian has to start here- we should never let culture dictate our theology.

But - there’s some irony in that for us 21st century Christians. Why? Because the Bible directly contradicted huge swaths of culture 2,000 years ago, when it radically challenged the theological and sociological status of women across the ancient world. If you and I were two Greek men having this discussion in 1st Century Phillipi, the Bible’s assertions of the equal value of men and women in Christ would have really messed with our worldview. We would be talking about the ways Christian women who had previously been temple prostitutes had encountered the way of Jesus, and how it was hurting our religious institutions. Maybe even our money-making-demon-possessed slave girl had been liberated by Paul and Timothy… as they were walking to the home of the prominent Christian woman who was hosting them (Acts 17).

I say that just for big-picture context. The Bible was good news for women in the ancient world!

The next thing that strikes me is Paul’s theological context. It matters!

  • Paul would certainly know the story of Deborah, the prophet of Israel who led the nation to victory over Canaanites (Judges 4 and 5.) Interesting to note here is that Deborah, a prophet and a judge, rules Israel with only passing acknowledgment given to her husband Lappidoth. (Judges 4:4). This story sticks out to me. When Paul says, “I do not permit a woman to have authority over a man,” should we assume he forgot about Deborah? Not likely! How exactly Deborah’s story impacts his answer is obviously part of the question we’re trying to answer, but this is an amazing example of a famous, godly Israelite woman who answered the call to leadership. To me, this makes it even more unlikely that Paul was issuing a categorical blanket statement about all women always remaining silent or refraining from any and all types of leadership.

  • In 1 Corinthians 11:15, Paul assumes that women are prophesying (speaking) in church. Don’t forget about Anna the prophetess (Luke 2:36) or Phillips’ four daughters who prophesied (Acts 21:8). Presumably, all of these women were encouraged to speak their prophesies, even by Paul’s own words to the whole congregation (1 Cor 14:5 “I wish you all would speak in tongues….”), which would have been part of the fulfilment of Joel 2:28 "And afterward, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your old men will dream dreams, your young men will see visions.”

  • Paul’s traveling companion was Luke, who records Jesus’ interactions Jesus with Mary and Martha. The way the Son of God chose to interact with these women (and all women!) seemed intentionally designed to upset elements of the status quo. While Martha is doing housework, Mary sits at Jesus’ feet (the mark of a rabbi and disciple!) Jesus, in response, says “Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.” (Luke 10:38). The significance of that comment cannot be overstated.

  • Paul’s own words in Galatians ring down through the centuries, a hitherto unheard-of manifesto to equality before God: “There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” (Galatians 3:28)

So Paul’s worldview matters here. It’s the reason we have a discussion on our hands, not unanimous consensus when it comes to church leadership. It’s also important because of the historical context surrounding 1 Timothy.

In Ephesus, where Timothy is commissioned for ministry, there was a definite need to counteract an occult Pagan culture that abused women for religious ends. Shrine prostitution in service of Aphrodite and female priestesses like at the Oracle at Delphi would have been common spectacles. This is an important contextual point, because occult practices like those also help us make sense of what happened in Phillipi, when the demon possessed slave girl followed Paul and Timothy, screaming at the top of her lungs (Acts 16).

Occult prophesy was pervasive, loud, chaotic, and clearly exploitative of the women involved- kept as ritual prostitutes in service of the temple and fortune tellers to make money for their owners. In stark contrast to the pagan practices going on around them, Paul wants the Christians to be self controlled so that “we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness.”

It’s entirely possible that some of those shrine prostitutes or pagan oracles had joined the church at Ephesus, but either way, the brand-new church had a long way to go to differentiate itself from the culture around it. Whereas pagan worship is chaotic, Christians are to be quiet and orderly. Whereas pagan values are focused on outwards appearances (loud ceremony, golden jewelry), Christian values are to be matters of the heart- inward beauty. Whereas so many pagan women were being used for religious purposes, Christian women “are to be worthy of respect, not malicious talkers but temperate and trustworthy in everything.” (1 Tim 3:11)

Finally, Paul’s literary context sheds light on the passage. Personally, I always want to tend to tread lightly when interpreting literary context - but I’ll lay out a few points others have made that I think are worth noting:

  • Paul’s reason for his instructions to Timothy is that the Church will refine it’s witness to the world: to pray for kings and those in authority “that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness.” So the purpose of this section to Timothy is to make sure that the Christians are conscientious of doing what is good and right, so that their witness to the culture around them is pure and godly. There are a lot of examples of how this plays out!

  • First, Paul’s exhortation to slaves :“All who are under the yoke of slavery should consider their masters worthy of full respect, so that God’s name and our teaching may not be slandered.” (1 Tim 6:1) Does Paul think slavery is acceptable? Absolutely not! He’s clear about this in 1 Cor 7:23, “You were bought with a price; do not become slaves of human beings.”

  • Nevertheless- Paul’s primary intention when writing to the early churches was not to script out ethics of slavery (which, again, he doesn’t condone!) but to make sure that the Church maintained the purity of its witness in the eyes of the culture around them: “All who are under the yoke of slavery should consider their masters worthy of full respect, so that God’s name and our teaching may not be slandered.”

  • Another strong parallel: Christians are to respect even unjust rulers. Why? Not because unjust leadership is somehow acceptable, but because of the radical example of Christ and the witness to the world: “This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.” There’s a theological grounding for this too: rulers are instituted by God (Romans 13:1). The early church stayed the course in the days of Nero. But the question hasn’t gone away- we’ve had to grapple with this in our own time as well. Just ask Deitrich Bonhoeffer.

So, when it comes to the relationship of men and women, and the leadership of the church, Paul wants the men in Ephesus to pray without anger or disputing, and he wants the women in Ephesus to learn quietly, respecting the leadership of the men. The relevant question: to what extent are Paul’s words specifically calculated to contrast to the culture of Ephesus around them, and to what extent are they a commentary on the God’s universal plan for how men and women should always interact? My gut reaction says, some of both. But it’s an interesting question to ask.

For me, this context informs your specific questions about deacons. It would seem like Paul is insinuating that the church leadership would be primarily men. On the flip side, I know a lot of people who point to the existence of deaconesses in the early church (like Pheobe in Romans 16:1). I’m still learning more, but to me, it looks like the presence of female deacons certainly could have been the case.

On the questions you raised re: Genesis- they deserve their own post, which is beyond my capacity to deliver (sorry!!) It’s obvious that there is some deep and nuanced theology here. For example, Gen 3:16: “Your desire will be for your husband, but he will rule over you.” Those are God’s words- but they are a part of the curse! Another example: the enmity of the snake is between him and the woman (specifically!) It’s between his offspring and hers. I have no real comment- other than, it seems like there is a deeper mystery than this humble RZIM connect post can handle :smirk:

Overall, the advice I’ve been given is to take the context of the chapters seriously- not to explain away difficult truths about scripture (there are plenty of those!) but to truly find God’s heart for women and men. To do that, we need the whole story of the Bible, and we need it in it’s most faithful context.

Thanks for the question Joel! Curious to hear your thoughts!

(Megan Lykke) #8

hello fellow coloradian! i would love to know what resources you recommend for the historical basis of the christian faith ( or any other favorite resources for that matter)

(Kasey Leander) #9

Hi Sam!

Really appreciate your questions. I’ll take a shot at answering them- hope there’s some useful info here for you! Apologizing in advance for this massive post… in the words of Mark Twain, “I didn’t have time to write a short letter, so I wrote a long one instead.” :stuck_out_tongue_winking_eye:

So, first: how could it be fair for God to let millions of people never hear the good news of Jesus? This is a pretty common objection to the Christian faith, and it can be a tough one! It seems difficult to believe that millions and millions of people could be wrong in their beliefs about God, and never given a chance to hear otherwise.

I think what’s been important for us as Christians to do first is to break down “the question behind the question.” In other words, why is this so troubling to people? In my opinion, when people ask that question, their thought process goes something like this: “Christianity teaches that people are only saved if they know about Jesus. But if God were real and fair , he would save everyone in a way that they could equally understand, no matter where they lived or what they knew. Because Jesus is only known by a few people, either the God of the Bible isn’t the real God, or he is unfair (in which case, I don’t want to worship him!)”

Let’s go through and answer some of these assumptions. Personally, I think the best way to do this is to ask questions!

First, would it be unfair for God to offer an exclusive path to eternal life?

Here’s an example I find helpful from medicine, and it has to do with the differences between colds and cancer.

If you are diagnosed with a cold, there are a lot of different things you can do to help get better. You can take some vitamin C, you can get a lot of extra sleep, etc. You could even do what my mom made us do growing up: chug about a gallon of “Mrs. Bragg’s [horrible, nasty, bad] Apple Cider Vinegar,™️” (Man, I can still taste that stuff in my imagination :dizzy_face:)

Mostly, though, because our immune systems can handle a common cold on their own, there’s not an exclusive way to fight them.

But what if you were diagnosed with a cancerous tumor? What if the problem you had was so severe that there was only one possible way to get rid of it? In the case of some cancers, the only answer that is going to work is surgery. You can’t fight cancer using whatever means you want: you have to fight it using only what works.

Here’s where I’m going with this: humanity’s problem with sin and death is a lot more like cancer than it is like a cold. We would never criticize a doctor for exclusively recommending surgery to take out cancer, if that was indeed the only way to beat it.

Likewise, if humanity’s problem is total bondage to sin and death, can we really say it is unfair of God to offer only the solution that works? If Jesus actually is who he says he is, then our problem is more cancer than cold, and trust in Jesus is the exclusive way we have to follow…. if we want to live.

This is what scripture tells us: “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.” Acts 4:12 (also Romans 10:8, John 14:6)

I find that it is can be really helpful to first establish this point about exclusivity. Just because something is “exclusive” doesn’t make it untrue! In fact, the world is full of agonizing exclusive answers like this- there are a lot of examples we can bring up to prove our point!

But the bottom line is this: Jesus is the only path to eternal life because, as God’s one and only Son, he is the only one who can actually fix our problem! As one hymn puts it “He came to pay a debt he did not owe because we owed a debt we could not pay.”

This is also the answer to your question about good works. If we could be saved by the good things we do, the world would be a lot more like the “I have a cold,” scenario. We could do a lot to help ourselves out, because at the end of the day, our problem would just be a tiny cold.

But I would argue strongly that our world is a lot more like the “I have cancer,” scenario. That’s an extremely difficult truth, and I’m not trying to make light of it. Most of us human beings work so hard to convince ourselves that everything is okay, but the truth is that life is deadly serious. We all have spiritual cancer. We’re all on borrowed time. To think that even our best works can save us is like taking a whole lot of Vitamin C in hopes that it will cure our cancer. In truth, no amount of vitamins can fix the problem: we need spiritual surgery!

And that is the UNBELIEVABLE news of Jesus: he is God’s bullet-proof solution to our own sin. By taking our place on the cross, he saved us from a fate we had absolutely no hope of escaping ourselves:

“All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. It is by his great mercy that we have been born again, because God raised Jesus Christ from the dead. Now we live with great expectation, and we have a priceless inheritance—an inheritance that is kept in heaven for you, pure and undefiled, beyond the reach of change and decay. And through your faith, God is protecting you by his power until you receive this salvation, which is ready to be revealed on the last day for all to see.” (1 Peter 3)

It’s important to hold on to this truth: for us as human beings, it’s Jesus or bust. If we accept him as Lord, we will be saved. If we reject him, we “stand condemned already.” (John 3:17)

So! Back to the question about the people who never hear about Jesus, or who are in a different religion Christianity. I’m going to list off a few different points others have made that have helped me answer this question.

1) God tells us his desire is to show mercy to undeserving people (even before Jesus walked the earth) Even if, at the end of the day, you and I don’t have a definitive answer to whether/how God goes about reaching people who haven’t heard, we can take comfort in who he is. The Bible is absolutely chalk-full of examples, especially in the Old Testament, where God desires to show mercy to those who seek it! Some of these examples are specific to Israel, but all of them show God’s heart for mercy:

  • “Come now, let us settle the matter,” says the Lord. “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool.” Isaiah 1:18:

  • “The Lord is gracious and full of compassion, slow to anger and great in mercy. The Lord is good to all, and His tender mercies are over all His works.” Psalm 145:8-9:

  • “Who is a God like You, pardoning iniquity and passing over the transgression of the remnant of His heritage? He does not retain His anger forever, because He delights in mercy. He will again have compassion on us, and will subdue our iniquities. You will cast all our sins into the depths of the sea.” Micah 7:18-19

2) God promises that those who seek him find him.

Psalm 145: 17 The Lord is righteous in all his ways

and faithful in all he does.

18 The Lord is near to all who call on him,

to all who call on him in truth.

19 He fulfills the desires of those who fear him;

he hears their cry and saves them.

20 The Lord watches over all who love him,

but all the wicked he will destroy.”

Revelation 3:20 20 Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me.”

Matthew 7:7 “ 7 “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. 8 For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.”

Obviously, you and I might quickly ask a follow up question to these verses: “exactly how will God reveal himself to those who seek him?” In all honesty, I think what we have to say at that point is “We don’t always know!” But if scripture and even the experiences of our brothers and sisters around the world are any guide, it’s that he does- and often we get to see it! Just ask Christians in the Middle East, many of whom have come to faith in Jesus through amazing signs and miracles. Here’s one article by way of example, but a little digging will turn up way more:

4) The Old Testament gives us a clues about the nature of faith.

One of my favorite passages is Hebrews 11. The author of Hebrews is talking about the ways God revealed himself to people in the Old Testament (Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Sarah, etc.) He writes that: All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance, admitting that they were foreigners and strangers on earth. People who say such things show that they are looking for a country of their own. If they had been thinking of the country they had left, they would have had opportunity to return. Instead, they were longing for a better country—a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them.” (Heb. 11:13-15)

The point of that whole section of Hebrews is clear: by faith God saved those who were looking forward to Christ, even though they didn’t know him by name. It was, and always has been, Christ’s eventual sacrifice that covered their sins- but what is incredible is that for these old testament heroes, their “faith was credited to them as righteousness.” (Romans 4:22)

To me, this is a strong clue about the how God saves people who seek him. The same God who came in the person of Christ for our sins has not left people without hope. The Bible, God’s authoritative word, gives us clues about how he can work in their lives, Old Testament and New, Jew and Gentile.


At the end of the day, I think we always want to bring it back to the person we’re talking to. It’s easy to bring up millions and millions of other people as a type of smokescreen for our own behavior. If you’re having a conversation with someone who doesn’t believe, I’d strongly encourage you to (at some point) turn the question back on them! You could say something like, “At the end of the day, we aren’t responsible for other people’s responses to God, only to our own. Have you ever thought about your own response to the message of Jesus, if it’s true?”

I hope these are helpful answers to your questions Sam! Of course, different Christians will have wider perspectives on this, so you should definitely keep asking, to gain an even better perspective.

God bless brother!

(Kasey Leander) #10

Hey Megan-

First of all, keep repping the best state in the entire US of A (everybody’s thinking it, we’re just saying it :wink:#ColoradoForever :mountain_snow: :mountain_biking_man: :sunny:️)

Second of all, thanks for that question! Here are a few of my favorite resources:

My go-to’s on general reliability:
“The Historical Reliability of the Bible,” Craig Blomberg
“Is the New Testament Reliable?” Paul Barnett
“The Old Testament Documents: Are They Reliable and Relevant?” Walter C. Kaiser Jr.

Specific issues:
“The Case for The Resurreciton of Jesus,” Gary Habermas and Mike Licona
“The Resurrection of the Son of God,” NT Wright
“The Cannon of Scripture,” FF Bruce

Some awesome cultural studies in the gospels:
“Jesus Through Middle Eastern Eyes,” Kenneth Baily

Other apologetic resources:

I’m a sucker for Tim Keller’s “The Reason For God.” It’s my go-to when skeptics ask for a breakdown of the reasons for Christian faith. Tim Keller is the man :sunglasses:

“God’s Undertaker,” by John Lennox is an excellent introduction to the science v. religion debate.

Next up on my reading list:
“Cities of God” by Rodney Stark- a look at how the early Christian church became an urban movement and revolutionized the Roman world

“Determined to Believe?” John Lennox’s take on the predestination/freewill debate

Hope that’s helpful! What would you say the best resources in apologetics have been for you?


(Carson Weitnauer) closed #11