Ask Michael Suderman (August 6-10, 2018)


(Carson Weitnauer) #1

Hi friends,

Michael Suderman is available to answer your evangelistic and apologetics questions in RZIM Connect!

He currently lives in Washington, D.C. His engagement with college students, churches, political leaders, and many others across the D.C. area - and around the US and world - continues to encourage people to consider the claims of Christ and to follow him with confidence.

I always love to hang out with Michael and I know you will enjoy this opportunity to interact with him!


Michael Suderman bio:

Michael Suderman is an Itinerant Speaker with Ravi Zacharias International Ministries and is based in Washington, DC. He graduated from Tabor College in Kansas with a double major in Philosophy and Biblical & Religious Studies, and a minor in Psychology. He recently completed a Masters of Theology at the University of Oxford alongside two years of study at the Oxford Centre for Christian Apologetics.

Michael has interests in topics related to faith and science, world religions, and the intersection of Christianity and culture. His passion is to help facilitate the discovery and rediscovery of Jesus by communicating and clarifying the gospel as the most profound solution to life’s most meaningful questions. Prior to studying in Oxford, Michael was involved with youth and university ministries and participated in educational and volunteer work throughout India.

(Michael Suderman) #2

Hello Connect Community!

I am so thrilled be available for Ask RZIM this week. As many of you may know I am based here in the US capital city of Washington DC. Consequently, a lot of my thinking is focused on various issues that are affecting our country in the government and policy spheres as well as how ideas are being engaged in the public square. Additionally, as an itinerant speaker on the US team I am also regularly participating in Gospel conversations with university students and young professionals across the country and abroad. So, I am anticipating engagement from across the spectrum and welcome your questions and thoughts!

I am sure this community is keenly aware of the polarization in the US over all kinds of social and political issues, but I am very encouraged here in DC. I believe that this is a rare and critical time for the Church to stand in the gap and shine the truth of the Gospel in both our words and actions. I look forward to engaging with all of you and hope that it is an encouragement to each of you as you navigate your own personal and professional relationships with the Kingdom in mind.

Hope you all have great weekend! Talk to you soon!

Best and Blessings,


(Jamie Hobbs) #3

@Michael_Suderman Looking forward to a enlightening Ask RZIM week with your perspectives in government and public policy. To that end, and without getting overly political, there always seems to be a disconnect in society about the division of money – the poverty gap some people call it. The early church was unique in their solution of sharing basically everything so that no one would lack. The problem as I see it is in forcing that concept of society or making it prescriptive. What is your take on biblically providing for the needs of people? Is there biblical precedent for the government getting involved, or is it completely up to the church?

Thanks in advance.

(Vlad Darius) #4

Did at any time in your theological studies have you approached the issue of innerancy and if there are different errors and contradictions throughout the Bible.

I have read Barth Ehrman’s stuff and boy does he have a list of them and then I started to really check online and then started to really research the issues and now I can’t help myself but to always look at the Bible texts with skeptical eyes.

An example that really bothers me (amongst others) is

Mark 2:26 - Jesus says:
“How he went into the house of God in the days of Abiathar the high priest, and did eat the shewbread, which is not lawful to eat but for the priests, and gave also to them which were with him?”

But in 1 Samuel 21:1-6 we are told that Ahimelek was high priest at that time.

I have checked a lot of sources regarding this, do you think this really is an error (that shouldn’t matter to christians) or is there a legitimate answer to clarify this apparent problem?

Thank you in advance.

(Danny Doyle ) #5

Hey Michael, I am new to Apologetics and i just have a question that im wrestling to answer. This is the point that I am wrestling with, people of other faiths might give some of the same reasons for their faith" our experience’s are very similar to people of other faiths, so how can we present Christianity in a way that triumphs over other world views an answer to his would really help me in my Apologetic journey.

(Michael Suderman) #7

Hi Jamie,

Thank you so much for your question and for your consideration of such a critical issue both nationally and globally. I will do my best to answer your question as comprehensively as I can!

I’ve actually spent a fair bit of thinking about this question. Living in DC has heightened my awareness of wealth disparity, primarily because Washington DC has the highest income inequality in the country: Households in the top 20 percent of income have roughly 29 times more than the bottom 20 percent and the bottom fifth of DC households had just two percent of total DC income, while the top fifth had a staggering 56 percent.

While are likely many similarities with other areas characterized by income inequality, I do not think the causes are always the same for each context. Additionally, the poverty gap is a complex problem that often exists at the intersection of multiple issues to which there are not always monetary solutions. However, that doesn’t mean there aren’t practical ways that Christians can respond to the needs of the poor. It also doesn’t mean that this precludes generous giving. What is key is to educate ourselves about the facts that lead to the disconnect you’re referring to and think prayerfully about how we might be able to serve and love our neighbors.

The early church example you mentioned draws on Acts 2-5, specifically Acts 2:44-45 and Acts 4:32-35. There are few things to consider about these texts before we make a direct application.

Firstly, while the text can appear to be saying that these early believers sold all of their possessions, this cannot be the case. The primary reason for believing this is they continued to live and meet in their own homes and weren’t all destitute as the result of generous giving. In his study, Neither Poverty nor Riches, Craig Blomberg clarifies through Greek language study that this instance in Acts wasn’t a once-for-all prescription, but rather a description of periodic acts of charity as the needs of the community arose. This is consistent with Acts 4:34b, where it says: “From time to time, those who owned land or houses sold them…”

Secondly, it is important to note that the sharing mentioned in these verses was voluntary and not compelled by any state authority. When Jesus was questioned by Pontius Pilate he was clear that his kingdom is not of this world, and that the hallmark of worldly kingdoms is power by force. It seems to me that the Kingdom of God is to be established as an outflow of hearts transformed by the love of Jesus and not by legal obligation. There is also no mention of the owning of private property being oppressive in any way. What is abundantly clear, however, is that the early Christians were joyfully sacrificing and cheerfully giving for the needs of those in their community in total freedom.

Another verse to consider is Luke 12:33, where Jesus tells his disciples to sell their possessions and give to the poor. But here specific language is also important. The text does not say that they should sell absolutely everything and own nothing. Additionally, the context of that verse is all about God’s provision for their needs in all situations and the fact that they did not need to be anxious about anything, but rather trust God in all things. This verse is much more about the posture of their hearts than the number of their possessions: “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” Luke 12:34.

There are undeniable instances of radical generosity in the New Testament, and I think we would do well to consider why it was that these faithful believers were able to give in the way that they did, even when they may have had very little to begin with. In my opinion this testifies to hearts liberated from worry and the need to cling to worldly possessions and transformed for love and compassion toward those in need. After all, Paul reminds us in Acts 20 that Jesus said it is more blessed to give than receive!

For more in-depth reading you could look into Christians in an Age of Wealth by Craig Blomberg. I have also found When Helping Hurts: How to Alleviate Poverty without Hurting the Poor…and Yourself by Steve Corbett and Brian Fikkert a very helpful book for considering various kinds of practical engagement.

I hope this is helpful to get you started thinking on this! I welcome your questions, or any additions. Thanks again for your question, Jamie.

(Jamie Hobbs) #8

Thank you for your thorough detail of this topic. If I might speak directly to the point I was trying to make and give a clarification, is there a biblical precedent whereby a government could take the Bible and say, “see, right there it says we need to raise taxes to take care of the poor”, or similarly, “the church is supposed to be doing this, but as it clearly isn’t, the government has to now”? I understand the young church in Acts 2-5 was a unique situation and the way they handled this shouldn’t be considered prescriptive for all Christians, but I’m wondering if the Bible might have been misrepresented at some point and used to promote a mandated welfare system. To your mind, is there such a precedent?

(Michael Suderman) #9

Hi Vlad,

Thanks so much for your question! I have done study on the issue of biblical innerancy, but I should qualify that by mentioning that my emphasis has been in philosophy and theology rather than textual criticism. That said, I am very familiar with Barth Ehrman and his claims of textual inconsistencies. I am also familiar with these particular texts and the seeming discrepancy.

In this particular case I think it is important to consider the exact words that Jesus uses. You happened to cite the translation that is most direct from the Greek in Mark 2:26, which is helpful, so thanks! In verse 26 Jesus says specifically that David entered the house of God in the days of Abiathar, which is a nonspecific phrase about a general period of time. This does not necessarily imply that Abiathar was the high priest at the time that David at the shewbread.

We know from 1 Samuel 22 that King Saul had Ahimelech killed after David ate the bread, but that his son, Abiathar, escaped and joined David. He was later made high priest, and even though this wasn’t during the time David ate the bread it isn’t incorrect for Jesus to speak the way that he did. Abiathar was still alive when that event took place. Additionally, he took office as high priest after his father, Ahimelech, was killed. Therefore, Jesus’ nonspecific phrase about the days of Abiathar can be understood rightly as the time of his life and subsequent role as high priest. I hope that helps to resolve the tension!

Additionally, it’s probably good that you consider Barth Ehrman’s methodology before you draw conclusions about the validity of his arguments. Ehrman is a textual critic, not a historian. He often uses criteria for textual authenticity to argue on historical grounds, and this creates all kinds of problems for his arguments. My two primary issues with his method is that he misstates the criteria for the establishment of authenticity of historical texts and then misapplies them.

If you’d like to see specific examples of this I can send you some notes. Just shoot me a personal message! Also, I have found William Lane Craig’s responses to Barth Ehrman’s arguments to be very revealing and helpful. You can find his comments in full online.

Thanks again for your question, Vlad!

(Michael Suderman) #10

Hi Jamie,

Thanks for that clarification. I really can’t speak to whether the Bible was used in certain discussions during the promotion and formation of the welfare system, but there are definitely verses that support its intended purpose (namely, caring for the poor and needy who truly cannot take care of themselves). That said, the creation of a government institution or system for that purpose by utilizing tax dollars is not a case where you’d find a verse for direct application.

Jesus radically raises the bar for generosity, not just in our finances, but in every area of our lives, and not just to the neighbors we like, but also our enemies. He gave his life for us, even when we were enemies of God. That offer of grace and forgiveness is scandalous, but it’s also revolutionary. This is where the kingdoms of this world and the Kingdom of God begin to look very different, because they operate from completely different paradigms. I think that’s where the challenge lies with this issue. There is biblical precedent for all kinds of Kingdom ideas and actions that when practically implemented into the government systems of a fallen world simply can’t function in a Kingdom way without Jesus’ redemptive work. As the Church we have the responsibility and privilege to display the Kingdom of God through the way we live and, to the best of our abilities, be agents of change in this fallen world.

I hope that answers more directly!

(Michael Suderman) #11

Hi Danny,

First of all, let me commend you on wrestling through questions! I think a huge step in the process of growing in our ability to more deeply understand and effectively share what we believe is to wrestle through questions ourselves. This always allows for more relatable engagement with people, because you will be able to speak more personally as a result.

Also, you’re absolutely right that people have all kinds of experiences that lead them to a whole host of conclusions, including other worldviews. The key questions is: What authority should we give to our experience and how should we interpret them?

The question you raised is very valid and an important one, especially because we live at a time where experience seems to have become the number one “truth test” when determining what to believe. In other words, it is common that people believe their experience is the most important thing to determine what is true. It used to be that people looked at their experience and tested it for truth to see if it really made sense of life or if it was consistent with what they already believed to be true. But now the trend is reversed. In other words, people use their experience as the lens for determining what is true - experience holds the highest authority. The major problem is that we cannot always trust our experience to lead us in a good direction. Also, we all have experiences that contradict each other at times, so we have to have something by which we determine which experiences are true and which might need to be thought through at a deeper level.

As a Christian I believe that the word (scripture) has the final authority and say, so I align my experiences with scripture, and I don’t come to conclusions about truth that go against or contradict what scripture is saying. Scripture is the lens through which I understand and interpret my experiences.

I think most people, even if they don’t believe in God or Christianity, would agree that they want to believe things that are true, and also that most people - when really pressed - would admit that they’d like to believe something that is true, even if it goes against what they feel, so long as they could be certain that it really was true.

However, there are also instances where people might not be looking for truth, but rather what personally or subjectively satisfies them at the time. When we’re using apologetics to help clarify what Christianity is all about, one of the things I keep in mind is that we’re inviting people to encounter Jesus in their experience, but also to know him as the embodiment of truth.

In Christianity truth and experience are not separate. In Christianity Jesus, who is the truth, can be encountered because he’s not just an idea, Jesus is a person. So that really sets Christianity apart from other religions. No other religion claims that your an know the truth personally, relationally.

I find it helpful to ask people questions until I really understand what it is that they believe. Sometimes we can be too quick to give answers before understanding another person’s position or belief. If we seek to understand their perspective first, then we are much better equipped to give answers that accurately speak to the questions they may have. Blaise Pascal said, “We must make people wish that Christianity were true and then show them that it is.” In other words, we can start at the level of talking about the things we desire (peace, relationship, forgiveness, hope, etc.) and then show that Christianity best explains those desires, but also most deeply satisfies them.

So, my suggestions to you are:

  1. Maintain scripture as the ultimate authority in your life and interpret your experiences through the lens of that truth.
  2. Continue to honestly wrestle through questions that you have.
  3. Ask others who have a different worldview meaningful questions so you can better understand what they think and why they believe what they do.
  4. Think of creative ways you can point people to Jesus as the answer, and don’t be afraid to use your own encounters with Jesus as examples!

I hope that’s helpful! Thanks for asking.

(Amanda Ferster) #12

Hi I’m new here so I’m not sure if this is the right place to be posting this or not but I was hoping to get some help with thoughts on a relationship struggle I’ve had. What are your thoughts/biblical understating of Christians dating atheist/agnostics? On one hand I have a very close minded view that that any man I date must be Christian. I have no problems being friends with people of other faiths but when it comes to sharing my life a personally as I hope to one day do with my future husband and maybe raising children I feel that it is important that those kind of views a line. Plus I may be wording it wrong but there is at least one place in the Bible where it talks about the hisband being the speritual head of the house. On the other hand I reastently learned that the mother of one of my friends was not raised christan and really never knew anything about it until meeting and starting to date her dad and they are one of the strongest families I know when it comes to their faith.

(Vlad Darius) #13

Thank you very much for your response Michael. I have found this explanation in other places on the internet but I was afraid to accept it because of all the textual critics that were against it and because I don’t have a formal education in Biblical Textual Criticism or first century history of judaic, roman and greek culture so that i could make up my own mind.

I have seen all of William Lane Craig responses and comments with regard to Bart Ehrman and also the debate they had together. I have been very interested in apologetics, history and The Bible for ever, but now after so many years I need to make a decision so I can be able to sleep again :).

One of the people that I really appreciate as a very competent professional or as Bart Ehrman would put it “a completely competent” professional is Daniel B. Wallace. He has writen a very long piece on this particular subject called “Mark 2:26 and the Problem of Abiathar” found here. He gives several ways to interpret this but in the conclusion which in itself is too long to post here, he says that:

" In 1883, Thomas M. Lindsay could write about the Abiathar problem: “Various explanations of the difficulty have been given, none very satisfactory.”38 It’s one hundred and twenty-one years later and you may feel, as do I, that if Lindsay were to rise from the dead he’d repeat his complaint verbatim!

But we must put this problem in perspective. What is at stake? Is the deity of Christ at stake? Apparently not, for two of the leading advocates of the “Jesus erred/midrashed” view embrace the deity of Christ. Is the inerrancy of scripture at stake? Possibly so, for if either option 3(a), or 4(a) is adopted, inerrancy cannot hold up. Is the infallibility of scripture at stake? Ironically, it seems to be so only if Gundry’s view is given full force and if Jesus’ use of scripture would have been perceived as self-serving and as eisegetical, for Jesus’ invoking of scripture here is directly related to a matter of faith and practice."

Ending the conclusion he says:

“Along these lines, I am reminded of what a sage wrote nearly one hundred and fifty years ago. J. A. Alexander concluded, concerning this passage, “It is best, however, as in all such cases, to leave the discrepancy unsolved rather than to solve it by unnatural and forced constructions. A difficulty may admit of explanation, although we may not be able to explain it, and the multitude of cases in which riddles once esteemed insoluble have since been satisfactorily settled, should encourage us to hope for like results in other cases…””

In the notes found here it says regarding to this passage:

" tn A decision about the proper translation of this Greek phrase (ἐπὶ ᾿Αβιαθὰρ ἀρχιερέως, epi Abiathar archiereōs ) is very difficult for a number of reasons. The most natural translation of the phrase is “when Abiathar was high priest,” but this is problematic because Abiathar was not the high priest when David entered the temple and ate the sacred bread; Ahimelech is the priest mentioned in [1 Sam 21:1-7]. Three main solutions have been suggested to resolve this difficulty.

(1) There are alternate readings in various manuscripts, but these are not likely to be original: D W {271} it D W {271} it sy and a few others omit ἐπὶ ᾿Αβιαθὰρ ἀρχιερέως, no doubt in conformity to the parallels in [Matt 12:4] and [Luke 6:4]; {A C Θ Π Σ Φ 074 ƒ and many others} add τοῦ before ἀρχιερέως, giving the meaning “in the days of Abiathar the high priest,” suggesting a more general time frame. Neither reading has significant external support and both most likely are motivated by the difficulty of the original reading.

(2) Many scholars have hypothesized that one of the three individuals who would have been involved in the transmission of the statement (Jesus who uttered it originally, Mark who wrote it down in the Gospel, or Peter who served as Mark’s source) was either wrong about Abiathar or intentionally loose with the biblical data in order to make a point.

(3) It is possible that what is currently understood to be the most natural reading of the text is in fact not correct. (a) There are very few biblical parallels to this grammatical construction (ἐπί + genitive proper noun, followed by an anarthrous common noun), so it is possible that an extensive search for this construction in nonbiblical literature would prove that the meaning does involve a wide time frame. If this is so, “in the days of Abiathar the high priest” would be a viable option. (b) It is also possible that this phrasing serves as a loose way to cite a scripture passage. There is a parallel to this construction in [Mark 12:26]: “Have you not read in the book of Moses, in the passage about the bush?” Here the final phrase is simply ἐπὶ τοῦ βάτου ( epi tou batou ), but the obvious function of the phrase is to point to a specific passage within the larger section of scripture. Deciding upon a translation here is difficult. The translation above has followed the current consensus on the most natural and probable meaning of the phrase ἐπὶ ᾿Αβιαθὰρ ἀρχιερέως: “when Abiathar was high priest.” It should be recognized, however, that this translation is tentative because the current state of knowledge about the meaning of this grammatical construction is incomplete, and any decision about the meaning of this text is open to future revision."

The whole way I have been thought to approach Scripture and trust the Bible has been shakened and I need help with this. If the offer is still available, I would like to go through the notes you so generously offered to send me.

Thank you very much for all your time and effort.

(Carson Weitnauer) #14