Ask Nathan Betts (August 12-16, 2019)

Hello, friends! (@Interested_In_Ask_RZIM)

This week we are very excited to have @Nathan_Betts in the Q&A hotseat. Nathan speaks frequently across the US and Canada, and his writing has been featured in the likes of The Seattle Times and Christianity Today. His focus areas include the interface of faith and culture, questions on suffering and the existence of God, digital technology and belief, and youth apologetics. Additionally, he is passionate about exploring the ways in which the Christian faith helps us make sense of the questions of human value and meaning amidst the complexity of everyday life.

Nathan completed his undergraduate degree at Tyndale University and his MA in Bible and ministry at King’s College, University of London. He is also a graduate of the Oxford Centre for Christian Apologetics and leads RZIM’s North America youth initiative. He is an avid percussionist and a keen baseball fan. Nathan and his wife, Brittany, live near Seattle, Washington, with their young children.

If you’re new to the site, do feel free to jump in with any questions you may have; no need to wait for someone to start us off! And likewise to you regulars: you know the drill. Ask away!

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@Nathan_Betts thank you for being with us this week.

I am a school principal and am very interested in curriculum mapping. I have many resources for apologetics for adults but am wondering if you could point me in the direction to locate some resources or curriculum for elementary students as well as middle school aged students.

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Hello! Nathan it’s a blessed to asked you
I am interesting to minister In youth but now the youth are brilliant in knowledge so we need an apologetics method… I’ll be glade if you give some tips of how to approach with an apologetics method.

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Hi, @Nathan_Betts! Thank you for taking the time to answer our questions.

I have a friend who has decided that God evolves as we do. So while in Old Testament times, He didn’t value women (Lev. 27:5), was ok with slavery, and was against gay couples, now, God has changed his mind. He believes the Bible can be helpful but also very harmful so no longer reads it.

How can I address the issue of God being unchanging without basing myself on the Bible which he doesn’t believe in?

Thanks!

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A post was split to a new topic: Scriptural variations

Hi Brian,

Great question. Within RZIM, I am very excited that Drew McNeil and his team at the RZIM Academy are in the pilot stages of RZIM Academy’s youth/college prep course. This is aimed at a high school level, but I thought this news might be of interest to you.

Regarding a curriculum for middle school, I think Awana ministries has put out very helpful material. Here is the link to their middle school curriculum:https://awanaym.org/trek

Also worth noting is the high school curriculum that Sean McDowell helped Awana do. Here is the link to that: https://awanaym.org/journey/advocates

I hope this helps.

Nathan

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Hi there,

Thank you for asking such a thoughtful question. Here are a few tips I would offer:

  1. Listening. When interacting with youth, it is hugely important to listen. Specifically, we need to start by listening to understand as opposed to listening to critique. We need to first understand a person before we offer critique.

  2. Take their questions seriously. Students want to be able to ask questions. It is important that we offer meaningful and genuine answers to the heartfelt questions they ask. We cannot afford to offer cookie-cutter/one-size-fits-all answers. To each person there is a context, experience, or crisis from which they are asking questions. Offering thoughtful and careful answers to difficult questions might be the most meaningful way in which we engage youth.

  3. Don’t answer a question if you do not know the answer. There is nothing worse than being in a conversation with a person and having them bluff their way through an answer. If we do not know an answer to a question, especially with youth, it is best to say as much.

  4. Ask questions. Youth not only want to ask questions. They want to be asked questions. Don’t be afraid to ask questions when you are in a conversation with students. Answering and asking question make for a powerful combination. But just remember that asking a good question can often pack a lot of evangelistic punch. Generally speaking, questions are always better than statements. Instead of thinking up a creative answer to the question a student has, think through what question could be asked of that student’s question.

These are just a few thoughts. I hope this helps.

Warm regards,
Nathan

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Hi Erika,

Thank you for your question.

You should be encouraged that your friend feels comfortable enough to ask you such personal and difficult questions. That reflects the type of person you are. Well done! Before I suggest content, I would encourage you to keep listening and also asking your friend good questions in the process.

There are many ways in which we can be encouraged in the belief that God is unchanging. Isaiah 40 is a beautiful reminder of that. The God to whom Moses speaks and relates to in Exodus is also the one with whom Jesus claims to be. (“I am”) So much can be said of the God of the Old Testament being the same God we find in the New Testament.

I would suggest you get a hold of a few good books that speak to these issues. I have found the following three books immensely helpful in tackling these questions.

Paul Copan’s book *Is God a Moral Monster? (part 3, especially for the first question your friend is asking.) https://www.amazon.com/God-Moral-Monster-Making-Testament/dp/0801072751/ref=sr_1_1?crid=GGFRXHUWV2UI&keywords=is+god+a+moral+monster+by+paul+copan&qid=1565639411&s=gateway&sprefix=Is+God+a+Moral+M%2Caps%2C208&sr=8-1
David Lamb’s book God Behaving Badly https://www.amazon.com/God-Behaving-Badly-Testament-Sexist/dp/0830838260/ref=sr_1_1?keywords=god+behaving+badly&qid=1565639552&s=gateway&sr=8-1
N.T. Wright’s book Surprised By Scripture https://www.amazon.com/Surprised-Scripture-Engaging-Contemporary-Issues/dp/0062230549/ref=sr_1_1?keywords=Surprised+by+Scripture&qid=1565639626&s=gateway&sr=8-1

I would recommend all three of those books.

Nathan

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Hi Nathan ,
Always love your thoughts on"short answer for big question ".
I would like to know more about on 1Corinthians 14:34 and 1Timothy 2:11-12.
Does Jesus Christ favor male over women to serve him?

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Hi Nathan ,

I am kiran and I am from India.
When I hear a good sermon I am convinced that I am a sinner and I need Christ to save me from my sin, but as days go by… Again I am going to my old sinful nature.
After committing sin, my feeling is
I want to break my head because again I have crucified Christ according to Hebrew 6:6
This is happening again and again and again.
I am loosing hope whether Christ forgives me or not. Ashamed to pray again
Can you help me in this please

Regards
Kiran

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Thank you so much for the book recommendations! I can’t wait to read them all!

Hi Kiran,

Thank you so much for being so vulnerable in this question. May I suggest to you a book that has been a big help to me in this struggle? I would highly recommend Philip Yancey’s book What’s So Amazing About Grace? Most of the book puts together stories in which Yancey conveys what grace is rather than defining it. But there is a point in the book at which he gives a short definition. He states that grace means: “There is nothing you can do that will make God love you any less. There is nothing you can do that will make God love you any more.” The idea is that God’s grace is not based upon what we do, but upon what he has done!

Understanding the work of God’s Spirit in our life can also be a big help. The transformation of the Spirit that Paul speaks of in Romans 12:1-2 is not necessarily an event, but a process. The transformation of the Spirit occurs in our surrendering to God on a daily basis. Yes, there will be times when we sin, but the transformation of the Spirit, in this case, means that we keep responding to God’s initiative.
This leads to another point. Prayer is not our initiative, but always responsive. God has initiated the relationship to us. He calls out to us. When we come to him in prayer, it is always in response to him. This should encourage us.

Kiran, the God who made the heavens, the earth, and you, is one who calls out to you on a daily basis. That is good news.

In this moment, God calls out to you. God calls out to me. We simply need to come to him in our pain, in our brokenness, with our questions. I would encourage you to read the opening verses of Isaiah 55. Those words are a strong reminder that God invites us to come and be filled by him–the only one who can satisfy us.

I hope this helps.

Nathan

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Hi,
I would just like to say a word of thanks for the uplifting articles you write. I especially appreciate you sharing thoughts on the loss of your dad. My dad passed four years ago, and I found much comfort in the encouraging words you shared. I believe God helped me find the ministry of RZIM at just the right time, because I was longing for something to fill the part of me that felt empty. Thanks again and may God richly bless you and RZIM.

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Hi Nathan, thanks for fielding questions this week.

I’ve got a question that is related to the question of suffering and evil in the world.

We often hear the issue of evil and suffering addressed with respect to free will, e.g., do we want God to give us free Will to love him and follow him or to do what we want. In other words, evil and suffering are a consequence of human choice to disobey and reject God. That said, it goes on that if God didn’t allow free will, we would essentially be robotic forced followers complying to God’s intended order for things against our will.

I’m fine with the essence of that way to address suffering and evil in terms of free will and God allowing our choice; however, the tangential question that comes after that is this: so, for believers, after bodily death and going to heaven, will we no longer have free will to choose to love God and be forced to do it then, because our “new resurrection bodies” will be incapable of sin? If so, isn’t that the thing we argue God does not do to us by removing our free will? And further, if we still have free will after death in heaven, is it conceivable that there could be a subsequent “fall” in the future, since eliminating free will would make us robots and giving us free Will would lead us to disobey God again?

Thanks in advance for helping me wrestle through to a response on this one.

Gary

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Hi Gwen,

Thank you for your kind words. You are asking an important and delicate question here. Thank you.

Before I share some thoughts, let me recommend two books that you will find helpful on this topic. The first is NT Wright’s Surprised by Scripture. The fourth chapter in that book will be informative and thought provoking for you. It provided some clarity for me on this issue. I also would recommend the late Kenneth Bailey’s book Jesus Through Middle Eastern Eyes. He has a section in the book focused on Jesus’ interaction with women in the gospels.

A few thoughts from me:

  1. When coming to this passage, I am reminded of the instructive words one scholar John Walton said when reading the Bible. I am paraphrasing, but he said something along the lines of “It is often said of Scripture that we need to translate the language in which the text was originally written. But we need to do more than just translate the original language. We need to translate the culture.”

What does he mean? He is saying that in order for us to understand the profundity of the stories and texts in all of their complexity, we need to not only understand the original language; we need to understand the culture into which the words were written in order to understand the meaning of the text.

The cultural insight is what I find particularly helpful when I read Ken Bailey and NT Wright on this challenging topic. In Surprised by Scripture NT Wright cites Bailey’s on-the-ground Middle Eastern observations of why Paul insists that women stay silent in church. Bailey points out that in the Middle East, in places like Lebanon, Syria, or Egypt, it was taken for granted that men and women would sit apart in church. Also, the service would be held in formal or classical Arabic “which the men would all know but which many of the women would not, since the women would speak only a local dialect”. (72, Bailey taken from Surprised by Scripture) From this Wright states that because women did not understand the language spoken in the services, they would get bored and begin talking among themselves.
Bailey describes the scene in such a church as though the volume of the talking from the women would become disruptive–so much so that the minister would ask them to be quiet, and if they wanted to know what was being said to ask their husbands when they got home.
The important point to glean here is that Paul is not simply just calling women out and telling them to be silent.(full stop.) Rather, the context of the story tells us that in light of the language barrier that causes a disconnect for women during the sermon which then led to the women being being disruptive during the sermon, they are instructed to be silent.

Of course, there are many layers to this question, but I find the cultural context of the story helpful. Adding to that, 1 Corinthians 11:2-11 challenges the idea that women were not supposed to participate in worship primarily because Paul here gives instructions on “how women were to dress while engaging in such activities, instructions that obviously wouldn’t be necessary if they had been silent in church all the time.”(73, Wright)

There is much more that can be said on the matter, but I would again point you to those books. Bailey does a great job in showing how, contrary to Jesus favoring men to women, Jesus elevate the status of women, affirms their dignity, and breaks social taboos.(especially in one case just by talking to a Samaritan woman in public.) If you get Bailey’s book, I would suggest reading his chapter on Jesus’ interaction with the Samaritan woman.

This is just a start, I understand, but I hope it is a meaningful and encouraging one at that.

Nathan

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Thank you so much for responding to my question, and also for your valuable insight.

Hi Michele,

Wow, thank YOU for these words. This kind of note goes a long way. Thank you for taking the time to write. Grief is complex, isn’t it. Just last night I had a dream in which I began questioning where my father was.(My wife and I just had our fourth child last month.) In the dream I began to wonder, ‘where is dad. He should be here right now. He is missing out on this important moment.’ I woke up with those thoughts in my mind. I wanted to tell my dad about this news. But just as fast as those dreaming thoughts confronted my awakened state, I remembered: ‘I haven’t seen dad because he has died.’ In this case, it was not sadness that enveloped me as much as an explanation of my father’s absence.

And yet there is no stronger hope I have but in the truth, beauty, comfort, everlasting love, and life of Jesus. I find myself constantly echoing the words of Jesus’ friends: “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.”

I am not sure if you have ever heard this song, but this song by Tenth Avenue North has ministered to me, particularly as I think about the loss of my father: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cjetZn5lrBc

Thank you again for your warm note.
Nathan

Thanks for those words. I had a similar experience a few days ago and for a moment expected him to be there. It’s kind of confusing. I try to focus on the hope of heaven and also that Christ is with us in suffering. This I have learned to understand better through the resources at RZIM. I appreciate the song. Good music and beautiful words help so much, because they keep on living. Henry W. Longfellow said in “The Arrow And The Song”, “…The song, from beginning to end, I found again in the heart of a friend.” God bless you.

Hi @Nathan_Betts

Thank you for taking the time to answer some questions.

My question is - how can an artist today serve God? As I understand it, God calls us to use our unique talents to serve others and glorify Him. For me, I’m good at drawing comics. About six months ago, I read David A. Covington’s A Redemptive Theology of Art, and I felt like it had some really great ideas about aesthetics in the Bible, but I found it difficult to put those ideas into practice.

Furthermore, I find myself unsure if my comic stories should explicitly talk about Christ or not. On the one hand, I’m reminded of Martin Luther’s quote “The Christian shoemaker does his duty not by putting little crosses on the shoes, but by making good shoes, because God is interested in good craftsmanship.” On the other hand, how is my work glorifying God if it doesn’t even mention Him? The story I’m working on now (currently in the rough draft phase) has a cast of primarily robots - would it seem bizarre to have a bunch of robots talking about Christ?

Thanks again,
Jeff

Hello! Nathan I am greatfull to ask you
In my church we have a great trouble regarding Restoration church member… The issue has been almost more then a year.
A man got Holy marriage but after a year He divorce without the agreement of his wife and got another wife so, the church has been excluded to the man… But now the man is requesting to the church to restore him over and over without the agreement of first wife… And even he is threaten to pastor force to restore… But my pastor strictly stick on 1Corinthians 5 not allowed to restored.
How can we respond to it, can it possible to restored.
I’ll be happy it an burning issue right now in my church.