Ask Nathan Betts (June 29-July 3, 2020)

Greetings @Interested_In_Ask_RZIM fam!
This week, the Q&A forum is back with North American itinerant speaker, @Nathan_Betts!

Nathan speaks frequently across the US and Canada. 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. His writing has been featured in The Seattle Times and Christianity Today. Nathan 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.

As always, respond below with your question! :arrow_down:

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Nathan,
Thank You and God Bless you for your thoughtful contributions for Christ .
Where do you see the current societal movement which seems to be seeking fullness of life,the satisfying of injustices, through the destruction of physical historical symbols, statues, buildings so on and so forth going ?
From the Christian perspective we know that supposing such physical pursuits of power through destructive pleasure & wrath will somehow result in more peace for the soul is beyond reason .
With no lasting satisfaction for the soul forthcoming, in my estimation the result can only be an advancement of the destruction.
As is always the case the most obvious symbols that can be commonly agreed upon as representing injustice are gone after first, but then what is my concern ?
What symbols will the still confounded and no more satisfied masses see to attack next ?
For me I see the obvious next target as being the Christian church in this country .
In fact though not widely reported it has already been mentioned as being the next obvious target.
In the coming attack I see it being portrayed as largely white man’s creation which was instrumental in it’s support of slavery and repression that will form the justification for attack.
I fear that being a professing Christian in this country will very soon become a very clear public choice of either depressing defeat & submission to the world’s message or exultant Spiritual victory requiring the believer’s calling upon of every promise of God’s strength in the midst of immense suffering and burden.
It just seems to me that with the church already back on it’s heels from the pandemic in this country it is
the obvious next target for attack & banishment .
I certainly pray that I have never been more wrong in my summation , but I cannot help but see circumstances coming together this way .
America being basically the bastion for the exportation of Christianity into the world, if it can be taken down here the rest will fall like so many symbols we see falling today .
Interestingly enough I believe that if this coming attack on the faith is to be halted it will be done exclusively by the black Christian church in America standing in the gates.
I will be praying for the full grace of the Lord sufficient for them to stand up against it.
Thank You, And God Bless+ Mike

      " As thy days, so shall thy strength be ,"   ( Deuteronomy )
3 Likes

Dear Michael, let me focus my response to your question: “Where do you see the current societal movement which seems to be seeking fullness of life,the satisfying of injustices, through the destruction of physical historical symbols, statues, buildings so on and so forth going?”

For so many reasons, my answer could be brief. I simply do not know the future. But as the old song writer once penned, I do not know the future, but I do know who holds the future. Call it cliche, glib, or misused, but those words are profoundly true and applicable for the moment in which we live.

For followers of Christ, we do not know how the current situation will develop. But let me mention a couple thoughts informed by the Scriptures.

  1. There is a throne and there is someone on that throne.
    In 2016 a group of us RZIM speakers were meeting and Sam Allberry gave the morning devotional talk. His text came from Ezekiel 1. I remember him putting out a few questions that are as pertinent and felt as ever today. In a context in which God does not seem to be winning, we ask (a) Is God strong enough? and (b) Can he be trusted?
    These are a couple of questions many Christians are asking today. Is God strong enough and can he be trusted?

In the ancient context in which Ezekiel found himself, the situation was dire. He was a priest and a prophet (his name means “God strengthens”) and in a major way that is what we se him doing in this book.(among Hebrew exiles; *See A Survey of the Old Testament, Hill and Walton.) Let me get right to the point. In a situation where many questioned God’s power and his sovereignty (exile!) Ezekiel writes in verse 26-28 that there is indeed a throne.
What is he doing there? Answer: Ezekiel is reminding his audience that there is a place of authority. All is not lost. There is a place of justice. But more! There is someone on that throne!
For our time today, we need to be reminded that there is not only a place of authority, but that God is the exact one in the place of that authority. “Like the appearance of a rainbow in the clouds on a rainy day, so was the radiance around him.” (verse 28)

  1. Live out of love, not fear.
    Earlier this year I wrote an article that I still believe is important–NOT because I wrote it!–but because I think the posture and heart of it reflect the character of Christ.https://www.rzim.org/read/rzim-global/the-coronavirus-choosing-love-in-a-time-of-fear
    So much of the news and narratives that reach our screens or airwaves today are coming from a place of fear. But that is not the way of the Lord Jesus. Never do we hear or read the Christian God endorsing or instructing us to fear. In fact, it has been commented that the words ‘fear not’ are mentioned 366 times in the Bible. (enough for once every day, even in a leap year!:slight_smile:

I like these words from Eugene Peterson: "All the water in all the oceans cannot sink a ship unless it gets inside. Nor can all the trouble in the world harm us unless it gets within us. That is the promise of [Psalm 121] “God guards you from every evil.” A long obedience in the same direction

So, let me land the plane to this very important question. Yes, there is feeling of all-pervasive trouble at the moment. These are difficult days. But the message from Scripture and the Christian God is that things actually are not out of control (there is a throne!) and that God is ultimately in control. (He is on that throne.) In light of that truth, we are to live out of love, not fear. He will give us that strength if we come to him for help.

Thank you for the great question.

3 Likes

Dear Nathan,
First of all, I just want to thank you for all of your hardowork. You have been such a blessing to all of us. I pray that your journey will be more fruitful in the future :slight_smile:

My question is pretty simple, and it maybe sounds ridiculous:

How do you do apologetic to a child (particulary to a kid who believes in another religion)?

And anyway, is that even okay to bother someone else’s child? And if it is allowed, how do you explain the pain of the crucifixion of Christ to them so that they might understand it?

Thank you for your time! God bless you :hugs:

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Thank You Nathan for you words of encouragement.
Yes we must always be mindful that when we have God’s Spirit, which is the Spirit of Love, there comes a release from fear and a quiet feeling of power.
When we are freed from fear we have exactly what we really want and what we need .
God Bless + Mike

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Dear Raynhard,

Thank you for your great question.

When it comes to answering questions or even raising questions, context is of utmost importance. So, in this case, I would start there. The context in which we find ourselves will help shape and instruct how we raise or answer questions.

In other words, the art and science of apologetics not only requires strong iq (knowing what Christianity says to the big questions of life) but also eq (having relational awareness and sensitivity.) As friend, mentor and president of RZIM Michael Ramsden often says: “The right answer to the wrong questions is always wrong.” We might have a great question to raise or a great answer to give, but if we get the context/audience wrong, the answer will be wrong.

That is just a preamble, but I think still vital to understanding how to create meaningful and long-lasting conversations with children.

  1. Ask Questions.
    More than ever, especially for our age in which everyone seems to be rushing to the microphone, we need to listen. What we find in children is actually intrinsic to what it means to be a person. And what is it that kids long for? In a word: attention. Asking questions is one way of giving attention to them. The next step is not necessarily answering their questions but perhaps asking a question in response to find out what they are really asking. One other important ingredient of giving attention is listening. Really listening.
  2. Ask specific/particular questions.
    In my experience, both from speaking to children and in raising our children, my wife and I have found that asking general but also specific questions are important to having meaningful conversations. For instance, last night, I was reading the story of David and Goliath to three of our children. Midway through the crescendo of the storyline, I stopped and went into fine detail of what David might have felt in that moment when he was about to face Goliath.

(important sidenote: when telling children Bible stories, it is crucial that we somehow recover the profundity/truth of the story from over-familiarity.) Sometimes, familiarity (not necessarily a flat disinterest) can be the enemy to understanding biblical truths.)

One way of getting into the deeper truth of the story is the found in asking questions. For instance, I have asked questions like “Why do you think people were afraid of Goliath?” “What do you think about/what do you do when you are afraid?” “Do you think Jesus is with you when you are afraid?” “If so, how do you know God is with you?”

  1. Encouraging children to ask questions.
    The other night when I was reading a Bible story to my kids, one of the younger kids asked a question to which an older child blew it off as being a silly question. I immediately responded and said, “Actually, that is a good question. It is not as obvious to others as it might be to you.” We should never discourage questions. I looked at my little girl and said 'honey, never stop asking questions." We need to encourage children, whether they be ours or children to whom we are ministering, to keep asking questions.

  2. Three levels of Communication: Argue, Illustrate, Apply (Ravi Zacharias)
    I believe it is found in Beyond Opinion and also A Shattered Visage (without having it on-hand, I believe this is found in Appendix 1 or Appendix 2 of ASV), where Ravi Zacharias outlines three stages of communication. I have found that outline enormously helpful. In a nutshell, persuasive communication happens at three levels.
    a)Argument (this tends to be the more philosophical or logical level.
    b)Illustrate (this tends to be the spot where we tell stories. Film/art/music communicate at this level.
    c)Apply (This is where we apply the argument and illustrate levels to everyday life. It is here where we zoom in on ‘what does this mean for me right now?’

I hope this helps. This is a great question you’ve asked. I have only offered a start.

Warm regards,
Nathan

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Fantastic! Thank you, Nathan. God bless you :innocent:

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Thank you for your thoughtful answer, Nathan. There IS a throne and there IS Someone on it! Amen.

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Nathan, I am having trouble with how a good God can allow suffering. I understand good vs evil and know that God is the moral law giver. I am a Christian but have a friend who is really struggling with his faith and he is ready to renounce his faith because of the unending chain of negative events affecting his health, his employment, and his marriage. He can’t see the Cross and Christ’s sacrifice for all because he is in so much pain. Please help me understand how to discuss with him why all of these negative circumstances are happening to him when “God is good all the time and all the time God is good,” as they say. I have listened to countless sermons and talks by Ravi on this topic but am still struggling with how to answer my friend. Thank you.

Dear Nathan,

Thanks for answering some great question.

Where is your faith? (Was the question asked by Jesus to His disciples, Luke 8:25)

Most of the Church are not open for service, Even after restriction is lifted by the govt;
It is true that people are living in fear because of the coronavirus.
If church are kept closed, it is because of the fear of virus.
If it is because of the fear of virus,
Will Jesus ask the same question to us? “Where is your faith?”

Hello, Nathan. Thank you so much for everything you do in ministry and for making yourself available here. As I seek to wade through and sort the urgent issues we have going on today in order to better be able to respond to those around me, I find everything becoming increasingly heavy to the point that it sends my anxiety levels up. It made me think of the speakers and ministers such as yourself and the RZIM speakers, and I am wondering if it ever feels heavy to you and how you deal with that. How do you build up endurance in all this to stay in conversations and engage in the ministry that you do and yet not allow it to tax your emotions and mental resources too heavily? I spend time with the Lord, but having three children, one at the age of 22 months, it is difficult to get the quiet time with the Lord I feel I need to be able to keep this kind of continuous engagement going between the digital world (Connect and even careful conversations on Facebook) to face-to-face conversations.

Thank you so much for the investment of your time and energy both here and in your ministry elsewhere!

Lindsay Brandt

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