Ask Sam Raju (July 15-19, 2019)

Hi friends, @Interested_In_Ask_RZIM,

It is my pleasure to announce that @Samraju is available to answer our questions this week! Sam is a speaker and trainer with our team in India but has also studied in the United States. He brings an insightful perspective formed from exposure to a wide variety of people and their questions about God.

Please join me in asking him your most sincere and challenging questions!

Carson

Sam Raju’s RZIM biography:

Sam Raju is a Speaker and Trainer with RZIM Life Focus Society. Sam holds a Masters in Psychology with Highest Honors from Mahatma Gandhi University, Kerala, following which he enrolled for pre-doctoral studies in Rehabilitation Psychology with the hopes of pursuing a doctorate in Neuropsychology. However, his growing interest in apologetics led him to secure a Masters in Philosophy with Honors at the reputed Biola University, USA.

In 2014, he had a bout with a very rare and aggressive form of cancer. Although the ensuing months were tough, Sam survived. Through the crucibles of life he grew in faith and gained a deeper understanding on God’s love, ways and purposes.

Sam has spoken in several settings on a wide range of topics such as: Does God Exists?, The Problem of Evil, Has Science Buried God?, Enduring Faith in the Midst of Personal Suffering, The Discipline of Prayer, Meaning in a Meaningless World, Essential Qualities of a Leader and Did Jesus rise from the dead? Is it fact or fiction?.

He is also a member of the Evangelical Philosophical Society, USA.

Sam and his wife Amy make their home in Gurgaon, India.

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Hi @Samraju, one question I have for you is this: how do we help people get past the fear of talking about Jesus with others?

Hi Sam,
Will those who heard the gospel in this age of grace but rejected it in not personally accepting Christ as their Savior, have a second chance along with those who believe during the Tribulation?

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@Samraju Given your background in psychology and philosophy, I’m wondering if you’ve considered this question: What do we do with truth in a post-truth world?

With preference now being superior to reality, truth has lost its place in society. We wield the sword of the Spirit only to slice through shadows. Our swords may be sharp but the culture is fluid. “Thinking” Christians answer many questions, though often ones not asked. When truth is passé and knowledge abundant, how do we keep the cross of Christ central in a sea of drowning apologetics?

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This is a great question that warrants a detailed response. I will do my best to cover the major points though there is much more that could be discussed.

Unlike postmodernism (rejects absolute notions of truth, meaning, morality, reality etc.) post truth elevates feelings and preferences over truth. The Oxford dictionary defines post truth as “relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief.” The prefix “post” in post truth has a meaning more like ‘belonging to a time in which the specified concept has become unimportant or irrelevant.’ A post truth society is not one that denies the existence of objective truth, rather it is one in which truth no longer matters. In a post truth culture feelings and preferences trump facts.

Samuel Spitale in a recent article titled “Post-Truth Nation” wrote “The greatest problem of our future is not political; it is not economic; it is not even rational. It’s the battle of fact versus fiction.”

Now as Christians how do we engage a post truth culture?

  1. Rebuild trust - People are very skeptical about truth claims. It is very important that we give adequate reasons as to why we believe what we believe and also live out what we proclaim. Sadly, Christians have a credibility issue. Many a times, people see the big divide between our words and actions. It is very important that others come to see us as a trustworthy people. We ought to embody the gospel as Francis of Assisi said, “It is no use walking anywhere to preach unless our walking is our preaching,” and again, “…As for me, I desire this privilege from the Lord, that never may I have any privilege from man, except to do reverence to all, and to convert the world by obedience to the Holy Rule rather by example than by word.”

  2. Show the consequences of a post truth world

When we say that we live in a post truth world, what we mean by it is that we are free to do what we feel especially with regard to moral issues/choices. What feels right is right, what feels true is true.

The problem is what feels true/right to you may not necessarily feel true/right to me. In cases where there is a clash between preferences, how do we resolve the resulting conflict? In a post truth society feelings take precedence over reason and personal autonomy over objective moral duties and responsibilities. With truth thrown out the window, the one who wields more power and influence will ultimately end up getting his way.

Should feelings primarily drive our choices/behavior? Following a serious medical diagnosis would we decide which course of treatment to take based on our feelings and preferences, or by reason? Think about major media outlets that feed us information on a daily basis. We tune into the news because we care to know the truth with what is happening in the world around us, and we are enraged when we find out the narrative is false. If feelings should dictate behavior, then on the basis of feelings/preferences a business conglomerate might as well fudge numbers, the scientific community might as well mislead the public, and media outlets might as well give a false narrative - all in order to protect their interests.

  1. Present the truth of Christ with clarity and conviction

It is important to show people that Christ alone can satisfy their deepest longings. Christ is unique in His love. It is fascinating that God showed His love for us on the cross. The cross is a fact of history - God the Son entered our space time world and died our death on the cross. On the cross of Christ we see God’s love for us, and we can know His love for us in the here and the now as the Spirit pours out the love of God into our hearts (Romans 5:5).

C.S Lewis wrote, “Christianity, if false, is of no importance, and if true, of infinite importance. The only thing it cannot be is moderately important.”

Christianity needs serious consideration since, if true, it has eternal significance.

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Thanks for this question Carson.

Fear is a powerful thing. It prevents us from doing the very thing we know we should. Many times we are afraid of sharing the gospel with our friends and neighbors for fear of what might happen. Will I lose the friendship? What will they think of me? Will I be able to answer the questions they might raise? The fear of what might happen often keeps us from witnessing. Notice it is not the fear of what will happen , since we do not know what will happen, but it’s the fear of what might happen that hinders us from sharing our faith. Rather than worrying we should trust God, for nothing happens without His knowledge and permission.

It can be helpful for us to identify the source of fear and then address it. Is it the fear of being branded irrational or old-fashioned, or is it the fear of not being able to adequately defend my worldview or offending someone?

Once we can put a finger on the cause of our fear we can effectively address it. For eg., if the source of my fear is inadequacy/inability to provide good reasons for my faith, I can address this issue by devoting myself to careful study of Scripture, theology, and philosophy.

If it is the fear of offending a friend, then it is important to realize that speaking the truth in love is the loving thing to do. Think of a man who refuses to share useful information for fear of offending his friend or someone who refrains from speaking the truth to a friend of an impending danger.The loving thing to do is to speak the truth. “Love . . . rejoices with the truth” (I Cor. 13)

If we truly believe what we claim to believe and are convinced that Christ alone can satisfy the deepest longings of the heart, sharing Christ is actually the most loving thing we could ever do. True love seeks the highest good for others.

The greedy and deceitful prophets during Jeremiah’s time preached “‘Peace, peace!’ when there [was] no peace” ( Jeremiah 6:14 ; 8:11 ). These prophets, had they truly loved the people of Judah, would have told them to change their ways and repent. The prophet Jeremiah, one who truly loved God and the people, preached the truth charging the people to change their way of life.

God desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth (I Tim. 2:4). He truly desires the salvation of all men and God did all that needs to be done to accomplish that. It is we who are now tasked with the responsibility of sharing this glorious news with our fellowmen, for we are his mouthpiece echoing this glorious salvation. When we get a glimpse of the heart of God we can’t help but go out into the world with the truth of the gospel. What an honor and great responsibility! May we be faithful in carrying out this task.

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Thanks Dave for your question. The Bible is clear that God’s grace and gift of salvation is available to all, but nothing in Scripture indicates that those who have rejected this offer of salvation in their earthly life will have another opportunity post-death. Some have argued that God, being gracious, will give a second chance to those who have rejected Christ in their earthly life. They base their arguments on two passages which we will look at shortly.

Before we get there, let me address a more common question. How can a just God send someone who has never heard the gospel to hell? If he has not had a chance to hear the good news, wouldn’t God be unjust in sending him to Hell. The apostle Paul in Romans 1:18-20 writes, “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.”

Paul writes “all are without excuse." Those who have never heard the gospel are judged on the basis of general revelation. Creation declares the invisible attributes of the Creator, namely His eternal power and divine nature. Paul says they, having received this revelation regarding the invisible attributes of God, have not responded in worship and gratitude. The problem here is not the absence of evidence but the suppression of it. No one can appeal to ignorance or lack of opportunity.

Now to your question specifically. Will people be given another chance post-mortem? Those who say “Yes” appeal primarily to two verses:

(1) 1 Peter 4:6 says, “For this is why the gospel was preached even to those who are dead, that though judged in the flesh the way people are, they might live in the spirit the way God does.” The “dead” here are those who had heard and believed the gospel while alive and then subsequently died. Peter writes this to encourage Believers who are persevering in their faith in the midst of suffering. Although it seems like both Believers and unbelievers are meeting the same fate in that everyone ends up dying, Peter is reminding them that the gospel was preached to them so that they may live in the presence of God even though it appears that they have died like everyone else.

(2) 1 Peter 3:18-20 “For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit, in which he went and proclaimed to the spirits in prison, because they formerly did not obey, when God’s patience waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was being prepared, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were brought safely through water.”

If the spirits referred to in 1 Peter 3:19 are human beings who have died, one could argue that at least some were given a second chance post-mortem. However, these spirits are not humans who have died, but fallen angelic beings to whom Christ proclaimed His victory post-resurrection, prior to His exaltation.

It is very important to understand the context in order for us to make sense of the text. Again, Peter is addressing Believers who are scattered and persecuted on account of their faith. He is urging them to persevere in the face of persecution; if they remain faithful like Jesus, they too will be vindicated. It would be counterproductive to add that if they deny the faith they would have another chance post-mortem. As Tom Schreiner said, “If Peter were promising a second chance, the Petrine readers could not be faulted for concluding that they could deny the faith now and then embrace it after death.”

Lastly, Jesus through His parables clearly teaches that there is no possibility of a second chance post-death. In Luke 16, we read the parable of the rich man and Lazarus. The rich man is not offered a second chance even when he seeks mercy. Similarly in Matthew 25, the five foolish virgins who had gone to buy oil return to find that the bridegroom had already come while they were away. When they plead for the Lord to open the door, the bridegroom refuses to let them in.

“It is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment” (Heb 9:27).

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Hello Sam. I would like to ask if the classical arguments for the existence of God (e.g. Pascal’s Wager, Anselm’s Ontological Argument) are still relevant in the light of secular philosophy and science. Thanks.

Hello Simon, Thanks for writing. Both the arguments you have mentioned are still relevant. Here is a quick overview of Anselm’s argument. There are some philosophers like Richard Swinburne who argue against the ontological argument, but there are others who take the argument very seriously.

Anselm’s Ontological Argument

  1. God is that than which nothing greater can be conceived. In other words, God is a maximally great being with great making properties such as omnipotence, omniscience, morally perfect etc.

  2. A being that exists in the actual/real world is greater than a being that just exists in the mind.

  3. If God exists only in the mind and not in the actual world then a being greater than God can be conceived.

  4. We cannot conceive of a being greater than God - He is the greatest conceivable being

  5. God must not only exist in the mind but also in the real world.

  6. Therefore, God exists.

Many prominent philosophers such as Norman Malcolm, Charles Hartsthorne and Alvin Plantinga take this argument seriously and consider it to be sound. Here is Plantinga’s version of the Ontological argument as Dr. Craig presents it in Reasonable Faith pg. 184-185. God can be defined as a maximally great being and if it is logically possible that God exists then God necessarily exists.

  • P1. It is possible that a maximally great being exists.

  • P2. If it is possible that a maximally great being exists, then a maximally great being exists in some possible world.

  • P3. If a maximally great being exists in some possible world, then it exists in every possible world (In order to be maximally great then a maximally great being would have to be morally perfect, all powerful, all knowing and exist in all possible worlds)

  • P4. If a maximally great being exists in every possible world, then it exists in the actual world

  • P5. If a maximally great being exists in the actual world, then a maximally great being exists

  • C. Therefore, a maximally great being exists

Premises 2 to 6 are largely uncontroversial. But if the argument is sound then a whole host of other entities that are logically possible can be shown to exist. Couldn’t we parody this argument and make it work for anything? For eg, one could argue for the existence of an island than which none greater could be conceived. Now, the problem with this objection is that it is difficult to conceive of such an island.

“No matter how great an island is, no matter how many Nubian maidens and dancing girls adorn it, there could always be a greater-one with twice as many for example. The qualities that make for greatness in islands-number of palm trees, amount and quality of coconuts, for example-most of these qualities have no intrinsic maximum. That is, there is no degree of productivity or number of palm trees (or of dancing girls) such that it is impossible that an island display more of that quality. So the idea of the greatest possible island is an inconsistent or incoherent idea; it is not possible that there be such a thing.” – Alvin Plantinga

The idea of a maximally great island is not like the idea of a maximally great God. The idea of a maximally great being is an intrinsically coherent idea.

Pascal’s Wager

Pascal’s wager is not an argument for the existence of God rather it simply states that given the evidence for theism it is safer to bet on theism than on atheism. If there was no evidence for theism then this wager won’t work.

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Thanks for responding. I now understand the Pascal’s Wager. However, with regards to the Ontological argument, many people would respond by saying that if we apply the argument to prove a maximally evil God, then the argument would still make sense. What is a good response to that? Thank you :smiley:

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Thanks for your follow-up question. Here is my quick response to your question.

The ontological arguments seek to deduce the existence of God from the very concept of God. It is an a priori argument. In order to answer your question I think it would be helpful to categorize entities that exists as contingent and necessary entities. (There are only two sorts of existent entities namely contingent and necessary entities.)

There are three sorts of entities.

Impossible entities – Entities that exist in no possible world eg. A married bachelor

Contingent entities – Entities that exist in some possible world eg. Unicorns

Necessary entities – Entities that exist in all possible worlds eg. Abstract objects such as numbers and God

Plantinga’s version of the ontological Argument

Plantinga conceives of God as a being with maximal excellence in every possible world having excellent making properties such as omniscience, omnipotence, moral perfection etc. Such a being is a maximally great being. In other words, a being that has maximal excellence in every possible world is a maximally great being. If God is a contingent being then he would be less than maximally great for he would be less than great than if he existed in all possible worlds

It is important to keep in mind that just because it is possible for an entity to exist does not mean it exists in the actual world. For eg. It is possible for unicorns to exist (I can think of a possible world in which unicorns exists) but that doesn’t entail that unicorns exists in the real world.

A version of the Ontological argument

  1. God is that than which nothing greater can be conceived

  2. God exists either contingently or necessarily

  3. It is greater to exist necessarily than contingently

  4. Therefore, God exists necessarily.

Now to your question

Evil is not a great making property

The greatest conceivable being would have to be morally perfect because it is greater to be morally perfect than to be morally imperfect. Moral perfection would have to be one of the components of what it means to be a maximally great being. Thus, if God is the greatest conceivable being then He would have to be maximally excellent with excellent making properties such as omniscience, omnipotence, moral perfection etc. Therefore, the idea of an evil God is logically incoherent.

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