Ask Stuart McAllister (September 16-20, 2019)

Hello, friends! (@Interested_In_Ask_RZIM)
New week. New speaker in the hot seat. This coming week, we’re excited to have Stuart McAllister joining us in Connect to answer our questions about faith and life.

Whether you are a regular contributor or one who’s just joined, you won’t want to miss this opportunity to engage with him, so go on and post your question as a reply to the thread!

Stuart’s RZIM bio
Born in Scotland, Stuart McAllister saw his life changed by Christ at the early age of twenty. Filled with a hunger to learn more and deepen his understanding of the faith led him to join Operation Mobilization in 1978. He worked with the organization for twenty years in Vienna, Austria, and his service took him to Yugoslavia, where he was imprisoned for forty days for distributing Christian literature. Upon his release, he continued to work in communist countries, resulting in more imprisonments.

With a rich history of service, Stuart has acted as General Secretary of the European Evangelical Alliance (1992-1998) and been involved with the European Lausanne Committee. He developed a mobilization movement called Love Europe, which sent several thousand team members across Europe with the message of the Christian faith. Stuart also founded the European Roundtable, bringing together a diverse group of ministries and interests that collaborated to foster “Hope for Europe.”

Stuart joined Ravi Zacharias International Ministries in 1998 as the International Director and today serves as Global Support Specialist. With a heavy travel schedule that takes him all over the globe, Stuart speaks in churches, universities, and other forums with the same passion he first knew as a follower of Christ. Stuart has been a lecturer at Alliance Theological Seminary in Nyack, New York, where he was honored with a doctor of divinity. Additionally, he has been a featured speaker several times at the European Leadership Forum.

Stuart is a frequent contributor to A Slice of Infinity, RZIM’s daily reading on issues of apologetics and philosophy, Just Thinking, the ministry’s quarterly journal, as well as Engage, a magazine published quarterly by RZIM Educational Trust. He has also contributed chapters in the books Beyond Opinion (Thomas Nelson, 2007) and Global Missiology for the 21st Century (World Evangelical Fellowship, 2000).

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Hello Mr. McAllister, as someone who’s been imprisoned for evangelism where would you say the line needs to be drawn when evangelising? Is there a point when your approach for spreading the gospel becomes counter productive, if so how do we bring ourselves back to a proper place of balance?

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Hi Luna, nice to hear from you. I think it is hard to draw a line in general terms, the question I think is rooting ourselves in our calling, in studying the way of Christ and the Apostles, and in truly weighing the costs and consequences of being a true Disciple in a fallen world. God has told us to pursue wisdom, so we do use reason, evaluation and consideration in our deliberations, but we also need to walk in faith and obedience and that takes us to people and places where we do not have control and where things unexpected can, and often do, happen.

There are times and contexts where more prudence, caution, or care is needed. I think this is why we seek wisdom, we consult scripture, we pray, and we ask for grace. I have been in situations, as many of us have, where I sensed a rising degree of heat and animosity from the person I was talking to. At that point, I dialed back my responses and asked them were they feeling offended, angry or upset, and if I was able to clarify, I did so, if not, I would suggest we hold or stop until such times as we could interact civilly.

Colossians 4:2-6 has become a very important duding text for me. We are instructed by the Apostle, to devote ourselves to prayer. We pray for open doors, for boldness to share. I think verse 5-6 are key. Wisdom is our control factor, and we walk in it while “making the most of the opportunity”. We use words carefully and deliberately, as our how (the way we respond and act) is as vital as out what (the clarity of the message we share).

So, I guess the final point is one of discernment. As we walk with the Lord, as we grow in grace, as we learn from life and experience, we grow in our awareness of situations and in how we can respond. However, there are costs and consequences, and the time comes, when we have to choose against our own wellbeing and comfort, and decide to stand, no matter what the outcome. for that, the lives of the early Christians, ,missionary stories and the lives of people like Richard Wurmbrand, Dietrich Bonhoeffer and Solzhenitsyn are worthy reads and provide many instructive lessons.

I hope this is of some help and pray that God will grant you wisdom, grace and courage as you live faithfully for Him. Grace and peace, Stuart.

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Hello! Stuart, it’s good to asked our burden, we are very much blessed reading your biography facing persecution and imprisonment for the gospel… Since from the time of Jesus born there is a great trouble on the other side which means when Christ born it bring murder of child by Herod… And when He start ministry there is again division among Jews of His teaching… Some against him some fallow him… And in during the History of Church through religion it brings a massive lost of life like Crusade war… So my question is how can we respond in this issue, Does it Christian bring Division, marginalising the society?

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Hello there.

Thanks for your question. The question found in each of the 4 gospels has to do with the identity of Jesus. Who is this man? As the story unfolds, and the people experience His teaching, as they see miracles, as they hear of the Kingdom of God, they are stirred. Jesus evokes hostility from the religious authorities and from those who have power but do not serve justice. As the story unfolds, and Jesus is executed and then rises from the dead, they now see that He was indeed, and is, the son of God. God in the flesh. this, if true, has massive consequences.

Jesus was, and is, a threat to all who live in sin and on their own terms, as He calls us to repent and follow Him. In a well known passage in John’s gospel Chapter 15 verse 18-25 (you should read this text), Jesus instructs His disciples, His followers, that the world (which is the system of man opposed to God) will “hate” them as it first hated Him!

The issue that is raised in the gospel narratives is 1. what kind of a world do we live in? 2. if Christ is both the Creator and the Savior, then He has both the right to call us to Himself and He offers a way and a means by which we can be forgiven, healed and restored. If this message is TRUE, if this is reality, then those who live on their own terms, who choose to define reality as it pleases them or best suits them, will automatically be opposed to Jesus, His teachings and His way.

When John the baptist came announcing the actions of God he was calling people to repent (change their mind) and to look to Jesus (see Mark1:1-11). If Jesus is Who the gospels say He is, if the world we live in is a creation of the Living God, if the Lord of life has come amongst us and invites us to follow Him, then those who want their own way will see this as a threat and will be in opposition. Those who do come, who do put faith in Christ, experience healing, forgiveness and are then called to love and serve. They do not seek to divide, to hurt or too marginalize, but they cannot control how others respond to them.

We are called by this King “to love our neighbors as ourselves”, and so we trust that faithful Christians will be agents of peace and love wherever they are found. We cannot control how others see us, react to us, or how they view us, but we can determine to follow Christ and ask for grace to be like Him in all we do. the response, as with Jesus, so with us, will be mixed.

I hope this makes sense.

Regards, Stuart.

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Hello @Stuart_McAllister

I’m currently having a conversation about objective morality with a friend who grew up in a conservative Christian home, but has since became an agnostic on God’s existence. He’s very much a secular humanist in his worldview. Anyway, he believes that morality is not objective but is subjective because of situational ethics (he believes everything that is considered “objectively” wrong can be considered right in certain situation). For example, he believes that adultery is good if by committing adultery it will free a woman from an abusive marriage. He thinks that a man who breaks his vows by abusing her means she has the right to break the vows and commit adultery if she wants. I would like to know your thoughts about ethics being situational and how that works out with objective morality. Is there a time where it’s okay to lie, (i.e Germans who hid Jews in their house from Nazis but lied to the officials), steal, etc and if so how do we distinguish when it is the right time or not? Would love to hear your thoughts!

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Hello Isaiah. Good to hear from you. There are many good books on this topic such as Mere Christianity where C.S. Lewis includes some thoughts on this subject in his book, and The Abolition of Man, where he deals directly with what he calls “the poison of subjectivism”. Ravi has written on this in several of his books and there are messages online which may be of help.

Historically, one of the main views was that truth and morality are objective things and conformity to them was considered central to good living. There needs to be a standard by which we judge things and situations, some criteria that is the measurement we appeal to, in order to call anything good or bad. If all is subjective and merely a question of taste, preference, situations or diet??? Then we have no means to say one thing is better than another. It is just different. Some people in some countries are taught to love their neighbors, in a few places they were encouraged to eat them! Is there really no objective difference? Are our choices totally dependent on situations?

Some situations do make a difference? Here we need to consider a hierarchy of goods. What is the lesser evil facing the person dealing with the Nazi? Now some would assert that in all cases under all circumstances you must tell the truth. Of course there are consequences. There are consequences anyway, to all views. Others would assert, that the lie in this case, used selectively and given the dire nature of the issue, protects a life, so a higher good covers the lower issue. Again, some would take issue with this, which is why moral reflection takes a lot of serious work.

The illustration of the wife and her choice of adultery is more like an act of revenge than a moral outcome? Is counseling an option? Are there other possible, better, less extreme options than creating a moral equivalence between two bad behaviors?

Our innate moral conscience seems to point to the existence of real, external, objective truths. Even those who deny them often end up invoking them as the standard by which they judge (in their case objectively) your wrong definition of ethics. Many years ago, the philosopher Immanuel Kant said that two things convinced him of the existence of God and bore witness to His reality. The starry heavens above and the moral law within.

There are many resources on the RZIM website that can provide a more in depth and more robust response. I hope for now, this is a little help.

Regards, Stuart.

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Dear Mr. McAllister,

Thank you so much for taking the time out of your day to answer our questions.

I am part of a women’s Bible study group that ranges in age from early 30s to late 60s. A desire to study apologetics was recently expressed, but we have not yet found a curriculum or book to study as a group. We would like to delve into topics such as the historical accuracy of the Bible, scientific research that supports the Bible, and how to respond to people of different worldviews (like atheism, Islam, Mormonism, etc). As I am writing this, I feel a keen sense of awareness that each topic could be studied independently. But do you know of any resource that covers a broad range of topics that can help us get started?

Thank You.

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This idea of subjective morality seems a lot like what could be the underpinning of a view of grace that could lead a person to act sinfully and be alright with it in their mind and conscience (justify it I suppose). Thank God there is grace, or I’d be doomed! I’m not minimizing grace; I’m just thinking how important it is to walking with God to have the objective point of reference of the Bible to show us right from wrong. To guide our steps. The Bible is dependable. Our personal sentiments are not.

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Welcome Laura.

Glad to have you involved and nice to hear from you. It is exciting to hear of your interest and of the group study. There are now quite a lot of resources b\generally available, from books, to online curriculum and such. We have the Everyday Questions series which you can view on our resources page, and it was a designed to help small groups work through the approach to apologetics and evangelism and the basics of dealing with questions and process. 2 books that I think are very helpful and would commend are Mere Apologetics by Alister McGrath. My colleague in Peru has been using this for a couple of years in annual classes there and has found it very effective for seeking christians to get a clear sense of what is involved and I really think it is a great resource. the other book, which prepares you for a robust worldview encounter, essential to apologetics, is Grand Central Question by my colleague Abdu Murray. We also have the RZIM Academy which offers 12 weeks of sessions and interaction and requires a strong commitment. I think between these, you may have some viable options.

Regards, Stuart.

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Hi Leah,

Yes, I do think there are people who misuse the concept of “grace” as a permission to do what they want rather than the power to do what is right! Dietrich Bonhoeffer, in his book The Cost of discipleship highlights the difference between cheap grace and what he terms costly grace. Cheap grace is an abomination, it is the self defined attempt to grant ourselves unlimited freedom and in effect denies our Lord, mocks His way, and indulges self rather than surrendering it. Bonhoeffer drove people to the word, to the cross, to the cost of obedience and pointed out that though grace is provided to us for free, it did not come cheap. It cost Christ His life and He calls us to surrender ours and follow Him. As the Psalmist says “Thy word I have treasured in my heart that I might not sin against Thee” (Ps 119:11 NASB). We need an external reference point and an objective guide to counter our wild and demanding subjective impulses. May we have courage to continually seek and to obey.
Grace and peace, Stuart.

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Thank you for the Open up my mind

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Hi Stuart. This is the first time I’ve taken advantage of such an opportunity. What a privilege to be able to ask personal questions of those in the forefront of apologetics. Thank you for taking your time.
I have two questions: Acts 16 tells the story of Paul and Silas in prison and their impact on their jailers. Have you had such occasions where being in prison has led to salvation or had an impact on your jailers?
My second question applies to feelings I have after sharing with others or in building a relationship. Often I get fearful that I have said the wrong thing and unintentionally offended the other person, especially if they don’t reply for quite a while. (I’m referring to email conversations when face to face aren’t possible.) I grew up with a good bit of rejection because I was a Christian when I was much younger in school. I think those feelings have stayed with me and have impacted my inability to let go of conversations, fearing rejection again or having said the wrong thing. Do you have any suggestions for overcoming this? I know we are to submit all things to the Lord, but it’s hard not to pick it up again.
Again, thank you for taking your time.

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Thank you for that beautiful explanation. That is so helpful to the heart! And thank you for the book reference.

I appreciate your time and remarks. It’s amazing to me that you and the team take time to field questions this way. Thank you!

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Hello Mr. McAllister, I’ve been studying the concepts of other worldviews such as pantheism, and Indian philosophy . In every philosophy our actions lead to pain or misery in our life. My question is What explanation does Christian worldview offers regarding pain and suffering? And how it differs from other’s.?
Thank you:)

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Hello Sharon,

Nice to hear from you and glad we have this vehicle for some interaction, trust it is of help. The stories of imprisoned Christians and the impact from them is often gathered in missionary stories, histories and bios. There are many examples from across the ages and from more recent times, we have the writings of men like Richard Wurmbrand (Tortured for Christ) of Romania and men like Hristo Kulichev in Bulgaria, who were kept in prisons, sometimes tortured or beaten badly, and who nevertheless shared their faith. Stories also come from China and in particular the Mao years. From men like Wong Ming Dao (A Stone Made Smooth) to more recent books like The Heavenly Man. In my case, I did not see actual conversions but I did have real opportunities to witness which brought lots of response. I believed God was in control, that I was there with a purpose, and sowing the seeds, I could leave the outcome in His hands and timing.

Fear is a controlling force in many of our lives and we have to find ways to let love and compassion overcome it. In Colossians 4:5-6, the scriptures give direction to the manner in which we live and how we can take actions that demonstrate the grace of God, that show His compassion and concern, and which then, may, invite questions and interaction. Loving people is the central aspect of witnessing. We want to share the revealed love of God for them, we need the Spirit’s help and power, which is where prayer and faith come in. All of us struggle with the same things to varying degrees. It means choosing against ourself many times (see Luke 9:23-26), taking some risks, and asking God for wisdom so that we can push out, even though hard.

When our son was little, there was some task my wife needed him to face and to get done. She had talked to him often, she had prayed with him, and here he was once again struggling to face it and get it done. He said to her, “I’m scared”, to which she replied “that’s alright, just do it scared”. He did and he pressed through. I think there are times when we allow our fears to dominate yet perhaps the answer might be to push out and to “do it scared?” So, may God grant you grace, wisdom and courage in all you do.

Regards, Stuart.

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Glad we can be of help. Blessings!

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Hi there,

Thanks for the question. In the Christian view, The world is the creation of the Living God, who designed it and made it for His glory. It has an independent existence but in relation to God, an interdependence. The doctrine of sin and the fall of man point to a good creation gone wrong. To the entrance of death, suffering and sorrow as now, parts of existence and experience due to human rejection of God and His will.

Humans, made in the image of God, defy Him, and as they are turned in on themselves, they live lives of self-fulfillment and selfishness, which spreads pain, greed, sorrow, violence and many other social type ills. We also live in a fallen creation and with hostile spiritual forces, which the Bible speaks of tin Ephesians 6:12-13. This means cumulatively, that our context, our living space, is deeply flawed and conflicted. Sin, suffering and death were not part of the original intent (on God’s part) but once added into the equation (by human action and choice), things changed

The Bible teaches that God Himself has acted to reverse the damage of sin, to pay the penalty of transgressions and to offer a way of salvation and a path of peace leading to eternal life. In John 1:10-14, we learn that He “came” in the person of Jesus, He walked among us, He taught, announced the arrival of the Kingdom of God, He healed and called men and women to Himself, and then He was ultimately arrested, tried and then executed by the Roman authorities, though innocent of any actual crime.

This who had seen and heard Him were distraught and confused. The hope they had was dashed. and then on the third day, He rose from the dead. He subsequently appeared to His followers, spoke to them of the kingdom of God and after some final instructions, He ascended to Heaven promising to return for His Disciples. So what?

  1. Christians came to understand that Christ had died for our sins and offered healing and forgiveness.

  2. He had released the Gift of the Holy Spirit, who brings new life, regenerates hearts and is a downpayment of the life to come.

  3. The power of redemption, love, grace and mercy, are now shed abroad, so that people can be given the opportunity to know God, to be forgiven, to receive eternal life and to experience love and grace in struggles.

In the great prophecy about the suffering servant of Isaiah 53 which the church believes was Jesus Christ, we meet a “man of sorrows and acquainted with grief”. Jesus suffered for us and as us. God comes among us, to bear our sorrows, to walk with us in identification with pain, to conquer evil and suffering and finally to provide a new heavens and earth in which righteousness dwells.

In the Christian story, death does not have the last word and for now, there is a Savior and a present hope leading to final healing. Suffering is real but so is the provision given by God. He offers, life, forgiveness and eternal hope, if we will come to Him.

I hope this brief overview is of help. thanks for your question.

All the best, Stuart.

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Thank you so much, Stuart. I will have to read some of the books you’ve referred to. I agree that nothing is wasted in God’s plans for our lives. I’m sure that whatever influence and witness you had while in prisons will be credited to your crowns and their future blessing.
Thank you also for your suggestion to “do it scared”. It puts a new perspective on my fears. I shall try it. I will think of your son. If he could it, so can I.
I pray God’s abundant blessings on you and your family,
Sharon

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Hi Stuart,

I’m from the Philippines and what a privilege to have this avenue to ask you directly. I am a follower of Christ and is still everyday trying to seek and understand what should that translate to everyday. I belong to a group of young church leaders who, while being full-time company workers, still has the heart to serve the Lord in ways that we can, be it financial, acts of service, prayer and devotion. With the challenge of modern life and a great deal of distractions for Christians including comfort, pleasures and preoccupations, there is a greater need to bridge the secular life and the christian life (if such myth is believed to be real in the mind) as should be having no distinction as a Christian. Can you give us your perspective or share tips and experience of how we can develop the same passion as one gripped by the message of the cross, to the point of willing to be imprisoned for the sake of the gospel in our modern setting? There is this ongoing struggle for many Christians who are comfortable in our freedom and preoccupied with the world that there is the dissonance of a powerful message that costs you to lay down your life for a friend and an environment where you are not required to do so.

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