Everything You Always Wanted to Know About God But Were Afraid to Ask: We’re talking today about the need to actually ask tough questions. Here with us on WallBuilders Live today is Eric Metaxas author and the host of The Eric Metaxas Show. Tune in now to hear answers to the pressing questions of today on the Bible and why you should believe in Jesus.
Air Date: 05/23/2017
Guests: Eric Metaxas, David Barton, Rick Green, and Tim Barton
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Transcription note: As a courtesy for our listeners’ enjoyment, we are providing a transcription of this podcast. However, as this is transcribed from a live talk show, words and sentence structure were not altered to fit grammatical, written norms in order to preserve the integrity of the actual dialogue between the speakers. Additionally, names may be misspelled because of the difficulty in understanding the speaker at times. We apologize in advance.
Welcome to the intersection of faith and the culture. This is WallBuilders Live! Where we’re talking about these hottest topics on policy, faith, and the culture, always looking at it from Biblical, historical, and constitutional perspective.
We’re here with David Barton, America’s premiere historian and the founder of WallBuilders. Also, Tim Barton with us today, a national speaker, pastor, and president of WallBuilders. And my name’s Rick Green. I’m a former Texas state rep, national speaker, and author. Find out more about all three of us, the program, and the organization at our websites WallBuilders.com and WallBuildersLive.com.
Later in the program, Eric Metaxas will be with us. He’s an author and radio host as well. We’re talking today about the need to actually ask tough questions and about what we understand about God and the Bible. Certainly, David, Tim, that’s going to impact how we act in terms of our policy and faith in the culture. Because it determines how we vote, determines if we let the Bible influence us in our cultural decisions, and that’s certainly a big debate even in the church. Not just outside the church but even in the church whether those things should influence the way we live our lives.
Jesus Asked 337 Questions Recorded In The Bible
I’ve got to go with something even more fundamental than that, Rick. Because you started out saying, “We’ve got to ask questions.” Yeah, we do, and that’s something we don’t do often enough.
It’s something that really changed in American education. In the 1920’s progressives got ahold of education and made five really huge systemic changes. One of which was that they no longer taught students how to think. They taught them how to learn.
And the difference is you no longer ask questions. You start giving them answers. And Jesus was a big one for asking questions.
Did you know that Jesus asked 337 questions throughout the Gospels? Now, we usually think that he’s got all the answers-
That’s worse than a CLEP test. They are usually 100 questions. 337 –that’s a lot of questions.
That’s worse than a whole lot of tests. But Jesus is not giving answers, he’s asking questions. That aspect of asking questions is one of the biggest ways to find truth.
When you start asking questions you get open to learning. You get open to information, you get open to input, you get open to taking that and letting it affect you. But it all goes with asking questions. Because that changes your paradigm, it changes the way you think about things.
When you start asking, as Jesus did, “Why do you say this? How come you said this? Who said this?” You ask those questions, man, it changes your whole look at what goes on. So I think one of the problems that Christians have is they don’t ask enough questions.
The current Conservatives, by the way, do the same thing. If you watch a debate between a conservative and a liberal, a conservative will stand up there and feel a moral obligation to answer every question that is thrown at him by the panelists.
I loved when Ted Cruz did this back in the presidential campaigns. He looked at people asking questions said, “You know, I’ve heard you ask this question this. Why do you ask these?” And everybody just cheered and you know that went viral. But we feel this obligation to answer questions and not ask them.
Asking questions is the big thing that Jesus did. As Conservatives and as Bible thinking people, man, we’ve got to get away from having all the answers and go more into asking questions. And when you do you realize there’s a whole lot of stuff I really don’t know that I need to know. It just changes the way you learn.
And not being afraid to ask the questions, right? I mean, to say, “Here are some things that I’ve been struggling with and I can’t figure this out. But if I ask this question then people are going to think I’m a doubter, or that I don’t, that I’m not smart. They’re going to question my faith.”
“I’m questioning my faith now if I ask this question. So I don’t want to do that.” We’ve got to get past all that and say, “Look, we don’t have all the answers. Let’s ask some of those tough questions. Be surprised what we learn.”
God Is Bigger Than We Can Perceive
Rick, you’re right, that thought of being surprised by what we learn. Part of the reason you ask the tough questions is so you can try to process, and hash out, and come up with what makes the most sense.
Why would this be? I mean, certainly when it comes to faith, when it comes to Christianity, there are aspects of God that are going to be beyond us.
I don’t remember if it’s C.S. Lewis, and I think even some of the Founding Fathers, I don’t know if it’s John Quincy Adams, Daniel Webster, or somebody, they talked about that if we could understand all the intricacies of God then He wouldn’t be a God worth serving because he’d be no greater than man’s comprehension.
The reality is that we do want to God that is beyond us. But in the midst of it, as Paul talked about in Romans, that everything that you need to know about God has been revealed, even the intricacies of the Godhead. But sometimes we don’t know the depth of who God is, the depth of the faith, the depth of theology because we never ask the tough questions.
And if you don’t ask tough questions then you will never come up with the answers that oftentimes we need the answers in our life. How do we hang on in the midst of crisis? How do you persevere in the midst of what should be just a life crushing moment?
If you’ve never asked the tough questions, you haven’t come up with the right answers to help you in those moments. But so often, yeah, we’re afraid to ask sometimes those tough questions because, “Well, if I ask this question is that me doubting? Am I not being the ‘good Christian’ and just trusting in God?”
God is not scared of our questions and we need to be willing to ask questions. It’s part of what the Bible talks about. When you work out your faith with fear and trembling, this is part of the process, and asking questions should be a significant part.
Even The Disciples Asked Questions
It shouldn’t be something that makes us insecure. People are coming to that realization, I don’t think anyone has got a better set of apologetics perhaps than Eric Metaxas. I mean, you look at the books that he did and the depth they go, whether it’s Wilberforce, whether it’s Bonhoeffer, whether it’s historical figures. He so gets into the deep thinking.
And yet, he’s got a book out now that is just really simple questions about God. And for a Christian to publicly ask some of these questions they’d be embarrassed to because that would make them seem like they don’t know what they’re talking about. It’s fine to say, “You know what? I don’t know. And I don’t know how to handle that but I’m going to find out.”
Eric has this great book out now. And what he does is he goes into some really deep questions, some really hard questions, and they are questions that would probably embarrass most Christians if they were to say it out loud. Because we’ve got to have this facade of, “We know it.” And, “Our faith is sound and secure. No, it’s fine.”
Doubting Thomas, we call him, that’s one of the Apostles, one of those who followed Jesus around. Even at resurrection time, he wasn’t sure. Jesus said, “Ok, Thomas, go ahead and stick your finger in the hole of my side and see that it’s me.” So even those surrounding Jesus didn’t have the confidence all the time and that didn’t that didn’t hurt the relationship with him.
So what Eric does is take some is really hard questions and answers them in really good ways that we all need to get a hold of. It’s a great book and it’s a great author.
The book is called, Everything You Wanted To Know About God but Were Afraid To Ask. Eric Metaxas with us when we return right here on WallBuilders Live!
Moment From American History
This is David Barton with another moment from America’s history. Our Founding Fathers, despite their common love for America, did not always agree with each other in politics. Such was the case between John and Samuel Adams. John was a leader of the Federalist Party and Samuel was the leader of the Anti-Federalist Party.
Consequently, political disagreements were not unusual between these two. On October the 4th 1790, Sam wrote John and told him, “Let ministers and philosophers, statesmen and Patriots, unite their endeavors to renovate the age by educating their little boys and girls and leading them in the study and practice of the exalted virtues of the Christian system.”
Two weeks later John wrote back and told Samuel that on this issue they both agreed. While these two prominent Founding Fathers disagreed on much they both agreed on the importance of education the next generation in the principles of Christianity. For more information on God’s hand in American history contact WallBuilders at 1-800-8 REBUILD.
Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, And Spy
Thanks for staying with us here on WallBuilders Live. Eric Metaxas with us. You’ve read his booksbest-sellingng author of many books. Bonhoeffer, Amazing Grace, Miracles, 7 Men, 7 Women, If You Can Keep It. And now a brand new book out, Everything You Wanted to Know About God But Were Afraid to Ask. Eric, good to have you on, sir.
Well, thanks for having me on. I didn’t realize I’d written so many books. No wonder I’m tired.
You’ve been busy. And host of the aptly named Eric Metaxas Show.
The Eric Metaxas Show title was not taken so I said, “Let’s grab it.”
The website was available too, huh?
The website EricMetaxas.com was also available. It’s kind of funny, there are not too many people named Eric Metaxas, thank the Lord. So yeah, I get to have the Eric Metaxas Show. Normally, people think of me as a writer, and obviously and I’m here to talk to you about my books.
But the show’s great as well. And speaking of your books, you were kind of the topic of conversation around the dinner table in our house. My wife is reading 7 Women. I’ve read 7 Men, Amazing Grace, Bonhoeffer, most of your books. But she was just sharing, I know this isn’t our topic today, but she is sharing a chapter with me. I mean, she was just in awe. The kids were amazed. It was it was cool. Anyway, thanks for doing those books. All great stuff.
Well, thank you.
Who This Book Was Written For
Let’s talk about the new one, though. I love what you said about it as well. You wanted a subject, for people to be able to have this conversation about God and it be inviting and even fun. So how did you take on such tough questions and make it fun and also give them the meat?
Well, I tell you the truth I think that in America if you’re a person of serious Christian faith you’ve often been sold a bill of goods that is fake. It’s the idea that there are only serious believers and then atheists out there.
I would say most people in America maybe they’re not sure what they believe, they believe in God, but they don’t really know the Bible. They don’t really know what to think. I want to talk to those people.
Maybe these are people that go to church once in awhile. Maybe they say, “Well, I’m Catholic. I go a couple of times a year with the kids or whatever.” You’re not against God at all.
But they don’t really know about him and they’re afraid to ask. Maybe they’ve got a born again neighbor and that’s all he ever does is talk about God and the Bible. And they don’t really want to go there because you’ll never hear the end of it.
Maybe they don’t want to ask their priest or their pastor because the priest or the pastor, they’re trying to fool him like, “Oh yeah, of course, I know all this stuff. I don’t want to admit how ignorant I am.”
I think everybody has curiosity. How do I answer these big basic questions like, “Why is there evil in the world? How can a good God allow all the suffering? It doesn’t really make sense to me. Our science and the Bible at odds? I don’t know what to think about that. If I watch TV I get the idea that they’re at odds that if you want to really believe in science you don’t believe in the Bible. That the Bible has been disproved by science. What about that?”
People have a lot of things that they hear through the culture. And I think that most people don’t get good answers. They’re looking for answers, but they wouldn’t know where to go. I wanted this book to be a resource for just, really, your average person.
Sometimes young people love it. I didn’t realize that young people would love it. But you know, 14 and 15-year-olds will love it. But I wrote it just for everybody. I said, “I want to keep it simple.” It’s fun, Q&A, and there’s some humor.
For people who know me know that I can’t stop joking. So it’s just it’s a fun conversation on all the questions that I think everybody has. Do angels really exist or is that just some medieval idea? Do demons really exist? Is there a hell? Why would God send people to hell?
Leading With Grace
These are big theological questions, but you were pretty purposeful in even the language that you use and not using all the high church type jargon.
And I don’t even use a lot of Bible quotes because I think to myself, “You have to talk to them where they are. These are people maybe they’re believers, maybe they’re not sure what they believe.”
But one thing I will say is that they want somebody to talk to them where they are. And if you give them a book that is you know full of scriptural references they’ll say, “I don’t even know what I think about the Bible so why are you using it to try to prove your point? First of all, you’ve got to help me understand what the Bible is. Is it really the word of God? Or is it just a bunch of nice things written by people over the centuries?”
I think that there are a lot of people who just aren’t sure what they believe. I think we need to meet those people where they are and have that conversation and make it not a threatening conversation. Make it a conversation. You know what I always say, “It’s always like the difference between inviting somebody to your house for a meal or just having them on the porch to eat some potato chips or peanuts.” There’s nothing threatening about sitting on the porch and like you know? “I can eat a few peanuts or like the whole bowl, but there’s no obligation at any minute I can jump up and walk out. And because there’s no obligation I might hang out there for three or four hours.”
You know what I always say, “It’s always like the difference between inviting somebody to your house for a meal or just having them on the porch to eat some potato chips or peanuts.” There’s nothing threatening about sitting on the porch and like you know? “I can eat a few peanuts or like the whole bowl, but there’s no obligation at any minute I can jump up and walk out. And because there’s no obligation I might hang out there for three or four hours.”
But when you go to somebody’s home to have a meal it’s a little off-putting. You’re like, “I don’t know if I’m ready for that.” And I think that that’s often what we’re like when we’re talking about God.
We were kind of off-putting to people and we I think we need to make it like, “Hey, we’re just here. We’ve got some answers. We’ve got some questions. We can have a conversation and hopefully, we can show you some of the things that we have come to see.” But we don’t put that pressure on people that if you come in here we’re going to get you to sign on the dotted line before you leave because I think that will keep people away from the conversation.
Knowing The Basics
And that’s obviously for the group that maybe doesn’t know at all what they believe about God. Or maybe doesn’t even believe in God, yet. But this also I think meets the need of a lot of people in the church they’re in, but they’re still having these questions.
See, that’s the point. They’re getting asked these questions by their neighbors and their friends and they themselves those don’t have the answers. They may give a really religious answer which is off-putting or they’ll just say, “I don’t want to have a conversation.”
I think if you consider yourself a believer you need to be armed with kind of common sense. “How do I talk about this?” And so I wrote this book for people in the church so that it would kind of model for them a fun, comfortable way. Because I think a lot of times people dread these conversations-
They dread them enough that for a lot of the young people that’s why they walk away from their faith. It’s that insecurity, “I can’t answer that question, so I don’t want to believe this anymore if I can’t defend it.”
You Don’t Have To Be An Expert In The Bible To Believe It
And the other thing I want to say to people, too, is that one of the biggest myths in the Christian faith is this idea that you’re supposed to have all the answers. You can have a million questions and doubts. That is absolutely fine.
The bottom line is that you only need to know what you need to know. Is Jesus God? Is the Bible true? You don’t need to know every, little detail. You can spend the rest of your life reading books and learning.
But this idea that you’ve got to answer every little question before you can say, “yes” is crazy. That’s like saying that in order to drive a car you need to be able to explain to me how the carburetor works. It’s like, no you don’t. You just need to know that when I turn the switch, when I do this, it goes it takes me to my job.
It’s like, no you don’t. You just need to know that when I turn the switch, when I do this, it goes it takes me to my job.
I think it’s the same thing to have a little bit more of a relaxed attitude. I think people really feel like, “I’ve got to have all the answers.” You do not have to have all the answers.
I want to invite people into a conversation and to get them a little more relaxed. It’s not about knowing everything. It’s only about knowing what you need to know and then everything can come in time.
Why Believe That The Bible Is Real
Before I let you go, let’s just talk on one of them. You mentioned that a lot of people say, “Well, I don’t even believe in the Bible, yet.” So let’s take that one. How do you get people to take the Bible seriously and answer that question of what role should it play in my life?
Well, there’s there’s a million ways to answer that. It’s kind of funny. I originally wrote this book 12 years ago and this is a re-issue of the book. But when I first wrote the book I went on CNN and I was asked by the host to talk about this issue. And I started talking about William Wilberforce.
Wilberforce is a man who because he took the Bible seriously ended up changing the world. It was the Bible that convinced him that slavery and the slave trade was wrong and had to be abolished. And that led to me writing my book Amazing Grace.
You start realizing there are a hundred ways to look at the faith in the Bible but one of them is just to look at the stories of people. How is it possible that this book could be banned in so many countries?
If you’re caught with a Bible in North Korea you’ll be killed. If you’re caught with a copy of Grimm’s fairy tales you won’t be killed. The Bible is explosive it has changed the course of nations. It has changed people’s lives.
I mean, that’s just one way to look at it to say, “Even if I don’t know what’s in it.” Sure sounds interesting that it has led people to fight for civil rights. It led Dietrich Bonhoeffer to stand up for the Jews and to speak out against the Nazis. What is in that book? To understand that it has done more good than we could ever dream about. I think we should be curious what’s inside it.
But there is there are so many different ways into it. One thing I will say is when you read just read the Gospel of John and look at the character Jesus, you couldn’t make him up. I don’t think there’s anybody in the history of the world, the greatest novelists in the history world, could make up a character like Jesus. It’s too strange. It just doesn’t make any sense. Either he was real and he was God or I just have no explanation because there’s no figure in history like this Jesus.
The Case For Jesus
Either that or the best con man in history.
Well yeah, that’s what CS Lewis said, right? He said this doesn’t make sense. Everybody says that he’s this wonderful, moral teacher. Well, what wonderful moral teacher would say, “I am God.”
You’d say, “Well, you’re crazy unless it’s true. Or you’re a liar. But would a liar or a crazy person say all of these powerful teachings about loving your enemy? And I mean it’s just incredible what comes out his mouth. Did somebody make that up? I don’t think there’s any book in the world that has anything like it in its pages.
Yeah, and what you what you’re doing here with this book I think is helping to do even what you quoted Wilberforce in 7 Men in saying that we need to make being good fashionable again. This is a great way for people to understand what it means to be good. How does God actually play that out in my life with these tough areas? I mean these are tough questions that you’re taking on.
Well, it’s right. I’ve written three books. This one has just been reissued. I wrote another one called Everything Else You Wanted to Know About God. And then I have a book Everything You Want To Know About God, the Jesus Edition. So it’s really a trilogy but this one is newly reissued.
This Book Is For Nonbelievers, Undecideds, And Christians
And I have to say, I want everybody in America, everybody around the world to be able to answer these basic questions. Just have a normal, fun conversation. I always say “fun” because this is true. This is not like, “Oh, I hope it’s true. I hope it’s true.” This is true.
So you can relax and rejoice and just talk to anybody you want. There’s no pressure to convert your friends or to feel like, “I’ve got to figure this out today.”
No, it’s the opposite. It’s a relief of pressure. Because you’ve been like, “I don’t know the answer to this. Maybe it’s not true.” And then you get through this you’re going, “Ok.” You know, you can relax because it’s like here’s the evidence.
That’s the other thing. It’s like if you want evidence. There is evidence. And at the back of the book, I give a number of books that I have read over the years that have helped me to understand this stuff.
There are so many books out there. But I said I want this to be an entryway for people that they’re not ready to read those other books or they never heard of those other books. Just a fun way in for believers and as I said, for nonbelievers. So, it’s a book I hope that believers will read. But I also hope that they’ll give it to their non-believing friends or their friends who aren’t sure what they believe and say, “Hey, what do you think of this?” And get a conversation started.
Great stuff. Everything You Wanted to Know About God But Were Afraid to Ask. Latest by Eric Metaxas. Great to have you back. Let’s get you on again soon.
My pleasure, anytime. Thank you.
Stay with us folks. Be right back with David and Tim Barton.
Hey, guys, this is Tim Barton with WallBuilders. I know you hear my dad and Rick talk a lot about our Founding Fathers about the original intent of our nation, a constitutional heritage that we have. And really we’ve seen how far we slipped away from that. And I know a lot of us as we hear my dad and Rick talk think, “I wish there was a place that I could go where I could see these documents and I could read and learn about the Founding Fathers firsthand. See the things they did.”
I want to give you some websites today that can help you accomplish that very thing. If you get online you can go to places like Library of Congress and you can look under their century of lawmaking or historical documents. You can go to the Avalon Project, to the Founders Constitution, Google Books, or even the internet archives.
Or you can just go to WallBuilders.com. We have a section for our WallBuilders Library. And under that section we have different subgroups for historical documents, historical writings, even a place where you can get helpful links to find out more information about other websites. Where you can do research for yourself and find the truth for yourself. Friends, this is the time that we need to know who we are and where we came from. WallBuilders.com is a great place to go.
You Don’t Need All Of The Answers
Welcome back. Thanks for staying with us here on WallBuilders Live! Thanks to Eric Metaxas for joining us. Back with David and Tim.
Guys, I’m actually excited about reading this and my kids reading this. I’ve got some older kids in their late teens that are asking these questions and they’ve been saying, “Dad, is it ok for me to ask these kinds of questions? I don’t want to doubt my faith but I really want to be stronger in this particular area and I want to know for sure.” So this timing is great for my family. I think a lot of other people out there probably feel the same way.
I love what he said about, “You don’t have to know all the details. And Tim mentioned somebody before we went to Eric that one of the Founding Fathers was Daniel Webster.
Daniel Webster is probably the greatest steal trap mind of his generation. I don’t think anyone would argue that there was a greater thinker, greater intellectual than Daniel Webster was.
And by the way, he was so good that at the U.S. Supreme Court, he just flat did not lose cases. He was such an excellent articulator and debater, etc., that we have records that when opposing attorneys found out they had to face Daniel Webster the Supreme Court they would drop their case because it’s like you don’t beat the guy.
And in his day the big theological issue was Unitarianism. That is, “Oh, you guys say there’s three Gods.” There can’t be three gods if there were who was it that was talking to Jesus when he was on earth? Because if God is Jesus on earth then who talked to him out of habit and said this is my beloved son? The math doesn’t add up. Three does not equal one, three equals- and so they’ve got this huge intellectual crisis if you will going in the church at that time.
And when Daniel Webster was asked about this this thing with Unitarianism versus Trinitarianism here’s his answer, “I cannot comprehend how Jesus Christ could be both God and man. And I would be ashamed to acknowledge Him as my Savior if I could comprehend it. If I could comprehend him he could be no greater than myself.”
That’s the answer. “I don’t get it but I don’t have to get it.” There was a book I read long ago, there was a quote that stuck with me, it was a chaplain on Bourbon Street who was down with all the tough folks, and all the prostitution, and all the crime at that at that point in time it was really heavy crime ridden.
He said he got asked all the time these really tough questions by doubters and skeptics and they’d throw stuff. And his answer was, “Look, I don’t understand all the things in the Bible. Here’s what I do know. If I just spend my time putting into practice what I do understand I won’t have time for what I don’t understand.”
There’s enough that I do understand that if I live by the Ten Commandments, if I can just do that I don’t even have time to sweat the details. And that’s really where we have to get in our faith. You get back to the core essentials you get back to the really big things, the big pictures. You don’t have to know all the details.
But If You Do Need Answers, This Book Will Have Them
I will point out, one of the thing that Eric does in this book is he does provide answers for a lot of these questions. And there really are very good answers for a lot of these very hard questions.
“Why do bad things happen to good people? Why would a loving God send people to hell? There’s a lot of good questions but there’s great answers. But if we never ask those questions we’ll never come to the conclusion or find those answers. And fortunately, Eric’s done so much of this work where he’s compiled this.
Growing up I read a lot of C.S. Lewis and and so many people will be recognized as brilliant thinkers and Eric has done a lot of great work by taking some of those really deep thoughts that some of these great Biblical theological minds for generations have been wrestling with and he says, “Ok, here’s basically what it comes down to and it really does make those difficult questions much more palatable and easy to understand. There are good answers to these tough questions.
And he does it in a way, he’s a master of analogies, and just kind of saying it in a way that frankly, our culture today can understand, frankly, that I can understand. It makes it easier for me to grasp these tough concepts.
Well, you’ve got to remember Jesus spoke to the multitudes and they were common, blue collar folks. They weren’t the intellectual elites. He didn’t spend the time in the temple with all the Pharisees, all the doctors of law. He spent the time with grassroots people which means he was getting it down to really simple things and making a simple message. And let’s not complicate that. And Eric’s book really helps us take the hard things to make them simple.
Thanks for listening today folks. Thanks to Eric Metaxas for being with us. You’ve been listening to WallBuilders Live!