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Ravi Zacharias - Hamilton Open Forum


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Moderator: The first question I'd like to ask is, I understand you speak on these topics quite often. This topic of identity in particular. What would you each say is the biggest misconception you find when you're speaking to people? The misconceptions they have when it comes to this topic of identity.

Ravi Zacharias: Well, I think I'll go first give sam a moment's breather here. You know, we cover the globe. I was in japan last week and now here this week. I see the kinds of questions that are raised. Oftentimes they are raised from within the context of their culture. For example, in tokyo, the first question was: we are a culture of harmony. How can the Gospel really bring harmony here when we want to not live at any dissonance with anyone else? Misconception there was that harmony is an exterior thing. You can somehow legislate, you can conform, you can do things outwardly. But their failure to understand that the discord is actually within. The Greeks tried a harmonious culture. The United States has tried a pluribus unum but the fact of the matter is universities were created to find unity in diversity. Universities don't provide unity in diversity. The disciples are not connected at all. The reason is we need to find unity in diversity within. So the misconception often is that somehow the Christian faith takes you out of reality into a realm of some dream world an idealism that you cannot really live out. Or if you have deep convictions on certain matters be they sexual or truth-telling or whatever, that you are going to be a nuisance in this culture. You are going to be dictating for me whatever I need to be doing. It is a complete reverse. Sam was right on. When you encounter the living Christ you find out not only does he change what you do but he changes what you want to do. That I think is the key to what transformation is all about. So yes, the Christian worldview is a counter perspective but I think we look upon it as some kind of a killjoy, some of a problem creating worldview and it's going to just bring more and more problems within our culture. It's not so. The judeo-Christian worldview gives you the problem within, helps you to change, and teaches you how to live compassionately in a culture where there may be disagreements with what you choose. For example, the pantheistic worldview becomes an individual journey. You are seeking your nirvana. You're doing your meditation. You are doing your reflection. You are doing whatever it is that takes for you to attain moksha or nirvana or whatever. It's a personal pilgrimage. The judeo-Christian worldview is not just a personal thing. It's a corporate thing. It puts you right back into your culture and you make a difference. For when you're the salt and you're the light you are actually dealing with the culture that is surrounding you. So to me, the misconception is what the Christian world entails which is often not really what the judeo-Christian worldview is all about.

Moderator: Thank you. That's helpful. Sam, how about you?

Sam Allberry: Thank you. It's nice that I can see you now. It's nice, so it's good to see you all. I think for me that a similar misconception is that actually if I go in with Jesus and start following him I'm gonna become less myself. One of the great, beautiful paradoxes of the Christian faith is that actually the Jesus who says deny yourself, in the places of denying yourself and following him you become yourself. You become the you that God first designed you to be and intended for you to be. So it's a beautiful thing. I don't know how God does this. But if you take a group of Christians and you make them all more like Jesus, they will become more like Jesus without necessarily becoming more like each other. Because actually in the process of following Jesus we become the unique, special individual selves that God first intended us to be. So following Jesus doesn't deplete you. It actually makes you more you than you could ever have been otherwise.

Ravi Zacharias: Can I add one more footnote to that? Speaking from going back over the years in my own life and now what I see in the young all the way 12.13, 14, when they come to our events. Reboot or refresh or whatever. They have assumed that there are no answers. That is one of the greatest misconceptions with which we come. That there are no answers. You can ask your questions. There are no answers out there. When we see what the answers of Jesus actually are that justifies the question and gives you the answer you are fascinated by the fact that the answers are real. They are tangible. They are existentially felt. And that they are logically coherent. I think the greatest journey in life is between the head and the heart. That how you think and how you live and how you feel. So if anyone of you here thinks there are no answers I hope you'll reconsider that. Because in the answers are Jesus. He respects both your mind and your heart. I think the answers are very real whether it's on origin or meaning or morality or destiny, the four basic questions of life. The assumption often is there are no answers out there and I think the answers of Jesus are very real.

Moderator: Thank you. That's a great starting point covering already a lot of terrain. We have some questions now that have come in. So we'll actually start over here on the left. I'm just gonna say I'm gonna repeat all of the questions this evening. We have a couple technical issues here on the stage so I'll just repeat your question. But do please ask.

Female: Ok. Hi. Sam, thank you for sharing your story and what Jesus did in your life. Because the conversation of sexuality can be so uncomfortable for both parties that are talking. I'm wondering what are your recommendations for us engaging in conversations that are actually fruitful? Whether the party is Christian and a non-Christian or there are people who identify as gay, bisexual, transgender, even hermaphrodites or any of that type.

Moderator: Great. Thank you. Correct me if I've got this right. The question is given how tense this subject is what recommendations do you have sam for having meaningful conversations with others who maybe see things differently?

Female: Yeah. Yep. And just recommendations for both parties.

Moderator: That's great.

Female: Thank you.

Sam Allberry: Thank you. You're certainly right. It's a very, very sensitive issue to be discussing today. We tread on very, very sensitive ground when we start to discuss these kinds of issues. I think one of the most important things we need to do is to learn to listen really well and so not make assumptions about the person who's standing before us. Let them give a good account of their own understanding to us before we try to respond. So I know for myself I love listening to people's stories. If someone is happy to share how they've got to where they are, that's always gonna be interesting. But it also helps me to think ok I can begin to make sense now with some of the things that you're saying and why these things mean what they do to you. It just gives me a sense of where I might begin in trying to share something of the message of Jesus. So my foundation of assumption is that it's gonna be wonderful for anyone to come to know Jesus Christ whoever they are. There is no one that Jesus is not good news for. But the more I understand someone, the more I feel like I know them, the more of a sense I'll have of where I might start, where that first step towards Jesus Christ might be. So listening well. Trying to hold people in high regard and deep respect. We've heard it from Ravi these evening. God values every single human life. So there is no excuse ever for being demeaning or rude or flippant with someone particularly with issues that are felt so deeply is this.

Moderator: Thank you. I'll take a question here on this side now. Please.

Female: Hi. Good evening. One of my dear coworkers today was saying that he recently went away on a retreat where he was, it was like a Buddhist retreat where you don't talk and you're experiencing silence, no communication, for I think it was like ten days. I'm sorry if I'm wrong. If I got the duration wrong. But he said it was life-changing for him. He made a statement which I found was very profound. He said it's possible to be spiritual but not believe in God. I just wanted to know your thoughts about a comment like that.

Moderator: Great. So the question is: your friend has had this experience, went on a Buddhist retreat, came back, had a wonderful experience and came and said to you there is a way to be spiritual without God and you asked Ravi what are your thoughts on that?

Ravi Zacharias: What is the word on that?

Moderator: What are your thoughts on someone who says there is a way to be spiritual without God?

Ravi Zacharias: Yep. Yeah. I think the whole idea of silence, solitude, meditation, that was the whole point of gautama Buddha's retreat. The day his son was born he left his family and he went and sat under the bodhi tree. When he received the enlightenment he came with his four noble truths and the eightfold path and so on and so forth. I think the danger of this in, taking the finger of one aspect of reality, you think you've grabbed the whole fist of reality. It's not so. Silence and reflection and meditation are wonderful things to endure in our lives. I'm always fascinated with what was going on in Paul's life for the three years when he was in arabia. What was going on in Moses' life for those forty years while God was pouring himself into him? Our Lord himself, many of the early years we don't hear much about and I frankly it is what God pours into our own hearts in privacy and in quietness and in reflection and meditation. But to come away from there thinking therefore that you can obtain spirituality without God both of those terms are undefined. What does it mean spirituality? Does it mean you feel good about yourself? Does it mean you now can think in terms of ethics and some sublime thoughts? Are you able to write more beautiful poetry? Or what is it? And how does one arrive at denying God and still finding ground in the basis for ethical behavior and the imperatives? You see? The problem with the religions that try to be ethical without God is the fact that you ultimately end up contradicting yourself systemically. I was talking with a PhD from McMaster, a woman. Thailand's first ordained monk, a woman, got her doctoral from McMaster University here and then became ordained in Sri Lanka and was living in Thailand. I had about three hours with her when I wrote my book "The Lotus and the Cross: Jesus talks to Buddha". I asked her who is the best expression of nirvana in your way of thinking? Who has attained that nirvana or what you talk about in the eightfold path or the four noble truths? She said I would say it is the Dalai Lama. The Dalai Lama is the best exemplar of what this is all about. So I said but in your philosophy to desire something is short of nirvana. The goal is to not even desire. That's actually what nirvana is. You cease to even will or want. She said that's right. I said can you tell me why he desires the liberation of Tibet? She just looked at me she said can I say that he chooses to? So I said you are telling me that he is choosing to do something that is hurtful for his journey to ultimate spiritual nirvana or moksha or whatever. She said we don't think of those questions. So then I said in the second aspect of your philosophy every birth is a rebirth? That's right? She said yes. There's a reincarnation. I said starting back from now you move backwards. You had a finite number of rebirths. If you start from now and move backwards you had a finite number. She said I agree. But if every birth is a rebirth then there had to be a first birth. If you've got a finite number. In the first birth, what was it you were paying for by way of your karma if you hadn't had a previous birth? She says I just told you we don't ask such questions. There are so many unanswered questions in this idea of spirituality without God. Where do you get your essence from? Where do you get your directives from? Where do you get moral reasoning from? I know for example people who go into silence and meditation and they come back thinking all religions are right. Somebody else comes back thinking all religions are wrong. Someone else goes into silence and comes back thinking everybody who disagrees with me I need to get rid of. This is the kind of thing you have when you are self-reflective of your values. So the first thing let me say to the person I affirm the desire to go and have that silence. I think it's a wonderful thing. Some of us need to learn that. But the whole point of opening your mouth is for something to fill it, not to leave it empty. If you come back from a meditative process totally empty except full of what you want to think about, you will run dry. Sooner or later you need an input of ideas or there will be a bankruptcy of expression as well. When God tells us that we are created in his image that is the best compliment he has ever given to us. There's a song in Hindi. Those who speak Hindu would have understood that. What it says is this. I'm not God. I'm not satan. I am merely a human being. If a person goes away on a silent retreat and comes back thinking they don't need God they've actually become God which is the worst kind of delusion anybody can ultimately have. We need to cast our cares and our lives on God.

Moderator: I thank you, Ravi. We're moving to this side now. Please. Our next question.

Female: Thank you, Mr. Zacharias, for this opportunity to have a brief conversation with you. That last time was at purdy dining hall at camp-of-the-woods. That's a great place to meet. The concept or what it means to be made in the image of God can be very difficult to understand. It seems like Bible scholars themselves have really struggled with that. This likeness, this resemblance, that we share with God seems to be rooted in our ability to understand, to reason, and to be relational. But I wondered if you could unpack that a little bit more for us?

Moderator: Great. The question is unpacking what does it mean to be made in the image of God? You mentioned a relational aspect but really could we go deeper? What does it really mean to be made in God's image?

Ravi Zacharias: You wanted me to go for that? Ok. Alright. I'll be happy to. Sam, please fill in too. I think this is such a profound question. You know, in Mark 12 there are these two conversations. This man comes to Jesus and say is it alright to pay taxes to Caesar? Many, many times I wished Jesus had said no I don't have to pay taxes to Caesar. That would be just absolutely wonderful for us in America when April 15th comes to be both religious and rebellious at the same time. Be wonderful. But Jesus' answer was fabulous. He looked at him and he said do you have a coin? And the man said yes. He said give it to me. So Jesus looked at the coin and said whose image is on this? He said Caesar. He says give to Caesar that which belongs to Caesar and give to God that which belongs to God. The man should've had a follow-up question. Follow-up question should have been what belongs to God? Jesus would have said whose image is on you? That's the imprint of the imago dei. No other worldview gives you that beautiful description of who you are. No, you're not God. But there's a reflective splendor. I think I will at least underscore two aspects of that reflective splendor. One of the great gifts God has given to us, also one of the most dangerous gifts, is freewill. The freedom at self-determination. When you think about it there are four possibilities in the created order. God could have created nothing. God could have created a world where we would only choose good. God would have created where there was no such thing as good or evil. Or God could have created this world where there was the possibility of good and evil. This is the only one of the four where love is possible. So for love to be possible, freedom was an imperative. So that imago dei is that self-determination gift that God has given to you and me. But beyond that, it is the capacity for moral reasoning. This is where may I dare suggest Europe went wrong. When you go back to the epistemological base of European thought, be they the German philosophers or the French philosophies, for them reasoning became the supreme capacity of us. You know, I doubt, I think therefore I am. A la de carte. He shouldn't have said that. He should've just said I think therefore thinking exists. But he took it to the "I" from the capacity to think. But Gertrude Himmelfarb, professor of ancient culture and history from Baccalaureate Professor Emeritus at Columbia University in her recent book "The Roads to Modernity" has a brilliant chapter about what made America and the United Kingdom very different in the early days to, say, Europe and I think Canada follows on that too. Because her dominion was going to be from sea to sea in the canadian order. But when take in what she says, she said for the French philosophies and the German philosophers and all of their thinkers, reasoning was supreme but you put the United States and I put north America in one group and the United Kingdom in the other, moral reasoning was supreme. It was not merely reasoning. It was the capacity to reason morally right and wrong, good and evil. In the marxist world these points were crossed and the electrocution that took place of millions of people. In naturalism that's exactly what was lost too. So when I see imago dei I see two things: one the capacity to reason morally and one the endowment of the freedom of the will. Those two not brought together are deadly but when they are brought together you choose to do that which is honorable, noble, and good. That's when you have the full reflective splendor of who God is. That is the gift of God when they talk about in the declaration of independence, you know, that we're all created equal endowed by our Creator with unalienable rights. No other worldview would ever say that except the Judeo-Christian worldview. So I think that freedom and moral reasoning and confluence bring about the imago dei that God has created for you and me. So if the man had said to Jesus whose image is on you or Jesus had said to him whose image is on you, Jesus would have been reminding him you are more valuable than this coin. The coin goes to Caesar but you are greater than merely a coin. You have the image of God planted on you with the will. Chesterton put it this way: you can sit in front of a sunset for hours and be in awe. The sun will never return the compliment 'cause the sun doesn't have the capacity to think and reason the way you and I do. So we have the imago dei in that self-determination and moral reasoning. At least, those are two components I see right there.

Female: Hi, thank you, gentlemen, for your words this evening. I'm wondering if you could draw some direct applicability from your words tonight and if you could offer some thoughts both on the gender pronoun issue, specifically, do you think we as Christians have an obligation to call people by their preferred pronoun or to not, and if so, why? And, secondly, if you can offer some thoughts on some of the rather progressive sexual education that is happening in different parts of this country and others, specifically discussing issues of sexual options and gender fluidity at ages three, four, five, six, seven, and if you could offer your thoughts on that, it would be most welcome.

Moderator: Great. Just to make sure I got this right. The first question related to: what should Christians think about gender pronouns and using preferred pronouns that people have for themselves? And the second question related to how should Christians think about, this is a canadian issue right now, education curriculum in public schools, that have sex education. It's something that's been discussed if you're north of the border. How do Christians think about that and the topics that are breached in that?

Sam Allberry: Ravi's looking at me, unfortunately, so I'll start us off on this. I think on the question of gender pronouns, our culture would say it's very, very simple. Whatever someone says they are, that is who they are. That is the way most people think today. If I feel myself to feel male or female, that is who I am. That is my right and privilege, and it's your job to celebrate that and to affirm that. As Christians, we bring a slightly different perspective onto this because one of the things that is so fundamental to understanding who we are in the Bible is the fact that we are in bodies. And it's very easy to see why for many people today, your body is just accidental. If your prevailing worldview is that we've not been created but we've just accidentally come about by chance, then your primary worldview is telling you that actually my body is accidental, and, therefore, it's incidental. It doesn't have anything in it that tells me who I am. It is simply the blank canvas on which I paint my identity. Now for Christians, actually, we want to affirm that our bodies are both a gift, we have been fearfully and wonderfully made, our bodies are not accidental. David talks about God knitting him together in his mother's womb. I've never knitted anything in my life. I've watched other people knit. It looks intricate and careful. God has carefully made us. So our bodies are a gift and they're also a calling. And so one of the things that we would believe as Christians, and I know this is something that is highly contentious in Western culture today, is that our gender identity comes from our physical body. Now a separate issue there is where the body seems to be ambiguous, and we can come back to that if we need to, but I think how we then relate to someone who wants to be known by a given pronoun, Christians will vary I think in how they respond to that. I think one case is to say that we want to be as hospitable as possible to someone, and that means calling them by the name that they give us to address them by. Some Christians will feel as though it's appropriate for reasons of hospitality to adopt the pronoun that someone else is giving them. Other Christians will feel that that's not right, and I think there's a wisdom issue there, and I wouldn't want to prescribe what we should do. In terms of education, not being even from south of the border, but not even being from this continent at all, I'm often not familiar with the curriculum. And not being a parent I don't have this issue even back home. But I can imagine for many Christians they would be concerned about what children are being taught and at what stage because we want children to understand the world around us, we want children to understand the different types of people they're going to encounter and some of the views that they're going to encounter. But I think we also want to have a sense of propriety about what age we introduce certain realities, certain issues, and certain questions to children. So Christian parents, I'm sure, will have different views on how they respond to the particular curriculum that are being given to their kids. Some Christian parents may think, for these certain issues, we need to withdraw our children from all schools. Others may think this is a good opportunity to give Christian input and send our children into that environment equipped. My advice generally in anything involving parents is ask other parents and compare notes and see how others have responded.

Ravi Zacharias: You know, the Supreme Court decision recently to deny Trinity Western permit to have a law school is an extraordinary step taken in Canada right now. It may come back to haunt this culture in years to come because the rationale behind it was very, very dangerous reasoning that the worldview represented in a law school by that kind of institution is not the worldview in which they would want to train lawyers and those who practice law. So what they are really doing is saying that we are censoring that worldview from entering into the public arena. So there is already a monolithic worldview being established whether we like it or not. The things that we have to think about are exceptions and what's normal and what's exceptional. Now when you look at the way philosophy has handled this, when you talk about the miracle, the secular thinker says, "There's no such thing as an exception. Natural law works morning, noon, and night. You cannot invoke an exception and posit a miracle and, therefore, talk about a supernatural creation". But when it comes to ethics, and we talk about absolutes, the same skeptic will raise the question of exceptions in order to deny the absolute. So when it comes to natural law, they deny the exception in order to posit the law. When it comes to ethics, they deny the law in order to posit the exception. And the reason they do that is they want to get to the same destination. They are against the supernatural. So when you're living in a culture where there are going to be conflicting worldviews, we have to learn how to live peaceably with each other. But the important thing is never to take an exception and make it normative. I think if there are exceptions that you deal with in life, for example, if I'm driving along the right side of the road, and all of a sudden, I see a child who's suddenly in front of me, I either swerve to one direction or the other in order to avoid hitting that child. I may go onto the sidewalk, or I may go onto the other lane providing it's clear. But that does not give me the liberty to go onto the sidewalk and drive anytime I please or into the other lane because there was an exception that created a need at that moment for me to preserve and protect life. So I think we're going to be forced to navigate with the fact that there are alternatives, and so long as we never move in the direction where whatever exception is made for pragmatic reasons, we don't establish what is normal for essential reasons. But how do we arrive at what is normal for essential reasons? And that is unanswerable until you establish life's purpose. You can only answer that question once you've established life's purpose. And the fact of the matter is, there is no meaning you can establish, if I take a car and use it to mow down people in a park, I can't go to General Motors and sue them because that car was used to do this. That's not what the car was made for. The car was made for transportation and to drive with the rules of the road. I was speaking recently on Psalm 19 at the Getty Conference in Tennessee, and I made this comment: you know you have the green light, which is to protect you. You can go through the green light. That's what it is there for. You go through, you see an amber light, it is to caution you, you better be careful right now because pretty soon cars are going to be coming in the other direction. And the red light is to warn you that if you go through this, there's going to be a crash, there's going to be a danger. The problem is we think we can give everything a green light. If the light changed to amber and to red, we're going to run into some pretty torturous terrain, not only because it deals with one issue, but we are dealing with a plurality of worldviews around us all the time. I'm an international traveler. I hear opposite views all the time of what people believe in these matters, so I would say we have to establish life's purpose in order to answer that question. If we don't establish life's purpose, what Chesterton said is, "There are many, many angles that which you can fall and only one angle at which you can stand straight". He also went on to say, "The tragedy of disbelieving in God is not that you end up believing in nothing, alas, it is much worse. You may end up believing in anything". And so the danger lies from not having those markers along the way, and I think it may seem pragmatically very appealing, but it's payday someday. Someday you find out that there had to be boundaries drawn for everything. I have to draw boundaries in my own life, and those aren't necessarily issues. So without purpose, we cannot really answer that question. Purpose has to be established, then we deal with the particulars of how we get to that destination.

Moderator: Thank you, Ravi. We have time just for two questions more tonight. And we wish there was more time, but we thank you for the ones that have been raised. We'll turn here for our second to the last question, and then we'll end here on this side.

Male: Thank you also for coming tonight. My question also has to do with identity. I was recently watching a Convocation at Liberty University where a professor had spoken about the fact that the Bible never referred to homosexuality as a noun but only as a verb, as an action word. And my question to you is: is it okay for a Christian to identify as homosexual, providing that they're not practicing homosexuality? And then, yeah, basically that's it.

Moderator: Okay. So the crux of the question is: is it appropriate for a Christian to identify as homosexual but not to act on that? Is that right? Is that the question?

Male: Yeah, just providing that they're not engaging in the practice of homosexuality, is that okay? And just trying to understand based upon what that professor had said based upon what the Bible was referring to.

Moderator: Okay, great. Was that clear?

Sam Allberry: Your turn.

Ravi Zacharias: I have a hard enough time with my issues. I'll let him handle these issues here.

Sam Allberry: Well, thank you, that raises some very significant, very pertinent issues. Let me say a couple of general things before I try to answer the specifics. The first general thing is that the teaching of Jesus by implication shows us that all of us are broken in this area of life. So this isn't an issue that is just specific to one subset of people, this is something all of us have to come to terms with. The fact is that our sin taints every area of life, and that includes our sexuality. So all of us actually are actually disordered and broken in this area of life and, therefore, all of us need to come to Christ to learn how to follow him. There are going to be certain desires that we're going to need to say no to, certain things that we're going to be needing to seek forgiveness for. So that the Gospel doesn't level the playing field on that issue, and whether we are attracted to men or women or both, we're disordered in this area of life. The way that disorder manifests itself in our lives will vary from person to person. Some people may describe themselves as being attracted to the same sex, other people will describe themselves as being attracted to the opposite sex, and there'll be other experiences as well. If we're Christians, we know that our identity is not found in those particular feelings. They're significant, they can often be very, very deep. They can feel very personal, but they are not the core of our identity. And so I don't think it's healthy for a Christian to use the language of that kind of temptation and to make it their identity. That may address the first part of the question in terms of the noun versus the verb. One of the great things about being a follower of Jesus is that not everything that describes me defines me, that's liberating, and especially my temptations. The second part of the question, I would say, it's not just a distinction between having certain feelings and acting on them, because, actually, Jesus says it's not just about our physical behavior, it's about our hearts and our attitude. He says in the sermon on the mount, that even if you look at someone with lust, you've committed adultery in your heart. So it's not enough for us to say, "Well, I entertain all these thoughts in my mind, but as long as I never give them physical expression, I'm okay". Jesus says, actually, that the battle for Godliness, the battle for obedience is in our minds. It's in our hearts. So the issue is, I think, the distinction is not necessarily between having feelings and acting on them so much as having temptations and yielding to them. All of us experience temptation. The vast majority, if not all of us, will experience some forms of sexual temptation. We know that when we experience temptation, we're to flee it, we're to remain faithful. There are certain thoughts we're not to indulge in. We're not to give space to in our hearts and minds. And, again, that is the case for every single one of us.

Moderator: Thank you, Sam. We turn now, our final question here will end us off tonight. Please.

Male: So this question is for Mr. Zacharias. In the beginning of your talk, you talk about postmodernism and its relationship with Christianity. So tagging onto that, here's my question: to what extent can relativism and Christian belief coexist in harmony? I know it's a bit of a mouthful, but...

Moderator: To what extent can...

Male: Relativism and Christian belief coexist in harmony with the kind of presupposition that relativism kind of implies that absolutes exist, or, sorry, that they don't exist. So really, it's that kind of dichotomy, so to what extent?

Moderator: To what extent can relativism and Christianity exist in harmony?

Male: Yes.

Ravi Zacharias: One of the Youtube clips... by the way, I don't watch Youtube, so I don't know what they sound like...

Male: I do.

Ravi Zacharias: And I know you do. And, in fact, somebody wrote to me from one country and said, "When you come here, please don't use any of your material from Youtube because we've already heard it. So can you come here with something else"? They keep listening to Youtube. It will save them the plane cost for me getting there. You know, the amazing thing is, relativists never really tell you relative to what. It's fine to say, "I'm a relativist". But to what? Are you relate to yourself? Are you to the time of the day? Are you who's watching? I remember we were in one university, I think vince vitale, my colleague, and I were there, and this one guy walked up to the microphone, and it was shown on Youtube. I guess it got over a million hits or something. He walked up, and he said, "What are you guys so afraid of relativism, you know, what are you so afraid of relativists? Where it says relativist, it's okay. Are you so in love with absolutes that you're just so fearful of relativism"? So I said to him, "Do you lock your doors at night"? And he just stared at me. I said, "What are you afraid of? Are you afraid of the relativists on your street, or are you afraid of the absolutists who believe in a moral law"? And that was the end of that interaction because he knew that we simply cannot absolutize relativism because, first of all, it doesn't tell you relative to what. Number two, it tells you that the dangers are huge when each person is relative to their own ethnic or to within their own culture. Let me give you an illustration, and then I'll get to the nub of the answer here. We were in a country recently that I shall not name for you. But I was invited by one of the most violent individuals on the face of the earth to come and meet with him privately. You know, I'm not a masochist, but I said, "What are the terms, and what are the conditions they wanted to talk"? And through a mutual friend, I said, "Can I bring two other friends with me and you can bring two others with you"? So, I took Michael Ramsden, and I took from Egypt, and we had a fascinating conversation. This guy has engineered more killings than you'd care to hear, and we had to get clearance from the local government to even meet with him. And quite a character. I looked at, because he spoke the language, and I said, "You lead us off, and then we'll get into the discussion". Began brilliantly, he began brilliantly. He didn't tell us about what he was going to say. First, he said it in arabic, then he translated into English. He said, "The difference, sir, between you and me, when you see a man whose belief you don't agree with, your solution is to kill the man, get rid of him. You will draw blood because you disagree with his belief". He said, "When I see a person with whom I disagree in their belief, my goal is still to win them and not to destroy them but to argue with the belief so that the belief can be challenged, but the person's dignity and respect is still remained intact. I will always love you and respect you even though we disagree with each other, but your choice is to kill me, my choice is to protect you, but to deal with the truth and the lie and converse accordingly". When he told me what he'd just said, I said, "What a way to begin". You know, and the man looked and he said, "You're right. That is the difference between us". Because in our goal as apologists, we are not there to answer a question, we aren't there to answer a questioner. My mother used to say, "Once you cut off a person's nose, there's no point giving them a rose to smell". You can't destroy the person and then preach some great platitudes and nobilities or whatever. You have to keep their dignity intact. Why do I give you that illustration? The reason I give you that illustration is because it starts with the assumption that you and I are created in the image of God, and that value I have to always give you intrinsically. If relativists start off with the assumption that I am at the freedom to do whatever I wish to do, the fact of the matter is, they are being autonomous. They are law unto themselves, and when two autonomous individuals meet each other, the bigger one may be left standing after that, and that's not the kind of culture we really want. So to what degree do we tolerate relativism? It's a well-asked question. We are living in a culture where we do interact with relativists, but I have to remind the relativist that he is either relative only to himself, and if that's the case, he ought to give me the same privilege. And my privilege, then, is to relate not to myself but to relate to absolutes. And that absolutes come from the unchanging character of God. So I govern my life, at least we attempt to govern our lives, with the character of God. We may have to put up with the relativists that are all around us, and all you end up then, in that case, is a constantly changing, fluctuating law. And the person next to you may even be the strongest one on the block who gets rid of all of the others and then it becomes a superman. Parmenides gave a one line about reality, he said, "Whatever is, is". When heraclitus came along, he came and said, "No, no, whatever is, is changing. You do not enter into the same river twice". Cratylus came along and went even one better. He said, "Actually, you don't even step into the same river once, because not only is the river changing, you're changing all along at the same time". Relativism will bring the constancy of change that will be no longer an absolute by which to judge anything, and you end up with a culture that is totally not autonomous and will be total chaos and conflict in the end. That's why the Lord reminds us that he gives us the moral law because he's also given us framework, and he's given us the intrinsic worth of every human being. You deny that first premise, and relativism is destroying not only the discussion, it's destroying the ones with whom you're discussing it, and that becomes self-defeating.
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Are you Human?:*