In this episode Kurt speaks with astrophysicist and apologist Hugh Ross (Reasons to Believe) on the stories of his faith and the faith of others. Ross encourages us to have an adventurous faith to share the Gospel with others.
Kurt: Well a good day to you and thanks for joining us here on another episode of Veracity Hill where we are striving for truth on faith, politics, and society. So nice to be with you here, episode 120. We’ve got a great treat in store for you today. We’re talking to Hugh Ross of Reasons to Believe, but before we get into that I just have a few preliminary comments. Things have been quite busy for us the past few weeks. I guess three or four weeks ago, maybe four weeks ago, we had the Defenders Conference, which was just a blast. If you haven’t had a chance to come to Chicago like many did we are presently working on editing those files, Chris is the main video editor for us and so hopefully in the next coming weeks we’ll have those main sessions up and you can enjoy, the theme of our conference was on the supposed divine genocide commands and we brought in four different speakers to talk about their views. It was a lot of fun. Two weeks ago I was in Charlotte, North Carolina at the National Conference on Christian Apologetics hosted by Southern Evangelical Seminary and that was a lot of fun, got to meet a bunch of new folks and got to speak, I spoke on apologetic methodology which was fun. On today’s program, we actually are recording live here before a live studio audience. We have a couple Hugh Ross fans in the house, Bob and Kathy Clapper are sitting in. They are local supporters of Reasons to Believe. They’ve got a local chapter, Bob, it’s in Aurora….Ginger Creek Community Church. If you’re here in the western suburbs of Chicago and you want to learn more about what it means to be a Christian and how to integrate your faith in science and discuss topics like that and hear from specialists, scholars in the area, Bob does a great job getting folks to come in through Skype usually. He’s got some good curriculum and videos that the group goes through. If you want to learn more about how to do that, Bob, what’s the best way to get in touch with you.
Bob: Go to Reasons To Believe’s website.
Kurt: RTB website and find the local chapters there. Great. Awesome. Thanks for coming guys. Great to have you. As I mentioned, we have Hugh Ross on our program today and some of you might be wondering who is Hugh Ross exactly. Let me just talk briefly about him. I had the chance to hear him speak years ago and I’ve read one of his books back when I was in high school. Funny story, obviously this is before I was married, I was dating someone and she held to evolution and I sent to her one of Hugh’s books and she had read it and she had to give some thought to her positions and so I thought that was very helpful so I know that Hugh’s been part of my life for many years and great to read his work and to see his influence, so who is he exactly? Hugh Ross is the founder and president of Reasons to Believe which is out in Southern California. He’s the author of many books including More Than A Theory and Why The Universe Is The Way It Is. An astronomer and member of the pastoral staff of a church near CalTech, Ross has addressed students and faculty on over 300 campuses in the United States and abroad on a wide variety of science, faith topics. Hugh. Thank you so much for joining us on our program today.
Hugh: My pleasure.
Kurt: Great to have you on. I know we just briefly chatted two weeks ago at the National Conference on Christian Apologetics and so it was good to see you there and that way you’ve put a name to the face cause you knew that this interview was coming up so that was always fun to see you there. You have written a number of books based on your scientific research and integrating that with faith, but this book here that you’ve written published, Always Be Ready: A Call to Adventurous Faith is something different isn’t it? It’s not exactly these are the scientific facts. Tell us a little bit about this book.
Hugh: It’s a book I wanted to write more than three decades ago based on 1 Peter 3:15. Always be ready with good reasons for your hope in Jesus Christ, present them with gentleness, and respect, and a clear conscience, and you’ll see God supernaturally bringing people to you that God has prepared to hear and respond to those good reasons, but I felt it critical to first publish the good reasons so we spent the last thirty years bringing out over 20 books and basically demonstrate the kinds of reasons that we feel Americans in the 21st century need to hear and that’s primarily using the book of nature to bring people to the book of Scripture. Reasons to Believe is all about developing new evidences for the Christian faith from the frontiers of scientific research and basically demonstrating the people that you see in Job and Psalms, that the more we learn more about nature, the more evidence we’ll find for the supernatural handiwork of God, but now that we’ve got all those good reasons published, this is a book basically telling you, take advantage of these good reasons and see God do amazing miracles in your life to bring people to faith in Jesus Christ and the subtitle is a call to adventurous faith. This is so much fun. Everybody needs to get involved. As a pastor, I really want to see everybody experiencing the wonder of seeing God use them to bring people to faith in Jesus Christ. Not just the 10% you hear about in the Barna surveys.
Kurt: Yes, and now you talked about the book of nature and that is really for a lot of people, they might be put off. If it’s not in the Bible then we can’t have good knowledge about it or anything like that. You mentioned, but when we study nature, we can learn about the creator and so that’s one of the ways we can discover these truths and we can make inferences, logical, rational inferences that there is a creator and what the creator has done and that helps us to glorify God and even the Scripture attests to this, of course, in many places. You’ve taken your experiences here, your stories, you talk about your journey and the journey of others that you met along your way and you share numerous stories here, so is it really from, you mention this is a book that you’ve wanted to write for maybe 30 years, but at the same time, you have all these experiences now that you’ve accumulated, all these stories that you’re now able to share. I had a chance to read many of them. Give me if you could just a few recent stories perhaps from the past year or so. What have been some influential conversations that you’ve had with people?
Hugh: The whole point is the book of Acts is not done. God is still performing miracles like he did in the book of Acts and yes, I’ve accumulated these stories, not just from my life, but the life of others. I don’t want people thinking they have to be a scientist in order to have these experiences. Anybody can have them, but you do it to prepare good reasons. If you want a recent story, I was in the airport and my plane was delayed. It was delayed for over an hour. Finally, they called my name and I thought was going to get bumped from the flight, but the lady behind the counter said “Are you traveling alone?” I said, “Yes?” “Do you mind if we change your seat? There’s a family that needs to sit together?” “You can put me anywhere you want in the airplane.” She gave me a new ticket and it was for a first-class seat. I don’t fly first-class, but I was flying first-class that day. I sat down and another man joined me and said, “I never fly first-class either.” He introduced himself and said “I’m from Germany. I’m a quantum physicist. I’m an atheist and a skeptic. Who are you?” “I’m not from Germany. I’m from Canada. I’m not a quantum physicist. I’m an astrophysicist. I’m not an atheist nor a skeptic. I’m a Christian.” He said, “This is going to be a great flight.” He had some questions. Over the course of two hours, he asked me eight questions. Things like, “If there’s a God, why is the universe so enormous?” “If there is a God, why is it so old?” If there is a God, why this huge amount of entropy in the universe, this decay?” I answered his eight questions and at the end he said, “I want to know why you have such well-prepared answers to my eight questions.” I said, “Your eight questions are the chapter titles in the book I wrote.” “I don’t believe you.” I had only one book in my briefcase that was left from my travels and it was that very book and I showed him the table of contents and there were his eight questions. As we walked off the plane we calculated the probability of a German quantum physicist who is an atheist that would be an airplane with a Canadian astrophysicist who was a Christian. We calculated the probability was 1 chance in less than 2 billion and concluded that what happened that day was no accident. This is God putting people together. When I’m on airplanes talking to people, about half the people I engage either have a PhD in science or a doctorate in theology. You and I both know that does not make up 50% of the U.S. population. That makes up less than .5%? Why is it those are the people I make. God knows my background. He knows the reasons I prepared. He puts this together, and likewise I’ve got a friend who came out of the Mormon faith and when he’s traveling, he’s always running into Mormons. God knows your background. He knows your reasons and he will make things happen to take advantage of the reasons you prepare and your experiences and background.
Kurt: It’s great to hear the Lord using that opportunity. A little bit about myself. I’m working on my PhD so I’m hoping to be a theologian. I have some of these questions about divine providence and how all that works and it’s really, it’s encouraging to hear a story like yours where you calculate the probabilities and you’re just like, that seems very, there’s something more going on here. In your book, speaking of divine providence and how God works in the world, we can look at His general providence and we also see special providence. Maybe a lot, the vast majority of the things humans experience are simply part of God’s general providence, but sometimes, even that general providence seems a little special, something to smile at. In your book, you do talk about, you’ve got a section on hearing God’s voice. That’s something I’ve thought about and I’ve spoken to people about. “What does it mean when God tells you to do this or God told you to do that?” In your section, you note there that you’ve also heard many people say the same thing and maybe you’ve written that with a little bit of hesitancy or caution, but there was one instance in your life where you really heard God speak to you, maybe not audibly like a voice, but you heard God telling you something. Tell us about that story.
Hugh: It was actually a loud audible voice.
Hurt: As a pastor I get a lot of people coming to me saying God told them this, God told them that. I typically am very skeptical when people say that. That may be just your wishful thinking. What evidence do you have this is really God? In my case, I think I had some strong evidence it was really God yelling at me, because it was a time when I was quite young, just joined the CalTech staff and I was really succumbing to pride and there was one evening where I heard this audible voice coming out of my fireplace and it was God rebuking me for my pride and it was just the tone of my voice immediately made me repent. Wow. I just had no idea. I was grateful. I tell people when God speaks in an audible voice almost always it’s a rebuke and a call to repentance. Tell me your story. If it’s not that, then maybe it’s your psychology that makes you think this is it. For one thing, the most common thing I hear is somebody saying God told me I’m supposed to marry this woman. “Has God told that woman?” “Has God told everyone else?” Maybe you should hold that with a degree of caution and don’t embarrass yourself by going up to that woman. That was the moment when I knew this was God, because if it wasn’t for that voice, I would have really succumbed to that pride and that would have really crippled my whole ministry.
Kurt: I can’t imagine that that would be a good pick-up line. God told me we’re supposed to get married. Wouldn’t do too well. Many people know you’re a scientist, a brilliant one at that, and that you’re a Christian apologist but not many people know that you’re also a pastor so tell us a little bit about your pastoral background.
Hugh: I was at CalTech and that’s really I first met Christian. I became a Christian through my astronomy, but it took me awhile to meet Christian when I was up in Canada at CalTech. There was another Christian there who was an astronomer. He came to me and said “Hugh. I’m really thrilled that you led your office mate to Christ and you’re sharing your faith with all these scientists here and you’re having some good success. You ever thought about sharing your scientific evidences with a non-scientists? I said, “Dave. Where do you find these non-scientists?” He said, “Walk off the CalTech campus. I’m sure you’re going to run into one or two.” I took him literally. I walked off the campus and just started sharing with total strangers and discovered they are far more receptive to the scientific evidences than the scientists at CalTech I was talking to and it wasn’t long before I discovered I was getting more fulfillment out of leading people to faith in Jesus Christ than I was discovering quasars at the edge of the universe. I was a Canadian which meant I could only stay in the US for three years. The church where I started a number of evangelistic ministries found out that I was going to have to leave the country and they said, “What can we do to get you to stay?” I said, “If you get me an H1Visa, I will take your offer to join this staff as a minister to evangelism.” They made it clear that they wanted to be that role one of training people of how to use science, the book of nature, to bring people to the cross of Jesus Christ. I’ve been a pastor in that church for the past four decades and it was that church that helped me launch Reasons To Believe.
Kurt: Wow. What a great opportunity that has been for you and to see the Lord’s blessing over the decades for your flourishing ministry. That’s so awesome. You talked about, just briefly, that you became a Christian through studying the book of nature. Tell me more about your testimony.
Hugh: I was born and raised and educated in Canada and I became very interested in astronomy at age 7. That was when I was reading five books a week on physics and astronomy. When I was about 16, I spent a year studying cosmology, the origin and history of the universe, and that’s when I realized the universe has a beginning. If it has a beginning, there’s got to be a beginner. I began to search for that cosmic beginner. First were the writings of Immanuel Kant and Rene Descartes and found out they had the wrong concepts of space and time and began to go through the holy books of different religions of the world and it was a two-year detail study of the Gideon Bible that persuaded me, this book has to be the inspired inerrant word of God because of hundreds of places that predicted future scientific discoveries. It was at age 19 that I signed my name at the back of that Gideon Bible giving my life to Christ. I write in the book Always Be Ready, that when I signed my name in a Gideon Bible I knew I was committing myself to go public with my faith and to be an evangelist for the Christian faith and began immediately to look for opportunities to tell people about the Christian faith and my first one was with my physics lab partner and he could tell I wanted to talk. He said, “Hugh. I know you want to talk, but I need to talk. I need to talk somebody about God. Do you know anybody on this campus[NP1] ? .That led to a four-hour conversation and he wound up becoming a chair of the department of the University of Alberta. I found out later that he was very encouraging to his other students, undergrad and grad students, about investigating the Christian faith.
Kurt: That’s great. So when he asked you, you’re “Let’s go walk around and try to find someone.”
Hugh: He had no idea that I had become a Christian so that really opened up a great conversation, but the whole point is, if you commit yourself to be available, God will bring people to you and that’s just one of many examples, hundreds of examples in my life.
Kurt: If you could think of the most exciting experience you’ve had in evangelism, what would you say that has been?
Hugh: One I write about in the book is being with a brand new Christian and I was just taking him door to door. I was talking to strangers and 19 doors, nobody wanted to answer the door. We got to this last place. It was already dark. There was a big gate there so you opened up the gate and there’s this large German Shepherd dog and the dog basically guided us. It turned out it was a five-acre property. The dog guided us all the way to the front door in the dark. I knock on the door and the man opens the door and says, “How did you get here?” We said, “Your dog showed us the way.” He says, “You don’t understand. Didn’t you see the sign at the gate?” “We didn’t see any sign.” “It’s lit. You couldn’t have missed it.” “We did not see the sign.” He says, “That sign was warning everybody that there’s a trained attack dog on the premises. That dog is trained to bark very loudly at anyone who comes near the gate. If anybody opens the gate, that dog is trained to subdue you and so you got no bites on you?” I said, “No. Your dog never barked and just guided us all the way to the front door.” Then he stared at us and said, “You must be Christians.” I said, “What makes you consider that?” He says, “My wife and I and our three children have been praying this evening that God would send us Christians to show us how to become Christians” so all five members of the family prayed to receive Christ that night, and as a matter of fact the dog was sitting with me. They said, “The dog has never done that before.” Then he took us out and showed us the sign. It was a large sign. It was lit, warning us of this trained attack dog, and the young man who was with me, the new Christian said, “Hugh. This is just like the book of Acts. God blinded us to the sign. God tamed the dog. God answered the prayer of this man, his wife, and his three children.”
Kurt: I was going to say, you referenced the book of Acts there. This reminded me of the story of Cornelius. Wow. Such a great opportunity. Oh, my goodness, to hear that story and the many others for the way the Lord has used you for His kingdom. I know your book isn’t just geared toward sharing your stories, but you use your stories as a way to encourage others to share their faith and so I want to ask you a few questions about how we can do that, because for many of us, it takes that leap. A lot of people, they might get nervous, they might get anxious. What would you say is a good tip to begin a conversation about our faith with others?
Hugh: Ask questions. Everybody I know likes to talk about themselves. I meet strangers. They’re in an airport or airplane or at the grocery line or at the bank, I ask them questions. That’s important because you need to share reasons that are specific to their particular issues. I need to find out what kind of non-Christian I’m talking to before I provide the reasons and I like to get them to a point where they ask me for the reasons. Keep asking questions. If you do that, you get skilled on how to ask questions in the right way and again, always be gracious and gentle. If they don’t want to talk, I’m going to leave them alone, but it’s amazing how often they do want to talk, and yes, bring up questions, eventually, they ask you a question. If they’re hostile, sometimes I get a lot of hostile reactions from people, and that just tells me somewhere in their past, they’ve been hurt or wounded by Christian or church experience. I encourage them to talk about it. Tell me what happened. Show some compassion and that’ll often open the door.
Kurt: Wow. So if you had to survey in your mind the different opportunities that you’ve had, how many times is it that you meet a Christian already on your path, how many times is it you meet an atheist or someone of a different world religion?
Hugh: For example, I hear you’re getting a doctorate in theology. I was on the airplane with a professor who teaches grad students at a seminary, but I found out that he did not believe in biblical inerrancy so I asked him why and he says it’s because of science. He said, “You ever met a scientist who believed in biblical inerrancy? I don’t think such a person exists.” I said, “You’re talking to one right now.” “You’ve got to be kidding. You actually believe in biblical inerrancy? How do you do that from a scientific perspective?” He was doubtful I was a good scientist, but when he found out that I had been to CalTech he says, “Obviously you’re a serious scientist.” That led again to a two-hour conversation I had with him, and basically helped him understand that science is not the enemy of the Christian faith. It’s an ally of the Christian faith and we really can hold to the Bible being completely inerrant in everything it touches, not just for faith and practice, but science and geography. Again, what are the odds I would be sitting on an airplane right next to a theology professor whose his big issue in theology[NP2] ….
Kurt: Wow. So I’m sure there are many folks wondering, “How is it that an astrophysicist also believes in the inerrancy of the Bible?” Could you explain for some people, let’s say as best as you could summarize your view of the Genesis creation accounts?
Hugh: That was actually my first clue that this Bible was different from all the other holy books I was looking at. I looked at Genesis 1 and said, “This is following the scientific method. This is amazing.” I just followed that scientific method because Genesis 1:2 says the frame of reference of the six days of creation is God is hovering over the surface of the waters of planet Earth and so when it says in creation day one, let there be light, I said, “That’s God transforming the atmosphere from opague to translucent.” I saw that confirmed in Job 38 where God speaks and He says, “He wrapped the seas with clouds that kept the seas dark.” There it’s explicit on why it was dark on the surface of the waters and when I got to creation day 4 it says let there be the great lights so they may serve as signs to mark seasons, days, and years. That’s a time when God transformed the atmosphere from translucent to transparent so these future animals He would create would actually be able to regulate their complex biological clocks. I spent about three hours studying that first page of the Bible and realized everything was correctly stated and the correct chronological order and that these were consecutive days where each day was a long period of time. That conclusion is easy to draw because I saw that the word day had at least three distinct definitions. Creation day’s one’s contrasting day and nights as day has daylight hours. Creation day four seasons, days, and years, has 24 hours, then Genesis 2:4 uses the word day for all of creation history. That’s a long period of time and notice there is no evening and morning for the seventh day so that means we’re still in the seventh day and I found three texts, John 5, Psalm 95, and Hebrews 4, that explicitly state we’re still in God’s seventh day. I saw that and it was like a light bulb experience for me cause something that had plagued me since I was 11 years old was the fossil record enigma, why we see so many species before humanity coming upon the scene and so few afterwards. This text answers that fossil record enigma. For six days, God creates, that explains all the new species of life before Adam and on the seventh day God stops. That explains why we only see natural process in biology today, so that motivated me to continue reading through the rest of the Bible and said I’m going to keep reading this until I find a provable error or contradiction. I got to Revelation 22, no provable errors and contradictions, but many other places where I realized this text is predicting things way beyond the science of the authors who are writing it.
Kurt: Fascinating. We’ll have to bring you back on an episode just for us to be able to delve into issues like that.
Hugh: I wrote a whole book on it, Navigating Genesis.
Kurt: That’s the book I sent to the gal I was dating.
Hugh: Oh really?
Kurt: Great. Hugh, we’ve got to take a short break here and for those that are following along, thank you so much. If you’ve got questions, we’re keeping tabs on the livestream and you can also text in to us. You can text the word VERACITY to 555-888 and text your questions in that way. The program we use actually, I usually have it up on the computer, they’ve now created a mobile app, so I’ll be checking in on my phone if you text in questions that way. We’ve got to take a break here, but stick with us through this break from our sponsors.
Kurt: Thanks for sticking with us through that short break from our sponsors. If you’d like to learn how you can become a sponsor, or a patron, that’s just someone who chips in a few bucks a month, you can go to our website, veracityhill.com/patron, or you can click on that patron tab if you’d want to keep typing into the URL. Today, we are talking with Dr. Hugh Ross of Reasons To Believe. He’s an astrophysicist and a Christian apologist and an evangelist as well. We’re hearing some of his great stories and being encouraged and with the rest of the program we’re going to keep hearing some of these stories and learn more about how we can share our faith with others. Hugh. This next segment of our program, we like to call Rapid Questions and it’s basically 60 seconds where we ask just a bunch of fun, goofy questions and we hear responses to questions people might not normally ask or hear the answers to when they’re speaking to folks such as yourself so if you are ready, we’re going to start the game clock and I’ll ask the first question.
Hugh: That’s great, but we’re actually giving away the chapter that has all the airplane stories in it, Reasons.org/Ross, people can get that free chapter.
Kurt: Okay. Great. We’ll be sure to share that link at our website. Are you ready for this round of Rapid Questions?
Kurt: Okay. Here we go. What’s your clothing store of choice?
Kurt: Taco Bell or KFC?
Hugh: I get a choice? Okay. Taco Bell or KFC? Taco Bell.
Kurt: Okay. What is your most hated sports franchise?
Hugh: Hated sports franchise? That’s a hard one.
Kurt: No worries. You can pass.
Hugh: I’ll pass on that one.
Kurt: What was the name of your first pet?
Hugh: Name of my first pet was Socks.
Kurt: Do you sing in the shower?
Hugh: No. Terrible singer.
Kurt: What kind of car do you drive?
Hugh: I drive a Honda Fit.
Kurt: What’s your best childhood memory?
Hugh: My best childhood memory is my parents inviting all these refugee immigrants over to our house for a big dinner. They would do that. It’d be a Thanksgiving and Christmas.
Kurt: Great. So you would hear these experiences of these people coming from, leaving, seeking to find a safe place to raise a family and, now were these Christian refugees or not necessarily?
Hugh: Don’t think any of them were Christian, but they had incredible stories of escaping from Communist tyranny.
Kurt: Wow. That’s a cool opportunity as a boy to really see that for yourself, really neat that your parents opened up their home to that, something perhaps us Christians need to work on ourselves is opening up our homes and bringing in people to share dinner with and not just Christian people, not just people that are on church, I think that’s hard enough for people is opening up their home just to have dinner with people they see every Sunday, but to invite people who aren’t believers so we can come and learn more about their backgrounds, their life experiences, their worldviews, and as you said earlier, we can begin to ask them questions.
Hugh: I actually think hospitality and evangelism are meant to go together. It’s not just giving people food. It’s giving them your time and attention.
Kurt: So we’ve got a few more questions for you today. The Barna Group, Barna says that fewer and fewer Christians see sharing the Gospel as important. What would you say to your fellow Christians about that?
Hugh: I think that’s a symptom that they’re not prepared to deal with the kinds of non-Christians that exist today, the four spiritual laws and the seven steps to peace with God really doesn’t work as effectively as it did 50 years ago because most Americans don’t believe that there’s a God that’s got a wonderful plan for your life so you really need to develop some really good evidences to establish that first. I just encourage people, yes, step 1, you have to prepare the good reasons. Step 2, develop a Christian demeanor. Then you’ll see God do things, but if you lack both, you’re not going to share your faith, so as the evangelism minister, that’s what I do is basically get people ready to be able to share their faith and sometimes I shame them by actually taking brand new Christians and say, “Hey. They’re motivated. They’re doing it. You’ve got more training than they have. You need to join in.”
Kurt: Yeah. Wow. In your book, you’ve got multiple chapters devoted to being ready, being ready to change, be ready for the road. Tell us about these different points you make.
Hugh: Most of us wind up spending some time at a hospital either visiting people or being there because you’re suffering from some kind of ailment. That’s a wonderful time to talk to people because people are actually thinking about “I’ve got a decaying body” or a funeral. That’s one time when you can really talk to people frankly about death and talk about it in a gracious way and it gets them thinking about the most important issues of life and so I find that hospitals and funerals, weddings, those are times when you can engage Americans that are so busy with their life about the most important issues of life and as a pastor I’ll say that’s a principle Sabbath, taking regular time out to focus on the most important issues of life, but these are opportunities, so I got a lot of stories for example of what’s happened when I’ve been in hospitals visiting people and being there myself as a patient. I was actually talking to a physicist who is a deep coma just two days before his death and how we were able to actually share the gospel with him in such a way that he was able to respond even though he couldn’t speak. He was able to open up his eyelids and put some pressure through his hands and so I’m convinced, that even though he’s a lifelong atheist in his last two days of his life was changed.
Kurt: When the human body begins to break down, so does the human heart it seems.
Hugh: When you really know, this life is going to end, all my diversions don’t make any sense anymore, I find that when people realize, “Hey, I’m facing death”, then they think about the most important issues of life and often you find them to be very receptive or when they’re in hospital just having had a surgery, they can be receptive and I even tell a story of how I was in the hospital having had some surgery and I got visits from five chaplains and I found out later nobody gets more than one chaplain visit. I got five. The first four chaplains, I found out they weren’t Christians so I asked them why they were not believers and they said because of science and again, it gave me a wonderful opportunity to share with them that science is actually Christianity’s greatest ally and so I had me an opportunity to share for over an hour with each of those four chaplains. The fifth chaplain that visited me was a believer. I actually met him in a previous encounter and he says, “I want to follow up all four of those and see if we can get them walking on the right road,” so again, what’s the probability that I would get five chaplain visits and nobody else and what’s the probability the first four, science was their big hang-up, in terms of not giving their life to Christ.
Kurt: That seems like people are walking into, they don’t know what type of store they’re walking into when they’re seeking to say, “I’m not a believer because of science issues” and all of a sudden, here’s Hugh Ross.
Hugh: I didn’t have a private room. There’s another gentleman that was sharing the room. He wasn’t a believer, but he got to hear it over and over again and I know that when the fourth chaplain came a big smile came on his face.
Kurt: He knew what was coming.
Hugh: He knew what was coming.
Kurt: That’s great. You’ve had some wonderful opportunities. Many of your stories are on the road, people you meet. You’ve got a section here about your time with William Lane Craig and we’ll say the Russians, tell us a little bit about that experience.
Hugh: I’ve made three visits to the Soviet Union when it was still the Soviet Union. I was actually being sponsored by the Soviet government to speak on science and faith issues and this was weird because I knew that atheism was their state religion. They said, “We’re only going to let you speak to scientists who have PhDs” and said “Our scientists are traveling out of the country anywhere and we’re basically appeasing them by having you come and speak on the subjects they want you to speak on.” One of those was in front of 700 physicists in Moscow and I gave a talk on how astronomy and physics gives us evidences for the Christian faith and during the Q&A one of the physicists stood up and said, “I want to know how you became a Christian.” I said, “It was actually astronomy and physics that brought me to faith in Christ long before I met a Christian.” I shared my story. I closed with my little Gideon signing my name in the book of the Gideon Bible and then we gave an invitation. I said, “If you’ve given your life to Christ today, put your name on a piece of paper.” We were naive. We were not aware there was a paper shortage in Moscow at the time and these physicists were looking for pieces of paper and tearing them into tiny shards and writing their name in tiny print with paper. We had a mountain of paper on the table at the front from all those that committed their life to Christ. We estimate that it was over 95% of the 700 physicists made a commitment that day. As they were walking out of that lecture hall, there were two men at the back handing out little books and so I went back to those two gentlemen and they said, “Do you remember the fundraiser you did in Santa Barbara, California to raise money for Russian Gideon Bibles?” I said, “Yeah. We raised $35,000 that night.” “Guess what? These are these very Bibles.” Everyone of those physicists got to take one as they left that day and that was at a time when the price of a Bible in Russia was two months salary so I just looked at those physicists. They were just, at[NP5] the fact that they got a free Bible. That was just such a gift for them.
Kurt: Yeah. Your stories really carry, you hear this great story about someone or many people accepting the Christian faith and then there’s this cherry on top.
Hugh: It’s a cherry on top. Exactly.
Kurt: That’s great. Wow. The fundraiser that you had done. You can see how the Lord is really working in and through you and your ministry work and it’s just so awesome to hear these stories and I want to encourage people too to check out Always Be Ready, a call to adventurous faith. We’ll put a link at our website as well. Hugh. A couple questions left here. Readiness together. Tell me about this chapter here and the importance it plays for the Christian church in evangelism.
Hugh: Having been a minister of evangelism or apologetics for the past four decades and just my speaking at churches in America and around the world, I realized most churches are not prepared to bring adult non-Christians to faith in Christ and so I got two chapters in the book on how what your Bible study can do, your Sunday School class, your church, your elder board can do, to actually get more than 10% of the people in your church sharing their faith with non-Christian adults and so just some tips. For example, a lot of churches will have congregations and small groups and I’m recommending the book. You need to focus in mid-size groups. If the group is too small, then non-Christians can’t hide. If the group is too big, they can’t participate, and so try to find structures where you’ve got small group evangelistic things, where you’ve got say 25 to 80 people in a group, and structure it in such a way where there’s no singing, non-Christian mean don’t sing so don’t, and they’re not ready to give praises to God because they don’t believe in God yet so don’t make that a barrier and then be prepared to be interrupted. This past I’d[NP6] had a class for skeptics now for the past 40 years and the way I run the class, I do have a message I’m prepared to give and I let people in the class interrupt me anytime on any topic. If I only get through 10 minutes of my content, I’m okay with that because I can pick it up next week. I think it’s more important to deal with peoples’ issues and again, structure the class in such a way that it’s going to be inviting to unbelievers. It goes without saying refreshments are criticals. Having greeters taking people to lunch afterwards and one tip I’ve got for pastors, every church I know where the pastor ends a sermon with an open mike Q&A, those are questions that are growing by adult converts. You will gain a reputation in community if people realize you’re prepared to take open mike questions on any topics. It basically tells people “I’m confident about my faith. I don’t care if you have questions. Come up.” I would encourage churches everywhere that that’s something they need to put into practice, even if it’s only five minutes. At least get some Q&A after the message.
Kurt: Just a couple questions.
Kurt: At the end of the day, what would you say is the main takeaway you want for the reader of Always Be Ready.
Hugh: I want them to actually see God performing miracles on a regular basis in their life. I meet a lot of Christians who say I never see God performing miracles. It says because you’re in the stands. You need to get on the playing field. It’s only the players on the playing field that are going to get a pass to score a touchdown. It’s not going to happen if you’re in the stands. Prepare the good reasons and there’s one chapter in Always Be Ready, chapter 3, where I give an outline on what we consider to be the five best reasons that non-Christian adults need to hear so prepare those good reasons, develop that gracious, gentleness and respect, and people say, “How do you do that?” Ask the non-Christians you’re talking to where you’re being obnoxious. They will tell you. We’re all obnoxious to some degree so getting some feedback from other Christians or especially from the unbelievers, that will help you develop a gentle, respectful spirit that 1 Peter talks about and then be ready to see God do miracles in your life and it’s been my experience that that really encourages the faith of the believer, actually seeing God personally intervene in your life in miraculous ways to enable you to be an effective minister and as a pastor I can tell you, I think every Christian needs to have those experiences on a regular basis. Notice in the book of Exodus the children of Israel begin to have a weakened faith when too much time had gone by since the last time they saw a miracle. My exhortation is don’t let a week go by without seeing God do a miracle in your life and it can be that frequent if you will prepare the reasons and the Christian demeanor that 1 Peter talks about. It’s way too much fun. You gotta get involved.
Kurt: That’s some great advice. I haven’t heard, just thinking back, I haven’t heard of any pastor doing an open Q&A session after their sermon. That’s, I think that’s some stellar advice. I’d be intrigued. I love hearing scholars do open Q&A, when you go to the university campus. Why shouldn’t our pastors not do that. I’ll have to float that to my pastor. See what he thinks.
Hugh: Also let him know he doesn’t have to answer all the questions by himself. He’s got experts like you in the audience. He can always call them up to help you. Having a panel of people answer questions will work just as well.
Kurt: Yeah. That’s great. Wow. While I still have you here on the line, Hugh, we do have a listener who is watching and he’s patiently been waiting. I say this question because it’s related, but not quite precisely on topic. Charles asks, “On your compendium list of fine-tuning facts, where should someone start in such a large list?”
Hugh: I would begin with the list of design features of the universe and the laws of physics that reveal how the universe has been designed as a home of human beings. That’s design on the larger scale. The rest of the compendium basically takes you down to the cluster galaxies, our galaxy, our planetary system, all the way down to fundamental particles. It’s 300 pages long, but I did divide it up, for example, fine-tuning for humans, fine-tuning for animals, fine-tuning for bacteria. One book that came out a couple years ago, Improbable Planet, I make the point that where you see the greatest fine-tuning evidence is in the context of what needs to be done for billions of humans to be redeemed from their sin and evil. You look at it from that perspective, literally every component of the universe, Earth, and Earth’s life, and every event in the universe, Earth, and Earth’s life, plays a role in making possible the redemption of billions of human beings in a short period of time. The evidence is everywhere and I’m actually sharing what my non-Christian science peers saying, “If you will do your science research from a Biblical redemptive perspective, you’ll be more efficient in making scientific discoveries.” You don’t have to be a Christian to put this to the test. Put it to the test and see what happens, but, of course, I’m hoping that they’ll actually receive God’s gift of redemption in the process. That is the best way to do science.
Kurt: Yeah. That’s awesome. Hugh. Thank you so much for joining us on our program today and for sharing your stories and your heart for evangelism and reaching people with the gospel. I know that’s so important, even in the apologetics world, a lot of people think we’re just a bunch of apologists talking to apologists and it’s really the ultimate goal is to be sharing the gospel with people and tearing down those obstacles. It’s really great. So glad you put out a book like this. Again, Always Be Ready, a call to adventurous faith. We’ll put a link to Amazon at our website so you can check that out or just search Amazon yourself and you can get the book that way. Thank you, Hugh.
Hugh: You’re very welcome.
Kurt: God bless you.
Hugh: Thank you.
Kurt: That does it for our show today. Chris, I was just thinking back. Hugh. He said when he was a young boy, 7 or 8 or something, that he was reading these books on physics. You were probably playing video games and I was playing backyard baseball. We picked the wrong field. That’s great. That does it for the show today. I’m grateful for the continued support of our patrons and the partnerships that we have with our sponsors. They are Defenders Media, Consult Kevin, The Sky Floor, Rethinking Hell, The Illinois Family Institute, Fox Restoration, and Non-Profit Megaphone. Thank you to our technical producer, Chris, today. Chris does an awesome job week after week. I’m very grateful and blessed by the work that he does. Thank you to our guest today, Hugh Ross, and last but not least, I want to thank you for listening in and for striving for truth on faith, politics, and society.
[NP1]Kurt laughs over Hugh at 18:10
[NP2]Cuts out at 24:40
[NP4]Kurt laughs over Hugh again.
[NP5]Cut at 42:10
[NP6]Cut at 44:30