In this episode, Kurt talks with Abdu Murray, the North American Director for RZIM. Murray’s new book, Saving Truth, is the topic of discussion.
Kurt: 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 yet again. This is episode 99. We are almost to the big 100. Last week, we had a wonderful episode with Dr. Dan Wallace where we talked about the perhaps now infamous Mark fragment, but if you were to have listened to the program, you would have heard that really it still is a famous Mark fragment. It happens to be arguably the earliest Mark fragment that we have and if you’re interested in learning more about that discovery, I want to encourage you to go back and listen to episode 98 whether you’re doing that by a podcast app or you’re on our website or even on Facebook Live. Coming up next week, episode 100, we have an interview with none other than N.T. Wright where we talk about all sorts of things, atonement, justification, the Kingdom of God, and it was just a wonderful interview that’s coming up for you next week, but today, we are talking with Abdu Murray who is with RZIM and he’s the author of the recent book Saving Truth. Abdu. Thank you so much for joining us on our program today.
Abdu: Thanks for having me, Kurt. It’s a pleasure.
Kurt: Yeah. Great. So before we get into to talking about your book, and I’ve got a few questions about that, and also for those that follow along with our ministry activities, we do have a review of the book up at Apologetics315 by Tim Arndt. Tim was gracious enough to get that review up on our website there so I want to encourage our audience to also go check that out as well. In addition to hanging in here, watching, and listening to today’s interview, but Abdu, could you tell us, when I was in high school I heard of Ravi Zacharias and I just soaked up his lectures and the podcast and I read his books, but a lot of people are unfamiliar with the broader ministry of RZIM. Could you take a moment here and tell us about that broader ministry and specifically what you do for them?
Abdu: Absolutely. Thanks for letting me do so. RZIM is actually much bigger than Ravi actually. Obviously, Ravi’s the bigger name and his name’s on the door so people tend to know who he is and his radio broadcast has been absolutely a blessing to so many people, including myself by the way. Quick story Kurt is that, when I wasn’t even a Christian, when I was still a Muslim, I was traveling through mid-Michigan one time having visited a friend in college and I happened to come across Ravi’s podcast. I hit the scan button. This is before iPods obviously, and iPhones, and the scan button on my radio happened to come across this Indian accent talking about Jesus and I’m like, “The only Indians I know talk about Islam or talk about Hindusim. No one talks about Jesus.” I was fascinated to hear this and years later, how ironic it is that I’m actually ministering alongside the man. His impact is wide and various, but RZIM is a ministry. Our main focus is this: It can be summed up in our tagline. Helping the thinker to believe and the believer to think, and in that order specifically. We’re primarily an evangelistic ministry so we want to help thinkers to believe so we go into the tough settings whether it’s political settings, whether it’s in…
Kurt: Secular universities.
Abdu: Absolutely. I was just a couple of months ago at UC Berkeley doing an open forum there and we were at Yale late last year. We’re in these tough settings and what we’re finding is that students are actually hungry. They actually do want answers. They’re not just there to challenge or try to stump the chump as it were. They actually care about the answers which I’m actually very excited about. So we help the thinker to believe, but we also want believers to think, because we’re committed to the idea that if we multiply ourselves, whether it’s your ministry, whether it’s RZIM, whether it’s Stand to Reason or other great ministries that are doing wonderful apologetics work, if we multiply ourselves, that’s when the real effect happens on the culture. We want to engage in a thinking heart and mind Christianity. Not just mind, cause that can be Spocklike, a little bit dead. Not just heart, that can be overly…exactly…but too much heart is too much emotion obviously so we want to bridge both, but the broader ministry’s actually global. Currently we’re at 14 countries along the world with another one I think to come online soon in France. We have 78 speakers who are in addition to Ravi, in addition to myself, and I’m a North American Director which means that though I travel the ministry globally and speak all over the world, my primary focus in terms of my leadership role at RZIM is to focus on vision, mission, and planning for US, Canada, and South America. I’m sort of in charge of or at least helping out with if not totally in charge of the western hemisphere.
Kurt: Wow. Yeah. That’s great. Awesome. Now tell me, you mentioned you were at UC-Berkeley. You gotta have a lot of courage to step on there and to be preaching the gospel.
Abdu: Yes indeed. I’ll tell you what’s interesting. This is our second trip there. When we go there we have these things called university missions where we go and we pick a university and we try to partner with the campus groups, campus Christian groups, and even the secular humanist societies and these kinds of things, to create events over the course of a week so we have between two and three events every single day for at least five days, sometimes six days, and we pick at different universities, university of Florida, Berkeley, we were at Arizona State, UMass, but then, of course, we had five in one week actually in Canada. It’s really seen tons of fruit. So Berkeley was interesting because last year when we went, we came about a month after Milo Yiannapoulos was there and there was that furor and people throwing things through Starbucks. That was, we didn’t have one protest, not one. We had great turnouts. People came to faith there and what we discovered was something very interesting, Kurt, that I think your viewers, and listeners would really love to hear is that when you go to these universities, like a Berkeley or even like a Yale, and you start asking them worldview questions, deep worldview questions, what you find is that these incredibly educated, very smart people, have no idea what you’re talking about. They don’t even have objections. They have political objections to what they think is Christianity, but for the most part, they haven’t even thought of these ideas. It doesn’t even enter into their mindset and so when you begin to ask them about deeply spiritual questions and you start talking about the veracity of the Bible, they’re looking at you like, “This is a thing?” They’re not even objecting. They’re not even it exists. Objections come later so to speak, but honestly, the conversations if you do it in the right way, are really quite frightful.
Kurt: Yeah. It’s really amazing, we are in a culture and a society where there are people that have grown up and really, I mean maybe they’ve heard the word Christian, but they really just don’t know what it means and part of that I think is, I was just looking at a survey done by the Barna Group. Part of that could be because only 51% of churchgoers, 51% of churchgoers, according to a study by Barna, know what the Great Commission is.
Abdu: Yeah. It’s mindblowing isn’t it?
Abdu: And it is called the Great Commission, not the Great Suggestion, because we are committed to be a process aren’t we? Making disciples is not about handing out the four spiritual laws and see you later. I’m an itinerant minister so I understand the need for sort of spot evangelism and it’s important for us to do that, but there is a commitment. We commit our lives to evangelism, but we also commit our lives to discipleship, which is where apologetics comes in. It’s not just with evangelism. Apologetics is important to evangelism. It’s also part of discipleship. It’s part of being the well-rounded Christian who loves the Lord with all of our heart, all of our mind, all of our strength, and all of our soul. I think it’s all part of it. If we don’t know the Great Commission, I do wonder whether or not we understand the global call that Christ gives to us. It’s not just to be a good Christian. It’s to make more.
Kurt: Your time at Berkeley maybe serves as a great transmission into your Saving Truth where you, I’m sure, talked to many people there on the campus that say that they live in a post-truth world, if you will, and so you talk about this in your book which was published by Zondervan just this past month. Tell us, what is that phrase, post-truth?
Abdu: Yeah. In the end of 2016, Oxford English Dictionary named its word of the year. Every year it names a word of the year. It doesn’t have to be a new word. It can be an old word that becomes more fashionable or more important that particular year. The word post-truth actually dates back to 1992 or so, but in 2016 the word was used 2000% more times than in the previous years combined. Post-truth basically in a nutshell, there’s a longer definition, but basically what it means is this. A post-truth mindset is one that elevates feelings and preferences over facts and truths.
Kurt: I got to write that down. Feelings and preferences over what? What was that?
Abdu: Over facts and truth.
Kurt: Over facts and truth.
Abdu: That’s different than a postmodern mindset. They look very very similar, but there’s a functional difference. A postmodern mindset says there is no such thing as absolute truths or objective truths is probably a better word because the idea was that in postmodernism, the idea is if you get rid of objective truth claims, then you get rid of violence because most of the wars and all these things were fought over objective truth claims, so if you get rid of these things and we have a conversation, we’ll stop actually fighting and killing each other which of course, is ridiculous, but that was the right mindset, to get rid of violence, but I think it went completely logically batty. With postmodernism you can actually argue with somebody, because as you know and as I’m sure you’ve had guests on and you yourself have argued, if someone says there’s no such thing as objective truth, that statement is either objective true and if it’s objectively true then the statement is false, and if it’s actually false, the statement is still false, so you have nothing to say.
Kurt: In philosophy, that would be a statement that is self-referentially incoherent.
Abdu: Right. Exactly. You can actually point that out to a postmodern person, but a post-truth person is different. A postmodern person rejects truth’s existence in terms of the objective sense. A post-truth person does not. A post-truth person acknowledges that objective truth exists, but says my preferences and my feelings matter more. In other words, objective truth exists and I don’t care. The question is how do you deal with that, because you can’t argue with “I don’t care,” but you can address it and that’s what I’m hoping to do in Saving Truth.
Kurt: Apathy is a different beast than the debate of ideas. That is something, and it requires really something altogether different, a different approach in how we are to reach people with the gospel.
Abdu: It’s interesting Kurt, because they are apathetic about the existence of objective truths…
Kurt: If it suits them.
Abdu: Exactly. If it clashes with their preferences, then they don’t care about it, but if it suits them then they suddenly care about it. What I would say is one of the ways that approach would care about, how to do it, find out what they do care about, and then talk about whether or not those preferences, when they’re given full vent, will result in the freedom people are looking for or if they’re going to result in chaos.
Kurt: How do you see the church adopting post-truth ideas?
Abdu: Yeah. I wrote a whole chapter on this. What’s interesting is the more I’ve seen people make comments about the book, one of the things Christians make most comments about, in fact, non-Christians have made comments about, is their appreciation for chapter 2 which actually goes into the fact that the church has succumbed to a post-truth mindset. I frankly believe this, is that I think the church is the body of Christ and I’m very very hesitant ever to criticize the church unnecessarily. I think people do that too often and I think that’s important for us to refrain from, but sometimes we have to call it like we see it and in this particular instance, I think the church, if we’re going to diagnose the culture, we have to diagnose ourselves, because we’re a subculture of the broader culture. So how I look at is this. The church has propagated a post-truth mindset where we have elevated preferences and feelings over facts and truth in two ways. Either A, we have this desire to be liked. We want the gospel to be as palatable as possible to the broadest number of people as possible and so what do we do? We end up compromising. We either downplay very difficult passages which are difficult to explain or sort of messy and that kind of thing, whether it’s the Canaanite judgment or it’s same-sex issues or it’s dealing with the gender roles. These are difficult things to have to wrestle with. What we’d rather do is just compromise on those things and then make it was easy-peasy as we can so that people will become part of the church community and finding ourselves compromising. One of the most common passages people compromise is in Matthew 7 where Jesus says “Judge not lest you be not judged, for the same judgment you use, you shall be judged” and Christians are reticent, I’m sorry not, reticent, they’re so ready sometimes to say this is the edict by Jesus to keep us from making moral judgments on other people’s morality. You’re laughing because you know that’s ridiculous.
Kurt: Yeah. You can’t take seriously the idea that Jesus isn’t making moral evaluations. All of His teachings are for moral purposes.
Abdu: The very next persons talk about it don’t they? They talk about when you judge, judge correctly. They’re not saying don’t judge. He’s saying, “Don’t be hypocritical in your judgment.” So what I would suggest is that we take this passage seriously by saying it’s not a matter of just adopting and swallowing whole whatever the culture wants, whatever preferences they have. It’s that we can’t have the same preferences and then judge them for having those same preferences that we have, so if we’re get rid of pornography, we have to get that log out of our own eye before we get sort of the post-truth sexual freedom speck out of our brother’s eye. If we’re going to get rid of the post-truth speck out of our brother’s eye we should get the post-truth log out of our own, but the problem is there’s a pendular swing the other way. In the other side we want to be liked. The other side says that we want to vilify our enemies. We want this situation where they’re them and we don’t want them to win so we’ll propagate even sort of lies as it were on truths. The biggest example I can think of is the Obergefell decision happened in 2015 to legalize same-sex marriage. I don’t know if you got this,but I got this. I got emails and I got my social media feeds were starting to be all a flutter with these articles that people who were Christians or claiming to be Christians were sending saying “That didn’t take long” and all these sort of incendiary titles because they had said there was a story that a gay activist had sued two Christian publishers over their publication of the Bible and he was seeking in public court to ban the Bible as hate speech and he was using the Obergefell decision as his legal precedent to do so claiming this is the law of the land, the Bible’s against it, the Bible is therefore against the law of the land. I took about three minutes to research this. It’s not true. What was true is that a guy did in fact file a lawsuit against two Christian publishers, but he didn’t seek to get the Bible banned. He was a gay activist who actually believed in the Bible, at least he said he did, but he sued them because he claimed they mistranslated the Bible to be non gay-affirming, and he wanted it to be retranslated, and he wanted money damages for emotional damage, but that wasn’t even filed after Obergefell. It was filed seven years before Obergefell. The problem was Christians were propagating something that made their enemies look worse than they actually were or made people who aren’t even their enemies into enemies. C.S. Lewis warned against this when he says that if you hear a report of something that’s bad that’s happened, and then you hear later that maybe it wasn’t so bad as you thought, what is your first reaction? Is your first reaction relief, thank goodness, not even they’re as bad as that, or is your reaction disappointment. I wish they were as bad as I thought they were. He said if you go with the second one, you will begin to see white as gray, gray as black, and soon everything will become evil and your own heart becomes darkened. I think we’re on the cusp in the Christian church of becoming that. We owe not only ourselves, but also our savior and also the culture better.
Kurt: Wow. That’s a powerful word. You mentioned these difficult passages and you even brought up the Canaanite passages which is interesting that you mention that because on September 28-29, the Defenders Conference here in Chicagoland will be focusing on that very topic. That’s the theme of our conference.
Kurt: We’ve got John Walton, Paul Copan, Clay Jones, and Kenton Sparks coming to give their own perspectives on that.
Abdu: That’ll be great.
Kurt: To the best of my knowledge Abdu, there have been no other apologetic events really tailored toward this topic as this main issue. I’m really hoping it’ll get a lot of folks to come in and listen and to be prepared because that’s what it’s really about. I was talking with someone, a mother of two, and she had no idea that YHWH instructs the Israelites to kill even the women and the children. She had no idea it was in the Bible. There are many atheists that are more prepared to attack our faith than there are Christians ready to defend it.
Abdu: I commend you for that conference. That question comes up probably eight out of ten times at an open forum at universities or even in churches. Sometimes Christians ask it and they’re very very desperate to know the issue because they’re like “Oh my goodness. I didn’t even know it was there.” Or skeptics who have walked away from the faith because of these kind of things. I commend you for having a conference specifically on that topic.
Kurt: Thank you. Also, you mentioned sexual issues and I can’t help but think too, this battle, if we want it to call it a culture war. Right? I don’t like calling it a culture war because we shouldn’t be culture warring for the sake of culture warring. We should be concerned about the discipleship of people, about their faith and their beliefs. We really need to be remember that this is about persons and it’s not just about putting on this fake mask, this facade and culture, but this has been happening for decades. It’s not something that even happened ten years ago or even fifteen years ago with a broad acceptance of homosexual marriage or homosexual behavior and then marriage, which mind you, has been a very short shift, but this has been happening for decades. When was the last time we heard a sermon on divorce? When was the last time? There are these no-fault divorces I think have really done a damage socially, but also the fact that our churches aren’t tackling these tough topics and maybe it’s as you say, it’s because pastors and folks in churches, they want to be liked and so….
Abdu: There’s this pull to a minister on a Sunday. You’ve had a hard week, and I understand this. You have a hard week. You have what’s going on in your own life. The last thing you need is to have brought up tough subjects that make you feel bad, and I understand that because the pastor’s heart is to shepherd and the people giving him encouragement. At the same time, we have to temper that with the realities that I’m not going to encourage you if I don’t equip you with dealing with very very tough subjects. There are some people who do a good job of that stuff and I think we need more of them.
Kurt: Why don’t we take a short break here, but before the break, I do want to direct folks to your web site, abdumurray.com. We’ll put a link at our website and if you go there you can get a preview of chapter one of Abdu’s new book Saving Truth, and if you order one copy of it, you can receive a free executive summary of the book and a study guide and exclusive videos to use with the book individually or perhaps in a small group. There’s an extra bonus so if you’re doing this sort of small group option, if you order ten copies or more you can receive the executive summary, study guide, and videos, and plus free access to the full online course taught by none other than Abdu himself. It’s a great opportunity for you to go and check out his book and really consider having this be part of your small group atmosphere. Maybe even if you’re a youth group, a small youth group, this could be a great opportunity for students to learn and think about worldview issues. So stick with us through this short break from our sponsor.
Kurt: Thanks for sticking with us through that short break from our sponsors. Today we are talking with Abdu Murray. He is the North American director of Ravi Zacharias International Ministries, and he is the author of three books including his latest, Saving Truth: Finding Meaning and Clarity in a post-truth world. Abdu. I know I didn’t mention this to you because we like to surprise our guests, but we do a short segment on the show here called Rapid Questions where we ask you, we give you sixty seconds, we’ve got a number of questions so we can learn a little more about you and maybe some of your interests. If you’re game to play it, I’ll start the gameshow clock here, I don’t think you’ll be able to hear it. We’ll see how many questions, we’ve got 23, so we’ll see how many, sometimes folks only get through six or seven so it’s not high pressure, but I take it, I think you could answer quite a bit.
Abdu: Let’s do it.
Kurt: We’ll see. Alright. Here we go. What is your clothing store of choice?
Abdu: The new one is Uniqlo.
Kurt: Taco Bell or KFC?
Abdu: Taco Bell.
Kurt: What school did you go to?
Abdu: University of Michigan.
Kurt: What song is playing on your radio these days?
Kurt: Where would you like to live?
Abdu: Right where I live now. Detroit.
Kurt: Favorite sport?
Abdu: Basketball and cycling.
Kurt: What razor do you use?
Abdu: The one with the four blades on it. I can’t remember what it’s called.
Kurt: What fruit would you say your head is shaped like?
Abdu: Oh my goodness. I want to say a pineapple, but I don’t have enough hair. An apple.
Kurt: What’s your most hated sports franchise?
Abdu: The Colorado Avalanche.
Kurt: Who’s one person you’d like to have dinner with to discuss a topic you disagree on?
Abdu: Oh my goodness. Christopher Hitchens if he was still alive?
Kurt: Do you drink Dr. Pepper?
Abdu: I do.
Kurt: Pick a fictional character you’d like to meet.
Kurt: Bilbo. Alright. That’s the end of Rapid Questions. Thank you. So your favorite sport is basketball or one of your favorite sports. That happens to be the favorite sport I like to play. Baseball is my favorite sport to watch. I’m a huge Cubs fan so if you’re a Detroit Tigers fan than thankfully we’re in different conferences there.
Abdu: Yes we are.
Kurt: So basketball. tell me, I’ve heard from other interviews that you have been blessed with the gift of height.
Abdu: I have. I’m 6’8″. Yeah.
Kurt: So have you played basketball?
Abdu: I did. I played basketball. I got a scholarship to play University of Buffalo. I transferred from there to the University of Michigan hoping I would be able to walk on, but I blew my knee out and that was sort of all she wrote.I was blessed by the way, this is an interesting little tidbit, I played AAU basketball on the same team as Chris Webber.
Kurt: Is that right?
Abdu: Yes. And I played against Jalen Rose, Juwan Howard, and all those guys. Grant Hill and those guys.
Kurt: That would have been back before they became…
Abdu: Fab Five.
Kurt: Yeah. At Michigan.
Abdu: Absolutely. I was hoping that one of those guys would leave early and I could kind of walk on or something like that, but it didn’t work out, but still love the sport, still love watching it, watched that game last week. That was quite something.
Kurt: Yeah. Wow. I don’t know if you’ve been tuning in to the conference finals games.
Kurt: I watched both game 7’s and I’m like 5’8″, 5’9″ on a good day, right? So I’m your Steve Kerr. Right? I grew up watching the Bills here in Chicago. Steve Kerr. He was my guy.
Kurt: Yeah. They knew how to play basketball.
Abdu: They did.
Kurt: The game’s changed quite a bit in professional debate. We could probably talk the rest of the episode about basketball, but I guess we should get back here.
Abdu: Let’s focus.
Kurt: That’s great to learn some things about yourself and your history. That’s really neat. In your book, Saving Truth, you spent a couple chapters talking about freedom and you make an interesting point that society thinks that in pursuing freedom that the purpose is to pursue freedom, sort of a Libertinism if you will, as opposed to liberty. Could you explain the difference between those two concepts?
Abdu: Absolutely. This is one of the central themes of the book. I think this is the central idea of the post-truth society. The reason we’re post-truth and we elevate preferences and feelings over facts and truth is because we actually don’t want freedom, because we’ve forgotten what freedom actually means. I think it was Os Guinness who said that you can always tell the health of the culture based on how it treats its chief virtues. The chief virtue in Western culture is freedom, but we’ve stopped talking about actual freedom. Isaiah Berlin once said that there are two kinds of freedom. Freedom from, the negative freedom, the freedom from restriction, and freedom for, the freedom for the greater good or excellence. That’s positive freedom. We have focused almost exclusively on negative freedom, especially in the U.S. and definitely across the Western cultures which is just freedom from restriction. What we actually ask for is not freedom. We’ve actually asked for and demanded now autonomy. Autonomy and freedom aren’t the same thing. Autonomy comes from two Greek words, Autos meaning self and nomos meaning law, so when you’re autonomous, you’re not really free. When you’re autonomous, you’re a law unto yourself. You can do, say, be, act, and think whatever you want in whatever way you want and whatever settings you want. That is an unfettered autonomy. That leads to chaos. If you think about it, if I’m a law unto myself, if I’m autonomous, and another person is a law unto themselves and they’re autonomous and our laws happen to conflict, I have certain preferences that conflict with their preferences, and if preferences are the higher order and truth is the low order, low on the totem pole, and we come in conflict with each other, well if I’m a law unto myself, you or no one has any right to disagree with me on anything whatsoever, so what’s going to end up happening is the chaos of a mumble or jumble of preferences or, more likely, what’ll happen is when my preferences clash with someone else’s and truth is no longer the arbiter between us, what will win is not truth. What will win is power, and that leads to enslavement, so isn’t it ironic that autonomy doesn’t lead to freedom. Autonomy leads to enslavement.
Kurt: So for many people, you kind of mentioned this here, that they might feel stifled when they don’t have the freedom and they think that the Christian worldview is stifling for freedom, but in your book you claim that Christianity, the Christian worldview, allows the greatest amount of freedom because freedom is related to truth. Could you expand upon this?
Abdu: Yeah. Sure. When you look at Jesus’s words in John 8:31 and following when He says a couple of things. He says two interesting couplings. He says to those who believed in Him, He says that if you will abide in my word you will truly be my disciples and you will know the truth and the truth will set you free. Knowledge, truth, freedom. Those things are linked. He doesn’t decouple them at all. Truth is linked to freedom. If truth is linked to freedom, then there are boundaries to freedom, because truth has boundaries. It is not unbounded. It necessarily excludes that which is false, otherwise it won’t be truth anymore by definition. Truth and freedom are linked, therefore freedom itself has boundaries. This makes total sense even pragmatically. Give you an example. I have a nice big backyard, but having to back up to a main road so there are cars and trucks whizzing by all the time. When we first moved into that house, our kids were very little and we only had one kid at a time. He was barely a year old. We were terrified that if we let him play in the backyard without any boundaries he wouldn’t be able to enjoy the purpose of the backyard.
Kurt: Please tell me you built a fence.
Abdu: Absolutely. We had boundaries. You cannot go beyond this. This prevents you from beyond there, and the reason is as you smile you notice. If he didn’t have the boundaries, he wouldn’t have the freedom to play in the backyard because I wouldn’t let him play in the backyard because the ball could bounce into the street and he could get killed. We need just enough boundaries. Freedom needs just enough boundaries so that we can enjoy the purpose for our creation. I think that’s the issue. Jesus says truth and freedom, but then He says something later on, He says whom the Son sets free is free indeed. So He says truth sets you free, the Son sets you free. The Son is the truth. That’s what He says. What does that mean? Interestingly enough, a kid at Yale asked that question, a student there, towards the end of our open forum. Ravi and I were there. You can catch it on YouTube actually. He asked a question at the end and I’ll paraphrase it essentially. He said “I see that link between truth and freedom, but can you tell me the link between Jesus and freedom. What does the resurrection have to do with all this?” It comes down to this. What we were made for was relationship with God. Purpose is an objective truth. What we did was throw that away and we owe a debt. Jesus pays the debt and if He died and stayed dead we’d never know if the debt was efficacious or not, but then He rises from the dead to prove He was right. What He does in doing so is He gives us life back, He gives us back that purpose. Freedom properly understood is the ability to do what you want based on what you should and that comes from the objective moral lawgiver in accordance with what you are and that also is given to you by the objective moral law giver. You don’t get to determine what you are. He says what you are and then when you finally blossom into what you are, that’s when you have the ability to do what you want in accordance with what you should. Want, should, and being are all linked and that’s when true freedom happens. The Bible doesn’t stand against any of that. It stands against unfettered autonomy because that’s chaotic. What it does stand for is true, lasting, and honest freedom.
Kurt: I know some people think that freedom really is the highest virtue that they strive for, but really they miss out on fulfillment and the flourishing of a human life and the boundaries that I think God has set forth for humanity, even in a broad sense. I think the greatest fulfillment comes in the Christian worldview, but even in a broad natural law sense, provides much fulfillment for people, and to sort of reject that all in the name of freedom is to set one’s self for disappointment in the long run. I know numerous people that have this existential gap in their life and really if only they would be willing to bend their knee to the creator God, even just the creator God, would I think help them so much with that and also, I want to say this to, for those that don’t believe. They think freedom really is the greatest virtue, but how free are they, say, not to sin, not to do the things that they even really don’t want to do in their life. There are those things that they don’t want to do and they still do them. Is the person really free? That’s an indicator of human nature here. There’s a proverb, as a dog returns to its vomit, so too a fool returns to his folly. That I think, is an indicator that maybe we humans aren’t so free after all and maybe there’s something greater than just being free from law, that we’re not even free from ourselves and our own inclination towards sin and ultimately destruction.
Abdu: You know Kurt, it’s so interesting you say that because I remember thinking to myself two things and in the book I point out one thing that if there is no God, then as Protagoras says, man becomes the measure of all things. We become free and autonomous. Right? This is what Lucifer wanted. This is what frankly our first parents wanted, Adam and Eve. They were given the truth of their purpose was to be with God. They decided to be God and of course, they lost something. So our autonomy leads into these things, but is it really freeing? I look at this thing right here, this thing that we call a phone. It’s ridiculous we call these things phones because no one makes calls on these anymore. Usually, it’s just an amazing little machine. This computer has more computing power than the first rockets that went to the moon, yet here’s my question. We start talking to these things as if they’re people. We give them names and we say, “Hey Siri.” Whatever else.
Kurt: Alexa and Siri.
Abdu: So we’ve personalized machines and we’ve used these things to dehumanize people because we’re autonomous. We can do whatever we want with our bodies and then we also look at whatever we want whenever we want on these little machines, so the question has become this. With your autonomy to see whatever you want, read whatever you want, and all these things, have you become free or have you become enslaved to this thing? The fact of the matter is there’s this phenomenon where if your cell phone is sitting on top of the desk and you usually have it in your pocket, you start to feel this vibration in your pocket as if it’s there. Talk about addictions. Our autonomy has given us this, but the second thing is this. If there is no God and essentially we’re just utter gifted chimps or we’re just complex chemical machines, how are we free exactly? You have people like Sam Harris who are willing to say in his book Free Will where he argues there’s no such thing, who says we’re just chemical machines that respond to stimuli. How in the world are we possibly free? One wonders whether Sam Harris had the actual free will to write the book Free Will where he has no free will. Yeah. Without God, free will is an illusion. Either from our autonomy that enslaves us or from the fact that we’re chemical machines. That means we’re slaves to our own passions.
Kurt: We’re just a bunch of stardust. That’s all.
Abdu: Yep. That’s right.
Kurt: One of your chapters attempts to bring clarity to the topics of sexuality, gender, and even identity. How does the gospel speak to these topics?
Abdu: Yeah. I wrote those chapters based on a conversation I had on an open forum with a young lady, a lesbian, who came up to the microphone and asked a question about what does Christianity have to offer any different than other religions do about sexuality? I thought it was an interesting question because it pitted, she basically acknowledged something. There are only so many worldviews to choose from. The menu’s only so long. I went through the different worldviews. Atheism, I think when you have a lot of atheists who are trying to justify basically allowing for same-sex behaviors and these kinds of things because whatever reasons. Ultimately, if we are as Dawkins says machines for propagating DNA and if our sole reason for living, then same-sex behavior doesn’t actually have to do that unless he provides a sort of ad hoc strange justification for it. Pantheism doesn’t allow for this. Islam doesn’t allow for this. You’re narrowing it down pretty fast. What the Bible actually says, and I think this is the thing where Christians go wrong sometimes. is we’ve been so pro-institution. We’ve not been pro-people. We’ve been pro-traditional marriage or pro-man-woman marriage as opposed to pro-people whereas the other side of the coin, people who are advocating for same-sex marriage and these kinds of things are pro-love, love who you want. In the debate between pro-institution and pro-love, who wins? Pro-love wins. It’s just attractive.
Kurt: It sounds good. It sounds nice.
Kurt: Whatever it means.
Abdu: Yeah. Exactly! Our young people actually are buying into it because, “Wait a minute. Why can’t they love who they want to love?” No one’s saying you can’t love who you want to love. The Bible doesn’t prohibit conduct because it’s icky or yucky. It actually protects conduct because it’s sacred. That’s the foundational issue. I’m not pro-traditional marriage for the sake of pro-traditional marriage. I’m pro-marriage as Biblically demanded and I think set forth as one-man, one-woman, because it protects that which is sacred. The foundational issue is this. If we are creatures, created in God’s image, that’s a unique Christian claim by the way, every single person regardless of their sexual preferences, regardless of their perceived identities, regardless of what they’ve done in their life, is still a person made in God’s image. That’s uniquely Christian. Because that’s the case then we are all, not incidentally, but inherently sacred, and if we’re inherently sacred then we are the product of something, then the process by which we come about is itself sacred and that is sex. Sex is the only means by which human beings come into the world outside of invitro or artificial insemination, but that still takes two different sex organs or at least two different sex cells to come together, the gametes from the man and the woman. The product that is sacred, which means the process is sacred, but here’s what I would say, and I offered to this young lady is that why God protects that is not only because it’s sacred and creates human being like her, who are beautifully and wonderfully made in God’s image, but also sex between a man and a woman within the bounds of marriage allows us to reflect the divine. The divine in a Christian worldview is a unity of diversities. he is one God in three persons, Father, Son, Holy Spirit. Persons are distinct, but share the same nature. Unity of diversities. Man and woman are physically, emotionally, psychologically diverse, yet they come together to form that echad as the Bible says. That echad, that unification, that oneness, it doesn’t mean oneness in terms of numeric. It means oneness in terms of unification as the Bible says. We get the glory of being able to, the gift I would say, the glorious gift of reflecting the divine. Within that bonds of marriage, we reflect that later marriage, the marriage that it is to come is the consummation of all history is the unity of diversity once again. The pure, beautiful, eternal, everlasting, ultimately righteous God marries a once very temporal, very dirty, very self-seeking bride whom He has cleaned up and marries her eternally. God wants that for each one of us and so He protects that through the prohibitions that exist on marriage. It’s really not prohibitions. It’s just boundaries that enable us to experience these things completely. One last thing is when you see what sex is about, a colleague of mine, Sam Allberry, who is absolutely wonderful on these issues, himself, same-sex attracted by the way, but submits it to the Lord and will not engage in that behavior, not indulge those preferences because he submits it to Christ. He’s pointed out that it’s not about our proclivities. By the way, heterosexual is not suddenly more sexually moral than homosexual. I know plenty of heterosexuals who are sexually immoral people and we all struggle with this. We’re not looking for sexual normality. We’re looking for sexual morality. That’s the issue. Christians have to stop reaching down and start reaching out to people who have other expressions of sexuality, but what’s interesting is the way the Bible describes sex. Sam Allberry was having a dialogue with a leader of an LGBT group on campus and the moderator asked them both, “What does sex mean to you?” The LGBT person who is bisexual said, “It depends on who I’m having it with.” What does sex mean to you? It depends on who I’m having it with at the time. In other words, it’s very common. Sort of a flip thing. Sam was talking about it’s sacredity. Genesis 4:1-2 talks about sex in an amazing way. Now the man knew his wife Eve and she conceived and bore Cain saying I have produce a man with the help of the Lord. He knew his wife. In other words, sex and knowledge are linked because God is the source of all knowledge. There’s a divinity and a sacredity and a sacredness to that act and that, of course, translates into gender. Why is it important to understand what you are based on what you’re made and have your mind and body have congruence? There are people who have actual gender identity dysphoria which is a real thing and they didn’t ask for it. They just experienced it. It’s up to us to help them find the mind-body congruence by not changing the body but by changing the mind back to what it should be, but for most people gender fluidity is basically a matter of preference or it’s something that happens when they’re young and they grow out of it. The other side of the coin thing, culture wars, they want autonomy, to be, say, do, and act what they want. They actually take people who have true genuine gender dysphoria and make them the poster children for their movement for autonomy. These people don’t want fluidity. They want congruence. People who have actual gender dysphoria want congruence. They don’t want fluidity, but over here, we want fluidity because that means we can do whatever we want. I think we do a disservice to have actual gender dysphoria that way. The church does it when we say they’re demon-possessed or they’re rebelling against God. They didn’t ask for this. I think the other side does the same disservice because they’re not taking their issues very seriously. I think it’s the true identity in Christ that we can struggle with this and in the book I quote some people who are Christians who have gender dysphoria and they submit that to the Lord and they say in their suffering, they know Christ even more because they suffer, not when they don’t suffer, but because they suffer they’re connected with God even more.
Kurt: Wow. There’s a lot to take in there and it really is a difficult topic to deal with and certainly, I want to commend you for being willing to take that issue on in your book. You also talk about religious pluralism and how Jesus stands out among the world religions. For some that don’t know, you are a former Muslim, so if you could, tell us a little bit about your testimony, your background, your upbringing, and how you came to know the Lord.
Abdu: Sure. I was a Shi’ite Muslim for both of my life. There’s two sects, the Sunni and the Shi’ite. There’s actually more than that, but the two major different sects are the Sunni and the Shi’ite. The Shi’ite tend to be a minority, but I was very serious about Islam and I thought it was true and I thought people should believe true things and not false things and so from a young age I was sort of propagating Islam and having these conversations with people and they were friendly, but conversations about why I thought Islam was true and everything else was false. Most Christians had no idea how to respond to my objections, until I ran into a few who did. Very interesting, because I began to look at the Bible to try to find the ammunition against it, and that’s when I began to see some things, that this isn’t so silly after all. The caricatures that I had come to believe about the Bible weren’t actually the real thing. I began to study it more and more. I began to see what Al Gore would call an inconvenient truth. Not only does the Bible speak to the issues that matter to me personally, but it’s actually verifiable and Jesus’s resurrection as a matter of history is actually verifiable and there’s great evidence in favor of it. The long story cutting just a little bit short is that what I wanted to believe was true about Islam, that God is great, Allahu Akbar. We always hear this phrase Allahu Akbar. It means God is greater. The essential claim for the Muslim is that God is great. I thought the Trinity, the incarnation, and the cross were all insulting God’s greatness, but when I began to really study the Trinity, the incarnation, and the cross as taught to us in the Bible, I began to see that these were the very things that actually demonstrate God’s greatness. God is great because He’s triune. God is great because He’s incarnational, and the greatest possible being would illustrate the greatest possible ethic which is love in the greatest possible way and the greatest possible way to express love is self-sacrifice and that to me is where you find Him, at the cross. So having done all that for nine years, to put on that journey of study, that’s when I became my believer with all the things I wish were true in my former worldview are actually true in the gospel so that’s what happened in my transformation there.
Kurt: Wow. Sorry. How long ago was that then?
Abdu: That was eighteen years ago. Come this June it’ll be eighteen years.
Kurt: Wow. How about that? That’s awesome.
Kurt: It’s great for someone like yourself to have that desire for truth and it’s so great that you’ve written this book here because you yourself have gone through discovering truth and now realized, boy, it needs saving in our culture today and so I really want to encourage our listeners here to continue seeking out the truth as our own tagline for our program here is striving for truth, on faith, politics, and society. Truth is also important in knowing who we are as creatures and the creator and discovering what the creator has done for us by sending His Son Jesus to die for us so that we may have life abundantly. Abdu. I want to commend you for your service to the Kingdom of God and the work that you’re doing and I also want to again tell folks to go check out abdumurray.com. You can get a preview of the first chapter of Abdu’s book, Saving Truth, and if you order one copy you can get all sorts of bonus features. It’s a really wonderful opportunity and even if you buy ten books, say for small group or youth group, you can get access to the full online course taught by none other than Abdu himself so that’s a real great opportunity for folks to check that out. Thank you so much for coming on the program today and sharing with us about your journey and your research and thinking through all these worldview questions and how Christians themselves need to be prepared to give an answer here. We need to be prepared, even guard ourselves, the church itself is perhaps is falling prey to some of these ideas out there. We really need to be ready and be prepared to answer those claims from the culture, so thank you so much, Abdu.
Abdu: My pleasure, Kurt. Thanks for having me on. I appreciate it.
Kurt: Great. God bless you.
Abdu: You too.
Kurt: That does it for the program today. I am grateful for the continued support of our patrons and the partnerships that we have with our sponsors. If you’d like to learn how you can become a patron or a sponsor of our program, you can go to our website veracityhill.com and click on that patron tab. Again, I want to thank our sponsors, they are Defenders Media, Consult Kevin, The Sky Floor, Rethinking Hell, The Illinois Family Institute, Fox Restoration, and Non-Profit Megaphone, and I want to thank our technical producer today, Robb, for coming in, and our guest Abdu Murray, we’ll be sure to put a link to his website AbduMurray.com up at our own website here and last but not least, I want to thank you for listening in and for striving for truth on faith, politics, and society.
[NP2]Check this whole section ending at 28:30. I don’t have a clue who these people are.