Tom: Today I’ll be talking with Cedric Fisher. He writes for Lighthouse Trails Publishers, and his apologetics website is truthkeepers.com. Now, today and next week, the Lord willing, we’ll be discussing two of his booklets that we co-publish with Lighthouse Trails.
Cedric, thanks for joining me on Search the Scriptures 24/7.
Cedric: Thank you for inviting me.
Tom: Now, before we get to our topic for the first part of our discussion, Cedric, I’d like you to tell us what motivated you to get into apologetics. For our listeners that aren’t familiar with that term (they probably are), it’s really just the defense of the Christian faith. So what motivated you?
Cedric: Well, first I’d like to make it clear I’m not a trained apologist but just a guy who began defending God’s truth several decades ago. I think it began after I had several debates with friends who had gotten into the word of faith movement, and it just escalated from there when I kept running into people that would say things I knew didn’t agree with God’s Word. I think the John Ankerberg Show was the main inspiration in my early years, and other ones that were defending the truth, and it was just an eye-opening experience for me when I first saw that, and I sat and watched, mesmerized by the way that they could handle all these very difficult and sometimes complex questions. And, of course, later on I read books – The Seduction of Christianity by one of your – maybe your main mentor and friend, Dave Hunt – and other things, until, really, I just felt like that’s what God wanted me to do, along with my pastoring, was to defend His truth.
And so about 1993, I put up a website, began to write articles, and then I really, really found out about debates! But I found out that you develop a confidence, you develop a deep peace in you, when you study God’s Word and you know what it means, you understand what it means, and you can apply it perfectly in the light of these heresies – in the dark of these heresies, actually – and help people to understand what the truth really is.
Tom: Yeah. That’s certainly – much of what you said is on our heart with what we do here at The Berean Call. But, Cedric, your experience as a pastor, why do you think – and maybe I’m missing the boat here – but why do you think that many churches are reluctant to get involved in apologetics? And especially those churches that would consider themselves to be Bible-based?
Cedric: I think that the word “apologetics” itself intimidates a lot of people. If it could be explained to them that this is just defense of the faith – you don’t have to be a schooled apologist, you don’t have to go to seminary; you just study God’s Word, you focus on making sure that you understand why you believe what you believe, not just because someone said it, but because you studied it out for yourself and you know that you believe it. I believe that a lot of people get very angry and defensive because they don’t have the truth solidly, firmly, established in their hearts. So they don’t like contention. Preachers don’t like to preach, pastors don’t like to preach, on things that are considered negative, because congregations want to come and hear something sensational, exciting, something comforting, or something that ministers deep to some need or problem they have in their life. And so the combination of that, I think, is the reason why they do not promote it or even talk about it much.
Tom: Cedric, the perspective of – and I want to look at it from the standpoint of a pastor – sometimes the problem, in my view, can be that when you have apologetics, when you have different views of either a teaching, or you have different views among your sheep, different views of an individual – some have their “sacred cows,” their favorite teachers and preachers. So when there’s a difference of opinion, that can tend to rock the boat. So…
Cedric: Oh, yes.
Tom: …so, you know, I have seen it with some pastors. The last thing I want to do is create controversy. Controversy may – you know, you may lose some sheep. They may say, “No, I’m not hanging around because I don’t agree with this guy and that guy. So that’s within the church, now. I’m talking about the church setup. I’ve seen that to be a problem; have you?
Cedric: It is a very difficult problem, because we now have the addition of the internet with television, and before that, radio, where you have very charismatic individuals that are presenting doctrines that are – they’re contrary to the Word of God, but people – they literally are enamored with these individuals, and you come against those doctrines, you’re coming against their hero. And they don’t mind you talking about truth, they just don’t want you to talk about error! And I think you have to do both. And when you begin to talk about error, it is going to agitate people. And I believe this: I believe that we’re in a day of offense. Christ talked about in the last days that people would be offended, and I feel like that people are really easy to offend. I mean, they can take the slightest little correction and become very angry very quickly, and from that point on, there’s just no sense in discussing anything with them.
Cedric: And you have that inside of a church setting, well, then you have, you know, the old church-split situation, or at least you have people that are angry about you – angry with you – and go about talking things about you that you’d rather they wouldn’t do, and that does not bode for harmony in the church.
Cedric: Pastors, because of that, I think, is the reason why they try to stay away from apologetics and even talking about heresies that they know would be damaging if it became popular in their church.
Tom: Yeah. I think about Jesus speaking to Peter, who certainly – I mean, he denied the Lord, yet when the Lord…
Tom: …spoke to him, He said, “Peter, do you love me? Feed My sheep, feed My sheep, feed My lambs.” And so that’s where a shepherd of the sheep can go awry, because he’s not really feeding them what Jesus wanted. I think of the verse in Luke, where the Lord said, “Why are you calling me, ‘Lord,’ ‘Lord,’ and you don’t do the things that I say?”
Well, as you’re pointing out, Cedric, there are maybe some reasons – they’re not good reasons, but we can see that they are reasons. A shepherd does not want to lose his sheep, because he’s . . .
Tom: . . . because that’s why he’s – you know, unless he’s a hireling, which some that don’t have the calling may be there. But I’m not talking about that. I’m talking about those who love the sheep, but now they may come up with reasons why they don’t want to deal with this issue or that issue. But it’s for the good of the sheep.
Cedric: Yes, I think it also points to one’s trust in God. You have to do what God tells you to do, say what He tells you to say, and then take the consequences, because God is going to help you through that somehow, someway, and eventually, even though people are angry, they get over that anger, and they begin to respect you because you stood up for what you believed in.
Cedric: A pastor that won’t stand up for what he believes in, eventually is going to not be taken very seriously by the congregation.
Tom: Right, and, again, whatever the reasons might be, to me it’s very simple. You do things God’s way, and it’s going to work out. It may be not a walk in the park initially …
Tom: …but it’s going to work out. If you do things Tom McMahon’s way, when I’m not saying what the Word of God says, or when we…the point is, when we do things our way, I can also guarantee you, it’s not going to work out, no matter how good it may seem.
Cedric: That doesn’t mean we’re not going to have pain and we’re not going to have stress and maybe even lose some nights’ sleep, but it does mean that in the long run, we’ll be happy that we did what the Holy Spirit was telling us to do…
Tom: Without a doubt.
Cedric: …and our hearts are right with God over the way that we handled His Word and the way that we defended His Word. And also the way that we treat people: we don’t do it pounding the pulpit and screaming at them, but we do it with love and with compassion for them.
Cedric: I believe that eventually most of the people are going to respect that and want more of it.
Tom: Well, that’s what I wanted t mention. We’ve been talking about pastors, shepherds. But what about Christians in general? Do you find that…well, you sort of alluded to this, but do find that there’s a welcoming and a great acceptance of dealing with doctrine and issues and so on? And, particularly, you mentioned popular teachers, you know. People have their sacred cows; their gurus – which is not a good thing, unless those that we love are really walking with the Lord and teaching what the Word says. But is that becoming more acceptable or less acceptable today?
Cedric: I’d have to say much less acceptable, in my experience anyway. I’ve talked to many, many, many people not just by – not only face-to-face, but by telephone, by email, by text messaging, on forums, etc. They are almost all quick to get angry about the slightest difference or disagreement with them. They just can’t stop and think about what you’re saying. They’re more interested on…they’re taking what they believe, and I think that’s tragic, because we didn’t have that…I don’t think we had that years ago, especially when I got into the ministry. I believe that people would listen, they would change, and they would take what you said, and they’d be sober about it, they would diligently search the Word.
That’s not happening today. They come out of the heretics’ influence with that message. An example was when The Shack was released. I had a real good friend – I’ve been friends with this individual for years and know them very well and never had a cross word with them. But when they promoted The Shack on their Facebook page, I said very gently, as lovingly as I could, “That’s not a good book for anybody to read, and it’s not a good movie for anybody to go watch,” and she asked me why, and I told her, and her very first response was, “Who do you think you are? I know my Bible!” and all the little sayings that they come up with to try to divert any responsibility. And I said, “Well, you know, this is just the truth. This is just the plain and simple truth.” And, of course, it didn't take long, I got “de-friended” from her Facebook page.
I’m saying that this is the day of offense. It’s a time when people are being quick to shut out anything that would disagree with them, and even the person that brings it.
Tom: Cedric, two thoughts come to mind about that. I know that you know, because I’ve read much of your material, that we’re in the days of apostasy. These are the last days, and the closer we get to the return of the Lord, the greater the increase is going to be.
Tom: But I also think of the verse that relates to that, and that’s in 2 Timothy: “The time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine.” Sound doctrine. That’s objective, it’s the Word of God. But, as you described, especially the Facebook place where you were removed from, we’re moving into subjectiveness, feelings.
Tom: So, once we get on that plane—you know, I’ve had people say to me after I’ve spoken at a conference – they come up to me, and they say, “Well, Tom, I heard what you said, and I’ve thought about it, but I just don’t feel that way.”
Well, end of conversation. There’s no place you can go from there. So, that’s part of the problem. And that’s what makes it more difficult. Cedric, when you say, “Well, I’m just laying out the truth” – not in everyone, thank you, Jesus, that people can respond, and do respond to that – but fewer and fewer do respond to it, because they’ve gotten into feelings. “Well, I just don’t feel that way.” And there are so many subjective realms. Relationship: “Well, you know, such and such doesn’t feel . . . ,” “I’m a friend with them, and I want them to feel good,” and so on. It’s got to go that way. It shouldn’t have to go that way, because truth – God’s truth – is God’s truth! And we pray and hope that many will respond to it, because the other side of that, as we mentioned earlier, is man’s way, and that leads to destruction, and that’s a big-time problem.
Cedric: Yeah, the absolute truth is so important, but people think it’s irrelevant. They think they can move it around, shift it around, and add things to it in order to make it palatable or fit with their lifestyle. I believe a lot of that has bled into Christianity, and people are doing somewhat the same thing. They can say, “Well, you have your truth, and I have mine, and this other person has their truth.” Well, that’s not really correct. It’s absolutely not correct. There’s only one source of truth, and that is God, and He chose to reveal it to us through His Son, Jesus, and through the Scriptures. If we can’t go back to the Scriptures and use the Scriptures as an absolute standard, as a compass, for what we believe, then there’s something wrong with us. We have to recognize that. The problem is we’re also in a day of people trying to cultivate higher self-esteem, and they don’t want to think that they might be wrong or even accept a hint of it, from what I’ve seen in the past.
And so, we’re in that day, just like you said, when people will not listen to sound doctrine. They want something that sounds good to them rather than something that they actually need.
And all of us have that issue sometimes. We are stung by a conviction when we read the Word of God, or if we’re growing, we’re progressing, maturing spiritually as a Christian, when the Holy Spirit puts His finger on something in our life that He doesn’t like, we’re stung by that, and sometimes we resist, but when it comes down to the basic things, we get before God, we pray and we’re humble, and we repent, and we realize this is what we’ve got to do. We have to obey the Holy Spirit. We’ve got to obey what we feel the unction in our heart is saying to us.
Tom: Right. Well, you know, the thing that I find (there’s almost an irony to it), the more we get into the realm of apostasy – which, I mentioned, we’re there – it’s becoming more and more obvious, but the truth becomes more simple, to say it that way. In other words, we’re going to go over some Scripture verses. I’d like to find out from you what verses are next to your heart with regard to apologetics, but, again, to me, the errors are a billboard! And when you bring the simple truth to it, you scratch your head, and you say, “Why can’t they see this?”
Well, because they’re working in another realm, the realm of feelings, subjectivity, attitudes that are – to say that they’re not substantial would be an understatement. You know, your feelings change. It could depend on what you had for dinner. I mean, there are so many elements.
Tom: Let’s go to the Word of God. What verses do you consider to be the most obvious in their exhortation to either church leadership or believers in general, with regard to biblical discernment. Give us some verses that are really next to heart about that.
Cedric: Well, I feel that first of all, we should understand what Christ is telling us in Matthew:24:24: “False Christs and false prophets will arise and show great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect.” And the reason for that is, is that if pastors do not understand – or just Christians in general do not understand – that we’re in a time of great deception, then they will not understand the importance of standing up for the truth and exposing heresy and trying to counsel, trying to disciple younger Christians that might be affected by what they see on television and what they read on the internet.
But if we want to go to Scriptures that clearly state to us – at least, to leaders – that we’re supposed to do something to defend the truth, the first one would be in 1 Timothy:4:16.
Tom: Well, Cedric, let me just back you up, because you went to a terrific verse: Matthew:24:24, and that tells you the extent of what it’s going to be. But, I know you know this, let’s start with 24:4-5, “And Jesus answered and said unto them ‘Take heed…’” I mean, here is Him describing the last days: “Take heed that no man deceive you for …”
Tom: “…many shall come in My name saying, ‘I am Christ’ and shall deceive many.” That’s the way it starts out! I had to interject that.
Cedric: Thank you for doing that, because that’s true, and it fits the very next Scripture, where Paul says to Timothy: “Take heed unto thyself and to the doctrine; continue in them, for in doing this, thou shalt save both thyself and them that hear thee.”
I mean, you can’t … that’s not ambiguous. That’s literally a mentor telling his young subject, “Look, this is something you have to do. This is important. “ And I don’t think that Timothy took that lightly, from looking at his life.
Tom: Not at all.
Cedric: The other one would be in Acts:20:28, where it says basically the same thing. This is talking to the pastors and other ones who lead. It says, “Take heed therefore to yourselves and to all the flock over which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers to feed the church of God, which is purchased with His own blood.” That is a very strong statement of what our leadership should be like. I know we’d like, as you said earlier – we’d like to make people happy. We don’t want to lose sheep. We don’t want to get people offended at us and have them going around the church and finding weaker brothers and sisters and bringing them into that acrimony. We want people to respect us. But we have this mandate. This mandate! It has to override all of those concerns. It has to override whether or not we’re even going to be kicked out of the church, you know, excommunicated by a vote, or whatever. You have to make the Word of God literally so important in your heart that nothing else can shake you when it comes to obeying it.
Tom: Yeah, and when Jesus says, “Take heed…” Take heed! And then under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, the verse that you read, Acts:20:28, Paul saying, “Take heed.” We need to take heed!
Tom: Let me go on from 28 and read the rest of it. “For I know this (verse 29) that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock, and also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things to draw away disciples after them.” Now, look at 31: “Therefore, watch and remember that by the space of three years I ceased not to warn everyone night and day with tears.” Now if a young pastor – or however long somebody’s been pastoring – if they don’t take this to heart, they’re missing out on feeding their sheep what they need to be fed! Look…
Tom: Look, you’ve been doing apologetics – what did you say – for twenty years now?
Cedric: About four decades, something like that.
Tom: Okay, so here’s the situation, and I’ve doing this – hanging out with Dave Hunt, doing this for forty years. But I’ve yet to bring myself to the point where “I ceased not to warn everyone night and day with tears.” Boy, there’s an admonishment to me, or an exhortation at least, to me, to do what the Word of God says.
Cedric: You’re seeing the heart of a man who wrote almost two-thirds of the New Testament. You’re seeing the basis of why he approached the Word the way he did; the way he conducted himself. He had this passion for people. A passion for God’s people. That’s the heart of a true shepherd. It’s not just about visiting hospitals and preparing sermons and conducting marriages and funerals and so forth and so on. It’s deeper than that. It’s got to be something deep inside of us that will make us the kind of individual that would never back down when heresy is spoken in our presence. We would always stand up. We’d always say something.
I’ve used this saying, and I’ve said it so many times, “Truth has just as much right to be heard as error.” Why do we think that when someone speaks error that we have to be muted at that point? “Oh, well, we don’t want to cause contention.” The contention’s already been caused when they spoke the error! The truth as just as much right to be heard! Go ahead and speak it, because it has equal right, or more right – I consider it more right – to be heard than error. But people are so fearful of the consequences: contention and strife and other things that may happen.
Tom: And there need to be some qualifications in there. Certainly, anybody in apologetics, you can go from doing what God wants in the way that God wants to moving into a kind of critical spirit, sharp…
Cedric: Ohhh, yes!
Tom: So that’s a part of how we minister this. That’s why I like you pointing out, and certainly the Word says, the heart of Paul – I mean, there’s a love when he talks about warning everybody night and day with tears. There’s not a guy who’s grinding on people, but he’s ministering to them.
And, Cedric, we also need to pick and choose our spots. There’s some things that you could let go – I’m not…only because you can’t deal with everything, so you…
Cedric: Well, if they’re nonessential, you most always do let them go, but if they’re essential…
Tom: Yeah. You have to go to the mat.
Cedric: I very seldom do, but you’re right about this one point – it’s a very key point – you cannot have aggravation in your spirit and have your words come out soft and turn away the strife or turn away the wrath. You cannot have those kind of beautiful words and that beautiful spirit when there’s aggravation, frustration, in there because things are not going right. We might as well put those things down as quickly as we can. We’re not going to have a perfect world where everything is running smoothly in the church and in Christianity and in our ministries. There’s going to be people out there all the time that we’re going to come across that have a very blatantly false doctrine, and we’re going to have to deal with it and it’s not always going to go our way. In fact, nine times out of ten, it’s not going to go our way! [Laughing]. And we could get frustrated, aggravated. We have to get before the Lord, and we have to empty ourselves of all of that and try to treat people with as much decency, kindness, and love as it is possible with us.
Tom: Absolutely. At the same time, there’s so many verses we didn’t have time for, but we’re to contend for the faith, once and for all delivered unto the saints.
Cedric, we’re out of time for this segment. My guest has been Cedric Fisher, and we’re going to pick this up next week, the Lord willing, so, Cedric, again, thank you for being with us.
Cedric: You’re welcome. Thank you for having me on.