Do You Have a Religious Preference?
Tom: If you’ve just joined us, I’m in the studio with Dave Hunt, and we’re discussing his book An Urgent Call to a Serious Faith. And that’s a good title, because this book indeed has some terrific questions that everyone should take seriously. First and foremost is, “Where do you plan on spending eternity?” The common response is, “Well, I haven’t given it much thought.” And for those who have thought about it, it’s rare for them to go beyond wishful thinking. Certainly very few have strong reasons for their belief about this subject.
Dave, although we know that’s the way it is in the world today, most people do a lot of serious planning for their . . . let’s say 75-85 years on this earth, yet they seem oblivious to how they will spend their lives beyond what amounts to an incredibly short period of time – that is, when we compare it to eternity.
Dave: Mm-hmm. Unfortunately, that’s the case. We’re caught up in this world, and the plans for this world, and . . . I mean, just the commercials on television get you hooked, chasing materialism and the good life. Maybe we don’t have time for it, but one of my favorite authors, William Law, many years ago (I don’t agree with everything William Law had to say, but he had some insightful concepts and amazing ways of saying things), and I don’t think we’ve ever mentioned it on this program . . . William Law would say, well, a person that spends [as you just said] his life planning the home he’s going to retire to, you know, this . . . maybe the swimming pool, the tennis court, the sauna, and so forth, the beautiful home he’s going to build, and where he’s going to retire—and he manages to retire with quite a lot of money and lives comfortably. You would say, “He’s been a very wise man. He’s done well for himself.” William Law says, “What about the man who spends all of his life planning the home on Mars that he’s going to retire to—with the tennis court, and swimming pool, and sauna, and so forth.” You’d think the guy is crazy! William Law says they’re both crazy! The difference between their insanity is just this: one man is planning for a place where he can never be—on Mars; the other man is planning for a place where he cannot stay.
Tom: That’s an amazing statement, especially since William Law lived in the early 1700s, and it’s easy to forget people then were caught up in materialism just as they are today.
Dave: Well, of course, I’ve modernized it a bit, with the swimming pool and so forth.
Tom: (Laughing) Right! As you know, we have five children, one of whom is considering college. We have one in college, and the oldest in grad school, and we’re constantly encouraging them to plan for their future with regard to what they’ll do after graduation. So I can empathize with those who spend most of their time thinking about temporal things. It’s hard to consistently set one’s mind on eternity.
Dave: Well, Tom, it’s a problem that we all have. Of course, when you’re young, you can’t believe that life would ever end. It’s unpleasant to think about death, so people tend to push that out of their minds. Solomon said, “It’s better to go to a funeral than to a feast, because a funeral is the end of all living. And maybe the living will lay it to heart.”
Moses said, “Lord, teach us to number our days that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom.”
So, a wise person realizes how short this life will be. But the scriptures say, you know, they named their houses, their fields, their businesses, after themselves, as though they will continue on forever. But we won’t. You don’t like to think about it, and so you go to a funeral—what do they do? They cover the casket with flowers. If it’s not a Christian funeral, they make such silly speeches: “A thing of beauty is a joy forever.” And, “They live on in our memory,” and so forth. What we . . . we’re in a conspiracy of trying to cover up death, the reality of death. But we’d better face it, because it is inevitable – except for a Christian, if the Rapture occurs. We don’t look forward to death; we look forward to being taken to heaven. But if the Rapture does not occur, we all pass through death’s door. I mean, it’s a fact! Then we’d better prepare for it. We’d better be, in fact, absolutely certain.
A lot of people have the weakest ideas for their religious beliefs: “Oh, I like the pastor,” you know. “The choir is so wonderful. The people are so friendly.” Ideas, reasons, for their so-called religious faith that wouldn’t be sufficient. You wouldn’t rely on them for buying a refrigerator or a used car! You want to have something more solid than that. And I guess they just kind of slough it off, or they say, “Well, I haven’t lived too bad a life,” you know. “I guess it’s going to all be okay.”
Tom: Dave, in your book, you use three terms as you discuss where one considers he’ll spend eternity, and the three terms are tolerance, preference, and conviction. And then you quote, I think, a very insightful Time magazine article, which stated in part – I’ll give you part of it: “When it is believed that religion is a breezy consumer preference, religious tolerance flourishes. After all, we don’t persecute people for their taste in cars. Why for their taste in gods? Oddly, though, there is one form of religious intolerance that does survive—the disdain bordering on contempt for those for whom religion is not a preference but a conviction.”
Now, I bring that up because there are certain things that mitigate against people considering these things as though, yes, there is a truth out there; there is a reality, and it’s not something I can make up.
Dave: Well, you make a good point, Tom, because this is another one of the ways that mankind blinds themselves to this reality—the idea that, “Well, it would be narrow-minded and dogmatic to be definite about this. I shouldn’t really say that other people might be wrong and that what I believe is right,” or even the thought that there is only one way, which Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, the life; no man comes to the Father but by me.” Peter boldly said to the rabbis, “Neither is there salvation in any other. There is none other name under heaven given among men whereby we must [not “might” or “may”] – must be saved.”
Now, if that’s true, we ought to at least check it out. We ought to check out what Jesus said. Jesus claimed to be God. He came from the Father. And He said to the Jews, “You are from beneath; I am from above. Where I’m going, you cannot come if you do not believe in me. In fact, if you do not believe that I am God. . . . ” Now, that’s a pretty heavy thing for Him to say! He’s either an egomaniac, or He’s a liar, or He’s telling the truth, and this – what Jesus said – is too powerful, it is too definite, I mean, it is too important for anyone just to slough off and pass by, shrug your shoulders about it.
So, as we’ve probably said it before, but I often tell people, “You can’t live long enough to study all the religions. Now go to the Bible first, because it claims all the others are wrong.” And I can prove the Bible is God’s Word, that it’s true, and we’d better face up to what it says because when you die, it’s too late!
I think we quote, in this chapter, I believe, Omar Khayyam. He’s walking through the – you know, as he dies – it’s a door into darkness. And then, is it Thomas Hobbs, who spent his life trying to improve this world? But when he came to die, he said, “I’m about to take a leap into the dark.” You wouldn’t take a leap into the dark on this earth. To take a leap into the dark into eternity doesn’t make sense!
Tom: But Dave, that’s the mentality of the day, and it’s not just with this aspect of tolerance and intolerance, but Allan Bloom, as you know, the author of The Closing of the American Mind, he makes the point that we’ve become so open-minded that our minds have been closed to the idea that something may be true and something else may be false.
Dave: Mm-hmm. That’s in his book, The Closing of the American Mind. How about that? The “closing of the American mind through openness”! He says the one virtue in America is openness. Openness to everything. You wouldn’t dare to say somebody was wrong. This is what we call being “politically correct.” You wouldn’t want to offend anyone. That very term, “politically correct” says some devastating things about politics, and unfortunately, that has come into the area of religion.
Now, if you come to me as a medical doctor, and I . . . you know, you’ve got a pain in your stomach, or somewhere down there, and I examine you, and I know that you have a ruptured appendix, and if you’re not on the operating table within a few minutes, you’re dead! But I wouldn’t want to offend you; I wouldn’t want to upset you by telling you the truth, so I say, “Tom, it’s okay. You’re going to be all right. If you feel some pain, take some aspirin.” That’s not love! That is not kindness! That is . . . I’m destroying you in the name of tolerance because I wouldn’t want to be so intolerant . . .
You say, “Well, Doc, what’s the diagnosis, the prognosis?” And I say, “Well, I wouldn’t be narrow-minded and dogmatic as to presume to come up with a definite diagnosis. What would you like, you know? Everybody’s entitled to the operation of their choice!” You hear people say, “Well, everybody’s entitled to the religion of their choice.” Of course, they are! But we would like to give them some facts and some evidence so they can make an intelligent choice, because the choice has to do with eternity! The issue is the eternal destiny of souls.
Tom: Dave, again, like this idea of intolerance, which is really—it’s false! It’s just absolutely false! The phrase that you hear is, “All roads lead to the same place.” Whatever religious path that you’re going to take, it all ends up in the same place.
Well, that’s blatantly false!
Dave: Well, it’s being dogmatic, because it’s denying that there is more than one destination.
Tom: So it’s intolerant, really.
Dave: And it really is intolerant. These people who are so tolerant that they believe in everything, they are very intolerant toward evangelical Christians, who dare to say that Jesus is right. And they will not embrace that at all! It’s like in the public schools, it’s so broadminded anything can come in. You could bring in witchcraft, you could bring in a North American Indian witchdoctor, and homosexuality, and evolution—anything! But dare to bring in Christianity? Dare to say, “We’d better check the Bible out, because evolution, maybe, isn’t true. We’re not forcing that on you, but it just could be that God created this universe, and nothing else makes sense, and we’d better find out what God has to say about us.”
I know I‘m repeating myself, but the program I was on some months ago, Spiritual Seeker, in Southern California, and the talk show host says, “Here we are. We have two hours every Sunday night to talk about God, religion, and spirituality.”
Well, my question was, “We’re going to talk about God? Maybe we ought to find out what He has had to say about us.” That’s what we’d better face.
Now if God didn’t say anything, if the Bible is not God’s Word, if all religious scriptures or writings are on an equal par of “maybe there’s a little bit of truth, maybe not,” then forget it! And let’s stop talking about it! And let’s stop studying them, because we’re wasting our time. But if God really did speak to us, and the Bible is His Word (and, again, we can prove that!) we’d better face up to this and find out what He has to say, because one day, we face Him.
Tom: Dave, in this chapter, you make a very strong point that all religions are in opposition to biblical Christianity.
Dave: That’s true.
Tom: Why would you say that?
Dave: Well, all religions are basically the same, in one way. In other ways, they’re very different. They have different concepts of God. For example, Buddhism is basically atheism. Hinduism, you’ve got 330 million gods, it has been estimated.
Tom: So there is diversity among them.
Dave: There is a diversity, but when it comes right down to it, they’re all trying to work their way to heaven—whatever their concept of heaven is, whether it’s the Happy Hunting Ground for the Indian, or Paradise for the Muslim or . . .
Tom: Samadhi, or Moksha . . .
Dave: . . . Moksha . . . but whatever it is . . .
Tom: . . . for the Hindu.
Dave: . . . they’re going to do through some ritual; they’re going to do it through some sacraments, or through good works . . .
Tom: Some sacrifices—animal sacrifices, human sacrifices, in some cases.
Dave: Right. They all think, and they all have the idea, of appeasing God. It’s as though God could be appeased! I mean, no! It’s a matter of justice. The penalty has to be paid, and we can’t pay it. We would be separated from God forever. But anyway, all religions are in opposition to Christianity on that point.
Tom: Here’s one verse: Romans:4:5, and, as you know, there’re dozens of other verses, but it says, “But to him who worketh not but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness.” Now what other religion in the world makes that statement?
Dave: None! They can’t possibly make that statement.
Tom: And they’re – they do work. That’s the point you’re making. They are in opposition, they are contrary to biblical Christianity.
Dave: By “they do work,” you mean they work. They’re working at getting to heaven.
Dave: It’s like the Tower of Babel. They . . . “We’re going to build a tower, and it will be high enough that climbing up its steps, we can reach heaven.” This is the religions of the world: man’s efforts to come to God. God came down to this earth to meet man and to take his place in judgment, to pay the penalty that His own judgment required! There is not a religion in the world that offers that. There is no one who claimed to do that. Buddha didn’t claim it. Confucius didn’t claim it. Muhammad. You know, you name them! Krishna – anybody. None of them! They all offered a philosophy of life by which you could improve yourself and lift yourself by your bootstraps up into heaven, and somehow, reform yourself and please God enough. Or make some sacrifices of animals, or whatever.
Now the Bible does have animal sacrifices in the Old Testament. These were prescribed by God very carefully, and as you study the Old Testament, the way in which they were to be offered, by whom they were to be offered, the purpose for which they were to be offered . . .
Tom: What was the purpose then?
Dave: It was all laid out very carefully – all of these sacrifices looked forward to the Lamb of God, who would be God himself, who would come as a Man – He wouldn’t cease to be God, and He never will cease to be Man – He’s the one and only God/Man, and He would be the One who would take upon Himself the sins of the world. As John the Baptist declared when he saw Him: “Behold the Lamb of God, who bears away the sin of the world.”
But the sacrificial systems, or the works religions, or the rituals or sacraments of these religions of the world, they do not look forward to God coming as a Man.
Tom: They’re supposed to be efficacious in themselves. They’re for us to do to manipulate the god out there, or to appease the gods, so the god – whoever we’re sacrificing to – will do our bidding, in effect.
Dave: Mm-hmm. We’d better find out what God has said.
Tom: Dave, some people may say, “Oh, okay, that’s what you guys believe, and this is what the other religions believe.” Our point here is we want to make that distinction. People do not have to just take what we say as a belief that they have to adhere to. The point is . . .
Dave: We’re not asking that, Tom.
Tom: No, but we’re making a distinction, and there are distinctions, and the current mentality, religious or otherwise, political or otherwise, is that it’s all the same, and it’s not the case. That’s the point we’re trying to underscore.
Dave: God says in Isaiah:1:18: “Come now, and let us reason together, saith the Lord.” Faith must be reasonable. It’s not a leap in the dark. We’ve said that many times, but it’s very hard to get the point across. People think, “Well, faith is just something you believe, and so long as you have a faith . . . – people of faith, you know . . . . Even Pat Robertson refers to the members of the Christian Coalition as People of Faith whether they’re Buddhists or Hindus, Muslims, whether they’re Mormons, or Roman Catholics, whatever. So long as they are people of faith, then we’ll all work together.
Well, maybe you can work together against abortion, or whatever it is. Don’t leave these people with the idea that so long as they just have some “faith” that’s okay. We’d better have the faith. And, in fact, the Bible tells us that “we must earnestly contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints.” And the reason is the eternal – as I say it again and again – the reason is the eternal destiny of souls hangs upon what each person believes. Listen, the Bible says you must believe God. You must believe what He says. You must come to Him His way. We don’t negotiate. We don’t discuss it – dialogue about it with God. We don’t say, “God, I think this is okay. Why can’t this go?”
Why would we even want to do that? We take God’s way – and why not take God’s way? Look, you don’t think this is God’s way; you think some other way is God’s way. Give me the evidence! You know, I sat with a couple of Mormons – maybe I mentioned it earlier – about three weeks ago on a train, an all-day train going from. . .
Tom: Yeah, you mentioned it last week.
Dave: Yeah, going from Czech Republic to Slovakia. And one of the questions I asked them, I said, “I can prove the Bible is God’s Word. Give me one proof that the Book of Mormon is God’s Word. I can prove that Jesus Christ is who He claimed to be: God, come as a Man to die for our sins. Give me one proof that Joseph Smith is who he claimed to be: “the prophet of God.” In fact, Mormonism contradicts the Bible. Give me one proof.”
Well, they said, “We prayed about it, and we got a feeling inside.”
I said, “Buddhists have that feeling. Hindus and Muslims have that feeling. Give me something better than a feeling.” Now we have objective, factual, historical, prophetic evidence that the Bible is God’s Word. And that’s why we say to people, “Search the Scriptures daily.” If you have a quarrel with what we’re saying, your quarrel is not with us – it’s with God’s Word. We believe the Bible is God’s Word, and we can prove it, okay? And it has the proof. Please! Don’t be so proud that you say, “Well, this is going against what I’ve been taught, or my religion, or my church.” Please! We beg of you, consider very carefully what God has said. Search the Scriptures daily. That’s all we’re asking.
Tom: And, Dave, to bring this around to where we started, the question here is, “Where will I spend eternity?” God’s Word has the answers. And it doesn’t take a Council, or a Magisterium, or any organization to lay it out for you. It’s right there, very simply, in God’s Word.
Dave: Tom, when it comes to answering that question – when it comes to that decision – I’m not going to trust anybody, no matter what fancy robes they wear, no matter how long they’ve been around, their church may be the largest or oldest, no matter how convincing they are, I want to know what God has to say. That’s the only thing that’s going to matter one day.