Gary Habermas, a leading scholar on the Resurrection--who is also now one of our visiting professors--discussed apologetics from the angle of doubt and personal struggle. Most specifically, he talks about his own time when his wife died and how he made it through that.
Gary Myers: Hi, my name is Gary Myers.
Joe Fontenot: And I'm Joe Fontenot.
Gary: We're the hosts of the "Answering The Call" podcast.
Joe: And this is the podcast where we talk to people who are answering God's call.
Gary: Today our guest is a well-known apologist, Gary Habermas. He also is a visiting professor here at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary.
Joe: Yes. Which is news, cause he's just recently started. And I just found out that he ... So he teaches ... He's a professor at Liberty, and he does only PHDs. And-
Gary: So you can take a master's level class from Gary Habermas here.
Joe: And here. That's right. So, the only place you can take a class from Gary Habermas and not be in a PHD is NOBTS, which is a completely shameless plug on our part.
Gary: That's exciting.
Joe: I'm shameless. So, anyway, in our podcast today, he talks about something very interesting for apologetics. He talks about where doubt and apologetics intersect. And it's interesting for a few reasons. Number one, apologetics is not normally known for that, but number two, he has been through a lot of doubt himself. His wife passed away, and so he had to, for a good chunk of his kids' growing up, he had to raise them, and just all the difficulty that came with that.
Joe: So this was a really interesting interview that I'm excited about.
Gary: Yeah. He has a powerful testimony. He's not only a great apologist, but he has a dynamic testimony for Christ.
Gary: Let's hear from Gary.
Joe: Sounds good.
Marilyn Stewart: Gary, you have been with us this weekend, Defend, and it's been great. And you are known as probably the best resurrection scholar there is today. You've done a lot of research, written a lot on that. You've also written about doubt, why Christians doubt, and what we can do about it.
Gary Habermas: So we wanna get to that later, but I want to begin with the resurrection chapter. 1 Corinthians 15, and the first time I heard you tell this as evidence for the resurrection a few years ago, it was revolutionary to me. And in particular, the dating of this creed in 1 Corinthians 15. So I want you to talk about that a little bit, and in verses three and four, there is what we call a creed. And it does say that Jesus was buried, that He was raised on the third day, according ... that He was ... that He died for our sins, was buried, and raised on the third day according to scriptures.
Marilyn: So talk to us about that. Tell us what it means.
Gary Habermas: Those two verses, three and four, well, let me back up. Before he gives the creed, he says, "When I came to you Corinthians, I presented the Gospel." Now, if someone says to me, what's God's side of the gospel? Ours is the, "I do." The "Are you gonna do or not do?" But God's side is minimum. DD, death, resurrection of Jesus.
Gary Habermas: So after saying to them, I presented the Gospel to you, and what you did with it basically determines where you spend eternity, 'cause that was the message of Jesus, the central message. Paul illustrates number one, and he says it's number one, because in verse three, he says, "I delivered unto you that which I also received as of first importance." Now, you could translate that real first point. But the Greek commentators think what he's saying is, this is the most important, central thing I can tell you. I've given to you, that which is of first importance, that Christ, and notice the title is used, rather than Jesus, died for our sins according to scriptures, buried, rose again the third day, according to scriptures, and then appeared. And the appearance is a part of the creed, too.
Gary Habermas: The creed ... There may be more than one creed here. There's some people who think he attached a couple appearance traditions together, but at the very least, there are five appearances to which he attaches his at the end, making six. So, and in that five, it's very, very important apologetically, there's three to individuals, and you couldn't find any more ... I mean the names are huge.
Marilyn: Mm-hmm (affirmative). Peter.
Gary Habermas: There's Peter.
Marilyn: He says Cephas, mm-hmm (affirmative).
Gary Habermas: Right, Cephas, and that's a pointer, by the way, to it being really early.
Marilyn: Oh, yes.
Gary Habermas: Because of Cephas.
Gary Habermas: Yeah. It's-
Marilyn: Tell why. Why is that?
Gary Habermas: Well because he's using his Hebrew name as opposed to his, I don't want to say nickname, but you know, he's using Cephas. And I believe he's called that in Galatians 1, too, which is also important, when he goes back and gets this message, which is when scholars think he got this.
Gary Habermas: There's Peter there. There's James. Of course it's being told to Paul, and he adds his name at the end, and there's three groups. A group called "the twelve," "the five hundred," and a group called "all the apostles," which is almost always taken to mean a group larger than the twelve, but that apostle is geared ... Well Acts 1 is defined by who's with the risen Jesus. So we are there. We are in the middle of it. This is, as Paul says, of first importance.
Gary Habermas: Now if you add the name John, who's not in the creed, but if you had John, you would have the four most influential Christians who ever lived in the early church, and here's what's interesting about that. You have Paul, James, the pastor of Jerusalem, Peter, the chief apostle. When Paul goes to Jerusalem, and most people believe he received it in Galatians 1, just a few years after the cross. He goes back 14 years later in Galatians 2, and John is there.
Gary Habermas: So the big four are there.
Marilyn: They're all included.
Gary Habermas: Three in the creed, and John's added. And when Paul says in Galatians ... Don't wanna get ahead of us, here, but when Paul says, "I set before them the Gospel I was preaching to see if I was running in vain." Again, we're on this primary topic. He says five words in English: "They added nothing to me." They added nothing to me, which means, we're on the same page. Which of course is what Paul says at the end of the creed, 1 Corinthians 15:11, he says, "Whether it is I or they, this is what we preach, and this is what you believe. So if you don't want to get it from me, I don't care. Go talk to Peter. Go talk to John. You're not gonna hear a different message."
Marilyn: Now one thing we might oughta do is explain what a creed was and how it was used.
Gary Habermas: Yeah. In the new testament ... This is earth shaking. I really think it's evangelical priest's oppositions that keep us from seeing this, 'cause the liberals came up with this argument first.
Marilyn: I was there.
Gary Habermas: I shouldn't say liberals. Don't take derogatorily, but critical scholars.
Gary Habermas: And in the New Testament, there are dozens of credal texts. You go well, that's kind of subjective, how would you know? Well, sometimes the author, usually Paul, but sometimes the author says so. Twice Paul says 1 Corinthians 11, the communion passage, 1 Corinthians 15, "I deliver unto you that which I also receive." The communion passage he says, "Jesus is Christ" in this one. In 1 Corinthians 11, that which I also receive from the Lord.
Gary Habermas: Then in other passages, especially the pastorals, which critics have an issue with, but evangelicals don't. In the pastorals, Paul says things like, "Observe the traditions of the elders," or "Here is a trustworthy saying." Over and over again. "Here is a trustworthy saying." I told my students that is the first century way to make a footnote. Because in your translations, it's starting to come out this way now, in the modern translations. These things are set off in verse. Like Philippians 2, Christological Hymn, that's probably the best known one that's set off in verse. And now they're starting to do it with the other ones.
Marilyn: That's great.
Gary Habermas: So here's the definition of a creed. These were little snippets, little one liners that were taught to a mostly, up to maybe as high as 90% illiterate audience. How do you teach somebody something when they can't write their own name? So when I'm lecturing, I'll say, "Okay. Here's a secular example. Jack and Jill went up the hill-"
Marilyn: And everybody can repeat it.
Gary Habermas: ... And the crowd says, "to fetch a pail of water." Alright, here's a religious example. Amazing grace, how sweet the sound, 'cause that might be what Philippians 2 is, a hymn. And they go, "Oh. Cool." Okay Jack and Jill, or Amazing Grace. Can you teach a five year old? Sure. Can they write their name? No. But they can learn that. Yes. We saw it in our play last week. Okay, that's how they spread the word in the early church with illiterate people, and that's how the word spread for the first 20 years before the first new testament book was written. It's really an exciting study.
Marilyn: It is, and I think this is what impressed me so, besides the timing, which we're gonna get to. But in this little creed, it does include that He died for our sins, according to scripture, was buried ... Each one of those. The fact that he was buried, because of course there are those that have tried to say, "He just ... His body was eaten by dogs or thrown in the ditch." And so each one is just so powerful. And then raised on third day again, according to scripture. So it is ... It's powerful. Everything about this chapter is powerful.
Marilyn: Now the thing I remember most is when you gave us a time when that creed was probably being used. They met for worship, and by this point in time they were probably repeating it. So, talk about the timing, the date.
Gary Habermas: Yeah, and you know what? This is not just an evangelical thing. You could find critics who are gonna say what I'm gonna say next. And that is, they will say that when Paul meets Jesus on the road to Damascus, a number of these creeds were already in existence. So they are called pre-Pauline. Pre-Pauline means they are dated somewhere between the cross and Paul's conversion. So that again is like, whoa. Then you think, wait a minute. A huge implication of that. Critics used to, old days, not so much anymore, used to say, Jesus was a first-century Palestinian carpenter, nice guy. Paul was the one who founded Christianity. Paul's the cultist.
Gary Habermas: Well, how could Paul be the cultist if all these credal passages predate Paul?
Gary Habermas: And 80% of the credal passages are on the gospel of the deity, death, and resurrection of Jesus. So the gospel-
Gary Habermas: ... Was laid out before Paul was ever converted, so Paul could not have been the founder of the creeds.
Marilyn: Have you written a book on this?
Gary Habermas: No. I've written parts of books.
Gary Habermas: But I just ... My teaching assistant Bill, I mean, just edited and republished the best known book on the creeds, which was by a famous German, well actually French-German theologian, Oscar Coleman, and it's called "The Earliest Christian Confessions." And many people think it's still the best thing ever written. It's only like 65 pages. And he lays out the creeds. There are different kinds. There are baptismal creeds you say when you go down to the water, there are things in preaching, there are type of hymns, they are doxologies you can say when you do blessing. There's all kinds. Then he started unpacking these, and it's a classic book. But it's been out of print for a long time and very expensive, so we got it reprinted.
Marilyn: Oh, excellent. Excellent.
Gary Habermas: So, yeah, it is exciting.
Marilyn: Going back to the date, so if its pre-Pauline, then we're talking about within three years of Jesus dying on the cross.
Gary Habermas: That's right.
Marilyn: Is that correct? Three years? There just is nothing like this in our ancient manuscripts. The gospels are unique, and the letters that Paul wrote are unique, 'cause they're pretty close. But-
Gary Habermas: They're 20. 20 plus.
Gary Habermas: But they predate the gospels, and in the gospels, a genre. Now, there is a move right now to agnostics who think that Mark was probably written ... Well, one, in his doctoral dissertation ... He's an agnostic. He dates Mark 38 to 42. So there is a move to get some gospels back, but for the most part, everybody puts Paul before.
Gary Habermas: Now there's creeds in other books, very well known ones, but for example, there's a pretty strong belief today that in the book of Acts, there are a number of what they call sermon summaries, and the little snippets, not the whole sermon that Peter gives here or there or Paul, but little snippets read in a ... fashion, that you could block off as quote. And so there are other passages too, but I think Paul does most of them because by the time the Gospels and Acts are written, it was already pretty common knowledge.
Gary Habermas: Paul was sort of breaking the ice. He was sort of the ice breaker for the preaching. And he gets it out there by leading with the words of the elders first.
Marilyn: Interesting. Now without ... I don't want to just take this to where we beat it to death, but I'm very interested in how a creed develops. And I can picture a small group of people meeting. They don't have a church building. They're in a house. And they just begin to remind each other. They're talking about this. What does this mean? It's very early after the cross and the resurrection. How do creeds develop?
Gary Habermas: Well first of all, everything you just said plus throw in illiteracy, and if they're going to get it, they can't even write down the creed and pass it on because they can't write. So, you teach them, and what sets the creeds apart? You have to be really, really, good in the Greek. And I'm not. I mean, I minored in it in school, but that's not good enough.
Gary Habermas: The text often has a ... Hebrew poetry is not like English, but it often has a staccato kind of ... And there's a pretty wide feeling that that creed in 1 Corinthians 15:3 to following, that there are two stanzas. It breaks off very nicely in two stanzas, and then verse eight, "Last of all, He appeared to me." Paul is more or less appending his own experience to it.
Gary Habermas: So they had to teach it in some kind of fashion ... Secular example. If you're gonna teach "Jack and Jill" ... Religious example. If you're gonna teach "Amazing Grace," it has to be so the kids can remember it next week when they're in the classroom or when they're at home. And so it becomes a teaching device, or even a mnemonic kind of device.
Marilyn: So it's teaching. Do you think it also could just develop? I mean I can almost picture the earliest Christians going, as they discuss what they've seen, what they've witnessed, as eye witnesses, and just going, "Wow. It's according to scripture." You know He ... All these different things. So maybe even from the members themselves, rather than the apostles. Could it develop that way?
Gary Habermas: Sometimes in writings, things are immortalized because they're so catchy. I mean, I think of C.S. Lewis, for example, who's given to a lot of these. But how about his comment in his autobiography, something like, "And then I came into the kingdom, kicking and screaming, the most reluctant convert in all of England." You hear that once or twice ... Or "Pain is God's megaphone."
Marilyn: Right. Right.
Gary Habermas: You hear phrases like that, it's like, "Whoa, that ministered to me." Well if it ministers to me, I'm gonna memorize it, 'cause I figure it's gonna minister to you.
Marilyn: Right. Right. And it may not even be that the author at the time said, "I'm gonna write something that they're gonna repeat for the rest of human history-"
Gary Habermas: Oh, sure.
Marilyn: ... But it just resonates and fits. And interesting.
Gary Habermas: Well, cosmology had not ... Is a very heavy subject, but you can download it for ... C.S. Lewis had a one liner. If there ever was a time when nothing existed, nothing would exist now. Whoa, that's easy. Well, when you're looking for something, instead of, "I can't explain that argument. That's so and so." But you got a little one liner like that, that stops a guy in his tracks. So, I think we judge by one liners, mostly on the Gospel, but 80% of the creeds are Gospel. A few of them are other things. You know, how we minister the church, maybe some non-Gospel things about Jesus ... So I think clearly what rose up was what was of central importance in the earliest church.
Marilyn: Absolutely. Well we've always talked about this as a resurrection chapter because Paul goes on to say, "If the resurrection didn't happen, you need to pity Christians." We have nothing to go on. This is it. Everything hangs on the resurrection. And you mentioned last night, and I just want to give you a chance to speak about this, about how the resurrection should give us peace and joy as we're facing death and the loss of loved ones.
Gary Habermas: Yeah, and that's the practical side. If we come in with the truth, how should we lead with it, and I think things like the creeds, and I think things like ... We mentioned doing others' thinking for them. Sometimes parents say, "Now remember, honey. I've told you before. When this things, situation, happens, here's what you should do when this happens in school. Or be careful of this."
Gary Habermas: They are teaching moments, and I think the resurrection, being the sort of thing ... Here's a great example. Paul says, in Thessalonians, 1 Thessalonians, he says, "We grieve, but not like those without hope." There's a great little phrase at the end. Yep, we're gonna grieve. And you go, "Duh. I just lost my Dad, you know?" But not as those without hope because grieving with the hope of heaven is a world of difference than grieving without the hope of heaven.
Gary Habermas: So those are the teaching moments where the truth can come in and say, "Have you ever thought about the whole world that resurrection opens? It's called heaven." Or a phrase like, "For 40 days and nights, Jesus appeared to his disciples, and during that time, they say walking, talking, eternal life." Jesus embodied eternal life. Jesus embodied heaven. Those kind of thoughts, that's closest you'll come to heaven. I think they're very powerful-
Marilyn: I think so too.
Gary Habermas: ... When we're going through tough times.
Marilyn: Wow, that is ... And this is something you know about and have written about. You have several books that deal with grief, doubt, all these different things that are real life experiences. So I won't go into your personal experience. I'll let people buy your books, Gary Habermas, and look that up. But this takes us then to something that Christians always deal with. We do grieve, but we also face anxiety and depression. And this is something else you've written a lot about. You've talked to hundreds of people who have contacted you, but the question is ... You've mentioned that we allow bad thoughts to kind of direct us, but how do we ... What do we do? What are the practical steps in facing depression, anxiety, or doubt?
Gary Habermas: How to get out of it, right?
Marilyn: How to get out of it.
Gary Habermas: You reverse what you're saying and substitute truth for the lie. Example I used today was Romans 1:25, after a long catalog of sins, Paul says, "What characterizes all of them is these folks loved and believed a lie," 1:25. Twelve one and two, he says, "But you're not part of them. You ought to think differently, so I beseech you to change," and in verse two, I used to ask, "Okay, great. But how do we do it?"
Gary Habermas: Verse two B, 12:2B says, "By changing the way you think." Or Philippians Chapter Four, he says, "Be anxious for nothing." 4:6. Two verses later, he says, "Don't think of these anxiety-causing thoughts. Substitute God's truth. And we think of it maybe as a goody-two-shoes verse, and different translations use different words. Whatever is this, whatever is this, whatever is of good report, and he ends with, "Whatever is excellent or praise worthy, think." And some of the modern translations say, "Meditate," to think deeply and single-mindedly on these things.
Gary Habermas: Paul's saying take your anxiety of verse six. Be anxious for nothing. He's already said, "Stop it." And he said, "Put in its place God's truth that will transform your thinking." Then he says in the next verse, verse nine, "Those things you have seen in me, do them." In the Greek, it's "Continue to practice." So I call verse nine "Practice, practice, practice."
Gary Habermas: So, Paul has given a remedy there. Stop doing what you're doing. Now in between, he also says praise. So, stop doing what you're doing. Pray, and give it to the Lord. Praise. Change your thinking, and for crying out loud, do it every time you need it. So he's got a remedy right there. And those things are repeated many times in Psalms, Proverbs, Ephesians, other places.
Marilyn: So it is a matter of thinking, meditating on the bible scripture, and that's a good help.
Gary Habermas: And practicing. Putting one foot in front ... Peter and John both say to follow Jesus ... Jesus said, "If you love me, you'll obey." They both say, "Walk in his steps." So, you put one foot in front of another is how you get a quarter mile, a half a mile, a mile. You have to start, and you have to make progress.
Marilyn: But in talking to people who are going through tough times, often times they say, "I just can't pray. I can't read the bible right now." What do you say to them?
Gary Habermas: That's where if it's a husband, or wife, or child, someone that you live with them ... Because you would hear things that other people wouldn't hear. You'd step in and say, "Look, forgive the sermon, but you're in pain right now, and you asked me to help. Let me ask you a question. Give me those once again."
Gary Habermas: "Well, I can't pray right now."
Gary Habermas: "Do you think that's true, or do you think that's false?"
Gary Habermas: "Well, now that I've said it, I'm kind of embarrassed. So I think ... Well it's true, 'cause I can't pray."
Gary Habermas: "Really? Okay. Let's just pray together here. Now did you pray or not pray?"
Gary Habermas: "Alright, I prayed."
Gary Habermas: "What do you have to do? It's like saying 'I don't wanna go play my instrument,' but it's not gonna get played unless I sit down and start ... You start doing it. So, are you really saying you can't pray?"
Gary Habermas: "No, I'm saying I don't feel-"
Gary Habermas: Bingo. You don't feel like praying. That's precisely why you practice it now. Because if you don't use a limb, learned the old saying in therapy, use it or lose it. It's like that in mental health, and it's like that in spiritual health, too.
Marilyn: I think that's very good advice. Feelings are just so difficult to deal with. Emotions are difficult, but you're saying take it one step at a time, day by day, hour by hour, and simply go to the Lord in prayer, and that's a way to practice, practice, practice.
Gary Habermas: Yeah, and the teaching, didactic passages, like Colossians 3:2, "Set your mind on things above, not on earthly things," well that's like a teaching. And you're probably in pretty good shape when you read the verse. But in John 11, Jesus is using the same truth with the two sisters when Lazarus dies. And he gives them a theology exam, and they pass the theology exam. Yeah, we'll see him some day at the end of time, but what about it right now?
Gary Habermas: And Jesus says, "He who lives and believes in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live." So I have two messages for you. You'll be with him at the end of time, but does it help you to think that your brother is currently alive? Does that make you feel better? He's not moldering in a Palestinian tomb. He is currently alive.
Gary Habermas: And I made the comment last night ... When my wife died, it was actually her sister who's aid this to me. She said, "You know, I miss Deb." She said, "I miss Deb a lot." But she said, "It helps me to think she will never get sick again. It'll never be cold. It'll never be too hot. She's fine. And the blessing the Lord's given her ... He's compensating for the loss of her children and husband. She's in the best possible place she could be." So, I started telling my children ... Now, this is a side. I don't mean to get into it, but just to mention how we can get illustrations. Next to the resurrection, I've probably done the most work on near death experiences.
Marilyn: That's true, yes.
Gary Habermas: And when you talk to people who claim to have crossed over ... They claim that. Who knows? But it's a testimony. I used their testimonies, after studying hundreds of them, and I told my children ... After their mom died, the youngest was only nine, and I said, "Guys, I wanna tell you something. You can weep for your mom ... " Sorry, I said it the wrong way. I said, "You can weep for yourself, but don't weep for your mom, 'cause A, she's fine, and B, this is true, she wouldn't come back even if she had the opportunity." And then it was like, "Really?"
Gary Habermas: "Yeah."
Gary Habermas: "Well, Dad, I'm gonna miss Mom, but if Mom's happy-"
Marilyn: Then that's okay.
Gary Habermas: ... "I can handle it." Yeah, I had a situation speaking to a group of Christian medical doctors one time, a medical group. And I was talking about near death experiences, one of many lectures. And a woman there ... Her husband was a physician, surgeon, and she raised her hand. I did not know. This was unexpected. And she raised her hand, she goes, "I've been to heaven." And the doctors in the room went ... It's one thing to say that ... I mean it's one thing to be there, it's another thing to claim that. You're a physician's wife.
Gary Habermas: You know, act like it. One of them was actually saying that. And I said, "Okay. What child was this?" She said she was in childbirth. "What child?"
Gary Habermas: "Number three."
Gary Habermas: I said, "I've been lead to believe that the strongest biological tie in the universe is between a mother and her child."
Gary Habermas: She goes, "I'd agree."
Gary Habermas: I said, "Okay, tell me something. Have you seen your third baby yet?"
Gary Habermas: "I have not."
Gary Habermas: "You're in your death experience?"
Gary Habermas: "Yes."
Gary Habermas: "Okay, let me ask you something, in front of all these physicians. Did you want to return?"
Gary Habermas: And she realized the implications, and she goes, "No."
Marilyn: Is that right?
Gary Habermas: "I did not want to come back."
Gary Habermas: So I teased a little bit, and I said, "You wouldn't want to come back to see your newborn?"
Gary Habermas: And she elbows her husband, and she playfully says, "He can take care of the kids." But she did not want to return. Now, Philippians 1, 21 and 23. "I prefer to die and be with the Lord, which is better by far." I think that's what we're talking about, and to me that's a teaching moment.
Gary Habermas: It's like, here's the resurrection, but if the resurrection secures heaven, and we really believe that, I can be sorrowful when my wife died, but don't you dare be sorrowful for your wife because she's saying, if she could see you, she's probably joking with me, going, "I'm gonna come haunt you." 'Cause she used to say that to me. "I'm gonna come haunt you. I'm not gonna let you forget this." But when she's more serious, I can just hear her saying it, "I am fine, okay? I am fine. Worry about yourself, but don't worry about me."
Gary Habermas: I think that releases me from that kind of anxiety and that kind of depression. And that kind of freed me up. You go, well, everybody has that right, 'cause everybody has near death experiences. Now we're back to Paul, we grieve, but not as those without hope.
Gary Habermas: It's because of the resurrection that we can do that.
Marilyn: Now, I do want to kind of play devil's advocate here.
Gary Habermas: Sure.
Marilyn: Okay, you are an adult, though, so you're saying this helped your children as well, perhaps not only just seeing you show that attitude, but as they thought about it, it helped them?
Gary Habermas: I teased. I walked through the room, and my daughter might say ... And I have a daughter on the mission field, and the other one's a nurse. But they would say, "Dad, do you mind if I go over here tonight, or can I do this?" And it was something that wasn't really bad, but most parents would say, "I'd really rather not have you get involved with that."
Gary Habermas: "Well, come on, Dad, I'm a big girl. I know what I'm doing. I'm 17. I can handle myself." And I would look up to the ceiling, and I would go "Deb. Tell her something, will you?" And everybody'd start laughing. So, I would use this humor to basically say, "Don't know where Mom is, but she's fine." And the kids all responded to that. We didn't make light of it, or laugh, or cut up, but when I would go, "Hey, can you help me with this one? There used to be two of us, okay? The least you can do is have some input, you know?" And I made it short and sweet, and everybody would laugh, and they relaxed, 'cause first of all, that was her personality, and secondly, I knew she was fine.
Gary Habermas: We would mix all those sorts of things, and I think they got very easy with it, but when I said to them, "Don't weep for your Mom," I think they realized that took the biggest sting out of it.
Marilyn: Yeah, yeah. Okay. Now, but that still doesn't take all the sting out because-
Gary Habermas: No, no it doesn't.
Marilyn: ... They've got ... And you had to face, like you mentioned last night, doing the laundry, getting the kids to school, through all their activities, plus all your writing deadlines and teaching.
Gary Habermas: Teaching.
Marilyn: And people have trouble with that. And they go, why did God ... I needed this mother, this wife, this husband, whoever it is. What about that?
Gary Habermas: I would say keep doing ... This, what we're talking about ... Think it out, all the way out. Who is God? Well, God ... Let me remember my theology. God is all the omnies. Okay. Can God break promises? Well, sometimes ... Can God break promises? No. Not just he won't, he can't. Am I right? Can God be un-God? No. You're kind of destroying my argument, here. No, what I'm doing is taking away your feelings, which you wanna harbor, which you have no basis for. So, God can't break that promise. No. Can God let you down? Well yeah, because his will is not mine. I understand that, but can God dog you? No. Can God be other than God? No.
Gary Habermas: But, as I said today, are his ways also above ours? Yes. So, if we dare to let him be God, I mean, we do wanna let him be God, right, honey? I was saying to my daughter. Yeah, we wanna let him be God. He's gonna be God whether we let him be God or not. Okay. So, if he's gonna be God, can we think that he has some ideas that are not like ours? Look, when you wanna go out with your friends, I don't like what you're doing. If I feel strongly enough about it, I'm gonna say something, right? 'Cause that's what a good parent does, right? Yeah.
Gary Habermas: Does God say something when we're going to do it? I guess. But do you think he's always gonna agree with you? No. Not nice when he doesn't agree, is it? No. Could you maybe learn later it was still a good choice? Yeah. And that's not a time for a half hour sermon-
Gary Habermas: ... But you can get it across in two minutes.
Marilyn: Yeah. Well this is ... That really underscores how important our thinking is. And you've mentioned that many times, that it's important to think correctly, to get your theology straight, to use your theology-
Gary Habermas: To use it.
Marilyn: ... In these moments.
Gary Habermas: Apply it.
Marilyn: And it's tough. It's hard, but yet it's very important. Which also then brings me to my last set of questions, and that's about doubt. Because I've heard you say that doubt is typically not related to the facts or the evidence supporting Christian faith, but again back to those emotions, and I just want to give you a chance to speak to that.
Gary Habermas: Yeah, we think. We like to think. I'll just pick on the PHDs and the MDs in our society.
Marilyn: Please do.
Gary Habermas: How many MDs, how many psychiatrists, don't think correctly? How many PHDs know good theology, and don't apply it? Because when somebody crosses us, or when somebody how about cuts us off in traffic? We have moments where it's visceral, and the first thing that happens is emotions first, and you know what, I have to think. I don't know, I have to be real careful when I say this, but is that what went through Jesus's mind when he said my dad, my God, why have you forsaken me?
Gary Habermas: Sweat drops of blood equaling high anxiety? Paul says be angry and sin not, how about be anxious and sin not? I'm not saying these moods are sinful, but they're not true. So, that's when we step in and say, "What are you getting at?" Well I wonder why God ... So you're going to guess what God should be doing? Yeah. And you know he's all the omnies? Yeah. But yet, you're gonna tell him what the omnies mean. Yeah. And you don't feel so cool when you think ... Yeah. And Jesus had to learn obedience by things he suffered. Is that in the bible? Yeah, it is. It's Hebrews 5. And Jesus was completed by his suffering. Yeah. Why do we behave like that? And I do it with my kids. I did it with my kids.
Gary Habermas: My youngest ... Well, my oldest daughter, but my second oldest child, is a nurse now. And she does it with her kids. But she went through a time when she was so scared at age 10, she wouldn't go to bed by herself. And we applied of this correct thinking thing. And it's just a silly example, but she would lie down in the doorway, and about the upper half of her head would be out in the hallway. She was at the end of the hallway, her bedroom. And I'd have to ... Every 15 minutes, I'd look down the hallway, and I'd say, "I love you." And she'd smile, and sometimes she was just dozing off, I'd say, "I love you," or, "Have the burglars gotten you yet?" And after about two months of doing that ... See, I was changing her thinking. See, we can be the surrogate frontal lobes for people who aren't very good frontal lobe thinkers.
Marilyn: Well, before you say that, I mean, this is really good, Gary, because I feel like this is what scripture promises that God does, that he's with us in these really tough times. Psalm 34:18, "God is near the broken hearted. He saves those who are crushed in spirit." I mean, I think that's a very important point, too.
Gary Habermas: You know what, you could go ... You just started me on something, here. You could find some verses, I'm sure, where God corrects our thinking, and says, "Not this, but this."
Marilyn: And it's maybe not an explanation, but just that what you said to your daughter. "I love you." I think that's-
Gary Habermas: Which he does say, over and over again. He also says, "I could never leave you or forsake you."
Gary Habermas: He also says, oftentimes, "God will never break his promises." Well, it's more than that. He can't break his promises.
Marilyn: He cannot.
Gary Habermas: He could-
Marilyn: Cannot lie.
Gary Habermas: Seminary guys, they have to think the sentence through. God wouldn't break his promises, even if he wanted to, which he doesn't. Okay, I agree. Then why don't you say that when you're going through a rough time? And if someone's real honest, when they think about it, they'll go, "Because I kinda like my sad emotions. It gives me an excuse." Yeah, your feelings do, but your theology doesn't.
Marilyn: Oh, that's-
Gary Habermas: So what's right?
Marilyn: That's powerful.
Gary Habermas: Your theology, or your emotions?
Marilyn: That's powerful. Now, you were mentioning that we do need people to walk along beside us, surrogate?
Gary Habermas: That's my psychologist buddy, Gary Sibcy, clinical psychologist, who says, "Sometimes, we have to be each other's surrogate frontal lobe." Where you do some of your most serious thinking. Like when I first married Eileen, she moves into this family, and I have four kids at home. And somebody would yell out in the other room. Something just happened, and they're on the phone, or they're just goofing around. And my oldest son was prone to do this, and he would go, "I am so angry right now. If he does this one more time, I'm going to ..." And maybe he'd use a word that wasn't like a cuss word, or out of bounds, but it was kind of a strong word. And Eileen would be cooking dinner, and she would yell in there, and she'd go, "Rob!" Do I ... And she wouldn't even look around the corner. She'd just go, "Rob! Do I hear you saying you're bothered right now?"
Gary Habermas: "Yeah, I'm blank, blank. I'm really bothered."
Gary Habermas: "Oh, I thought I heard you right. Yeah, I did think I heard you say you were bothered. Yeah, okay." So what she's telling them is, use a different word. Or don't use the kind of word that you feel really cool using it, but what it does is double the fire power, and it makes you really angry. You're saying, "Calm down a little bit," but all you said was, "Oh, are you bothered?" And after a while, everybody would start laughing. All right, Eileen. And you'd hear from the other room, "All right, Eileen." Or one night at the dinner table, we were all eating, and she said to one of my children, she goes, "That's a fork. It's not a shovel." But I looked down, and I was holding my fork like this, and I changed it around real fast.
Gary Habermas: So, what I mean is there's teaching moments, but they're really simple, and you didn't intrude. You didn't say anything horrible. It was funny. "I can hear you're bothered. I get the point." And it just ... It makes people just ... So there's way to tamp down things and diffuse situations.
Marilyn: She did a good job. She sounds like a very wise woman, but yes, we do need those people in our lives to do that, to kind of help us keep control of emotion and walk ahead.
Gary Habermas: But spouses, and parents, and children, they're in the best position to do it because we will let that show around the house when we never say it in the classroom, in the church.
Marilyn: Sure. Oh, yeah.
Gary Habermas: You know?
Marilyn: They see the real us, don't they?
Gary Habermas: And they hear it.
Gary Habermas: Like what if, what if, what if, and I go, wow, that's me. I'm what if-ing again.
Marilyn: Yeah. And you know, that's what we do. We can get very anxious when we think about what if. Well you don't Gary the ... When I first met you years ago, and I began to hear about that you were a resurrection scholar, and then you wrote about doubt and grief, I thought, how do those ... Those don't go together. They seemed at first to not fit. But when I started hearing you speak, it became very clear. These go very well together.
Gary Habermas: If this, then this.
Marilyn: Yes. Because of the resurrection, we can think differently, and a lot of our doubt and anxiety can ... We can deal with it when we think differently. So this is ... I just appreciate all the work you've done-
Gary Habermas: Thanks.
Marilyn: ... And all the contributions you've made. And I'll give you a chance to say any last thing that you would like.
Gary Habermas: No, I don't have anything else to say, but when you said that, I did think of the verse again in Paul, we brought up several times. We grieve, but not as those without hope. So the add on that we have is ... You go, well, where's the bridge between resurrection and grief? The bridge is if Jesus was raised, Mom's doing fine right now.
Gary Habermas: Or Philippians 1. I'd prefer to die and be with Christ. Oh, then Mom's okay. Yeah, mom's fine. And I'll be with her one day. Yep, that's the women in, with Lazarus in John 11. Yep. Wow. Okay. Well, I'm still sad. You can be sad. But now I know Mom's having a good time. Exactly.
Marilyn: And you can-
Gary Habermas: And that's a real lesson.
Marilyn: That is. And then you can get through those details of life where you're left behind knowing God is with you.
Gary Habermas: And some day ... I tell people ... I ended last night by saying, I don't know why she died. I didn't know then.
Marilyn: That's a good point.
Gary Habermas: But about the time she died, I think before she even died, I realized it wouldn't make a bit of difference if I know why she did. I think I'm better off not knowing, 'cause I'd wanna argue.
Gary Habermas: That's me.
Gary Habermas: So, I don't know, but that's not the important thing. Knowing why is silly. Knowing why doesn't change anything. She's still in heaven with the Lord. She's still happy. She's still okay. This is still God's universe. Remember the song, "This is My Father's World?"
Gary Habermas: I love the verse, "And though the wrong seems off so strong, God is the ruler yet." So, I don't know why, but I can ask myself ... You talk about these little pithy truths again. I could ask myself, "Who died and left you the king of the universe?" Oh, yeah, that's funny. It's funny? Okay. Well then it teaches something, so quit doing it. Get yourself off the throne. And so sometimes those little, tiny-
Gary Habermas: And one place, and we're full of them, but it must be the same way in the early church, you know? We don't grieve with, as those without hope. Or put your mind on things above non-earthly things. Quit, stop thinking like this.
Marilyn: Those are great thoughts, and we just really appreciate it so much.
Gary Habermas: Oh, thanks.
Marilyn: And your books are great. Thank you.
Gary Habermas: Oh, well thank you very much, Marilyn, I have enjoyed it, enjoyed chatting with you. I hope it's in some small way applicable. You know what though? That old saying where when I point to you, the thumb comes back to me. I'm reminding myself the whole time.
Marilyn: Yes. Thanks so much.