I noticed you dedicated this book to one of your sons, commending him on his writing skills. Is he also a writer?
Heís not a writer yet, except in school. But when he writes, Iím always amazed at his ability. One night, Iíd gone through a particularly difficult time and when I woke up in the morning there was a two-page letter heíd written to me. And it was so profound, that it inspired my book dedication. I donít know if thatís what heíll end up doing, but he certainly has a better capacity for writing than I do. I labor over writing, Iíve worked at very hard, and it takes me a long time.
You became a Christian because of your own research into scientific evidence?
Well, I grew up in a Christian home, and in the end I have to say that typically it isnít that you canít believe but because you wonít believe. And so you try to rationalize God out of existence, because you want to live life by the dictates of your own will. I certainly fell into that category. Early on, I didnít get answers to the questions I had. I was very analytical, very inquisitive, and Iíd ask questions and wouldnít get satisfactory answers. And so I used that as my excuse. When I came to faith in Christ, I did so by looking at the evidences for what I call the ďBig ThreeĒ apologetic issues: Did God create the universe or are we functions of chance? Is Jesus Christ God, and did he demonstrate it through the immutable fact of the resurrection? Is the Bible divine rather than human in origin? If you can answer those three questions, you can answer a host of other questions by simply appealing them to authority.
So you went about answering these questions on your journey?
Yes, I actually talk about that in the preface to the book in the example of Larry King, who has had the opportunity to pose more questions to famous people than probably anybody else in history. What Iíve tried to do in this book is take the most pressing questions Iíve been asked over the last 15 years, either within Christianity or within the culture, and address them. For example, ĎWho made God?í, ĎWhy do bad things happen to good people?í, ĎCan God make a rock so big He canít lift it?í, or questions about death and the afterlife, or about salvation. I cover the whole gamut. Whatís really neat about this book is that I have two questions about Islam that I answer. I feel that if someone reads those two questions alone, theyíll have all the ammunition they need to deal effectively with Muslims. Same thing with the Jehovahís Witnesses or Mormons. Iíve given people really concise answers. Iíve chiseled answers to just the gem versions.
Would you say then that The Bible Answer Book is not just for someone looking for their own answers, but for those who may not know how to answer other peopleís questions?
Iíve tried to give you the best resources available to augment my own answers, in the format of First-Furthermore-Finally. Each question has the three most essential parts of that question answered. I think from that standpoint too, it helps pastors. It gives you the information in bite-sized nuggets.
How did you decide which to include in your total of 81 questions?
I basically tried to take the most pressing questions that Iíve been asked over the last 15 years. These seemed to come to the forefront over and over again. I take the questions that I know are in the minds of the people, both within the culture and within Christianity community. In a sense I think that this is a book that is not only helpful to equip Christians, but something you give someone who is a non-believer, and in reading this they recognize that Christianity does have the answers.
A classic case-in-point is the question of good and evil. Itís a question that gets asked all the time. At first blush, there has to be as many answers to that question as there are religions. But actually there are just three logical answers that anyone can give, that are philosophically true: Philosophical Naturalism, Pantheism, and Theism. Those are the three broad categories that all the answers fall into. Once you sift through that, you find that two of them donít make any sense and that leaves you with one. And within that one, only Christian Theism makes sense. I tried to boil it down so the whole thing comes through the broad mouth of the funnel and you end up with just a nugget coming out.
It makes it easier for someone to retell.
Youíve hit the nail on the head. Thatís what Iím trying to do. I donít feel like I need to be the hired gun. Everyone needs to be able to give an answer. What Iím trying to do is give it to people in such a way as they can internalize the information and use it to make a difference in the culture.
Which is your whole ministry at equip.org.
I like your point in the book that we canít strong-arm people into Christianity, we canít debate them and win them to the faith.
Right. What this book becomes is a springboard for opportunity, but only the Holy Spirit changes the heart. We can get into a debate for the wrong reason: to demonstrate your mental acumen, to win an argument, rather than to try to win the person.
I admire your ability to memorize and quote Scripture. What advice do you have for others wanting to do the same?
The mind is like a muscle, if you use it it will be more effective. If you donít, it will atrophy like a muscle. So, I think that you can memorize by rote, but there are also great memory techniques that you can use. All of memory is simply memory by association, joining two bits of information together. It could be a name and a face, it could be a chapter in the Bible and whatís contained in it, it could be a foreign vocabulary word. So letís say with a scripture verse it is joined with itís address. When you hear the address you know whatís contained in the verse, or vice versa. So learning to make associations makes a huge difference.
Because youíre known as The Bible Answer Man, you have a lot of responsibility. Whatís the biggest challenge that you face?
You know, Iím the host of the Bible Answer Man broadcast but over the years Iíve been known as The Bible Answer Man because thatís what I do. I have chaffed at that a lot. Itís one thing to say youíre ďAĒ Bible Answer Man, itís another thing to say youíre ďTheĒ Bible Answer Man. Actually, the reason for the title is that itís the name of our show. I think what Iím trying to do is to model what every Christian should be doing, and that is always be ready to give a reason for the hope that lies within you with gentleness and respect. And demonstrate that Christian faith stands up to scrutiny. We do have the answers. It the only consistent worldview that does give satisfying answers. We want people to become so familiar with the truth, that when a counterfeit looms on the horizon they know it instantaneously. We want people to recognize that there are answers, that they can learn to give those, and that when they do weíll no longer be marginalized in our culture. Weíll be able to make a difference and become change-agents in the culture, rather than be microcosms of the culture.
What do you recommend to Christians who want to better prepare themselves to face the culture?
In broad strokes, for growing as a Christian it is first of all growing in a relationship with the Lord through prayer, recognizing that prayer is not merely a means of bringing our requests, but prayer is a means of developing a relationship with the Lover of our soul. Then itís getting the Word of God into us, recognizing that the Word is not dead and dull, but itís alive and dynamic and has answers to our questions. So when we pray, we find that prayer is not a monologue but a dialog. God speaks to us through His Word, and if we want to know the will of God we have to know the Word of God. Then the third thing is we need to be vital, producing members of a healthy, well-balanced church. Itís in the church that we worship God through the prayer, praise, and proclamation of the Word of God. Itís in the church that we have genuine fellowship with one another. And itís in the church that we are equipped to go out in the world. So the church is the God-ordained vehicle through which weíre nurtured and through which we can reach out and impact the world.
That reminds me of one of your questions in the book, ĎHow do I find a good church?í What do you recommend?
There are actually three basics to look for in a church. The first one is worship, which I mentioned is the prayer, praise, and proclamation of the Word of God. Then there is oneness, which has to do with fellowship as codified in Romans 12 as community, confession, and contribution. And then I have witness, where you have to learn to effectively communicate what you believe, why we believe, and who we believe. This is a good example of how I try to take things and illiterate them so that they can stick in your mind. This is just a broad stroke. Iíve often said that he who aims at nothing invariably hits it, so if you donít know what youíre looking for youíre not going to find it.
Have you ever been stumped? Or have you ever had someone ask a question that you had to get back to them about?
First of all, the more you learn, the more you realize how little you know. And so youíre constantly placed in that situation where you have to learn. What happens over time, you can anticipate virtually any question and come up with at least a cursory answer. But there are so many times that after a show Iíll think I want to do a little more research on that subject. Iím constantly spurred into looking at new issues. Iíve been doing my show for 15 years, and in that period of time I donít think Iíve done a single show where I havenít been asked a question that Iíve never been asked before. So Iím constantly learning new things and developing, but there are a base number of questions that youíll find are asked and thatís what Iíve included in The Bible Answer Book.
How do you study?
In terms of my study routine, Iím oftentimes driven by whatever my passion happens to be at the moment. When I wrote The Prayer of Jesus, my passion was to understand everything I could about prayer. When I wrote The Covering, my passion was to understand everything I could about spiritual warfare. Having said that, what happens then is I immerse myself in everything the Word of God and a Biblical worldview tells me about a subject. Oftentimes in terms of authors that I would read, I go back one hundred or more years. I find that so much that is communicated in evangelical Christianity today is pap and dribble and a regurgitation of a regurgitation of regurgitation, without any original thinking. I like to go cumbersome writers such as the Puritans, who are very wordy, but very profound as well.
Do you have another book you are working on?
Yes, Iím under contract with Tyndale House, doing a three book fiction series. I wonít tell you the title yet, but the subtitle is ďWhy most of what you learned about the end times is wrong.Ē I think eschatology has itís tentacles through all of theology. If you look at the broad strokes of scripture, in the beginning Adam falls to a life of constant sin terminated by death. The rest of the Bible is Godís redemptive plan, culminating in a new heaven and a new earth wherein dwells righteousness. Ultimately, the big eschatological pictures Paradise Lost to Paradise Restored. All of the Bible is eschatological in that sense. The other thing that really troubles me so much is that the more I read modern eschatology writers, the more I recognize that they have little clue of what the Old Testament says and the fact that oftentimes the New Testament is quoting the Old Testament. Jesus is the master of imagery, and weíve tried to take His statements at the Olivet Discourse and turned them into flat, literal prose. Not recognizing that Jesus is quoting the prophet to tell us something. And so often we try to take what is said in the Bible and shove it into the 21st century.
So why fiction?
Well, Iím doing two different things. One is the fiction series, then thereís a book that explains the theology behind the fiction series. Then Iím doing a book that basically goes through the icons that have become the arguments. Like in evolution, when you see the ape to man icon, that becomes the argument. The same thing has happened in eschatology. The icon has become the argument. People have uncritically bought into the icon without checking whether it squares with the Biblical worldview. This runs through everything, including the way we view the Palestinian Christians. Weíve marginalized ourselves and donít even realize weíve done it. People have been asking me for 15 years to do something, but I always told them the same thing: Iím not ready to do it because I havenít finished studying my Bible, which means to memorize the passages, cogitate on the passages, and do some original thinking.
Thanks so much for your time Hank, and for your efforts and passion for the faith that inspire us.