“The Seven Big Questions”: Searching for God, truth, and purpose with Bruce Miller

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“The Seven Big Questions”: Searching for God, truth, and purpose with Bruce Miller

January 16, 2023 - Denison Forum

Denison Forum podcast logo, protraits of Dr. Mark Turman and Dr. Jim Denison

Bruce Miller, Dr. Mark Turman, and Mark Legg discuss Bruce Miller’s book, The Seven Big Questions, our doubts and questions about faith, life’s purpose, and apologetics.

Show notes:

Bruce discusses why he wrote The Seven Big Questions and why it’s important to ask the deepest questions of life (2:02). They discuss the way the Bible asks dark, honest questions in Ecclesiastes (7:52). Miller talks about the mystery that often persists when we pursue these questions and why we need “epistemic humility” (20:06). Miller delves more deeply into postmodernism and why it’s unsatisfying to our biggest questions of life (32:32). They talk about scientism and the renewed interest in spirituality shown by the youngest generation (42:45). Miller closes by talking about why ending on the idea of a personal relationship with Jesus is so important (48:23).

Resources and further reading:

About the hosts

Mark Turman, D.Min., is the executive director of Denison Forum. He received his DMin from Truett at Baylor and previously served as lead pastor of Crosspoint Church.

Mark Legg is an Associate Editor for Denison Forum. He graduated from Dallas Baptist University in 2021 with a degree in Philosophy and Biblical Studies.

About the guest

Bruce is the pastor of Christ Fellowship, a consultant, and an author. He’s written ten books ranging from apologetics to church leadership. He founded The Centers for Church Based Training, and served as a mentor with Leadership Network to equip next-generation and mid-career pastors. He has recently directed his thinking toward LGTBQ+ consulting for Christian leaders to whom he brings a fresh approach full of both grace and truth in full measure.

Transcript

Transcribed by Otter.Ai.

Mark Turman  00:10

All right, this is the Denison Forum Podcast. I’m Dr. Mark Turman, Executive Director of Denison forum. Thanks for joining us today, we’re going to have a conversation with our Associate Editor, Mark legg, Mark, say hello-  good morning. – And my good friend, fellow pastor and fellow citizen of city of McKinney suburb of Dallas, Bruce Miller, who is the pastor of Christ fellowship, we’ve been fellow pastors in the same town for more than 25 years now. And Bruce is also a consultant, helping churches in a number of areas, but particularly in the area of just walking through the confusion of sexual issues in our culture, and how churches can work with that navigate that in a redeemed way. He is also also the father of five kids he and Tamra and how many grandkids now right now, Margaret, and I almost to double digits now. Right? And how many boys and how many girls?

 

Bruce Miller  01:06

I have four boys and one girl and don’t ask me about the grandkids?

 

Mark Turman  01:13

No, that was the question. I knew it. You know, you know, I mean, you’re a smart guy. We’re gonna see if you could name birthdays, and oh, man birth weights? No. I mean, surely,

 

Bruce Miller  01:24

you’re gonna get me in so much trouble on this podcast?

 

Mark Turman  01:26

Well, you know, I just can’t wait to see how when you recommend this for your kids to listen to? What they’re you know, that’s what they’re really concerned about is do you understand that? But Bruce is an author. Are we up? We’re almost up to double digit books now, aren’t we? We are? No,

 

Bruce Miller  01:42

we’re in debt. We’ve just crossed double digits. All right.

 

Mark Turman  01:45

So we’re talking today about his recent book, most recent book, I know you’re working on something else, because you told me you were. But Bruce’s book The Seven Big Questions, searching for God, truth and purpose. So Bruce, just kind of tell us the journey that brought this book to life?

 

Bruce Miller  02:02

Yeah, there was another person who is more savvy than I am on the internet and all that, who wanted to find out what are the most asked questions on the internet, about God and faith? And they came up with these seven questions that are the most asked around the world on this topic. And right, these are issues we’ve got to address for people all over the world.

 

Mark Turman  02:25

Okay, so just looking at the table of contents. So people kind of have a frame of reference. Questions like, Does life actually have purpose? Is there God? Is Christianity too narrow? Is Jesus really God? And can I know God personally? So this is pretty core fundamental, kind of the essence of what does it mean to be a human being? And what does it mean to have faith? Right?

 

Bruce Miller  02:48

Yeah, it really is. And and we find that I find that these questions are being asked some by people who are not Christians, certainly. But there’s quite a few Christians who have these questions. And they’re sitting in our churches, but you’re not really feeling safe to ask them in a church. Like if I ask, Am I really sure the Bible is reliable? Or is Jesus God, I feel like I’m a bad Christian. And yet, those are questions that I think almost all of us at one time or another asked in our journey of faith, and some of us cycle through them a couple times in our faith journey, where we go back and re ask those questions. And part of what I’m wanting to encourage people to do is say, hey, ask your questions. Embrace your doubts, don’t run from them, don’t try to shut those questions and doubts down. But actually, it’s healthier to pursue those, and for your kids to pursue them, your friends to pursue them.

 

Mark Turman  03:40

Because it’s really fundamental to owning your own faith at the kind of profound level that faith should have. Right. And and, you know, sometimes we get confused, I guess that if even if we have a question or questions, that that’s equivalent to doubt, sometimes it is, and doesn’t necessarily mean that it would fit into that bucket or definition of quote, unquote, doubt, that you’re questioning faith. But it really comes back to something that that Dr. Denison, and I and Mark and others have talked about at times, which is, philosophy in you, both you and Mark are more in the direction of philosophy than than I am. I survived philosophy at both the college and in graduate school. That’s actually where I met Dr. Denison, for the first time was when he stepped in to take over my philosophy class. And I actually thought that philosophy could mean something important, right? But both of you have great interest and and pursuits in that area. Doctrine, Denison says, you know, hey, philosophy, ask good questions and theology answers them, or at least attempts to as well said, well said and so that’s a good way of looking at it. And, you know, early on in my physical physics, philosophy background, I came and say the word very well, is that we do have these fundamental questions, everybody Does they may be framed slightly differently, but questions like, Well, where did we come from? Who am I? How did I get here? Why am I here? That those are kind of just fundamental to all human beings. And we’re wanting to find real, significant and meaningful answers to those kinds

 

Bruce Miller  05:19

of and sometimes people feel like, you’ve got to get a PhD to answer these questions or go to graduate school. But really, the average person asked these questions. And so we’ve written the book, to be at the level of the ordinary person. So the book requires no biblical knowledge back, there’s no Bible verses in the chapters themselves are all footnotes. And there’s no assumption that you have a philosophic philosophical background. So this is not a book that you have to have gone to graduate school to be able to read it and understand what’s going on. It’s not written as an academic book, it’s written as a book for everybody.

 

Mark Turman  05:54

So it’s accessible in that way. That’s right. We’ve talked about that with Dr. Denison’s works and others that we, we commonly get to talk to people about their writing on this podcast. But that idea of who is this for and making it accessible, so that somebody can pick it up and use it effectively? Even if they don’t have that kind of background? And then, like, offer it to someone who is asking these kinds of That’s right,

 

Bruce Miller  06:21

because some books in this arena and in the field of apologetics giving answers for your faith, are written to equip Christians. Here’s how to answer this question to someone who’s asking you Does God exist? This book is different. It’s written to the person who has the question. So each chapter is written assuming that the person who’s reading it has the question, Does God exist? So it’s up? It’s a perfect book to give to a friend who has one of these questions. They don’t have to have all seven questions. There might be one chapter that really is what they’re wrestling with right now.

 

Mark Turman  06:53

Yeah, like, I know, a guy that you and I both know, in, in our town on McKinney, you know, he said, Look, I know that years ago, he said, not everybody has my question. He said, but he’s like, I need some explanation about dinosaurs. You know, he’s like, I know, every Christian doesn’t every person doesn’t. But I need to know some kind of an answer. The best thinking about where did dinosaurs come from? When were they here? Where did they go? He’s like, and I said, Hey, you’re right. I’m one of those people that don’t need that explanation. But he’s like I do. And I want to go find that out and help to get him to some resources. And he shared some resources with me. And that was just something that was important to him. Right. So it may not be every one of these questions, right. So helpful, well, part of your book, swims around in kind of getting to some of these topics, musically. So Mark had a question for you in that in that direction.

 

Mark Legg  07:52

And that Yeah, so I think it’s interesting. We’ve talked to a few artists recently in different capacities and talked about that a lot in the, in the realm of asking questions in the realm of not just giving precise answers, like a theological answer or something to that nature, but really exploring and digging in. And I think you do that well in this book by even just quoting different artists some some classics like to park and Nine Inch Nails Kansas, John, Lennon and Queen so you have quite the spread of different people there. But but just and then you draw a little bit off of some books in the Bible, like Job Habakkuk, Jeremiah, books that are filled with lament and hard questions, and a lot of to be quite frank, darkness. Or even you often will compare these quotes from songs that are kind of tortured, to ecclesiastical, you know, from Ecclesiastes, and they almost sound like direct quotes, you know, they’re very parallel. So why do you think it’s important that we don’t ignore books like Jove? Habakkuk you know, those?

 

Bruce Miller  09:01

Yeah, I think some of the songs like Kansas dust in the wind, let’s take that one that all we are, is dust in the wind. Is is expressing I think some of why some songs like that are popular that are expressing what a lot of us feel, maybe late at night, when it’s quiet. And there’s nothing else going on. And these thoughts run through our minds even nightmares of does this all matter? Like what’s this all about? I find people ask those questions, one and tragedies. What is there any meaning? I’ve just gone through this horrible thing. Somebody I love has died. Also, I find people ask the question in boredom. It’s it’s just the same thing over and over again. And does this really matter? I’m just going to work. I work really hard. I come home I watch some TV. I go to bed. I do it all over again, like that Groundhog Day. It’s like the Groundhog Day phenomena. And sometimes we think you know if I just could graduate from college and get a job I just got married if I just had a kid it, and then you go through those stages and you don’t really, they don’t find the meaning. So a lot of people are surprised to find out that there’s an entire book in the Bible about purpose in life, which is Ecclesiastes. And then they’re surprised to find out, the Ecclesiastes says Meaningless, meaningless. It’s all meaningless.

 

Mark Turman  10:20

Yeah, yeah.

 

Mark Legg  10:21

It reminds us, I think it’s important that especially people who are doubting, understand that they’re not the first ones that’s right to have asked these questions or to doubt them, or that there aren’t Christians who have genuinely engaged in a very deep way. Even the word anxiety, I believe, comes from angst, which comes also from whether you agree with his philosophy or not, Soren Kierkegaard who is a Christian, and he explored that idea a lot. So even our word for anxiety, you know, that we use so much today as those roots. And so that’s important for people to know. And I think you do that and address those questions.

 

Mark Turman  10:59

While it is, you know, like said that point that getting the idea that I’m not the first person to have this question, or the only person struggling with this question. I was teaching recently about the biblical promise that Jesus is going to come again and that the world as we know, it, essentially is not going to be that way anymore. And he’s going to, you know, he’s going to bring justice and righteousness in this whole new world order, right? But you also hear in the even in the Bible, people scoffing at that I was reading through Peter, we’re, you know, Peter is answering one of these questions in this way of, hey, oh, there’s a bunch of people who are saying, oh, that’s never gonna happen. It’s always been this way for generations pass, it was this way for all of our ancestors. And this is just our time, and then it’s just going to keep on going. And this idea that there is this resurrected Savior, who is planning his second advent? That’s, that’s just silly. Yeah. And Peter’s trying to address that question, right with credibility, and to see that reflected in the Bible is, I think it gives a lot of credibility to the honesty of the Bible, is that part of what comes out in your book, and

 

Bruce Miller  12:11

I encourage people to be honest with your own questions. And sometimes we’re scared to ask questions, either, because you think you’re the only one who has it? But you really you’re not. And people have asked it are asking it right now. And people have asked it for really hundreds of years, which gives some confidence to say there are answers. And you may not have them, I may not have them. But there are answers out there that are really solid that are really thought through. And so sometimes I find that people are scared to ask the questions, because they’re scared. What if the what if the answer is not good? Like, does life have any meaning? Does it have any purpose? What if the answer is it doesn’t? That’s so dark, I don’t even want to ask the question, or does God exist? What if he doesn’t, I don’t even want to? I’d rather just ignore it. So I find that, then we just don’t ask, and we just get busy with raising kids and go into work and do in daily life. And those questions sit in the background, and we never really face them, because of our fears. So what I want to encourage you with is no you can face those questions. In fact, you should you should make time in your life, to really wrestle with whatever those questions are that you have. And the seven or are common ones or versions of them lots of people have that are worth asking, because when you wrestle them down, you have more confidence, and you’re able to live for God in a more confident, strong way.

 

Mark Turman  13:31

It makes me think I think it was in the aftermath of the death of his wife that CS Lewis said, I don’t fear that there is no God, I fear that this is that what I’ve discovered about him to this point is all there is and that this is the way he is. And he’s like, that’s more disturbing to me than if in fact, there isn’t a God at all. And it was just a really honest struggle of his own with this big question of pain and suffering. Right? And how does that fit in? With Bruce, what do you think when, when people just feel like they aren’t getting any good answers to this? What do you feel like they substitute in for answering he talked about, they kind of shove these to the back of their mind? And they may, they may go dormant for a while or step back there and just kind of linger as nagging issues for them. But they just don’t know what to do with them. And so they don’t ask them or don’t pursue. Don’t people kind of substitute something else. And where does that typically lead people?

 

Bruce Miller  14:32

I find that a lot of people just try to make themselves busy typically with a screen. You know, whether that’s watching movies, Netflix, binging, video, games, sports, but you you fill your mind. So there’s no quiet space. There’s no silence, because you don’t want that that’s unnerving. And I think, you know, for most of us today, there’s always noise. You know, there’s always something to listen to something to watch 24/7 And so when you shut them all off, shut off all the lights tronics and it’s just quiet. Like, if you’ve been out camping, or somewhere and you are your way, and there’s no internet service, or even cell service, we get uncomfortable. I mean, we get really uneasy. And part of that is an unease with ourselves and these sort of questions when we look up at the sky, outside of a city and away from the lights, and you see the hugeness of it all. And you begin to wonder about life and yourself and what really has meaning. And, yes, that is scary. But the great news is, when you really ask those questions, what you find out is that the reality is wonderful, that there really is a God, and there really is truth. And that’s where the questions will lead it. So it’s worth asking them, even though it’s hard to ask,

 

Mark Legg  15:45

yeah. And is there a reason why you started with the question of purpose? And do you think that’s an entryway that a lot of people have into asking these more questions, because it’s a little bit more immediate, maybe, you know, asking the questions about God’s existence, pretty much everyone has asked that. But there’s also this first kind of what do I do with my life?

 

Bruce Miller  16:04

Yeah, I think so. And I think that for a lot of people, no matter what your religious background, or no religious background, wonder what really is the point of all this thing here are on earth. And sometimes wonder, we know, if I just had enough money, or I enough success or enough, fill in the blank, then I’d be happy. Well, it ends up that the author of Ecclesiastes, many believe Solomon had all the money and power to do that. And so he was the wealthiest person of his day. And he tried it all. So he had every pleasure you could imagine, bought everything there was to buy built everything that was to build and said, all meaningless, which can be really discouraging. So that word meaningless hebbal, and Greek appears all throughout the book. But there’s another phrase that captures us, which is under the sun. So we over and over again says under the sun, which means so on this life, if you’re just looking at this life, and this earth, what’s under the sun? Yeah, ultimately, to know me not meaningful, ultimately, there’s no big purpose. And the hint is, you got to look above the sun, you’ve got to look beyond this life. And so to really find meaning and purpose in this life, has got to take you to there’s got to be something someone bigger beyond this life, there’s got to be some sort of a god, or could there be a god, which leads you to the next chapter. There’s one little phrase in Ecclesiastes, where Solomon says, He has set eternity in our hearts. Just pregnant with meaning eternity in our hearts. And I think what that what he’s indicating is, other people have called it a God shaped vacuum. But there’s something inside of us, that tells us there’s something more there’s something more than this life, were made for something more and something’s not right here. And, and that inclination that a lot of us have inside is correct.

 

Mark Turman  17:53

I remember just picking up on that. I remember years ago, another pastor, we’re all familiar with Chuck Swindoll, did a study on the book of Ecclesiastes, Ecclesiastes, and call it the living on the ragged edge. And the the honesty that you, you know, and that sometimes that’s what people don’t understand when they’re reading or hearing a portion of Scripture. Sometimes scripture is descriptive, it’s not telling you to do something, it’s telling you what somebody else did, and kind of what their journey and experience was. And then there are other parts that are very prescriptive, no, you should do this, or you should live this way or, or this is what you should understand. But a lot of Ecclesiastes is just traveling along with Solomon, as he tries all of this right wine, women and song, as people like to say, had the ability, the capacity and the freedom to try all of this. Mike in there, like he’s, I love what you said a minute ago, there are these little hints dropped in, like eternity in our hearts. And one of those hands kind of comes, I think two times in the book, and particularly at the end of Ecclesiastes, where he kind of sums it all up. So when he sums it all up at the end of that book, relative to purpose. Are you satisfied with what Solomon says at the end?

 

Bruce Miller  19:11

I think that Solomon doesn’t fully answer the question. He gives us hints, that lead to the question. And really, you have to look at the whole scripture, all of the Bible to get the full answer. But he says fear God, and to enjoy life, really. And that that notion of fearing God and there is a judgement, sounds almost negative. But actually, what it tells us is, something’s going to be made, right? So to set things, right is to judge things to to fix things. And we all have this realization things are wrong in this world, something’s not right in the world and in ourselves. And so what Solomon’s pointing at, is that it’s not all meaningless, which also starts to address the problem of evil in the world of injustice and things being wrong. Long and that, yes, there is a God and yes, he’s gonna make it right one day. But I think Solomon doesn’t give us the Holy answer.

 

Mark Turman  20:06

Yeah, that. And what I love about that is is it it points to the to this issue of purpose that we do matter what what we choose to do or not do our choices really matter. And that all of us have value and that there is something behind all of this. Talk a little bit about the idea of getting to a place of even in the pursuit of our questions, Bruce, there’s an element of, of mystery that must remain. How do you talk about that in your book?

 

Bruce Miller  20:39

Yeah, I think a lot of us want some sort of a one plus one equals two kind of an answer, like a logic that we feel more certain about. But one of the things I’ve come to realize is that God has given us limitations as humans, we’re not going to ever know all there is to know. God does, we’re not going to know things with absolute certainty, God does. But we can know things adequately, we can know things sufficiently to know them. So in the chapter about God, some people want God to be like the answer to a logical equation. And he’s more than that. And so I use the imagery of lighting candles in a dark room, that if you walked into a room, that was pitch black, and maybe you’d been in a bright light, you can’t see anything. And you but you have this feeling inside you like I think there’s someone else in this room, but you can’t see them. Well, if you light a candle, you can see a little bit and a second candle and a third one and a fourth one, you begin to see there is someone else in this room. And I can see enough to tell that there is. And so what I show is how people think there’s a third evidences that would lead you to realize it’s more rational, more logical, to more reasonable price, the best word more reasonable to believe that there is a God dent that then that there is not a god.

 

Mark Legg  21:59

And it’s also interesting, I really appreciate it, especially in the context of that question, using the analogy of candles. So you also when you address the problem of evil as other people call or the problem of suffering or pain, those are all different variations of the same kind of question. Why is there some kind of all powerful, loving God that allows these things to exist? You talk about it in light of Christ’s crucifixion and his suffering. And while that is not always a logical answer to what might be called a theodicy, technically, why is it important to talk about it in that context? Because that, for me personally has been really important to answering that question, even though it isn’t necessarily that two plus two equals four kind of answer. This is why evil exists with God. You know, if that makes sense, and work and work do you take that? Yeah,

 

Bruce Miller  22:59

I think that’s a that’s hugely important mark is that people, everyone wrestles with the problem of evil or suffering, sometimes people think, well, that’s a reason why Christianity is not true, or God doesn’t exist. But you’re still left with evil and suffering. So it’s not like now so it goes away. So no matter what your philosophy is, what your point of view is, how do you explain or deal with cope with the reality of pain and suffering, especially unjust pain and suffering in the world? And you say, Okay, if there’s a loving God, and he’s all powerful, well, then why the heck don’t you do something about it? And the answer is he did. He sent His only son. And some of the Scripture says, He bore our suffering, that exact word on himself. And so Christ came to take on the evil of the world, literally on himself and bore it at the cross. He and some of the imagery of the cross like the tears and is actually expressing evil, he took our condemnation or shame on himself, became a curse for us. And then the story just has to continue because across isn’t the end, because he promised as you were saying, Mark, the second advent, which is a second coming, Edward, Advent means coming. He’s going to come again, and conclude salvation with removing evil completely. And that’s our hope. And without that, then you have no hope. You just evil just as a stubborn reality, with no hope that it will ever end.

 

Mark Legg  24:32

Yeah. And it’s such a unique answer. The Christianity provides that we look to Jesus as an example, as God who chose himself to enter into suffering, and in my studying of other religions and their texts, that that’s a pretty very, very unique kind of answer to this problem, which is that actually, not only does God is God going to make it go away, not only is he going to, but he’s also He also decided himself to Come down and enter into suffering. And that’s just a beautiful, beautiful picture.

 

Mark Turman  25:04

And that in that whole idea of just trying to wrap our brains and our hearts somewhat around the idea that that God came and joined in our suffering and absorbs in many significant ways that that wouldn’t be the whole of the answer. I don’t think that he absorbed so much of our suffering. But then I think where we’re maybe this helps people is to understand, Okay, God has promised that he will bring ultimate an ultimate sense of righteousness and justice. And part of what we have to Dr. Denison has talked about this a number of times, what we have to recognize is, there are aspects of timing, and culmination, that we simply just don’t have the capacity to understand right now. And it’s, you know, you’ve heard this comment, right, that if you could explain everything about God, he wouldn’t be much of a God.

 

Bruce Miller  25:59

Think it could fit? In my mind. That’s not a good thing. Yeah.

 

Mark Turman  26:02

You know, my pastor used to say, if, if you have a philosophy of life, that will fit in a nutshell, it should stay there. You know, so we have to kind of back up and to say, Hey, this is a big, big, big story and a big, big purpose. It’s as big as God is. And that there are aspects of it that we’re simply not capable of, of understanding. You know, I mean, even this week, in our own area, the terrible story of evil that has happened, not far from here, relative to a child. And I just, you know, I sitting on the couch, watching the story unfold in the news is telling my wife, I just can’t stand, I can’t stand to see this kind of thing. Any story I hear, probably because like you, I’m a father and a grandfather. It’s hard not to transpose the faces of my own children or grandchildren into those situations. And it just, it just destroys me emotionally. And then just to step back and say, This is why I long for the coming of Christ, that at least this is a big part of it. And you kind of get to the end of the Bible, get to the end of the book of Revelation, and they’re praying this prayer, our Lord come Come quickly, Lord, and part of it is is that he is the one who can bring that righteousness and justification. And that I love the I love the analogy of the candles. It reminds me of a recent conversation with an author that many people recognize Philip Yancey, you know, Philip Yancey grew up in this highly highly religious environment that he talks about in one of his books, highly restricted and highly legalistic. And in that led him to the idea Well, maybe there isn’t God and maybe none of this makes any sense. But then the candles for him he talked about that the some of the biggest, brightest candles for him were music, creation, and then romantic love when he actually fell in love with his wife. And and felt that experience for the first time that became a candle. Well, where could this have come from? If it if this kind of wonderful connection with another human being didn’t come from God? Where could it have come from?

 

Bruce Miller  28:16

That’s right. And I think if, if you’re suffering right now, and asking why, why is this happening to me or the person I love? There is usually not an answer there. Like you said, Mark, there’s mystery, and why a particular incident of suffering of evil happens, we just don’t have the answer. But I just want you to our heart goes out to you, and assure you that God is with you. And while we don’t know why exactly, that particular suffering happened to that particular person to you, or someone you love, we can know that not only is God going to make it right in the end, but God promises to be with you through the valley of the shadow of death, that he will be right there with you.

 

Mark Legg  28:57

I really love that aspect of our faith when we get to be of being a personal it’s such a cliche growing up as a believer, but to say that we have a personal relationship with Him is really, it’s a real thing. Let me ask you a little bit more about. So recently, Mark and I were talking to a guy with truth over tribe named Patrick Miller. And he was on the podcast talking about this thing that will always stick with me when he said that, you know, today, these days, we’re facing a lot of issues with relativism. Basically, the idea that everyone’s truth is their own truth. Truth is subjective in some in some capacity. So what I believe what I feel is what makes it true, not some kind of standard. But actually, he pointed out that oftentimes certainty can point to relativism, whether the person knows they believe it or not. So as an example, he said, if you if you ask someone who let’s say believes in a conspiracy theory of some kind, and they say, I know you know scale of one to 10. How certain are you if this and they say like 10 or 11? And then they say, there’s nothing external of me that could convince me otherwise? Well, even if they don’t say they believe in relativism, that shows you, they, it is coming from something internal, if that makes sense. And I think that was so powerful. So, but but how can we have a measure of trust of faith, while not having that kind of certainty that, you know, like you said, I’m not just going to ignore the hard things, the hard questions, but I’m going to wrestle with them. And even if there’s some lingering sense of mystery, we can have answers. How do we? Where’s that? You know, spectrum?

 

Bruce Miller  30:40

Yeah, I think the encouragement is we do that in our daily lives all the time. Is that we, you take a pill a doctor prescribes, do you know, the chemical makeup of that pill? Well, no, but you trust that that doctor and that his prescription is right, and then do you know that the person who put those pills in that bottle at that pharmacy did that accurately? Do you know that those little blue or red pills, whatever they are, actually, are the pills? They said they are? I mean, do they actually have the medicine that the label on the bottle says, well, and you say, Oh, come on, you know, I’m reasonably don’t, of course, I don’t make you nervous about taking your pills to do take your pills. You know, what I’m saying is we have a reasonable level of confidence that this pharmacy, this pharmacist has been to school, that this is a reputable pharmacy, that doctor made the right prescription. And we do that. And so most all of our life, almost everything we do has some level of of reasonableness to it. Or I think the courtroom is another example lots of people point to that you make a decision with a reasonable level of certainty that someone is guilty or innocent. And the standard is not certainty, because we just don’t have certainty about almost anything in our lives. And that’s okay. And so I think somewhere to drop that, actually, I really think there’s a humility here. Now, I’m going to use a bigger word, but epistemological humility, and what not? Yeah, you’ve got. What I mean is that we’re human beings, we’re not God. And so to give up the idea that I’m going to know everything, absolutely. That there is to know about anything. But rather I can know enough to care to fulfill the goal calling God’s given us. We know enough to basically two great commands Love God, Love your neighbor. You know enough to do that.

 

Mark Legg  32:32

Yeah. Now what’s so let me go to the other end, when talk about you have done some doctoral work on a lot of postmodernists. Now, Dr. Denison talks about this sometimes, but a lot of our listeners, that’s another big word that they might not know the meaning of. Can you explain a little bit of what that is? Why our culture right now is somewhat downstream of that philosophical idea? Can you unpack it a little bit? And how does that play into how we understand truth?

 

Bruce Miller  33:02

So some of post modernism, I mean, we’re over generalizing here, but is critiquing all systems. So there have been big philosophical systems over time. And the postmodern turn in the last 100 years, was to critique every system that no system has merit, no system has value. You can poke holes in anything sort of an idea, well, then you’re left with nothing. So you have no system, because you can critique every system. So you deconstruct would be another word that’s being used more these days. So there is a philosophical trend called deconstruction, Jacques Derrida would be a key representative, French philosopher, and which is you deconstruct every position? Well, then what you end up with is sort of a nihilism, a Nietzschean. Nietzsche is a philosopher who had a philosophy called nihilism. But out of that what you’re left with is just nothing because you can critique every position. So it’s when I was doing doctoral work in that arena. For a moment I went through some a period of doubt of, well, I could deconstruct Christianity, like every other philosophy. But then I realized, wait a minute. Now what do you have you’ve deconstructed or critiqued every position? So then as I began to compare them, I realized, Oh, well, if your standard let’s go back to certainty, if your standard is certainty, no philosophy, no, no worldview stands. But comparatively Christianity, if you’re just being intellectual, if all you want to do is say, which position has the most intellectual credibility, let’s Christianity, that doesn’t mean you’re necessarily going to believe in it. But it just on intellectually honest standards of what philosophy or worldview religion has the most intellectual credibility? Christianity does?

 

Mark Turman  34:47

Well, that’s where I think so many people both Christian and non Christian don’t. They don’t understand perhaps yet that that all faiths systems and particularly Christianity, as you’re pointing out here Christianity is so good because of it being an evidence based faith. We sometimes hear this, especially in conversations around apologetics, okay, you need to prove that God exists to me. Okay. Well, there’s, there’s no proving that there’s evidence for it evidence that points in that direction. But that’s different from being able to, quote unquote, prove something to that kind of level of absolute certainty.

 

Bruce Miller  35:26

And I think when someone’s doing that, when they’re asking you a bunch of questions that you can’t answer, and it feels like, gosh, there’s so many critiques of Christianity. I don’t, I don’t know, maybe it’s not even true. Yeah. It’s not just take a breath for a minute. and love the other person enough to be curious about what they believe. Yeah. And ask them, Well, what do you believe about this, that the other thing, not in a way where you’re trying to put them in a corner or trap them, but what you’ll find is, most people haven’t thought through what they believe. But if you ask those questions at of honesty, love care for them. I really want to know what you believe. Pretty quickly, most people will run out of answers. And then that may give you an opportunity for them to ask, Well, what do you believe? And you’re able, because out of the postmodern turn, they’re left with only questioning everybody and everything. So now what we’re at culturally is, we can’t believe our politicians. We can’t believe our doctors, we can’t believe our, our faith leaders. We can’t believe our newspaper. We can’t believe anybody can’t believe the kindergarten teacher down the street. Right, right. And so now we’re left not trusting anyone can’t believe what you read on Facebook or in a in a in a on a new show. And that leaves people in a really difficult position.

 

Mark Turman  36:42

So we seem to be caught, at least in some ways, as a culture between the extremes of, okay, well, we’re gonna question and deconstruct almost everything, basically, and be left with no place to stand. While on the far other side, we have a few people who seem to be absolutely certain about everything.

 

Bruce Miller  36:58

Well, that’s this, that’s what happens emotionally is you just decide, well, I’m going to take and believe a conspiracy theory, or I’m going to go far left or far right. And believe it with absolute certainty. No, that’s just completely right. And I’m not going to listen to any reasons otherwise. Well, it’s sort of an emotional, knee jerk reaction to the fact that yes, humans have to rely on have to accept what’s reasonable, not what certain

 

Mark Turman  37:23

Well, and that’s, you know, we’ve seen this, we’ve seen this when we pastor people that they would walk in to church, or they would come to our office and say, hey, my doctor says, I have cancer, right. And so many people in that situation and other situations, have said, you know, what the worst part was not when I was diagnosed, or when I went to have treatment, it was the week or the two weeks, sometimes while, you know, tests were being evaluated, and plans were being created. And they just felt in this situation of limbo, something really scary and uncertain. And maybe life ending, it has been put in front of me. And they said they would help me and they’re gonna go try to figure out what that help plan needs to look like. But I just feel like I’m completely in freefall. Yeah. And I don’t want him and human beings don’t like freefall. No. And

 

Bruce Miller  38:18

I want to encourage people that a lot of people live in that Limbo about these sorts of big questions that we’re talking about these seven big questions. They live in limbo, unsure the answers of them, scared to ask them, like there’s people using your cancer illustration Mark, who think they might have cancer and don’t want to go to the doctor, right? Because they don’t want to answer I don’t want to know, I don’t want to get the test. Well, we want to encourage you to ask these seven big questions. Don’t be afraid of the answers. You’re gonna feel better on the other side, when you’ve wrestled with them. And you find that no, there’s not certainty, but there are reasonable, rational, solid, well thought through answers to all these questions.

 

Mark Turman  38:57

Yeah. And I love what you love. I think that’s exactly right. And this idea that, you know, I come from a family that was kind of this way, I feel like I was raised in a really loving healthy phone, home and great parents and, and big family. But there seemed to be this vein of skepticism. And sometimes it was just what I would call healthy skepticism that kept you from being made a fool of, but sometimes it would slide. You know, when our family went through seasons of real difficulty. My dad struggled in business or there was a health concern or there was a kid that had gone sideways. It could slide into cynicism. And I think that’s a lot of what you see in this postmodern culture. And I kind of I kind of liken it to, you know, we’re really enamored with home fixer upper shows, and any project you do in a DUI kind of context. The demolition is always the first, the easiest and the cheapest part, tearing something Now knocking holes in it. That’s the easy part. But as another theologian shared with me recently, yeah, we’re finding a lot of people who have deconstructed the foundations of their faith. But when you if you get around a number of them start asking us like, oh, how are you doing with the rebuild? That’s right. And they’ll say, I’m not doing anything with the

 

Bruce Miller  40:21

rebuild. Yeah, you might be wrestling with that right now, or somebody you love has grown up in a church or went to a Christian school. And now they’re not sure what they believe not sure they’re a Christian anymore. And that’s being called by people deconstructing their faith, I find that this book is helping people in that space to reconstruct. So a lady came up to me at church for the most powerful statement about my book that I’ve heard. And we were doing a book signing, and she came up and she said, You’ve saved my mom, and I, and she said, I see there’s a lot of people, I can’t tell the story. I said, Oh, no, the line will wait, you’re telling me the story. And she said, her mom grew up and faith has family members who are pastors, and that in August, she said, I don’t believe anymore. And then she said, I felt led to direct her to your book and your teaching on the seventh big questions. And a couple months later, she called back in tears and said, I do believe. And I’ve returned to my faith, and there is also some relational brokenness between the daughter and the mom. And she said, that’s being restored. Now that, you know, if it’s just one person, one life, that this helps, that’s great. But it is being helpful to people who are who are maybe Beginning the journey or thinking about reconstructing their faith.

 

Mark Turman  41:31

So one aspect of that Bruce, has to do with again, in this area, in COVID, kind of the pandemic kind of brought a big light onto this, right, which was, there had been this movement growing in our culture, to say, well, you really can’t trust any of the answers that religion be at Christianity or others are offering. But we know we can trust science. And then then we had a worldwide pandemic, where we started going, well, I don’t know if I can trust any of the scientist, because they keep telling me this, then they change it next week, and then they change it the week after, and they don’t really seem to have really good scientific medical answers around this problem, maybe they don’t have the best problem. And, and you and I would say that, you know, certainly in our time of ministry, we’ve seen almost science become a religion unto itself. And there’s some people that talk about scientism, as basically a replacement for other forms of faith that have been around before and longer. How do you address that in the book? How do you bring those two things together? And that there really is a false conflict between faith and science, right?

 

Bruce Miller  42:45

Yeah, there’s really there really is. And so in the chapter on God. And a little bit, also, in the chapter on the Bible, the reliability of the Bible, we talk about science, and that there historically has not been a conflict, it’s really much more recent, that there is a perceived conflict between science and scripture, or God in the Bible. So people have this feeling like I have to choose, I can either be religious, or I can be scientific. And that’s just not the case at all. So like some of the greatest scientist in history, have been strong Christians and strong believers in God. And so when you actually, actually science, when you study the creation, the lead you to the Creator, as you look at the the beauty and order and complexity of a single cell, or the stars, it actually leads you to worship and realize there is something bigger and greater than all of this. And even today, a number of, of modern scientist, as they those who are some as some of the brightest and furthest along in their field, that that discovery, and that mystery leads them to say, you know, we don’t have all the answers, and there is someone, there’s got to be a designer who designed this degree of complexity

 

Mark Turman  44:00

that makes me think of, I’ve run across in recent years, a scientist down at Rice University, a guy named Jim tour. And most time when Jim tours talking, he’s talking at levels that I just can’t even compute I can’t possibly grasp, but a deep, deep man of faith and, and has, you can find him on YouTube, with some of the most amazing presentations about some of the things that he’s discovered and experienced and learn and science, have validated faith and validated his understanding of God. And yet there are aspects in our culture, places within our culture where really dedicated scientists feel like they have to keep their faith hidden because of some of this spirit that’s in our current our current culture.

 

Mark Legg  44:49

Yeah, and I completely agree. I think it’s interesting from I’ve written a lot on Gen Z. We talked about it a lot that basically the younger generation, whether it’s you Even if you take into account Millennials as well, I think what our research has shown perhaps a little bit, surprisingly, is yes, they’re Gen Z. So we’re talking about teenagers, 20 year olds, tend to have that idea of conflict between science and faith, they have that question. It’s true. But also, they’re far more open to spirituality than previous generations. And I do think we see this kind of, in the early 2000s 90s. And then earlier, but in kind of that arena, we see a lot of the hard New Age atheists like Richard Dawkins, or people like that Stephen Fry, you know, but they actually, that, that seems to be dying down a little bit in the younger generation, we actually are looking towards spirituality. But we’re doing that in a very, again, personal subjective kind of way. And I want to draw back, Nietzsche back into the conversation, because a lot of people, you know, he is considered a nihilist, and people ascribe them to that, but he did have his own answer to how we cope with this, that that this idea that he brought up, which is that humans are the producer of meaning, and, and producer of purpose, and like we are the ones that basically invent it. So what we need to do is invent better purpose, we need to do away with Christianity, do away with religion, but basically invent ourselves again, and you see that kind of language all the time in the culture now. And so I think the answer that a lot of young people have is inventing yourself, coming up with your own truth, your own purpose, kind of finding it in that, and why. So to put the question this way, why should we even go the route of rationality, you know, why should we, as young people look to that, to find our purpose? And why do you think the book helps with that? Yeah, I

 

Bruce Miller  46:49

think the book of Ecclesiastes is where to go with all that. Because I think Solomon really did go down those roads, and say, What if you try to invent yourself, what if you try to figure it all out in some way? Like, ultimately, Nietzsche goes to will to power, that you have the power to make it make your life however you want it to be,

 

Mark Turman  47:11

to create an identity. Identity is a big word, if you create your

 

Bruce Miller  47:15

own identity, you create the world the way you want it to be. And Solomon had the power to do that he was the not only the wealthiest, but the most powerful man of his day. And it ended ended up being meaningless. And I think for Nietzsche, in the end, it all ended up being meaningless, there didn’t end up being something that he invented or found that really was substantial meaning. And that’s, I think, back to the Ecclesiastes thing under the sun. So if you’re just looking at, hey, I’ll figure it out myself. Just me and, you know, my friends, and we’ll, we’ll kind of figure it all out. It that is not going to end well. Because you’ve got to look beyond yourself above the sun, to use that language to something greater than yourself. And greater than that, beyond this life, there’s more to this life, there’s there’s an afterlife. And in a simple way, there was a pastor who put it a kind of a different way. He said, Why would you look at the invention, to say what it’s mean, what it’s built for when you look at the inventor, to say, what is that made for? And so for us, we need to look at the one who made us to figure out what our purpose is,

 

Mark Turman  48:23

which is a good maybe place for us to kind of start to wrap up our conversation. There’s a whole chapter in here about can I really know God personally. And this is where I mean, people like you and I, we get in these conversations all the time about Christianity is not about a religion, it’s about a relationship. And then, and then it starts at times to start feeling really ambiguous about okay, well, what do we mean by I can know God in a relationship, even though, especially when you’re reading the New Testament, you see this conversation all the time, Jesus right before he’s arrested. Part of his prayer is, God, I want them to be one with me the way you and I are one. And he’s describing a level of, of connection. And the best word I can come up with, even though I sometimes don’t like using it is the word intimacy, something that’s reflected in a marriage relationship, but is even beyond and greater for that. How do you? How do you want people to understand that Bruce, I think in some ways, this idea of knowing God, and really having this kind of oneness with him, in some ways,

 

Bruce Miller  49:35

I think that seventh chapter is the most important that you’re talking about. Because many people look at Christianity as a worldview. It’s an idea to believe in, or as a religion, it’s a set of practices to engage in or maybe a set of moral rules, right? But what you’re pointing to mark is the reality which is so much deeper and so much richer, that God is actually personal. Try personal Father, Son and Holy Spirit. And that He invites us into that relationship where we can actually know God personally, like, you know, another human being you have another, you have a relationship, the imagery, he uses his father son, that we can become his children, and are brought into the family of God. And I think your word intimate is actually appropriate that we can actually have an intimate relationship with God, which maybe you’ve heard that language because of the religious tradition you grew up in. And you may not take it as seriously as it is as as huge as it is to realize, wait a minute, we can have a relationship with the God of the universe. And yet, that’s true. That is the beauty of the gospel. What is absolutely amazing and remarkable is that, as you use Mark language, in the New Testament, like Union, we can be united with Christ. There’s other incredibly vivid imagery like we’re his bride, or we’re like a branch and a vine. But the language is of deep connection that we can have with God. And it’s not like an on off switch. It’s a growing relationship, like a friendship, or a marriage that gets deeper and deeper and deeper

 

Mark Turman  51:11

over time. And all encompassing, right, like, yeah, like, in our most, our most personal, intimate relationships in life, be that with a spouse, or with children or with friends. The very definition of being quote unquote, good friends, is that you’re sharing more and more and more and more of who you are with this person, and they with you.

 

Bruce Miller  51:32

And so it’s deeper and deeper. So throughout your lifetime, you can get to know God more and more and more and be closer and closer to God. And I mean, I’ve been a Christian all my life, and I think I’m pretty close to God. But I think, what if it could be double this? Like, what could it look like 10 years from now and 20 years from now, if I could keep growing closer and closer to God and know Him more and more,

 

Mark Turman  51:55

which is, if there is such a thing as an ark of eternity, that’s ultimately what the Ark is. That’s right. Is is knowing him, and and this sense of having this awareness of being known by him, right, and discovering that and that, that if that’s where we’re anchoring our identity and building our identity, as Christians, we will say that is the ultimate answer to all insecurity. You know, I heard somebody explain this pretty well. Insecurity comes when you’re trying to anchor yourself to things that are not secure. When in when you’re inventing those things for yourself or looking to anything other than God, as your anchor points, you’re going to be insecure, because you haven’t tethered yourself to something that is capable of holding you. And that’s where God is different. When you connect to God through Jesus Christ, you’re anchoring yourself in ultimate reality in the person who is ultimate. And he is the one who dreamed of what you would be and what you could be all along.

 

Bruce Miller  52:57

So and that’s what I would encourage people to do with his book is to say, don’t live in that in between zone that we talked about where you’re just unsure if this is all true or not. No, ask those questions. Embrace your doubts, ask these questions, dive into them. And you’ll find the secure security and stability you’re talking about more reasonable answers and the

 

Mark Turman  53:17

hope, right, that’s what leads us to an abiding hope until we actually see God face to face right is a part of the biblical promises. Well, Bruce, thanks for the conversation. Thanks even more for your friendship. And for the book. The book is the seven big questions by Bruce Miller. You can find it at Amazon, you can find it everywhere. And we’ll leave references to that in our show notes. But we just want to thank you for being a part of a conversation and it’s a joy to be here. Thanks

 

Bruce Miller  53:46

for inviting me.

 

Mark Turman  53:47

All right, thank you for being a part of the Denison Forum Podcast. If this bin has been helpful to you. Please rate review us please share this with others so that they can find the podcast. They tell me that that’s how the algorithms work, whatever an algorithm is, but that’s how they work. So if you’ll help us in that way that will help other people to find this podcast and this conversation about Bruce’s book and we hope you have a great time and a great day. We hope to see you again here at the dentist form podcast. God bless you

 

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