Dr. Jim Denison and Dr. Mark Turman answer four audience questions: does the “1619 project” reflect badly on the New York Times, is God male or genderless, when does life begin, and how do you love people in public sin without compromising your witness?
Dr. Jim Denison responds to your questions on a wide range of topics. In this episode, he begins by addressing the controversial “1619 project.” The journalistic project claims that American history truly began when the first African slaves arrived in 1619. Dr. Denison explains why this is faulty reasoning and discusses journalistic standards and the New York Times (1:28). They digress into discussing political biases in reporting. Second, they move on to discuss whether God is a “male,” whether God has a gender, and the use of metaphor in the Bible (15:10). Third, they go in-depth into Dr. Denisons’ position on when life begins. They consider IVF and think through the consequences of differing pro-life views (26:15). Finally, they answer a question about doing ministry alongside people in public sin. They consider Jesus’ heart, which is to become friends with sinners (like we all are). At the same time, they discuss how not to be naive or compromise our witness, especially with our friends in the LGTBQ community (51:24).
Resources and further reading:
- “What does the Bible say about abortion?” – Jim Denison
- “What does the Bible say about homosexuality?” – Jim Denison
- “What does the Bible say about racism?” – Jim Denison
- “How to seek the truth when it comes to fake news” – Steve Yount
About the hosts
Jim Denison, Ph.D., is an author, speaker, and the CEO of Denison Ministries, which is transforming 6.8 million lives through meaningful digital content.
Dr. Mark Turman is the executive director of Denison Forum. He received his DMin from Truett at Baylor and previously served as lead pastor of Crosspoint Church.
Transcribed by Otter.ai
Mark Turman 00:07
Welcome to the Denison Forum Podcast. I’m Dr. Mark Turman, Executive Director of Denison Forum sitting down again with Dr. Jim Denison, CEO of Denison ministries and cultural apologist. Jim, how are you?
Jim Denison 00:19
I’m doing well today. Mark, how are you doing?
Mark Turman 00:20
Great. Looking forward to this episode. Today we’re going to do another edition of Ask Jim. And always right. Yes, a little bit, could go in a lot of different ways. Just don’t turn that around to where it’s asked Mark. All right. I think that’s our next episode. Yeah. Yeah. And that way, in the future way, way in the future. But we do this periodically. Thank you for sending in questions, we encourage you to do that. Thank you for some of the questions and for some of the questions anyway, and goes back to some of those experiences you’ve talked about before playing stump the chump, or so it was called and we’re glad that our listeners are interested enough to respond to us, and send us an email offer up a question you can do that, through a variety of ways, responding to this podcast through a daily article, through some of our other other resources on our website, Denison forum.org, there are opportunities for you to email back and to say that you have a question that you’d like to talk through. And that’s where our questions for today come from. And we’re going to see how far we can get into some of these. So let’s get started. First question comes off of a recent Denison Forum Podcast that we did, where we were talking a little bit about journalistic standards. And part of what you mentioned, there was your respect your regard for the New York Times and their journalistic abilities and the standards by which they operate. And so the listener responded with this question. You were recently talking about the New York Times and your opinion that they have the highest journalistic standards. I would like to know how you reconcile that statement against their approval and advocacy of the 1619 project, which you may want to give us a brief rundown of what the 69 project is, if some people don’t know, he understands that this project, endorsed by the newspaper has distortions and half truths, and has been debunked in some ways by historians. So first of all, what is the 1619 project? For those who don’t know? Yeah,
Jim Denison 02:26
absolutely. So it’s the idea of the belief that history, American history actually began to 6019, which is when the first enslaved Africans were brought to this continent. We know that to be the case. That was the urine. So the argument of the 1619 project, very fallacious argument, I think, is that really history from that point forward, would explain why America was really founded, to put it in kind of a short version, that America was founded, not so much to promote liberty and freedom and all the things we think of, but by white Europeans to advance their own personal agendas, that they built an economy entirely upon slavery, at least largely upon slavery, that much of what they created relative to the Declaration of Independence and the jurisprudence of the Constitution was to, on some level, preserve and advance their own personal economic agendas. And so the entire American enterprise, the entire concept was built upon slavery and was built upon endorsing And on some level, perpetuating that horrific, sinful institution. And that America as its founding needs to be rethought needs to be requested. And a lot of that’s what’s behind the 1619 project and all that’s come from it. Okay, so
Mark Turman 03:34
that, you know, very different from what probably most of us have experience in our educational journey, where we learned about Columbus 1492, we learn about George Washington in the colonial days colonial revolution, we learned about Jamestown Yes, 14th, or the 1619 project reframes that or attempts to reframe that in an completely different narrative.
Jim Denison 03:56
And as the reader makes very clear in ways that had been broadly to be debunked by historians on both sides. There are a number of historians that absolutely would agree with critical race theory that would agree with a lot of the outcomes of the 1619 project, but say they get the history fallaciously wrong, just on a whole variety of levels, that they’re misstating fact that they’re misinterpreting fact that it’s a very biased presentation in order to accomplish a very specific agenda. And so that’s been pretty broadly said about 6019. And I certainly would agree with that assessment of the project itself.
Mark Turman 04:31
Okay. So that project is out there. I remember something of the relationship between the project in the New York Times in terms of sponsorship or endorsement. And if I remember correctly, that when challenged on this, the New York Times kind of doubled down in terms of their endorsement of this project, is that the way you understand my
Jim Denison 04:53
understanding as well absolutely wouldn’t even give some ground to some of the statements of fact questions some of the issues relative to some of the hit History inside all of it as well. And so, yeah, I absolutely would agree with that. And it’s just one of the many, many places where I would categorically disagree with the New York Times relative to editorial positions they might take relative to larger agendas that they’re trying to advance. They are in so many ways, really, I guess you would say the leading voice on kind of a left even far left position, whatever the issue might be, whatever the topic might be, they certainly have that very clear editorial stance, unfortunately, I would say,
Mark Turman 05:30
okay, so. So is it best to understand the 1619 project as a journalistic endeavor or as a, an editorial approach, and this kind of gets into the also into the nature not only of journalism, but into the nature of history, as we’ve talked about before, that the winners are the ones who write history typically, not always the case, but in many ways they dominate in that way. So you would categorize the project, editorial or journalistic?
Jim Denison 05:59
I’d say its editorial, I would say, it’s an editorial reading of history, editorial writing of history, it’s a writing of history through a very specific agenda and a very specific prism. That is not nearly as objective as one might think it was intended to be clearly not the case. And so I would say much more is evidence of an of an opinion directed of an agenda driven sort of conversation. There’s some things we can learn from it. But nonetheless, I would say it’s very much agenda driven, and therefore not objective journalism, as you would think of journalism, in the sense of reporting facts, and reporting events, per se.
Mark Turman 06:33
Right. So let’s drift a little bit further down that road for just a second on this topic, when it comes to a publication or a new source of media outlet and their editorial content. What should believers people be looking for in terms of standards regarding editorial, you know, obviously, you want the highest, clearest, most objective standards everywhere, but particularly when reporting the facts and the journalistic side, but when they get into the editorial side? What standards would you say need to be there?
Jim Denison 07:11
Yeah, that’s great question that really gets back to the heart of the question, because I would imagine right now, the person asking the question will say, well, now wait a minute, with all this, you’ve said about 6019? Why would you have said that you appreciate the New York Times journalistic standards. And what I mean by that, in terms of journalistic standards, is the degree to which they fact check the degree to which they check quotes, the degree to which they go through editorial process before something is published, the degree to which they have the very laborious process by which their journalism is itself checked and endorsed relative to some, to a very specific editorial process. A lot that’s up, especially in the digital world isn’t that way. It’s things that are published with no second look, with no editorial, kind of prism, no fact checking on any kind, and they are laborious on that level. That’s what I meant, when I talked about the journalistic standards that they would have doesn’t mean I agree at all, with some of the reporting that they bring forward. But it’s unusual to see them caught in misstatements of fact, on a significant level misstatements of quotations on a significant level, it’s unusual to see someone come forward and say, here are all the ways that I was taken out of context, all the ways in which you simply got my quote, wrong. That’s more unusual for New York Times, and it is for some of the other outlets. But to your question, when you get to editorial, that’s a very different thing. As with all news outlets, what used to be the case before so much reporting became really more editorial than it should be. Editorial is an expression of an opinion. These are op eds. Now I’m in now I’m giving you what I think about whatever the event might be standards at that point, really have more to do with is this person actually being fairly reported in what they’re writing? And did what they write actually make the news? Did the editor change what they wrote, so from the time they wrote it to when you read it, it’s not really what they wrote. But if I’m getting the right, if I’m an op ed writer, and I’m getting to publish my opinion about a subject, as long as you’re reading what I wrote, that’s what we’re looking for, relative to journalistic standards, it’s a different really set of conversations. I might be misquoting I might be misstating, I might be on some level, misrepresenting reality as an opinion writer, that’s a different thing. Then over here, relative to fact, checking objective journalistic reporting, now in different outlets handled this different ways. There are a number of times where different outlets won’t let a journalistic or excuse me, an editorial piece go forward because they believe that it’s so misstating fact or it’s so misrepresenting quotations and they simply won’t allow that. Others would say, Look, that’s what you wrote. That’s your position. And we’re going to allow you to publish your position, even if we think you’re misstating facts or you’re misstating issues that sort of thing. The Tom Cotton editorial, some time ago is regarded so a war and when we shouldn’t shouldn’t be in context of just worth and the editorial decision to publish that, even though what was being published was certainly not aligned with New York Times own personal, or excuse me professional kind of editorial positions. And then the huge pushback on the part of those inside the organization that it was so out of alignment with their own values, that sort of thing is an example of that they publish the piece as it was, I think they should have published the piece as it was, doesn’t mean that the times agrees with a position taken or even with what you would think of as journalistic integrity within the piece. Because it’s not journalism, its opinion, right. So there’s two very different things in the world of journalism. Now, I myself would wish for journalism, even when its opinion, to be fact checked. Or I would wish for it for an outlet not to be publishing anything that we know just to be wrong to be a misstatement of fact, but there are some outlets that will do so as long as they’re accurately publishing what the writer
Mark Turman 10:57
wrote what that person actually wrote. Yeah, which kind of seems to wander us into this area of some of the things that may be kind of quietly have happened in the last couple of days relative to disinformation. And this idea, even within the umbrella of the Homeland Security Department of at least what I read in a brief article about a disinformation team, or some have said, maybe this is leading us toward a disinformation czar. Are we are we kind of moving in that area because of the lack of accuracy?
Jim Denison 11:34
Well, that’s what’s being repeated here. That’s at least one of the arguments for moving in this direction, is that we’re in such a post truth culture that we can’t make statements of fact, and know that they are, in fact, fact, whatever the story might be, I am going to be very interested to see how this conversation moves forward. Because who this art gets to be, what stories or what opinions, what agendas that person brings to the table are going to be very illuminating. It’s very difficult today, really to get to a statement of fact, beyond the sun came up today, beyond the fact that it is cloudy outside my window right now, that doesn’t get controversial in a hurry. Right. One quick example. And I think what’s behind some of this is misstatements in the minds of some relative to vaccines. And the degree to which vaccines, the mRNA vaccines, for instance, the degree to which they used aborted fetuses to create the vaccine? Well, that’s a complicated subject, right? There are some in which there are no fetal material from aborted fetuses. But there were abortion lines used in the testing of that. So did they use aborted material? Or did they not? That’s a complex subject. There are others that did not on any level use that but they came out of a scientific experimentation process that did some place way back at the beginning. So did that endorse abortion? Are we endorsing abortion? And so you get into places where some disinformation Bureau wants to come forward and say, Well, I consider this to be disinformation to this to be information. And it gets pretty complex pretty fast. There’s a lot of fear out there that what’s going to happen as a result of this is going to be an endorsement only of a leftist sort of agenda because it’s being proposed out of the Biden administration. And that in fact, we’re moving toward a Joe Orwellian 1984 sort of Ministry of Truth, kind of a future here a lot of concern about that possibility. I’m not sure how real that’s going to become this proposal. So much antagonism all around it right now. So we’ll have to see
Mark Turman 13:26
well, and you can understand in our political system, how that could become an enormous baseball if you’re if you have somebody or a person or a team overseeing this. It almost becomes like the the truth police and as administration’s change. You can see how that could just be gyrating in all kinds of different are. Absolutely.
Jim Denison 13:46
Snopes is an example of an organization that many people lean on in terms of fact checking for x, you know, something will come out and you could go to Snopes, and they could tell you whether they agree with it or not. Turns out Snopes has an agenda. Turns out a whole lot of folks think that Snopes is much more left leaning than they are right leaning. And so now there are people wanting to fact check Snopes, you know, fact check the fact checker as it works, right. Political the publish the leak to Alito draft is known to be very much a left leaning organization. And so there are some that are saying, number one, that desire to publish it at all, was an agenda driven decision. And then there was a lot of question before Chief Justice Roberts said that, in fact, it was authentic, as to whether you could trust what was published because of the agenda of the platform that published it. So you get to a place we didn’t used to be at this place. And for the simple reason, among others, that it was very difficult to get published without going through a pretty laborious process. The first book I published, for instance, we went back and forth through editorial, great number of times about what to include what not to include checking this and that. At the end of the day, the publisher had the last say, they had the final say on that. And if I couldn’t get my book through editorial to publication, it wouldn’t have seen the light of day. Now everybody with a cell phone has a megaphone, right? We can now publish anything We want anytime we want with no editorial process at all. So it makes it all a very different world
Mark Turman 15:05
now, and that’s what it’s like to live in the information age. Right? And in the information age, yeah. Okay. Well, let’s move on. Question number two has to do with the very complex subject of gender. A reader simply wrote, In my whole life, I was taught that God was a man. Now I have heard that God has no gender because He created man and woman in His image. Are people saying this to comfort their confused kids? Or is it something that has been discovered? Kind of going on from that? How does sexuality and gender express the image of God in and through human beings? Wow, what
Jim Denison 15:43
a great, you can cover that in about two minutes. Or two days. Yeah, yeah, that’s a lot of conversation around that inside theology, as you might expect, because there are both masculine and feminine kind of attributes of God in a context of Trinity. Ruach, which is the Hebrew word for spirit is a feminine word, in Hebrew, Hebrew has an ability to have masculine and feminine words doesn’t mean that that’s a man, a male or a female. It’s just the way in which that has been declined, as it were, Spanish has the same thing much more than English does. And so you see that, and then when you see the Spirit hovering over the surface of the deep, you can almost get this almost feminine sort of a sense of a hand hovering over its eggs or something such as that. So you’re gonna bolt on came forward to say that the Holy Spirit expresses the feminine side of God, whereas you see God described as a father. So often through scripture, you have Jesus referring to his to God as Auba, which means daddy, Abba, Father, the only time he doesn’t refer to him as father is on the cross when He cries, My God, My God, why have you forsaken me? So all through Scripture, you get these masculine sense of God as Father, obviously, Jesus came as a male, no question about that terms of how he was incarnated in the way in which he lived on earth. And so there’s been this sense over the years that God is a male, and with some allowance for maybe the spirit has more a feminine side, but then you come forward and say, God made male and female in his image. So how can God be only a male and make females in his image? And his likeness? Right would be the question. To complicate things further, in John four, I think, verse 24, Jesus says, God is Spirit. And those who worship Him, him, must worship him in spirit. And in truth, will of God is spirit. No one’s saying that God has a physical body in heaven, and that that body would be gendered as it were, I don’t think any reputable theologian would make that argument, right? And so if God doesn’t have a physical body, if God is Spirit, and spirit is not gendered in the physical sense that we think of in the context of all of that, then where do we go with all this? At the end of the day? My short answer to a very complex question would be to say, that masculine and feminine expressions of God are ways of expression in the carrier expressing the character of God, that are specific to context, the idea of God as a Father, in the sense of a father caring for his children, in the sense of a father, in the progenitor of offspring, and the sense of God creating us, a creator, Father, in the Old Testament era, especially, and to some degree, the New Testament, the idea of the Father as the protector, the Father, as the provider, the Father as the one who is the final authority in the family. Those are ways of understanding who God is, the Holy Spirit in the more feminine context of hovering, of protecting, of guiding of guarding, you can get some senses inside all of that, too. But all of these are to be seen metaphorically. None of these, I think, are to be seen in the way that would say, God is a male, in the sense that you and I, Mark are males, but rather expressions of a God who is Spirit, and who transcends all of that, and therefore can make us male and female.
Mark Turman 18:51
And something that we’ve talked about before is that at some point, every metaphor failed. That’s right, right. And that went, Well, we have to understand is and you may remember how you said this before. But if, if God could be understandable to us in every way, he wouldn’t be God, or we would be or we wouldn’t be right. And so we have to understand that God is trying through His Word through His Spirit. He is trying to reveal himself adequately to us in a way that within the limitations that we are as human beings and not God can comprehend
Jim Denison 19:29
enough of him to respond to him and a very practical sense. We come along in this kind of Greek speculative world, we like all this stuff to be figured out way beyond what’s practical. The Bible is in a practical context, Judaism is a very practical worldview. So we need to know enough about God to do something about what we know, right is the idea here. And so whatever the manifestation of God, what other ever the matter of metaphorical language, let’s interpret it in context, within that text, what is that metaphor trying to say? When the Bible says Our God is a consuming fire? Does that mean that God is literal The flames? Well, of course not. When Jesus says I’m the bread of life, does that mean that you’re supposed to eat his hand? When he says on the door? Does that mean he’s made of wood? When he says, I’m a shepherd, does that mean that’s all he is, is a shepherd. These are various metaphorical ways, as you say, of this infinite God, expressing himself in practical terms that make a difference where we are today. So as practical questions about the metaphor within the context where you find it, and that I think is the right way to do the text.
Mark Turman 20:27
So an implication of that is, you know, one of the most comforting in sometimes, I guess, challenging statement is the Isaiah passage where Isaiah says, Your thoughts are, are high above my thoughts, your ways are high above my ways, as it should be right, as it should be in every way. But is it is the journey of faith is the ongoing pursuit in the discovery of God Is that likely to be what the continuation of Heaven is just in a more perfected way, but we’re pursuing following an infinite God that we shouldn’t be able to fully comprehend. And the joy of heaven will be the ongoing perhaps expanded accelerated, if you want to say it that way. Discovery of even more of the wonder of how infinite he is,
Jim Denison 21:19
I think that’s very possible. You think about First Corinthians 13, that says, Now we look through a glass darkly, but one day, face to face, and one day we will know even as we are known. And so from that text, it would seem clear anyway, that we’re certainly going to know God better on the other side than we do on this side, right when we’re face to face with Him. Now, whether that’s instantaneous, at the moment of death, I now know everything I will ever know, for all of eternity, or whether there is some progression inside all of that, as you’re suggesting is hard to know, based on just scripture. But certainly that idea that we’re going to continue to grow all through eternity, in our understanding of him or knowledge of him who he is what he is, you think of Luke 252, where Jesus grew in wisdom and stature in favor with God and men? Well, that may only be true with him in his incarnate sense. Or it may be an expression of growth and expression of ongoing discovery. That may be the case for all of eternity, we have this idea of how I can’t wait to get in front of the apostle Paul, because I’ve got questions, right? And then the other side that would say, well, once I’m in the presence of God, I’ll have no questions to ask, right? Either I’ll know everything I need to know or I will no longer care. So a lot of ways to look at it.
Mark Turman 22:25
But certainly around to a verse that just seems to just keep coming back around in the Holy Spirit’s work in my own life, which is John 17. Three, Jesus is starting his high priestly prayer before he gets arrested and goes to the cross. And He says, eternal life is to know God and to know Him. And so and that’s not, that’s not a static thing, right? Relational, that’s a relational, evolving, unfolding kind of thing as it is with any relationship between beings, between human beings, and between us and God. And that, that we tend to think of eternal life in a quantitative way that it is an infinite period of time, but it’s something much more qualitative in terms of relationship.
Jim Denison 23:11
Absolutely. That’s why John 316 says that whosoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life, not one day have everlasting life. You and I already have eternal life, the moment we trusted Christ, we received eternal life, not just in the sense that we will never die in a quantitative sense, but also when that qualitative sense, as you’re describing, the Holy Spirit now lives in us, we’re now the temple of the Holy Spirit, we’ve already started to experience the quality of eternal life, on a level that we will obviously in God’s paradise that transcends where we are now. But it’s quality as much as quantity absolutely is. Now CS Lewis said that if you think of time as a line on a page, God is the page. But when you get that all figured out, let the rest I gonna say because every time you use that statement, I keep going. I’m not sure that helped me any, there’s a lot to that. There is a lot to that. He also uses the metaphor, and I think as as an author himself a fiction, you’ve got this author that’s writing characters, you know, and Screwtape Letters, let’s say, or in the Chronicles of Narnia, he can write the characters as he wishes, he can put his pin down and go someplace for a month and come back and pick up the narrative. As you reading the narrative, see it, it’s step by step by step this moment to that moment, because you don’t know. Right, you know, so in that sense, the author transcends the time of the story he’s telling. He’s creating that time, he’s creating these characters. They’re in a sense, living within the time that he’s creating within that novel, but he the author, lives outside that time. It’s another way that Lewis tried to explain, right, and he was trying to get at sovereignty and freedom, which is, I think, a terrific metaphor for the question of if God is sovereign, Are we free? And the answer is yes. Just because God knows the future doesn’t mean he’s determining the future, right? Just because I know what you are about to have for breakfast doesn’t mean I’m choosing it for you. You know, If I’m sitting in a, if I’m a professor in a seminary class, I would watch the students come in and sit down in their chairs. That doesn’t mean I chose the chair. I just saw them sit there. Well, God can see tomorrow, like I can see today doesn’t necessarily mean he chose it. He sometimes does, but not always. So loose was making this point that God transcends all of that. And again, my little finite fallen brain can’t really understand that very well. But the metaphor is cancer can perhaps be helpful,
Mark Turman 25:25
right? Yeah. Well, that’s yeah, that’s helpful in and of itself. Well, moving on to a third question. recent days, even going back, gosh, I think I’m gonna say six, nine months, one of our team members, Steve, yon, started whispering in my ear, that we were coming up on the 50th anniversary of Roe vs. Wade. And when this podcast comes out in a few days, obviously, it will still be very much in the news about this abortion leak at the Supreme Court. And we’ll just have to see how this plays out. For weeks, probably in two, you probably know better than I do. When Supreme Court decisions are usually released, but sometime in the summer, just saying
Jim Denison 26:10
this one late June, early July, most likely, although it may move it forward. And a lot of the bottom all
Mark Turman 26:15
this who knows what all of this is going to change and pivot to but we know it’s going to be very much on the radar of our conscience as we watch the news as we see things being played out wondering where particularly this leak experience is going to take us. Not to mention the significance of Roe versus Wade is, as you’ve said, most significant abortion being the most significant issue of our time. But one of our listeners writes in with a question about human life and about conception. She says my husband and I are have some science in our background in terms of their training. And their simple question is, when does a human life become a human life? And they’re asking this question in the context of IVF. Obviously, there’s probably fertilization, probably some infertility issues. In the background of this question. She says we have it in our mind that when it is an embryo implanted into the uterus, uterine wall, that is when it becomes viable and is nourished and is therefore the point at which it becomes a human being. How would you respond to this question? And if you want to go all the way into the conversations and questions about well, what do you do with frozen embryos and those kinds of things, but how would you respond to this listener?
Jim Denison 27:39
It’s a great question has some very practical consequences as well. I’d start by saying And Psalm 139. David says that God created me in my mother’s womb, but he doesn’t say fertilization or implantation. He doesn’t say when the sperm and the egg come together to make the zygote or within 14 days at the latest when that zygote is implanted in the mother’s womb. So we’re not asking so much a biblical question here right now is more scientific question has very practical outcomes in terms of in vitro fertilization and embryos, frozen embryos, and also methods of contraception. There are some methods of contraception that prevent fertilization. There are others that prevent implantation. If you believe life begins at fertilization, then to prevent implantation is abortion, that’s called an abortion, a fashion that’s a kind of medication or a medical procedure that would be ending a human life if life begins at fertilization. Another fact is that it’s estimated that only about 25% of fertilized eggs actually ever implant in the uterus successfully.
Mark Turman 28:36
Okay, so, so we’re not doctors, at least not in the medical sense of the term. But just so people have some understanding that after a couple comes together and is intimate, yes. And there’s the fertilization of eggs, and they become egg and egg, and it becomes a zygote. That zygote or fertilized egg can move about a woman’s body for a period of time. That’s right, and may or may not be implanted and have the opportunity to grow. That’s right. That’s what we’re saying.
Jim Denison 29:12
That’s right. That’s exactly right. And until it does to the, to the listeners question, it’s not in that sense Bible. It’s when it implanted it begins receiving nutrients. That’s how it begins to grow, eventually have the placenta, and then you move forward into what we think of as the development of a baby. And so the question is, during that period of time, is that a life or is that not a life? Well, the fact that only about 25% of implants is an issue. And so if life begins at fertilization, then many of us have a lot of children we never knew about, you know, is a way of arguing against this. And then again, the viability question as well. On the other side of it, I would myself, this is just me, I have come to a position that believes that life does begin at fertilization, as opposed to implantation, and I’ve got some reasons for that. And then we’ll come back and talk about some of the other things as well. At the moment of fertilization, the embro embryo possesses the chromosomal makeup of a distinct human being, at that moment, that moment at that very moment, not at implantation at the moment of fertilization. Okay, so
Mark Turman 30:12
let me, let me throw one little small thing in here, and then we’ll let you go on and give your reasons. So it becomes a human being at there might be three options that people might have be aware of, in this case of when this becomes a human being, fertilization being one, this couple saying they think it may be implantation, some people would say it’s at heartbeat. You’ve because we’ve now in our current vernacular, we’re hearing about heartbeat bills. Okay, well, we’re going to prevent a abortion when there is a detectable heartbeat. That’s, that’s been in the public eye. Sure. That’s, but that’s a further step that much further, we’re much further beyond fertilization or implantation point when we get to heartbeat we are. But that’s probably more in the common awareness of where people are thinking right now. We’re much earlier. That’s right, in the process.
Jim Denison 31:07
Absolutely. Heartbeat bills as hearing about them are sometimes fueled by people that think it’s not actually a life until it has a heartbeat, but more often because the heartbeat can be detected, right. And so once a heartbeat can be detected now on a medical level, we’re going to say, Okay, from this point forward, you cannot have an abortion. Right. And it’s just that that’s, that’s a practical threshold by which to determine okay, you’re pregnant. Are you eligible legally for an abortion in Texas, let’s say, which has a heartbeat bill? Well, no, not once. We can detect a heartbeat, you know, as opposed to EKG, right, say, or other measures of life, whatever that might mean, or whatever that might look like. Right. Okay. But your your opinion, your view of your view of this is that this is a human being well before heartbeat and even before implanting. That’s right, why exactly right. Yep. So the first one has to do with what happens at the moment of fertilization, the embryo possesses a chromosomal makeup of a distinct human being. At that moment, all of its heritable factors are in place. In the moment of that, when the sperm penetrates the ovum, the egg reacts. I’m reading right now from a paper that I wrote on this some time ago, to initiate a mechanism that prevents other sperm from penetrating the 23 chromosomes of the sperm unite with the 23 chromosomes of the ovum producing a new 46 chromosome cell. And then some 30 years later, the first cell division occurs. About a week later at the blastocyst stage of 120 to 256 cells, the organism implants into the nutrient lining of the uterus. And that’s what we’re thinking about now. But from a chromosomal perspective, from the ability to be heritable, all that starts at fertilization. An illustration of that would be when you create embryos through IVF, through in vitro fertilization, at the moment of creating that embryo in the laboratory, you have all that chromosomal material, if you allow that embryo to grow. And if you could find a way medically to provide it nutrients and capacity for nine months, it would become a baby, it was never implanted in a mother’s uterine wall, but it would become a baby just as though it had been. So there’s nothing about implantation that changes the chromosomal makeup of the entity is what I’m saying. It provides it obviously with the nutrients without which you can survive and protection and all of that, but it doesn’t change the entity itself. The entity itself, whether you want to call it a zygote, or a baby is chromosomally and in scientific terms of what makes a human, a human, a human at that very point, and it will never be anything but a human. If you allow it to grow through its natural process, it becomes what we would recognize as a human and all that’s in place at the moment of fertilization. So to me, that’s one piece. A second piece of this is that the embryo begins to grow at the moment of fertilization, not at the moment of implantation. Implementation is critical to its survival. But the growth doesn’t commence. At that time. As I said, if you could produce an IVF embryo outside the body and give it that same ability to grow, it would grow into a full, full what we would think of as a baby and human being. So you have something distinct from the moment of fertilization, right? And you have a growth process that immediately begin That’s right. It doesn’t start growing at implantation. It starts growing at the moment of fertilization and implantation. If I understand where you may be going implantation becomes the next necessary step to allow ongoing growth, but not the last, but not the lanes that it’s not. It’s neither the first nor the last. That’s right. It’s a significant step. But it’s not the only step forward, right. And once we started saying that this is only a human being once it reaches a certain stage, now we’re getting into very arbitrary decisions. That’s one way to say it, but it’s not the only way. Some would say a heartbeat, some would say the first breath. There were some that argued that it is not a child until it receives its first breath because in that in the Old Testament, God breathed into him the breath of life. And so there have been some arguments over and then there’ll be some that it’s not really a human until it’s viable outside the womb. That’s what the Supreme Court has historically. That’s what Roe v. Wade said. And that’s what the court has typically, although some states are different, have argued. So you’ve got a spectrum, past fertilization, viability relative to implantation being only one of those, but it begins dividing, the cells begin dividing and begins growing at the moment of fertilization itself. Okay, other reasons. Third reason, your position and again, I’m looking at the paper that I wrote some time ago, if the embryo is only probably a person from fertilization, it should be granted the rights of a person. Just as we don’t bury a person who’s probably dead, we should not kill a fetus, which is only probably a person but should take the safer, morally safer road. Fourth, if a fertilized embryo must possess attributes of personhood, such as intelligence and freedom, what of newborns and children with developmental challenges, all persons are equal in their right to life with no priority given to age. And then fifth, we were each a fertilized zygote. Egg we were we were each as I go to an embryo at one point in our development, right? All of us were, and life I would say begins at the process in which we are uniquely human. And in my mind, that is at fertilization. So that would be my answer to the question. Now, on a practical level, what would they say about IVF and the utilization of embryos, some would say that take my position that IVF is therefore not allowable on any level, I would disagree. I believe that and I have counseled couples several over the years, that IVF is morally acceptable, but I believe the only testing of the embryo that should be done has to do with viability. It’s called pre Implantation Genetic Diagnosis. Typically, eight to 10 embryos are created in the laboratory. They’re tested relative to viability relative to disease markers, things such as this heritable diseases, and the healthiest typically are implanted. I disagree. I think the embryos could be tested pre Implantation Genetic Diagnosis only relative to viability, I would see no reason to implant an embryo that we know will not survive. But I think that’s the only testing that should be done. And I believe no embryos should be created in the lab that is not tested. And then if it’s viable, implanted, I believe we should not be testing relative to diseases or someday, relative even to capacities. There’s that movie Gattaca back in the 90s, where people were created through IVF at a point where they could test these embryos in terms of singing, voice, athletic ability, intelligence, all of that, and only the smartest or the strongest would be implanted. And those that weren’t created that way. Those that were created through natural means were called the in ballots, where you could see a day when couples that could conceive naturally, nonetheless choose IVF. So they can choose the healthiest embryo that to me is a form of eugenics.
Mark Turman 37:49
So we’re back to eugenics. And we we’ve come around that idea of multiple times, yes, you get back to Nazi Germany. And that’s right, their journey toward that. So playing out the implication of that. I can imagine that there are couples families listening to this or will receive this in some way. And they’ve been down the journey of infertility they’ve, they are considering or they are involved in IVF IVF experiences, that type of thing. And one thing that comes up in our society are is the implication of frozen embryos. How would you counsel believers, particularly how would you counsel anybody in this area relative to being on that kind of a journey and the idea of frozen embryos?
Jim Denison 38:40
Let’s talk about that, then before we’re done, we can come back and talk about appropriate methods of conception as well. Okay, given the conversation that you’re because that’s another practical landing spot. First of all, I don’t believe we should be freezing embryos. As I said, I believe every every viable embryo should be implanted would be my position. That would be my counsel to a couple. If a couple has already gone through IVF. And the more traditional means, and now has frozen embryos, embryos that were not implanted for whatever reason, if the embryos were viable, I believe if they did pre Implantation Genetic Diagnosis, and the doctor chose the healthiest, but there were others that they thought were viable, I believe they should now be looking toward adoption. I believe that those embryos can be adopted by infertile couples, just as a child that has been born in a natural sense can then be adopted, right? Think of that as a child in that sense. And there are more and more people that are arguing for adopting a frozen embryos. Couples that either don’t have the means to go through IVF themselves, or don’t wish to go through that process or have physical reasons they can’t do this. The mother can’t produce a healthy egg or the father can’t produce healthy sperm, then they could adopt an embryo as it were. frozen embryos can be viable for many many years. And there are some from what I’m remembering. I’d have to go back and check that even over decades, are later implanted and there seems to be no Have no ill effect and have that long period of Rose Is this where the term snowflake adoption comes from? Are you familiar with that term not familiar,
Mark Turman 40:09
I could be wrong. But I believe that this term is descriptive of a couple who adopts an embryo from another couple, either because they couldn’t or didn’t want to, for whatever reason produce their own embryo. And so they adopted an embryo from another couple. And that gets implanted in in if it produces a successful pregnancy produces a child sometimes, possibly, I think I have my terminology, correct that that is sometimes described as a snowflake
Jim Denison 40:41
navy. Well, I would certainly recommend that over other options, there’s what there are three person babies, that now are, are medically possible that are actually some are happening, where, for instance, a mother cannot produce a healthy egg. And so an egg that actually is viable. And so an egg from a different person is provided, the DNA material from that egg is removed, the DNA material of the mother is implanted. And then through IVF, the father sperm is brought with that egg, and you create an embryo and then you implant the embryo as a way of doing this what’s called a three person pregnancy. Similar technology can be done with sperm even. And we’re getting to a stem cell reversing of, of genetics to what’s called pluripotent cells that can be programmed to be any one of the more than 200 different genetic functions. And so we’re actually seeing the process of some considering same sex conception in this way, where you would take the skin cells of one of let’s say, a gay couple, and reverse engineer those to create an egg and then create IVF and have that have a surrogate, let’s say carry that determine, create biologically fathered children in a way such as that that’s even possible. I’m not sure if that’s actually happening. But I do know three person conception is happening, if one of the of the heterosexual couples cannot produce genetic material that can lead to a child might counsel myself would be to adopt a frozen embryo, as opposed to what we’re just saying here. There are all sorts of medical and even moral issues here, right? Or all three of these people. Now, parents, what are the legal obligations or the legal opportunities of the person who, who donated the egg? Even if DNA material was removed? This is still on some level, the second mother of the child, right? We’re getting into all sorts of complexity inside three parent babies. And so I would myself prefer to see somebody adopt a frozen embryo rather than do that. And if that embryo is itself knowable, in terms of its provenance, then this can be like another adoption where the couple that provided the embryo can know about this and get engaged, perhaps or not, depending on how one goes about the adoption. So you said there are other issues relative to forms of conception that enter into this conversation, y’all contraception, there are some methods that clearly only prevent fertilization, barrier methods such as condoms, diaphragm, sponges, cervical caps, and sterilization, either through vasectomy for the male or litigation in the fallopian tubes for the female, those would clearly prevent the creation of an embryo and would be morally appropriate RIF I believe life begins at fertilization, that we’re not causing an abortion right through the means of contraception that were preventing a fertilization. That’s right, right, preventing fertilization. Now, some would disagree with even that some of the Catholic tradition, for instance, would say that any means that prevents a possible fertilization is in a sense, not permitted, and they would therefore counsel the rhythm method. Well, no, I would say even a rhythm method is intended on some level to prevent fertilization. So I’m not clear as to how that would be more morally acceptable, but there’d be some that would even take that position. That wouldn’t be my position. My position would be that any means that prevents fertilization is not abortion, and is therefore is therefore to be seen as morally acceptable. There’s a second category of contraceptives that can prevent fertilization as well as implantation. Oral contraceptives. progestin for instance, hampers the transport of sperm inhibits penetration of the ovum inhibits ovulation. While estrogen can inhibit implantation of the fertilized egg. intrauterine devices can immobilize sperm to prevent fertilization can also prevent implantation. My own personal position would be that if the intended purpose of this contraceptive method was to prevent fertilization, it’s therefore morally acceptable, even if there can be a consequence that prevents implantation. My own personal position would be that’s not an abortion fashion. If it was being used for the purpose of preventing implantation. I would say that’s wrong, because I think life begins at fertilization. But if that can be a consequence, in my mind, that is morally acceptable. It’s a very difficult issue in medical ethics called the double edged sword. A quick illustration of that if somebody is in hospice, and they’re in an enormous Pain morphine can be prescribed in order to lessen the pain, even if an unintended consequence could be that it shortens the life, that the person might live a shorter life, but they would live a life free of pain. That wasn’t the consequence. That was a, that wasn’t the intention. That was a consequence. In my mind, that’s a moral decision to make. We had to make that decision with my mother. At the end of her life, she was in extreme pain, she wished to be prescribed morphine, and we did so even though we knew that it was possible, we could never know for certain that this would shorten her life. We didn’t do it for that purpose. Right. It was an unintended outcome, in my mind contraceptive methods that have that possibility, but not that purpose, or therefore morally acceptable. Some would disagree. And the Hobby Lobby case that you may remember back in the Obamacare, they took the position that any contraceptive method that could prevent implantation wasn’t abortion fashioned, they didn’t want to cover that in their employee health benefits. And that was the crux of the case. But that that they actually won at the Supreme Court. So others would have different positions as to whether a contraceptive method that could prevent implantation is there for an abortion fashion or not? I would say it’s not if that’s not the purpose, but others might disagree.
Mark Turman 46:11
Right? So this whole conversation starts to get us into a lot of the complexities, yes, that almost 50 years ago, were being weighed out and in trying to be understood within the Supreme Court of that day. Now, in some ways, made more clearer, in some ways made more complex by our medical understanding what we’ve been able to achieve in terms of understanding over the last 50 years. And still brings us to a place of oftentimes Great Divide the context of this question that that finishes out this question we had today had to do with the fact that of how this was playing out in this family. And and the comments that were made by this listener, that, hey, this is this has become difficult, not just simply between the couple, but between the extended family course. So there’s a lot here, there’s a lot of complexity. For any individual, any couple any family, you might even take it further out and community of faith that gets involved in to this kind of conversation. Any kind of final wrap around a comment that you would make to try to help people work through their thinking here?
Jim Denison 47:30
Absolutely. Again, the Bible says that we’re created in the womb, doesn’t say if that begins that at fertilization or AT implementation, there certainly are very reputable FSS theologians who would say that life begins at implantation, not at fertilization, they would disagree with my position there. And I’m not here to say that they’re wrong. I’m just here to offer what is my position based on my reasoning at that point, but they certainly can take other positions here. And so I would encourage any couple or family that’s thinking about this to consult the best evidence that they can look at the best material available to them, and pray hard, and ask God for wisdom, direction and peace, about this ultimately, a sense of peace. There’s a wide spectrum here, from people that would say IVF is always off limits, all the way over to produce as many embryos as it takes to get the healthiest of the embryos and medical science allows us to be able to do that. So we ought to do it. And my position that would be in the middle of all of that. That’s my position, right? That’s my reasoning. But I’m not quoting chapter and verse here. The Bible doesn’t specifically answer the question that just wasn’t an issue in the biblical era, of course, wasn’t even so much an understood issue 50 years ago with Roe v. Wade. So pray, seek God’s wisdom, His direction, his peace, and give each other grace. You and I might disagree on this, I and someone else might disagree. We’re not saying one’s right and one’s wrong. We’re not saying one is moral and one is immoral. We’re all asking the same question. How do I defend life? I believe life begins in the womb. We’re all saying that I absolutely believe life begins in the womb, and abortion in principle is wrong. And so once we’re at that place, beyond that, as we parse this out, let’s be people of grace, who seek the wisdom and the peace of God.
Mark Turman 49:13
And in addition to that, I would say seek wisely count wise, Godly counsel be that in the medical community, just some great wonderful godly doctors that work in this space and that can help couples families walk through this, pastors, obviously Christian counselors, your community of faith, get people to pray with you. You and I have had experiences as pastors walking with couples who desperately wanted to have a child and we’re faced with some of these kinds of situations that wrenching and so hard difficult. I’ve had you know, I’ve had the experience I’m sure you probably have to wear a couple was they did have a pregnancy and found out that their child had a condition that we is not going to enable that child to live outside the womb, they knew that this child would, would pass away within minutes or hours and had to work their way through that. And the difficulty to challenge the broken heartedness of all of that is what’s great about this conversation is what you just said that, that it is it is the desire in the pursuit of life, and the recognition that God gives this gift of life. And that we need to steward that even as we learn more and more things about how life happens, and how it begins. And so that’s a really good word one more,
Jim Denison 50:41
and I would say they will see that child again. Yes, absolutely. I don’t understand about developmental how old that child will be how all of that will work. I don’t think the Bible tells us that I had a couple that the last church I pastored, that were very dear to me that lost a child, just as you described it, they knew the child would not survive beyond childbirth, I have that date on my calendar. And I reach out to them every year, that child would be 16 years old now. Wow. You know, and reach out to them every year on some level or pray for them, think about them really try to stand with him. I cannot imagine cannot imagine with my children and my perfect grandchildren perfect. cannot begin to imagine the pain. But we have extended family that had been through some of the pain of this. And yeah, we want to be people of grace. Don’t know,
Mark Turman 51:24
one more question, probably have a little bit of a shorter answer. But an important question as well. This listener writes in and says, I get to be involved in helping provide a worship service, a Christian worship service at a senior living community. And she says that she got involved in this by partnering with what she later discovered, I think, was a gay couple that this couple actually made it possible for her to become involved in this area of ministry. She says I don’t condone or agree with this couple’s lifestyle. I do love them, which is a great statement. And I am praying for them, I hope that they would change their minds about their lifestyle. She’s had enough conversation with them to know that they are professing Christians. But she’s wondering, should I continue to serve in ministry alongside them in this way, and in this environment of providing some form of worship to the senior living community?
Jim Denison 52:26
I’m glad we’re asking such simple questions. Yes. Well, that’s terrific, you know, range of questions or ethics or anything. That’s right. What kind of drafted the Cowboys have this year? What do we think about all of them? Welcome to being a cultural upon? Yeah, exactly. Who’s whose idea was that? I actually think it was the Lord’s call. So but So in, we have a spectrum here of issues, obviously, as as would be apparent as we can, I’ll try to do this as briefly as I can. There’s one position, that would be to say, to have relationship with somebody who is clearly living in an unbiblical lifestyle is to endorse that lifestyle. And especially in a public sense. If I’m doing something publicly with a couple anybody out there watching us do that could draw that conclusion, whether it’s attending a gay wedding, and therefore looking like I’m endorsing the couple or partnering with them and leading worship, or whatever the case may be, one position would be to say, no, the answer is no, because you’ll be seen as endorsing that which the Bible forbids. An opposite position would be to say, Well, if you’re going to start asking these questions, do you have to examine the moral lives of every single person with whom you do anything? How do I know that a heterosexual couple isn’t having an affair? One of them? How do I know that one of them isn’t involved in pornography? How do I know that one of them isn’t abusing their children who have what do I know about them? Right? Yes, this gay couple is living on biblically, in a way that’s obvious, that’s apparent. But that’s only one of a whole litany of sins. Whenever that’s listed. First Corinthians six, you’ve got a whole list of sins that were told to avoid. Romans chapter one, a whole list of things. And this is just one of them. It’s not the unpardonable sin. God loves each of us as if there were only one of us, we’re all broken sexually. Right? And so once I started saying, I can only lead worship with people at a retirement home, whose lives I know to be moral, then where do I how do I figure that out? And where do I stop? And so really, I’m not going to even ask that question, because it’s the wrong question. And if I ask the wrong question, I can’t get the right answer. Right. That’s the other extreme, maybe if you’re thinking of a spectrum here, I’d be someplace in the middle here. That would say that while that’s true, it is also true that this is an obvious and biblical lifestyle in a way that a couple where one is having an affair isn’t. I’m not endorsing what I don’t know. Right? I’m not endorsing what no one else in the room knows. Now if it becomes known, I have an issue. But unless and until it becomes known, the endorsement issue goes away for the heterosexual couple over here, that would exist relative to the homosexual couple. On the other hand, if I therefore come to the first position and say, I’m going to have no relationship with him, because I look like I’m endorsing, then what do I do with anybody that’s living away? That is obviously not biblical? What do I do with The person who we know to be having an affair don’t want to be building a relationship with that person as as the means of helping them come to a biblical relationship. If somebody has a public sin, and I therefore cut the relationship because it looks like I’m endorsing the sin, well, where do I stop doing that? Right? That wasn’t Jesus at all. That’s Jesus, relating to people in sin. That’s Jesus in John four relating to the Samaritan woman who’s living with a man that’s not her husband. That’s Jesus hanging out with tax collectors and sinners and being criticized for doing so. That’s Jesus inviting himself over to Zacchaeus his home before Zacchaeus repents of his sin doesn’t wait for the repentance, the crowd would think he’s endorsing Zacchaeus sin? Well, he’s not. He’s actually building a relationship to lead to repentance. So if I have to get you to repent of your public sin before I can relate to you, is that the Spirit of Jesus right, right. So I tried to be in the middle. But I’ve got some caveats. First of all, I’d want the couple to know what I think biblically about God’s intention for our sexual lives. I’d want to say that in a very gracious way, but it wouldn’t want them to think that I’m endorsing their lifestyle. By doing this, I’d want to earn and build the relationship by which I could be honest with them, I doubt they’d be surprised about that. I’m sure they’ve had these conversations. But I just wouldn’t want them to think I’m endorsing what the Bible what the Bible would forbid, right. So I’d start with them. On a public level, I would be praying for a way to do what I just said. So that those sitting out there don’t think that I’m endorsing what the Bible forbids. Now, that becomes challenging. I don’t want to do this in a way that embarrasses the couple in a way that demeans them in a way that on some level makes this a different sin than if it were some other sin that we’re talking about here. And so I might be looking for ways over time that the Lord would lead me just to make public my belief about marriage in a way that doesn’t directly I’m not saying something specifically about them. I’m just saying my own position here, you want to be in every way loving and respect. Absolutely. So while at the same time being straightforward, speaking the truth in love, did the person say if they were married themselves or not. And so let’s say, let’s just pretend here for a moment that this is a single female, at some point, I might make a statement about how I’m praying for the day that the Lord might lead me to the man that he intends me to marry, to make clear my belief as regards what I think marriage ought to be. Or if I marry clearly, I’d want to be articulating that marriage. And one find some way for the people I’m serving not to believe I’m endorsing same sex relationships by serving alongside of same sex couple without demeaning the couple, right. And that’s why I’m really praying for wisdom, direction, insight from God, so that they can understand that it might even need to say that to the couple that say, I don’t want you to think I’m endorsing what the Bible would forbid, nor would I want those were serving to think that and you would understand that, I think, but at the same time, I don’t want to demean you. Right. And so I’m trying to find a balancing way to do that. So so the endorsement issue is not now present. Yeah, I think there are ways to do that. I think there are ways to serve alongside without endorsing both the couple and those that were serving, but you’d want to be nuanced, and really careful and very sensitive, as we’re doing this in a way that really does communicate the love and grace of Christ. Right. Don’t want to play God. Yeah. But just what comes to mind. I seem to get into this kind of conversation in my mind goes in a certain direction to a certain passage. I
Mark Turman 58:24
love what you said about Jesus befriending and engaging in and building relationship with with sinners as he was trying to lead them away from their sin ultimately,
Jim Denison 58:36
yeah, exactly. This is an example. Right? Yeah.
Mark Turman 58:39
Part of what this listener asks is says that these, these two people that she’s serving with, say that they are believers. How are we to understand the Corinthian passage that says, if somebody says they’re a believer, and yet is living in what the scripture obviously indicates, is sinful behavior. It’s open. It’s known in as you said, you can’t endorse what you you don’t have to worry about endorsing what you don’t know about. Okay. But in this case, the context in the Corinthian passage seems to be that this is out there it is known. Yes. And Paul says, don’t even eat with such a question. How does that apply into this conversation? Yeah,
Jim Denison 59:22
again, I think it goes to endorsement. If I’m eating with them, I’m publicly endorsing what they’re doing right? If I can find a way to be in relationship with Him, that doesn’t endorse them. Now I’m doing what Jesus did, right. If I can’t eat with sinners, how could Jesus he was sinners and be sinless himself? How would Paul’s passage not make Jesus a sinner? Right, if all it means is, I can’t eat with a person who’s in public sin? And so there has to be a nuance here doesn’t. That’s why one verse isn’t the whole Bible, you know, and we want to find a way to interpret these things within a larger context. So if I can do this in a way that doesn’t endorse now, I’m doing what Jesus did if I can’t, then I’ve got to be careful with what Paul said. Right? I can’t do that which endorse us it is, I think the point he’s getting out there, it’s not so much I can’t have a relationship with them. Because if I couldn’t do that, how could I lead them to Christ? Right? Or how could I lead them closer to Christ? How can I help them to repent of that which the Bible forbids, which he talks about later, when he when he says,
Mark Turman 1:00:19
essentially, that you need to be in the world, but not of the world. But he also goes on to say, look, I’m not telling you to have no relationships or any of these people. That’s right. But it’s it is something that we definitely have to be prayerful about careful about, again, we don’t want to, obviously overtly or even accidentally endorse what the Bible forbids. That’s right. But at the same time, we want to be in relationship with all kinds of people. So as to be the most encouraging and positive and hopefully redemptive influence in their life that we can be.
Jim Denison 1:00:57
And at the end of the day, as I’m praying and asking God’s wisdom and direction for all this, I have to know my heart, right? I can’t judge my heart by somebody else’s heart. If I’m having lunch with somebody who’s known to be gay, and somebody in the restaurant sees me having lunch with that person, and therefore decides I’m endorsing homosexuality, I can’t really do much about that. If I’m going to worry about that. I can never be seen in public with a person who’s committing a public sin on any level, to the end of time. Well, how am I going to relate to that person? How am I going to share Christ with them? How am I going to minister to them? How am I going to help them? How am I going to follow the Spirit of Jesus who again, was eating with tax collectors and sinners, Ron invited himself over to Zacchaeus was home. And so to me, if I’m going to measure this by what someone else might say, of my heart, that’s a difficult place to live. Instead, I’m going to know my heart. The reason I’m having lunch with this person is I’m trying to develop a relationship that God can use in a redemptive way in their life. And if somebody else wants to judge that without asking, without, first of all, getting to know the context, that’s their sin more than it’s my sin. If I’m judging based on appearance, I’m doing what the Bible forbids. In fact, God looks at the heart. God knows the reason why I’m doing what I’m doing. Now, I don’t want to be foolish about that are naive about that, I’m not going to go into a gay bar, right? So that I could hopefully develop relationships in that context that could lead to evangelistic outcomes, because it’s going to be so obvious to anybody coming in and out that either I am gay, or I’m on some level endorsing gay behavior. By doing that there are lines here, I’m not going to watch pornographic movies. So I can then Minister to pornographic actors, I’m just not going to do that, for my own sake on my own soul, as well as for the sake of my witness. But that doesn’t mean I can’t have public relationships with people that are in public sent again, Jesus, John four, with a woman at the well, the disciples were shocked that he is a male was talking to a female in the Jewish context, and as a rabbi talking to a Samaritan, but Jesus put her heart to get ahead of what someone might think of him. So there’s a balance in there, right. And we want to pray for God’s wisdom and direction for all that,
Mark Turman 1:03:00
which is a good word for us to land on, because that’s the kind of daily walk in, in in engagement with the spirit that we have to have. Because we run into all kinds of different kinds of situations, all kinds of different people at different places, our own journey of faith is playing out. And we as we’ve talked about today, there’s some very complex situations that we run into whether it’s medically or relationally, serving in ministry, all kinds of situations, which require us to be hopefully more like Daniel, who three times a day, is getting on his knees, and praying to God to ask for His guidance, to be grateful for the opportunities that life brings, but also to be very much humble and dependent upon the spirit in every part of his life. And so so that, we hope our listeners will do that in every way.
Jim Denison 1:03:53
I had a friend that said to me that he understood decision making to be values applied to the fact pattern before us, decide what your values are, and then apply your values to the circumstances to the question to the issue, I value evangelism. And so I therefore am willing to risk what someone might think of be for the sake of building a relationship with someone that will spend eternity separate from God if I don’t build that relationship with him or someone like me. So you decide your values, you apply that to the fact pattern before you and you trust the Lord for discernment, wisdom. On the one side, I want to be bold on the other. I don’t want to be naive, right? And what how, how does that work? What’s the middle ground in that? And that’s where the Holy Spirit will lead us?
Mark Turman 1:04:30
Yeah. Where the Apostle Paul said in the Colossian letter, right, pray for me that God would give me wisdom that’s right about how I might step through these opportunities, and conversations. Thank you, Jim, for the conversation today. Thank you to our listeners for their for your questions. We hope you’ll send more some easier questions into something a little bit easier. But we love the conversations. We hope that our dialogue today has been helpful to you. If you’d like to submit a question you can do that at ask Jim at Denison forum. dot org ask Jim at Denison forum.org. Again, rate our podcast, share it with others. We look forward to having you with us at our next episode. Thank you