Dr. Erwin Lutzer: Today we have these cultural streams that are so powerful that it’s almost impossible to stand against them. But Booker T. Washington said these words, “Evil doesn’t become good and wrong doesn’t become right just because the majority believes it to be so.”
John Fuller: That’s Dr. Erwin Lutzer, and he’s our guest today on Focus on the Family, sharing his thoughts about the rising challenges we have in today’s culture. He has a lot to say in the conversation today. Your host is Focus president and author, Jim Daly, and I’m John Fuller.
Jim Daly: John, at times it seems like the sky is falling, isn’t it? Especially if you’re listening to cable news, oh my goodness.
John: Oh, yes.
Jim: It just kind of preys on our anxiety, but our assurance, guess what, as Christians is found in Christ. Nobody else, nothing else, no other circumstances, and we want to have a discussion that is inspiring and hopeful, but also realistic about the times we’re living in. It’s kind of like the Bereans, you know? They knew the times they were in, and they searched the Scripture to know how to react in those times. And I’m looking forward to our discussion today. What does living for Christ means in the culture that we’re in? Dr. Lutzer has been a very well responded to guest by the listeners.
Jim: And I know you love his biblical perspective and I’m looking forward to talking with Dr. Lutzer today.
John: Yeah, he’s Pastor Emeritus at Moody Church in Chicago, where he’s served as Senior Pastor for 36 years. Dr. Lutzer has written a number of books, uh, the one that forms the foundation for our conversation today is called, No Reason to Hide: Standing for Christ in a Collapsing Culture. Stop by the website to get your copy. That’s focusonthefamily.com/broadcast, or call 800, the letter A, and the word FAMILY.
Jim: Dr. Lutzer welcome back to Focus-
Dr. Lutzer: So great to be with you, Jim. God bless you.
Jim: … it’s so good to have you here. And how many years were you a pastor?
Dr. Lutzer: I was pastor of Moody Church for 36 years-
Dr. Lutzer: … previous to that I was the pastor of a Baptist church in Chicago for five. So if you do the math, it would be over 40 years.
Jim: Yeah, that’s a great, great contribution to the body of Christ. Now which one did you like better? No, don’t answer that question. (laughs)
Dr. Lutzer: (laughs)
Jim: Oh man, it’s just so good to see you. And you have given so much deep thought … That’s what I respect, your writings are so full of wisdom. And I sincerely mean that, I mean, a lot of people write at the surface level, but you really think about the things that we’re going through as a culture. And I think your, your books are the most profound right now about how Christians should behave in culture. It captures the right essence of Scripture, the right aroma for the non-believer. Not to push them away, but to be truthful, and loving, and kind. That’s a tough act to do, you know? It’s hard to balance all those things. How do you go about doing that?
Dr. Lutzer: Well, of course, that’s a very important question, and perhaps there isn’t one answer that fits all. But my burden, Jim, is to help the church think through all the pressure points that we are finding in society and in our culture. We have to remember that we did not go looking for a culture war. The culture came to us and we have to respond to it. And there’s no way that we can get out of responding to the culture because it used to be in America that Christians could live in what I call the mushy middle. You didn’t have to declare yourself regarding your convictions regarding the LGBTQ community, such things as multiple pronouns. But nowadays, it’s very difficult to be in business, it’s difficult to be in education, or any other vocation unless you are a part of the cultural stream. So the question I have in mind, which is always in the back of my mind, is, how do we as believers relate to this, always knowing that we lead with the Gospel, but at the same time recognizing that we have to draw a line in the sand and say, “We can do this, but we can’t do that. We have to stand against the culture”?
Jim: Right, and it seems that’s where, uh, the rub is right now. Some churches are moving left, some churches are moving more conservative. It’s an interesting moment in church history. I think. And part of this, you’re, you’re describing aptly, I mean, this idea that … I was born in the ’60s, so I kind of grew up in the decline, if I could call it that way. I think they removed Bible reading and prayer in the ’60s from public schools. Think of that, I mean, it’s in my lifetime that that was taken out of school. One of the things I’m often puzzled by, especially with my experience as an orphan kid, I can remember people being more upset that somebody, a teacher, played a pivotal role in me coming to Christ. It’s like they would have preferred I was on drugs and doing things that normal teenagers do, but the fact that you were led to God by a public-school teacher, that’s horrific. And by the way, I’m from the ACLU. I mean, isn’t that bizarre that people are that into preventing someone from embracing God and having a life that actually is quite pleasant, and lacking chaos, and generally really healthy.
Dr. Lutzer: Well, you know, if I might put this way, the Bible talks about the fact, “Woe to those who call darkness light, and light darkness.” Well, it used to be, Jim, that darkness was optional, you know? You could go for darkness or you could go for light. But today darkness is being imposed upon us.
Jim: As a virtue.
Dr. Lutzer: As a virtue.
Jim: That’s what’s bizarre.
Dr. Lutzer: And speaking to your point, in the schools, and I hope that we have an opportunity to talk about that because the people who are listening right now, many of them are wrestling those kinds of issues.
Dr. Lutzer: But it’s so important for us to recognize that we have a new moment in American history. It’s a different country.
Dr. Lutzer: And the collapse that we see is happening so rapidly that’s it’s almost impossible to keep up with it. And what we need to do is to say, “Okay, this is happening, but we have a firm foundation.” You know, thinking about hurricanes, when a hurricane comes to an area, it blows most buildings away as we well know. But isn’t it interesting that some remain standing, and if you ask the question, “Why do some remain standing?” I suspect the reason is because their foundation is very deep. And what we need today is Christians who have a very deep foundation in the faith, who are willing to say, “We will not compromise our conscience.” Very critical. Now, Jim, you also raised another question. And you hurried over it, so I’m going to backtrack a little bit.
Dr. Lutzer: You talked about the church. There are three different kinds of churches. There are churches that are complicit, they give the culture whatever the culture wants.
Dr. Lutzer: Then there are those that are complacent. That is to say, they may not agree with the culture, but they will not speak to the culture. They simply live in a bubble and the culture happens and oftentimes their people are given no instruction as to how to encounter this culture. And then there are those that are courageous, who have thought through what the issues are, who know where to draw the lines and to encourage their people to live for Christ, no matter the cost.
Jim: And that, I mean, that is well put. I’m thinking of pastors I have met in places like San Francisco, Seattle. And I … My hat is off to them because really what’s happening, and it’s to your point, there’s no mushy middle now. You either are going to stand firmly for the Lord, not mean-spirited, not antagonistically, but you are going to stand on those principles of truth and what the Bible says over what any city governments, state government, federal government is gonna tell us. You stand firmly on those principles. And I’ve met several of those pastors that you can see the strength in them. Even though they’re living in geographic areas that are very anti-Christian now.
Dr. Lutzer: And it’s not only that, oftentimes what is happening in the legal system. And it’s not just standing against the culture as individuals, though, of course, we have to do that, and as churches. But also, legally now we have tremendous challenges as I’ve mentioned before, as darkness is being mandated. And so we have to fight this battle on multiple levels, culturally, legally, politically, and in all of these different ways.
Jim: Mm. That is again, really well said. The point in the book, though, that I want to draw out right here is you see it as opportunity. That when the world looks dark, when the world looks like it’s against us, that’s usually the Lord sending us a note, saying, “Hey, now’s the time to shine.”
Dr. Lutzer: That’s right. In the first chapter I make the point … And I don’t know who said it first, “That darkness never recedes on its own. It only recedes when it is confronted by a great power.” And you and I know that that greater power is the Gospel of Jesus Christ. We cannot push the darkness back apart from devotion to Christ. Now having said all that, that doesn’t mean that we will not have persecution, that we will not have to pay a price. But the early church taught us something, that persecution and marginalization as we call it today, oftentimes positions us for a great opportunity to witness.
Dr. Lutzer: And maybe I’m ahead of where we’re going, but I have to say, we as Americans have to rethink this whole business of persecution. You see, the average Christian thinks if the church were to be what it should be, we’d be able to sail through, we’d still have the American way of life, all of our freedoms would still be intact. But historically, that’s not been the case. And Paul said, in Philippians I, he said, “For you it is given not only to believe on Christ,” and we love that part of the verse but also, “to suffer for His name.”
Dr. Lutzer: So we as Christians have to rethink our role in society, and we have to think of opposition as a badge of honor. “Blessed are you when men revile you, and persecute you, and say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake.” So we have to reorient ourselves to this new cultural moment.
Jim: Definitely. Y-You referred to this story earlier about the work environment. I think in the book you call it woke-washing. You had a couple of additional stories, one about a, I think, a dentist. Yeah, describe what happened for that poor person.
Dr. Lutzer: Well, I have a dentist friend who had to go to a seminar that had to do with microaggression and unconscious bias.
Jim: That sounds oxymoronic for a dentist.
Dr. Lutzer: Yes, right.
Jim: Microaggression. Ouch.
Dr. Lutzer: (laughs) Yes. Now, what he was being told is, “You have to give deference to the LGBTQ community.” Now, to his credit, this was done online. And he was given the opportunity of asking questions, and he’s the only one who asked a question. His question was this, “I don’t ask my Muslim friends to think it’s a good idea that I eat pork. I don’t expect my atheist clients to think that it’s a good idea that I believe in God. Why should I give deference to the LGBTQ community?” And the answer that he got back was, “Well, you have to understand this is their identity. They’ve often been hurt.” And then, a bit of a warning. “If you don’t, there could be legal consequences.” Now, Jim, if I had had the opportunity to ask the question, this would have been my question. “Do you have some unconscious bias about the fact that I’m a Bible believing Christian?”
Dr. Lutzer: So, what we need to do is understand that somehow tolerance goes only one way and not the other.
John: Mm. Well, these are difficult times we live in, but as Dr. Lutzer has observed, these are opportunities for us as believers in Christ. And we’re so glad you joined us today for Focus on the Family with Jim Daly. Dr. Erwin Lutzer is our guest, and we’re covering some of the territory in his book, No Reason to Hide: Standing for Christ in a Collapsing Culture. Stop by focusonthefamily.com/broadcast or call 1-800, the letter A, and the word FAMILY to get your copy.
Jim: Dr. Lutzer, I want to pick up on something. I guess, we’ll sprinkle hope in here along the way, if I could describe it like that. But in the book, you say the opportunity for believers is either surrender, sink, or swim. Describe that.
Dr. Lutzer: Well, the reason I used that is because of John Kennedy. In World War II, he was on a boat that got torpedoed by the Japanese. And the members of the boat, they had to swim to shore, and then he swam to another island to get help.
Dr. Lutzer: So he was given a medal and during the ceremony he was asked, “How did you become a hero?” And he said, “It was an involuntary decision, they sank my boat,” right?
Dr. Lutzer: So the point that I’m making is this, we have to respond, and how are we going to respond when our boat is being sunk, so to speak?
Dr. Lutzer: We can either surrender to the enemy, we can either drown, or we can swim. And what we need today is heroes, even if they are heroes reluctantly. But we’re being forced into a corner where we have no options. Now, interestingly, in the book that you are featuring today, at the end of every chapter I give a hero. What I want people to do is to see that there are those who have stood against the culture with faithfulness. They have paid a price, but if you live in the light of eternity, you soon discover that it is worth it all.
Jim: Mm. You know, those torpedoes seem to be fast and furious against Christian education. You know, universities. I have good friends who are presidents of universities and we stay in touch with each other. I think because of housing issues and whether or not they provide accommodation to people that don’t behave in ways that suggest they have a deep faith in Christ. That could be the LGBT community or others, um, they’re really in the crosshairs of the culture, state governments, federal government. Speak to the…kind of to the situation of higher learning in Christian universities and colleges and the pressure that they’re under.
Dr. Lutzer: The pressure is enormous. I mention in the book a university that has filed a lawsuit against the federal government because the government is beginning to say that if we have equal rights for the trans community, you must be willing to accept them into the dormitories. Now, Jim, just think of this … We have three daughters, I’m speaking of Rebecca and me, let us suppose that we send them to a Christian school and their roommate was born Bert, but now he claims to be Bernice. How would that make you feel? How would that make me feel? So that’s what it’s coming to. What we need to do is to understand that these schools are under tremendous pressure, and the ACLU has filed a lawsuit against Christian schools, including Moody Bible Institute, because they are saying that if they receive Pell grants from the government, then they have to give these kinds of equal rights. So we must understand that colleges today are under tremendous pressure. And we need to pray for them, they need legal counsel, and we need to understand the reality of our times.
Jim: Yeah, and I think, unfortunately, I think the direction it’s going to go, is they got to get off the federal money.
Dr. Lutzer: Yes, right.
Jim: And the Christian community is going to have to fund … Maybe they can’t afford 150 Christian universities, but maybe 50, and do it well. And then we don’t have to, you know, kind of tap to the song the federal government is requiring of them right now. But that’s a discussion for later. One of the areas which relates to universities, is also just public schools. I mean, the damage being done to kids coming from Christian homes, but all homes, going into K-12 and the indoctrination that’s occurring and being exposed right now is quite amazing. I mean, you hear stories, night after night about, uh, kind of drag parties that they’re doing, explicitly sexual, to 4th graders and 5th graders. I know a TV commentator, a conservative, who said to me, “Where are the fathers? If you’re sexually molesting a child, either physically or indoctrinating them in that direction, why aren’t the dads pounding the doors down, saying, ‘What are you doing to my kids?’” That’s an interesting question. Why are we so quiet when these kids are being exposed to horrific things that … It does hurt them, it harms them in their natural development.
Dr. Lutzer: Jim, you have put it so well. And what we also need to do is to help parents to know how to respond to their children. One of the things I do in the book is, I want to help parents respond if a child comes home and says, “You know, Mom and Dad, I think I’m trans.” How do we answer that? Well, one of the things that the parents have to point out is this, that self-perception is oftentimes not a very accurate guide as to who you are.
Jim: Especially at 12 and 13.
Dr. Lutzer: Exactly. And of course, they have guilt and depression because of what they’re taught in schools. All of us at times have looked into the mirror and wondered where God was when we were put together. And so they’re told, “If you have an image problem, you’re probably trans.” Here’s a young woman, just visualize it, she has anorexia. She looks into the mirror and thinks that she is overweight when in point of fact, she is starving herself to death. Self-perception is not an accurate guide alone to who you are.
Dr. Lutzer: So what we need to do is to help them see, they don’t have a body problem, they have a mind problem. You know, Ayn Rand-
Jim: Spiritual problem too.
Dr. Lutzer: A spiritual problem, very much so. Ayn Rand was not a friend of Christianity, but she said something very wise. She said, “You can avoid reality but you can’t avoid the consequences of avoiding reality.”
Dr. Lutzer: So people today want to avoid reality but the consequences come in.
Jim: You know, one thing is true, and it certainly was true for me in my public-school experience. There are wonderful Christian teachers in public school, and one of them led me to the Lord. Or it certainly had a, uh, a big role to play in me coming to Christ. So we know you’re out there and we know you’re doing a wonderful job for those kids. Um, Dr. Lutzer, everybody tends to look at World War II and Germany, and what took place in Germany, but there are some valuable lessons out of that. When we talk about youth and indoctrination … I believe also you look at the Soviet Union, Lenin and Stalin believe that as well. But Hitler and the other two dictators believe that if you can control the youth, then you have the next generation. Is there some of that occurring right now-
Dr. Lutzer: Absolutely.
Jim: … in the US?
Dr. Lutzer: I think the example of Hitler who said, “You know, you can clothe the child, you can take the child to school, you can feed the child. But the soul will belong to the German Reich.” The souls of our children today are being stolen, and it may not even be the culture out there. It may be the cellphone in your child’s hand.
Dr. Lutzer: The cellphone in your child’s hand will do more to inform his or her worldview than an hour of church and an hour of Bible study. But to your point, one of my favorite topics that we probably will not be able to get into is propaganda. And I say that because I have studied Hitler. Hitler believed that if you have 100,000 people all chanting the same thing, unbelievers will either submit or they will be quiet. And today we have these cultural streams that are so powerful that it’s almost impossible to stand against them. But Booker T. Washington said these words, “Evil doesn’t become good, and wrong doesn’t become right just because the majority believes it to be so.”
Dr. Lutzer: So we need to keep that in mind. One other thing while I’m the topic, you think, for example, about how Hitler camouflaged what he was doing. When he starved children, he called it, “Putting them on a low-calorie diet.” When he was killing the Jews, it was, “cleansing the land.” Now let’s apply that to today, and abortion is healthcare. You believe in strong borders, you are a racist. You are opposed to same-sex marriage? Well, indeed, you are a bigot. So what we need to do is make sure that we understand what is being in the news and in our culture when we’re talking about these issues. Same words, different dictionary.
Jim: Dr. Lutzer, in your book you quoted a retired superior judge, I think from North Carolina, Phil Ginn, who made a dire prediction about social workers. And we’re seeing this come to pass in different states. And here’s the thing, in the current tech world, these stories get played. We hear about them when social services come to the door and knock. And say, “Well, because you’re not going to allow your 11-year-old to transition with puberty blockers and getting mastectomies at that age, we’re going to take your children from you, put them in foster care and give you one hour a week to meet with them.” That actually took place in Ohio, I believe. So these things we’re hearing about, and you make a point of that through Phil Ginn, the former judge’s observation. What did he say?
Dr. Lutzer: What he said is that social service officers may come to your house under the conditions that you just outlined. So once again, parents need to be ready, their faith needs to be strong, they need to be given wisdom by God as to how to respond. But they cannot throw their children to the wolves. And I would just shout to every parent listening today, God is going to hold you accountable for the education of your children. Now you might loan them to a school to educate, but in the process you have to keep in touch with that school, you have to know what the child is being taught because God is going to say, “I loaned these children to you and how have you trained them?”
Dr. Lutzer: Critical question.
Jim: Yeah, and again, I’d say get involved. Be part of the school board, get engaged. Know what’s being taught in the school. Those are minimal requirements, in my opinion, today. We’re right at the end, we’ve talked about a lot of heavy topics today. And I want to come back next time, if you’ll stick with us, and we’ll do day two. But speak about hope. Here we are, the Lord chose us to be in this generation, there’s a lot coming down on us, Lord, Lord. What’s the hope that we have?
Dr. Lutzer: I want to give you an illustration. At the Moody Church we had a young pastor and his wife, and they were having their first child. And, uh, she was taken into the delivery room, of course, and suddenly, the young father, who was also in the delivery room, noticed that there was panic in the delivery room. The reason is because the little baby, she, was actually caught in the birth canal. And a doctor came over to this young man, in his fear, in his panic, looked him square in the eye, and said this, “In a moment this room is going to be filled with 20 people. There’s going to be a lot of buzz, but you relax because we’ve been here before. We know what we are doing and everything is going to be okay.”
Dr. Lutzer: Now you can watch CNN from early in the morning till late at night, you can watch Fox News from early in the morning until late at night, and it will not feed your soul. We need to watch these channels to know what is going on in the world, but I urge everyone who is listening, take time to hear the voice of God. Because you’re going to be controlled by the voice that you listen to. Go to the word of God. Remind yourself of how this story is going to end. The fact that God rules, and despite all that is happening in the world, God has at least two words for us. Namely, “Number one, I know what I am doing. And in the end, everything is going to be okay.” And one other word, “Remember this, the only thing that really matters is that which matters for all eternity.”
Jim: And that is a great place to end, and uplifting. Dr. Lutzer, thank you for being with us. We’ll come back next time. For the listener and the viewer, what a great resource, No Reason to Hide. It’s real encouragement to us as Christians to be bold in our faith, to be honest, to be truthful, and yet compassionate, understanding. Our hearts do go out for those who are confused sexually. You know, we believe as Christians what they need is that encounter with Christ. To begin to show them their true identity, made in his image, and we all strive for that. And we all fail in that pursuit at times. And what a great reminder, Dr. Lutzer, thank you for being with us.
Dr. Lutzer: Thanks, Jim.
Jim: Get a copy, make a donation to Focus. Be a part of the ministry. Help us to help families. And if you can do that on a monthly basis or one-time gift, we’ll send you a copy of Dr. Lutzer’s book as our way of saying thank you for participating in ministry with us.
John: Join the support team today and request your copy of No Reason to Hide: Standing for Christ in a Collapsing Culture. And we’ve got copies of that, and your opportunity to donate at focusonthefamily.com/broadcast, or call 800, the letter A, and the word FAMILY. 800-232-6459. On behalf of Jim Daly and the entire team, thanks for joining us today for Focus on the Family. Join us next time as we continue the conversation with Dr. Lutzer, and once again help you and your family thrive in Christ.