Spring 2023 Series

This spring we are looking at some of the top arguments against Christianity in order to understand why we believe what we believe and to "Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have." - 1 Peter 3:15 

Topics we plan on studying include:

- How can I believe in a faith that's based on an ancient book?

- Hasn't Science made belief in God unnecessary? 

- Doesn't the Bible denigrate women? 

- Jesus is the only way exclusiveness is nonsensical, arrogant, & offensive. 

- Isn't God homophobic?  

- If God is real, powerful, & good, why is there evil & suffering?  

- I don't need God to be a good person. 

- How can I be a believer if I have doubts about what I believe?  

- How could it be that Jesus really rose from the dead?  

- Miracles are impossible.   

Websites and Articles

  • Reasonable Faith Website

    One of the resources Pastor Bill recommends is the Reasonable Faith website.  This source is an "intelligent, articulate, and uncompromising yet gracious Christian perspective on the most important issues concerning the truth of the Christian faith today."  This site touches on relevant and deep questions with intellectual insight. 

  • Cold Case Christianity Article

    Another recommended resource is from the author of Cold Case Christianity, J. Warner Wallace. This article about The Evidence for the Resurrection helps put some of the questions about the event into historical perspective. You can dive deeper by visiting https://coldcasechristianity.com/

  • Bible Project Website

    Drawing on mainstream scholarship The Bible Project features short engaging videos on the backgrounds and teachings of each book of the Bible and key biblical themes. They also include suggestions for personal study plans.

Resources: Media


Hard Question Submission Form

Questions and Responses

Here's where you can find the responses to the questions we have received. 

  • QUESTION A: Do we immediately go to heaven when we die? Or do we wait till 2nd coming? I know there will be a new heaven then but does that mean we lay insensate till then? Where did Jesus go when He "descended into hell."

    QUESTION B: Where did Jesus go after he was crucified? The Apostle’s Creed says he ascended to hell. But in Luke 23:43, Jesus says to the other criminal being crucified, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in paradise.” I recently heard a sermon preached on Good Friday, the Pastor stated that our debt was owed to God not to Satan and that Jesus ascending to hell was a misinterpretation of Ephesians 4:9. He went on to say that Jesus, alive in the spirit, went to proclaim to the spirits in prison, 1 Peter 3:18-20. This was all news to me. Pastor Bill recently preached on this 1 Peter 3 passage, but he said verses 18-20 were confusing and he didn’t talk about them. So where did Jesus go after he was crucified, his body was in the tomb, but where was his spirit? Thank you for your time.

    ANSWER: I (Bill) believe that the weight of the New Testament is strongly on the side of a final resurrection when Jesus returns with a new physical body in a new physical creation. 

         When it comes to the future for Jesus’ followers, the key New Testament term is not heaven but resurrection.  I’m thinking of passages like 1 Corinthians 15 which emphasize the physicality of our future resurrected bodies.  Even when, in vs. 44 and following Paul expounds about “natural” and “spiritual” bodies, you can see in the text that this is not a contrast between bodies that are material with those that are immaterial, but between a body that is corruptible, subject to decay and harm, and one that is not.  But both the natural and spiritual bodies are physical.  

          When the writers of Scripture do speak of heaven they generally are not speaking about a specific place, but rather the presence of God - there’s actually very little in the Bible itself about “going to heaven.”   When Jesus speaks of the “Kingdom of Heaven” he's speaking to people - often challenging them - to be living in this kingdom in their present, not at some point in the future.  

          In Philippians 3:20-21.  we have a statement from Paul that brings together heaven and resurrection: 

    But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, 21 who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body.

    Breaking this down: 

    • “our citizenship (our identity and loyalty)  is (in the present)  in heaven (with God, in His presence) ”

    • “And we eagerly await ( something to come in the future) a Savior from there (from the very presence of God)  the Lord Jesus Christ” 

    • “.... will (in the future) transform (radically change) our lowly (perishable) bodies so that they will be (future) like his glorious body” (Jesus’ resurrected body that death could not conquer).  

        Those who want to promote the notion of going to be in heaven, which again I suggest means into the very presence of God immediately after death, often cite Jesus words to the thief dying next to him, “Today you will be with me in paradise” (Luke 23:43).  I believe there may be something to the suggestion of New Testament scholars that paradise here refers not to one’s final destination, but as in other Jewish writings to a blissful garden, a place of tranquility where the dead are refreshed as they await the dawn of the day when Christ returns.   Note though that this implies something more than, as the original question suggests, “we lay insensate til then?”  N.T. Wright puts it like this:  

    “... all the Christians departed are in substantially the same state, that of restful happiness.  Though this is sometimes described as sleep, we should not take this to mean that it is a state of unconsciousness.  Had Paul thought that, I very much doubt that he would have described life immediately after death as ‘being with Christ, which is far better.’”  (Phil. 1:21)  - N.T. Wright, Surprised by Hope, p. 171

    As for “where did Jesus go when He ‘descended into hell.’?”   My usual response to this question is to cough and try to change the subject!  

          Those who seek to support this statement in the Apostles’ Creed with Scripture cite Ephesians 4:8-10 which refers to Jesus’ having “ascended on high” and who also “descended into the lower, earthly regions.”    And 1 Peter 3:19-20, a passage that New Testamentscholars find obscure as it speaks of Jesus, going to preach to the souls of those who died in the flood in Noah’s day.   

          I am not at all convinced that these passages refer to Jesus literally descending into hell.   Furthermore, if we understand hell to indicate eternal separation from God, how would this apply to Jesus who then “on the third day he was raised again from the dead, he ascended into heaven ….”?  

        Therefore I take the statement metaphorically to indicate that Jesus, as he bore the sins of the world on the Cross, experienced temporarily, what complete separation from God was like.  And that this is of incredible comfort to us when we experience extreme trials and difficulties that make us wonder if God understands.  This position is expressed well in this statement form the Heidelberg Catechism, one of our core confessional documents: 

    Heidelberg Catechism Q & A 44

    Q. Why does the creed add,
    “He descended to hell”?

    A. To assure me during attacks of deepest dread and temptation
    that Christ my Lord,

    by suffering unspeakable anguish, pain, and terror of soul,

    on the cross but also earlier,

    has delivered me from hellish anguish and torment.1

    1 Isa. 53; Matt. 26:36-46; 27:45-46; Luke 22:44; Heb. 5:7-10

  • QUESTION: My understanding is that sin is breaking one of God's laws, The example, the ten commandments. Or, putting something that may be good before God. (Of course, isn't this breaking the ten commandments?.) Now a question I have been wondering about for a long time, and need some evidence. Did Adam and Eve sin? Also, since there was no ten commandments at the time, I assume they sinned, but without eternal consequences after they died. Do you have some references for this questions?

    ANSWER: Before addressing the question about Adam and Eve’s sinning or not: “putting something that may be good before God” actually is a serious breach of Commandment # 2 regarding idolatry.  Putting something before God is at the heart of what idolatry most fundamentally is.  And I point this out not to be nit picky, but because I think it helps us see how the 10 Commandments are applicable in our culture where people don’t literally make physical objects and worship them as gods.   

    While Adam and Eve did not have the 10 Commandments, they - or at least Adam specifically - did have a command from God which they violated: “you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it, you shall surely die.” (Gen. 2:17).

    If the essence of sin is to not live in accordance with the revealed will of God - of which the 10 Commandments are a summary - then we have to say Adam and Eve sinned.  In his Sermon on the Mount Jesus emphasizes that sin goes beyond external deeds to attitudes of the heart and mind - see, for example, his teaching about murder, adultery, and truth telling in Matthew chapter 5.  1 John 3:23 speaks of God’s command “to believe in the name of the Son, Jesus Christ, and to love one another as he commanded us.” And Romans chapter 1 speaks of those who don’t have the law - including the 10 Commandments - as without excuse for sin because the creation itself witnesses to the reality of God to whom we are accountable.  

    A major consequence of Adam and Eve’s sin was that it caused death to enter the world for the human race.  Traditionally Christians have understood this to mean physical death, .i.e. Had Adam and Eve not sinned they would not have physically died.  This is also how Christians have traditionally understood the connection between sin and death, and between us and Adam and Eve: because Adam & Eve sinned, sin has been part of human DNA ever since; and as Adam and Eve died as a result of sin, so for us the fact that we are sinners means we must die. (Not that every death is directly caused by some specific sin, but that our sinfulness is the ultimate reason why we must die.)

    Did Adam and Eve’s sin have eternal consequences for themselves?  I don’t know.  However if the answer is “no”, I don’t think it’s because, as your question suggests, the 10 Commandments had not yet been given.   As stated above, even without God’s Big 10, Adam and Eve disobeyed the direct command of God.  The reason why the answer to this part of your question is somewhat of a mystery for me is because it’s part of the larger question of the eternal consequences - or not - of sin before that time in history when God sent his savior, Jesus.  

  • QUESTION: My question is two part. The first part is around the topic of being single - the Bible talks about love, marriage, how the woman is a suitable helper for the man (as it was not good for man to be alone), but why do some people long to have a relationship/spouse/etc, but still remain single/alone (not in the friends/family aspect, but spouse area)? My second part is about prayer - why do some genuine prayers get answered and others do not when Matthew 7:7-8 says "ask and it will be given, seek/find, knock/door opened...." (I have appreciated this sermon series as being a follower of Jesus is not easy at times and we all have either been asked hard questions or have had some ourselves). Thank you!

    ANSWER: Wonderful questions that do not have an easy (or short) answer!

    In regards to marriage: we see in Scripture an affirmation of both marriage and singleness! As you state correctly, in the beginning, God says, "It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him." (Gen. 2:18). And throughout Scripture, God likens marriage to his love to the world (e.i. Hosea). On the other end, Jesus himself remains single throughout his ministry, and the Apostle Paul uplifts singleness as something to be desired, "I wish that all of you were as I am [single]. But each of you has your own gift from God; one has this gift, another has that. Now to the unmarried and the widows I say: It is good for them to stay unmarried, as I do. But if they cannot control themselves, they should marry, for it is better to marry than to burn with passion." 1 Corinthians 7:7-9

    So it seems one is not the ideal over the other. Both are used by God for His various purposes (in the Methodist Church, Singleness is even considered a spiritual gift!). But to the point, why does singleness sometimes prevail when there is such a desire for marriage? In a sense, the answer can be tied together with your second question of why God sometimes doesn't give the good gifts we desire.

    First, it is proper to affirm that it is not that God is not concerned with our concerns, "Cast your anxiety on Him, for He cares for you." - I Peter 5:7. But it is equally proper to remind ourselves of this: The desire for marriage is in proper perspective when it is a desire for marriage for Christ’s sake. This is true of all our genuine prayers for good things. They are framed best within a mindset that God should be our foremost desire, and good things such as marriage or money, are gracious gifts to be used for Him. A father enjoys giving good gifts to his children (Matthew 7:11), but a father knows better than his child when and what gifts are appropriate. This is often difficult to accept. If marriage is not given or a good prayer request is not answered, it is not because God does not care, but because God does care and knows that there is something better beyond those things.

    The Apostle Paul desired to be healthy and have his "thorn in his flesh" removed (2 Corinthians 12), which was a good and appropriate request. But we are not told God gives him his desire. Instead, Paul carries out this burden, as he states, "in order to keep me from becoming conceited" (v. 7). Somehow, even though it is not fully comprehended, Paul is denied his good request for his benefit.

    I do not claim to understand the full complexity of how and why God chooses to give or deny good things. At the end of it all, though, the stories of Scripture make evident that He is wise and trustworthy enough for us to give over our desires to Him and have faith that whatever is given or held from us, it is ultimately for our good and His glory. 

    -Luke Fugate (Youth and Young Adults Director)