MARY REICHARD, HOST: It’s Friday, the 5th of July, 2019. Glad to have you along for today’s edition of The World and Everything in It. Good morning, I’m Mary Reichard.
NICK EICHER, HOST: And I’m Nick Eicher.
John Stonestreet is here now. He’s president of the Colson Center for Christian Worldview, and hope your Fourth of July was terrific, John, good morning to you.
JOHN STONESTREET, GUEST: Yeah, had a great time. Was with family in California and hope you guys had a good Fourth as well.
EICHER: I bring this up, because of course the national festivities were not without controversy. In the days leading up, we had a shoes-and-apparel company pulling its Betsy Ross flag design sneaker. We had Resistance Twitter expressing all kinds of anger online about the expenditure of $2.5 million to pay for the president’s tank parade, with some even comparing it to Tiananmen Square.
Now, John, of course, our citizenship is in heaven, but is there anything unseemly about patriotism? And does all the controversy say anything special this year about the culture?
STONESTREET: It says, I think, we’ve hit a place where our priorities are such that everything now is tainted by politics. Listen, we’ve had political divides for a long time, but patriotism itself was not something that was seen as an issue on the left or on the right. And there were these holidays where we would literally be able to come together and remember why we have the ability to have these sorts of conversations and disagreements, as we kind of think what is the best way forward.
But in some quarters, being sufficiently woke means being fundamentally anti-American. In other quarters, it’s any critique of our nation and any of its policies is un-American. And the fact of the matter is neither of those things are true.
To be an American has meant two things. Number one is that patriotism fundamentally is an issue of stewardship. That this is something that we have to protect and keep. This is not a government or a nation or a history that we deserve. It’s one that we have been given and have to continually protect.
This is something that Os Guinness has said, I think, a number of times, rightly so. Especially in his book A Free People Suicide that it’s not unusual to win freedom, but what’s unusual is to keep freedom. And in the name of keeping freedom, when you have kind of thugs beating up journalists in Portland and so on and so on and so on, it’s clear that we may not be the sort of people anymore that have the capacity to steward well this gift that we’ve been given.
On the other hand, to say that we can’t critique, we can’t say anything negative about our president without being accused of being a kind of closet progressive or something like that is equally as ridiculous. The best way to steward our country is to be able to do both. When you think about the immigration issue. When you think about the crisis at the border. When you think about abortion. When you think about same-sex marriage and LGBT rights and the balance between religious freedom and sexual freedom, all these things require an act of participation and an ability, also, to say where we’re right and where we’re wrong.
And there’s just no other way around that. We’re going to have to do it. I think, people throughout history who have demonstrated that sustaining freedom is a lot harder than winning freedom.
EICHER: I don’t want this week to go by without asking for your thoughts on the death of Norman Geisler. He was a prolific author, educator, evangelist, and Christian apologist, famously calling his method a “cross between Thomas Aquinas and Billy Graham.”
Let’s listen now to Geisler tell one of his famous stories:
GEISLER: We’re standing on skid row, a few weeks after I was saved and a drunk staggered up to me. This is what he said. He said, ‘I’m a graduate of Moody-Insta-Bible-Toot,’ and he grabbed my Bible and he said, ‘You’re not supposed to be out here telling people about Jesus.’ Grabbed my Bible and opened it. It was a red-letter edition with Jesus’ words in red, and he pointed right to the verse. He said, ‘Look at there, Jesus said, “go and tell no man.”’ I looked at it and sure enough, that’s what it said! He said, ‘Now, get outta here!’ I had a choice. I had to either stop witnessing or get answers. I chose the latter. That’s called apologetics, giving a defense for the Christian faith.
John, what do you want to say about Norman Geisler?
STONESTREET: Yeah, he was a giant. There’s no other way to kind of think about that. He published an incredible amount during his career, and—even more than that—if you kind of looked at the overall tributes that we saw on Twitter and social media and other places, the number of people who he influenced is really incredible.
I was one of them. I remember he came to my college when I was a student about to graduate. Had full plans to jump right into seminary and we had about an hour and a half with Dr. Geisler as a senior class and he had deeply influenced our lead Bible professor at this college and was a big influence on him.
And so we had that opportunity as senior Bible majors to spend time just asking questions. And one of the questions that was asked had to do with seminary. And Dr. Geisler said, you know, look, you’ve been in school now for 16 straight years, from basically kindergarten through graduating college. Take a year off. Go do something before going to seminary. And it was interesting how many of us actually took his advice. I did and I’m really glad that I did, that I didn’t jump right out of college into seminary. And there were things that happened in that year in between that just proved Dr. Geisler’s advice to be really wise.
He also, then, later on wrote the foreword to the first book that I was involved in, a second edition of a worldview text. Geisler, of course, launched so many people into the world of apologetics, including people that he would eventually end up disagreeing with. And that’s the other thing about Geisler is he was a fighter and he would defend—you know, I don’t know how we want to say it, he would defend the faith against all enemies, real and supposed, domestic and foreign, and that was kind of one of his traits that oftentimes created a wake behind him, for better or for worse.
But, seriously, the overall impact that he had on the world of Christian theology and apologetics is worth honoring.
Working at Summit Ministries late, late in his career, he came out and spoke to students. And, you know, this is a guy who for many would have presumed to be way past “his prime,” but he continually called people into this work. He continually inspired them. He continually tried to equip them. And he deserves that sort of honor. It’s a giant.
And I think, also, many people are noting as well that he’s another one in that line of the last generation of folks who really worked in this space and beyond that. And there also, then, is a question for the rest of us: how do we serve faithfully for decades and decades and decades? And how do we make sure that when the torch is taken from our hands, there’s someone else to give it to.
EICHER: John Stonestreet is president of the Colson Center for Christian Worldview. It’s Culture Friday. John, thanks!
STONESTREET: Thanks, Nick.