On April 1, Bellevue Women gathered for Live God’s Truth, a women’s conference with Alisa Childers. After three incredible and thought–provoking sessions that covered topics of apologetics and standing up for God’s truth in a culture that promotes the opposite, our Pastor’s wife, Donna Gaines, sat down with Alisa for a question–and–answer segment, based on questions submitted by the audience.
Donna: How do you balance showing the love of Christ with the truth of sin when encountering someone who has chosen the homosexual lifestyle, especially those claiming to be Christians?
Alisa: These are two very different questions. Let’s deal with the non–Christian first. I would say, treat them no differently than anyone else who’s not a Christian. There’s nothing special or more condemning about homosexual sin than any other sin. There needs to be no special treatment with that issue.
The reason it becomes a different question when it is someone claiming to be a believer is because there aren’t many sins that people try to sanctify. You don’t find many people who say, “Oh, I’m a Christian who enjoys robbing liquor stores.” Typically, people understand sinful behavior. I would say that it is becoming more common for couples to live together before they are married, and sexual sin of any stride, the Bible says, is sin against your own body. So there is, perhaps, a deeper consequence within our own bodies with sexual sin. I would say that for people who claim to be Christians, they need to be brought to repentance. And that’s not just homosexual sin; that’s any sexual sin—any flagrant sin in their lives that they are not repentant of. We are to call one another to repentance.
There’s a book coming out, by Rosaria Butterfield, Five Lies of Our Anti-Christian Age. She goes deep into transgenderism and LGBTQ issues. If you're not familiar with her, she’s a formerly tenured professor of queer theory at Syracuse University, living a lesbian lifestyle. She got saved out of that. It is the book that will help you stand up to the spirit of the age, I really believe. But she’s just unequivocal about that. We have to call one another to repentance, and we have to believe that God’s message for the homosexual community is a good one. We can’t be ashamed of the Gospel, thinking we’re going to be condemning people to a life of celibacy, because we don’t know what’s going to happen. Lead people to Jesus, and let the Lord work in their lives what He will. We have story after story, Rosaria included, of the Lord changing some of those desires. Others haven’t experienced that change, but it’s not impossible, and it’s not fixed and immutable like culture wants you to believe.
Donna: How do we not live in constant fear of being misled by the things we consume like books, sermons, podcasts, or music?
Alisa: I would say, number one, just make sure you’re in your Bible. Every day. You have such a gift in the Word of God—to apply the Word of God to everything you read or hear, including me—anything I’ve said up here, you have to take that to the Word of God. In our culture, we tend to put people on pedestals and follow that person you think is safe—I am not safe for you. The people I think are safe for me are not. There might be people I think are reliable, and I might listen to see, “What are they saying about this?” and then I’ll judge that, but don’t ever take anyone, myself included, as your authority for how to navigate a particular social topic because we’re all wrong on something. I promise you.
But the Word of God is not wrong. It will never fail you. But I would say this–I think one really valuable thing that every Christian should do is learn some basic interpretive techniques of how to read the Bible properly. A book you should definitely get is called How to Read the Bible for All Its Worth by Gordon D. Fee and Douglas Stuart. The Bible’s about God. It’s not about you. And it’s not even to you. There are genres, figures of speech, all sorts of things to consider. Once you have those tools, measure everything you read, and make sure you’re in the Word of God more than you’re in anything else. Don’t even listen to my podcast if you’re not in the Word of God every day. Take the time you would have listened to my podcast to read the Bible because that’s much more important.
Donna: How should we as Christians respond when asked for our pronouns, or asked to use other people’s? Is there a response that speaks truth but isn’t unnecessarily offensive?
Alisa: I want to start by saying, I know it’s easy for me to sit up here, where I’m not in a school, or have a corporate job where my life is on the line, so you need to navigate this as best you can. But I think ultimately, as Christians, we cannot be forced to live by lies. My friend, Frank Turek has been fired from two jobs for standing up for biblical marriage, and that’s what propelled him into full-time apologetics ministry. So, I would just encourage you, don’t live by lies. When you start living by lies, that is exactly what happened on the Eastern Bloc. Christians started living by lies, and they ended up in gulags. We have to stand up, and we can’t compromise. I think a name is okay. I think names are not necessarily gender specific. You know, my daughter’s name is Dylan. Or, if a girl changes her name from Sarah to Sue, I’m going to call her Sue. But the pronoun, that’s speaking a lie about somebody. That’s saying that’s not true, and that’s agreeing with a lie, and I don’t think we can do it.
Donna: Where would you point someone who is in the middle of the faith crisis, like you experienced?
Alisa: My encouragement to you, if you’re in the middle of a faith crisis, is to just always remember that whatever one side of the story is that you’ve heard, there’s another side to the story, and there’s debate over almost everything. So, just because someone says to you, “The Bible got this wrong,” or “This is a contradiction,” just hold that with a loose hand, really investigate that, and do the hard work to know what other people are saying about that. There have always been scholars who are aware of all these arguments and are still faithful, Bible-believing Christians. There’s a reason for that. So don’t make up your mind too quickly, but also seek out God–honoring resources. A book I would strongly recommend is Jinger Dugger Vuolo’s book, Becoming Free Indeed. In the book, she goes into the very strict, legalistic teachings that you’ll see are very unbiblical, but instead of deconstructing everything, she did what she calls disentangling, and she tried to find out what the Bible said is true about these things—and it’s really cost her a lot—but it’s a wonderful book on how to really unthread all of that stuff when it’s all tied together.
Donna: The Enneagram is very popular right now. What is your view of it? Many churches talk about it, and people even do Bible studies based around it.
Alisa: I don’t like the Enneagram, but if you do, I’m not going to say you’re not a Christian, or we’re not brothers and sisters in Christ, or anything like that. I do caution Christians about the Enneagram. I think a lot of Christians are unaware of its occultic beginnings and even its lack of scientific validity. I think it could very easily become an idol, where it’s almost the thing where we see ourselves through that lens only. One of my main concerns with the Enneagram is that you can trace its history in the evangelical church to Richard Rohr. Richard Rohr wrote the book on the Enneagram that made the Enneagram popular in the evangelical church and he is a heretic. He is a Progressive Christian who has absolutely heretical views about Jesus and the Bible and God, and yet everybody bought his Enneagram book, and I think, this is my opinion—I’m not a sociologist or a historian—but I think it brought the Enneagram and progressive Christianity with it into the evangelical church. People started buying his other books, and then people endorsed him, and the whole thing just kind of exploded, so I would just urge caution with the Enneagram. I don’t think you need it. I would rather everybody not do it. I don’t think it’s anything that’s necessary for us as Christians. We have the Holy Spirit to convict us of our sin, and I think that the temptation to then see yourself through that lens and let that almost become an idol is very strong with the Enneagram.
Donna: How would you define deconstruction?
Alisa: Yes, my definition is not popular. There are lots of people who would disagree with me, but I have spent years researching it, more specifically and intensely this last year, and deconstruction is a word that lots of people define in lots of different ways. Deconstruction, as it manifests online, is not based on the authority of the Bible, or even based on the authority of objective truth. It’s based on the authority of the self. It starts with the rejection of objective truth, which says, “Well, what is my truth? What are my theological beliefs based on what I find, personally, to be helpful or harmful, toxic or healthy, oppressive or liberating?”
I agree we should reject toxic theology, but we can’t know what toxic theology is unless we first know what’s true. With the deconstruction hashtag online—original sin, the doctrine of hell, substitutionary atonement—these things are all viewed as toxic, and so people are rejecting them based on their own moral compass. I think that is very dangerous, and it’s going to lead you away from God. Deconstruction is rooted in postmodernism. Jacques Derrida, a French philosopher is called the Father of Deconstruction. He didn’t believe words could be pinned down to singular meanings. Derrida thought that the intent of the author had no more bearing on the meaning of the words than the interpretation of the hearer. We see that all over deconstruction. It’s a very postmodern thing that’s happening. So, my definition, as simple as I can make it is, deconstruction is rethinking your beliefs through the lens of self, and I would say, Christians should not do that.
Press into your doubts. Ask the hard questions. Seek truth. Get rid of bad theology, yes. Do all that stuff, but call that something else. Call that reformation. Call that being a Christian. Call that testing all things, as the Bible tells us to do. But deconstruction is a very postmodern thing that is not healthy in my view.
Donna: Do you have any words of encouragement for moms who are watching their children struggle with their faith?
Alisa: Yes. I do have encouragement for moms. The first thing I would tell you is that it is not all on you. Throughout this research, I have met some of the most vibrant, beautiful Christian couples who have kids who walked away from God. And then, you’ll meet these people who barely were Christians themselves, and their kids are strong Christians. So, people turn out all kinds of ways.
But, I will tell you this. If you have young kids, there are some things I would really recommend you doing. This may surprise you. Definitely, disciple your kids. Teach them apologetics. Teach them the Word of God. But even more than that, gather around the table as much as you can. Have dinners together. Let them see you live out your faith authentically. Repent to them and in front of them when necessary. I think those things are more powerful than an apologetics class for kids.
We’ve all heard about the studies of kids who’ve left the church after high school. To my knowledge, there’s only been one done on the kids who didn’t leave, and there were some very similar things in the home. They had one person in their life who was a real genuine Christian. And that could be you. They gather around the table, four or five times a week for dinner. They had at least one faith encounter outside of Sunday morning church, and by faith encounter, I mean that faith was practiced. So the family opened the Bible or prayed together. In other words, the family lived it. I hope to encourage you with that. Even when you feel like you have failed or you reacted terribly to something, just go to your kids and say, “I am so sorry. This is weird for me. I’m trying to navigate this. Will you forgive me? I really want to be here for you, and I'm sorry.” Let them see you repent. Let them see you live out the beauty of the Gospel in your own life. And really, this is why I think the whole LGBT thing is such an attack on the family. There’s almost nothing that will anchor people more than family. Just nurture the family.
Donna: Absolutely, and I encourage you in that as well. Passion is caught more than it is taught. So if you’re passionately pursuing Christ yourself and you are valuing His Word and spending time in His Word, your children will see that. They see how you invest your time, what you talk about, and that tells them what’s really important to you.
What are some of the other historical documents that cite the observation that Christians believe Jesus is Lord? I teach high school history at a private school. I’d love to show them to my students.
Alisa: Oh, wow, that’s great! I do have a blog post on my website called, 10 Historical Facts About Jesus From Non-Christian Sources citing Emperor Trajan, Pliny the Younger, and Josephus among others. They’re all footnoted, and all those early sources are available for free online.
I would also recommend looking up Gary Habermas. He’s a historian who has documented a lot of these [historical manuscripts]. There’s a book called The Earliest Christian Confessions by Oscar Cullmann, and every creed that’s in the New Testament is documented in that book. Gary Habermas is the editor on that. I don’t know what the rules are, like if you could read it from the Bible, but if you use the Gospels and the letters of Paul as historical documents, you could show early creeds that are recorded there.
Donna: Would you say that churches are adequately equipping young people and adults for the current challenges, and if you see some doing that well, what ways do you recommend churches do that?
Alisa: Well, that’s hard for me to say, because I don’t know what most churches are doing all the time. I do think there are some great examples being set like Prestonwood Baptist in Dallas. They just brought on a pastor of apologetics and worldview and they’re actively discipling kids with training of apologetics and knowing what they believe and why. If I could get every youth pastor in America in one room, I would beg them to incorporate apologetics into absolutely every lesson, because you can’t just do a once-a-year series of why we believe the Bible is true.
When you’re reading through the Bible with your kids, which I hope that’s what you’re doing. You need to be engaging with absolutely every apologetic challenge as you go. This is what I do with my kids. When we read through the Bible, if there’s a verse I know skeptics are all over, I just explain that. I say, “Ok, look. Here’s what skeptics say about this, and here’s what I think about it. What do you think about it?” Just so they’re aware. In many of the deconstruction stories, kids are not even aware that anybody had a different view than them. There are people who have deconstructed because they found out that there’s a group of Christians that believe differently about predestination or something. So, introduce the idea that there are these essentials, and then here are some other things that you’re going to need to form your opinions on based on what you think the Bible teaches, and here are some good resources. Teach kids to think critically, knowing that there are many views out there that they’re going to have to engage with.
Donna: Encourage children to ask questions—your own children, or if you teach youth. If they have a question during their daily Bible reading, bring it to church on Sunday. Write it down somewhere. Let’s talk about that, and don’t be afraid to say, “I don’t know. Let’s research that this week, and let’s come back next week, and compare what we’ve found.”
Alisa: That’s honestly sometimes the best answer. “I don’t know, but that’s a great question!” Then your kids feel super smart. Totally agree with that!
About Alisa Childers
From Alisa’s website: alisachilders.com
As a lifelong church-goer, follower of Jesus, and former CCM recording artist with the Dove award-winning group ZOEgirl, I experienced a period of profound doubt about my faith in my mid-thirties. I felt as though I had been tossed in a stormy ocean of uncertainty with no life jacket or lifeboat in sight. I didn’t know where to find answers to my questions, or if answers existed at all. Did I have to accept it all on some kind of blind faith? I began to investigate my faith intellectually—I took seminary classes and read everything I could get my hands on. This began my journey from unreasoned doubt into a vibrant, rational, and informed faith.