After Mike White tackled tough subjects in his messages on cancel culture and the politicized church, we wanted to give YOU the opportunity to have your hottest questions answered! Joined by Lead Pastor Greg Griffith and Pastor of Faith Formation Roger Theimer, Mike took questions live from the audience about purgatory, adding to the Lord’s prayer, acting in love to the LBGTQ+ community, and more. Here are a few questions and answers from the hour-long session:
Hot Topics: Questions from the Crowd
1. How is someone who never hears about Christ in their lifetime expected to come to God? Are they predestined to hell? How is this fair to them? (6:00)
Greg: “Fairness was lost at the fall in the Garden (of Eden). At that point, nothing in life anymore is fair. We see the full unjust and unfairness with Christ at the cross. We have to be really careful when we talk about ‘fair’ and trying to hold God to what our sense of morality says fairness should be.
“As for those who haven’t heard (the message), we hold every single one to the characteristics of God. Our God is a grace-filled God who is filled with love and mercy and desires no one to go to hell. At that point, we just leave that in the hands of our merciful Lord and Savior who is a just God. What He does is up to Him. It’s not my place to know or judge or say that’s right or wrong. What I do know is what He’s told us for those who have heard, so let’s spend our time talking about those who have heard and try to make sure everyone has a chance to hear the good news of Jesus.”
Mike: “Psalm 19 says, ‘The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of His hands. Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they reveal knowledge. They have no speech, they use no words; no sound is heard from them. Yet their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world.’ I think by seeing nature, God has revealed Himself to people. They can see there is something that’s revealed. Does that mean they would call on Jesus? I don’t know, but I think we have a God of grace, a God of mercy, and I don’t think on judgement day anyone is going to say, ‘I didn’t get a fair shake at this.’”
2. Do our own interpretations of God, Jesus, and Christianity matter for our salvation? What matters in salvation? (25:00)
Greg: “It’s the resurrection. That’s the linchpin of our faith. That’s it.”
Roger: “That is it, because the finished and completed work of Christ, the atoning work of His life, death, and resurrection on our behalf is what saves us. It is not a quiz at the end of the show. It’s not a body of information. It’s not a matter of who’s got it right or wrong. However, certain teachings are essential, such as ‘Who do you say that I am?’ (Matthew 16:15)”
Greg: “We do not say that faith saves you because it doesn’t. Jesus saves you. It’s all about Jesus. Our faith is a product of the gift given to us by Jesus that we then live out. It’s really hard because mentally it makes zero sense. We naturally want to say, ‘I’ve got to do something.’ We as Lutherans say our works will always be incomplete. It is only in the work of Jesus Christ that we are saved.”
3. How does one rectify the idea that God doesn’t make mistakes with the idea that people are born gay or lesbian and the church seems to be anti-homosexual? (32:30)
Greg: “God is perfect, so He does not make mistakes. But we are fallen, so we all have the stain of sin and the propensities to enjoy sins and certain sins upon all of us. None of us taught our children to be bad. None of us taught our kids to hit or take things from others. The fact that we are born with a propensity to sin is not a reflection on God; it’s a reflection of our fallenness and the need that every one of us, from the moment of conception, has for a perfect Savior and salvation.
“Evangelical Christians have appeared to be anti-gay, and we should not appear to be anti-gay. We should be anti-sin of all sins. We should say, ‘We are not for wickedness or sinfulness, and we recognize that the church is not perfect, but it’s a hospital for sinners that worship a perfect Savior to forgive us.’ As I sit and worship next to a hypocrite and a gossip and a thief and a homosexual, we worship together all needing the same grace of Jesus and all saying together that we will be perfected in that new life and it is Jesus that will save us from ourselves.”
4. Purgatory: is there Biblical waiting after death? (53:50)
Roger: “Purgatory is the intermittent time in the Catholic tradition. If you ended up on the teeter of your works and getting enough merits for Heaven along with your faith, if you’re short, this gives you a chance to purify yourself. Purgatory means purification. You could pay to get out of purgatory by buying indulgences. If you paid this amount of money, you could get 9,837 years and 16 days off. Theologically, it just doesn’t quite line up with the completeness of our redemption in Jesus.”
Mike: “John 14:1-2 says, ‘Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me. My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you?’ The word there meant a temporary residence, like a Biblical Airbnb. You’re checking in there for a little bit and then Heaven is coming down to Earth. It’s a temporary lodging place.”
5. When does the church stand up to a corrupt government? When is enough enough? (1:02:30)
Greg: “When did Jesus stand up to a corrupt government? Rome was corrupt. Where is our kingdom? We’re going to have tensions. Dietrich Bonhoeffer had tensions in Hitler’s Germany. He was invited into be part of an assassination plot and he wrestled if that was his call or not. But I think for me, I have to look back at the four things I constantly have to speak out against and speak out for, and also look at Jesus and remember my kingdom is not of this world. My kingdom is of the kingdom of Christ. That’s where I’m focused on.
Roger: “I have a lot of friends that live in prosecuted countries, and the vitality of the church is much more robust. You pay the price and it costs. That does not mean that you don’t take bold stands for truth. It doesn’t mean that you don’t impact your societal structure and pursue justice and call it out.”
Mike: “What do you mean by ‘stand up?’ That almost sounds aggressive. I think prayer is standing up. I think voting is standing up. I think being informed and engaged in politics is standing up. Going against government, you look at Daniel and his three bros (Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah), they refused to bow and worship (Daniel 3). I think if there are things that go against our faith, we don’t bow to those things.”
About the Author
Dan is the Director of Small Groups at King of Kings. He’s the author of the book, God’s Broken Heroes, and has a second book coming out this fall in cooperation with Concordia Publishing House. Dan also is an avid foodie who hosts a weekly restaurant podcast called Restaurant Hoppen, on which he interviews chefs and restaurateurs from around Omaha.