“No society can sustain itself without a belief in absolute values, because then the law of the jungle will prevail…”
Dr. Miguel Núñez
Dr. Miguel Núñez (MD, Th. M., D.Min.) is the senior pastor of the International Baptist Church (IBI) in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. He is also the founder and president of “Integridad y Sabiduría” (the Integrity and Wisdom Ministry) which has the vision of awakening Latin America to God’s truth.
He is the author of two books: “Jesús, el hombre que desafió al mundo y confronta tu vida” (Jesus, the Man that Challenged the World and Confronts Your Life) and “Una Iglesia Conforme al Corazón de Dios” (A Church After God’s Own Heart). He is also the co-author of the book “Seguirazgo” (Followship), which deals with leadership.
He is the TV co-host of “Respuestas: Verdades Absolutas para un Mundo Relativo” (Answers: Absolute Truths for a Relative World), a program transmitted throughout all of Latin America and some other countries as well.
Dr. Núñez practiced medicine as a physician in the area of internal medicine and infectious diseases in the United States for 15 years (1982-1997), and he was a clinical professor at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York.
In addition to pastoring the church, he serves as a teacher and an apologist, and he is also a frequent guest speaker in all of Latin America and the United States. He has been married to Dr. Catherine Scheraldi, a practicing physician, for more than 30 years.
First of all, Dr. Nuñez, I’d like you to talk about the current times our global society is experiencing in terms of spirituality, although we realize that it bears an influence on all the other areas of a given society.
I believe society is in the midst of a crisis –a crisis of values, integrity and leadership. That’s one way to see it. On the other hand, we also know that Europe and North America are facing a time that has been called the post-Christian era. I don’t think Latin America is actually there, but it is obviously being influenced by the winds of post-Christian societies.
A post-Christian society is where Christian values have no significance at all. They play a very small role and have slight influence. Latin America is experiencing a different moment now, because God is definitely moving here. Actually, God is moving in what is called the “Global South:” Latin America, Africa and Asia. Something new is happening. The Reformed Theology that changed the face of Europe during the time of Martin Luther’s Reformation never really reached Latin America. Even five hundred years after this event which will be in 2017, the Reformation hasn’t been seen in our continent. However, such values have started to blossom and be embraced by a younger generation of people in their 20s, 30s and 40s who are proclaiming the Gospel, and that gives me hope. It’s like Latin America is being bathed by two winds: the wind of secularism and post-Christian societies and a new wind of evangelization coming from more mature movements based on a more solid doctrine than what we have seen here so far.
A few weeks ago, you mentioned at a conference that the United States and Europe are experiencing a society that is post-Western, postmodern and post-Christian. But what is happening now with Africa and Asia, and yes, Latin America? Although, you have already mentioned briefly about it.
Well, when we think about this kind of post-Christian society, like I briefly mentioned in the previous question, we’re talking about societies that were greatly impacted by Christianity and were developed based on Judeo-Christian values. But today, those same values have been removed from society, and now people prefer identifying themselves with secularism which has no identity with God, much less with the God of the Bible. So we see what has happened in Europe where churches have been slowly dying off, and the United States is experiencing something similar. Statistics for the year 2050 for the United States and Canada are not at all encouraging for the Christian movement and its membership.
Africa, Asia and Latin America have been influenced by Christianity, but because of the immaturity of the Church, the Church has made huge mistakes and has diluted the Gospel to the point that during the last 20 years, the most popular gospel has been the prosperity gospel which is not in accord with the biblical gospel.
However, I believe that things are starting to take a right turn now. We’re not even half way there yet, but there are a group of people who experienced that approach and departed from it. They came away empty and now they’re looking for the true Gospel and are going to churches that preach a sound doctrine. And this same phenomenon is taking place in Latin America, in Africa and in Asia where churches that once embraced the prosperity gospel are now having a new experience.
I believe that that phenomena is an apostate movement. I think there are two large apostate movements at present. One is “completely Christian,” meaning that it identifies with the type of Christianity that is the prosperity gospel which has embraced five continents and almost every denomination. The other movement doesn’t have Christian roots. It’s anti-Christian and is based on a redefinition of marriage, because that’s the foundation of the family.
The only way for us to pass faith on from one generation to another is having Christian families that are based on Christian values and teaching those values to the next generation. But if that family model does not exist and we redefine it today believing that it can be two men or two women raising a child, then the next generation won’t acknowledge the faith. And if they don’t acknowledge the faith, they won’t experience salvation. And if they don’t experience salvation, then there’s no hope for them.
So I said that that’s an apostate movement simply because different denominations in all five continents have begun embracing this new definition of marriage, and I believe that those two things will become important and will deeply undermine what we have considered Western Christian society until now.
And speaking of Christian foundations, a few days ago, I received a comment through this blog. The person who wrote referred to one my interviewees and said something like this: “Who do you think you are to disqualify other religions and impose your Christian philosophy as the only truth?” Apparently he was a follower of the Eastern philosophies.
It’s incredible that those people who don’t want us to spread the Gospel continue proclaiming their own
philosophies and moral values. We don’t have a problem with other people talking about their beliefs. Our problem is that they don’t want us to talk about ours.
We believe in a pluralist society in which different philosophies are taught. It was always like this in the West. In Europe and in the United States, no one ever prevented other persons from expressing their philosophy of life or their religious beliefs. But today the problem is that the followers of all those other philosophies and religions want us to stop expressing ours, and that’s the fight we’re having against that movement.
And along that same line, why does the Christian Church insist on saying that Jesus Christ is the only true God and therefore the only way to transform lives?
Well, I think we could address this topic from different angles. Let me start with the wider angle, a wider lens. Christianity is a worldview. A worldview is the way we see life, the way we interpret life and react to it. It’s not just a religion. It is religion, but it goes beyond that. It’s a worldview!
Worldviews must be tested. Literally, there is a number of questions and questionings that every worldview must answer. And then, when those answers are given, they have to be consistent and coherent.
Therefore, when we define Christianity as the only true faith and Jesus Christ as its founder and the only true God, the first answer would be because this is the only worldview that responds to the most important questions people have, and in the end, it’s what is totally coherent in its answers. When I start by asking where I come from, well then, God is the Creator. What am I here for? Well, God reveals to me that we are His handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do the good works which God prepared in advance for us to do. The first question has to do with destination: Where do I come from? The second question is about purpose: What am I here for? The third question is about destination: Where am I going? So your direction depends on what you do with God in your life. What is right and what is wrong? That’s a question of morality. Well, there’s a God who is absolute, holy, just and omniscient and who is the standard of good and evil.
So then we have Christianity and reality: God created the heavens and the earth. That’s reality. There is God who precedes all creation and everything that has been created as well.
But, if we put other worldviews to the test, you could ask, for example, a person who believes in Hinduism about the reality that has been created. Then one group will say that even what you and I are doing isn’t happening and that it’s just an illusion. It’s like the dream of Brahma and we think we’re doing it, but it’s really not happening.
This in inconsistent, because if that were true, then when I’m about to cross the street, I wouldn’t have to pay attention to the cars because they don’t exist. And if someday I have surgery, I won’t need anesthesia, because pain is an illusion and it doesn’t exist. So then you begin to notice the inconsistency of those other worldviews.
If you ask another follower of Hinduism about this same topic, he may say that yes, reality does exist, but we’re really only an extension of Brahma. In other words, Brahma exists and we’re an extension of him, so to the extent that we purify ourselves, then we unite with Brahma, and in the end, Brahma is the only reality.
Well, the truth is that when the Word of God defines this, we can clearly see the difference there is between God the Creator and His creation. So how do we come back to God, back to His presence? If we are saved, it’s by keeping our individualities, our personalities and our characteristics in a very, very different manner.
One Hindu may say that god is personal and another Hindu can say that god is impersonal. They live with those contradictions. Christian faith does not break the law of non-contradiction. If there is something we cannot negotiate, that’s the law of non-contradiction which says that “two contradictory statements cannot both be true when they are said at the same time and in the same sense.” God cannot be personal and impersonal at the same time.
So I could have turned to the Bible to repeat what Christ declared when He said, “I am the truth, the way and the life,” but I have just defined this a bit more philosophically by saying that Christianity is a worldview that responds to all the important questions of humankind with consistent and coherent answers. No other worldview can do that.
But if I turn to the Bible, then Christ made a statement about Himself that He later proved. He said, “I am the truth, the way and the life.” He died and was resurrected. He said, “I have the authority to give my life, and I have the authority to take my life back again.” And He proved that with His life, with His death and with His resurrection.
Just to close this very important idea, would you share with us a concrete example to prove that Jesus is the life?
Well, I think saying that we can prove it by using a scientific method is just not the way to address this matter because Christianity is not a science, so we have to do this in a different way. I believe we have to ask about the resurrection, for example. Are there historic and conclusive evidences about Christ’s resurrection? The truth is that even non-Christian people came to believe it after evaluating the veracity of the historical New Testament documents and found that there is no other document from ancient times that comes close to the veracity of these New Testament documents.
For instance, when we take a look at the Iliad and the Odyssey, famous written works from the past, we realize that there are four, six or at the most, eight copies that date back to a thousand years after the death of their author. But when we think about the documents of the New Testament, there are fragments that date back to 25 to 50 years after the death of their authors. There are other fragments and more complete documents from the years 250 A.D. to 300 A.D. And there are fifteen thousand copies! Not four and not eight! There are fifteen thousand copies in Greek that can be compared!
So I could give you many examples of this type of evidence, but there really is enough conclusive historic evidence to prove Christ’s life and Christ’s resurrection. It’s more of a historical proof than a scientific proof. People have tried to do away with Christianity for two thousand years, but they haven’t succeeded. Today, Christ is the most influential man in the entire history of humankind.
When Napoleon Bonaparte was in exile, something that caught his attention was precisely how this man who had died could still bring people together over the centuries. Napoleon said that when he was a general or the emperor, people responded to his voice, but when he didn’t have a title, no one followed him anymore although he was still alive. He didn’t understand how people kept on following that man hundreds of years after His death. Well, people follow Him because He is who He said He was: the way, the truth and the life. And the primitive church gets stronger, gets larger and continues to grow after His death. It should have been just the opposite, but a persecuted church is the church that became stronger after His death.
To conclude, in what times do you think we are living according to the biblical perspective of the so called “last days”? And is there any warning message to the world first of all, and to the Christian church as well?
First of all, I’m going to give a technical definition of “the last days.” In the Bible, the phrase “the last days” technically means the times from Christ until now. That’s the first part. When you open the Book of Hebrews it says, “But in these last days He has spoken to us by His Son.” So this text gives us a good definition of when these “last days” began.
Now, within these “last days” there’s a period that the Bible states as the time when we will be closer to the coming of Christ. I don’t know whether He will come in five years or fifteen years or fifty years. I can’t determine that. I’m not a prophet and I’m not a prophet’s son, like the Bible phrase says. But I do believe that the days in which we’re living are taking us quickly to that very end, regardless of when it will happen.
Society as a whole cannot be sustained by the values it’s embracing at present. It won’t last. Even in ancient times when society was extremely corrupt, people still believed in absolute values. Perhaps Plato, Socrates and, Aristotle didn’t believe in the God of the Bible, but they did understand that there was an Absolute or Supreme Being, something beyond. And they spoke about virtues –cardinal virtues. Nowadays, people just don’t believe in absolutism at all. No society can sustain itself without a belief in absolute values, because then the law of the jungle will prevail, and that means that each individual believes that good is what he or she feels is good. Such a society cannot sustain itself and it will collapse. And when it collapses, it won’t be just one nation or just one area that collapses. Entire continents will collapse. Since we are part of a global culture, then that global culture experiences similar changes as well as similar values. Some occur first and then others follow. For example, Europe is always first, then the United States and then we follow. But I believe we’re fast approaching what will be the collapse of society. There’s no way for society to survive without a correct definition of marriage. It just won’t happen.
When will it happen? Honestly, I don’t know. But I think there are signs pointing towards a relatively short time, even though that “short” time may be much beyond my lifetime. I believe we will see God’s intervention as a way of judging the sin that has become so widespread lately and also of completing His redemption plan. Christ didn’t mention the exact time or date for His coming, but He didn’t say that we wouldn’t have a clue as to when the “last days” would be, either. He said that in the same way when we look up in the sky and know it’s going to rain, the generation alive at that time will say, “It seems like the last days are getting closer!”
So, if our generation does not have a clue, and the next generation is the one meant to precede the coming of the Lord, some people will be clearer about this because the signs of His coming will also be clearer. Or perhaps it may happen during my lifetime but after some years when the signs may be clearer.
But yes, I do believe we are getting closer to a collapse, even from a sociological point of view. Malcolm Muggeridge talked about empires and how they decayed when certain signs began to appear. He mentioned the rise of eroticism that is obviously present these days. There’s also an increase of boredom. We can’t deny that people are bored. They’ve tried out everything and nothing seems to satisfy them. There’s more entertainment; people just want to enjoy life and do nothing but have fun. And finally, it’s interesting that he said another sign is when governments create increasingly more complex taxation systems. Governments get into so much debt, they start inventing new taxation systems to collect money to help pay those debts.
We’re seeing all of these signs of collapse. That’s a sociological analysis, not even a Christian perspective. So if you add moral collapse to all this, I believe the Lord must be just around the corner, even though I don’t know when that will be.
So what is your message of warning for the world and for the Christian Church?
Christ said to us, “I am coming soon.” So that could be today. Therefore, I believe that the best warning message is that you must be prepared for the day when He will return, even if that happens today. Consequently, your only hope is the Gospel of Christ and finding salvation and holding on to Him, clinging to Him through thick and thin, regardless of all the changes. You must believe in His Word, believe in His promises and develop hope in those promises that He left with us. It’s not about looking around to see what’s happening, but rather thinking about the eternal life in which our hope lies.
This world has no hope. This world will continue to be like it is now. Christ Himself said that. It will
remain like this until the last days. This world began sinful and will end sinful. Things will only change when He comes back to judge and redeem it. I can’t rest my hope on any new government or on any new educational system or on any new generation, because all of them will eventually produce the same results as in the past. Someone has said that history doesn’t change, only the actors are different. And we really do have the same violence as before, the same paganism from the past, the same promiscuity and homosexuality from ancient times. “What has been will be again,” said Solomon in the Book of Ecclesiastes. And sadly enough, that’s true, but history isn’t circular like some people say. They say it’s a never-ending circle that goes around forever. No. History is linear. The problem is that along that timeline we make the same mistakes and repeat the same sins, but history has a beginning and an end. I think it’s good to define it as linear because when we say that history repeats itself, we give the impression that we think history is circular and never ends and we’ll be living like this forever, but that’s not so. History is linear and it has an end that we will certainly see someday!