Courage was a character trait I heard a lot about growing up, primarily from my dad but also teachers, and even on television. I saw courage to do your duty in Combat! and quiet, principled courage portrayed in The Rifleman, as well as brave characters in other programs.
After I became a Christian during high school, the Bible told me of Jesus’ disciples courageously obeying God rather than men. Then in church history class at Moody Bible Institute, I read of many Christians who suffered persecution with courageous and forgiving faith. All these Christians boldly walked by faith in the steps of the Lord Jesus, who had courageously set His face toward Jerusalem and the cross.1
Courageous Christians are needed today as much as ever. At ICR events I’m often asked, “What resources does ICR have to train Christians and church leaders to take the doctrine of creation seriously?” The question implies that inadequate education is what’s holding church leaders back from teaching Genesis 1–11 as real history. From my experience, however, a paralyzing, entrenched fear of man is often why pastors don’t teach Genesis as history. The problem might be tied to diminished courage—not education.
When addressing courage, we should concede three facts. First, since we’re not God, we cannot see inside someone’s heart and judge their courage. Second, we honestly cannot predict our own behavior when suddenly faced with a terrifying situation. Even the tough American General George Patton acknowledged this during World War II. In a famous speech he stated, “Some of you men are wondering whether or not you’ll chicken out under fire. Don’t worry about it. I can assure you that you’ll all do your duty.”2
Finally, to anyone convinced they will surely stand, they must take heed lest they fall. Peter self-assuredly declared to the Lord Jesus, “Even if all are made to stumble, yet I will not be.” When Jesus contradicted this, Peter “spoke more vehemently, ‘If I have to die with You, I will not deny You!’”3 What happened to him could happen to us.
Fear Is Problematic
It’s surprising how often Christians confess the fear in their hearts during interviews or conversations. They tell how they fear negative opinions, financial retribution, or possibly hurting evangelism by making Christians look ignorant to unbelievers. I’ll briefly relate some experiences from my time working for ICR.
ICR scientists speak at several annual pastors’ conferences. During the conferences at least one pastor will approach me and quietly say something like, “I don’t believe in evolution and agree that the Bible teaches a recent creation just like you say.” Then they’ll add, “But if I taught that from my pulpit, then half my people would leave” (or a church leader would resign, or he’d jeopardize his job). The pastor’s apprehension is often quite evident.
Next, the specter of being labeled scientifically ignorant by an evolutionist terrifies some Christians. They seem unfazed, though, by the terrible track record of major scientific blunders by evolutionists.4 Paradoxically, they take antibiblical—indeed nonsensical—pronouncements of “modern science” as gospel truth.
The push to change the normal meaning of Genesis boils down to this question: Is Genesis 1–11 real history or mythology? For instance, did God create Adam from the dust of the earth and form Eve from his “rib”? Did God walk with them in the Garden of Eden, and were they tempted by a talking serpent? For apprehensive Christians, these accounts can sound mythological.
Christian apologist William Lane Craig revealed such fears to fellow apologist Sean McDowell.5 Craig described how he came to believe that Genesis 1–11 isn’t real history but what he calls “mytho-history.” In this interview, Craig candidly explained his struggle to weigh all evidence fairly. He admitted an underlying fear that biases his evaluations—a fear of contradicting modern science. Craig disclosed:
I don’t want the young-earth creationist interpretation to come out true. To me, that is a nightmare. My greatest fear is that the young-earth creationist might be right in his hermeneutical claim that Genesis does teach those things that I described earlier [creation in six 24-hour days about 6,000 years ago; a worldwide flood that exterminated terrestrial life; God creating all language groups at Babel].5
Craig’s approach to Bible interpretation, like John Walton’s of Wheaton College,6 depends on extrabiblical information. Though the Holy Spirit didn’t inspire writers to include it, Craig and Walton believe it’s essential. It enables them to do what average Christians reading the Bible can’t do—somehow get into the minds of the “original audience” and discern their thoughts way back when the Bible was being “written and read.”
Finally, fear of man is in the creationist community. I was telling another creationist ministry leader why I thought the Lord Jesus was greatly dishonored by Darwin’s projection of selective ability onto environments, which treats nature like a volitional substitute creator. My wife and I were stunned to hear him answer, “If we say that we don’t believe in natural selection, what will people think of us?”
These experiences are indicators that a potent reason for some Christian leaders to adopt the world’s position regarding Genesis or Darwinism isn’t inadequate education but fear.
Are Homes, Churches, and Seminaries Leaving Something Out?
What if the U.S. Army gave the men of a foreign army the best equipment and instruction available, only to have those men flee in battle and abandon their equipment? What vital personal element is missing in this true-to-history, and disappointing, scenario?
Similarly, what if seminaries taught the best doctrine and required graduates to sign a statement affirming their Christian orthodoxy only to have those Christian leaders suppress their voices when the world—or their church board—makes ominous threats? A Christian congregation is not edified unless the leaders hold to solid doctrine and have the courage to teach all of it.
The Bible doesn’t say that courage is solely a personality trait that some people have and others don’t. There is definitely a volitional ingredient to courage, given that there are so many verses like these: “Hear, O Israel: Today you are on the verge of battle with your enemies. Do not let your heart faint, do not be afraid, and do not tremble or be terrified because of them” (Deuteronomy 20:3), and “the LORD is on my side; I will not fear. What can man do to me?” (Psalm 118:6). Pastors who expound on these truths strengthen the body of Christ, but all Christians have a part.
Perhaps seminaries should have a core course on Christian courage, and students should show up already trained through parenting and mentoring.
Biblical Courage: Five Practical Truths
It seems that courage is as much caught by example—and through practice—as it is taught by parents, churches, teachers, and, hopefully, by honorably structured secular societies. Let’s redouble our effort to teach about courage. As a start, we’ll consider a few nuggets of biblical truth.
1. Courage is proportional to preserving what we deeply love.
“Nevertheless even among the rulers many believed in Him [Jesus], but because of the Pharisees they did not confess Him, lest they should be put out of the synagogue; for they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God” (John 12:42-43). What a stark contrast in priorities. What a telltale choice: to speak for Christ or not.
The world’s way of punishing resisters and rewarding compliance can sift through a Christian’s priorities, including love. Some people love themselves supremely; they’ll do anything to survive. Most believers and unbelievers seem willing to sacrifice themselves for loved ones, but only Christians can be motivated to risk everything out of love for Christ. What do we love more—the praises of men or of Christ?
2. Courage is proportional to commitment.
King Nebuchadnezzar threatened Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego, saying, “But if you do not worship, you shall be cast immediately into the midst of a burning fiery furnace. And who is the god who will deliver you from my hands?” They answered, “Our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and He will deliver us from your hand, O king. But if not, let it be known to you, O king, that we do not serve your gods, nor will we worship the gold image which you have set up” (Daniel 3:15, 17-18). Certainly their courage reflects their love for God, but it’s also clear they were powerfully committed to doing what was right.
Evil actors may not intend to destroy life or reputation but other valuable things like truth, decency, and freedoms. These precious principles bring goodness to any society. How deeply a person is committed to their preservation (for themselves and posterity) will bolster their courage to oppose lies, anarchy, and tyranny.
3. Courage is proportional to hope.
One reason Christ Jesus became human was to “destroy him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, and release those who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage” (Hebrews 2:14-15, emphasis added). So, fear leads to bondage, but confidence in Christ’s power produces freedom. Confidence and courage are siblings. Troops facing certain defeat and death are usually less courageous than those with a chance to survive, who in turn are not as courageous as troops convinced of victory.
Thus, the confidence-building work of ICR is indispensable. Why? Confidence grows with better preparation. A vital mission of ICR is to help pastors lead, feed, and defend their flocks by providing them information to answer scoffers who menace the church. Next, true faith-anchoring confidence soars relative to our understanding of the richness found in Jesus—yet Christians are starved for the glory of Christ as Creator. ICR brings to light the genius, wisdom, and courage-building power seen in the Lord Jesus’ incredible works of creation.
4. Courage is inspired by other courageous people.
Goliath daily taunted Israel’s frightened army, but after David slew Goliath, “the men of Israel and Judah arose and shouted, and pursued the Philistines” (1 Samuel 17:52). Courage feeds courage.
I learned this firsthand as a freshman at Moody after signing up with Open Air Campaigners to do street evangelism on Saturday nights in downtown Chicago. I was a bit nervous on my first outing. As a young Christian I was a novice at witnessing to people—especially strangers on the street. But when I saw the team leader set up his paint board and begin to boldly preach the gospel to the curious onlookers, my determination was bolstered to witness to the person next to me. Confidence shot up over several weekends, and soon I wanted to preach the message.
5. Courage is given as divine enablement.
God gave special courage to Ezekiel, telling him, “Behold, I have made your face strong against their faces, and your forehead strong against their foreheads…do not be afraid of them, nor be dismayed at their looks, though they are a rebellious house” (Ezekiel 3:8-9). What a remarkable insight about courage. Even as the Lord instructs us to choose the path of strength and courage, His gracious enablement to do it is always there.
With the emphasis on courage waning—and coercive tendencies growing—in society, Christians must look to their leaders to model courage. I’ve served on pastor search committees where we evaluated a candidate’s gifts and biblical qualifications. An overlooked pastoral qualification that means more to me is this: “The good shepherd gives His life for the sheep. But a hireling…one who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees.”7 I’ll certainly probe for sound doctrine, but I also ask, “What have you done in the last year to demonstrate that you do not have a fear of man?”
Peter’s denial reminds us that we “must take heed” against self-assurance “lest [we] fall” (1 Corinthians 10:12). Conversely, the Jewish leaders’ reluctance to confess Jesus warns us of loving “the praise of men more than the praise of God” (John 12:43). With Christ-centered priorities and Christ-generated boldness, let us courageously confess His truth and His name, not fearing what men will do—the Lord Jesus is worth it.
- Luke 9:51.
- Cunningham, J. General Patton’s Speech. Posted on cunninghamjeff.medium.com August 10, 2016, accessed December 24, 2021.
- Mark 14:29, 31.
- Guliuzza, R. J. 2017. Twenty Evolutionary Blunders. Dallas, TX: Institute for Creation Research.
- Craig continued, “And I say that would be a nightmare because if that’s what the Bible teaches it puts the Bible into massive, I think irredeemable, conflict with modern science, history, and linguistics, and I don’t want that to happen. So, yes, yes, it’s true I don’t want young earth creationists’ interpretation to be right.” Sean McDowell Interviews William Lane Craig: Is Adam Historical? Uncommon Descent. Posted on uncommondescent.com September 26, 2021, accessed December 23, 2021. Emphasis in original.
- Guliuzza, R. J. 2021. Walton’s Lost World Obscures Biblical Clarity. Acts & Facts. 50 (7): 4-6.
- John 10:11-12.
* Dr. Guliuzza is President of the Institute for Creation Research. He earned his Doctorate of Medicine from the University of Minnesota, his Master of Public Health from Harvard University, and served in the U.S. Air Force as 28th Bomb Wing Flight Surgeon and Chief of Aerospace Medicine. Dr. Guliuzza is also a registered Professional Engineer and holds a B.A. in theology from Moody Bible Institute.