Eliot Stein Interviews Dr. Robert Schuller
From his humble beginnings as a preacher at a drive-in theater church to the Reverend at the magnificent Crystal Cathedral, Dr. Robert Schuller has delivered the same message. His belief in the Judeo-Christian faith and the uniqueness of mankind.
ELIOT: What do you believe happens when a person prays?
DR. SCHULLER: Prayer connects you to God. I believe in God. I belong to the Judeo-Christian faith. I believe that God revealed to the chosen people that he is master of the Universe. He revealed himself to Moses and gave humans moral foundations designed to preserve humanity. I believe this young Jewish man named Jesus is heard by us when we pray. Human beings are the only ones that have a soul. We talk about memory, creativity. and so on. But this all comes down to we have a soul. When we pray we make a spiritual connection with God! When we connect with the eternal , we are going to be inspired, motivated, energized, and we can be given guidance if we are moving in the wrong direction. If we are moving on the wrong track, we will be told so by our conscience. We are moved when we pray.
ELIOT: How do you convince an atheist of the existence of God?
DR. SCHULLER: I don't know if it's possible to convince an atheist to believe in God! It's possible for a believer to share our faith and lay on the table our experiences that points to the possibilities of a master intelligence. There are many arguments we can present. The single most impressive argument is to look at the people who believe in God and ask if we are smarter than they are. When it comes to Atheism, I point to the GREAT people of the Bible. and show these heroes that all believed in God. I have more respect for their collective judgements than any doubter. I made a commitment to be a believer and if I am wrong, I'm in great company!!!!
ELIOT: How can we best teach our children to keep their eyes focused on heaven when we live in such a sick pop culture?
DR. SCHULLER: I think we must focus our children's attention on what we perceive to be the reality of God. Holding up to them heroes of the faith. There are so many beautiful people in this world. It would be hard to explain how so many people experiencing hardships still have such a strong faith. Look in your own neighborhood for the heroes. The truck drivers, teachers. Whoever the average people that believe in God. And let's stick to the Bible. It's a history of great people who have had powerful faith in God. Expose our children to some of the great literature to the faith. Especially in light of what we call Western Civilization.
ELIOT: How do you feel about the Promise Keepers??
DR. SCHULLER: I think it's dynamic, powerful collection of men who want to make a difference! And are standing up for their faith! I know many of the leaders. In our country today. we are in a state of moral anarchy. we must come back to the nobelest culture I have seen operating. I see it coming out of the Judeo-Christian system! This goes back to the Ten Commandments--thou shall not kill. The lack of civility that has become a contagious plague in society has to be neutralized. When a new disease sweeps into a social structure, it may be like Polio. Every effort must be made to erradicate the horrific contagion that leads to death. What we see in or society today is the breakdown of the basic moral law. that will produce such painful and destructive anarchy where we will not dare to walk the sidewalk. I believe they are good men coming out and saying "Enough is Enough." They have found the inspiration in the Bible, God and Jesus Christ. I support them.
ELIOT: A saying says--as a man thinks so is he. Isn't there more to prepare the heart to believe all he sees?
DR. SCHULLER: Most important in human development is to control what we can control. And that is our mind and our thinking process. There's more than thinking. I am talking now to Jewish people, Protestants, Catholics, Muslims. We have never been taught that the first step in prayer is conditioning our mind--turning the negative into positive! What is the first step in farming? Planting a seed? NO. it is preparing the ground first! So many people are disappointed in their prayer life. They blurt out their appeal for help BEFORE they condition their own thinking and prepare their minds. Getting connected with God is important first!
ELIOT: Please define sin and hell
DR. SCHULLER: Sin is a condition before it is an action. It is true that a healthy human being is the person who has the capacity and courage to be a believer. In business it means having the courage to take a risk. Faith or positive thinking is a healthy mark of a normal human being. Lack of faith is the condition that can be called sin. If you don't have faith in yourself or God or other human beings, you will be afflicted with many problems. Especially lack of self-esteem. Self-esteem is having faith in your own potential. A person who doesn't have faith in his own potential will be an insecure person. An insecure person is going to beome a dangerous person. First, dangerous to himself by allowing his own dreams to be discarded because they are perceived to be impossible. Such a person will surrender his freedom for security and that leads to serfdom. Frightened people who lack the courage of healthy self-confidence. Hell is to be separated from all the positive things that come from powerful relationships. I don't know what Hell is but I believe it to be the separation from the peace of mind that comes from ultimate emotional health. We have that health when we are connected to Moses and the Savior Jesus Christ.
ELIOT: Do you believe that God makes things happen in answer to prayer?
DR. SCHULLER: I think God always answers prayer. If the petition is not right, the answer will be "no." If we are not ready to handle the request if it is granted, the answer will be slow. Nowhere in the Bible does it say that God gives us what we want when we ask for it. We are not morally or emotionally or spiritually mature enough. God will answer "GROW." When everything is allright, God will answer "GO."
ELIOT: Where did you think God was taking you when you opened up a simplistic Drive-In Church (at a drive -in theater) in 1955? DR. SCHULLER: I had a profound overwhelming sense of a divine destiny. In this decision, I believed that I was being used by God to communicate with people who didn't want to go to church for any reason. Preaching to people in a drive-in theater allowed searching minds and hearts to listen. Protected from the intimidation of a church structure. The same destiny when I went on TV and radio. I was the first and only preacher to have a church under an open sky for five years. It was all divine destiny. 25 years later I would need a large church building to accommodate many people. And I wanted them to still see the open sky. I said I need a church for 3,000 people. But don't block out the sky or sun or the limbs of trees. Make it all glass. And that became The Crystal Cathedral. I will be led by God. That's what prayer has done for me and for anybody else who has the courage to pray on all seven levels. Our souls will come alive on our adventure with God. That is my witness.