Hip and Thigh: Smiting Theological Philistines with a Great Slaughter. Judges 15:8

Saturday, June 09, 2007

Apologetic Evangelism Methodology 101 (pt 8)

Readying Ourselves to Engage the World (pt 2)

I have been considering the methodology of apologetics and evangelism. My desire is to motivate Christians with confidence to evangelize more readily and frequently. I began with my last post outlining how we can engage the world with the principles I have been sharing. Obviously, much of what I have written is theoretical, and knowledge of truth is worthless unless we are prepared to apply it.

I broke up my points of application into three, our preparation, our practice, and our pitfalls.

Just as a quick review of my first point, I wrote that we prepare ourselves to engage the world by knowing our faith and knowing our friend.

Knowing our faith entails knowing scripture, which can only be accomplished if a person willingly reads the Bible on a regular basis. Additionally, a Christian will want to supplement his daily Bible reading with exposure to theologically rich books. That would also include having on hand a copy or two of a good systematic theology. Next, knowing our friend involves recognizing those individuals we evangelize are lost, opposed to God. Their opposition to us is a reflection of their opposition to the Lord and that should not dissuade us of our evangelistic efforts.

With that in mind, allow me to turn to considering,

Our Practice

Keep in mind that when you engage an unbeliever with the truth of the gospel and discuss eternal things, two opposing world views are meeting head-to-head. The encounter could be likened to two kingdoms at battle or two authorities competing for devotion.

On the one hand there is a Christian with a God-centered view of reality with Christ as his sovereign, redemptive Lord. On the other, is the unbeliever with his self-centered view of reality with his idolatrous understanding of God or god/gods as his lord. The Christian sees the world filtered through the self-disclosed revelation of the eternal God as contained in Scripture. The unbeliever sees the world filtered through the self-deceived philosophies of fallen men.

With such diverse opposite perspectives, how exactly does one make headway?

As I mentioned in the second post to this series, The Bible provides us with some specific insights to the nature of the unbeliever. Let me quickly review the key ones,

First, All people know God in their hearts. There is not a person on earth who doesn't believe in God because he hasn't been shown enough compelling evidence. That is because all men are created in the image of God. Unbelief is not a matter of there being no evidence, its having no changed heart. What unbelievers do with the reality of God's existence is to suppress that truth. They do that by appealing to fanciful and imaginative excuses in the form of philosophies, worldly opinions, idolatrous false religions and so forth, as a justification for not believing God in the way He has revealed Himself in scripture. They know he exists, they just refuse to submit to him as their Lord.

I have a modern day example of what I mean. Back in December 2004, I was with my family at Disneyland with a group of friends and as we were in line waiting to get on some ride, a group of anti-Bush malcontents came striding past us. One of the guys was wearing a tee shirt with a big image of a stern faced George Bush plastered on the front with the words scrawled across it, NOT MY PRESIDENT.

I had to keep from laughing at him until he walked on past with his pals, because I thought myself, "his shirt represents the nature of unbelief. " This little punk didn't reject Bush as president because he wasn't thoroughly convinced he existed. He rejected Bush as president because he hated him so much. Its the matter of this kid's heart, not what is true.

However, it is a fallacious assertion to proclaim George Bush is "Not my president," because it doesn't matter how much a person despises Bush as a person or how much he or she hates his policies in the world, he is still your president - end of issue, period. And to demonstrate that he is YOUR president, George Bush could exercise the full force of his elected office to really mess up your life. The same is true of the LORD. It is only by grace He hasn't brought the full force of his absolute sovereignty to bear upon your life to really mess it up.

Second, All people have belief convictions they trust with their lives. These personal convictions are formed from by a variety of sources, a person's up-bringing, education, religious beliefs, etc, and shape a person's perspective on life. These convictions provide a person with the basic answers to the "meaning of life," issues that have eternal consequences, like "why am I here?" "What happens when I die?" and similar questions along those lines, and they shape personal opinions that intersect with the rest of the world. More importantly, these belief convictions are often appealed to so as to help explain away the feelings of guilt all men created in the image of God, but separated from him, experience. People know they are separated from God, so the world view philosophies they allow to govern their lives provide them assurance about choices and beliefs they make which in reality have those eternal consequences.

Third, All people, by and large, live widely inconsistent to their chosen world view they use to justify meaning in their lives.
This inconsistency may be manifested in a myriad of ways, because for each person it will be different. For example, a person may have multi-cultural convictions and argue all cultures are equally good and no other culture should imply they have better values than another culture. Yet, if individuals from another culture were to express their values of burning alive widows at their husband's funerals, the multi-culturalist will become outraged. Many people may hold differing convictions about how THEY think the world should run, until they are inconvenienced by those very beliefs in their personal lives.

Now, with these thoughts in mind, the goal of the Christian is simple when he or she engages the unbeliever:

Gently, and with reverence, confront this person's convictions, along with the inconsistency often displayed between those convictions and how the person really lives. Then you bring in the gospel by showing the person he can't truly place his trust in those chosen beliefs and the only person he can trust is the Living God who has given His son, Jesus Christ, to redeem a people called by His name and who restores an unbeliever to a functional spiritual relationship with his Creator.

I realize that's a mouth full, but that will be your goal.

How the evangelistic apologist will accomplish that goal differs from person to person, evangelist to evangelist.

The easiest way to challenge your friend will be to ask questions. Ask him why he believes the way he believes. If he is prone to make dogmatic assertions, ask him to explain what he means, or how it is exactly he can justify his dogmatic assertions. If he values the teaching of a particular individual or organization, ask him to explain why.

Basically, you are asking your friend about "politics and religion." You know, the old saying of how people don't like to speak about politics and religion. That is because those two subjects reveal a person's heart and what he or she values. Your questions should be the ones which reveal a person's heart, especially discovering what he or she thinks of death and eternity and the forgiveness of sins. Believe me, no matter how hardened an unbeliever may be, those subjects do occupy his mind frequently.

And, all the while you are challenging your friend, you should be unashamedly bringing to bear upon his world view the Word of God and the Gospel. Never abandon the foundation of God's Word on which you stand. It alone is your authority. The person may mockingly accuse you of blindly believing the Bible, but he is also blindly following an authority, even though he may not realize it.

In my next post, I will flesh out some pitfalls Christians struggle with when they engage the world.



Blogger thomas4881 said...

Good article Fred. I think this is one of the more important articles you've displayed. It's definetly something that needs to be read over and over until people understand.

One interesting point is how most non-Christians live inconsistent with their world view. I know as a Christian to even begin to live inconsistent with absolute obedience to Christ makes the Christian feel terrible in many ways, because God is quick to discipline those he loves. The unbeliever doesen't feel the same when they live inconsistent with their world view. They don't feel terrible living inconsistently with their convictions. That to me is a very fascinating reality of the elect.

6:42 PM, June 12, 2007  

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