Showing posts with label Witnessing. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Witnessing. Show all posts

Thursday, February 15, 2024

The Heights of Accommodation and the Depths of Evil

“Well, you know, many roads lead up the mountain …”

So he said to me.

People say stuff like that all the time when they want to avoid facing God. “I can do it my way,” they say, hoping that saying it strongly enough will make it true. Or, they say, “Everybody’s got a piece of the truth, but nobody’s got it all,” like the story of the blind men and the elephant (if you know that little tale).

Tuesday, August 01, 2023

Semi-Random Musings (31)

Sometimes witnessing doesn’t work, even when you do it to the best of your ability and everything initially appears to go swimmingly.

I’m sure you’ve had the experience. I know I have. I used to be a great believer in dialectical arguments and persuasive apologetics. I would study up a storm to answer a question from scripture that I believed might be important to someone’s salvation or growth in Christ.

I’m not saying a good apologetic never works, but there are things even the most polished and articulate argument can’t possibly accomplish.

Thursday, July 06, 2023

The Force Farce

Last week we were talking about the charge made by so many non-Christians today that we are guilty of forcing our views on them.

At first blush, the charge seemed ridiculous. After all, Christians represent absolutely no threat of physical or political violence: even to imagine that is just paranoid, and completely misunderstands the fundamental necessity of faith. Moreover, Christians may sometimes choose to absent themselves from participating in or approving of worldly values, activities or lifestyles because of conscience, but that represents no threat of force: it’s simply a matter of personal conscience — the very thing that world is at pains to affirm.

So where does the charge of “force” come from?

Thursday, June 29, 2023

A Disturbance in the Force

“Stop forcing your beliefs on me!”

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard that cry when debating with unbelievers. In fact, I’ve heard it so much that I’ve begun to think there might be something behind it. After all, when many kinds of people from many kinds of backgrounds and situations seem to be arriving at the same kind of sentiment, there must be some cause for it, right?

But for a long time I haven’t been able to figure out exactly what it is. The problem is the wording: “You’re forcing …”

Am I? Really? How is that?

Friday, June 09, 2023

Too Hot to Handle: Abandoning Evangelism

In which our regular writers toss around subjects a little more volatile than usual.

Relevant Magazine says the results of this new study by Barna are shocking.

Tom: I’m more inclined to nod sadly at the obvious, I guess, which is this: 47% of millennials believe evangelizing others is … wrong.

I’m not sure why anyone is surprised. We live in a society that prizes tolerance, inclusivity and a sort of pseudo-respect for the traditions and culture of others above all else. On top of that, the vast majority of Christians have allowed their children to grow up in an environment that propagandizes them from 9:00 to 3:15 five days a week for most of their formative years.

What exactly did we think would happen, Immanuel Can?

Friday, February 10, 2023

Too Hot to Handle: This Little Christian Went to Market

In which our regular writers toss around subjects a little more volatile than usual.

Immanuel Can: Some years ago I had the movie The Big Kahuna recommended to me.

While for the most part it’s a movie with an unexpectedly charitable take on the motives of conservative Christians, there are a few moments in which the writer cannot resist taking a shot. One is in a conversation between Phil, the main character (a weary agnostic salesman played by Danny DeVito) and Bob (an evangelical junior salesman played by Peter Facinelli). Apparently, the younger man has committed the gross offence of having spoken to a valued customer about his faith without making any sales pitch for the industrial lubricant company both men are paid to represent.

DeVito’s character, Phil, is irate at the missed sales opportunity.

Thursday, February 09, 2023

Atheism’s Answers

So … what if atheists took themselves seriously?

So seriously, as a matter of fact, that they actually tried to live out the rational implications of their own rejection of all possibility of God or gods? What then?

As I said in yesterday’s post, getting answers to this question turned out to be more difficult than it might initially appear.

Thursday, February 02, 2023

Asking About Atheism

I’ve spent quite a bit of time talking with atheists.

You might wonder why. You might say, “People have to be open to the voice of God, or they hear nothing at all. ‘He who has ears to hear, let him hear,’ said the Lord. A man whose ears are already shut gets nothing — and, if we follow the Lord’s example — should get nothing, for he does not unite his hearing with any measure of faith. And without faith, it is impossible to please God.”

Even secular common sense accepts this. “A man convinced against his will remains an unbeliever still,” goes the axiom.

So why bother to talk to people whose minds are already made up? A fair question.

Thursday, September 01, 2022

True Revolutionaries

Welcome back to our two-part treatment of the (post-)modern attitude to truth.

Last week, we were observing that the concept of an actual objective truth has gone out of fashion these days. More and more, the average person of today tends to disbelieve that anything can be, in any final and universally binding sense, “true”. Truth has been banished because there are so many voices shouting so many messages that most of us don’t know where to find it if it did exist. We’re overwhelmed by multiculturalism, media overload, the speed of modern life and the decline of the formerly-solid touchpoints of religion and tradition, even if we know nothing about the theory behind it, or about the new skeptical “hermeneutics” being taught in the contemporary academy. We’re all just pretty confused about truth.

Thursday, August 25, 2022

The Trouble with the Truth

Some years ago I picked up a volume compiled by Walter Truett Anderson entitled The Truth About the Truth. It was a collection of essays, actually, each one detailing some way in which the modern conception of “truth” has been warped. It had chapters on reification (the modern tendency to mistake mere traditions for inevitabilities), the love of the ironic tone, the tendency to accept things at face value, the obsession with commercialism, gender fluidity, cultural pluralism and the loss of the integrated self, and so on … all very interesting, and some of it insightful. But so far as the concept of a stable, universal, actually-existing kind of truth, very cynical.

Monday, August 08, 2022

Anonymous Asks (209)

“Why do Christians try to impose their values on others?”

The word “impose” is an intransitive verb that means:

  1. To establish or apply as compulsory; levy.
  2. To bring about by authority or force; force to prevail.

Is this really what Christians do when they preach the gospel? At worst, we might say that they strongly recommend an alternative they believe preferable to the direction our society is currently going. The climate change folks, depopulationists, would-be socialists, vegans, vaccination mandate supporters, LGBTQ+ activists, and a whole host of other opinionated people do precisely the same thing.

But impose? Where is the force in the Christian message? Where is the coercion? Where is even the threat of such things?

Thursday, June 09, 2022

Star Trek, Salvation and Sermons

Back in the early 1990s, The Humanist magazine interviewed the famous producer Gene Roddenberry, creator of the TV show Star Trek. The first series had been off the air for years and was long into syndication. Roddenberry was in the process of cranking out its eagerly-awaited sequel, Star Trek: The Next Generation — soon to prove yet another great hit.

The interviewer got the famous producer chatting about the relationship between the show and his own secular humanist beliefs.

Thursday, May 19, 2022

The End of Evangelism

There is general fear being widely expressed among evangelicals today that we are not reaching people the way we used to. Certainly the numbers of people in the modern West who are becoming Christians seems to be slumping, and a lot of us are a bit nervous about the trend.

Is the Age of Evangelism Ending?

According to Bible.org, one problem is that the professional clergy people and leaders are not stepping up, and that church ministries and programs are not going out to reach people. Meanwhile, The Evangelism Institute has found that while 85% of evangelical churches have a pro-evangelism statement in their constitution, less than 5% of the people are actually involved in doing something with it.

Monday, May 02, 2022

Anonymous Asks (195)

“Sometimes Christians comment about the need to be saved on unrelated YouTube videos. These comments get many thumbs up, but also make many people angry. Are they useful ways to witness?”

Each block near where I work has two or three parking meters. On the one I use most frequently someone has scratched “You need Jesus. Pray every day.” I have a friend who makes it his habit to attend protests, rallies, parades and major gatherings all over the city carrying a sign with a Bible verse on it. Then there is the classic “John 3:16” meme that has appeared for years in various forms at televised sporting events.

Like those YouTube comments from Christians that show up out of the blue where nobody is asking for them, these are all unsolicited expressions of faith in unexpected places intended to make people think about eternity.

Tuesday, February 22, 2022

Some Unsolicited Advice

Several years ago I was walking downtown with a friend when some teenagers outside the grand old institutional church building on the corner enthusiastically accosted us to take some Christian literature from them and read it. After we politely extricated ourselves, my friend asked me “Why do they do that?”

Her thought was that this was a little bit inappropriate for members of our once-polite society, as if the act of sharing a gospel tract on the street were more than a minor intrusion.

Sunday, January 30, 2022

On Accepting and Receiving

Is the difference between accepting and receiving just a matter of semantics? Are we being picky about words that to most people amount to the same thing? We will attempt to show they don’t.

Admittedly, in many cases either word would do, both being used to describe a positive response to a gift or invitation, but there is a difference. The first is the better word to use if you want to leave room for the possibility of some disappointment or reserve on the part of the recipient. The second would be better if you want to go on to describe the great pleasure a gift or invitation evoked.

An illustration may help ...

Wednesday, December 08, 2021

Thoughts of Eternity

We were crossing a boulevard in downtown San Francisco a few years ago. A street preacher on the far corner had a microphone and an amp, and every reference to “the blood of Christ that cleanses us from all sin” echoed up and down the avenue at serious volume, etching themselves into our eardrums as we drew closer. I guess that’s legal in San Francisco; everything else sure is.

My unsaved friend turned to me and asked, “Why do they do that?” Which gave me twenty uninterrupted minutes to tell her.

Hats off to the loudmouth on the corner.

Friday, August 20, 2021

Too Hot to Handle: Witnessing as Hate Speech

In which our regular writers toss around subjects a little more volatile than usual.

What constitutes “hate speech”? A fairly standard definition goes something like this: “Speech that attacks a person or group on the basis of attributes such as gender, ethnic origin, religion, race, disability, or sexual orientation.”

Tom: Now, personally I’d consider even that arguable, not least because the word “attacks” is nebulous, which leaves hate speech to be defined by the party claiming injury (a bad idea), not to mention it takes for granted that “sexual orientation” is a valid concept even though science has not yet demonstrated it is anything more than a personal preference.

Thursday, April 15, 2021

True Revolutionaries

The most recent version of this post is available here.

Wednesday, April 07, 2021

Theological Triage and Hills to Die On

“It’s hard for thee to kick against the pricks.”
— Johnny Cash

Two recent posts at Stand to Reason nicely illustrate the difficulties that confront Christians in working out which theological “hills” are worth dying on when witnessing to unbelievers.

In fact, both posts use that very expression (“hill to die on”) to describe a non-negotiable; something we absolutely cannot concede in our ongoing dialogue with those outside of Christ.

Maybe we can get a little something out of setting the two posts against each other.

Thursday, December 31, 2020

Protecting People from Truth

I was listening to a preacher a few days ago … just online, you know. And he said something that’s stayed with me and keeps running around in my head, because it’s just so smart. It’s something that solves a perplexity for me that I have to confess I’ve struggled with for years. I want to pass it on to you.

My perplexity has been this: When do you just say what the Bible says, and when do you hold back?

The preacher said this: “I’m through protecting people from scripture.”

Thursday, July 23, 2020

The Multicultural Road to Hell

I’ve got a simple message in this post. Simple, yes, but not the less needed for all that.

What have you done with the gospel, Christian? Where is your voice these days?

I’m not telling. I’m asking. I don’t know you, or what you’ve done, or where you’ve been. Really, this is a question only you can ask yourself, and only you can answer.

Well, you and God, of course, because that’s the urgent point. God knows what we’ve done with the gospel. He knows whether we’ve been living like we believe it, or only saying we do, and living another way. He knows.

I don’t.

Thursday, June 04, 2020

The Heights of Accommodation and the Depths of Evil

The most recent version of this post is available here.

Monday, April 27, 2020

Anonymous Asks (90)

“Why should I talk about my faith at school?”

Here’s a thought: maybe you shouldn’t. Or at least, maybe you shouldn’t make some kind of formal policy out of it.

When I was growing up, we recited the Lord’s Prayer in public schools. There was something close to a common consensus that the Christian faith encouraged character qualities which, if not practiced by everybody you knew, were at least almost universally acknowledged as values we’d like our kids to have. And if helping your children learn the merits of honesty, loyalty, hard work, persistence, hope, patience and kindness could be accomplished by telling them stories about Jesus, most parents were okay with sending their kids off to Sunday School too.

Monday, March 16, 2020

Anonymous Asks (84)

“Does Christianity need to develop a new gospel adapted to today’s world?”

If the Christian faith was merely the invention of man, and if Christians were permitted to market it to the world in whatever way seems like it might work best, this could be a good idea. After all, brands grow stale over time and need to be refreshed. And in a consumer world, it’s whatever makes the sale for you. The customer is always right.

In this case, however, the “customer” is going to hell.

Thursday, November 14, 2019

The Force Farce

The most recent version of this post is available here.

Thursday, November 07, 2019

A Disturbance in the Force

The most recent version of this post is available here.

Monday, September 16, 2019

Anonymous Asks (58)

“How can I witness to peers who have intelligent answers to all my arguments for Christianity?”

At some point we all hit the upper end of our capacity to effectively persuade others with dialectical arguments. Education, IQ, maturity, grasp of relevant facts, logical mindset, time spent in the word of God and life experience are all “ceilings” of a sort. Limitations in these areas, understandable or otherwise, create a barrier beyond which we become significantly less persuasive when we try to make the case for the gospel to people on the higher end of each spectrum.

Some of these barriers may be hurdled with sufficient time, prayer and hard work; others, like IQ, are pretty much hardwired whether we like it or not.

Monday, July 15, 2019

Anonymous Asks (49)

“I have a friend who says she is not religious. How do I respond?”

One thing I am slowly learning not to do is to tell other people exactly what they should say when witnessing for Christ. There are probably worse ways to share your beliefs than recycling someone else’s arguments in words you wouldn’t normally use, but I can’t think of too many at the moment. The best case a Christian can make is one he fully understands and believes with all his heart, and is able to express in the same sort of everyday language he uses to enthuse about a football team or a great song.

So I won’t tell you how to respond. The response needs to be all yours. What I might be able to do is to help you work through what your friend is really telling you when she says she is “not religious”, so you can decide how best to attempt to share Christ with her.

Tuesday, June 18, 2019

The View from Eternity

God is very much misunderstood.

This is not without reason. God and man come at things from vastly different perspectives. Two of the most common features of online discourse about God are befuddlement and frustration. “How can a loving God permit this or that?” “How could God command genocide?” “Why animal sacrifices? Doesn’t God care about his creation?” “Why does the Law of Moses contain so many weird and apparently pointless rules if God was really behind it?” “Why would God say two people who love each other cannot be together?”

For older Christians these can be challenging questions.

Friday, February 22, 2019

Too Hot to Handle: Abandoning Evangelism

The most recent version of this post is available here.

Thursday, February 21, 2019

Atheism’s Answers

The most recent version of this post is available here.

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Asking About Atheism

The most recent version of this post is available here.

Monday, January 21, 2019

Anonymous Asks (23)

“How can I be a witness to my friends and still be accepted?”

It is important to realize there are really two questions here, not one. Question one is “How can I be a witness to my friends?” Good question, and it recognizes that Jesus Christ gave a job to his followers when he ascended into heaven. He said to them, “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses … to the end of the earth.” If you have believed in and confessed the Lord Jesus, you have accepted the same ongoing task they did. That’s fantastic.

Question two boils down to “How can I maintain my present relationships as they are while witnessing to something that transforms lives, upends worldviews and tells people hard truths about themselves they may not want to hear?

That may be possible. And it may not.

Tuesday, December 04, 2018

Unhitched and Unhinged

It is important to grasp that Andy Stanley’s desire for believers to “unhitch” our Christianity from the Old Testament, a plea he articulates in his new book Irresistible, is not limited to how we preach the gospel. Stanley is calling for the comprehensive abandonment of the Hebrew roots of our faith.

This is what makes his idea such a poison pill. Those who swallow it will come to regret it.

Sunday, December 02, 2018

Getting Unhitched

Andy Stanley wants us to “unhitch the old from the new”.

By “old”, he means our Old Testament. By “new”, he means ... okay, you get that.

By “unhitch”, he means declaring the Old Testament so obsolete, incorrect and potentially faith-destroying that we distance ourselves from it rather than try to explain, defend or rationalize it to others.

To say the least, Stanley’s new book, Irresistible: Reclaiming the New that Jesus Unleashed for the World, is a bit of a grenade in the baptistery. It also sounds to me like a sustained argument for intellectual cowardice, but I’ll leave that to Stanley’s readers to decide.

Thursday, November 15, 2018

The End of Evangelism

The most recent version of this post is available here.

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

‘Proving’ the Bible

Here’s another one of those questions asked by a teen that manages to be relevant to Christians of all ages: “How can I prove the Bible and Christianity to my non-believer friends?”

Wow. That’s a concern that will never go away no matter how old I get.

I’m a bookish person. I love words. For years I had the idea that if I could only find the right ones, I could convince anyone of anything.

Thursday, June 07, 2018

True Revolutionaries

The most recent version of this post is available here.

Friday, January 26, 2018

Too Hot to Handle: This Little Christian Went to Market

The most recent version of this post is available here.

Saturday, January 13, 2018

Out at the Margins

Drew Brown has a post up at assemblyHUB on the subject of outreach to people who call themselves LGBTQ or some variation thereof. (In the interest of greater inclusion, the acronym keeps changing faster than anyone can keep up, including those who use it to describe themselves. Even the HUB can’t seem to type it the same way twice.)

Sexually transgressive lifestyles are the subject of numerous online debates between believers at the moment, but most are about whether churches should accept individuals who engage in deviant practices as active members. Pragmatic considerations about how Christians can carry the gospel to people living life out at the margins rarely come up.

When they do, they seem to veer to one extreme or another.

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Clerks and Dossiers

“Direct your steps to the perpetual ruins; the enemy has destroyed everything in the sanctuary!”

That Psalm 74 is a doozy, and it doesn’t easily resonate when we try to apply it to church life in 2017 in our (comparatively) easy-going Western world. The Asaphian contemplation of Zion in ruins appeals to me poetically and dramatically, but in our day the “sanctuary” (assuming any of us would recognize a sanctuary if we saw one) is not burning, and the enemies of God have not recently taken their axes to the dwelling place of his holy Name.

Well, not visibly anyway.

Friday, November 03, 2017

Too Hot to Handle: Witnessing as Hate Speech

The most recent version of this post is available here.

Monday, August 14, 2017

The Trouble with the Truth

The most recent version of this post is available here.

Wednesday, August 09, 2017

The Multicultural Road to Hell

The most recent version of this post is available here.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

In a Nutshell

Have you ever been taught how to effectively share the gospel? Some of us have, some of us haven’t.

Better question: If you had only a few seconds to communicate the essence of salvation, which verses would you choose to put it across? How much could you get in there in, say, thirty seconds?

My son was asked how he would explain it this week.

Monday, July 10, 2017

The Heights of Accommodation and the Depths of Evil

The most recent version of this post is available here.

Friday, June 02, 2017

Too Hot to Handle: Why I Don’t Share My Faith

In which our regular writers toss around subjects a little more volatile than usual.

Tom: I’ve just finished wading through a list of reasons why Christians don’t share their faith. Here’s what Daniel Darling says keeps him from spilling what he knows about the person of Christ to a needy world:
  1. We don’t share our faith because we don’t realize we have a mission
  2. We don’t share our faith because we misunderstand our mission
  3. We don’t share our faith because we misunderstand the Holy Spirit’s mission
  4. We don’t share our faith because we misunderstand what it means to be a friend of the world
  5. We don’t share our faith because we are ashamed of our identity
Immanuel Can, when I fail to share my faith, it is usually because I’m scared of messing up my next line. So I overthink it, and suddenly the conversation is over and I’ve gotten nowhere significant.

Monday, January 16, 2017

The Force Farce

The most recent version of this post is available here.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

A Disturbance in the Force

The most recent version of this post is available here.