Category: Evangelism

The Case for Christ

Approaching Apologetics

The Case for ChristIn my later teen and early young adult years, apologetics were a fairly important discipline to me. I read all of Lee Strobel’s “Case For…” books. Looking back on them, there were some great ideas that I’m glad I picked up in an accessible way there instead of in a philosophy class. There were also a lot of things that I soon realized were really bad arguments, such as the treatment of evolution as obviously contrary to true Christianity as well as a lot of thoroughly-debunked arguments against evolution. I have an easier solution to that one: why couldn’t God create the world and move it to where we are today through an evolutionary process?

Arguing Into the Kingdom?

At the time, the purpose for apologetics was essentially to be able to argue people into the Kingdom. That never works. Discussing issues with somebody may be helpful and I’ll get to that, but if you approach a discussion with the attitude that you need to convince inferior intellects of why you are right, you are never going to convince them you are right. People don’t respond well to being treated as inferior. They get defensive and usually end up further entrenched in their prior beliefs.

Faith Turning Points

WikiGodPod: Our Stories Shaping GodRecently I was talking about stuff on WikiGodPod, a podcast out of the Greater Toronto Area (I live close to the GTA in Kitchener) centred around our stories and how that shapes how we understand God. I’m not somebody who speaks well without preparation, so the potential questions were sent in advance and I spent a few hours the night before and morning of planning. I figure since I already spent those hours writing notes, I may as well clean them up a bit and publish them here.

Mark’s next question for me was:

What were major turning points in terms of faith and God?

Jesus, Friend of Repentant-Only Sinners?

Did these sinners have to repent before Jesus could love them?
(Image from the TGC post)

Kevin DeYoung recently wrote a post for The Gospel Coalition about in what way Jesus was a friend of sinners. He admits his motivation up front:

As precious as this truth is—that Jesus is a friend of sinners—it, like every other precious truth in the Bible, needs to be safeguarded against doctrinal and ethical error. It is all too easy, and amazingly common, for Christians (or non-Christians) to take the general truth that Jesus was a friend of sinners and twist it all out of biblical recognition. So “Jesus ate with sinners” becomes “Jesus loved a good party,” which becomes “Jesus was more interested in showing love than taking sides,” which becomes “Jesus always sided with religious outsiders,” which becomes “Jesus would blow bubbles for violations of the Torah.”

The Good and Bad of a JW Tract

Not the greatest photo I know, but you don’t really need to read all the text anyway

Walking home yesterday I was handed a tract on the way. The man who handed it to me looked like he was heading home, too, and didn’t try to engage me or anything. Usually I try to avoid anybody that might be an evangelist, but for some reason I took it and we both moved on without discussing. I’d like to do a quick analysis of how it compares to the average conservative Christian tract, though.

The main theme of the tract is that God has a beautiful plan for the future. It quotes how God will wipe every tear from our eyes, death will be no more (Rev 21:3-4), how we’ll have meaningful work (Isaiah 65:21-23), there will be no more sickness (Isaiah 25:8; Isaiah 33:24), and it will be a happy, unending life with family and friends (Psalm 37:11,29). It then argues that God has both the ability and the desire to fulfill that promise, again citing more biblical texts.

Ethics and Justice - Holding Hands Across the World

Deciders and Disciples

These guys were disciples. We’re called to be, too.

Continuing through Richard Stearns’ Unfinished, he next distinguishes between deciders and disciples. It’s a distinction that I think it is fair to say Anabaptists have been making for 500 years, but it is amazing to watch as more and more people brought up in decider traditions – like many who are the target audience of this book – realize that it just isn’t enough.

Most of the Western Church has reduced Christianity to a religion for deciders, especially in the evangelical variants with ideas like the Sinner’s Prayer. Deciders are those who have intellectually assented to some idea. The specific idea will vary from church to church: sometimes saying that Jesus is God, sometimes expressing a penal substitutionary understanding of the atonement, sometimes things even more peripheral like a 6-day creation and voting in a certain way. But the common thread is that it is a matter of intellectual assent and generally stopping there with little or no influence on daily life.

Jesus, Starting Point for Faith

I remember a conversation that happened on two different occasions in my seminary classes. Or maybe it was a deja vu situation, but I’m pretty it actually happened twice. The general statement was something like this: “I don’t have any problem believing that God exists, but believing that Jesus was anything special is a lot harder.” It stuck with me because, to put it as bluntly as possible, I’m the exact opposite: I could make the philosophical case against God’s existence, especially if we make certain assumptions about God as most descendants from Greek philosophy do, but one thing I can’t do is ignore Jesus.

Teaching Apologetics

Does it make it easier or harder to pay attention to Jesus’ teachings if he is represented by Lego?

This sermon at my church The Meeting House really impressed me. While in general Christians tend to orient toward intense historical, scientific, and philosophical debates in order to defend the faith – and there is definitely a place for those questions – Bruxy proposes something a lot more practical: start with the teachings of Jesus. These are applicable to everybody, it doesn’t take any special knowledge other than being a disciple yourself, and it already has started their discipleship process if they do decide to become a Christian later.

It’s almost so obvious that it is sad that I have never heard this discussed before. I assume the reason is that most Protestants define being a Christian as adhering to a set of doctrines: atonement, salvation by grace through faith, the Trinity, etc (the specific requirement list will change by church). Therefore our evangelism should be oriented toward encouraging acceptance of those doctrines. It says something about how we view Christianity if we haven’t even considered that learning what it would look like to follow Jesus would itself be the starting point for evangelism.

A Simple Analysis of How Christians Are Viewed

This chart came from Frank Viola’s post about how the world is watching the way Christians treat each other. You should read the whole post, but I thought that this pretty much said it all when it comes to how religions are viewed by outsiders. These search terms of course don’t mean that those stereotypes are true for every single member of the religion but they don’t come from nowhere either. Every single one for Christians is negative and often are similar to the results found in research by the Barna Group for unChristian and You Lost Me. The only way to change these stereotypes is to show everyone something better.

Evangelism: Loving Motivation, Loving Methods

Yesterday on the way home from some errands I encountered a pair of street-corner evangelists in downtown Toronto. It isn’t too rare to see such evangelists, although this was a slightly different location than where I’m used to seeing them. It got me thinking a lot about evangelism, as I am prone to do every so often. As I thought about it, I found two related points about what, to me, makes for good evangelism. Maybe it should be obvious but it is all about love, underlying both the motivation and the method.

Loving Motivation

Of course I can’t fully know the motivations of these two men or any other evangelists. However, at a couple of points I looked at the face of the guy closest to me. What I did find interesting yesterday compared to many others I’ve encountered is that he seemed to be really genuine, looking heartbroken that nobody was listening to his rehearsed spiel. He seemed so desperate to reach people with the Gospel. This made me feel really sorry for him, too.

Missing the Point: Atheist Response to the Moral Argument

I just encountered this again going through a New Atheist book, and I have to admit it’s becoming a pet peeve for me in atheist-theist debates. It goes like this. The theist presents the moral argument. If you aren’t familiar with that argument, in a nutshell it is this:

  1. Objective moral reality exists
  2. Objective moral reality requires a source
  3. Therefore there is a source of objective moral reality which we call God