Archives For Evangelism

In my previous post, I said that since God’s truth is true, we can and should defend it against those who would call it a lie. We should argue against those opinions that people hold up as obstacles to believing.

But having said that, we have to understand that we will never argue someone into believing. I have yet to hear of a single person that converted to Christianity because he lost a debate. People just don’t work that way.

Many people today will say that their objection to the faith is intellectual. “I’m not going to turn off my brain in order to put my faith in something that I know isn’t true.” Or, “It defies all logic to believe in something supernatural.” When we encounter intellectual objections to Christianity, I believe that we have a responsibility to demonstrate that Christianity is not false or illogical (see my previous post). But most people use the “intellectual suicide” thing as an excuse.

In reality, following Jesus requires everything. It requires laying down your life, sacrificing your best laid plans, recognizing that Another is the center of everything. So even if we can convince someone that Christianity is not illogical—even if we convince her that the biblical worldview is the best explanation for our world as we experience it—she still has to make the choice to lay down her life, take up her cross, and follow Jesus. You can’t argue someone into that.

And then there’s the whole matter of regeneration. People don’t need more information, they need the Spirit of God to come inside of them and make them alive. Salvation is not about being intellectually persuaded, it’s about God taking a dead heart and giving it life:

“‘It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is no help at all. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life. But there are some of you who do not believe.’ (For Jesus knew from the beginning who those were who did not believe, and who it was who would betray him.) And he said, ‘This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by the Father.’” (John 6:63-65)

We must never forget that we are not the savior of anyone. What God calls us to is faithfulness. We can and should be faithful witnesses to who God is and what he is doing in and around us. And God can and often does use such faithful witness to show people who he is. But you are the witness, not the savior. You can point someone to Jesus, but only Jesus can save him.

So argue away (when it’s appropriate and in a gentle manner), but understand that you are entirely dependent on God when it comes to that person’s salvation. We don’t know what God will use to change a person’s heart. (I heard that R. C. Sproul converted after reading Ecclesiastes 11:3, “if a tree falls to the south or to the north, in the place where the tree falls, there it will lie.”) Our responsibility is to live faithful, godly lives and allow God to use us when and how he wants to.

For tomorrow: apologetics requires compassion.

The truth of Christianity is worth defending. Francis Schaeffer, Nancy Pearcey, and others have sounded a warning call, alerting us to the reality that Christians often don’t see their faith as logical, defensible, or even true. Our modern society has told us that if it can’t be proven scientifically, then it’s not true. Christians have a poor track record in responding to this type of bullying. We have effectively said, “Okay fine. Christianity is not literally true. But it’s true in my life, and it gives me hope and meaning.”

This is a ridiculous statement, but it needs to be made: If Christianity is true, then it’s true. Schaeffer even felt the need to coin the term “true truth” because Christians had grown so accustomed to seeing the truth of their faith as secondary, as illogical, as basically made up.

But if God really made this world, everything in it, and everything about it, then doesn’t it make sense that he could accurately describe the world he made? So when the Bible says something as though it’s true, we should expect that thing to be true in the real world. When God says that people are sinful, for example, we should be able to look at the people around us and see that what God says is true. When God says that he created a world that is beautiful and expertly crafted, we should be able to look at the world and see that truth confirmed. When God says that sin is destructive, well, you get the picture.

So because God’s truth is true, I believe the Christian has a responsibility to defend that truth to those who call it a lie. This doesn’t mean that the Christian life is about winning arguments, but we shouldn’t just roll over every time someone says that the Bible is obviously untrue.

Tim Keller talks about “defeater beliefs.” Every non-Christian holds defeater beliefs, which are basically little things that people believe that allow them to see Christianity as “clearly untrue.” For example, start talking about the Bible to a non-Christian, and you’ll probably hear something to the effect of, “Everyone knows the Bible has been changed over the years” or “The Bible contains a lot of errors, so it’s not reliable.” These are defeater beliefs, and they allow a person to excuse himself from seriously considering the claims of Christianity.

Keller says that we should deconstruct these defeater beliefs as a means of removing obstacles to the gospel. So we argue back, explaining that the Bible is, in fact, reliable; and if we are able to deconstruct this belief, the person has to choose to wrestle with the claims of Christianity or pull out another defeater belief to cling to.

By the way, defending the faith in this manner will require studying—work—on your part. But God’s truth is worth it. Christianity is true in every sense of the term, and there are answers out there for every question that you might encounter. We should never be afraid of honest questions, and we can have the confidence that God’s truth holds up under intense scrutiny, though we will all encounter situations where we have to say, “I don’t know, I’ll have to look into that.”

Paul calls us to destroy those lofty opinions that get raised against God and his truth:

“For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ…”(2 Corinthians 10:3-6)

For tomorrow: why we can’t argue people to Christ.

The arts should matter to Christians. For one thing, art is all around us, and the way we interact with what is around us is important. In addition to that, the arts give us insight into what our culture cares about. And yesterday I argued that the arts give us an opportunity to test God’s truth in the real world. Today I will add a simple point: The arts establish points of contact with the unbelieving world.

Let’s be honest, many Christians have a tendency to withdraw from the culture around them. In many ways, this impulse is understandable. Without a doubt, our culture produces many things that are indisputably evil. Even those cultural productions that aren’t outright wicked often contain destructive, deceptive, and desensitizing elements. So it makes sense that Christians want to avoid being exposed to these things.

While this is a serious concern (one I dealt with a while ago in two posts on “good” movies and “bad” movies), the answer can’t be to simply run from culture. On the one hand, you can’t escape culture—it is an unavoidable byproduct of human interaction. Even those that try to escape from culture (e.g., the Amish) end up creating their own culture. But there’s another important reason not to run from culture. As Calvin Seerveld put it: any arena from which Christians withdraw simply goes to hell. Or to put it positively:

“If Christians are to be a force in shaping the contours of their society and evangelizing people in it, they will have to come to grips with the culture in which they inevitably live and move and have their being.” (Leland Ryken, The Liberated Imagination, 11)

In part 2, I mentioned the fact that the arts are a helpful catalog of the way that human beings feel about their existence. As Christians, we can gain insight into the way the unbelieving world views the world, including the way it views us as Christians:

“Christians, especially those called to preach or share the word, should take a special interest when those ‘outside’ the faith are drawn to deal with its mysteries and should listen closely when they tell us what our orthodoxy has sounded like to them.” (Malcom Guite in Beholding the Glory, ed. Jeremy Begbie, 30)

“Angela” on The Office may be an unfair caricature of what Christians are really like, but there is value in knowing that we have a tendency to look that way to the non-Christian world.

Add to that the fact that the arts give us opportunities to connect with people. We all know that we need to be evangelizing, but we tend to approach evangelism through an awkward encounter where we try to convince our non-Christian friends to care about some point of Christian doctrine that matters to us, but doesn’t matter to them. As I’ve said before, this is not all bad. But what if we had the opportunity to bring the truth of God’s word to bear on the things that our friends and neighbors already think and care about?

I contend that this is exactly the opportunity the arts give us. When my friends listen to Death Cab for Cutie singing about what comes (or doesn’t come) after death, I get an opportunity to engage them in a conversation on eternity. When a runaway bestseller raises the issue of who human beings are at the core (whether that bestseller is written as fiction or nonfiction), we get the opportunity to bring a biblical worldview into a discussion that our friends and coworkers are already interested in.

By avoiding the arts, we are passing up these opportunities. I think that is a mistake. It doesn’t mean that we should listen to, watch, or read everything on the market. But if your friends are interested in some form of art or culture, take the time to check it out. You might be surprised at how easy it is to talk about God’s truth in the context of the things that people are already thinking through.