Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Questioning Evangelism

It has been a while since I read a book on evangelism. I was not disappointed by Randy Newman's publication, Questioning Evangelism. This is right up my street. The author has worked with Campus Crusade for 20+ years so he is an experienced evangelist. He has thought deeply about evangelism in the post-modern age.

This book assumes that you know the objective truths of the gospel and that you have a personal testimony to share. However, the issue of this book is what you then do with this knowledge. Newman notes that bald declaration creates less and less interest in an age that is used to simply shrugging shoulders at you, saying, "That may be true for you, but not for me."

Newman shows that use of good questions can help the shrugger see the presuppositions he holds and whether or not they are reasonable. Newman takes us through conversation scenarios centred around common objections to Christianity showing how questions can help get people a bit deeper into the gospel. Questions such as: why does a loving God allow suffering? why are Christians homophobic? why is the church full of hypocrites? and several others. These are very helpful.

The book also addresses possible hinderances in the hopeful evangelist himself: lack of compassion for the lost, hidden anger at the lost (remember Jonah?), and the tendency to talk when he should shut up. In the the last of these Newman has a useful section on the need to develop listening skills. These days, less is more, as they say.

The risk with this book is that the reader might want to use the conversations as templates to be learned, and the author is wise to this. This approach would be a big mistake. The goal of this book is to get us to think about the real people we meet and show real love to them.

On the downside, Newman's theological perspective comes out in some of the worked-out scenarios, where often God is portrayed as being dependent on man's response. However, this does not detract from the central theme that a questioning approach towards people is better able to engage people in this modern age.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Search Me

The Bible has much to say about idolatry. We have found it in 1 Corinthians 8-10 at SPC. It is a form of spiritual adultery, it is infidelity to God, it is a loss of one's true love.

We must not be deceived. It is not about bowing down to statues in a temple, having figurines on your mantlepiece or pictures on the wall, though it could involve those. It is about giving your heart to another. A person, a possession, an idea, an ambition, a feeling, a plan, nostalgia, a football team. Even a regret. Each can rule our hearts when on the face of it we submit to God.

Knowing your own heart is a difficult thing. We need God's help:
Search me, O God, and know my heart!
Try me and know my thoughts!
And see if there be any grievous way in me,
and lead me in the way everlasting!

Psalm 139:23,24 (ESV)

Can't Concentrate!

While I have been writing and responding to emails this morning, within my field of vision has been this sight out of my study's window. I'm afraid the sight of a guy climbing a wobbly ladder up to a roof affects my concentration somewhat and gives me sweaty palms. It must be an age thing.

Roll on lunch break.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Minister Spotted

Rev. Dr. Al Lutz at the PCA General Assembly. Who's that other guy? Obviously much less famous.

Sunday, June 03, 2007

Irrational Rationalists

Most Christians will by now have noticed a growing militancy amongst atheists against religion, and Christianity in particular. See for example recent books by Sam Harris, Richard Dawkins and now Christopher Hitchens.

One of the interesting things about Dawkins is his unusual definition of faith:
Faith means blind trust, in the absence of evidence, even in the teeth of evidence. (The Selfish Gene, 1976)
This is a definition of faith which many atheists will believe, repeat and argue from. Their assumption is that faith has no basis and, accordingly, Christians are completely irrational, unable to reasonably present the Christian faith to the world.

Therefore, it is interesting to see how atheists, when interacting with Christians, are sometimes so confident in this assumption that they themselves see no need to put together any reasonable, substantial argument. Why bother if the person you are arguing against is fundamentally irrational?

I have been following Doug Wilson's online debate with Christopher Hitchens hosted at Christianity Today. You can read about it at these posts: one, two, three, four, five and six. Hitchens is a very gifted polemical writer. However, as you will see as you read, it is clear that he simply does not understand the question which he is being asked: on what rational basis can a darwinist atheist chose one morality over another? (Hitchens , like other atheists, asserts that Christianity is immoral and therefore to be rejected.) He does not provide an answer.

It seems clear to me that most atheists are not able to argue their case. They simply assert it as self-evident, but are unable to see the logical inconsistency of the choices they make. To see this, read the Hitchens/Wilson debate. If you have to read only one, read part 6.