Before tying up that loose end, though, I feel the need to comment on the discussion. James White was a drafter of the Statement on Social Justice and the Gospel. The express purpose of the Statement is to clarify the meaning of the Gospel in order to guard against false teachings creeping into the Church through modern “sociological, psychological, and political theories”. Certainly, concern over false teachings and false gospels is a theme we find as far back as the Gospels, themselves, and the Pauline letters. We are right o be concerned.
On the other hand, as I listened to the discussion, another concern occurred to me. Yes, we are not of the world, but we are in the world, and the world is our mission field. Jesus left the 99 to search for the one lost sheep. Paul was a Jew to the Jews and a Greek to the Greeks, becoming all things to all people so that he could reach them with the Gospel. (1 Corinthians 9:19-23) Though Paul was concerned about false gospels creeping into the Church, he was also concerned about relating to the lost world.
Debating is a win/lose contest, little subtlety or complexity allowed. It doesn’t make for the sort of careful consideration of matters that is most often required. It certainly doesn’t allow for people to grow, develop/alter their understanding of matters[…]
I’ve often been frustrated with debates as a tool for advancing knowledge and understanding. Many times, maybe even most often, both sides claim a victory, but wins and losses are hard measured in debates. Debates are seen as win/lose propositions, but they rarely deliver that kind of satisfaction.
Listen to any political debate, and both sides will claim victory. Listen to any debate of atheist and theist, and both sides will claim victory. The after debate responses are continuations in kind of the debate – both sides trying to convince the other and the world of their victory. The claims usually fall flat and ring hollow to anyone who makes an effort at remaining objective.
If we want to get at truth and understanding, debates are not the way to do it. Respectful discussion and dialogue are much better platforms for truth and understanding.
Since this is a faith-based blog, a little reference to Jesus is in order. Jesus didn’t debate people, ever. He often asked questions. He spoke in parables. He connected with people where they were – healing them, addressing them at a personal level, touching on their psychological, emotional and physical and spiritual issues.
Jesus treated everyone with respect, even the spiritually high-minded Pharisees. He took everyone seriously.
We can not get “inside” other people’s heads like Jesus could – knowing the thoughts and intents of their hearts – , but we have the Holy Spirit to guide us. We should attempt to be more led by the Spirit than by our capacity to debate when we engage with non-believers. Like Jesus did.
Paul writes to the Corinthians “not to associate with sexually immoral people”, but he qualifies that statement to say that he is “not at all meaning the sexually immoral of this world or the greedy and swindlers or idolaters since you would need to go out of the world”. (1 Corinthians 5:9-10) What is Paul talking about here?
Paul goes on to clarify that he is writing to the Corinthians “not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of sexual immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or swindler – not even to eat with such a one.”
He is obviously talking about people within the church, and this is a point that I think we have generally gotten wrong in the modern church today, but maybe not in the way that one might suppose.
It seems to me that we have got these instructions from Paul to the Corinthians exactly backwards.
I think of the Moral Majority when I say this. I think of the efforts of Christians to try to impose “Christian values” on our world. I realize that I am departing from many Christian leaders to say something like this, but please hear me out.
Nabeel Qureshi was raised in a devout Muslim family in Virginia Beach, VA. He memorized the Qur’an by the age of 6 and prayed five times a day. When he went to college, his college roommate was a Christian. They spent three years debating the historical claims of both religions, and he came to realize that Christianity could withstand historical scrutiny but Islam could not.
At that point, he came face to face with a a difficult, life-changing decision: whether to abandon the Islam of his family and and heritage by embracing Christianity, or remain a Muslim, knowing that it could not stand up to history and reason. This was a decision that would ostracize him from his family. Continue reading “Reach out to our Muslim neighbors”→
As Christians, we naturally emphasize faith because faith is what God rewards. Faith is what connects us to God. Without faith it’s impossible to please God. But, faith also separates people from God – when they don’t have it.
Faith is a stumbling block for the agnostic and the atheist.
When agnostics and atheists (and sometimes even Christians) talk about faith, they often talk about faith in the “blind” sense, divorced from reason and rationality. Real faith, however, is anything but blind or irrational.
For the Christian, faith informs a God logic that is captured in doctrine. This logic is far from irrational or inconsequential. Faith is part of that God logic, but it isn’t divorced from logic or truths discoverable in the material world that God created. Atheists and agnostics, however, don’t see the connection. Continue reading “Intellectualism and Scholarship for Christ”→
I am compelled by a phenomenon that I see in modern culture. Maybe it is not a new phenomenon, but the current expression of it is new (because it is happening now). The video above is an example: Jesus, Jesus, is a haunting ballad of the unbeliever by Noah Gunderson. Continue reading “Do We Stand in the Way of the Prodigal”→
“Suppose one reads a story of filthy atrocities in the paper. Then suppose that something turns up suggesting that the story might not be quite true, or not quite so bad as it was made out. Is one’s first feeling, `Thank God, even they aren’t quite so bad as that,’ or is it a feeling of disappointment, and even a determination to cling to the first story for the sheer pleasure of thinking your enemies as bad as possible? If it is the second then it is, I am afraid, the first step in a process which, if followed to the end, will make us into devils. You see, one is beginning to wish that black was a little blacker. If we give that wish its head, later on we shall wish to see grey as black, and then to see white itself as black. Finally, we shall insist on seeing everything – God and our friends and ourselves included – as bad, and not be able to stop doing it: we shall be fixed for ever in a universe of pure hatred.” – C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity
We need to be very careful how we present the Gospel to the world. Please read this editorial. See the Gospel Coalition’s August article on Whether ISIS is Beheading Children. Back in August, there was some question whether the beheadings were really happening. It seems to be accepted as fact now, but the point of the article is important. We need to avoid being carried away with emotion and fleshy anger.
In that light this article is a must read! (A Christian Response to ISIS) This is an extreme example, but what of those who are “enemies” of Christ in culture, politics, whatever? What would Jesus do? How would Jesus respond? We need to think and pray about that.