The Preconditions of Evangelism

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Our church is currently doing a class on evangelism and we recently worked through some of the things necessary to keep in mind when sharing our faith. It was a useful talk and especially relevant to what we do as apologists (maybe even more so).

Outline

1. Love must be our primary motivator.

  • Remember that God is the Primary Evangelist and His motive is Love.
  • We have received His love and it should fill and direct us.
  • Love, care, and compassion should be our motivation to share the Gospel and explain Christianity to those who are perishing.

2. Remember our own need for the Gospel

3. We need to actually know and have confidence in the Gospel.

4. Remember that one size does not fit all.

Compare the way Jesus deals with people in John 3:1-15, John 4:7-26, and Mark 10:17-22. Compare the way Paul talks with others in Acts 13:13-42 with Acts 17:16-34.

5. Prayer is not important – it’s essential.

Since God is the real evangelist we must depend on him for every aspect of a person’s coming to know Him.

For other talks in the series go here.

Why doesn’t God just do whatever it takes to make people believe in him?

Here’s something I’ve heard many times, often called the problem of divine hiddenness, recently articulated to me by a Facebook friend:

It would seem that an all loving god would not make it so damn hard to understand and believe when it could be so easy to make somone believe by any number of means. In fact god would know exactly what it would take to make me or anyone believe. why not do that?

Like the question, “When did you stop doing drugs?” this is not the sort of question we should answer directly, because it makes several bad assumptions:

1. IT ASSUMES THAT BELIEF = FAITH

But James 2:19 says that even the demons believe. Imagine God provided special evidence to an atheist that compelled her to believe he was real. Would she love him as a result? Or would she maintain that even though she was certain he existed, Yahweh is a monstrous deity not worthy of worship? Most atheists—especially new atheists—would say the latter. So if God wanted them to have a loving trust in him (faith), it doesn’t seem like proving his existence would get the job done.

2. IT ASSUMES THAT GOD HAS NOT ALREADY GIVEN SUFFICIENT EVIDENCE

But as (1) suggests, the problem atheists have with God is not strictly evidential in the first place; it is relational. Which is why Romans 1:18ff notes that, far from not knowing the truth, all people naturally do know about God, since his existence is clearly perceived in creation—but they suppress it in unrighteousness. Now, atheists obviously won’t tend to admit this, even to themselves; just as I would not have when I was an atheist. But looking back on my attitude and beliefs during that time, it is very obvious to me now that I was deceiving myself, and that Romans 1 was exactly right. Indeed, the Bible’s ability to accurately expose the human heart was something that I found quite convincing when evaluating its claims. It has the ring of truth about it.

3. IT ASSUMES THERE IS SUCH A THING AS CONVINCING EVIDENCE TO AN ATHEIST

But if the Bible is correct that unbelievers suppress the truth in unrighteousness, then any evidence for God will be suppressed in the same way—reinterpreted, no matter how implausibly, to point away from God. In Luke 16:31, Jesus observes that, “If they don’t listen to Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded if one rises from the dead.” I’d lay good money that if an atheist saw someone rise from the dead, she would look for a scientific explanation—and assume there was a scientific explanation regardless of her success—rather than believe it was a miracle. That being the case, what could God possibly do to convince her, when she will resolutely reinterpret any evidence to fit her godless worldview?

4. IT ASSUMES GOD WANTS EVERYONE TO BELIEVE IN HIM

But where is this taught in the Bible? Scripture is explicit that, because we are naturally enemies of God, none of us will ever love him without he himself taking the initiative and fixing this relational problem we have. It isn’t something we can do. Left to our own devices, we will always hate God. He must change our attitude; make us willing to see the obvious. That is what the phrase “born again” means—to have God replace our “hearts of stone” with “hearts of flesh” (Ezekiel 36:26).

This is why Yahweh has always chosen whom he will save, and left the rest. That is what Israel is a model of. God does not intend to save everyone. Rather, as Romans 9:16-18 puts it:

So then it is not of him who wills, nor of him who runs, but of God who has mercy. For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, “For this very purpose I caused you to be raised up, that I might show in you my power, and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.” So then, he has mercy on whom he desires, and he hardens whom he desires.

Cross-posted from my blog.

Edward Feser reviews A Universe From Nothing

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“The bulk of the book is devoted to exploring how the energy present in otherwise empty space, together with the laws of physics, might have given rise to the universe as it exists today. This is at first treated as if it were highly relevant to the question of how the universe might have come from nothing” until Krauss acknowledges toward the end of the book that energy, space, and the laws of physics don’t really count as “nothing” after all. Then it is proposed that the laws of physics alone might do the trick” though these too, as he implicitly allows, don’t really count as “nothing” either.

His final proposal is that “there may be no fundamental theory at all” but just layer upon layer of laws of physics, which we can probe until we get bored. But this is no explanation of the universe at all. In particular, it is nowhere close to what Krauss promised his reader” an explanation of how the universe arose from nothing ” since an endless series of “layers” of laws of physics is hardly “nothing.” His book is like a pamphlet titled How to Make a Million Dollars in One Week that turns out to be a counterfeiter’s manual.”

Read the whole thing here.

HT: Chris Reese

Sam Harris’ Moral Landscape, challenged

This is my response to the Moral Landscape Challenge, an essay competition with a 1,000-word limit.

Hey Sam; thanks for the opportunity to interact with your views. If I understand The Moral Landscape correctly, your central thesis is that moral truth exists and can be scientifically understood. This seems to cash out in two critical claims:

I. Moral goodness, broadly speaking, just is whatever supports or increases the well-being of conscious minds;
II. Science, in principle if not always in practice, can discover facts around, make predictions about, and ultimately guide the process of promoting this collective well-being.

I know you’ve already faced a lot of criticism about (I) in particular, so I hope I won’t be beating a dead horse. I’m going to assume (I) for the sake of argument and agree with you: a person who denies that morality is about promoting well-being simply isn’t making sense. I hope to persuade you that your own moral beliefs actually reveal the opposite: it is the person who thinks that morality is about promoting well-being who isn’t making sense.

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Ravi Zacharias at UPenn Open Forum

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Ravi Zacharias recently spoke to students and faculty at the University of Pennsylvania. The topic of the forum was “Is Truth Real? A Conversation on Science, Ethics, and Philosophy”. Ravi was joined for the Q and A with Nabeel Qureshi.

Auckland Event: Discussing The God Delusion and Has Science Buried God?

Next month, a discussion group kicks off in Auckland to consider Richard Dawkins’ book The God Delusion and Has Science Buried God? by John Lennox. The group will meet on Monday evenings and include a mixture of discussion and clips from the debates between Lennox and Dawkins. Here are the full details:

Format: DVD screening interspersed with discussion.

When: 7.30pm Mondays (beginning on the 3rd of February).

Where: 15 Sainsbury Road, Morningside, Auckland.

Cost: Free (donations welcome).

For more details contact Gerald at gerald@gzv.co.nz or call him on 027 2468 218.

 

Must Christians still observe the Sabbath?

Here are the notes from Thinking Matters Hamilton’s latest worldview study. The path to the conclusion was pretty complex and intense, but I think where we ended was clear and well-supported:

There is ample biblical evidence that the Sabbath is strictly a sign of the Mosaic covenant. There is no biblical evidence that it should be observed by Christians, and a fair amount pointing the other way. It has been fulfilled in Jesus (see Matthew 11:28), and so we now live in an eternal, spiritual Sabbath, which the repeating, physical Sabbath pointed to. Thus, observing any kind of Sabbath day is purely a matter of conscience—we are free to do it or not, as our own convictions require.

Must Christians still observe the Sabbath?
https://docs.google.com/document/d/1_GLgy5PyTPssHJKHJMv0XDjdCIJCy8xbeOHyCKtJuxM/edit?usp=sharing

Auckland Event: Introduction to Apologetics

This year I have been running a beginners course on introductory apologetics. By popular demand, I am running this again during the next school term beginning Tuesday, 30 July. There are no course fees. Your only expense is the course textbook.

All are welcome, even those who are sceptical about Christianity. Each lesson can be understood by itself so feel free to come to any night that interests you. However, to get the full benefit and see the cumulative case develop attending all in order is recommended.

[pk_info_box width="0"] What: Introduction to Apologetics: defending the faith with reason and evidence

When: Tuesdays, 7pm (beginning on 30 July, 2013

WhereEncounter Christian Centre 495 Rosebank Road Avondale New Zealand [/pk_info_box]

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