mardi 22 novembre 2011

E.G Mail: Apologetic 101

Few weeks ago, In a forum I usually moderate I was asked by J.R - a Christian lady living in Belgium about the difficulty to introduce modern skeptic to the person of Christ. Here below is the response i gave her then.
I have had the privilege a) to sometime bring people directly to Christ, b) sometimes indirectly to Christ and c) sometime never to Christ but left them respecting my faith as being a dependable and intelligent one. However this ability to bring people to Christ from very different persuasions from mine didn't come overnight. There was a time when It was not always the case. Hence i can understand J.R's frustration as well as others who might feel themselves as being in the same boat as her searching hopelessly through the dark night how they could possibly become fishers of man in this complex 21rst century!

If any one of you want to bring people to the saving faith in Christ, you will have first to make them understand what this faith of yours entails which means you'll have to be able to give an answer - a credible answer to the new skeptic. It seems to me through my observations, personal and through hear-say and readings, that the westernized skeptic is a new type of skeptic. This kind of skeptic doesn't just want to hear old tales of a dying God who came back to life. What they want to know among others things is how on earth can you believe that and secondo why should s/he care? The first question voice the rationality of your beliefs and the second the relevance of it. You see now why i like them? smile

As Christians, we should be up to the task, for in a way their salvation depend on how serious we believe in this bible verse and moreover that this bible verse concerns us: "But in your hearts set Christ apart as holy [and acknowledge Him] as Lord. Always be ready to give a logical defense to anyone who asks you to
account for the hope that is in you, but do it courteously and respectfully." [1 Peter 3:15 Amplified Bible (AMP)]

1 Peter 3:15 is the apologist maxim. It is his 21rst Century credo for evangelism. Any Christian apologists (i.e Christian Thinkers) knows that in our age, skepticism has known a veritable renaissance - hence the need to change our approach to bring the good news to the people. The essence of the message must remain but the form will have to change and the evangelist will have to adapt depending on who s/he meets. Sometime a fisherman will use a simple fishing stick but at other time a net. Sometime the fishing is done close to the shore, sometime away from the shore. Sometime it is done at night, sometime during the say. The purpose remains the same, but the methodology changes.

Practically, what does it mean? Lee Strobel the bestselling author of the books, 'The Case for Christ', 'The Case for Faith', 'The Case for the Creator', 'The Case for the Real Jesus' comments: "When 1 Peter 3:15 tells us to "always be ready" to defend our faith—well, here is the kind of preparation that all of us need ... issues as the existence of God, science versus Christianity, and the reliability of the Bible, but ... also ... touchy social topics such as abortion and homosexuality."

In brief, you have to know your target - you have to understand your prey before you decide to start hunting or fishing them out of their natural habitat and comfort zone. They like their comfort zone - for it feels comfortable and  they'll fight to stay there. Some will even give you the fight of your life and unless you are ready they'll make mince-meat of you.

In Mark Mittelberg's book, "The Questions Christians Hope No One Will Ask", there is an interesting story that i suspect most of you can relate with.

"I first experienced that phenomenon when I was a young Christian and volunteered at our church to respond to questions submitted on cards at our weekend services. One Sunday I got an inquiry from a twelve-year-old girl who said she just wanted to know more about Jesus. When I called her, she invited Leslie and me to her home to talk with her and her father about Christ. "Aw, isn't that cute?" I said to Leslie as I hung up the phone. "This is gonna be fun!"

But as her father ushered us into their apartment, I glanced at the coffee table and saw stacks of heavyweight books. It turns out her dad is a scientist who had spent years studying scholarly articles and weighty tomes attacking the foundations of Christianity. Over a dinner of pizza and soft drinks, he peppered me for hours with tough objections to the reliability of the New Testament and the divinity of Jesus. While I was able to answer some of his questions, he kept raising issues that I had never even considered. Before long my head was starting to spin—and I began to experience spiritual vertigo.

Here's my prediction: if you've never felt this sort of divine disequilibrium, the chances are you will—and soon, because challenges to the Christian faith are coming fast and furious in best-selling books, popular magazines, college classrooms, television documentaries, and on the Internet. Your family members, friends, neighbors, and colleagues may be influenced by what these skeptics are saying—and they may very well come to you with their doubts and concerns."

Here is my question to you, when those question comes what are you gonna do? One of my lady friend made me laugh few months ago when she told me that her Christian life took an unexpected turn when she went for Singapore and lived with a Muslim lady. So it was like a deja vu when J.R wrote her post. And sure enough I was myself baptize in that fire when i went to South Africa and realized with some horror for the first time in my life that i couldn't use the Bible to preach to people the Gospel because they just didn't wanna consider the Bible as a source of authority on true spirituality. A pastor from Europe gave me a laugh when he told the audience that it is even difficult to speak about God as a Father in certain places. Here is his story. He approached a group of oung people and started sharing with them the love of God when one of them raised his hand to interrupt him with these questions.

Sir, the young man asked, when you say God - are you talking about that divine Guy who had only one Son that He loved so much? The pastor said yes. Then the young man proceeded. That Guy had only one Son and he gave that one Son to be killed by people who didn't know him nor care about him? The positive answer came at once - yes. Then the young man shook his head and wave him away saying, if that is your God i am not interested in Him. A guy who sacrifice his only son to strangers is a mentally sick dude! The pastor was in shock! He didn't see that coming. When reported that to us telling us how close people hearts have become, i laughed. Actually, i sympathized more with the skeptics than with the pastor. I guess i would have reacted similarly if i didn't know better. Those guys were rejecting Christianity nor Jesus gospel. They were showing their revolt against a concept that didn't make sense to them.

Hence here is the first lesson:

Don't assume that people you preach have the same theological or the same historical background knowledge as yours. To the immortal words of Ravi Zacharias, 'Don't give too much too soon' when you preach the gospel to skeptics. First find a common ground, find a point of reference. I brought once a young man who was into 'Black Islam' a la Malcolm X, Minister Farrakhan, etc - to consider Jesus teachings while playing chess with him. I didn't bring him to Christ that day, but the day that followed he gave his life to Christ publicly in a Church i visited with him. Another time i brought similarly a young man to faith by talking with him regularly about his favorite subject that i happened to like too - Latino dancing, movies and so on. The year was 2006 at Rand-burg/Jo'Burg - South Africa

I can't emphasize enough the importance of Robert's advise. Find a common ground and you won't even have to compromise your faith and your Christian ethics. As 1 peter 3:15 starts, be prayerful and in a good holy communion with the Lord. Though i was playing chess and in full conversation i was praying in my heart
for the gentleman for almost the whole duration of the mind game. You have to train yourself if you want to be a good hunter. Practice the few points i am sharing and you'll be better at it with time. Don't be in hurry neither. Be patient too, just like fisherman are. I met twice a month with a lady sharing the faith and responding to her objections for 4 months. It went from August 2006 to December 2006. On the first week of December 2006, she gave her life to Christ and i prayed for her amazed of the impossible miracle. She never gave me even the impression that she was agreeing with my answers all along, but guess what? God works in mysterious way. God will do his part, let us do our of being always 'ready to defend' the hope that is within us.

May the Lord bless you all in Jesus' name.

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