The Most Evangelistic
Peter BeckPeter serves as assistant professor of religion at Charleston Southern University where he teaches church history and theology. While serving as senior pastor in Louisville, Ky., he completed his PhD in historic theology at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. His dissertation, The Voice of Faith: Jonathan Edwards's Theology of Prayer, is soon to be published. He, his wife Melanie, and their two kids, Alex (12) and Karis (7), live near Charleston, SC. Peter's goal for his teaching and writing ministries is "love from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith" (1 Tim 1:5).
- 2009 Jun 09
Facebook is an interesting tool/phenomena. It’s a great way to catch up with real friends, far and wide. It also provides a way to keep up with our new “friends.” We can also listen in on conversations carried on in the ether world that are not our own. In that way, Facebook can become quite voyeuristic.
This morning I’ve been “eavesdropping” on a conservation between a friend and one of his so-called friends. The latter is accusing the former of being either theologically inconsistent at best or an outright liar at worst because he claims to be evangelistic. The accuser’s concern, so it seems, is that the defendant apparently holds to a theological position that allegedly doesn’t believe in evangelism.
The unspoken element, at least insofar as I’ve been able to see from the vantage point of an outsider, is that the plaintiff assumes that he, because of his theological presuppositions, must be the more evangelistic of the two.
What we have here is a classic “us versus them” donnybrook with evangelism as the measuring stick of theological correctness. He who is the most evangelistic must be right.
Ironically, most of the theological positions invoked in these kinds of debates have every reason to be the “most evangelistic” position. Consider a few (in overly simplistic terms):
Calvinists ought to be the most evangelistic. Calvinists believe that it is God’s sovereignty that determines who will be saved and when. Calvinists believe that God’s sovereignty ensures that even their most flawed evangelistic efforts can be used for eternal good. Calvinists ought to be the most evangelistic.
The same can be said of Arminians. Arminians argue that human responsibility demands that the human will must be absolutely free before, during, and after salvation for one’s faith to be valid and praiseworthy. Therefore, they contend that the eternal fate of others’ souls depend on the Christian’s faithfulness in evangelism. That said, Arminians ought to be the most evangelistic.
This debate extends to discussions of the end times as well. Those who hold to a postmillennial view, that Christ will return at the end of time once His kingdom has enveloped the earth, ought to be the most evangelistic.
Dispensationalists ought to be the most evangelistic. They believe that Christ won’t return to establish His kingdom until the world has been evangelized.
Conservatives ought to be the most evangelistic. They believe in a literal hell. They’re afraid their friends and loved ones are heading there without Christ.
Likewise, liberals ought to be the most evangelistic. The world will be a better place, they contend, when we all embrace Jesus’ message of universal love and self-sacrifice.
On and on, we could go. Hardly a theological position in the Christian world can be found that shouldn’t be the most evangelistic, if the proponents of said systems were theologically consistent. The fact of the matter, however, is that most of us aren’t consistent. We hold to positions that demand that we be the most evangelistic. But, since we aren’t, we attack others who are, questioning their methods, their message, and their motivation.
Instead of comparing ourselves according to our theological gurus, let’s compare ourselves to the biblical standard. According to Scripture, Christians ought to be the most evangelistic. We have been snatched from the teeth of death. We have been reconciled with our one time enemy. We have been made children of God. We’ve got a great message because we’ve got a great Savior. We’ve got no reason to be silent about it. We don’t have a choice in the matter. Christ demands that all Christians be the most evangelistic.