Doing evangelism is a very different dynamic in today's culture than it was twenty-five years ago. Then, if you were to ask someone on the street if they believed in God, most would say they did. Further, they would know who you were talking about: the God of the Bible. They would have some understanding and even agreement concerning issues of right and wrong; heaven and hell; the reality of life after death; and the judgment.
Things are very different today. As we have moved into a postmodern culture, we have moved into a post-Christian culture. If you put the same question to the average person on the street today, many would say they don't believe in God. Those who do believe in God would be apt to have a very different view of God than the True and Living God. There would be wide-spread disagreement concerning morality, life after death, and accountability to God. What can we do?
First, learn to think philosophically.
To put it another way, learn to think in terms of worldview. One of the basic dynamics that attends any worldview that is contrary to the Christian worldview is a lack of philosophical justification for it. This dynamic holds true even in the realm of simply knowing something to be true. In other words, the unbeliever has no basis for knowing anything.
When an unbeliever makes a statement concerning God, the world, man, morality, ethics, or any other subject, he asserts it as an absolute certainty. For example, an atheist who believes in evolution may say that God does not exist. However, on his worldview, he has no basis to make such a statement. On his worldview, knowledge is obtained through observation (or the scientific method). His problem is that he has limited knowledge and ability to obtain that knowledge. He does not have the ability to search every square inch of the cosmos to determine whether or not there is a God. On his worldview, he cannot know that there is no God. His statement of certainty is rendered completely uncertain.
At the same time, he may then say that we can't know or that we don't know whether or not there is a God. He is agnostic at that point. However, he has asserted a certainty in his mind, namely, that we don't know whether or not there is a God. Again, on his worldview, he is rendered uncertain in that he does not know whether or not there is some kind of knowledge somewhere that can tell us whether or not there is a God. He has not investigated the entirety of the universe on this point. He has no philosophical or logical basis to make such a statement.
Of course, Christians have a basis or a philosophical justification for their assertion that there is a God. On our worldview, we know there is a God because He has revealed Himself to us. We are not bound to the limits of empiricism/observation. We know that some knowledge is revealed.
At the same time, we can affirm that we don't know everything, nor, must we. We have an explanation as to why we don't know everything. In addition to the fact that God's general revelation takes time to investigate, God has not revealed everything to us: "The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but those things which are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law (Deut. 29:29)."
Second, learn to think intentionally.
To the subject of evangelism in this culture: we must pray for courage. Here I am asserting that we must pray for a certain kind of courage: a courage that most of us don't have for any number of cultural reasons. We must pray for courage to ask a simple question of those with whom we dialogue: why? In other words, when we hear someone make a statement that is contrary to the Scriptures, we can, and indeed must, if we are to open doors for witness, ask the simple question, "Why do you believe that?" When it comes to questions concerning God, morality, ethics, religion, origins, and the like, the answer will have no basis on a non-Christian worldview.
Here are some sample questions: why do you believe spanking is wrong? Why do you believe homosexuality is not sin? Why do you think there are many paths to salvation? Why do you believe embryonic stem-cell research is a good thing? Why do you say there is no absolute truth? Why do you think pre-marital sex is okay in certain circumstances? Why do you believe in evolution? How do you know the sun will come up in the morning?
Any number of questions will do. The unbeliever will have no philosophical justification to believe or know anything. He will attempt to justify his answer or knowledge apart from God, something he cannot do logically. Without God's perspective, one's view of spanking is relative. Without a commitment to God's truth, one's opinion concerning multiple paths to salvation is arbitrary. Without a biblical worldview, one cannot know for certain the sun will come up in the morning. On an evolutionary worldview, it may not. Random chance is foundational.
It is at that point that we can point out that the Christian worldview is the only worldview that makes sense of our experience or knowledge in any one of these areas. God is the one who tells us what to believe about spanking, homosexuality, how to be saved, embryonic stem-cell research, truth, pre-marital sex, our origin, and the laws of nature in effect until Christ comes. As we engage in worldview dialogue, we then segue into the gospel and call for repentance of sinful thinking and a commitment to Christ even in the area of knowledge. "In Christ are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge (Col. 2:3)."
Third, learn to think practically.
Thinking practically on one's feet may be the most vital skill one can develop. If someone says he doesn't believe in absolutes, simply ask him if it would be okay for you to take a key and run it down the side of his car? He will no doubt say "no" and therefore express a belief in absolutes as far as he is concerned. Learn to press a person's statements to their logical conclusions. Learn to demonstrate the flaws in a person's statements with practical illustrations, particularly ones that affect him. Be gentle and winsome, but press forward.
Because God has placed us in a relativistic world, we must spend some time learning to think philosophically. A few simple tenets will take us a long way. Of course, we will need courage to gently engage others. Asking the simple question "why" is a natural way to advance a conversation. We will have to come up with creative ways to make people see their inconsistencies. We must then pray that God will be pleased to open their hearts to Him as we point them to Christ as their only hope.
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About Paul Dean
Dr. Paul Dean is a pastor, cultural commentator, and author. He serves as a Regional Mentor with the International Association of Biblical Counselors, speaks at several conferences throughout the year, and provides training for ministers and churches on a regular basis. Paul resides in the Upstate of South Carolina with his wife and three children.
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