18 September 2007

Hello, Out There #2: are Christians arrogant?

by Dan Phillips

PREFACE: for the meaning and aim of this series, see Hello, Out There #1: on Truth.


Those arrogant Bible-thumpers. I grew up not only not Christian, but enthusiastically not Christian. During my "BC" days, my buddies and I liked to go on and on about how arrogant Christians were. All these Bible-thumping Jesus freaks, claiming to know absolute truth, telling everyone else how to think and how to live, telling them they were wrong and going to Hell. Made us sick.

For our part, we were certain that you really couldn't be certain. And besides, if anybody could be, it wouldn't be these knotheads, most of whom were intellectually pretty dim bulbs.

(That was thirty-plus years ago. Funny how not much has changed, isn't it? Except back then mostly it was non-Christians making this criticism of the claim to know truth; now a lot of the critics profess to be Christian. But I digress.)

So what of it? Is it arrogant to say you know the truth? Are Christians arrogant?


The answer: well, yes.... Of course, some Christians are arrogant, and repulsively so. But I don't think we'll get very far in evaluating any world-view by some of its advocates, will we? I mean, if some people who think that murder is bad are jerks in other ways, while some murderers are nice to old ladies and puppies, does that say anything about murder? Don't we have to decide some other way than "who has the nicest salesmen?" If the product is bad, isn't it bad no matter how friendly the peddler is?

So let's ask whether the Biblical position is necessarily and inherently arrogant.

Definition. First we'd better define that position. I think we'd agree that, if the Christian position says, "We are right about Truth because we are smarter than everyone else and we did our homework better and reasoned better, so you'd better believe us" — that's pretty arrogant.

Or if the Christian position is, "We know Truth because we looked for it harder and better and more sincerely than the others. If they'd been as smart and diligent as we, they'd have found it too. But they weren't, so they didn't, and we did!" — that's arrogant. Stinkily arrogant.

But is that the Biblical, which is to say the Christian position? Hardly. In fact, that is the polar opposite of the Christian position.

God's design. For instance, hear Paul: "For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth" (1 Corinthians 1:26). Some? Yes; but not many! So far from boasting that Christians were the smartest on the block, Paul seems to take positive glory in the fact that they were not what the world would judge to be the sharpest scalpels on the tray.

Why? Paul explains:
But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; 28 God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, 29 so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. 30 And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, 31 so that, as it is written, "Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord" (1 Corinthians 1:27-31)
If I can break that down a bit, Paul is saying that in many cases God expressly chose people who would poll poorly, people who were not "Honor Student at ___," who were not on the Who's Who of his day. There may have been some bright lights here and there, but they were the exception and not the rule.

God's express design in this (Paul says) is precisely so that no one could look at them and suspect that they'd figured this out by themselves. ("Them? Surely not!") God chose a bunch of dim-witted, non-entity losers, drew them to Himself, and brought them into a relationship with Himself — so that the net effect is that He and He alone gets the credit for there even being a relationship in the first place.

So, you see, the Biblically faithful Christian position is violently anti-arrogance. Anyone who has a relationship with God either must confess that he never made the first move, that nothing good in him attracted God's attention, that God gets all the credit... or else he doesn't have a relationship with the God that the Bible talks about.

Put another way. The Bible teaches that none of us really wants to know the real God (Romans 3:11). Now, understand: we all want some belief-system that makes us feel better, and we'll call it "God" if that helps — but that isn't what the Bible means. It uses the word "God" very specifically, meaning a particular God in exclusion to any other. And that God, nobody naturally wants to know.

In fact, we're all naturally bent contrary to Him (Romans 3:10-18). So we're not going to find Him by ourselves, ever. Even the way we think is inclined to put things together wrong, so that we will never admit that we see God, even when His works are staring us straight in the face (Romans 1:18-32).

So according to the Bible, not only has no man ever figured his way to God, but no man ever can do it — and no man ever would do it!

So the whole superstructure necessary for arrogance is a non-starter, on the Biblical view.

So then, nobody knows God? But the same Bible that says that men don't want to know God, and that they won't admit to what they do know of God, says that there are some who do know Him.

How did that happen?

Three steps, to put it briefly:
  1. Creation. God's works show that He exists, and that He is mighty (Psalm 19:1-6; Romans 1:18-20). Even big, bad atheists know deep down inside that things didn't make themselves. It's just that admitting what they know would ruin their party, so they don't. But though creation reveals important truths about God, it doesn't say anything clear about His character or nature or will; not clear enough that we can know Him. That requires...
  2. Words and deeds. The Bible says straight-up that God took the initiative, and opened up to us. When Adam sinned and hid, God talked to him (Genesis 3). He's been talking from the very first, and He has said a final word which is still speaking to us today. Listen:
  3. Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, 2 but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world. 3 He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power (Hebrews 1:1-3)
    So God took the initiative and spoke in various ways from the very start; and now He speaks to us in Jesus Christ. In that, He has taken the initiative. He has put it all out there for anyone to see and to believe.

    But we don't, because of the problem I talked about before: we don't want to. It bugs us. It threatens us, irritates us, insults us, makes us mad. We can't handle the truth.

    So why can some people handle it? We already know it isn't because they're smart or good.
    We already know that it has to be in spite of the fact that they are bad and stupid and contrary. So how does it happen?

    The only way it can happen
    .

  4. Changed hearts. Once again, God makes the first move. As Paul said before, "because of him you are in Christ Jesus." That means it is a work of God. God takes our stubborn, hard, God-hating minds and changes them. He puts a new heart in us. Where it was absolutely natural for the first heart to run from God, it is absolutely supernaturally-natural for the new heart to run to God. And so, all the credit for this relationship, every bit of it, has to go to God.
So if you ever met an arrogant Christian, you met one who isn't being true to his faith. I'm sorry about it, but frankly I'd just encourage you to shrug it off. After all, if you only believed in things that only perfect people believed in, you'd never believe in anything, would you? And if you did, nobody else could believe that same thing, because you're not perfect either, are you?

But here's the thing: this whole Biblical package is the only worldview that one perfect person did believe in. Of course, I'm talking about Jesus.

Stepping back one more time. So we've seen that the position is not inherently arrogant. On the contrary, the Biblical position is the antidote to arrogance.

In fact, the truth of the matter is that all other positions are necessarily and inherently arrogant. All other positions necessarily exalt some non-God — self, experience (which is self), journey (which is self), rationalism (which is self), decision (which is self), choice (which is self) — over against God's self-revelation. All other positions say that the infinite-personal God is wrong, and they are right.

Now, that's arrogance.

Religious or irreligious, it is those "who wander from [His] commandments" (Psalm 119:21) who are arrogant.

In sum: the Christian position is not, "I am right, and everybody else is wrong." The Christian position affirms with Jesus that God has made His truth known.

The Christian position is "God is right, and all who disagree with Him are wrong."

Any contrary position is the heart and soul of arrogance.

PS — one glaring omission in this little (?!) essay is the whole issue of premise. A great deal of criticism of Christianity is based on an unspoken premise. What is said is, "You Christians are arrogant." What is unsaid is, "[Because Jesus is a liar,] you Christians are arrogant." The reverse also applies: when Christians say, "This is the truth," what we mean-but-too-often-don't-say is, "[Because Jesus is true,] this is the truth." This, in itself, probably warrants a whole post.

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64 comments:

David said...

Dan, stop making sense. I have to agree with you yet again. My head is going to explode

Mike Riccardi said...

This was phenomenal, brother. It's so clear that you've been gifted by God to communicate ineffable truths so effectively and so faithfully. There is a famine for that today, and specifically here in New Jersey. Pray that God would exalt His Name in the hearts of men. I praise God that He's done that in you!

Benjamin Nitu said...

Good one, Dan!

Webster defines arrogance as "an attitude of superiority manifested in an overbearing manner or in presumptuous claims or assumptions."

Now, isn't an arrogant Christian kind of an oxymoron? ... well, it should be anyways.

DJP said...

Yes, Benjamin, exactly.

Garet Pahl said...

Dan, you rock. That was just so good, and succinct. Thanks for the nourishment and encouragement.

Qjay said...

Dan,

Great post, not to be arrogant or anything, I think you made a mistake here: "And if you did, nobody else could believe that same think, because..."

But it is so true, and so difficult not to get arrogant. I often struggle with some of my friends, and with the Christians it is so easy to joke about how inconsistent they all are, forgetting that it is by his grace that we even comprehend his words. Not that I claim to get it all, but God really did grace me with a small piece of it.

I'm very humble, by the way. And modest. Tell your friends. Really, REALLY humble.

DJP said...

Grr (at myself), yes, thank you very much Qjay. That is one of my common typo's. Fixed, thanks to you.

Gretta said...

This is one of my pet peeves. Doctrines are neither humble or arrogant. They can exhort folks to be either,but doctrines, "positions" are neither, as they are qualities of human character.

People are arrogant or humble. You have arrogant and humble believers and arrogant and humble non-believers.

And I also believe a person can be humble before God and arrogant before men at the same time.

Gretta

Mike Riccardi said...

Gretta! Where were you on the post on the 12th?!?! I was trying to say the same thing the whole day!

:o)

I'm glad somebody else has come to that conclusion!

SolaMeanie said...

I'm not arrogant. Just convinced.

I think there should be a five-year moratorium on this very good, biblical, logical and sensible post until we all can figure out what we think about it.

DJP said...

But in the meantime, the contrary position gets free rein.

Sounds fair!

Caleb Kolstad said...

Thanks for this!

Tim Bertolet said...

Dan, this was a great post. I really look forward to this series continuing.

I think this series would be worth publishing in a short little book format so that it could be handed to unbelievers, 'seekers,' or disciples young in the faith. I know I'd use something like this at my church.

Solameanie, I think there should be a five year moratorium on pronouncing five year moratoriums, pronouncing moratoriums is sooo arrogant [besides its a bit passe]. Please try to be more culturally relevant ;)

DJP said...

A moritorium on moritoria.

Cool!

And it started here.

DJP said...

David said...

Dan, stop making sense.


Hey, it just occurred to me...

David Byrne reads our blog? Cool!

(Just lost 82% of our readers....)

Mike Riccardi said...

Not picking on Tim, but what do folks around here think of referring to people as "seekers," even if we do put it in quotes?

I've heard it said, "Well, we know that no one truly seeks God, but when we use the term we're referring to the fact that they're seeking something." I don't know if I buy that.

Feel free to ignore me / remove the post if you think this is too off topic.

DJP said...

The Bible does speak of seeking God, but in the whole canonical picture, we only seek Him when He seeks us.

Mike Riccardi said...

So then is it proper to say that only believers seek God?

DJP said...

I'd want to study that out, and I'm away from my tools and at work. My from-memory answer would be:

1. Naturally, none seeks GOD (Romans 3)

2. When God breathes new life into us, we seek Him responsively (John 6:44)

3. Apostates and fools are said to seek him (or Wisdom) in rebellion, and thus to no effect (Proverbs 1:28; Ezekiel 8:18, etc.).

The rest of the answer has to come somewhere within those guidelines.

Tim Bertolet said...

I was afraid of that, I use the word "seekers" in non-technical sense (i.e. non theological) and people get a little confussed because it sounds so 'un-Calvinistic.'

I just meant someone who is trying to understand what the Bible teaches. Technically they are not "seeking God" unless the Holy Spirit is drawing them to seek (Romans 3, John 6 et al).

Practically, I think we all know people who have over a long period of time the Holy Spirit is moving their unbelief piece by piece. And then there are others who get hit "WHAMO". I think its great when you can hand an unbeliever something that 'deconstructs' their unbelief in a simple yet sort of presuppositional apologetic way. [Will I get in trouble for using 'deconstructs' in a sort of non-technical sense?]


Certainly God's internal call is effectual but some experience years of hearing external preaching and they ask questions along the way and others hear the gospel once.

I hope I didn't derail the meta.

dec said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
étrangère said...

Cheers Dan, I'm due to do an evangelistic talk on this subject and your post's helpful.

Dan said...

Hey Dan,

I hang out with non-believers a lot and I honestly don't hear people say "You Christians are arrogant" because of the Scriptures and the truth they hold. It is more about the attitude and tone of which Christians communicate truth, not the truth itself which causes people to say "Christians are arrogant."

I have found there is respect for Christians who hold beliefs, even about the exclusivity of Jesus and believing in a heaven and hell. But how we communicate to others is what I hear people then say "Christians are arogant." If we aren't listening to their beliefs, or discussing why we believe the Scriptures are authoratative and true (which is important to do).

So, truth is truth and the authoratative Scriptures can be used to show about salvation, sin, the need for repentance etc. - and at least in the many talks I have had and research I have done - it is really interesting that when I ask why do you think Christians are arrogant, it isn't the message itself - it is how the messenger gave it. The arrogance is more about the messenger not the message.

I believe you can talk about sin, hell, repentance, stating how Jesus is the only way of salvation and just about everything - But how we do that is what is causing people to say we are "arrogant" or not.


They may reject the gospel- but I have asked so many people this lately. the stories are usually about a fellow worker who akwardly keeps trying to convert a person, when they don't even care anough to ask them out to lunch or a movie or a baseball game or whatever to just hang out too -but awkwardly just talk to them like Mormons or Jehovah's witnesses at your front door, but it happens in the workplace. Or about street evangelists who confront people so strong, that the impression is left that Christians are arrogant because the street evangelists hold up signs, shout etc. instead of a person caring to even talk rather than only having a one-way conversation sort of a thing.


I was encouraged this summer by Campus Crusade who have totally changed their format of evangelism and are seeing fruit as a result. Because culture has changed, their way of evangelism is changing to a much more conversational approach, even using art as a starting point to begin speaking about the gospel. They atill go on the street and evangelize, but their whole approach is changing. And because they still strongly proclaim and teach the gospel, God uses it - but they recongize the change happening in culture and values and how people are responding.

So I am optimistic, as we can still fully proclaim the gospel and not hold back - but our attitudes, tone, heart, how we communicate etc. does make a difference in whether people think we are arrogant or not. The SPirit of God draws people, we are but people He uses to draw people to repentance. but we need to display Galatians 5 fruit as we speak, and because unlike the New Testament when Christianity was new --- it isn't today, and there are preconcieved feelings people have not about the gospel itself but about Christians and how they present the gospel.

I am finding non-believers want to know why we believe what we do, why we believe there is a hell, why we believe Jesus is the only way - but they need to trust us first and show we aren't "arrogant" as people as they may feel. But the gospel is a stumbling block, I know - but I am not kidding, I have asked so many people and the complaint is about how Christians act and talk (arrogant) not about the beliefs and the gospel.



Just some thoughts..

Mike Riccardi said...

Dan,

I'm not sure if you're committed to maintaining a presuppositional view of apologetics. If you do, you're presenting quite a few things that are contrary to that ideology. Would you call yourself a presuppositionalist?

Mike Riccardi said...

Dan = not DJP, by the way.

dec said...

And I also believe a person can be humble before God and arrogant before men at the same time.

Gretta:
Is this a typo?

DJP said...

Yes, one has to define one's Dan's and Dave/David's carefully around here.

Grigs said...

It all comes down to this: Is revelation above reason or reason above revelation. Thats how the divide goes.

Dan said...

Mike,

I don't call myself anything in terms of presupp. or not with appologetics ---- every person I relate to is different. So i take into consideration their current belief system, what their understanding (or not) of Christianity and the gospel is and as a missionary then share with them how God changed me, what the gospel is, but I ask a lot of questions first. It is amazing the openness people have when you ask them questions. And by asking them questions, you then can be praying what is the best way and what are their presuppositions - to then be able to explain the gospel and we don't have to hold back anything.


They may reject the gospel - but they aren't saying "Christians are arrogant" - they are saying "I reject the gospel". But that is a big difference. And I think more people are willing to hear the gospel, if we gain their trust to then explain it to them.

Hope that makes sense!

dan

Mike Riccardi said...

I agree with grigs. That's where the distinction is. I think that if we answer his question: "Revelation is above reason," then we have to be presuppositionalists... always. We cannot 'adapt for different people' because God is the same, Scripture is the same, and man is the same... always.

Dan (still not DJP), I definitely understand what you're saying, but I don't agree with the philosophy behind it. Because I have a ton of work to do, am extremely tired, because I bet you're pretty enamored with the system you're describing, and cuz it's still kind of off topic, I don't think I'll pick apart everything you're saying.

If you're not extremely attached, and in case there are others who might be edified/instructed, I will say a couple of specific things.

1. Everybody you talk to is not different. Assuming their unsaved, they're all dead, and all need the same Gospel. (I doubt you'll disagree with this on the surface, but I think if you truly did believe this, the implications of that would mean you wouldn't say that everyone you talk to is different and so warrants a different approach. -- Beware of the misuse of 1Co 9:19-23 in response.)

2. Are you a called missionary? I assume you're presupposing that 'every Christian is a missionary.' I would disagree here. While every Christian is called to be a witness, the New Testament makes a clear distinction of those who were called out to be missionaries. For more on this see/listen to Dave Harvey's seminar: "To Be or Not to Be Missional." The link is http://www.sovereigngracestore.com/
ProductInfo.aspx?productid=
A2251-11-59 ---- If that doesn't work, google the title with Dave Harvey's name.

3. (From your first post) There is no 'point of contact' between the believer and unbeliever. The only place that we meet is that they're dead, and we are entrusted with the words of life. Dead people aren't engaged by anything else but life. So trying to make the point of contact with art, music, etc. demonstrates an ignorance of the nature of unsaved man. (This is also why I never ever ever use the word seekers, Tim. That, and because as far as I can see the Bible doesn't use the term of unbelievers, unless it's calling unbelievers to seek God in salvation [something that's impossible, Mt. 19:25-26; Lk. 18:26-27].)

4. I agree that the Gospel needs to be proclaimed boldly, yet humbly and without arrogance (Yes!! I KNEW I'd tie it back in!) But if they reject the "gospel" because of its presentation, it's because it's not the gospel if presented arrogantly. In other words, all things being equal -- that is, the person you're speaking to is elect, and God wills that they be regenerated at the next presentation of the gospel -- if they reject the presentation because it's arrogant, we understand that it's not really the gospel that was presented in its purity. So I think we both agree that the gospel is not preached when it's preached arrogantly. Yet "humbly" does not mean capitulation and changed messages; neither does "arrogantly" mean boldly, with conviction, and leading with a call to repent from their sins before a holy God.

DJP said...

Dan K — I'm sorry I seem to keep scratching where you're not itching. Evidently the other commenters' experience and mine is different from yours.

These days I also see it a lot in professing Christians who just plain don't like something that the Bible plainly says. Rather than say so, in so many words, it's always easier to shoot the messenger. They're more comfortable on that plane, than on a "what-does-the-Bible-actually-say?" plane.

My own personal weakness is that I'm very comfortable having discussions, but far too often lack ____ (pick your own noun; to my shame, "ability" isn't the one) to turn it to the things of God. But I'll discuss.

Mike Riccardi said...

Yeah, and in that vein, Dan (=DJP), I have a friend who has recently been battling the unbelief of fear and anxiety when it comes to witnessing to unbelievers. As he's found his satisfaction in the glories of presenting the gospel more and more, and has had more and more interactions with unbelievers at work, he keeps telling me how surprised he is at how many people are just in it for the "good discussion."

You go through it all, and they just kind of say, "Yeah. That's interesting. Thanks for the talk." And it doesn't go beyond that. As I type this I'm reminded of 2 Corinthians 5, where it says we are to plead and implore the unbeliever to be reconciled.

DJP said...

Yep.

Oh, and listen. I'm a great listener. I'll listen, and listen, and listen, until the cows not only come home, but fall asleep, wake up, eat, and give a gallon of milk. I'm big on listening.

Not so big on telling.

And there's the problem. When Paul says "faith comes by hearing," he doesn't have in mind the one with the life-giving Gospel hearing the unbeliever and remaining silent.

Which is my failing.

Happy Calvinist said...

Great Post. I've run witnessed a lot of arrogance and accusations of arrogance from the geeks debating apologetic issues on YouTube that I've been watching (both Christians and Non-Christians). This is a very timely post for me.

By the way, your PS would be a great post. I think that more discussion about the unspoken premise that "Jesus is the Truth" is warranted. A lot of Christians -specifically aspiring apologists- need to think about this.

Sewing said...

God is absolutely good, and we are absolutely bad!

I love the graphics—the lightbulb switching on beside point #3 ("Changed hearts") and the snake coiled up on the branch.

Wouldn't it be reasonable to say that different lost folks have different misapprehensions about the Gospel? If Arthur believes there is no God; and Beatrice believes there is a God and a heaven and she'll get there by being a good Christian; and Charlie belives there is a God but He appears in different ways to people of different faiths; and Diane believes there is a God but we cannot know anything about Him (or perhaps Her, from her point of view) with any certainty—don't they all need to hear the Gospel in different ways? Arthur needs Socratic questioning to see that something's "out there," while Beatrice needs to learn about salvation by faith alone, Charlie needs to know the exclusivity of Christ, and Diane needs to see the sufficiency and inerrancy of Scripture. Or could we say that they all need to hear the whole package, and in this way they're all the same?

Anyhow, I struggle with all of this, because I'm waiting for God in His grace to bring about step 3 for my loved one. She has heard the Gospel given in many different, non-arrogant ways, but I am waiting and praying for the day that God gives her an ear to hear.

dec said...

"Yeah. That's interesting. Thanks for the talk." And it doesn't go beyond that.

That was me making that comment. And then five years later when the effective call came, my mind went back to that very conversation, which sent me to the Bible. You never know how the seed will grow.

DJP said...

What a great and encouraging note, dec. Thanks.

dec said...

Sewing,
Same here. I'll pray for you brother.

Sewing said...

You too, dec? I'll pray for you, too.

Thanks to God and Google, I see that not only do we have Paul's advice in 1 Corinthians 7:12-16, but also Peter's in 1 Peter 3:1-7. A certain pastor even gave a sermon on the latter passage here, with study notes here.

(DJP or Phil: please delete or rebuke if this is too far off-topic. But it is a special case of the general issue of communication between Christians and non-Christians....)

Al said...

DJP,

Two things...

First of all, this is a very timely post for me. We are moving our church onto the campus of our local university. I was working on a post about how to engage a culture of "no God - no truth" and this will come in quite handy (expect a pingback). Very well done.

Secondly, I've got a girlfriend that is better than that. Proud to part of the 18%

al sends

DJP said...

LOL, that took me a second. Payoff was worth it! But I think now we're getting down to about 8%.

Sewing said...

Well, given the impression I get of the average age of commenters 'round these parts, quite a high percentage get the Stop Making Sense allusion.

I'm sure I've heard the song (though don't recall), but the title alone seeped willy-nilly into my unconscious back then, like K-Tel commercials for Cyndi Lauper, or Ziggy Stardust videos.

Sewing said...

D'oh—it was a film, not a song. Back to "cool school" for me. (See how pathetic it is when we Christians try to be culturally relevant? Even botching 20+ year-old pop culture references....)

Even So... said...

8%?...try 4%...

same as it ever was, same as it ever was...

Mike Riccardi said...

Sewing,

I appreciate your questions. I'll do my best to answer you biblically.

Wouldn't it be reasonable to say that different lost folks have different misapprehensions about the Gospel?

I understand your point here, and it certainly does seem like different unbelievers stumble over different points, and don't believe because of those. But really, we know that it's not because of a philosophical point that doesn't mesh with their own philosophy that they don't believe, but because God has not revealed Himself to them or given them His Holy Spirit that they might be saved. "For this reason they could not believe, for Isaiah said again, 'HE HAS BLINDED THEIR EYES AND HE HARDENED THEIR HEART, SO THAT THEY WOULD NOT SEE WITH THEIR EYES AND PERCEIVE WITH THEIR HEART, AND BE CONVERTED AND I HEAL THEM'" (John 12:39-40). Perhaps the best I've ever heard this explained is by Mark Dever at the 2006 Shepherds' Conference, General Session 3. The actual wording of your question sounds to me like: "People are dead in all different ways." It's not like, "People have died in all different ways," but "They're being dead in different ways." But again, we know that dead people are all dead... period.

[...] don't they all need to hear the Gospel in different ways?

No.

Arthur needs Socratic questioning to see that something's "out there,"

This is the position of Classical Apologetics, which I really haven't done a ton of research on. I'd like to get quite refreshed some time soon. Ah, but on so many things!. Classical apologists say that you start arguing for the existence of God first. Once you demonstrate (from what I see is evidentially) that there must be a deity, you work on proving that Yahweh of the Bible is that deity. I don't think this is the right way to go. The why is afterwards.

while Beatrice needs to learn about salvation by faith alone, Charlie needs to know the exclusivity of Christ, and Diane needs to see the sufficiency and inerrancy of Scripture.

I reject the "different pieces of the Gospel for people in different places," precisely because the notion that they're in different places is false. If Beatrice is unregenerate and harps on Sola Fide not being true, an air-tight case for Sola Fide -- even a Holy Spirit inspired case for Sola Fide -- won't save her. It very well may be the case (and often is) that once you demonstrate the reasonableness of the Biblical position that demolishes their concern, they move to another one, or just dismiss it altogether. This is what they have to do, 1Co 2:10-14.

Or could we say that they all need to hear the whole package, and in this way they're all the same?

This is exactly right! They need to hear the whole package because it's the whole counsel of God that saves people. People don't get saved just be recognizing the absolute reasonableness of Sola Fide, or the exlusivity of Christ, or the fact that God can be known as He has revealed Himself in Scripture. It's not any of those things in isolation that saves; it's all of them working together. They're all inextricably linked -- and it's tough for me to even conceptually separate them as I write this.

All of these imaginary people (you did a good job of that by the way... nice concrete examples) need to be confronted with their sin. Arthur, with a refusal to acknowledge and honor God as creator (Rom 1:19-21ff). Beatrice, with her not esteeming God's righteousness properly and thinking she can establish her own (Rom 10:2-4). Charlie, with not confessing God's own Son as Supreme (John 3:18, 1John 2:22-23, 4:2-4). Diane, with accusing God of muddling the message (John 3:18, Heb 1:1-3).

Now, here's the kicker. You wanna take them to all those texts. But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit. You need to get there. But you need to start with the universal need for salvation because of the holiness of God and the sinfulness of man. When you have a biblical theology proper, a biblical anthropology, harmartiology, and soteriology, you'll have a biblical missiology... and not before.

Hope this helps. Let me know if I haven't been clear. Sewing and others, let me know if I'm wrong anywhere. I'd certainly like to grow from this.

Dan said...

hello again.

i do disagree with the way someone responded saying that different individuals don't need different approaches in sharing the gospel.

if you are talking to a Moslem, they do believe already in one God so the conversation can move from a monotheistic conversation about who is this "God" - and who is Jesus, a prophet or Son of God? But if you were talking to a Hindu, the conversation is about pluralism and many gods etc.

Most suburbanites aren't exclusively Hindu or Moslem unless they were born into a Hindu or Moslem family. So the conversation is more about mixing beliefs.

But, I talk to people and have seen people repent and trust in Jesus, because their questions were specific and we spoke about their questions and the presuppositions they had - which were different than others. The gospel explanation is still the same, but the ground and conversation which precedes it definetly depends on the person.

This is not from theory, this is from seeing people become followers of Jesus, understanding their need of a Savior, repenting of sin etc. but apologetics are a good thing and different for each person.

Scripture says always be ready to give answers for the hope we have to those who ask --- (it does say those who ask)--- and who asks and what questions differ all the time depending on the background of the person.

It is nothing different than missionaries who go to Buddhist China and study Buddhism and the worldview that comes from that as to best know how to approach someone and what their presuppositions are - may be different than going to a Moslem part of China or going to a Hindu in India.

But this also takes asking questions. I have had no resistance when I ask someone who I have built trust with, what do you believe? and listen... and then as I share what I believe and about the gospel - they may reject the gospel, but I know they don't say that Christians are then arrogant.

For Mike R. - are you seeing fruit? That would be a question I would like to ask of your approach and thinking. Can you share the last time somoene trusted in Jesus that you shared with? I would like to hear the story (stories) from you, and what you are saying and how the SPirit is using what you are doing.

Thank you!

Mike Riccardi said...

Dan,

We're obviously operating on some different foundations and frameworks here. Some of the points you make are dealt with in my previous comment.

I do have to run. I have a meeting at 8pm (eastern time). One such story that I have for you, Dan, can be found in Acts 2:14-42. Further comment will have to wait.

I'd be interested, though, in the biblical support for your understanding of evangelism, adaptation, trying to put every Christian in the category of called missionary, etc.

Thanks.

candyinsierras said...

Dan. Even though we are talking heads here, and burning down the house is an option, we remember that once in a lifetime we may ask ourselves...
Where does that highway go?
And we may ask ourselves
Am I right? ...am I wrong?
And we may tell ourselves
My God!...what have I done?

Because we can be foolish. And God still uses the foolish things to confound the wise. Just don't wear big suits with big shoulders k cuz that might be arrogant. (David Byrne fans, you know what I am talking about).

Catez said...

Doctrines are neither humble or arrogant.

Hi Greta - I'd say true doctrine is never arrogant. Even if we make doctrine a book on the shelf over there - what is in the book - if it's true doctrine could we describe it as arrogant? Doctrine communicates something - it isn't neutral.

And then - while I see what you are saying - ontologically can you split it off from the source? Is it ever really separate from the source?

And then - don't we live doctrine? How does that look?

So I would say, it can be described as more than neutral. False doctrine, and Dan describes some in his post, is arrogant. From his post:
"In fact, the truth of the matter is that all other positions are necessarily and inherently arrogant. All other positions necessarily exalt [Photo]some non-God — self, experience (which is self), journey (which is self), rationalism (which is self), decision (which is self), choice (which is self) — over against God's self-revelation. All other positions say that the infinite-personal God is wrong, and they are right.

Now, that's arrogance."

That's doctrine - arrogant doctrine. And in his post Dan describes this too:
"So, you see, the Biblically faithful Christian position is violently anti-arrogance."

That's talking about doctrine as I see it - anti-arrogance. Humble, which doesn't mean wimpy. So I think saying "doctrine is doctrine" is too limiting - doctrine isn't neutral. Doctrine takes and describes a position in a particular spirit and attitude.

ShyGuy said...

Speaking of unspoken premises, Dan, there's one thing that I simply can't get over, and it's the core assumption in both of your "Hello, Out There" discussions. Your assumption is "the Bible is true." The more I read on the topic, the more I try to get my faith back, the more I see the faultlines in the Bible. It just seems to make to much sense to examine Christology as a sort of mythological emergence; nothing was even really written about him for some 40 or 50 years after his death (a date I base on the current earliest known scrap of New Testament writing). It makes sense to me that the apostles, for reasons of their own, took a few unexplained things around Christ's life, magnified them, added many stories of their own, and built a mythology, a sort of rallying figure that might hold out promise to the fracturing Jewish nation. How can you believe all that as the divine revelation of God? I don't mean this arrogantly, it's just my biggest stumbling block right now (in fact, it has destroyed my faith; I no longer consider myself a believer). How can we believe that the Bible is true?

DJP said...

Candy—that was wonderful; first chuckle of the day. Thanks.

centuri0n said...

BTW, I don't want to steal Dan's thunder here because he's going to post on the front page about this, but I had some notes I thought might context this for Shyguy and other people who have reasonable questions about faith in Christ.

| Speaking of unspoken premises, Dan,
| there's one thing that I simply can't
| get over, and it's the core assumption
| in both of your "Hello, Out There"
| discussions. Your assumption is "the
| Bible is true."

This would be the most ancient belief in the Scriptures of the Hebrews and then of the followers of Christ, SG. That may not prove anything, but it evidences where the belief comes from. It's foundational to having faith in Christ, so at least you and I are on the same page.

| The more I read on the
| topic, the more I try to get my faith
| back, the more I see the faultlines in
| the Bible. It just seems to make too
| much sense to examine Christology as
| a sort of mythological emergence;
| nothing was even really written about
| him for some 40 or 50 years after his
| death (a date I base on the current
| earliest known scrap of New
| Testament writing).

Again, I don't want to rob Dan of his post tomorrow, so let me suggest something: there are no examples of "mythological emergence" in all of history where a real man was transformed into a god apart from political decree in (as you say) 40-50 years.

However, you may have a different view of this subject which would be interesting to read.

| It makes sense to
| me that the apostles, for reasons of
| their own, took a few unexplained
| things around Christ's life, magnified
| them, added many stories of their
| own, and built a mythology, a sort of
| rallying figure that might hold out
| promise to the fracturing Jewish
| nation. How can you believe all that
| as the divine revelation of God?

Let me be honest to say that if this is all that is in evidence, I would agree with you: no reason to call something like that "divine revelation".

| I don't mean this arrogantly, it's just my
| biggest stumbling block right now (in
| fact, it has destroyed my faith; I no
| longer consider myself a believer).
| How can we believe that the Bible is
| true?

I leave that for Dan's post tomorrow, my friend, but let me ask you a question in the meantime: when was the first book of the NT composed, and how do we know this?

centuri0n said...

For those who aren't tracking here, btw, generic "dan" is Pastor Dan Kimball.

I gotta hand it to him: he's a persistent guy.

DJP said...

I plan to respond to Shyguy in a separate post.

DJP said...

Frank, you mean not "Dan" who you refer to in your previous comment, but username "Dan," right?

Al said...

Candy... very funny.

I do a talk show every other week here in Pensacola and my bumper music for the top of each hour is Burning Down the House by the Talkin' Heads.

So many reasons to like Team Pyro... Big Bible truth, Comics, Posters with cool graphics, Posters with cooler text, and now David Byrne references. Ahhhhh...

al sends

Desia said...

I don't know if this makes sense: Sometimes I have to go back and remember where, who and what I was before believing, because I find myself becoming slightly arrogant for being chosen to believe.

Mike Riccardi said...

because I find myself becoming slightly arrogant for being chosen to believe.

Desia, I've struggled with this too, especially the first two years or so after I had been saved.

They key is to remember that you were indeed chosen, as you say, and that based on nothing you did. So really, what did you do to get chosen? Nothing. If you did nothing, what is there to be arrogant about, right? It's kinda like 1Co 4:7, though I know it's easier said than done. I've found it helpful and very comforting to pray for faith to believe this truth of God.

Steve Lamm said...

Shyguy,

You said: "The more I read on the topic, the more I try to get my faith back, the more I see the faultlines in the Bible."

I would be interested to know what articles and books you have been reading on both sides of this issue.

Regards,
Steve

DJP said...

The post responding to Shyguy is up now. Please make any responsive comments on its meta, instead of here.

centuri0n said...

DJP is Dan Phillips. "dan" (all lower case) is Dan Kimball.

For the record.

SolaMeanie said...

"This ain't no party..this ain't no disco..."

Ahem. Now, where was I?

I have one tiny concern in this discussion, and it relates to election and "technique" in sharing the Gospel. We know that God draws people to Himself, and we know that He chooses to do so by the power of the Holy Spirit and through the foolishness of preaching.

We also know that the Apostle Paul (Mars Hill) quoted pagan authors in an effort to show some commonality with his hearers. So far, so good. But I am very, very suspicious when we begin to get so caught up in "marketing" approaches in a well-intentioned effort to share the Gospel with this culture. In some of this discussion, it seems like whether someone receives and believes the Gospel depends on how slick and savvy we make the message. I don't believe that for one minute and I'll oppose it to my dying day.

I have no problem with understanding a culture, and finding ways to make the Gospel understandable. However, sometimes the Gospel gets lost in the Madison Avenue polish it's given these days. In some cases, it's not even really the Gospel, but a load of warm fuzzies. In the end, the message must be the same, and as clear as crystal. We are all sinners deserving God's judgment. God commands us to repent, and believe in the Lord Jesus, who died on the cross for our sins and rose again from the dead for our justification. Game, set and match.

Joanna Martens said...

GREAT post.

terriergal said...

If Doug Pagitt is a "Christian" then yeah, Christians are arrogant.