26 August 2008

Book review — If You Could Ask God One Question, by Paul Williams and Barry Cooper

by Dan Phillips
If You Could Ask God One Question, by Paul Williams and Barry Cooper (The Good Book Company, Ltd.: 2007; 127 pages)
This was one of the amazing array of books we were given at the T4G conference in April. Though two authors are listed, the the book is written in the first-person singular, with Paul Williams (not the diminutive songwriter) as the speaker.

The book is brief and eminently readable. Long ago I wearied of professional apologists writing books telling Christians about the theory of apologetics, but themselves not actually addressing non-Christians, and showing us how. (That's why I did this.)

One Question is a book that is meant to be given to non-Christians. The authors work to provide readable, Christ-centered answers appealing to unbelievers and pointing them to Christ.

How successful are they?

First, let's consider the array of questions. What questions do you hear from unbelievers? The authors take the engaging premise captured in the title, and come up with these:
  • "If you're really there, God, why on earth don't you prove it?"
  • "Isn't the Bible just a bunch of made-up stories?"
  • "All good people go to Heaven, right?"
  • "If you're a God of love, why send anyone to Hell?"
  • "If Jesus really was your Son, how come he got killed?"
  • "If I can be forgiven everything, doesn't that mean I can do whatever I like?"
  • "How can anyone be sure there's life after death?"
  • "What about followers of other religions?"
  • "Isn't faith just a psychological crutch?"
  • "Why do you allow suffering?"
  • "Why do you hate sex?"
  • "Why don't you just do a miracle?"
  • "So, God, if you could ask me one question, what would it be?"
These questions are approached throughout in a style that is light, conversational, and frequently humorous. You get this feel from the very start, where the author asks a friend what he would ask God. The friend pondered deeply, then offered this:
"Is Elvis really dead?"

I blinked.

"That would be your question?"

"Yes," said Martin.

Trying to be sensitive, I suggested, "It's not really a matter of life and death though, is it Martin?"

He thought for a moment.

"It is if you're Elvis."
But this breezy tone actually conveys some pretty substantial content. The book itself frequently and extensively engages Scripture. Additionally, the footnotes (!) provide documentation, and often point to web pages. The down-side is that URLs seem frequently to become dead links; the up-side is they're free and immediately accessible — and how many unbelievers actually go out an buy a bunch of academic books to get their questions answered?

In fact, the whole is backed up by the web site Christianity Explored. Right at the start, the URL is provided in this book to find resources for more extended research.

Next, how good are the answers? The frame of the whole is Biblical Christianity. The "voice" is human and real, but the stance is neither timid nor abashed. The writers know they're not telling people what they want to hear, but this is not "I'm-sorry" apologetics.

In fact, this isn't a book on the theory of apologetics; it is apologetics. The don't compare and contrast evidentialism, presupposition or the rest. Instead, they simply wade right in to dealing out Scriptural responses to the questions.

As a result, I think just about any apologetic school could use this book. I find their approach fits just fine with my own basically van Tilian approach. Every time, they basically take the question to Christ, and show the meaning and cohesion of the Gospel answer.

For instance:
  • To "If you're really there, God, why on earth don't you prove it?", their response is "He did, when He became a man," coupled with a solid overview treatment of the deity of Christ.
  • To "Isn't the Bible just a bunch of made-up stories?", their response is to give Christ's teaching on the authority of Scripture, and to explain why His view makes a difference.
  • To "All good people go to Heaven, right?", they answer with Christ's response to the rich young ruler, and with what the Lord says about the human heart.
  • "So, God, if you could ask me one question, what would it be?", they reply in Jesus' words: "What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit his very self?" (Luke 9:25 NIV [sorry]).
This is Christ-centered apologetics, evangelistic apologetics. I recommend it.

Dan Phillips's signature

51 comments:

Frank Turk said...

Our church is actuallly using this book to run a "seekers" (shudder) study group for people who have questions about Christianity.

It's not on Sunday morning, either. Sadly, I am also not teaching it.
__________

Also, while I'm thinking about it, big shout-out to Kyler's home church: yes, he really does attend HABC, and yes, he really does know me.

donsands said...

Thanks for the review. I'd like to read that one. I'll have to borrow it from a friend who made it to T4G.

"Every time, they basically take the question to Christ, and show the meaning and cohesion of the Gospel answer."

I like this.

The unbeliever, who is a walking corpse, needs to go to Christ, and then after Christ quickens their dead heart, the rest will come.

Terry said...

I personally prefer a book like "The God Who Justifies" by James White rather than this kind of "faith by cliché."

But as you pointed out, it seems they directed some of their answers back to the words of the gospels. And for that we can be thankful.

Terry

DJP said...

Terry-not-Rayburn"...this kind of 'faith by cliché'"

Huh? "This kind"? Where do you get that about this book?

Hayden said...

Dan,

I read this book as well and was very impressed. So impressed that I am going to do a 12 part series and take these questions and expand them for our youth ministry.

This is a really good book, and better than most when it comes to apologetics.

Terry,

I love the book, "The God Who Justifies" but I would definitely NOT give that book to an unbeliever. That is the deep end of the theological pool.

Frank Turk said...

At some point, giving an answer has to be an answer to a question actually asked and not to questions we wish they would ask.

To whomever that is useful, and to whatever extent they find that useful.

DJP said...

Absolutely right, though there will be situations where one can (and must) legitimately go from the "did" to the "should've."

For instance, Jesus and the woman at the well. He controls that conversation, but does it while still interacting with what she said. But it doesn't go anywhere near where she meant it to go.

Chad V. said...

I'm kind of with Terry on this one. There is at least one serious flaw I can see from this review.

This one question and answer in particular is actually wrong. To "If you're really there, God, why on earth don't you prove it?", their response is "He did, when He became a man," coupled with a solid overview treatment of the deity of Christ.

The bible doesn't teach that God proves that He really exists by Christ's incarnation. It instead tells us that His divine nature is clearly seen in the things he has created and all men suppress the knowledge of God in unrighteousness. Rom 1:18-22. Approaching the objection that God hasn't proved that He exists is best handled along the lines of the teaching in Romans 1 and it will in fact lead you to begin to preach the sinfulness of man to the person you are witnessing to.

Why a church would use this book for a study with "seekers" I am at a loss. Isn't it the pastor's job to preach the word to those who are perishing? Why not a bible study where they go through the gospel of John since it was written to show that Jesus is the Christ. Or teach one of the many great catechisms? At least the "seekers" will be learning solid Biblical doctrine.

DJP said...

Okay, let me get this straight.

You haven't read the book, right?

But you think the book is bad on the basis of my one-sentence summary of one answer to one question?

And, though I stress that the book is (viewed one way) simply an accessible, conversational, big Bible study — and though you say that's what a pastor should do — it's not good when they do it because they do it one way instead the way you think you'd do it?

And you think Paul would say that pointing to the Incarnation is a bad way to show God doing something to reveal His existence, because there are other ways of doing it also?

~Mark said...

Sounds like a good book, I'll have to pick this one up.I love good common sense apologetics that remembers where the seeker is coming from.

I had an encounter (that is thankfully ongoing still) with a guy who claimed to be an atheist. I asked him why and he said that while he could imagine there being a god over all, he couldn't imagine us being able to communicate with him because that would be like an ant crawling between he and I during our conversation and trying to get what we were saying.

I told him he had an excellent point, and that was where Jesus took on the body of a man so that the instruction to the ant could really begin.

We've been having engaging conversations ever since (about two weeks).

DJP said...

That is wonderful, ~Mark! God bless you, and God open your friend's eyes.

I LOVE it when people actually get out and do apologetics, rather than merely sitting on the sidelines (A) criticizing others who are doing it, or (B) talking about how we ought to do it.

Dave .... said...

Just ordered three copies. One for me, one for the library at church, and one to share. This looks like a book I would love to teach in an "adult elective" (Oy!). Do you have to be a pastor (professional) to go to T4G? The more I hear about that and more I see and use the resources they pull together, the more I want to go next time.

eastendjim said...

Thanks for the review Dan.
It looks interesting.

Our church is going to run the Christianity Explored course this fall. I believe it goes through the gospel of Mark over 10 weeks.

We're running it the same night as Awana for children to offer parents the option of attending CE while waiting for their children attending Awana.

Penn Tomassetti said...

Thanks for this review. It looks like a book worth buying. I have given away a lot of Piper's evangelistic books to people I meet while witnessing on the streets. I always like to learn apologetics and share what I learned with those who have questions that relate. Since I started studying Romans 1 and Genesis 1 in more depth for a teen Bible study, I have learned the value of apologetics in evangelism when used correctly. I use apologetics sometimes to correct wrong thinking in others and to open them up to Biblical truth, then I tell them of the powerful grace of God in Christ crucified, which I find better than all the proofs and facts you can try to cram into a fleeing atheist or agnostic. They usually open up more when they give you the opportunity to speak of grace... or is it that God opens them up when He glues their feet to hear about grace? :)

DJP said...

Dave...Do you have to be a pastor (professional) to go to T4G?

Not as far as I know. It's geared for pastors, but not (as far as I know) restricted to pastors.

Gummby said...

DJP: Thanks for the recommendation. I agree - there are a lot of books that lay out a bunch of theory or just focus on contrasting views, but what most people in the pews need are a simple manual that includes actual examples. And they actually use Scripture in their approach. Imagine that!

I'm planning to get a copy the next time I visit Frank's bookstore.

DJP said...

Right, Matt; or we need one we can give a non-Christian to read, and say "Tell me what you think when you're done."

The Christian who ended up leading me to the Lord did that by giving me (don't tell anyone) Mere Christianity. Most of it was over my 17yo head, but the part that really bugged me in a good way was the classic Lord, Liar, Lunatic conundrum. Spoke right to where I was, and bothered me Christwards.

Chad V. said...

DJP

I didn't say the book was bad. I said I agreed with Terry who said that he was thankful for the biblical answers it does contain.

I pointed out a flaw in one of it's question and answers which you provided for us as an example of the book's content and teaching.

Paul in Acts 17:31 says that the incarnation, death and resurrection of Christ proves that God will judge the world in righteousness by His son Jesus Christ. Not that it proves the existence of God. Paul's proof of the existence of God is in Romans 1 and his proof is simply that creation itself is sufficient proof and that his divine nature is clearly seen in the things God has made and that men are already without excuse. I do believe the best answer is to reply with the fact that the person asking the question is as Paul says, "without excuse". That is clearly the Bible's way of answering that specific objection.

The question in the book's dialogue was asking if God really exists then why hasn't He given sufficient proof. The book's answer is demonstrably wrong. If the question had been, "How can I know that Jesus is the Savior?" or something along those lines then the book's answer would have been accurate.

I do expect doctrinal precision, especially in evangelism and I'm sure you do too. Just because the book is aiming at a "conversational big bible study" doesn't mean that doctrinally deficient answers should be overlooked, shouldn't they at least be corrected? Perhaps this one answer is the book's only real short coming, but I think it's a pretty crucial one.

Frank Turk said...

Tips about T4G:

[1] Don't go alone. It's rich enough that you'll want to go with someone you can talk to about what you hear.

[2] Do go with other men from your church. Preferably, go with the staff of your church.

[3] Don't plan to do anything else while you're there. Dever packs the sessions in.

[4] Do plan on spending another $200 on books. Bookstore: fabulous.

[5] Don't plan on reading anything while you're there. You will be, frankly, too full.

[6] Do plan an reading the books you get -for free- over the next 5 months, and on downloading the podcasts so you can think about what you heard there in a deeper way.

ReformedMommy said...

Frank - "At some point, giving an answer has to be an answer to a question actually asked and not to questions we wish they would ask."

Dan - "I LOVE it when people actually get out and do apologetics, rather than merely sitting on the sidelines (A) criticizing others who are doing it, or (B) talking about how we ought to do it."

But, see, the problem with both those comments is that what you're both proposing requires a commitment to LISTENING -lovingly, to those we are trying to win, and obediently, when those very preachers which some of the brothers here are so exorcised about exhort us to be prepared to give a reason for the hope that is in us.

Solameanie said...

Apologetics is my main ministry love, so let me comment on this one. I have yet to read the book, so can't make any pro or con statements on it. However, there is something to be said for the kind of approach you describe.

It is important to have the -- for lack of a better word -- theoretical books and instruction. It's important to know what cults and false religions/worldviews believe, along with the history of how the particular group and teaching got its start. It's vitally important to know why we believe what WE believe. So many churches don't even have a class to teach the basic doctrines of the church. But it's also important to know HOW to have the discussions. And that is often given short shrift.

Part of the problem is that many are intimidated by the cults. We might easily witness to a next door neighbor or a friend, but when the Jehovah's Witness or Mormon come knocking at the door, we turn tail and run because we're afraid we'll get tied in knots. Some are intimidated by atheists or agnostics, especially those with science backgrounds. Worse yet (and I've actually had someone say this to me in church) "don't waste your time with those people." That's abominable. People who are lost in the cults need Christ also.

Apologetics used to have the status of "Queen of Theologies." No longer. Hopefully books such as this will help re-awaken people to its importance.

Gummby said...

Chad V.: So God's natural revelation proves he exists, but his final revelation in the form of Jesus (cf. Heb 1) doesn't? That makes no sense, dude.

Stefan said...

I was re-listening last night to a conference session on expository preaching that our senior pastor gave last year. During the session, he told of a lost apologetical opportunity.

A young woman had grown up in an evangelical home, attended an evangelical church, accepted Christ at an early age—the whole nine yards. She got the usual mainstream teaching—that God loved her, had a wonderful plan for her life, etc.

She attended a secular university and befriended an agnostic guy. He was open to her witnessing, and she gave him a Bible to read. He started reading from the beginning—from Genesis onwards.

He got halfway through Leviticus and was completely bogged down. He asked her (paraphrasing), "I don't get a lot of this stuff, but I know you guys don't do animal sacrifices any more. Why not?" Wow! What an opening!

Anyhow, since her church had never taught the vicarious atonement of Christ and presumably never taught on any of the Old Testament texts that point to Christ (let alone Hebrews), she had no idea how to respond and said, simply, "I don't know." Ouch!

My own witnessing leaves a lot to be desired...I'm just throwing this out there, since it seemed to be apposite to today's subject.

ReformedMommy said...

Stefan - That story demonstrates another reason many, including myself, are somewhat intimidated by apologetics. It requires us to know our Bibles.

Ironically, as I've worked in recent months to rectify this, my desire to engage others (particularly the Mormies, who are my favorite) has gone up significantly. Even better, my ability, with the Holy Spirit's help, to counter their falsehoods with the truth of the gospel through the Scripture I've studied, also has gone up. Funny, that.

Truth Unites... and Divides said...

DJP: "I LOVE it when people actually get out and do apologetics, rather than merely sitting on the sidelines (A) criticizing others who are doing it, or (B) talking about how we ought to do it."

I totally agree. I'd actually like to watch a real live Van Tillian presuppositional apologetics approach with a pre-believer on YouTube.

Anybody have a link?

Also, iirc, Pastor Mark Dever makes a distinction between evangelism and apologetics which I agree with. Evangelism and disciple-making (aka the Great Commission ... with the results completely up to God and to His Glory) is usefully served by knowing apologetics.

Pax

greglong said...

eastendjim said:

Our church is going to run the Christianity Explored course this fall. I believe it goes through the gospel of Mark over 10 weeks.

We're running it the same night as Awana for children to offer parents the option of attending CE while waiting for their children attending Awana.


We just completed a Christianity Explored course in the spring. I HIGHLY recommend it. That's a great idea to offer during Awana.

Susan said...

Dan, Sproul Sr. wrote a book years ago called NOW, THAT'S A GOOD QUESTION! It contained a series of questions people may have about God and Christianity and Sproul's answers to them. Have you ever read that book? If so, how does it compare to this one you're recommending? (I had only skimmed Sproul's work quickly in the past and have never read the one you reviewed today.)

S.J. Walker said...

Whoa! I have seen the word "conversation(al)" like four times now.

You guys are starting to worry me.

Dan, thanks for the review. Good stuff sounds like.

On another note, I just got back from taking a long lunch with my old youth pastor. He no longer holds the position by the way. Also, I happened to go out with his eldest daughter years ago, before my beautiful wife came along.

As I'm sure most here could relate in some way, I don't exactly have no regrets as to how I behaved back then and certainly regret several of the pig-headed ways I treated her at times. Even this man and I "got into it" now and then years ago.

I know this has no bearing on the "conversation", but I had to share it. I hadn't seen him in years and I just dropped by his shop on the fly. We had a really good chat. He was very gracious and we were able to speak very very amicably.

He said something very interesting. I mentioned I am teaching young adult Sunday school these days and kind of explained what we have been studying through. He was quiet for a second, then said, "you know, that's one of my biggest regrets. In youth group, we never really dug into the word like we could have and should have".

Either way, it was refreshing to receive some needed forgiveness, and for my part, to offer it s well. Who knows what will come of it, but I just had to share.

Alright. Go back to the book subject. I'll shut up now.

Thanks

Penn Tomassetti said...

Solameanie said:
"It's important to know what cults and false religions/worldviews believe, along with the history of how the particular group and teaching got its start. It's vitally important to know why we believe what WE believe."

I find this to be true, especially the part about knowing the history of false beliefs. It was learning the history of the Cambellite movement that helped to convince me to leave that system.

Does anyone here speak regularly to the unbelieving about Christ? Just curious to know, because there is an awful lot of good theology here, and I'm interested to know how it is being distributed to the world outside the inside of the chruches? If that makes any sense to anyone as it does to me?

Solameanie said...

TUAD,

I don't know that I'd agree with Mark Dever on that one i.e separating apologetics and evangelism.

In fact, the head of the apologetics ministry I am part of has a great message on it called "Apologetics Evangelism - A Marriage Made in Heaven." When 1 Peter 3:15 says that we should give a defense (apologia) for the hope that lies within us, that IS apologetics evangelism.

I'd like to hear Mark's complete remarks on this so I can see where he's coming from on it.

Rob Hughes said...

Thanks Dan, your review was quite helpful. I saw this book earlier in the year and didn't get it, I think I'm going to reconsider that!

Stefan said...

S.J. Walker wrote:

Either way, it was refreshing to receive some needed forgiveness, and for my part, to offer it s well. Who knows what will come of it, but I just had to share.

Soli Deo gloria.

Stefan said...

Penn:

I don't witness like I should. My biggest challenge so far has just been telling my atheist Jewish mother that I am the most unthinkable thing: a Christian—and not merely a nominal mainline one (which might be palatable), but a born-again one! In the secular, liberal city I live in, born-again Christians might as well be from another planet.

For her (and another atheist Jewish lady I knew from years ago), the first challenge was explaining how Jesus Christ is the fulfilment of the Old Testament Scriptures—that's where the apologetics came in, and that is where I am going to have focus my efforts in the future, as I give an answer to others for the hope that is in me.

[The bigger challenge is that, being atheists, they don't even accept the OT Scriptures as anything other than "myths and legends" (from their points of view). That, and the history of relations between "Christians" and Jews during the middle ages and onwards is not exactly Christ-exalting.]

Chad V. said...

DJP/Frank I've been pondering this discussion and my comments in particular throughout the day. I realize that the way I worded my original comment, especially the part where I said, "Why a church would use this book for a study with "seekers" I am at a loss." was not expressed with charity. So I apologize.

The more I think about this the more I think that a resource like this book could be a valuable tool. For my personal preference I would take a different approach but I can see how this format would be beneficial. So I capitulate as to my overall premise.

I'm still unsure though about answering the objection "God hasn't done enough to prove His own existence" by using the incarnation. I think that everyone believes that God is real, they just wont admit it and Romans 1 seems to verify that. Atheists in particular seem to be the ones who are more aware of God's existence than any one else. That's why they spend so much time trying to get every one, including themselves, to believe there is no God.

DJP said...

Thanks, Chad. I get what you're saying.

As to everything you say positively, I agree with you. Unbelievers are without excuse for their unbelief, now, right there, as they stand.

Where I'd disagree with you is if you say an appeal to creation is the only way to respond to the actual question these authors employ ("If you're really there, God, why on earth don't you prove it?").

The authors of this book don't deny what you're saying, they just take a different approach. I figured everyone would work out that my one-sentence summary of (in this case) an eleven-page chapter would necessarily leave a lot out.

As I said, the distinctive feature of this book is that it brings responses straight from Scripture. And so, in this case, they actually key off of Philip saying "Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough for us" (John 14:8). As you know, Jesus replies, "Have I been with you so long, and you still do not know me, Philip? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, 'Show us the Father'?" (John 14:9).

And that's why they plunge into to truth of the deity of Christ.

See?

UinenMaia said...

This is the first tome I purloined from the stack that my husband brought home from T4G. It was the smallest and the easiest to sneak on to the table on my side of the bed.

It is an excellent refresher for someone like me who has lots of background knowledge but sometimes no good way to put it in terms that won't bore the pants off of my conversation partner. It is an equally good resource to give to someone as a basis for a good apologetic discussion. Thanks commenting on it!

Chad V. said...

gumby

I see where you're going. Of course the whole of biblical revelation is a testament to the existence of God. But biblical revelation proves specific things about God. The bible's answer to the question "Why hasn't God proven his existence?" is answered according to scripture by the fact of creation itself. The fact that there is a creation proves that God is real. That is sufficient to that specific question. Going straight to the incarnation seems to bypass the bible's teaching in Romans 1 about the existence of God and the sinfulness of man and how people suppress the revelation of God in unrighteousness. I thought that would be the best way to answer the question "Why hasn't God proved his own existence?"

The question itself proves the utter sinfulness of the one asking the question and that he is under the wrath of God.

However, I think that I've made a bigger deal out of it than it really is. Point taken. I guess I'm a little cranky today. Sorry.

Chad V. said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Chad V. said...

DJP

Yes I see, I had not considered that. It's not a bad way to go, although Philip was not doubting the existence of God as the person in the book is but rather was asking to see Him in a greater way.

But still, yes the book seems to consistently point people to the scripture for real biblical answers, and certainly if we point people to the Son they will see God since he is the exact imprint of His nature and the radiance of His glory. Teaching the incarnation is a great way to do that. Furthermore, if we don't teach the incarnation we do not truly teach the person of Christ.

Gummby said...

Regarding "knowing what you believe," Don Green has preached two sermons that address that very idea. Those sermons can be downloaded from here for free.

Don's partner in the GraceLife Pulpit has been preaching a series of messages collected as "The Evangelism Toolbox." All of those sermons can be found here.

(This is a completely unsolicited endorsement, BTW.)

Stefan said...

Chad V.:

If you use creation as your jumping-off point and your hearer is an evolutionist, you first have to wrestle with that...and then you're getting into debating the merits of creation versus evolutionism...which is a fine topic for discussion in and of itself, but might get you onto a tangent.

Then again, it is the first principle. Growing up believing that God didn't even exist, the first step for me was acknowledging that creation testifies to His glory...and I was still an ardent evolutionist (and functionally agnostic) for many years after that.

Just my two-cents' worth. I'm not trying to argue with you; I just thought I'd throw that out there.

Chad V. said...

Stefan

That's a good point and I see where you are coming from but I could apply the same reasoning to the incarnation. If some one is an ardent atheist, as the person in the book may be, then proving the incarnation becomes it's own tangent. Many atheists have what they believe to be sufficient proof that Jesus never even existed, much less rose from the dead.

I think we must always approach witnessing from the presupposition that what the scripture says regarding both the creation and the incarnation, and anything else it speaks of as though it were true and there is no need to prove it. In other words we must operate with the thought in mind that what God says is true and we need not prove it to anyone. Rather instead we allow what the scripture says to penetrate to the division of soul and spirit, joints a marrow and allow it to judge the thoughts and intents of the heart. In other words, we proclaim the truth and the Holy Spirit will apply it and work change in the heart.

I think it's important to remember that it is not our job to prove anything to those we witness to. We need not prove God. God reveals Himself and He is after all a God who hides Himself(Isa 45:15). He cannot be proven.

I was an ardent evolutionist too. I was converted by a sermon I was reading of John Wesley's, which had nothing at all to do with evolution or creation. After I was saved I believed in the 6 day creation because the bible taught it.

Chad V. said...

Also, I didn't intend that we first prove creationism to an unbeliever but rather that we use the fact of creation to show the person we witness to his sinfulness in denying God's existence. We can show him his sinfulness right off the bat which allows us to progress to the person and work of Christ who came to reconcile sinners to God.

Susan said...

"Don's partner in the GraceLife Pulpit...."

Such an inconspicuous reference, Gummby! :)

Kevin Stilley said...

I would like to suggest that the Logos doctrine, properly understood, inserted into the incarnational message of John 1 is a much stronger "proof" for postmodernists than is the evidence of creation. However, I do not mean to take anything away from the sensus divinitatis of Romans 1 for I believe that the experience of all men is that of Kant when he said that there were two things he could never get away from -- the starry skies above and the still small voice inside.

Chad V. said...

kevin stilley

Kant's remark is precisely my point.

But of course, the doctrine of the logos, Christ must be preached first and foremost. Funny thing is, and I don't know why I didn't see this right away at my first comment, if we preach Christ first, all objections about the existence of God take care of themselves, don't they?

CR said...

Dan,

I am familiar with Christianity Explored and Barry Cooper. When I was visiting Sinclair Ferguson's church in SC a couple of years ago they had a lady talk about their Christianity Explored program. That course is 10 weeks long. It basically goes through the gospel.

Using apologetics in and of itself without the gospel cannot save men. It can only silence them. But if this book can also do apologetics and point people to Christ (I'm interpreting that to mean proclaiming the gospel) then that is good.

We have to remember the model used by Paul for the proclamation of the gospel. On three Sabbaths days he reasoned (diele,xato - there was an exchange of questions and answers) explained(dianoi,gwn- open up, explain and interpret) and proved (paratiqe,menoj - offering evidence on behalf of something from the Bible) from Scriptures. (Acts 17:1-5). It's important to remember that the Great Commission is really discipleship, not evangelism per se. What Paul was doing through his evangelism was that he was reasoning and explaining and proving from the Scriptures why Christ had to suffered. He was really preparing them for discipleship.

In today's sort of American evangelicalism we think we can present the gospel on one whole swoop. It may be presented that way in some places in the Bible like with the Phillipian Jailer but we have to remember that Luke left many details out there and gave one summary statement - He believed and was saved. Paul of course had to tell the jailer what he had to believe in, that Jesus was God, etc.

The kinda thing that Dan praised Mark for, working with that person for a couple of weeks is exactly the kinda methodology the apostle Paul uses in Acts 17:1-5 and it's methodology we should be using face-to-face.

I can tell you there are people in the world who are using this methodology to draw people away from Christ. An acquaintenance of mine to my dismay became an apostate (another was a good friend). And you know what one person told me, that this person got them to read some books and he explained to her why the Bible could not be trusted. Bam! Just like that. I can assure the world is using this methodology to pull people away from Christ, we better be more equipped to draw people to Christ.

So, if it is as a good as you say it is, then it would be a good tool. But I think the leadership will still have to equip (train) their congregation how to do it. It's the same thing with evangelism. You have many people sitting in pews that don't know how to articulate the gospel because they're not being equipped, ergo, they're not being equipped to do apologetics.

Anyway, I haven't read this book but I do know about Cooper's Christianity Explored program. I think he can be trusted on this.

Rick Frueh said...

I love Biblical creativity to reach people's minds and hearts. This book's format seems to afford people a kind of partcipation rather than just being an audience.

Here is a question I want to ask God:

"What question are we not asking but we should?" :)

Michael said...

Penn wrote: "Does anyone here speak regularly to the unbelieving about Christ? Just curious to know, because there is an awful lot of good theology here, and I'm interested to know how it is being distributed to the world outside the inside of the chruches?"

About two years ago I had what I believe to be a "Holy Spirit leading" moment on my way to work. At the time, I had been receiving those Nigerian scam emails nearly everyday...sometimes four or five of them. I sat down and created my own gospel response, and I started responding to these emails by blanking out their original email, and inserting my own.

I've been doing this now for over 2 years, and I have sent literally hundreds of these "seeds" out. Although only God knows what will come of them, I have had at least three "virtual conversations" with the recipients of these letters that lasted more than 6 exchanges.

For the low-key, somewhat shy among us, I can think of no easier way to share the gospel. After all, they sent me the email first, so I'm just responding. Of course, just leaving good tracts in key areas is another low-key way of sharing...one doesn't necessarily need to hand them out to people.

I look at it as a "first step" toward a more bold witness.

Truth Unites... and Divides said...

Solameanie: "I'd like to hear Mark's complete remarks on this so I can see where he's coming from on it."

Hope this helps.

Dever: "Other people mistake apologetics for evangelism. Like the activities we've considered above, apologetics itself is a good thing. We are instructed by Peter to be ready to give a reason for the hope that we have (1 Pet. 3:15). And apologetics is doing exactly that. Apologetics is answering questions and objections people may have about God or Christ, or about the Bible or the message of the gospel.

Answering questions and defending parts of the good news may often be a part of conversations Christians have with non-Christians, and while that may have been a part of our own reading or thinking or talking as we came to Christ, such activity is not evangelism.

Apologetics can present wonderful opportunities for evangelism. Being willing to engage in conversations about where we came from or what's wrong with this world can be a significant way to introduce honest discussions about the gospel.

By far the greatest danger in apologetics is being distracted from the main message. Evangelism is not defending the virgin birth or defending the historicity of the resurrection. Apologetics is defending the faith, answering the questions others have about Christianity. It is responding to the agenda that others set. Evangelism, however, is following Christ's agenda, the news about him. Evangelism is the positive act of telling the good news about Jesus Christ and the way of salvation through him."

~Mark said...

I thought of this post almost immediately when I got a prayer request a few minutes ago from a friend of a group of local pastors who go out and witness to our drug dealers and have seen some respond to Christ.

These men go out regularly and some of their congregants go with them. Funny story from tonight: upon being offered prayer one of the dealers warily responded "I don't hold hands with dudes!"

:D

(Yes, they got past that quickly.)