17 August 2010

Do I know you? No... and yes

by Dan Phillips

[Notes: (1) pretend this is in small font. Every time I small-font something, New Blogger undoes it; (2) though this is a standalone post, I plan to refer back to it in a future review of a book that... that I just... that is so, so utterly... well, I'll tell you later, Lord willing. Now to the post.]

Let's say I've never met you in my life. For most of you, that will be true. There is a whole lot I don't know about you, things important for a real genuine relationship. I probably don't know your temperament, your tastes in books or movies or food, how you handle pressure, what you think is funny, what you think about politics and culture. Your favorite food, your most painful memory, your proudest achievement, your greatest shame and regret. There's a lot I don't know.

So if I want to know you, I'll have to meet you, hang with you, watch you, ask some questions, listen to you, and I'll have to try to keep an open mind through it all.

This is just Human Relations 101, and it's also "Golden Rule" 101.

However, does that mean that you and I are complete blank slates to each other? Hardly. Even though I've never met you, there's a lot I already know about you.

Let's focus on what I already know about a non-Christian, the moment I meet him, before he opens his mouth. (This list, if exhaustive, could fill several long posts, and I know commenters will add items I should have thought of; but here we go.)

If you are not a Christian, I know a number of things. I know them both before you utter one syllable, and in spite of anything you may say:
  1. I know that you were created in the image of God (Genesis 1:26), and still bear that image (Genesis 9:6), though sin has warped that likeness (Genesis 5:1, 3; cf. Ephesians 4:24), and though you try hard to efface it (Romans 1:18-32).
  2. I know that everything you will tell me will come from a heart that is (A) self-deceived, and (B) definitionally unaware of that self-deception (Jeremiah 17:9).
  3. I know that you are at war with God, and hate Him (Romans 8:7).
  4. I know that you are under the wrath of God (John 3:36; Romans 1:18; Ephesians 2:3).
  5. I know that you are dead to God (Ephesians 2:1).
  6. I know that it is natural to you to resist the truth of God, and to warp truths about God into forms that do not threaten your war against God (Romans 1:18).
  7. I know that your very ability to see and understand the truths of God is so mangled by sin that you could effectively be said to be blind to them (Psalm 14:1-3; 1 Corinthians 2:14; Ephesians 4:17-19).
  8. I know that you are blinded to the beauty and truth of the Gospel (2 Corinthians 4:3-4).
  9. I know that what you most need from me is to be loved (Luke 6:26-27).
  10. I know that the specific expression of love you most need from me is not for me to affirm nor enable your self-destructive errors, nor for me to tell you about myself (2 Corinthians 4:5a).
  11. I know that the specific expression of love you most need from me is that I tell you the good news about Jesus Christ (2 Corinthians 4:5b), and that if you do not hear that good news, you have no hope of being saved from God's wrath (Romans 10:8-17).
  12. I know that Jesus Christ came to save people exactly like you (Luke 19:10; 1 Timothy 1:15).
  13. I know that if you believe the Gospel and come to Jesus Christ the saving Lord, in repentant faith — and only then — you surely will be saved (Matthew 11:28-30; John 6:35, 37, 40; Acts 16:31; 17:30).
  14. I know that if you do not come to this saving faith, you have no hope whatever (John 3:36).
  15. I know that you must do this, and that you can only do this if God does a gracious, miraculouslife-giving work within you (Matthew 11:25; John 3:3; 5:25-26; 6:37, 44-45, 65; 2 Corinthians 4:5-6; Ephesians 2:1-10).
As a Christian, and insofar as I am being a Christian, I know those things for a certainty. God has told me those things.

If I enter a relationship with an unbeliever and do not keep those things in mind, two disastrous consequences absolutely and certainly will follow:
  1. I will be led off into the wrong path; and
  2. I will be, at best, absolutely useless to you and, at worst, positively harmful to you.
Everything I hear from an unbeliever will have to be run through that grid. It is as if I am a doctor with an MRI in my hand, showing me what he may not see for himself. So you may report a pain here, but I know that the pain is actually being caused by a tumor there. If I pretend that I do not know what I do in fact know, I will do you a grave disservice. To do so would be being faithless both to the Lord and to my unbelieving friend.

A thousand objections could be arrayed against this list. Such as:
  • "But that won't help dialogue!"
  • "But that just pre-judges people!"
  • "But times have changed, we can't relate to people like that!"
  • "But people will view us as arrogant and narrow!"
  • "But that won't make outsiders feel valued and respected and welcomed and liked!"
To the disciple and slave of Christ, every one of those objections is irrelevant. Of course he must not be truly arrogant or hateful or spiteful. But that isn't where these objections really come from. They come from a mindset according to which God's viewpoint is offensive, the Cross is offensive, confidence based on God's word is offensive. The only way a Christian can find approval from this mindset is to cease being a Christian in all but name — or, better still, lose the name altogether. Find a trendier name, something that sneers "I'm not with them!"

The reality is that there is no greater arrogance than rejecting the word of God (Psalm 119:21).

The slave of Christ is, to say the least, not concerned with being liked by the world (James 4:4). In fact, if he is liked and embraced and applauded by the world, he will worry (Luke 6:26).

Yet in a strange twist, by thus seeking not to be a friend of the world, the faithful disciple who approaches the world with God's wisdom is the best friend who worldlings will ever have.

Because he, and he alone, can tell them how to get saved from the doom towards which the world is hurtling (Acts 2:40; Galatians 1:4).

Dan Phillips's signature

88 comments:

Robert said...

Dan,

Quite timely and very good thoughts. There are many dangers in how we interact with unbelievers and it is so easy to do them and Jesus a disservice.

Nathan said...

I think this list would be better with some extra love. I know you've put that we're to love the sinners - but they're also sinners loved by God despite their hatred for him.

I'm thinking, if you want proof texts, you could go with:

Ephesians 2, Romans 5, 1 John 4...

I think this can be something we forget at times - "there but for the grace of God go I" is a pretty helpful way to approach non-Christians.

DJP said...

You're not wrong, Nathan, but you're slightly missing the point of the piece.

Rob Peck said...

Dan,
Thanks for this. Convicting.

Frank Turk said...

Stellar. This is the best blog ever -- I'm going to bookmark it.

DJP said...

Sweet! Drop by often, don't be a stranger!

You know, I have another blog, also.

Marie said...

Have you been reading Jay Adams, by any chance? He makes the same arguments in "Christian Counselor's Manual" - the gist of it is why biblical counselors should never try to counsel unbelievers; but rather evangelize them.

"You do not want to help someone move from one lifestyle that is displeasing to God...to another lifesyle that is equally displeasing to God!"

This post really is convicting; I find it much harder to share my faith with a non-Christian (fear of man) than counsel a fellow Christian, no matter how big the problem may be. I'm driven more by self-protection than concern for their soul. Not good.

Gov98 said...

I think this list would be better with some extra love.

The point, as I see it, is that as Christians there is no greater love that we can show a non-Christian than to share/discuss/proclaim the Gospel to them. Again and again and again.

The Greatest Love any man ever showed was Christ dying for us upon the Cross, the best we can express is telling others that they need to put their faith in Christ, otherwise telling people that God loves them while they are still in sin, without also making clear that they are damned to eternal hell is really hating my unsaved friend and loving my own comfort zone of not sharing the gospel.

Thanks Dan and Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift!

Dave said...

DJP: "Slightly missing the point".

I think Nathan is greatly missing the point. The objection that the Gospel is not loving is one of the biggest problems in evangelism today, IMHO.

Do we need to watch our interaction with unbelievers so we are not offensive? Yes. Do we need to avoid the Gospel because it is an offense? No. Christ (and the Gospel) are called a stumbling block. Rightly telling someone that they are a sinner is not unloving.

Robert said...

Dan,

I would also add something I came across yesterday as I was participating in the common thread. "For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe." (1 Corinthians 1:21). Paul goes on to show what the Jews and Greeks seek. He also shows how they respond to the teaching of Christ crucified for the sins of believers.

I think this might fall in line with a couple of items on your list, but it stands out to me. Worldly wisdom and knowledge does not bring men to salvation...it is the preaching of the gospel. "For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek." (Romans 1:16) We can't just fall into random traps of trying to out-reason or debate unbelievers...we must preach the gospel in season and out of season. And that is how we show love for Jesus and the unbeliever.

Jamie said...

Nathan
Not to pile on but as Dan states you are not wrong per se, I believe though you are unwittingly obfuscating the issue. The issue with the unbeliever is not that God loves them or not but what type of love does He have for them. Without getting into a long dissertation, upon inspection it must be that God is displaying his general love upon them in that He does not pound them into the ground for their rebellion against Him. It remains to be seen if He will/has bestowed his specific love upon them thereby demonstrating his love in that Christ actually died for them.

I think we, if we are not careful, and with good intention cast the warm blanket of love too much of the time making the sinner warm and cozy all the while they are slipping ever closer to Hell. The greatest demonstration of love we can show is to state the truth of the matter plainly.

T. A. Lewis said...

This piece is one of the best examples of tautological reasoning that I’ve seen in quite some time. “I believe such and such about the Bible because the Bible says such and such here. I believe in the God of the Bible because the God of the Bible told me.”

Self-referential systems are a hallmark of religious reasoning and this is a showcase of it.

So Dan, since I am “at war with [the Christian] God” I guess that means you are at war with Shiva and Zeus and Allah and Xenu and Poseidon. How’s that coming? How’s “rejecting the truth” of Islam coming? How about being blinded to the beauty of the Qu’ran?

As a side note, you guys don’t have to worry about me “trolling” i.e. injecting some critical thought here any more. I should have figured out from yesterday’s post that this place is a black hole of stupidity. I’m out before I reach the event horizon.

DJP said...

Marie, I read it decades ago, so it's doubtless part of my mental furniture. Good point.

Sheldon Clowdus said...

Well said Dan. I would assume that the timing of this is not coincidental, what with Mclarens's interview with McKnight circulating the interwebs yesterday?

This sort of clear, biblically faithful approach to the lost world is exactly what McLaren argues is the very thing wrong with our "Greco-Roman narrative-driven faith".

We cannot, in good conscience, tell the worldlings we love them in any meaningful way if we refuse to see them as God sees them and offer them the one thing that can rescue them.

DJP said...

GOV98 - dingdingding

Can't save a drowning man by letting go of your rope and following him down the waterfall.

David said...

T.A. - My question to you is "Does what the God of the Bible says reflect the true reality in and of existence? So let me ask you: Do you or any of the systems you mention believe that man/mankind is sinful like the God of the Bible says? Are you still there?

Gov98 said...

This piece is one of the best examples of tautological reasoning that I’ve seen in quite some time. “I believe such and such about the Bible because the Bible says such and such here. I believe in the God of the Bible because the God of the Bible told me.”

Self-referential systems are a hallmark of religious reasoning and this is a showcase of it.

You say that like it's a problem.

The question is of course, is the Bible true. I answer that in the affirmative you in the negative. Okay, so now we can move on. The Bible does make it clear that failure to believe the Bible makes it impossible to come to salvation (See Romans 10:17 and Luke 16:30-31).

The more interesting question is why come here or the other post or like so many do at Atheist Central and "flame" Chrisitianity. I don't do that with Islam, Shiva or whoever because well they're not true/don't exist. Your "kicking against the goads" says far more about your internal belief system and eternal state than anything else.

DJP said...

To the Nathan-pile-on-ers:

I didn't take Nathan as saying, "No no no, don't tell him the Gospel! Love him, instead!"

I thought he was saying, "In addition to all those things, we also know about the unbeliever that God loves sinners."

If he's saying A, then yeah, he totally missed the post.

If B, no problem.

Zaphon said...

Can we be said to be innocent from the blood of people if we seek to be acceptable to them, and not to tell them the truth about their sinful state, and the judgement to come and the Gospel of Christ?

See Ezekiel 33:7-9; Acts 18:6; 20:26, James 3:1

DJP said...

T. A. Lewis:

You've said you're gone, but I've learned that folks like you, as a rule, lie.

Typical. The kind of Christian unbelievers hate the most is the Christian who actually believes. Drives you nuts.

It's actually pretty hysterical. You, who have no basis for any claim about anything and nothing to offer but chaos and self-defeating despair, object when believers believe.

Given that what God says about Himself is true, what higher standard of proof should we demand? Given that what God says about you is true, should we expect you to say "That's right: I am self-deceived and do not know it, and I am at war with a God I know and hate, and won't admit it!"?

So... nice unintended confirmation.

Zaphon said...

TO T.A. :

According to the Scriptures, you are
1.a person made in the image of God

2. have a fallen sinful nature inhereted from the first Man

3.by nature know that the Creator exists as clearlty evident from the natural order

4. but are in sinful opposition to the Maker who has given you all things, including your reasoning ability by which you distort his truth

5. are under the judgement of God for such

6. Can only be saved from His righteous wrath, through repentance and faith in His chosen Mediator

7. To wit, Jesus Christ, who died for sinners, and conqwered satan, and death and can give you eternal life through faith in His Person and Name.

I see no reason to entertain your foolish arguments which come from a fool's heart. See Psalm 53:1

Robert said...

But DJP...didn't you know that T.A. does have a basis? He clearly stated (yesterday) that empathy, intuition, and emotion lead him to his moral beliefs. And of course, all people have those in common, right? (sarcasm font)

Just a good example of how "we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to the Jews and folly to Gentiles , but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men." (1 Corinthians 1:23-25)

Brad Williams said...

Now that T.A. is gone, I had a couple thoughts after reading yesterday's exchange and today's post.

One, atheism enshrines man's reason as "God." I think that is obvious, and I doubt the atheist would really disagree since he perceives that is all he has availible.

So, by reason, they try to establish a morality by intuition and community. The problem is that, if Dan's very first observation is right, then they actually can do that because of their being image-bearers, however marred they may be.

Atheism is a religion without a "God." That's it. We shouldn't be more or less up in arms about it than we are Hinduism, I suppose.

And, as a side note, for a guy who hated the "correlation fallacy" of saying that atheist regimes were murderous, he sure did employ it a lot with Sweden and Japan to make his point that they aren't lawless or chaotic. I found that odd.

David said...

This is a great post, and a great list. It's all true.

I want to throw in a caveat for it.

These things we know about the unbeliever should be informing our interactions with him, but not necessarily be the substance of our interactions.

I remember being in college, and dating a girl taking Psych 101. It seemed like every time I did or said something, she'd tell me why I did or said what I did, right from the book. Needless to say, that's not the girl I married.

There's a way to use all the absolutely true things in this list, all handily memorized, even the love parts, and use it like pepper spray. There's also Proverbs 11:12 and James 4:1-5.

Instead, we need to absorb the truth of what's said here in such a way that we actually gain understanding and wisdom, giving it a cage stage if necessary. Because it needs to change us before we use it to change others.

Kay said...

Whenever I am tempted by atheism, which, in dark moments, I have been, God sends along an actual atheist and I'm freed from the temptation. Always such a humble, friendly bunch.

DJP said...

David: absolutely right, good point, well-put. Thank you for making it.

DJP said...

Kay — and happy!

Yellingly, shoutingly, table-poundingly, foot-stompingly, furniture-throwingly, glass-breakingly HAPPY!!!

Jugulum said...

One thought on T.A.'s comment:

Dan said,
"As a Christian, and insofar as I am being a Christian, I know those things for a certainty. God has told me those things."

As far as I can see, Dan was not saying a single thing about how or why we know that the Bible is the Word of God, who is real and living.

And yet, T.A. read it as,
"This piece is one of the best examples of tautological reasoning that I’ve seen in quite some time. “I believe such and such about the Bible because the Bible says such and such here. I believe in the God of the Bible because the God of the Bible told me.”"

No, T.A., Dan didn't say anything like "I believe such and such about the Bible because...". He didn't get into that issue. This wasn't an apologetic to atheists on the Bible and the existence of God. It was a reflection on what the Bible teaches, directed at fellow Christians, taking the truthfulness of the Bible as a given.

You should really pay closer attention before going off like that. It's hardly consistent with the rational skepticism you most likely claim for yourself.

Jugulum said...

David,

Agreed, that was an excellent addition. I think it addresses Nathan's concern very well.

Kay said...

Dan, you're not wrong. Cheerful to a fault.

Joshua Cookingham said...

I'll fight shiva....as long as he fights with his other 6-7 arms behind his back ;)

Anyway,
Wow, just wow Dan. Thanks for this post. Really, it was convicting and encouraging. At this moment in my life it's helpful to be reminded of the necessity to love others BY sharing the Gospel.
Thanks!

Rob Bailey said...

Nice work, Dan. I think I may get the tat this week. But I think I'll put you in a helmet and make your beard a little longer, and maybe some blue William Wallace face paint. Definitely a sword.

stratagem said...

DAN - that list is AWESOME!

T.A. Lewis: True confession, I am definitely at war with Shiva and Zeus and Allah and Xenu and Poseidon. Or any other god that is not the true and living God of the Bible.

And yes, you are one happy, happy dude.

Jeff Godley said...

Let me throw out this question for debate. It comes out of what Nathan said at the beginning. I think, as Dan pointed out, that Nathan's concerns are valid, but slightly misguided. But I digress; that issue has been (I think) put to rest, so I don't want to rub it in Nathan's face.

My question (with lengthy intro): As I read Scripture, New Testament references to love generally fall into two broad categories: 1) God loved us in Christ (i.e. Believer's revelling in their experience of God's love through the cross), and 2) We should love each other as Christ loved us.

From this I draw two conclusions: 1) That a true experience of God's Love is contingent upon believing the gospel. Believers understand God's Love; by implication, unbelievers do not until they respond to the gospel.
2) That commands to love others almost always (unless I am gravely mistaken) refer to believers loving each other. Love is what happens in the church. If "we love because He first loved us", and we do not experience His love until we believe, than mutual love is something that is restricted to Christians.

So, essentially I believe that Christians have a monopoly on all the "God loves you" statements and all the "love each other" commands in Scripture. Christians of course, should be marked by love to all, but it is the love we have for other believers which shows all men that we are Christ's disciples.

And also, that "love unbelievers" means simply, "preach the gospel to unbelievers." It cannot mean anything else, for unbelievers do not understand the love of God until they believe.

Therefore, my question is simply, what do others think of this? Perhaps I have too narrow a view of love; but this is how I read the Scripture - let's talk about it.

Zaphon said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Zaphon said...

Dan:
"girl taking Psych 101. "

I've had converstaions with a female friend who majored in Pshyc.

It drove her nuts when my simple answer to abberant human behaviour (yeah, that's a Canadian spelling with the "u" in there), is SIN.

It drove her batty!

Interestingly, she started attending our church some years later. Apparently she came around!

Tom Chantry said...

Jeff,

I've been down the exact road of reasoning you are on, and I think it is a valid road. Certainly the emphasis of Christian love is the Christian community - we are to love one another.

What stops us short of saying "we are only to love one another" is the "enemy" theme in Christ's teaching on love. (Matthew 5:43-44; Luke 6:27, 35) If we are commanded by the Savior to love our enemies, we cannot maintain that love is only for the church. I agree with you if you say, "the primary focus of our horizontal love is to be one another," I would have to disagree if you were to say, "the sole focus of our horizontal love is to be one another."

I also believe that to understand love for unbelievers we would do well to study the meaning of the above passages. Jesus certainly does not mean anything less than proclaiming saving truth to our neighbors, but neither is it a sufficient interpretation to suggest that He means only that. There is an element here of treating your enemies decently and with loving concern even though they do not treat you thus. Gospel proclamation may be the essential core of love toward the unbeliever, but that love cannot be without the broader adornment of demonstrations of care and acts of kindness.

Jugulum said...

Tom & Jeff,

There's also Galatians 6:10, "So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith."

The consistent theme seems to be "everyone, but especially fellow brothers & sisters".

Frank Turk said...

Are we still feeding the troll who doesn't know what the True Scottsman fallacy is and why he was the one misusing it?

Why are we doing that?

Frank Turk said...

DJP:

I thought you had another blog, but it had a video featured yesterday which almost killed me, so I unbookmarked it.

I'll check the URL and see if I got it right ...

Frank Turk said...

Jeff Godley --

This is how we know what love it: that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.

There is a special love between believers as we share the same blessing, but loving other people who are not believers is not only preaching the Gospel to them. It means loving them as well.

It's not either/or: it's both.

DJP said...

Turk, in reverse order

1. LOL; thanks
2. Check 6:09AM and 6:35AM comments here

Chris H said...

Frank,

No one ever visits my blog, so I can't tell when a troll's being especially clever in its disguise. :P

I won't feed them any more. Promise.

Robert said...

Frank, are you a true Scottsman? Because you sure don't sound like one.

Seriously, thank you for staying on point that we must both love and preach the gospel to them. This really all wraps into loving God with all of our heart, soul, mind, and strength, because if we do, then the rest all flows from that. Of course, this just drives me to repentance over how short I fall.

Jugulum said...

Frank,

If the "us" in "Christ died for us" is only the elect, how well does that passage actually serve as a model for how we should relate to all unbelievers?

Kay said...

because we don't know who the elect are? Just guessing here, not trying to be a smartypants

Jeff Godley said...

OK, I see where my interpretation fails - specifically in relation to Luke 6:32-35:

If you love those who love you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who do good to you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. And if you lend to those from whom you expect to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, to get back the same amount. But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil.

I suppose what I'm getting at here is, the way we love unbelievers is different (whether in quality or quantity) than how we love believers. While we need love to both groups, I wonder if the Bible does not put greater emphasis on loving believers? (In the same way that we love our families differently than our friends - they are both genuine love, but they differ in degree and focus).

Truth Unites... and Divides said...

FWIW,

I didn't think T.A. Lewis was a troll.

Suppose a Christian goes to an atheist blog and engages with atheists there. And then one atheist labels the Christian commenter as a troll. That wouldn't be right.

BTW, a very, very good post.

Paul said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Truth Unites... and Divides said...

T. A. Lewis: "As a side note, you guys don’t have to worry about me “trolling” i.e. injecting some critical thought here any more. I should have figured out from yesterday’s post that this place is a black hole of stupidity. I’m out before I reach the event horizon."

Moral coward. Hiding behind name-calling on the basis of a subjective, morally relative framework.

;-)

RealityCheck said...

Jugulum said,

“And yet, T.A. read it as…,”

And that’s just the deal with “them” (atheists/???), you can insert almost any comment anyone made yesterday in place of the “it” and “it” becomes something else. “It” becomes what they want “it” to say. And this is exactly what T.A. did repeatedly. Did he do it on purpose to avoid (dodge) what was really being said… definitely. Were there times when he “honestly” saw it that way because he has the vision of a person who is in deep rebellion against God… absolutely (most of the time?). This is why we can only point to the Truth but we are kidding ourselves if we think anything short of the Holy Spirit can make an actual difference.

As far as feeding the trolls Frank, judging by T.A.’s reading list, he may have stopped by because he was starving for something “wholesome” to nibble on, even though he would never admit it, or for that matter, even know it. ;-)

Rob Bailey said...

Jug-
All the elect were formerly unbelievers. Relates perfectly. Christ died for the unbelievers. There is no reason to make something so simple and beautiful into a an intellectual burden. This is coming from a man who has spent his whole life reading and studying and enjoying still the complexities of theology. The study is worthwhile as long as you balance it with a earnest imitation of Jesus' compassion and have a childlike simplicity.

Jugulum said...

Kay,

I think that's at least part of the answer for why God wants the gospel preached indiscriminately, including to people who are going to end up rejecting it. (Though I doubt it's the only reason.)

But if we applied that here as the only reason, then we'd be saying, "God wants us to love everyone just because it might turn out that they're going to become brothers & sisters--if God had told us who he wasn't going to draw, then there'd be no responsibility to love them."

I don't think that's what Frank was saying when he referred to Romans 5:8. He was saying that we shouldn't just have the special love between believers--there should also be general love to everyone.

My question is: How can we look at Christ's special love in a action that was only for some unbelievers as an example for general love for everyone?

I'm not disagreeing with the actual point--I'm thinking Romans 5:8 is the wrong verse to go to.

(Note for anyone who got the wrong idea: I know there's similar ideas at work, but I was not raising the Arminian objection that says "It makes no sense for Calvinists to evangelize.")

~Mark said...

Good post Dan, and great mental checklist for a guy who'd been concerned about his approach to unbelievers/deniers as of late.

Frank Turk said...

If TA was engaging rather than pontificating and shooting out abuse, I'd say we should discuss it with him. When his first post from the previous thread made it clear that he's just a parrot mimicking something he heard someone else say -- and not listening after that -- I think he's just a troll.

Jugulum said...

Rob,

Read my reply to Kay--and if you think that doesn't address your point, please clarify.

Also, in case you didn't realize--I was assuming Calvinistic particular redemption/limited atonement, in which Christ didn't die for "the unbelievers", but for "the specific unbelievers who would become believers through God's drawing".

Jugulum said...

P.S. This is getting fairly off-topic, so I'm ready to drop it at a word from the Pyros.

Truth Unites... and Divides said...

"If TA was engaging rather than pontificating and shooting out abuse, I'd say we should discuss it with him. When his first post from the previous thread made it clear that he's just a parrot mimicking something he heard someone else say -- and not listening after that -- I think he's just a troll."

Dan's post explains T.A.'s behavior. He was engaging the only way he knew how.

Matt Gumm said...

Jugulum: I think Frank's point is that God did it while we were still His enemies. In fact, I heard someone say recently that that's the whole point of "love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you." Because that's what God did, and that's what Jesus did.

The implication, even in passages like Romans 5 where it's not explicitly stated, is "go, and do likewise."

RealityCheck said...

I think the discussion of the “elect” is very relevant to T.A. (and unbelievers in general) In fact, if he hadn’t dodged the two questions I asked him… a third probably would have had something to do with election.

I found T.A.’s presence here yesterday very interesting because, quite frankly, I find it inconsistent with his supposed beliefs. That’s why I asked him why he was here. IOW, if I was an atheist I can’t imagine giving a rip what Christians think about anything. Sure, I can see the human nature part of matching wits and all of that… but not for long. And of course there are a few who can make a good living at it, Dawkins, Hitchens, etc., but in the long run… who cares what anybody thinks if “nothing REALLY matters” (cue Queen's Bohemian Rhapsody please).

So… if T.A. is right, then, like I pointed out to him yesterday, it’s all pointless… we’re all just soda pop fizzing and one would think that an atheist, understanding this better than anyone, would find something better to do. If however, he is wrong, and we are right, then we are not only right about God but “election” is true as well. Soooo, why would we Christians bother with evangelism? Well, for starters, we were told to do so. Secondly, we don’t know (as Kay said) who the elect are. So it’s like we’ve been given t.v. remote controls and we don’t know which t.v. (or T.A.) they will turn on, so we go around clicking on everyone we can.

That explains why we do what we do… but it still leaves one wondering why T.A. does what he does. If the bible is true, he’s not only wrong about God, but he cannot have any “overall” impact on who gets saved… now can he?

Mike Riccardi said...

Two things.

1. I know that the specific expression of love you most need from me is not for me to affirm nor enable your self-destructive errors, nor for me to tell you about myself (2 Corinthians 4:5a).

That is just so huge. It covers the spectrum of pet-sins that any unbeliever might have, while at the same time exploding the unbiblical, man-centered definitions of love that float around many Christian circles.

To use a current example, it is ignorance of this point that causes many professing Christians to label other Christians as "haters" because we oppose homosexual "marriage." I saw a banner displayed outside of a Methodist church the other day that said, "No H8," which was their clever way of saying voting "Yes" on Prop 8 would be equal to voting for hate. What's-her-name, Anne Rice?, said as much recently in her... escapade.

But if we understand that the most loving thing we can do for someone is not to make much of them, but to make much of God in their sight, objections like those go away.

2. I know T.A. has declared that he's done, and so I don't want to keep piling on him. But I'm honestly just tired of the accusation of tautological reasoning. So in response to that accusation...

Rationalists appeal to reason as the source of knowledge. That's what makes them rationalists. Naturalists appeal to nature as the source of knowledge. That's what makes them naturalists. But Christians must appeal to the Scriptures as the source of knowledge. That is what makes us Christians.

If I ask a rationalist for evidence for his credence in rationalism as an adequate theory of knowledge, he's going to give me a reason. If I ask a naturalist for evidence for his credence in naturalism as an adequate theory of knowledge, he's going to give me a summary of observable facts of nature. They're just being consistent with their epistemology. But when they demand evidence of Scripture's genuineness and we Christians give them a Bible verse, they shout, "Tautology!" But it's no more circular than what they do; it's simply remaining consistent with one's own epistemology.

What skeptics like T.A. often don't realize when they demand evidence for the truth of the Bible or God's existence, and yet dismiss the testimony of Scripture, is that they are demanding -- in a most assuredly arrogant fashion -- that we accept their epistemology, their worldview. They are in fact saying, "Stop thinking like a Christian for a minute and accept my epistemological authority." And we should simply say, "No."

Because when the Christian acquiesces to the skeptic's demands and seeks to prove the genuineness or veracity of any doctrine of the Bible by going outside of the Bible, he fails to realize that in that very act he is forfeiting his Christian worldview and accepting that of the skeptic. It's a tacit acceptance that Scripture itself is not valid evidence -- that the only valid theory of knowledge is rationalism, or naturalism, or some other non-Christian epistemology.

Anyway, sorry it was so long.

Steve Drake said...

thank you Frank,
For clarifying my understanding of 'feeding the troll'. I think I have a better handle on it now, especially in light of Dan's original post today which I found excellent.
Brother Steve

Rob Bailey said...

Jug-

When it comes to Calvinism I am as hardcore as they come. But I have grown weary of the felt need for constant clarifications of "us" "we" "world" "all" etc. The next step is to move this into evangelism. I am not speaking of you particularly, so please do not take it that way. I have heard people when sharing the Gospel say something to the effect of "If you are one of the elect you can repent now and be saved." That is not the Gospel the way Jesus and the Apostles preached it. Take scripture for exactly what it says, while at the same time doing the best you can with the deeper things you have been given. Just don't make it complicated for the unbeliever.

Rachel said...

This post really hit the nail on the head with some of the things I struggle with in regards to non-believers. My husband is one of those people who can just put it all out there when it comes to proclaiming the gospel to unbelievers. I, on the other hand, am quite shy and wouldn't even know how to begin. I tell everyone I'm a Christian and that my faith comes first. I do the best I can to represent Christ while at work (I work at a military hospital as a medic) or school (I'm working towards my nursing degree). I do that by being humble, quiet, steady, and keeping my conversation clean and free from any "coarse jesting" etc. I treat my patients with dignity, respect, and compassion and these people come from all walks of life.

My husband frequently quotes back to me 1 Pet 3:4 when I ask him if I should do more. The biggest struggle is my family, who isn't saved. My dad's saved, but is involved with a charismatic group (it's a spawn off of The Way International) and so I keep my distance from all that as well. No one in my family is interested in changing right now.

I'm at a point right now where I just try my best to represent Christ, and if someone feels the call and comes to me about it I'll be there. I just don't feel comfortable at all putting it in everyone's face.

Steve Drake said...

Rachel,
Well said. I think we all come from different Christian backgrounds and different personalities (strengths, weaknesses, etc.) The Christian love you show to your patients is in many respects the best apologetic you can give to a dying world. Keep it up!

By the way, were you able to listen to the link Frank Turk provided yesterday on John MacArthur at the RESOLVED 2009 conference? Johnny Mac's example of his football coach 50 years on was priceless.

Steve Drake said...

Dear Mike Riccardi,
Sounds like you've been reading a little Van Til, or Schaeffer, or Bahnsen. Excellent analysis brother.

RealityCheck said...

“Johnny Mac's example of his football coach 50 years on was priceless”

Todd Friel has a video today dealing with deathbed conversations (particularly in relationship to Christopher Hitchens fight with cancer) and it contains MacArthur talking about his coach.

See "Deathbed Repentance" at:
http://www.wretchedradio.com/

Chuck said...

Reason is the Bible of the rationalist.

Solameanie said...

Whether T.A. is a troll or not, I am sort of comforted by the truth that Scripture -- when it is faithfully proclaimed -- will not return to the Lord empty without accomplishing the purpose for which He sent it. Regardless of this fellow's mockery and empty pontificating, he has heard the Word. The rest we can leave in God's hands.

Steve Drake said...

Dear RealityCheck:
Your link, a shortened version, of the audio link 'Theology of Creation' at www.monergism.com provided by Frank Turk yesterday, is very powerful. Thank you.

Might I also add, with your excellent link RealityCheck, don't give up hope Rachel, and all others, with your families, but keep praying that God will work in their hearts to bring them to a knowledge of the truth.

RealityCheck said...

Steve,

Thanks for the kind words and I also should have said something encouraging to Rachel. I think I didn’t on purpose because I find myself in much the same place. Years ago pretty much everybody in my family called themselves Christians and we all were pretty close. Then, it became obvious most were really only CINO (Christians In Name Only) and we have drifted apart. I have a particularly difficult situation with my father because he is not only unsaved but… and I find this very hard to say… I have a lot of animosity towards him. I try not to let it get in the way of telling him what he needs to hear… but… man it is really hard.

Anyway, Steve gave me a nudge that I needed and it made me just want to let you know that you are not alone is such matters Rachel.

Steve Drake said...

Dear RealityCheck,
I'm crying my brother. Reading your post has brought tears to my eyes. I'm weeping. Because of sin, inherited from Adam, our relationships are marred, aren't they? Jesus Himself, before He raised Lazurus from the tomb, wept over the tragedy of sin and death, and it's entrance into this world. Hope is not lost however. Keep praying that God will show you how to approach your Dad with love and humility. I will pray for you and for Rachel. For all of us who struggle with family, and how best to convince them that Jesus is the only way, may you use us Lord to your glory.

Jackie Pickett said...

Rachel, I can relate to what you said about not knowing how to begin to explain the gospel to an unbeliever. I am a naturally shy person, whereas my husband is outgoing. I have shared the gospel before, however, I sometimes feel as though I come across as strange, and not very good at it. I also have never gotten a positive reaction when I have stepped out this way. I have, however, written songs that reflect the gospel, and have gotten some positive responses from unbelievers. Thank you for sharing your struggles in this area. I know that we both have a heart to share the good news. I will pray for you, and would appreciate your prayers also...bless you.

Steve Drake said...

Dear RealityCheck,
Please forgive me if I have wrongly assumed you are my brother, when indeed you are my sister. I thought about my response, and since you post anonymously, I didn't want you to think I had erred in assuming incorrectly. Whether brother or sister, please know my prayers are with you. Your posts are of clarity and with good Christian conscience.

Barbara said...

RE: trouble sharing the gospel - I think there is great comfort to be had in 2 Cor 4:7 and Romans 1:16. Not to mention 1 Cor 2:1-4.

David Thayer said...

Wow. Something I finally understood. Good job.

Mike Riccardi said...

I'm sitting here thinking about the title of the post, and I'm reminded of a conversation I had with an unbelieving relative through marriage, i.e., someone I haven't known very well for very long.

Offended at some of the things I was saying, he said, "You don't know me."

In the moment, I said, "Perhaps not, but I know the One that knows you." I suppose that is the sense of the "yes" in the post title.

Carlo Provencio said...

oooohhh!!!!!! Nice break down! I like that! Posts like that keep me coming back! Thank you!

RealityCheck said...

Hey Steve,

You’ve said nothing that you need to apologize for. Thanks for your thoughtful comments and prayers.

Oh, and it is brother btw. ;-)

Sir Aaron said...

Anybody who works in law enforcement, like myself, comes to quickly understand that man is not guided by some internal moral compass. #6 in play big time.

@TUAD: Some Christians who frequent atheist blogs, are in fact, trolls. We are commanded to present the gospel, but are never told to constantly argue with somebody, especially after asking us to leave.

Herding Grasshoppers said...

Dan,

You did it again.

I'm bookmarking this post, and labeling it "in-laws".

Not - as David warned - to use as pepper spray, but because I need to re-orient myself before every encounter, with their true situation.

Blind. Lost. Deceived. Self-deceived. At war. Without hope.

Dead.

Because I'm so much more likely to be bothered by them, than burdened for them.

Well said, Dan, well said.

Julie

Rachael Starke said...

Awesome post, great comments. (Mike R., I'm so stealing that line. That's downright prophetic.)

You could probably do a great followup post on what we (should) know about fellow Christians, and how that might change the way we treat them.

Cathy M. said...

Very thought provoking list. It really illuminates the whole issue of being unequally yoked.

Rachel said...

Wow. I'm kind of amazed at what my comment opened up. RealityCheck, I went through a few rough years with my dad because of how his beliefs and actions really poisoned me towards Christianity. I didn't want anything to do with him for awhile, and now we've reached a kind of peaceful truce on the matter.

It was my husband who was the catalyst for me to see how a Christian really is and it was watching him that made me switch from being a pagan to Christian. There's still a lot of tension with my father, and my husband's not a big fan of him either. What I finally boiled it down to was he's my dad, a part of him made me, he loves me the best he can, and maybe just watching my relationship with Christ will make him change. It's the same thing with the rest of my family.

The only thing is that I live a good distance away from all of them because I don't want them to pull me down. And that was a hard pill for me to swallow because I love them and miss them, but I need to follow Christ first.

Steve, no I didn't hear that link, but I'll be sure to listen to it.

Pastor Pants said...

Man, I have been missing out being too busy to keep up with Pyros. This is great stuff. Thanks, Dan!

RealityCheck said...

Rachel,

“Wow. I'm kind of amazed at what my comment opened up.”

You’re surprised! I’m the shy anonymous one here. ;-)

Seriously though, the thing with my Dad is a tough one too. Although he believes in God, it’s always been kind of “a big man upstairs” kind of god. In general he has no problem with the “idea” of god and even that God is the God of the bible (a book he’s heard of and respects but never reads). But when it gets to specifics, Who that God really is, accepting Christ as his savior, repenting (little things like that ;-)) the issue becomes a little too much for him. Considering I go from missing him (who I once thought he was) to wanting to find him missing (sorry… but sometimes… arrggghhhh) it gets a little over-whelming at times.

As far as the rest of the family, or at least those who I was once much closer to, we’ve picked up quite a bit of distance both geographically and relationally in the last years. Quite a mixed bag there actually. From agnostics to atheists and some who don’t know what they believe, it is a real mess.

Anyway, I don’t believe anything deters God’s plans and therefore I’ll just keep on keeping-on and I know you’ll do the same. Take care.

Kirby L. Wallace said...

Nathan,

Not one of your references is written to the unsaved. They are all directed at the people who are already of the faith.

The references that are aimed at the world are not nearly as complimentary.

Dan: Wow! I am SO glad to have read this one from you! Does a heart good.

Laura said...

"They come from a mindset according to which God's viewpoint is offensive, the Cross is offensive, confidence based on God's word is offensive."

You nailed it right there! The disconnect I have been so discourged over, not understanding why speaking in love can get so twisted and off track in their responce. Speak the Word of God or say the name of Jesus, at best, get eye rolls, worse, screams of "intollerant hater". I was convienced I was no good to the lost, but that same day, God used a well-known atheist to show me my error:

If you believe that there's a Heaven and Hell and that people could be going there...
how much do you have to hate somebody to NOT tell them?"
~Penn Jillette