Thursday, May 20, 2010

Engaging Secular People With the Gospel

Last night I had the privilege of leading a 'Discovery Group', a small group of people who are exploring the person and claims of Jesus with me on Wednesday nights. This, by far, is my favourite time of my week as a pastor (yes, even more than preaching!!). What a privilege to create a non-threatening environment where people can ask their questions, voice their objections, and encounter the real Jesus. I pray that God uses this group and future ones like it to lead many to Christ!

This afternoon I had the privilege of reading a very helpful article called, "Deconstructing Defeater Beliefs: Leading the Secular to Christ", by Tim Keller. I really work to be shaped by a variety of pastors/theologians, but I find myself coming back to John Piper and Tim Keller more than anyone else. Keller's cultural engagement and apologetics are second to none. No one engages post-modern people with the gospel, makes them want to hear it, shows them the inconsistencies in their world view, and then shows them the truth and beauty of the gospel, better than Tim Keller. I highly recommend that all Christians read his best selling book, 'The Reason for God' and then buy a stack to give away to their secular friends. In the article I read this afternoon, Keller explains the rationale behind his book. Here is a teaser by Keller:

Every culture hostile to Christianity holds to a set of 'common-sense' consensus beliefs that automatically make Christianity seem implausible to people. These are what philosophers call "defeater beliefs". A defeater belief is Belief-A that, if true, means Belief-B can't be true.

Christianity is disbelieved in one culture for totally opposite reasons it is disbelieved in another. So for example, in the West (as we will explore below) it is widely assumed that Christianity can't be true because of the cultural belief there can't be just one "true" religion. But in the Middle East, people have absolutely no problem with the idea that there is just one true religion. That doesn't seem implausible at all. Rather there it is widely assumed that Christianity can't be true because of the cultural belief that American culture, based on Christianity, is unjust and corrupt. (Skeptics ought to realize, then, that the objections they have to the Christian faith are culturally relative!) So each culture has its own set of culturally-based doubt-generators which people call 'objections' or 'problems' with Christianity.

When a culture develops a combination of many, widely held defeater beliefs it becomes a cultural 'implausibility-structure.' In these societies, most people don't feel they have to give Christianity a good hearing – they don't feel that kind of energy is warranted. They know it just can't be true. That is what makes evangelism in hostile cultures so much more difficult and complex than it was under 'Christendom.' In our Western culture (and in places like Japan, India, and Muslim countries) the reigning implausibility-structure against Christianity is very strong. Christianity simply looks ludicrous. In places like Africa, Latin America, and China, however, the implausibility structures are eroding fast. The widely held assumptions in the culture make Christianity look credible there.

(In what follows, Keller explains and interacts with the most common Western Defeater beliefs, and then presents the gospel on the culture's own terms!!.) You can read the whole thing here.

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