Is there a way we’re not getting our evangelism right? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.
I’ve been reading through “The Reliability of the New Testament” (And you can expect a review when I’m done) and in a Q&A, someone asked Daniel Wallace that if Christian evangelicals know about the “changes” in Scripture that Bart Ehrman talks about, why is it it’s not being told? Ehrman said he wanted to know the same thing.
Too many times these changes are presented as monumental. The pericope of Jesus and the woman in adultery was not originally part of John’s gospel! The last twelve verses of Mark are not authentic! There is no authenticity behind 1 John 5:7, thus the Trinity is destroyed!
That these are not seen as difficulties is known. There is no news here. In fact, basic reading on textual criticism would show that this is not a problem. Yet at the same time, these are claims that cause people to abandon their faith. It is part of the all-or-nothing view, in a day and age where most people have no idea how they got their Bible and think it practically fell from Heaven in English. They also think the only way to read the Bible is the American way. The American way is good for many things, but it is not good for reading the Bible.
Our pastors then from the pulpit are not including this in their messages. They are not giving a defense of the text, and the sad reality is most of them are probably ignorant of the fact that there are textual differences. It fascinates me that people who believe in the “Word of God” seek to know so little about where the Word of God came from.
Yet in our day and age, the claims of Scripture are not taken seriously and met with skepticism. If we were making a statement for any other position, we would come up with reasons. We would have an appeal to authority or a study or a finding of some sort. If I was going to make a political argument, I would want to give you a reason. If we are choosing which car to buy from the dealership, we look at the pros and cons of each. If we are working on a diet, we seek to know why eating X is good and eating Y is bad. If we are sick, we go to a doctor to seek medical knowledge and believe that something should be done because the doctor said so.
Yet we seem to abandon all of that with the Bible. It is not to be questioned. In essence, we are treating it with kid gloves, as if if we dared to give the slightest inquiry into the Bible, that it would fall like a house of cards. If that is the attitude that we have, how can it be that it will be seen as the Word of God? Do we think a Word from God is so weak it cannot stand up to scrutiny? That speaks volumes not just about our view of Scripture, but our view of God.
Hence, we have sheep to the slaughter. We are sending people out to do evangelism when they don’t know the necessities needed. It will take more than just a moral life that is well lived. The reality is that each person you meet in America, including yourself, knows a Christian who is a total jerk and can always be used as an excuse. On the other hand, each person probably knows a Christian who has excellent moral character, and quite likely some unbelievers that do.
In fact, let’s suppose that Christians were the people who lived the most moral lives of all and this was acknowledged by everyone. Now take a look at this and see if you think this argument follows.
Christians are the best people in the world.
Therefore, Jesus rose from the dead.
The claim does not follow. Now to be sure, we need to live moral lives before the world so they will see how seriously we treat our savior, they will have one less excuse, and quite frankly, because God tells us to be holy. We could say that these are necessary if we are to show the truth of what we believe, but they are not sufficient.
Consider an approach like “The Way of the Master.” The idea is to show that people are not living righteous lives and need to be forgiven. Okay. Let’s suppose that’s true. That still does not demonstrate that Jesus rose from the dead. All we can do is show people they have a problem and then put it on them to do the research for that problem.
The saddest part is that this could be easily fixed. How? Get pastors in the pulpit who know what they’re talking about. If your pastor cannot defend his faith, how can he expect you to defend yours? You are being given a call to evangelize, except you are going out to people ready to tear you to shreds and you have no weapons of your own.
What’s the result? People like Bart Ehrman, who began his slide into apostasy because of his views of Inerrancy. Now it could be Inerrancy is true, which I hold to, but Ehrman’s world could not tolerate the possibility that it was not. Of course, the biggest aspect to his deconversion was the problem of evil, but Inerrancy is the start and according to Ehrman himself, these problems are not being talked about in the church. I agree with his opponent, Daniel Wallace, that Ehrman did the church a service by bringing this out. The new atheists have done us a service by making us examine our theistic claims. The problem is as long as it goes this way, the church is merely living in a reactive mode to the culture instead of in a proactive mode. We need to be having the culture answer the challenges of Christ. Instead, we have it that Christ is having to respond to the culture.
If we want our witness to have the power it needs, we have got to equip our members. Until we do, we can expect them to go out in their evangelism and either join the ranks of the opposition, or be so scared silly that they shut down and become for all intents and purposes useless to evangelism.
Neither one is good. Both are easily preventable.
Will they be?