INTRODUCTION: We had a great day of discussion with several students over a period of about 3.5 hours. I have prayed consistently that God would provide willing listeners and as you'll see below, He is doing just that in spite of the end-of-semester campus stress. Today, I had the opportunity to speak in some detail to a well-listening young lady, an atheist, and a "new-born" Christian. I didn't do any open-air preaching since there were only a few students milling around on campus today due to it being the last week of class.
The Question of the Day Redavivus:
As I noted in our last outreach report, the type of "question of the day" that you use in evangelism is critical as it seems that some opening questions can almost immediately shut people down because they feel as if you are trying to trap them. Thus, I enjoy asking "In your opinion, what do you think it takes for a person to get to heaven?" because it genuinely asks people to share their views about the afterlife. We'll see below how this type of open-ended question promotes good conversation.
A Well-Listening Young Lady
This pleasant young lady had a sorority background and said she thought she was a good person. I took her through a few of Christ's commands and she admitted that she had violated all of them and then she said, "You're making me feel guilty" to which I responded, "I'm not the one making you feel guilty, I'm exposing you to the light of God's law and you're realizing that you fall way short, just like the rest of us." I then explained, "Look, I'm certainly not your judge, but you admitted that you have violated Christ's commands, and it's Him you'll have to answer to, not me. If you stood before Him now, where would you be innocent or guilty?" She admitted that she was concerned about what would happen to her when she died, and I was able to share the gospel with her and then we were both on our way. I mention this young lady not because the witnessing counter was extraordinary, but for one simple reason to show that I have consistently prayed that God would provide people who are ready and willing to listen to the gospel, and this young lady certainly was.
This gentleman was another person who was ready and willing to listen. He was originally from India and claimed to be a Hindu who had never read the New Testament. Hinduism originated from the ancient polytheistic religions of India, and as a more unified world religion, Hinduism teaches a form of pantheism; hence, the ancient gods (especially the triad of Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva) are commonly interpreted as representations of the various aspects of the one impersonal divine known as Brahman. Thus, it is a monistic worldview. The goal is to progress to the realization that we are one with Brahman (i.e., Nirvana) through reincarnation via following the law of karma. I asked him how he determines "good" in Hinduism and he said that doing good things brings good karma whereas doing bad things brings bad karma. I then asked if he really believed that all of reality was maya (illusion) and he said he wasn't sure. He didn't seem to know much about his own religion, so I explained to him that it was my understanding that Hinduism essentially teaches that all of reality is one and that distinctions are illusory and the goal of Hinduism is to rid ourselves of these distinctions and do "good" to others whereby we achieve Nirvana. I then asked him, "If reality is one and distinctions aren't real, isn't pointing out the difference between what's real and what's an illusion making a distinction too? If so, wouldn't it be self-defeating because that too is illusory? I mean, if Hinduism teaches that we have to believe that all of reality is one thing and that there really aren't distinctions between anything, then how do we know there's a distinction between what's real and what's illusory? Moreover, if no distinctions really exist, how can we have a difference between good and bad karma?" He didn't know how to respond (I wouldn't either if I was a Hindu), so I asked him if he thought he was a good person. His answer was "Um, sometimes" to which I asked, "Why do you say only "sometimes" and he noted, "Well, I don't always do the right thing." to which I asked, "How to you tell the difference between right and wrong" and like most other people in America nowadays, he basically appealed to cultural relativism. I then took him through a few of Christ's commands, showed how we all fall short of God's righteous standards, and then explained why Jesus had to die on the cross and that God raised Him from the dead as evidence that God accepted what Jesus did on the cross in place of sinners (Rom. 4:25). He listened well, I gave him a Bible and told him to read the gospel of John, we shook hands, and we went our separate ways.
An Atheist Anarchist
I attempted to witness to this young man last week while he was eating a burrito and he respectfully said that he wasn't interested in talking to me because he was already "pretty settled in his beliefs." Today, I was walking back to the center of campus when I saw the same guy walking near me on the sidewalk and so I and attempted to hand him a card again and sure enough, he kindly said, "Um, I'm sorry, but I'm an atheist" to which I immediately responded "What would it take for you to believe that God exists?" to which he said, "I'd need some objective evidence." I said, "How would you know it was evidence for God?" to which he essentially said something like ". . . it would be so obvious that you couldn't miss it." I then said, "Well, God's already given you that in creation, then I quoted Romans 1:19-21 . . ." and he said, "Yeah, but that's not obvious now since we can explain it by evolution though I'm open-minded" and I said something like, "See my friend, you did exactly what I knew you would do. You asked for evidence, I presented objective evidence, and you explained it away through your naturalistic presuppositions." I then pointed out to him that even if Jesus appeared to him right now he would probably try to explain it away through a plethora of other naturalistic causes since his naturalism cannot admit the existence of the supernatural.
Presuppositions, Worldviews, and Unargued Philosophical Biases
We then proceeded to have a 1.5 hour long conversation concerning philosophical presuppositions that form the platform for worldviews, the nature of evidence, the nature and reliability of the Bible, and how our preconceived ideas about the world affect our interpretation of any evidence and that there are no uninterpreted "brute" facts. During this conversation, he appealed to logic, rationality, scientific procedures, ethics, etc., to make his case and by God's grace I showed him at every point that he was appealing to things to make his case that can't exist assuming naturalistic materialism and methodological naturalism. I then discussed The Theistic Preconditions of Knowledge, preached him the gospel, and attempted to hand him a ministry card for Creation Ministries International. We then talked about the creation-evolution controversy a bit and when he found out that CMI is a Young Earth Creationist (hereafter YEC) ministry, he handed the card back and said something like, "I'm sorry, but I can't accept this" to which I responded, "Open-minded huh? So, you'll accept the idea that people came from pondscum, big lizards turned into birds over millions of years, and that you cannot provide any philosophical foundation whatsoever for your metaphysics, epistemology, and ethics and admitted that you don't try to, but you'll reject a YEC website run by credentialed, published, Ph.D. level scientists simply because they don't buy into the naturalistic party line?" He didn't say yes, but said instead, "No university in the world accepts that framework for understanding the world" to which I responded, "So majority opinion equals truth?" He then said, "No, there's just so much evidence that the earth is old and evolution is true" and I responded, "But you just admitted earlier that all facts are pre-interpreted. Have you ever read one article by a credentialed YEC scientist?" and he admitted that he had not. I then said, "So, you're not interested in subjecting your own presuppositions to scrutiny?" He then responded, "I can't believe you are a YEC!" and at that point, I knew that we had reached the limits of our conversation. I then lovingly encouraged him to read the N.T., investigate the things I had discussed with him in spite of his seeming reluctance to do so, and that he needed to repent and believe on Christ. Interestingly, he then asked me "Given the other atheists you've spoken with, how did I do?" Suspecting some pride in his question, I responded, "Well, almost every atheist I've spoken with is different on the surface level. You were very respectful and I appreciate that, but just like nearly every other atheist I've spoken with, when it came to going beyond surface-level argumentation, you didn't even begin to present a credible intellectual defense." He seemed a little discouraged that I put it that way, but I gave him a warm handshake, thanked him for his time, patted him on the back and told him I'd love to talk to him again in the future and to please give me a call anytime if he wants to talk. I hope he does call me, but I've said that same thing hundreds of times, and I think I've received two follow-up calls out of thousands of witnessing encounters, and none of them were from atheists.
A "New-Born" Believer
This young lady was the last person I spoke to. She was sitting by herself and enjoying a smoke, so I introduced myself, sat down near her, asked the question of the day and she demonstrated a good understanding of the gospel and said she was a brand new born-again believer. She then told me that she feels so inadequate, that she's playing catch-up at church because she doesn't know much about the Bible yet, and that she wants to grow and learn more. It was then that I realized that I don't really have anything for folks like this, and given the fact that many American people make major worldview decisions when in college, it would stand to reason that I carry some information for new believers. Anyway, she said she was interested in going into Christian counseling and I explained how there were basically two different approaches, the integrationist route and the nouthetic route. I then used this as an opportunity to discuss the sufficiency of Scripture and its application to all of one's life. She appreciate the conversation, said she was interested in visiting our church, and we were on our way. Again, God provided another willing ear, this time in the form of a newly converted sister in Christ and I'm thankful to see that He is still in the business of saving people from their sin, for it seems that witnessing a true conversion in America is hard to come by these days.
IN CONCLUSION, the field are white unto harvest, but the laborers are few. It is easy as a pastor-evangelist/apologist to grow weary in well-doing when you see broader evangelicalism going the way of the world while so few professing believers are actually sharing their faith while also living consistently with it. It makes me hunger for heaven, reminds me that I'm just a stranger passing through this world, and that this world is not my home, for I'm a citizen of a heavenly country, and as I pass through this strange world, I desire to faithfully call others to come with me. "He who has ears to hear, let him hear . . . " Matthew 11:15