Wednesday, August 31, 2011

UNCG Outreach Report 8-31-2011

INTRODUCTION:  The campus was full of life and activity today at UNCG.  Students were everywhere and there were crowds of them just milling around and talking, enjoying the weather, etc., a perfect recipe for one-on-one evangelism and open-air preaching. 
I decided to do only one-on-one evangelism today since I had no one else with me to minister to those I would be preaching to.  I typically like to do open-air preaching when I have someone else with me who can go into the crowds and give people literature and/or reason with them from the Scriptures.  Before I highlight an interesting conversation I had with a headstrong young lady, let's consider what "the toxic trinity" is and the effects it has on students in particular.

The "Toxic Trinity"

Many students hold to what I call "the toxic trinity".  The "toxic trinity" has three essential components:
1.  Postmodernism.
2.  Moralistic Therapeutic Deism.
3.  Darwinism.
  • Postmodernism has some good elements.  For instance, it recognizes that people can be very diverse and that diversity is not necessarily a bad thing because the beauty that is inherent in all cultures can enrich and enliven our culture.  That is certainly a praiseworthy thing (Rev. 21:24).  However, postmodernism also affirms that there's no ultimate transcendent purpose, meaning, or reason for existence since no objective, universal standards exist, or if they do, we can't know them.  For example, consider logical laws, the principles that we use to determine correct reasoning from incorrect reasoning.  Many postmoderns would argue that basic fundamental logical laws (Law of non-contradiction, law of excluded middle, law of identity) are not universal (apply to all people, places, and times), invariant (can't be changed), and necessary (have to hold always) but are human constructs that can change from time to time, place to place, and from person to person.  To prove this they would appeal to the many competing and contradictory systems of logic and then assert that all can have equal truth value as long as they work to promote order and function in whatever society uses them.  Thus, logic wouldn't be universal and necessary; instead, it would be a culturally relative concoction of society.  The problem is that this is self-refuting, for to argue that there are competing and contradictory logical systems assumes that the law of non-contradiction necessarily holds when judging between those two competing systems.  Thus, to deny the universal necessity of this particular fundamental law of logic, you would have to use it in order to deny it.  Thus, the fundamental law of logic known as the law of non-contradiction necessarily and universally holds, even with examples of dialetheism or other such paradoxes; you will always have to utilize the law of non-contradiction to deny the universality of the law of non-contradiction.  But, I digress.
  • For Moralistic Therapeutic Deism, see my treatment of that here under "1" of the heading "Types of Unbelieving College Students".
  • Regarding Darwinism, I'm speaking of that well-known philosophical acid that has eaten through nearly everything since Darwin's Origin came out in 1859.  It is well known as the General Theory of Evolution
While I spoke with many professing Christians and out of the 10-12 or so I spoke to, I met only one that could articulate the gospel in any meaningful way (i.e., the problem = sin; the solution = faith and repentance in the cross work of Jesus).  As usual per my past outreach reports, most of them gave answers that related to the "toxic trinity" or simply were universalists or pantheists of some kind.  However, I do want to mention a noteworthy conversation I had with a female student.  

A sweet but hard-headed young lady

This young lady was the last detailed conversation I had of the day.  She attended a Moravian church, was very polite and willing to engage in a conversation about the things of God.  She noted early in the conversation that she had a problem telling people of other religions that they are wrong.  I asked her why she would say that, and she said that she didn't think it was her business to tell others that their religion was wrong.  I asked her why she would say this given the New Testament teaching about the exclusivity of Christ and then a conversation ensued about ultimate authorities.

A Battle of Ultimate Authorities 

She seemed to really struggle with the Scriptures and noted that different groups interpret those passages differently and I asked, "If a blind friend was about to walk off a cliff only to fall to a sure death below, wouldn't you do all in your power to stop him from walking over the edge of the cliff?  Wouldn't you be willing to tackle him if necessary to save him?"  She said, "I see where you're going, but its not the same."  I responded, "You're right, because not telling your unbelieving friends that they are wrong to not repent and believe in Jesus is worse than going over the edge of a cliff, because where they are going lasts forever."  She seemed frustrated at this point, and so I asked, "Why would you, a professing Christian disagree with me on this?" and she said, "I just don't feel like its my duty to go around telling people that their religion is wrong."  I responded, "I understand, but I'm not suggesting you necessarily go tell everyone, I'm talking about you speaking to your Buddhist friend about Jesus as God gives you opportunity.  After all, didn't Jesus say that there's no other way to get to God except through Him and that those who do not believe in the Son will perish?"  She admitted that the Bible said this, but didn't pursue that line of thought any further and I then changed subjects on her by stating, "The word of God calls us to submit to God's authority in His word whether we like it or not.  There are two ultimate authorities in the universe that you can bow down to; yourself or God.  It seems to me that you are essentially saying (though you have been careful to deny this in word) that you are the ultimate authority and that even if the Scriptures clearly say in context that believers are to lovingly share Jesus with others as God gives opportunity lest they perish forever in Hell, you are saying, 'No, I will not do that because I do not think it is right.'  In a nutshell, you are denying the sovereign authority that God has over you.  Why would a professing believer do that?"  She was stymied at this point.  I remained silent to attempt to give her a chance to respond and she finished with, "Well, that's just the way I see it.  Some people understand the Bible different than I do, and I'm okay with that."  I responded, "Even if your understanding contradicts the clear commands of Scripture, you're okay with that?"  She shrugged her shoulders, I thanked her for the conversation, and I was off to my car.  I hope that the Lord used my winsome attitude and Scriptural arguments to get her thinking in the right direction, for a denial such as this is indicative of a greater spiritual problem.

I need help!

Perhaps you live in the Piedmont-Triad area, are doctrinally like-minded, are in good standing with a local evangelical church, and you have a real heart for the lost.  If you have the time to come out and help evangelize for a few hours on a weekday I could sure use your help, for the harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few (Luke 10:2). 

IN CONCLUSION, I praise the Lord for your prayers as I function as a missionary to the city of Greensboro.  My prayer is that God is glorified in our outreaches, the hearts of the lost are pricked by the work of the Spirit, and that God brings many souls to Himself. 


  1. I then said, "The word of God calls us to submit to God's authority in His word whether we like it or not. There are two ultimate authorities in the universe that you can bow down to; yourself or God. It seems to me that you are essentially saying (though you have been careful to deny this in word) that you are the ultimate authority and that even if the Scriptures clearly say in context that believers are to lovingly share Jesus with others lest they perish forever in Hell, you are saying, 'No, I will not do that because I do not think it is right.' In a nutshell, you are denying the sovereign authority that God has over you. Why would a professing believer do that?"

    I hope that the Lord used my winsome attitude and Scriptural arguments to get her thinking in the right direction"

    I've noticed that some people, actually many people, when confronted with a question that they don't like, oftentimes do not think that the questioner had a "winsome attitude."

    In fact, they oftentimes take the opposite side and think of their moral-logical questioner as having a belligerent attitude.

  2. Dustin,

    I think you are probably wrong here, and that the female student is right but unable to articulate it very well.

    The biblical case for mandatory personal evangelism for each Christian of the stripe that you are suggesting is poor.

    A few points:

    1) The great commission was a command given to the apostles in particular and by extension to the church as a corporate entity, not to each individual. We are not all expected to baptise people (part of the Great Commission), but the church is expected it to. We cannot each individually go out into 'all the earth', but corporately as a church we can, etc. Thus it is a corporate command, not everyone will be fulfilling the door-to-door proclamation part of it. Some will pray, some will give, some will just tell some of their friends when a suitable conversation opens up etc. Different people are differently gifted in the area of evangelism, just like every other type of gift. There needs to be room for this.

    2) As for your examples about others in the NT who evangelised, eg by door to door, that doesn't necessarily establish any more than that those particular people were gifted in that form of evangelism, and similarly today we should expect some people to be present in our churches who are likewise gifted. And in mine there is. He recommends it is not for everyone and that some people should definitely not do it as they would be a hindrance.

    3) So I think the case remains to be made on your part, I genuinely would love to see you do so as I am willing to change my views if yours persuade. What is the biblical case for saying that each Christian should share the Gospel in propositional form with each of his friends? And why do you stop only at his friends? Why not every person you meet every day since it is so urgent as you say.

    4) The sovereignty of God means it is not necessary to get into an Arminian panic about the lost. Rather, let us be faithful to the gifts and opportunities we are given.

    5) There is a lot more to be said here, in the meantime I hope you read Doug Wilson's short article on this matter:

    It is the article entitled 'Guilt-free evangelism'.


  3. p.s. do you still have the contact details of that student? If so I think you should show her the other side of the debate lest you have put a burden on her that God has not deemed fit for her to bear.

  4. Why does Dustin need to give a case, if you are just offering FV propaganda?

  5. Thanks for this update, Dusman; I've missed seeing them.

    R. Scott Clark has also written rather extensively on "Every Member Evangelism" (EME). The differing views on something as fundamental as evangelism are quite striking.

    In Him,

  6. Pace Henry:

    o Mark Dever talks about how evangelism is an individual command validated by corporate life in The Gospel and Personal Evangelism (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 2007), 66–ff.

    o George Sweazey argues that the best evangelism is corporate rather than individual, but his arguments are not persuasive. He makes them anyway in The Church as Evangelist (San Francisco: Harper & Row Publishers, 1978, 46–52). Michael Green critiques him this view in Evangelism Through the Local Church (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1992), 7, 9, 20–21.

    From: Are All Biblical Commands Corporate.

  7. Henry,

    I don't buy the view you're advocating at all simply because it proves too much. If your view is true then that young lady could stand before God with clean hands and a pure heart at the Judgment seat and say "Yes God, I did *not* give the gospel to my hell-bound Buddhist friend because you never specifically commanded people like me to do so. You only gave that command to pastors and evangelists."

    This completely contradicts 1 Peter 3:15 and Jude 3, both of which are generic commands written to generic believers, both of which contain a command to articulate the gospel such that it could be a means by which people are saved; i.e., evangelism.

    This view per the articles I've looked at online seems like another excuse to justify disobedience and laziness.

  8. Dustin,

    Thanks for posting these. I learn a lot every time I read them and I'm grateful for your faithfulness & service.

    Beyond the question of the girl's biblical responsibility, other greater issues are conveyed which merit priority including the blindness of her buying into the postmodern mindset & her failure to submit to the authority of Scripture. If she doesn't first deal with this issue, it doesn't matter what the Scripture says about her responsibility.

    My guess would be she didn't walk away thinking how winsome Dustin was, but hopefully like others - his challenge & her not having answers will sink deep until she ultimately seeks & finds a solution... which best is found in the truth & submission to Christ & His authoritative Word.

  9. I'd probably already join you if I were but a few miles closer. I'm another hour the other side of Winston from you between Statesville and Hickory.

  10. Vautautas,

    I am not FV.


    I have read Dever's short book, but don't think it carried the freight needed for this argument. I have even heard him/the panel implicitly concede in a DG conference panel discussion that beyond the Great Commission verses there aint much.


    thanks for your engagement, I'd like to make a few points of response:

    1) I am not saying she should not tell her friend the Gospel. I am just saying she is not necessarily obligated by God to do so. He may specifically lead her to do so, or give her a suitable opportunity but not necessarily. From another angle it may be like casting pearls before swine, and it is often wisest not to speak to a fool. And so I don't currently share your personal subjective perception of what you think God's attitude towards her is going to be on judgement day. Personal subjective perceptions can be very misleading, which is why arminians and egalitarians exist.

    2) I think it is your view that leads to absurd conclusions. On what basis are you not stopping at every single opportunity to share the Gospel with passers-by? On what basis can any Christian spend 2hrs enjoying a movie whilst people on the street could be rescued from the flames?

    3) Do you get the impression that Jesus lived like this? Was he continually trying to share the 5 points of the Gospel with every single passer by? He deliberately only revealed his message to some, those with ears to hear, but spoke in veiled parables to others. Is Jesus allowed to be a model for us? And how about the saints in the OT? Was Abraham always trying to tell people of Yahweh and how they should serve the God of Israel? How does your Calvinism save you from Arminian panic regarding the lost?

    4) You cite 1Per3:15. But that verse supports just the kind of thing I am saying:

    always being prepared to make a defence to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect,

    Paul here expects that believers will evangelise when asked. There are many other verses that show a similar pattern of thought.

    5) The other verse you cite is Jude 3:

    I found it necessary to write appealing to you gto contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints.

    What makes you think this is a mandate for every single believer to share the Gospel in propositional form with each of their friends? The very following verse suggests this is not what Paul was thinking about:

    For certain people have crept in unnoticed...

    Thus Paul seems to be saying to watch out for false teachers and don't let them subvert the pure faith.

    6) This is not an 'excuse to justify laziness', it is an argument to make you consider whether the Scriptures really mandates you laying such a heavy burden on people that they have no grace to bear because God has not called them to the same thing he has called you to. Please, if you are going to do that, then give a sound biblical foundation rather than citing 1Pet3:15 and Jude3 which do not teach what you told that girl.

    7) I am not against evangelism. I shared the biblical gospel in propositional form with a classmate not so long ago and gave him the Gospel of John to read. I also rejoice at guys like you who are especially gifted in street evangelism. But I recognise that scripture does not mandate your gift and calling to all Christians and to do so can hamper a persons walk with God.

  11. *Peter, not Paul for 1Pet3:15, sorry.

    Here are some other verses that need to have a place in our theology of evangelism:

    They hate him who reproves in the gate, and they abhor him who speaks the truth… Therefore he who is prudent will keep silent in such a time, for it is an evil time.’ Amos 5:10,13

    ‘Do not speak in the hearing of a fool, for he will despise the good sense of your words.’ Prov 23:9

    ‘Leave the presence of a fool’ Prov 14:7

    The apostle Peter seemed to indicate to wait until asked – we are to be ‘prepared to make a defence to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you’ 1Pet3:15.

    Paul also indicated this kind of stance when his command for us was to know ‘how you ought to answer each person’ (Col 4:6) rather than how to ‘go up and tell’ each person.

    Interestingly, those who advocate daily witnessing to strangers as obligatory for all Christians must find it odd that Jesus, to a guy delivered from demon-possesion, did not tell him to go and tell everyone he saw but only to ‘go to your friends and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you’ (Mk 5:19).

  12. Henry,

    Dear friend, I have not said that every believer should go and tell to every stranger they come across. I'm sorry if I've come across as teaching such, for that was not my intention. My outreach reports are short summaries of my evangelistic work and are designed to encourage the saints, not legalistically bind them to do something they are not gifted to do. That's why I said, "Perhaps you live in the Piedmont-Triad area, are doctrinally like-minded, are in good standing with a local evangelical church, and you have a real heart for the lost. If you have the time to come out and help evangelize for a few hours on a weekday I could sure use your help, for the harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few (Luke 10:2)."

    I wasn't commanding anyone to help me, but encouraging those who have the desire and ability to do so to help out.

    Again, I'm simply encouraging people to proclaim the gospel as God gives the opportunity. I agree that we shouldn't waste our time with fools and swine, for I've turned many a "pig" away in my day (Matt. 7:6).

    Also, I concede your point regarding 1 Peter 3:15 and Jude 3 and will take that into consideration in the future. Thanks for the iron-sharpening my friend!

  13. Thanks Dunsman,

    I appreciate your heart in the matter, and realise you do not mandate frequent verbal proclamation of the Gospel to strangers for all Christians.

    I attacked that straw-man intentionally because I know for many people it is a very real dilemma, and also because I think it is a corollary - to me I don't see how you could mandate verbal proclamation of the Gospel for that girl to her friend and draw the line there as being as far as she needed to go.

    And that is my main issue, "where do you draw the line about who a Christian is obligated to verbally share the Gospel with?"

    From what you wrote in your original post you seem to draw it at a Christian's circle of friends.

    I am just not convinced God mandates that in scripture either explicitly or by reasonable implication, and so I think you go beyond scripture when you lay that command on someone's shoulders and presume to speak God's mind towards that girl (unless perhaps you are a continuationist and were prophesying to her?:).

    I think a better approach is to not draw a line if Scripture doesn't draw one, and instead encourage the saints to do what the teachings of Jesus, the Apostle Paul and Peter encouraged the saints to do (do not deny Christ before men like when Peter was asked, pray for more labourers for the harvest, walk in wisdom towards outsiders, let good deeds shine before men, always being prepared to give an answer when asked etc...).

    Maybe if we say these things to the saints they will become more enthusiastic towards evangelism instead of guilt-ridden and will pray for and seize more opportunities to witness, and the Church will have more success in evangelising the lost.

    Maybe that girl was sinning in that she was running away from opportunities God was giving her, and just needed to be encouraged to be prepared to give an answer when her friends bring it up.

    Thanks again for the good work that you do, we need more evangelists like you. May the Lord bless your work.

  14. Just incase I didn't communicate it clearly above, I think God does obligate Christians to be prepared to give an answer when asked (1Pet 3:15), and to remain silent in such a time would be a sin.