Losing Your Religion? A Genuine Faith Shouldn’t Ignore Genuine Answers

August 13, 2019 § Leave a comment

samson-destroys-the-temple

Hillsong music writer Marty Sampson revealed on Instagram that he is “genuinely losing” his Christian faith. Below is Sampson’s full post, since deleted:

Time for some real talk. I’m genuinely losing my faith, and it doesn’t bother me. Like, what bothers me now is nothing. I am so happy now, so at peace with the world. It’s crazy.

This is a soapbox moment so here I go … How many preachers fall? Many. No one talks about it. How many miracles happen. Not many. No one talks about it. Why is the Bible full of contradictions? No one talks about it. How can God be love yet send four billion people to a place, all ‘coz they don’t believe? No one talks about it. Christians can be the most judgmental people on the planet—they can also be some of the most beautiful and loving people. But it’s not for me.

I am not in any more. I want genuine truth. Not the “I just believe it” kind of truth. Science keeps piercing the truth of every religion. Lots of things help people change their lives, not just one version of God. Got so much more to say, but for me, I keeping it real. Unfollow if you want, I’ve never been about living my life for others.

All I know is what’s true to me right now, and Christianity just seems to me like another religion at this point. I could go on, but I won’t. Love and forgive absolutely. Be kind absolutely. Be generous and do good to others absolutely. Some things are good no matter what you believe. Let the rain fall, the sun will come up tomorrow.

We’ve seen similar statements or renouncements from famous authors, pastors, preachers, or musicians, and it’s a sad kind of declaration to watch become more commonplace. As we wrestle with the reasons people seem to have such a tremendous change of heart about Jesus and what the causes might be, I will suggest real answers in the field of apologetics. Let’s look at Sampson’s specific questions.

Sampson: “How many preachers fall? Many. No one talks about it.”

Many talk about it, including Canadian pastor Carey Nieuwof.(1) He offers five reasons a pastor might fail morally, and what to watch for in your own life: Choosing isolation over community, ceasing to confess sin, ignorance of consequences, thinking the rules don’t apply to one’s own situation, and seeing failure as the best escape.

Scripture talks about it. From Paul’s warning to believers—likely including preachers—who have “fallen away” because they were “trying to be justified by the law.” (Galatians 5). There are of course many reasons we can fall. We can face temptation toward our own selfish desires (James 1:13-18), sexual desires (Proverbs 7, 1 Corinthians 7:2), quarreling (James 4:1-4), money (1 Timothy 6:9), weakness (Job 4:4), doubts (Proverbs 3:23), hubris (Daniel 11) heresy and idolatry (Jeremiah 18:15).

Sampson: “How many miracles happen? Not many. No one talks about it.”

Many talk about miracles, which are by definition rare occurrences, so we should expect to see “not many.”

CS Lewis shows the shortcomings of naturalism(2), the basis of most arguments against the miraculous. Other inexcusably famous and accessible apologetic works defending miracles include William Paley’s, whose argument against David Hume’s assumption that natural order is unchangeable is outlined by Dr. Mark Pickering and Peter Saunders: “It stands to reason that if God exists he would want to reveal himself, and use the miraculous to do it. If he used certain miracles to authenticate his revelation (eg at the inauguration of Christianity), this would be quite consistent with us not seeing the same miracles today, as they were for a particular purpose at a particular time.”(3)

The Bible also points to an over-reliance on miracles as a lack of faith, even in a time where we might say they were more common. Before healing the son of a Roman official, Jesus lamented that “Unless you people see signs and wonders, you will never believe.” (John 4:48) In Jesus’ parable in Luke 16, a rich man, now in eternal torment, is convinced that if his brothers witness a miracle, they will believe. On the contrary, Abraham tells him that “‘If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.’” (verse 31).

Sampson: “Why is the Bible full of contradictions? No one talks about it.”

Many talk about ALLEGED contradictions. Sampson presents what is called a “loaded” or “complex” question—one that assumes something unjustified when it is asked. If he would have honestly pursued the subject, he would have found the Bible to be without true contradictions. I talk about alleged contradictions in this post (“ISO: Actual Bible Contradictions)(4) but plenty of others have answered the Biblical contradiction question more comprehensively, explaining the difference between a contradiction and a textual variant(5), and many that analyze specific examples skeptics have offered as contradictions. One might start at ComeReason.org(6) or AlwaysBeReady.com(7).

Sampson: “How can God be love yet send four billion people to a place, all ‘coz they don’t believe? No one talks about it.”

I’m not sure how Sampson estimates the number of people going to “a place” (presumably hell) at 4 billion, but suffice it to say that lots of people talk about God’s justice, the crux of this issue. As with the other questions posed, resources are abundant.

You can read Christian apologist Dr. William Lane Craig’s debate with atheist Dr. Ray Bradley over the question “Can a loving God send people to hell?” at ReasonableFaith.org (8). A shorter treatise by J. Warner Wallace is on his site, ColdCaseChristianity.com(9). Wallace: “God doesn’t send good people to Hell. In order to consider ourselves ‘good’, we typically have to overlook much of what we think about and a lot of what we have done.”

Romans 3:23 reminds us that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” A foggy view of our own sin can easily lead to the notion that God’s justice is unfair, and so can a foggy view of God’s glory.

Sampson: “Science keeps piercing the truth of every religion.”

I assume this is about what some see as a disparity or conflict between science and the Christian faith, which actually disappears with a proper understanding of both. I blog about that here(10), and other resources are easily had(11).

Sampson has other questions too, about the reality of sickness and disease, that he says “remain in the too hard basket.”(12) None of them should be in the “too hard basket” unless he wants to keep them there. (For answers to the “if God, why suffering?” question, read this excellent RZIM article by Vince Vitale.(13))

Note that Sampson’s complaint is not that he doesn’t like or agree with the answers, but that they apparently aren’t offered. As we can see, to base a departure from Christianity on a lack of conversation about these subjects is plainly unfounded. A wealth of scholarly material, books, and widely available online resources geared for all kinds of skeptics designed to deal with all kinds of challenges to Christianity leaves nobody cause to say “No one talks about it.” Apologists talk about it all the time!

‘GENUINELY LOSING MY FAITH’?

What kind of faith makes someone presumably so in reach of sincere apologetic answers so ignorant of them? Maybe an insincere faith? I think it can be said that not many people talk about making judgments about the genuine salvation of others. A repenting sinner’s relationship with God through true faith in Jesus Christ is supposed to be between God and the sinner. But recent faith renouncements by Sampson, author Joshua Harris(14), and others make me question the taboo of assessing another’s standing before God. At least in the context of discerning truth coming from teachers and preachers, Matthew 7:16 tells us “You will know them by their fruits.” It seems we are then expected to “know” something critical about the genuineness of their faith based on the evidence in their life.

Is all fruit easy to discern? Some folks aren’t very surprised at Sampson’s Instagrammed apostasy, judging from previous observations of soft theology from Sampson(15) or in Hillsong’s music in general(16). Progressive or otherwise heretical leanings are often easy to spot. But it’s not so easy to observe a person’s approach to the harder questions of faith occurring introspectively that may lead to the softening or derailment of our theology.

Some are afraid to ask hard questions for fear that they may look like they don’t have all the answers, or come across less spiritually mature as their celebrity might indicate. An emphasis on emotivism or experimentalism in Christianity tends to steer people away from the pursuit of intellectual confidence. Maybe it’s simply the case that only the people closest to us really know our struggles, conclusions, and the true depth of our faith—and we are not close enough to Sampson to know his.

God’s word tells us that we cannot, as Eric Metaxas wrote on Twitter, “un-meet” Jesus (17). Once a person has put their faith solely in Christ for salvation, that person is permanently and eternally saved. Jesus promises “My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand.” (John 10:29). Since a believer does not save himself, he can’t “unsave” himself (Galatians 2:8-9). The Christians Paul was writing about in Galatians 5:4 who had “fallen away from grace” did not fall out of salvation. I don’t think Sampson has lost or is in the process of losing his salvation, but rather that he has never obtained it. Jesus said, “Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in Your name drive out demons and in Your name perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you…’” (Matthew 7:22-23b). Note that Jesus did not say that they once knew Him, or that He once knew them, but that He NEVER knew them. If you were ever saved, you are now; if you’re not now, you never were. Sometimes that kind of fruit is hard to discern too, especially from way out here.

LETS TALK ABOUT IT!

What’s clear enough is that the stumbling blocks that have pushed Marty Sampson away from God, the ones “no one talks about,” actually have been and are continually talked about, and are at his very fingertips. I don’t think he wants those answers, but something else. The truth that Sampson says he is pursuing is never “what’s true to me right now.” It’s true for everyone at all times. That truth is that God is real and His love hasn’t gone away. His salvation through Christ and a confident faith is available to everyone, even Marty Sampson. We should pray he truly finds it.

[Related post: Big Questions Unanswered Leads to Atheism]

  1. https://careynieuwhof.com/5-reasons-pastors-fail-morally-and-what-to-watch-for-in-your-own-life/
  2. http://www.cslewisinstitute.org/CS_Lewis_on_Miracles_FullArticle
  3. https://www.bethinking.org/are-miracles-possible/miracles
  4. https://godandneighbor.net/2018/10/16/contradictions/
  5. https://carm.org/does-the-bible-have-contradictions
  6. http://www.comereason.org/bible-contradictions-explained.asp
  7. https://alwaysbeready.com/are-there-contradictions-in-the-gospels
  8. https://www.reasonablefaith.org/media/debates/can-a-loving-god-send-people-to-hell-the-craig-bradley-debate/
  9. https://coldcasechristianity.com/writings/why-would-god-send-good-people-to-hell
  10. https://godandneighbor.net/2018/03/10/the-limits-of-science-and-the-transcendence-of-god/
  11. https://zondervanacademic.com/blog/reasons-why-faith-vs-science-is-a-myth
  12. https://www.christianpost.com/news/hillsong-worship-leader-clarifies-he-hasnt-renounced-faith-but-its-on-incredibly-shaky-ground.html
  13. https://www.rzim.org/read/just-thinking-magazine/if-god-why-suffering
  14. https://www.christianpost.com/voice/joshua-harris-made-right-decision-heres-why.html
  15. https://hillsongchurchwatch.com/2015/03/28/new-revelation-and-god-breathed-music-bought-to-you-by-hillsong
  16. https://www.desiringgod.org/articles/not-a-hillsong-to-die-on
  17. https://twitter.com/ericmetaxas/status/1161034599176314884?s=20

Come and See

January 7, 2016 § Leave a comment

256px-Philip_und_NathanaelNear the end of the first chapter of the Gospel of John we read about Jesus gathering His first disciples, just after John the Baptist introduces the Messiah to the crowds in Bethany. Verses 35-51 involve five men and four different encounters with Jesus.

JESUS INVITES JOHN AND ANDREW

“…two disciples [of John the Baptist] heard him say this, and they followed Jesus.  Jesus turned and saw them following and said to them, ‘What are you seeking?’ And they said to Him, ‘Rabbi’ (which means Teacher), ‘where are You staying?’ He said to them, ‘Come and you will see.'” (John 1:37-39)

John and Andrew approach Jesus having heard of Him from John the Baptist. They were already interested in what He had to say and clearly wanted to hear more. Jesus invites them to come and see not only the place He was staying, but to hear what He had to say.

ANDREW INVITES SIMON

Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother…found his own brother Simon and said to him, ‘We have found the Messiah’ (which means Christ). He brought him to Jesus. Jesus looked at him and said, ‘You are Simon the son of John. You shall be called Cephas’ (which means Peter).” (John 1:40-42)

We don’t read what Simon’s reaction was, but Simon goes to meet Jesus, who appears to know him and gives him the new name of Peter.

JESUS INVITES PHILIP

The next day Jesus decided to go to Galilee. He found Philip and said to him, ‘Follow me.’ Now Philip was from Bethsaida, the city of Andrew and Peter. (John 1:43-44)

Jesus invites Philip personally. No remarkable reaction by Philip is recorded, so it’s assumed that he followed Jesus right then and there.

PHILIP INVITES NETHANAEL

Philip found Nathanael and said to him, ‘We have found him of whom Moses in the Law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.’ Nathanael said to him, ‘Can anything good come out of Nazareth?’ Philip said to him, ‘Come and see.'” Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward him and said of him, ‘Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom there is no deceit!’ Nathanael said to Him, ‘How do You know me?’ Jesus answered him, ‘Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you.’ Nathanael answered Him, ‘Rabbi, You are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!’ Jesus answered him, ‘Because I said to you, ‘I saw you under the fig tree,’ do you believe? You will see greater things than these.'” (John 1:45-50)

Philip in turn invites Nathanael, who is hesitant and doubtful as to the credibility of Jesus considering where He was from. Philip implores him to simply “come and see.” Reluctantly, Nathanael meets Jesus, who, as with Simon, indicates He knows Nathanael well, and he becomes convinced that Jesus is the Son of God.

BELIEVERS COME TO SEE the truth of who Jesus is in different ways. In the passage above, two already interested disciples approach Jesus and follow Him after getting to know Him more. One of those new disciples of Christ invites his brother, and he follows right away. One follows after getting an invitation from the words of Jesus Himself. This one invites another who is skeptical, but his doubt turns eventually to belief when coming to terms with who Jesus was. Was your experience like any of these?

However we come to know Christ, we find, as two of the above accounts show, that He knew us all along.

Also in two of these accounts, there is the simple invitation to believe: Come and see. “Come” is a request for faith. Whether we take that first step upon seeing the work of God, or with a measure of doubt, we step without seeing. We “see” the moment we are convinced that Jesus is who He claimed to be, when we see our need for a Savior, and see that our Savior is Jesus Christ.

When we witness of God’s great love and salvation to our neighbors, we are extending the same simple invitation. We don’t have to know all the answers ourselves, but we can invite someone—to your church, to your home, to your café table, to a discussion of the Gospel of John—to “come and see.” The Lord already knows where they’re coming from, and His Spirit will help them see.

 

The Virtue of God’s Patience

June 17, 2015 § Leave a comment

IMG_7417God’s patience is just as real as His wrath.

“So when you, a mere human being, pass judgment on [others] and yet do the same things, do you think you will escape God’s judgment? Or do you show contempt for the riches of His kindness, forbearance and patience, not realizing that God’s kindness is intended to lead you to repentance?”
‭Romans‬ ‭2‬:‭3-4‬ NIV

“The Lord is not slow in keeping His promise, as some understand slowness. Instead He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.”
2 Peter‬ ‭3‬:‭9

On the rare occasion when I manage to exhibit patience, I am usually waiting for something that serves my own interests. I think of patience as a virtue, but what I am patiently expecting is an answer to a question, a turn through the intersection, a check in the mail, or some other form of self-gratification.

Deferring our own gratification is virtuous, but consider what God defers. His patience means more time and opportunity for the sinner’s repentance and redemption. God wants us to be able to enjoy Him forever. In light of such kindness, the virtue of our patience pales in comparison to God’s selfless forbearance. He waits for us to discover how much we need rescue, and His offer is our eternal salvation.

The depth of doom we avoid by grace through faith in Jesus Christ is equaled only by the height of joy Christians will forever enjoy, because “He is patient with you.”

Two Bits of Truth from Ruth

October 27, 2013 § 1 Comment

Book_of_Ruth_Chapter_3-4_(Bible_Illustrations_by_Sweet_Media)Redemption is the dominant theme in the book of Ruth. Upon a recent reading of this short Old Testament narrative though, two things came to light specifically how that redemption occurred.

First a brief background on the characters in he story. Ruth is the daughter-in-law of Naomi, an Israelite, and both are widows. Ruth was a foreigner (from Moab) who had committed to the God of Israel and vowed to stay with Naomi and care for her (1). In ancient times, a woman without a husband is in a dire situation, and this was true of Ruth and Naomi. The workers in a nearby field agreed to let Ruth follow behind and gather the grain that they missed or dropped as they harvested. The field’s owner, Boaz, showed special kindness to Ruth upon discovering her situation. Naomi realized that Boaz was a close relative, and the opportunity for redemption came in a particular kinsman-redeemer law. A kinsman-redeemer was a guardian responsible for caring for he family interests of the widow of a deceased relative. This provision allowed Ruth to seek his hand in marriage, resulting in the rescue of Ruth and her mother-in-law from their financial and social situation and enabling the continuation the family name and inheritance.

The first observation of Boaz’s redemptive plan was that the request for marriage (2) came from Ruth to Boaz, not the other way around. In God’s redemptive plan for His creation, He allows for us to approach the throne of grace and make our appeal to His Son Jesus. Christ is portrayed as the Groom coming for His bride the church, but it is our place to humbly go to Christ and ask for forgiveness. Ruth was a gentile without a husband, but the door was open for her too, and Ruth became part of the line of David that led to the birth of the Messiah a thousand years later in the very town in which they now lived.

The second observation I found interesting is that the form of redemption in Ruth is marriage and not some other arrangement. It’s hard to think of any other relationship people can enter into that can save us, here on earth, to the extent that a man marrying a woman can. Societies and cultures everywhere fundamentally rely on marriage and the resulting family to carry on humanity, to adequately care for and raise children, and provide a basis for all we know about society. The government of Nigeria, fed up with terrorism arising from its own people, recently took steps to enable mass weddings under the premise that men who marry and start families do not generally become terrorists.(3) Marriage has saving power.

Ruth is pretty foreign to modern ideas about marriage and redemption. Today, it is uncommon for the woman to propose to a man, and I’m not sure why that is still uncommon. But it is increasingly uncommon to see the historic and conjugal understanding of marriage as something that serves the public interest.(4) Marriage is not a social or religious or sexual idea, but a pre-law, pre-political unit of society that law has recognized, not created; one which produces good citizens and fundamentally brings goodness to the world.(5) Marriage and the family it blossoms redeems us from ourselves. When it comes to marriage, liberalism or expressive individualism has brought self-seeking alternatives, but marriage seeks others, the benefit of others and society as a whole. When it comes to redemption, we ultimately will never find this in ourselves.

1) Ruth 1:16

2) Ruth chapter 3

3) Time Magazine, Brides Before Bombs: Nigerian City Fights Terrorism With Mass Weddings, by Nate Rawlings

4) NJ.com, N.J. Supreme Court: ‘No public interest’ in blocking gay marriage, by Salvador Rizzo

5) WORLD News, No ‘public interest’ served by keeping marriage as a one man, one woman institution? Robert P. George

But I’ve Been Bad

December 14, 2012 § 7 Comments

photoMy 4 year old boy gave me joy by announcing his failure. This perhaps is an unusual response for a father, but I think it was an appropriate response for a father concerned with carrying out the Great Commission at home.

While on our way to visit Santa at the local Bass Pro Shops, my wife asked Levi if he was thinking about asking Santa for something for Christmas. His reply was, “But I’ve been bad.” This may sound strange, but the idea that my child thinks, rather knows, he is bad, excites me.

Don’t get me wrong, we praise Levi for the good he does, and often consider him a “good boy.” But the truth is that he, like me and every other human being, is on the naughty list. We are the modern manifestation of Adam. We’re bad, and realizing this early on is very good.

My hope is that Levi discovers the love and forgiveness of Christ, but like any solution, the problem—sin, in this case—needs to be known first. The truth of Romans 3:23, that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God”, is the logical first step toward salvation. In fact, “if we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves… If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:8,9).

The bad news makes way for Good News: “My little children… if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.” (1 John 2:1) Jesus saves once we understand what we need saving from. I am rejoicing in Levi’s first steps in the truth, thanks in part, I guess, to Santa Claus.

Three Challenges for Muslims

October 18, 2012 § Leave a comment

Of the many challenges for Islam, here are three that I think effectively show the incoherency of the Muslim doctrines of the corruption of Biblical text, of salvation, and of forgiveness.

1. Integrity of the Scriptures

This challenge is similar to one that Paul Bramsen presents in his book One God, One Message (pg. 29-31). The Qur’an speaks of the Gospel of Jesus (Injil) as a true revelation from God sent for “guidance and light” (Sura 5:46), and so was the Torah (Tawret, Sura 5:48). The scriptures were “granted inspiration”, and the people who possess them can attest to it (Sura 21:7). It’s actually eternal judgment that anyone who will “reject the Book” faces as the Qur’an warns in 40:70-72. Also, Sura 10:94 bids us to “ask those who have been reading the Scripture before you” to confirm God’s revelation, and Sura 3:93 names the Torah as the book that “truthful,” or “men of truth,” study.

Islam teaches that the Torah, Psalms of David, and the Gospel were true in their original form but have been corrupted, at least where they contradict the Qur’an. But when and how were these scriptures supposedly corrupted? The Qur’an was “revealed” between 610 and 632 A.D. Since the Qur’an regards the Torah, Psalms and Gospels as true, they obviously weren’t corrupted BEFORE the Qur’an was written. The Scriptures could not have been corrupted AFTER the Qur’an either, since by 600 A.D., hundreds of thousands of copies were in circulation in Europe, Asia, Africa in many languages—Latin, Syriac, Coptic, Gothic, Ethiopic, Armenian, and others. The Bible we use now is translated from these early manuscripts, of which we have whole and portions of scripture numbering over 24,000, all of which agree more than 99.5%. How could ALL these manuscripts circulating by 600 A.D. have been CONSISTENTLY altered so they reflect the same corruption that Muslims claim must have occurred?

There simply is no opportunity for the Biblical scriptures to have been corrupted. The Qur’an is correct in its claim that the Bible is the true revelation of God, the same Bible we have today.

[You can see how this argument works practically in a debate I posted on the topic: Quran:Read the Bible…]

2. Sincere Repentance (Really Sincere)

The Qur’an requires, in addition to righteous deeds, “sincere repentance” for the forgiveness of your sins (Sura 25:72 and 66:8). Ibn Hajar maintains that the most important definitions of sincere repentance (al-tawba al-nasuh) according to al-Qurtubi in his tafsir (exegesis), include “to sin and then never return to it (Umar)”, to hate sin and seek forgiveness for it every time it occurs to one (Hasan al-Basri), “to be genuine and true in one’s repentance (Qatada)” and to have sincerity in one’s repentance, all of which seem to affirm what the Qur’an says.

How do you know your repentance is sincere enough to earn forgiveness? What if we sin and return to it? What if we repent but don’t truly hate the sin? Or we miss a sin? And when we rely on our own sincerity in repentence, how do we repent of the sin of pride that comes from relying on our own sincerity to merit forgiveness, especially when the sincerity of the repentance is what is supposed to grant Allah’s forgiveness? We are then stuck in a never-ending circle of needing to repent of the sin we committed during repentance.

3. Forgive Me Maybe

What’s more, Sura 66:8 says “O you who have believed, repent to Allah with sincere repentance. Perhaps your Lord will remove from you your misdeeds…”. Allah doesn’t actually promise to forgive, but “perhaps” he will. Sura 2:105 says, “But Allah selects for His mercy whom He wills…”, so he doesn’t promise he will apply his grace fully to all who repent, assuming he wills that you are one whom he will forgive, and further assuming that they meet the undefined standard of “enough” in their level of sincerity.

On the “righteous deeds” that the Qur’an requires in addition to sincere repentance (Sura 2:277, 5:9, 8:29, 25:70,71, 28:67, 42:26, etc.), how do you know your deeds are righteous enough in Allah’s sight? Sura 23:102-103 seems clear: “Then those whose balance (of good deeds) is heavy, they will be successful. But those whose balance is light, will be those who have lost their souls; in hell will they abide…” How “heavy” must our balance of good deeds be? If “Allah will choose for his special mercy whom he will,” how can any Muslim know if his deeds, his adherence to the six pillars, etc. have warranted God’s mercy, even if the good deeds meet the target “weight” required by Allah?

Breakdown

In these ways, Islam is internally inconsistent. The Muslim’s reasons to reject the Bible are unfounded and contrary to the evidence, the Qur’an’s requirements for reconciliation with God are insufficient, and Allah’s capacity to forgive seems hopelessly limited.

Before a holy and righteous God, we are all in trouble. When God sent His Son Jesus to die in our place, it was the only perfect sacrifice that could be made for the sin of ALL mankind. “The peace of God, which surpasses all understanding” (Phil. 4:7) comes from the hope and promise of God that “by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast.” (Eph. 2:8,9) Sinful man will always come up short before a holy and perfect God, but Christ’s payment is enough.

There is no rational basis for rejecting the Gospel of Christ—for Muslims, or anyone of us.

Let the Spirit Do His Thing

September 13, 2012 § Leave a comment

My eldest niece became a Christian this past weekend, as a result of my mother giving her a Bible and explaining the gospel in simple terms to her. My niece, the oldest daughter of my oldest brother, is a year older than me (due to the lateness of my own arrival). After forty or so years of wandering in passive rejection of the gospel, she is now saved.

When I think about how my mother led her to Christ, I don’t think there was much of what I’ve considered to be apologetics. My mom didn’t present any of the classic theistic proofs, or Kalam’s cosmological argument, or C.S. Lewis’ Trilemma, or any evidence for the resurrection. She gave her a Bible and told her what Jesus did for her.

William Lane Craig, an accomplished debater well-known for his reasoned defense of Christianity on the basis of the evidence, acknowledges the work of the Holy Spirit in his coming to faith:

“The way in which I know Christianity is true is first and foremost is the basis of the witness of the Holy Spirit in my heart. And this gives me self-authenticating means of knowing Christianity is true wholly apart from the evidence. And therefore, even if in some historically contingent circumstances the evidence that I have available to me should turn against Christianity, I do not think that controverts the witness of the Holy Spirit.”

Some people are persuaded by the evidence, and some are persuaded by something else in Christianity that reveals itself as the solution to a problem. My niece was battling a life crisis, and she decided with conviction that she could not go through life without a relationship with Jesus Christ.

The Spirit can use many things—reason or emotion—to open eyes to our need of a Savior. The gospel message has power, and by simply giving her granddaughter a Bible, which she began to read, my mom was letting the Spirit do His work. It’s easy to get preoccupied with apologetic method and our perceived need to reason people into belief.

In John 5:24, Jesus says, “Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears My word and believes Him who sent Me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life.”

Although I lean pretty heavily on a “faith first” reformed, presuppositional apologetic method, I understand that God can and will use many things to draw someone to Himself—sometimes through some type of evidence, and sometimes even through an almost fideistic (faith independent of reason) approach to accepting the Word of God as truth. As with any worldview, some measure of faith is always necessary, even a great measure in those who “receive the kingdom of God like a little child.” (Luke 10:15).

The important thing: If you can do nothing else for an unbeliever, other than prayer, give them a Bible. “Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.” (Hebrews 4:12) Explain the Gospel if you can, but don’t make the mistake of thinking you must walk them through it and hermeneutically present all that they need to know before they will believe. Let the Holy Spirit do His thing.

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