Tuesday, November 15, 2011
Evangelism and Apologetics: Hyper-Presuppositionalism (Part 1)
Most people in the Reformed camp would acknowledge that apart from the work of the Holy Spirit it is impossible for people to be saved. The same ones would confess that outside from the preaching of God’s Word there is no other way that a person can be saved. Many have also heard of the necessity to be “presuppositional” in their evangelism. The word presupposition means to “assume something beforehand.” It also can refer to an antecedent condition or effect that presupposes a cause.
From a theological standpoint, when we use the word “presupposition” it assumes God at the outside. It also includes (for the Reformed at least) the idea that humanity is spiritually dead and of their own power cannot respond to the call of God to repent. Certainly, those of the reformed perspective should totally reject any pragmatic or manipulative attempts to illicit a response other than repentance. We know that such shenanigans will only result in a still-born. We can compel a person to respond to something they believe is spiritual in order to receive some benefit. Many have walked the aisle and prayed a prayer or some other human effort that was not repentance and that did not result in conversion. With this realization, the Reformed have (for the most part) rejected anything other than a declaration of the Word of God as a means of evangelism.
A biblical view of evangelism that rejects man-made methods and compels people to do nothing else but to repent and believe is a fine thing. Whereas, another fact or another argument will not birth a soul, it seems many have gone over to the other extreme. This extreme rejects any conversation and has no patience with the person. This extreme denies that fact that man is a logical creature and logic can be a means to shut-up the mind in order that the soul might be enlighten. And this extreme also fails to treat the listener with dignity and respect.
Please do not misunderstand. I am not advocating that Christians develop compelling arguments in order to be more successful in evangelism. But at the same time, we should be willing to engage those in the world and of the culture. Let me give you an example of what I am talking about.
Person A: “Unless you repent and believe you will perish.”
Person B: “I do not believe in God.”
A: “You have broken the laws of God and you are on the path to hell.”
B: “How can you say there is a God when there is so much evil in the world?”
A: “The fires of hell will burn for eternity. The Bible says that if your name is not found in the Lambs Book of Life you will spend eternity in hell.”
B: “How can you know the Bible is true? I mean it is full of contradictions and unbelievable things. I tried to read it once and it did not make any sense. Where did Cain get his wife?”
A: “Oh, sinner if you do not repent God will judge you and cast you away!”
Notice that Person A (the Christian) gives a fair presentation of the results of rejecting the Gospel and of the eternal punishment of the unconverted. Everything Person A says is true. We could even say that his message was Biblical. But the message had no sensitivity to the listener. By sensitivity, I do not mean that Person A should have “watered down” the message but rather Person A is speaking into a vacuum. Person A sounds like he is trying to strong-arm and batter Person B into belief, while Person B is presenting legitimate questions and expressing disbelief. The methods of Person A is the very same as that of cults when they proselytize. Don’t believe it? You need simple take an hour to talk with a Jehovah Witness (or any person from the other cults). There is a difference between loving leading a person to the truth and talking at them.
One sure way to err in theology and in practice is to base one’s beliefs and actions on a reaction rather than a hermeneutic. Certainly, we should reject pragmatism. And yes, we should reject also the “culture friendly” movements. But let us not throw the baby out with the bathwater and become a heartless, reactionary, insensitive cult.