A prolegomena to Ethical Evangelism

I have to say sorry to people who were expecting me to explain why I think Christian evangelism is ethically necessary from a secular point of view, but first I’m faced with explaining why its necessary to tell people about Jesus from a Christian point of view.

So why do I think that that’s necessary? I was up at Chapters again today… I ike bookstores, okay? leave me alone. Anyway, I’m up at Chapters and I go to the Christianity section (which at Chapters is a depressing thing in and of itself), and there’s this woman there on the floor reading a Joel Osteen book. Now, I’m not a big Osteen fan, and if you have a few hours and wanna buy me a coffee, you can find out why not. But the guy at least talks about Jesus from time to time, and in a lot of cases, he says stuff that’s actually true. So I’m interested in knowing what she thinks of Jesus. So I strike up a conversation.

Seems this lady is into whatever spiritual experience is edifying to her, and while she’s there she explains to me how buddhist transcendental meditation is a great way to know God. She also seems to know really little about Jesus. The sad part is that she reads both Rick Warren and Joel Osteen , while maintaining that ignorance. We have ostensibly Christian writers who cannot seem to give us the worldview on which their ideas are based, and as a result their ideas are brought into whatever thinking people find beneficial for the moment.

It’s just this hodge-podge theology that, to me, leads to a world in which we have no absolutes in worldview. We simply add to our understanding of reality whatever is pleasing to us without much reference to being consistent, or even determining if what we believe is “true” in a sense that would make it needful for all people to accept a morality based on that worldview.

Now I think I’ve said enough to begin the next phase, why it is ethically necessary for there to be Christian evangelism.

I hope to get to that in the next few hours

Practical Deity

I’ve begun to notice that when people talk about truth now, they tend to refer to “whatever works”. Contrary to popular belief, this is not limited to the social sciences, but extends to the physical sciences where interest (and research dollars) go to research that has “practical” applications.
Now before I begin basing an argument (here meaning a series of premises designed to lead to a conclusion, not a disagreement) for my beliefs on practical usefulness, I should note that I think good science (physical and social) is a search for what actually is true, not a simple subscription to a theory or worldview. In fact, I think my belief in a divine, good God that claims to gain glory from the physical world demands that I think of science that way (see Psalm 19:1). To think otherwise is to be a blasphemer (to say that the world does not speak of the glory of God, and that God thus lies in Psalm 19:1). Anyway, here endeth the tangent.

Anyway, I was given a couple of tickets last week to the Massey Lecture given here in St. John’s. For my reader who may not know what that is, it’s a series of lectures given on CBC radio (on the show “Ideas”), meant to encourage intellectual discourse in Canada. They’re usually quite good, and this year’s offering seems to be little exception.

Dr. Margaret Somerville, speaking on a general topic of “Ethical Imagination”, and in a lecture on poetry and ethical imagination, developed the idea of a secular sacred. She did this to provide a basis for a shared ethic. She sees a shared ethic as necessary for the future, as without a shared basis for ethics, we end up unable to make generally acceptable ethical decisions (and instead leave our ethics to what can practically be done). I would tend to agree.

There need to be sacred things, else whatever we do generally becomes technically ethical (whether that’s give to the needy, or massacre the needy). If you don’t see anything as sacred, as above your right to ethically alter, you can alter anything.

The difficulty is that a secular sacred cannot really hold up to the stresses any ethical idea needs to face. As a Calvinist, I think people generally suck, and you need only remember the last time your friends messed you about to see that as true. People thus have a vested interest in ignoring the ethical (of rationalizing unethical behavior), thus what they call sacred becomes alterable based on what is expedient. That is, unless the sacred is imposed from without, and that imposition of sacredness is true independent of our acceptance of it. Here is where we get God.

What I’m saying is that we need a good, just, and revealed entity on which to base our ethics, even if it is simply a construct. Luckily, there seems to be just such an entity that exists. We theists call Him God (and I would argue that Christian theists have the most ethically practical visions of God). If you murder, and get everybody on earth to agree that the murder is ethically valid, that is unimportant, as there is an independent revealed God that says it is not.

Does this mean that the Christian God must exist? No, but if this God-concept works practically and ethically, it’s generally evidence that such a God is not outside the realm of possibility (and may actually exist, as we can conceive of such a God as necessary).

This leads to some interesting implications when it comes to evangelism. I’ll get to those tomorrow. :-)

Reflections from a Bookstore

Today I went to Chapters for an afternoon between Church functions. I find it interesting how much you can see about God from the many books around. Very few seem to be neutral on the topic of God, even in the fiction section. Though the opinions on God may be at best superficial, there is always a comment on God.

It got me to thinking about the common grace we see in the world around us. If we reflect for a moment on the world we see, we see the footprints of something. Whether we take that as God or not is a response to evidence that seems to say there is God.

That said, the belief in God does not bring us to Christianity. In almost all cases, to become a Christian, one must be led there by specific actions through specific people or items (for me it was a Gideon Bible). To know that there is a God does not mean you have a true understanding of that God. As the Bible says “So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ”.

At another point in my travels through the bookstore, I saw an autobiograpical piece by Stephen Baldwin, who is also a believer. I think he’s only a few years old in the faith, but seems rather struck by the fact that God knew him well before he existed (Psalm 139:13, Eph 1:4). Baldwin seems to believe (and I agree) that the sense of everything in his life was to be found in Jesus Christ, and how we are called to follow Him for all we’re worth. Even the things he did as a non-Christian are being worked together for Mr. Baldwin’s good (Rom. 8:28).

My thinking would also say that there is nothing in your life that is a surprise to God, and there is nothing (including the sins you’ve done, and are now repenting of or will repent of), that cannot be turned to the Glory of God. The question is simply whether or not a person will turn to Christ to find the meaning, following from the realization that there is a God.

God’s Ulterior Motives

Tonight I heard a talk about the promises of God, which was quite good. It was mainly about the promises of God, and about specifically the rest that God promises in Mathhew 11.

That said, along the line the speaker claimed that God does all things out of love, and has no hidden motives. I kind of agree, and kind of don’t. I agree that God makes His motives pretty clear in scripture, but I disagree in the way people tend to hear that in the modern world.

I think that modern people are pretty self centered. We like to read the world as basically about us and what makes us happy. We’ll even proudly promote ourselves with names that Biblically refer to self-centered religion, in opposition to the one true God.

Given this framework in which we view the world, we can assume that God does stuff for love of us primarilly. He does love us, and does bless us with his love, but that’s not the primary motivation. God loves God’s glory, and that glory is shown in the way He provides for all the needs, and indeed, even the joys of those rebellious people he came to save.

In a strange way, this makes me happier when I look at the promises of God. The promises are not only good, but they are sure. God shows his love to those who trust in him because of the greatest, most sure thing in the universe, that God is glorious. When I ask “How sure are these promises”, the answer is “How sure is God’s glory? That’s how sure God’s promises are to those who love him and are called according to His purposes”.

Seek Ye First…..

I’m from Newfoundland. The provincial motto is actually from the Bible (hardly surprising for a province with a capital called “St John’s”). It’s found in Matthew 6:33, which reads in whole “But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you” (ESV).

In the context, Jesus is talking about all the necessities of life and how Christians don’t need to worry about them as long as they seek the kingdom of God. This would be nuts if taken to an extreme independent of the rest of the Bible. After all, it would mean that Christians should give up on all things temporal and just sit about waiting for Jesus to return to Earth, and that God has promised us riches if we would but do that. The righteousness of God, and the kingdom of God are not so impractical as that.

We see this in 2 Thessalonians, where it seems that some of Jesus’ followers had gone all cultish and were sitting on rooftops in white robes waiting for the rapture (and we wonder where the
modern “Left Behind” crowd get it…), in Chapter 3 v.9, the writer points out that a person who fails to work should also not eat. So we see that a righteous person is not to avoid work for their own food, but rather seek God and his righteousness IN their work. (see also 1 Cor. 10:31).

Matthew 6:33 is also not a promise for prosperity if we would just be righteous. As we see in the book of Job, God can give righteous people (and it says Job was righteous) a series of bad luck occurances simply for the glory of God. Rather, I think God will keep Christians in all that they need for survival, and moreover will keep Christians in Him until the last day (the survival that counts, surviving the wrath of God)

First Posting

Wow, this feels so odd. It’s like I’m losing my virginity (okay, I don’t know what that feels like, I’m extrapolating here).

Anyway, I’m just leaving this space for rants I have at the end of the day. It’s kinda like self-therapy I’m doing online. Since it’s morning, nothing has really whipped me into a frenzy of rant-quality yet. Give me time, oh yes, give me time.