Proclaiming, not understanding

This is the last part of a 3 part conversation – see also the following:

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The following was written on Facebook, where someone commented on my response to Smithy (i.e. part 2) here, but without addressing it to me personally. I then responded to these comments, but unfortunately it wasn’t dignified with any sort of reply:

I am sure you know what my sentiments are regarding these highly fashionable debates, conferences, etc. I have written on the subject before and I have voiced my opposition to these things, as they are of mainly entertainment value, very little intellectual value to the Christian and of no spiritual value whatsoever. What could a Christian possibly gain from better understanding what makes Mohammed tick? What value does it bring to the billions of under-educated, illiterate, starving, poverty stricken, spiritually deceived and lost people the world over? None at all. The only benefit it could possibly have is for those who find some entertainment value on the evening.

I see absolutely no Scriptural support for showboating in this way, heavyweight intellectuals and academics engaging with a leading figure from a false religion, opens the door for two gross errors. 1. It creates a platform and an opportunity for the opponents of God to further their agenda, 2. From the Christian’s point of view, it actively acknowledges that another false gospel could matter and that the Gospel of Christ is open to investigation, scrutiny and ridicule by adherents of evil religions, 3. It creates the impression that the Gospel and the Word of God are not sacred or exclusive.   

Just a few very quick random thoughts:

“There is a definite link between proclaiming the gospel and having a concern for the context in which people find themselves that will determine what and if they will understand that proclamation. Have we really proclaimed something if people did not really heard or understood what was being proclaimed?”

1. How will James White, or any other for that matter, be able to bring about change to the context in which an unbeliever (Muslim, in this instance) finds themself? They cannot. The context of the Muslim is simply that of an unregenerate sinner. Salvation is of the Lord and there exist only two contexts regarding the Gospel: 1) From that of the spiritually enabled believer, and 2) From that of the unsaved or reprobate, in which case God alone can change that context.

2. Proclaiming has absolutely nothing to do with the hearer understanding. We can proclaim, but acceptance and understanding is according to the will of God. No amount of knowledge or information can save. No amount of persuasion can bring the unbeliever to salvation.

“The main purpose of debates is almost never to try and persuade your opponent in accepting your views.”

That is my point exactly. If not to persuade your opponent, (in this instance the opponent of God), of the singular truth held within the Gospel, but merely to weigh what you believe up against a false religion, what on earth are you wasting God’s time there for? What can you possibly achieve other than self-gratification? This statement is clearly elevating the debate itself above the message which should be proclaimed BY the debate!

“Isn’t James White a very courageous example to emulate, somebody who is actually willing to take the gospel to where it is desperately needed,…”

Taking the Gospel to where it is desperately needed?!? The most affluent country on the continent, the midst of one of the most successful business communities in the world, the comfort of a modern mosque with all the necessary comforts and amenities, the suburbs of a country where there are thousands of rich churches, Christian book stores, Christian magazines, thousands of evangelists? Is that a good definition of where the Gospel is most desperately needed? It is my contention that neither James White, nor Udo or Roedolf have the foggiest notion of what desperation and need entails. None of them have ever experienced poverty or true spiritual need or what they think they have the right to talk about. If they did have such experience, I am 100% convinced that they would not be seeking entertainment value when they could have been taking the Gospel to those who truly need to hear it, and who would be saved. It is a shame what these people are doing in the name of the church.  

“…instead of complaining about having to observe Muslim dress code or having to attend a “synagogue of Satan” (sic)”

1. Why do Muslims dress observe a specific dress code? Because their legalistic and false religion tells them how to dress. No Christian would honour their false god by adhering to the dress code required by him. We can evangelize in the mosque, and we should use every opportunity to do so, but we cannot first appease their false god in order to do so. That is ludicrous, blasphemic ecumenicism.

“Making an effort to understand where people are coming from and really listening to people’s concerns, is often precisely what helps people come to grips with a loving and patient God’s Good News for them.”

Not once throughout all creation has this ever happened, and it never will. If God does not reveal Himself to the lost sinner, no manner of effort on the part of man will make them “come to grips” (I ask you!, come to grips, nogal!) or open to the acceptance of the Gospel. That is will worship, it is not Christianity.   

Blessings

 

Hello,

Allow me to respond to your comments to Smithy about what I have written to him (i.e. part 2).

You write:

I am sure you know what my sentiments are regarding these highly fashionable debates, conferences, etc. I have written on the subject before and I have voiced my opposition to these things, as they are of mainly entertainment value, very little intellectual value to the Christian and of no spiritual value whatsoever. What could a Christian possibly gain from better understanding what makes Mohammed tick?

I wouldn’t necessarily disagree with you that some “debates, conferences, etc” might be mainly for entertainment value. But since I am someone who has been involved in organising some of these “debates, conferences, etc”, I know what goes on behind the scenes (at least at those I’ve been involved in) and I have come to know the speakers and others involved and their motivations for doing so – and it has nothing to do with entertainment. So I cannot help but dismiss your gross overgeneralization as due to ignorance.

You ask what “a Christian could possibly gain from better understanding what makes Mohammed tick?” I can’t believe you are seriously asking such a question. Are you really of the opinion that it isn’t helpful or even necessary to understand what other people think and why they think it? Do you really think that you could merely talk at others, even about the gospel, without the slightest concern for their questions and concerns and whether they have understood you correctly? Don’t you think it would help you communicate your message (such as the gospel) better and help them understand what you are saying, when you make the effort to understand what they are saying and how they’ve understood what you’ve been saying? I want to suggest that if this is your view then you are actually talking down on people and not to them, you are then speaking words without concern for communication.

In connection with this, you mention elsewhere:

Proclaiming has absolutely nothing to do with the hearer understanding. We can proclaim, but acceptance and understanding is according to the will of God. No amount of knowledge or information can save. No amount of persuasion can bring the unbeliever to salvation.

If proclaiming has nothing to with our concern for what the hearer understand, then many passages in the Bible simply don’t make sense (for e.g. Philippians 1:7,16, Titus 1:9-11a, 2 Timothy 2:25, Jude 1:3, 1 Peter 3:15-16, Colossians 4:5-6, 2 Corinthians 10:5, Acts 17:1-5, Acts 22:1). I acknowledge and affirm the Biblical truth that the Spirit of God must be working in a person’s life to enable them to understand and accept. At the same time it seems commonsensical and obvious from scripture that there is a direct connection between what we as humans proclaim (even if it is a divine message) and what others understand. Can we really say that someone has heard us if they didn’t understand what they’ve heard from us? Of course we trust God for revealing himself to a person through our proclamation so that they might understand and accept, but it is often the case that we need to clarify our words and intent and even correct misunderstandings. I am not saying that one can ever persuade unbelievers to salvation (this would be unbiblical), I am merely saying that Christians always have a responsibility to proclaim the gospel so that it makes sense so far as unbelievers are able and willing to understand. Whether unbelievers eventually accept the gospel and are saved is between them and God.

You write:

What value does it bring to the billions of under-educated, illiterate, starving, poverty stricken, spiritually deceived and lost people the world over? None at all. The only benefit it could possibly have is for those who find some entertainment value on the evening.

Do we have to reach out to under-educated, illiterate, starving, poverty stricken, spiritually deceived and lost people with physical aid and the gospel? Absolutely! Do we have to reach out to over-educated, highly literate, full-bellied, rich, spiritually deceived and lost people with compassion and the gospel? Absolutely!

You comment elsewhere that “neither James White, nor Udo or Roedolf [you’re probably referring to Rudolph Boshoff and not Roedolf Botha] have the foggiest notion of what desperation and need entails”. You assume too much, Smithy, for I have firsthand experience of some of the most penetrating and sincere questions about the truth and reliability of gospel from the very under-educated and poor people you are referring to. Please don’t fault the ministry of AntWoord or compare it to others, simply because it doesn’t fit your idea of what is desperately needed. The Body of Christ is equipped with different gifts and to play the one against the other is like the hand saying to the eye: I don’t need you. We are not in competition or dismissive of the importance of other kinds of ministry. Of course we should all be involved where there are other needs, but AntWoord has a very specific calling and focus. Surely you can understand this, even if you think we are irrelevant?

You write:

I see absolutely no Scriptural support for showboating in this way, heavyweight intellectuals and academics engaging with a leading figure from a false religion, opens the door for two gross errors. 1. It creates a platform and an opportunity for the opponents of God to further their agenda, 2. From the Christian’s point of view, it actively acknowledges that another false gospel could matter and that the Gospel of Christ is open to investigation, scrutiny and ridicule by adherents of evil religions, 3. It creates the impression that the Gospel and the Word of God are not sacred or exclusive.

I’ve already referred to scripture that talk about getting involved with unbelievers in conversation. In terms of formal debate, I would be the first person to call on Christian showboating when I see this in a particular debate. Concerning the supposed errors you mention. 1) Yes, a debate creates an opportunity for an audience to hear opposing viewpoints. Anyone with a viewpoint has an agenda: to explain and defend that view because they believe it to be truth. 2) No, it doesn’t acknowledge that a false gospel could matter. It could only matter if it is true and that is what debate is about. A debate acknowledges and respects the right of others to hold a different view, but then it is necessary to explain the reasons for believing that view to be true and give reasons for why the opposing view would be false. Nothing is assumed about the opposing view. Furthermore, why should Christians be afraid of having the Gospel of Christ be investigated and scrutinised? If it really is true, wouldn’t it stand up to scrutiny? It might be regarded as foolish (1 Corinthians 1:23), but that is not the same as saying the truth of the Gospel is irrational or demonstrably false. As for ridicule: people ridicule what they don’t understand, so a certain amount of ridicule is to be expected. But experienced debaters realise this, for ridicule doesn’t speak to the truth of something, it mostly only shows ignorance, which an experienced opponent will be quick to point out. 3) Any viewpoint is exclusive and sacred to those who hold it. But being exclusive and sacred for some doesn’t make it true for others, ergo, we can debate and discuss what it is about the Gospel, and elements associated with, that makes it true. There is nothing sacrilegious about investigating whether something is true or not (see Luke 1:3, John 20:30-31).

You write:

How will James White, or any other for that matter, be able to bring about change to the context in which an unbeliever (Muslim, in this instance) finds themself? They cannot. The context of the Muslim is simply that of an unregenerate sinner. Salvation is of the Lord and there exist only two contexts regarding the Gospel: 1) From that of the spiritually enabled believer, and 2) From that of the unsaved or reprobate, in which case God alone can change that context.

One brings about the right context by explaining, clarifying and correcting misunderstandings. Everybody who once was lost, was an unregenerate sinner, and yet all who came to believe the gospel had to have some kind of understanding of what the gospel was and what it meant. For many people (Muslims being a case in point) the gospel is confusing and illogical (apart from also being foolish) so that they simply cannot hear its true message. Issues that Muslims in particular struggle with because they have been misinformed are things like the correct concept of the Trinity, the Biblical testimony to Christ’s divinity, the believer’s justification by faith in relation to works, the concept of unmerited grace, the relation between God’s justice and his mercy/love, the historical reliability of the New Testament texts as unaltered documents even when written 30 – 70 years after the events, to mention a view important ones. Don’t you think one is faithful to the command to proclaim the gospel, striving for people to really hear its intended message, when we have the opportunity to defend its truth and coherence in debates with Muslims?

You write the following in response to where I’ve written that, “The main purpose of debates is almost never to try and persuade your opponent in accepting your views”:

That is my point exactly. If not to persuade your opponent, (in this instance the opponent of God), of the singular truth held within the Gospel, but merely to weigh what you believe up against a false religion, what on earth are you wasting God’s time there for? What can you possibly achieve other than self-gratification? This statement is clearly elevating the debate itself above the message which should be proclaimed BY the debate!

Your question makes me think that you are not really interested in what I have to say, because in the VERY NEXT SENTENCE following my statement, I already gave the answer to your question: “The value of debates should be understood from the audience’s perspective.” Given your overall stance you will undoubtedly deny that there is any value for the audience, but that would simply be false and would only reflect your own limited experience and biased assumptions.

You write:

Why do Muslims dress observe a specific dress code? Because their legalistic and false religion tells them how to dress. No Christian would honour their false god by adhering to the dress code required by him. We can evangelize in the mosque, and we should use every opportunity to do so, but we cannot first appease their false god in order to do so. That is ludicrous, blasphemic ecumenicism.

I’m not bringing honour to a false god by respecting another person’s request to observe certain customs in their place of worship. (In fact, a false god is no god at all and therefore there is no honour to bring.) Again, it is simply about respecting another person’s right to believe differently, even if I think they are wrong. The Muslim knows that Christians believe differently than they do, and yet they were still willing to have Christians speak against the truth of Islam in their place of worship. The matter of observing dress code is an utter triviality and to make an issue of it is itself a form of Christian legalism. By the way, I again need to take very strong exception in calling a mosque a “synagogue of Satan” (as someone did on Facebook and who thereby seems to intimate that evangelising there is unthinkable). How many Muslims are ever going to listen to anything you have to say wherever you want to say it, if they hear you say that? Smithy, you confuse ecumenicism for common decency and respect.

You respond to my statement, “Making an effort to understand where people are coming from and really listening to people’s concerns, is often precisely what helps people come to grips with a loving and patient God’s Good News for them” by saying:

Not once throughout all creation has this ever happened, and it never will. If God does not reveal Himself to the lost sinner, no manner of effort on the part of man will make them “come to grips” (I ask you!, come to grips, nogal!) or open to the acceptance of the Gospel. That is will worship, it is not Christianity.

I’ve come to see, through your response to what I’ve written, that establishing a relationship with people who think and believe differently than you, is not really a concern for you. You seem to think that God reveals himself in proclaiming the gospel wholly apart from how we approach people, what else we say to them and how we say it to them. You are concerned about the salvation of the lost (which is commendable), but I perceive you to be unconcerned with becoming involved with the messiness of people’s thoughts, motives and actions. You seem to think that this would be a human effort that somehow contradicts God’s work in bringing them to understanding.

When I look at Jesus in the New Testament I see someone who had a lot of patience with a whole variety of people who were involved with sinful deeds and wrong thinking. Of course he also had very harsh words for the self-righteous people of his day. But mostly I see Jesus getting involved with ordinary people everywhere, establishing relationships with them and then challenging their thinking and motives. I’ve heard what you said, Smithy, but I think I will follow Jesus’ example and show respect to others by trying to understand where they are coming from and listening to their concerns, as I bring the Good News to them and trust the Spirit for its fruit in their lives.

Regards

Udo

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