God-Talk

“Once upon a time there was a man who thought he was dead. His wife tried everything she could to convince him he was very much alive. But try as she may, he would not change his mind. After several weeks of this, she finally took him to the doctor who assured the man he was alive. Sadly, it was to no avail. Suddenly, the doctor got an idea. He convinced the man that dead men do not bleed, subsequently stuck him with a needle, and smiled as blood ran out of the man?s finger. The man was downtrodden for several days. He had been certain that he was dead but he could not dispute the fact that he could bleed. Finally, he figured out what to do. Returning to the doctor, the man blurted out, ‘Good Lord, dead men do bleed after all!’ Our friend had a view of things that he clung to no matter what evidence came his way. His “worldview” was immune to revision, incapable of being falsified. As a result, he continued to embrace and assert his view.” (As quoted here.)

Just like the man in the story, the underlying assumptions we hold about religion often keep us from meaningful dialog. And, without dialog there’s likely not to be much revision. For some, their convictions are “incapable of being falsified.” With minds made up about religious matters many unbelievers label religion as “out of bounds.” A priori commitments have so controlled beliefs that it’s virtually impossible to present any truth, or even acknowledge there is a truth to present, when it comes to God-talk (see 2 Corinthians 4:4; 1 John 5:19. Also, don’t miss Mortimer Adler’s Truth in Religion).

While some may be warmer than others about the idea of discussing religion, there is clear resistance from most in today’s Western culture. Religious beliefs have become so relativized that they are deemed insignificant to anyone but the person holding the belief. Mere personal expressions or private convictions are the most we can get out of religious beliefs. “That’s fine if it works for you!” goes the constant refrain. I remember while at a dinner engagement with co-workers one evening, someone mentioned that her mother was Buddhist and father Catholic but quickly rejoined “But they all believe the same things, right?” Hum….

I suspect that many Christians are somewhat responsible for this dearth of God-talk in our society. Just as the man in the story, some believers cannot see the obvious power of unbelief. By isolating or at least insulating ourselves from alternative belief structures, we fail to understand the tenacity of unbelief. The non-religious worldview is as alien to some believers as sight is to the blind. We simply don’t understand it or know how to relate to it. Consequently, little meaningful discussion ever takes place.

In fact, I’ve seen where some are quite speedy about showing their disapproval when confronted with resistance or ignorance about religion, yet do nothing to engage alternative belief systems with reason or understanding. In doing so, doors are shut and dialog is ended. What occurs instead is we quickly run the opposite direction in order to huddle with other believing associates to express our outrage. Sadly, many Christians insist “dead men do bleed” by underestimating the brute fact that we are universes apart from our closest neighbors (on this see Sire’s still relevant The Universe Next Door)! Building bridges to the opposing universe is as far from our hearts as square circles are to our minds.

Of course, lamenting the fact that we live in a fallen world occupied by fallen souls will not get us far. Instead, we should remember that every human encounter is an opportunity to expand the dialog and put religion on the agenda as a safe topic for discussion. Showing others that you value their ideas and opinions (even if you radically disagree) communicates a great deal to them. Accepting a contrary stance for the purpose of furthering discussion can go a very long way toward opening minds and hearts to the Gospel message. Genuinely seeking to understand why someone believes the way they do is always relevant, thoroughly real, and wonderfully rewarding.

It is a courageous thing to discuss religion these days and I encourage everyone confessing Jesus as Savior and Lord not to be hesitant to share your religious convictions, when it is natural to do so. And see how God’s Spirit might move.

“Whoever has ears, let them hear.”

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2 thoughts on “God-Talk”

  1. Oh Paul. Good man for posting this one. I completely agree with what you’ve written, but would like to focus on a couple comments you’ve made in particular. First lets look at the final few sentences you wrote:

    It is a courageous thing to discuss religion these days and I encourage everyone confessing Jesus as Savior and Lord not to be hesitant to share your religious convictions, when it is natural to do so. And see how God’s Spirit might move.

    “Whoever has ears, let them hear.”

    I believe as followers of Christ, this is one of Satan’s greatest… well… weapons. We’re leading with an excitement we find in our love of the Lord (which is wonderful), but failing to seek and wait for the crucial timing and leading of the Spirit. And I’m not exempt to this. I’m speaking from experience! I feel I’m quite patient and careful in my approach in sharing the truth with others, but not disciplined in seeking and asking for hearts to be prepared to ‘hear’, for the words to say, then listen for the prompting of the Spirit. Took me about 7 years as a ‘Christian’ to get this. Of course, being blinded in many ways by the sin still present in my life didn’t help either!

    Next I’d like to touch base on the following line:

    “In fact, I’ve seen where some are quite speedy about showing their disapproval when confronted with resistance or ignorance about religion, yet do nothing to engage alternative belief systems with reason or understanding.”

    I think this touches on something else. One… the importance of being culturally aware and relevant in communication. The other gets me thinking about the moments when I would have loved to share the gospel, but ‘felt’ I wasn’t equipped to do so. Again, I know this at times is simply me doubting what perhaps the Lord HAS indeed equipped me to do. But, one of the reasons I doubt myself in the first place is I haven’t been disciplined in my time in prayer, in God’s word, and in healthy dialogue with other believers. Or, again, I haven’t asked the Lord to reveal the sin in my life I’m blind to (by way of TRUE accountability). I mean, our sin can seriously cripple our ability to develop a meaningful… and rewarding relationship with Christ. We become stagnant believers.

    Ultimately, I haven’t tapped into the confidence… and grace…. in sharing the greatness of God given to me through His word and the Spirit. Often times, this begins simply by listening and spending time with others. It’s not that we ‘know better’ as believers in Christ. It’s that we’re supposed to be able to ‘love better’, by reflecting the Christ that dwells within us. The same Christ that defeated death.

    With that power, anything can be done. To the world, that sounds pretty cocky. ‘Tis the tension of the ages.

    Okay. A bit of a fragmented comment. I suppose that’s alright. Might spark some additional dialogue! Gotta run.

  2. Justin said: “but failing to seek and wait for the crucial timing and leading of the Spirit.”

    That you are even aware of this concern will likely increase your effectiveness in God-talk. I wonder how many opportunities I’ve forfeited by following my fleshly promptings when discussing religion with others. Without doubt every human made in God’s image (and that excludes none) desires to be heard and understood. Instead, we (read “I”) often hammer them with orthodox, right-from-the-Bible rejoinders that more often than not miss the mark. Speaking to “issues” rather than to souls is hardly effective pre-evangelism!

    “It’s not that we ‘know better’ as believers in Christ. It’s that we’re supposed to be able to ‘love better’’! Powerful, Justin. Simply powerful. Would to God that we love others, which is the quintessence of the Gospel!! “We love because He first loved us” and “God has poured out his love in our hearts” (1 Jn. 4:19; Rom. 5:5) and that love must be displayed in tangible ways. When it is, our stories will be heard. When God’s love is not shown, our stories fall on deaf (and dead) ears.

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