4 Easy Ways to Start Gospel Conversations with Health Care Providers

Types-of-Healthcare

The hardest part of a gospel conversation for me is the transition from small talk or general conversation to spiritual matters. Once the conversation gets spiritual, I feel comfortable. I have known people with the opposite skills. Some make the transition seem easy, but then stumble and fumble when the objections to Christianity come.

As I have been going through my battle with cancer over the last six months, I have felt burdened about the doctors, nurses, physician assistants, nurse practitioners, and patient assistants that I have encountered. I have felt moments of defeat when I could not think of any way to naturally turn conversations to spiritual matters. I have also experienced opened doors through a few simple questions that encouraged surprising conversations. You can read more about the power of questions in my book, Every Believer Confident: Apologetics for the Ordinary Christian.

#1 Ask, “How Has Suffering Affected Your Beliefs?”

If you are talking to a Health Care Provider (HCP) who sees suffering up close, you can ask a question like, “Has your experience caring for suffering people moved you toward a belief in God or away from belief in God?” Now, not all HCP see suffering up close. Others, however, see it every day. My daughter is an ICU nurse and sees intense suffering every shift. I have found, however, that even those HCP who do not see suffering up close can be challenged with this question. I asked a top oncologist at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania this question, and he admitted he had never really thought about it. However, the question sparked a fruitful conversation about spiritual matters for ten minutes.

#2 Ask, “How Can I Pray for You?”

You can ask, “How can I pray for you while I am laying here in this hospital bed?” My mother-in-law suggested this one and I have found it is a good, non-threatening way to bring up spiritual issues when you don’t know what else to say. Some surprising conversations can arise from this simple question.

#3 Bring a Book with an Interesting Title

Bring a book with you that has a provocative title. Most HCP are used to seeing patients glued to their phones, so I have found many will ask me what I am reading if I carry a book. Some of the books I have brought with me were The Devil’s Delusion: Atheism and Its Scientific Pretensions, Walking with God through Pain and Suffering, Replacement Parts: The Ethics of Procuring and Replacing Organs in Humans, and Gospel Wakefulness. When people ask me what I am reading I try to explain in enough detail with an eye to making them curious. This indirect method allows you to talk about the book and not yourself. The title of a book I was reading sparked a great conversation with three nurses at once during one of my chemotherapy infusions.

#4 Bring Something to Give Away

Bring a little Gospel of John to give away. Another oncologist I see is from a foreign country, so asked her if she was atheist or Orthodox (the two major religions in her home country). She surprised me by telling me that she was Catholic, and that opened the door for more discussion on what she believed. Just then her assistant came to ask her a question about the next patient. So, I quickly pulled a small Gospel of John from my pocket and asked her if she would be willing to read it. She seemed very happy and promised to read it. I also leave them in waiting rooms.

Conclusion: Confidence in the Gospel

You may have additional ideas of how to share the gospel with HCP. I would love to hear them. One thing we must keep in mind: we cannot know until we broach the subject how a HCP will respond to our attempts. Satan loves when we prejudge that someone will respond negatively if we start a gospel conversation. We must have confidence in the gospel and its power, regardless of how we think someone may respond.

One of the most surprising experiences I have had with these attempts was with a Physician Assistant that initially showed no interest in spiritual matters. I moved back into conversation about my health, but before the appointment was over, I asked her why she didn’t have much interest in spiritual matters. Was it her studies in science and medicine or her exposure to so much suffering that moved her away from any specific belief in God? She suddenly opened up and the conversation became friendly and fruitful.

You may be the best person to reach your HCP. Don’t let their education or expertise intimidate you. The gospel is the power of God for salvation to all who believe!

Christianity is Not Better than Other Religions

religion

Many Christians labor under the illusion that the way to share their faith is to argue that Christianity is better than other religions, belief systems or worldviews. They generally do this in one of two ways. Some argue from a therapeutic approach—that the Christian God gives better benefits than other deities, such as peace, hope, joy, happiness, or meaning. Jesus can make you happy, healthy, and (maybe) wealthy. He will fix all your problems and make your life better. Others utilize a cultural approach—that a Judeo-Christian foundation establishes better cultures than do non-Christian foundations. We can have a stronger nation and keep our liberties only if we are generally Christian. While some of these things may be true, this is not the way to present the gospel.

Consistent with New Testament practice we ought to argue that Christianity is true and that all other religions, belief systems, or worldviews are false.Why should we take such an approach?

Two reasons.

First, the gospel is a historical claim, and historical claims are either true or false. Contrary to the pontifications of many skeptics and atheists, history is squarely on the side of the central claims of Christianity—that Jesus taught that he was God in the flesh, performed public miracles that validated his claim, that he died on the cross under the authority of Pontius Pilate, and that three days later his tomb was empty because he rose again. The Apostle Paul himself argued that the validity of the Christian faith depended on the historicity of these events. Paul presented a falsifiability test for Christianity, the highest form of epistemic reliability (historical testability). If Jesus didn’t rise from the dead, then Christianity is not true (1 Cor. 15). No other falsifiability tests are offered in any other religion.

Second, to argue that the Christian faith is better is to argue for an aesthetic preference. The unbeliever hears this claim as your preference or opinion. She hears your claim as no different than, “Chocolate is better than vanilla.” Inner experiences cannot be validated as true or false. The postmodern philosopher, Richard Rorty, argued that religious claims cannot be used as arguments for a proposition’s truth because there is no way to verify them. In response, theologian Michael Horton asked Rorty if the same would go for a case for Christianity based on historical facts. Rorty replied, “That would be a whole different thing. I have never heard Christianity presented in that way.” How sad.

How many people that we try to reach would have to wrestle more with the claims of the Christian gospel if we presented it this way? Certainly, there are many benefits and blessings that come from being united with Christ in salvation. But the unbelieving heart often lives with the illusion that it already possesses joy, hope, and peace. And the danger of the therapeutic approach is that an unbeliever can “pray a prayer” or intellectually assent to the facts of Christ, without truly repenting and believing, just to obtain the benefits. As we know, that is not a genuine conversion. The core of our gospel message cannot be therapeutic.

Further, the danger of the cultural approach is that it “better” is still an opinion. Increasingly, people around the world do not believe that a Judeo-Christian foundation to a culture is better. If a person rejects the gospel because she doesn’t believe in traditional morality, she has rejected it for the wrong reasons. And if we “share our faith” this way, we depart from the New Testament model and find ourselves guilty of spreading a false gospel.

When we present the life and work of Christ as the core of the gospel message, however, the unbeliever is faced with either believing in Jesus or not. He either accepts that he is a sinner or not. He either accepts that the crucified and risen Christ is the only way to be reconciled to God, or he doesn’t. If he does not, we can continue to argue for the gospel on biblical and historical grounds. One thing the historical approach does not often result in is a false profession simply to get the benefits. Rather, the unbeliever responds to the gospel based on its central claims about Jesus.

Jesus is not better than other gods; He is the only true God. Grace is not better than works; it is the only way to be reconciled to God. Christianity is not better than other religions; it is the only true religion.

Can We Trust the Gospels?

Can We Trust the Gospels

Can We Trust the Gospels? The Historical Basis for the Christian Faith

Many Christians are unaware of the unique nature of the Christian faith. Since most world religions are not based on historical events, and their beginnings cannot be anchored in any verifiable history, Christianity is unusual. And among those few religions that are based in historical events, the character of the founder, the manner in which the events supposedly happened, and the lack of verified supernatural signs makes Christianity completely unique.

When someone asks why you are a Christian, your answer shouldn’t be merely because of an experience or a perceived benefit, such as joy, peace or hope. Many adherents of other religions testify of experiences and benefits. No, your answer should be something along the lines of, “I believe that Jesus lived, died, and rose again, proving that he is the Son of God as the Bible reports.” That is, our faith should rest entirely in a verifiable historical event, because that is how Paul explained it in 1 Corinthians 15. If the resurrection didn’t happen then Christianity is not true. If it did, nothing can stand against it.

The historical reliability of the Bible matters. But how does the average Christian learn the historical facts about the Bible, especially the Gospels without having to wade through highly academic works?

A new book by Cambridge University professor, Peter Williams, provides a handy reference for the multitude of verifiable historical facts in the Gospels. Can We Trust the Gospels?(Crossway, 2018) is the distillation of many years of research in New Testament studies by one of the foremost scholars in the world. This little volume of 160 pages will amaze the reader with details he has never noticed before in the New Testament. In addition to explaining the testimony about Jesus from non-Christian sources, Williams displays the many ways in which the Gospels demonstrate that they could not have been written later than the first century in another part of the Roman Empire.

Although we live in an age when we have easy access to advance information about anywhere we go, we still tend to be surprised by aspects of geography and culture whenever we travel. Now imagine if someone asked you to write a story about events in a distant place you had never visited, and you were not allowed to use the Internet for research. Even with the wonderful libraries we have today, you would struggle to get all the information together to write a detailed story that fit what a local person would know. This is because of the many aspects of your destination you would have to get right, and getting only most of them right would not make a story sound authentic. You would have to investigate its architecture, culture, economics, geography, language, law, politics, religion, social stratification, weather, and much more. You would even need to ensure that the characters in your tale were given names that were plausible for the historical and geographical setting of your narrative. All this requires effort and is not easily done.

Right down to details of architecture, culture, economics, geography, language, law, politics, religion, social stratification, weather, and more, the Gospels do not shy away from a full-orbed, comprehensive description of life in first century Palestine surrounding the events on which they are focused. Even the mention of names in the Gospels reveals that only someone who lived in that society at that time would have known the common names of the day. Williams reminds us that there was no internet to look up details of the world of Jesus. Many of the details are never mentioned anywhere else in ancient literature, so knowledge of them would have had to have been from firsthand experience.

Knowledge of the location of tax collectors, local botany, unusual customs, local languages, the personalities of characters in the Gospel accounts, and many other particulars are shown to be still further evidence of the reliability of the NT. Williams presents a kind of cumulative case apologetic to show that criticism of the historical reliability of the Gospels is laughable. It is simply too far-fetched to argue that they were written later and in another place.

This little book will be a tremendous help to the average Christian who wants to strengthen her own faith in the Scriptures and a valuable resource to put in the hands of someone searching for answers. I highly recommend it!

 

Still More Strategies for Effective Apologetic Encounters

This post concludes the three-part series on Strategies for effective apologetic encounters. To see the first two posts in this series click here and here.

The sixth way to effectively engage unbelievers with the gospel is to identify assertions when arguments are called for. Another common mistake we make when arguing a point is that we don’t actually argue a point! To argue for something is to make logical inferences from two or more truths (as we discuss in the next chapter). Quite often, however, we make assertions rather than present arguments. To assert something is simply to state it without any supporting justification. For example, to say “Christians believe the Bible because they can’t cope with the reality of life and need a crutch on which to rest” is only an assertion if no supporting statements are given that prove that it is true.

Sometimes when we are defending the Christian faith our opponent will make a statement such as the one above. If we don’t recognize it for what it is—a mere assertion—we will often feel helpless to respond. The reason is that an assertion made without any supporting arguments feels like an unimpeachable truth. That is, it comes across with the force of a universally accepted law. But it is not. Until a statement is supported by arguments it is actually nothing more than a wisp of smoke to be waved away.

Here are some examples of assertions that need to be challenged:

  • Science has disproved the Bible
  • All religions are the same
  • There is no proof whatsoever for God
  • Christianity is bad for the world
  • We don’t know what the original manuscripts of the New Testament said

As you can see, these statements seem very intimidating, because they are stated in such a decisive fashion. But they are nothing more than unsupported assertions. We should apply our questions from chapter five whenever anyone tries to get away with such statements.

Seventh, pursue wisely those who wish to avoid conversation on spiritual issues. Sometimes in your efforts to engage people with the gospel, you encounter disinterest or resistance to conversation about spiritual topics. But even if someone tells you directly, “I don’t like to talk about religion” doesn’t mean that the conversation is automatically over. I usually try at least one more strategy if this happens. I will ask, “Oh really? Why?” in the most winsome way possible. That is, sometimes people attempt to shut down the conversation to avoid admitting the reason they don’t want to talk about spiritual issues.

By asking why, you may find that the answer relates to previous bad experiences with Christians, or alternately, a loss that has caused them to question the goodness of God in a broken world. By pressing the issue just a bit you may uncover an openness to further conversation. If the person declines to answer, however, I don’t continue to pursue the conversation. I don’t want to come across as pushy or aggressive. I will simply pray for her and hope to meet again.

 

Conclusion

Hopefully these strategies provide more clarity and give more tools for effective conversations. Much of it is intuitive. That is, if I keep in mind the command to give an answer with gentleness and respect (1 Pet. 3:15), I will strive to clear objections, so I can talk about Jesus without being annoying. I will listen to what the unbeliever is saying and how she is answering my questions. I will look for ways to incorporate these strategies in order to get to the root of her objections. I will seek to reveal the inconsistencies and irrationality of her worldview and the foundation on which it rests.

Remember, as you are employing these strategies you are tearing down the intellectual and emotional strongholds that the unbeliever has built up over time. These strategies give you various ways to challenge the objections, assumptions, and mistaken notions accumulated over time. Effective engagement requires patience and the insight of the Holy Spirit. Because the Spirit dwells inside us and because we have the divinely revealed Word of God, we can be used by God for the planting and watering of gospel seeds in the lives of those who don’t know Christ.

More Strategies for Effective Apologetic Encounters

drawing businss concept

In the last post we looked at specific ways to take a conversation with an unbeliever to a place of effective engagement about the gospel. In this post we continue to examine those strategies.

The third strategy is to look for implicit bias. Implicit bias is another way of describing subconscious assumptions or unexamined presuppositions. That is, everyone assumes certain things to be true, obvious, and unable to be challenged. Yet, many of these biases cannot be shown to be true, and in fact, can be shown to be false. For example, some people have a reactive bias that makes them want to do the opposite of what someone else is trying to get them to do, or alternately believe the opposite of what someone is telling them. This bias springs from many sources, but one obvious is the dislike of being proven wrong. This is one of the reasons the waywe engage people is so important. If they sense we enjoy proving them to be wrong rather than helping them find truth, we might inflame the reactive bias unnecessarily. The apostle John mentions that Jesus was “full of grace and truth.” What a great reminder that our manner is as important as our message.

Another bias that influences our thinking is known as “sunk cost fallacy.” If a friend has invested time, money, or reputation in a particular belief, he is less likely to admit the belief is wrong. To do so would be to lose all he has invested in that belief. For example, if someone establishes their reputation as a skeptic, becomes known for his skepticism, and has written a book on it, to admit that he is wrong comes at a high price, and his investment in skepticism has to be considered a waste. This is one of the reasons why the Holy Spirit’s conviction is necessary in conversion. Without the Spirit reassuring a person’s heart that loss for the sake of Christ is good, no one would ever be willing to do as Paul did—counting everything but the knowledge of Christ as loss.

Fourth, look for positions that would be embarrassing to maintain. Every worldview besides the Christian faith results in logical conclusions that are an embarrassment in a civilized society. For example, an agnostic acquaintance of mine is an avid participant in state politics. He frequently spends time in the state capitol trying to forbid reference to any religious basis in legislation. In other words, he does not want religion to play a part in any laws that are passed. He is a typical example of a secular humanist.

When I bring up the explicitly Christian foundation of Martin Luther King’s legacy in the Civil Rights movement or William Wilberforce’s battle to end the slave trade in England, however, he becomes uncomfortable. He knows that if he is to be consistent with his principle, he would have to condemn the Christian foundations for these movements. But to do so would be to say that it would have been better to wait for secular activists to resist slavery. This is a claim no one wants to make, because it smacks of racism—a racism that is condemned in Scripture, but not consistently so from a secular humanist standpoint.

Fifth, capitalize on universally held values (justice, opposition to trafficking, abuse, etc.). Many people today who deny the existence of objective morality feel very passionately about certain moral and social issues without realizing the contradiction. They may believe that any sexual choice is perfectly acceptable (as long as there is consent), but become animated about issues of justice, equality, racism, human trafficking, and more (as they should!).

Whenever someone criticizes Christianity for its call to sexual purity, I often ask questions that get to the heart of their morality. The conversation will develop something like this:

Mark: So, you believe that everyone should be able to enjoy whatever sexual practices that make them happy?

Unbeliever: Yes, every person should be able to have their own morality and do as they please.

M: Is that because there is no absolute morality?

U: Yes, that is correct. Morality is relative to each person’s conscience.

M: So, if someone wants to traffic people as sex slaves, they have the right to do that?

U: No! Of course not!

M: But why not? Didn’t you say morality is relative?

U: Yes, but human trafficking is obviously wrong. No one gets to make that choice.

M: But how do you exclude that activity from your rule?

U: Because an act that involves others must be by consent.

M: But where do you get consent? It seems you have pulled that moral rule out of thin air. You have provided no basis for requiring that people consent to what involves them. That makes sense in a Christian worldview where each person is made in the image of God and is afforded dignity as a result. But how do you argue for that in your worldview? And besides, don’t those who traffic other human beings often beat, bully, and threaten them into consent? Don’t they get their slaves to say they are choosing this life when they are questioned by authorities? If we reduce consent to merely verbally-affirmed non-resistance, we have no way to resist someone who is exploiting another person.

You can see in this fictional exchange that there are certain topics related to justice and human dignity that not many people want to oppose publicly because of the near-universal agreement that such things are wrong. It is rather easy to show that these issues only make sense in a Christian worldview.

In the next post we will examine still more strategies for effectively engaging unbelievers with the gospel. To see the first post in this series, click here: Strategies for Effective Apologetic Encounters.

Doing Apologetics “within” the Church

wolf in sheepGuest Post by Jeff Mindler

[Jeff graduated from Lancaster Bible College in 2014 with a B.A. in Biblical Studies, as well as an M.A. in Counseling. He currently works as the Event Coordinator for the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals in Lancaster, PA. His wife, Joe’l, and he worship at Grace Baptist Church of Millersville in Millersville, PA where they both serve as members. He enjoys studying several different disciplines including Biblical Studies, Systematic Theology, Apologetics, Church History, and Practical Theology, while having a keen and passionate love for Apologetics and Systematic Theology in particular.]

“Doing apologetics within the Church” – this statement may sound strange at first, particularly to the reader who says, “I thought apologetics was done with unbelievers or those of differing religions?” While that is certainly true that we are called to practice apologetics to those of differing religions and unbelievers, there is another setting in which apologetics is to take place and that is within the Church. That’s right; apologetics is also to be done in the body of Christ. What do I mean by this? Read on, it’s in here.

To help us understand this topic, perhaps it is best to give a Biblical example of defending the faith within the Church, but before I do so, allow me to briefly define what apologetics is. Biblical apologetics is at its most basic level a defense of the Christian faith, giving a reason for the hope that is within us, just as Peter instructed in 1 Peter 3:15. This in its most basic form is what apologetics is. Now, let us consider the book of Jude, in which we see an example of defending the faith within the Church. Jude 1:3 states, “Beloved, although I was very eager to write to you about our common salvation, I found it necessary to write appealing to you to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints.”

This is one of the classic passages on practicing apologetics. Jude is directly commanding the Church to do apologetics, but to whom are we to contend for the faith in this passage? The very next verse Jude addresses the reason why we are to contend for the faith. Verse 4 states, “For certain people have crept in unnoticed who long ago were designated for this condemnation, ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into sensuality and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.” It is interesting to note, then, that the purpose and intent of this book is an encouragement to do apologetics. Scott Oliphant makes an astute observation on this point when he writes, “Jude writes to a church, or group of churches, to help them defend themselves against a specific attack on the gospel, an attack that is taking place within the church itself.” [1]

While these people are not exactly identified, Jude does give us many useful descriptions of these people, saying that they have “crept in unnoticed.” This is something we should take seriously today and must recognize the deceptiveness of sin, we should be on high alert for those who are amongst us but nevertheless pervert the grace of God. Jude also describes these people as those who “pervert the grace of our God” and “deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.” These people are false teachers to the core. This is why we must defend the faith within the Church, to protect the body of Christ from false teachers who would pervert the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Jude’s exhortations to defend the faith against those inside the Church who would attempt to pervert the Gospel is an exhortation to believers everywhere to stand firm and to fight the good fight for the faith once for all delivered to us. With this exhortation, we are to wage a battle, to practice apologetics not only to unbelievers outside of the Church, but also to those inside the Church. In the process we seek to apply biblical truth to unbelief, including the unbelief within our own hearts. An example of this is found in Titus 1:9 where Titus outlines one of the duties of an elder. Titus writes, “9 He must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sounddoctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it.”

To rebuke those who contradict sound doctrine is to engage in apologetics, the defending of the faith against those who would seek to undermine it. Elders must be ready to engage in apologetics and to lead others in the defending of their faith as well, and by so doing, they will protect those in the congregation against others who would seek to teach what does not accord with sound doctrine.

May we as the Church be strengthened daily, may we continue to preach the Gospel to ourselves every day, and may we engage in battle against unbelief while doing so with gentleness and respect. And finally, may our prayer continue to be “Lord, I believe, help my unbelief” (Mark 9:24).

 

1.         Oliphint, K.S., The Battle Belongs to the Lord: The Power of Scripture for Defending Our Faith. 2003: Presbyterian & Reformed Publishing Company

Is there value in apologetics if it does not lead to evangelism?

I wonder if “apologetics” which does not lead people to Christ as Savior, and then on to their living under the Lordship of Christ in the whole of life, really is Christian apologetics. There certainly is a place for an academic study of a subject called “apologetics,” as the defense and the credibility of Christianity, but if it does not lead the students to use that material to lead people to Christ as Savior, one can ask its value.

Francis Schaeffer, The God Who Is There (The Complete Works of Francis A. Schaeffer; Crossway, 1982), 1:186-7.

Worldview Flows from Heart and Mind

heart-mind

Philosopher James Sire defines worldview as “a commitment, a fundamental orientation of the heart, that can be expressed as a story or in a set of presuppositions (assumptions which may be true, partially true or entirely false) that we hold (consciously or subconsciously, consistently or inconsistently) about the basic constitution of reality, and that provides the foundation on which we live and move and have our being.”[1]

Notice some of the components of this definition:

  1. A worldview is a commitment of the heart

Sire notes that a worldview goes beyond the intellect to the heart. It is a spiritual orientation that involves the soul. A worldview springs from a person’s inner being and reflects what she loves and values as much as what she has come to believe intellectually. In this sense, a worldview is a commitment. A person tends to interpret everything she experiences through this grid, even if it does not provide satisfactory answers for every question. Only when another worldview proves itself to have much better answers to many questions will a person abandon her original worldview for the new one.

When Sire speaks of the heart, he is referring to more than what many in the modern Western world think of the heart. His definition bears much more similarity to the biblical concept of heart than anything else, which is “the central defining element of the human person.”[2] While a person’s worldview involves emotion, it also involves wisdom, desire and will, intellect, and spirituality.

  1. A worldview involves presuppositions

A presupposition is a belief that serves as a foundation for all other beliefs. A worldview is not the same as a presupposition, but a worldview is developed from presuppositions. Since presuppositions are often held unconsciously, the foundations of a person’s worldview are often unexamined. Their worldview is usually consciously considered, but the presuppositions behind it are not always so.

When speaking with an unbeliever, we want to ask questions that reveal his presuppositions, such as, “Why do you believe that?” and “What do you base that on?” Once we discover on what he bases his beliefs, his worldview begins to become apparent. For example, if all his beliefs are based on his own rationality, then it becomes clear that he has either a rationalist or existentialist worldview. Worldviews tend to have clear implications for many of the areas of concern, so if you identify a person’s worldview, you can discover quickly what they will most likely believe about significant philosophical questions, such as the origin, purpose, identity, and destiny of the human race.

  1. A worldview has to do with what we think the world is

One of the most important aspects of a worldview is its view on metaphysics, that is the nature of the world. Metaphysics is the study of the nature of reality. It asks and answers questions such as, “What does it mean to exist? What is the nature of the divine? What is man? Why is there something rather than nothing? Why are things the way they are?” All these questions have a bearing on the rest of a person’s beliefs. For example, if someone believes that all of life is an illusion, then there is no logical reason to help anyone or do good, because the other person and “good” would also be an illusion.

On the contrary, if we believe that this world is created by God and man is unique in all of creation because he is made in the image of God, then we will value human life and seek to treat others with the dignity inherent in the image of God.

  1. A worldview determines how we live

What I think of the world will have a direct impact on how I live every day. If I believe that life is pointless, meaningless, and absurd, I may lead a life of responsibility and compassion for others, trying to make the world a better place, but there would be no logical reason for me to do so. If life is absurd, and I truly believe that, then most likely I will not seek out anything that normally provides people a sense of purpose.

As Christians our belief that there is a holy God to whom we are accountable, and in whose grace we stand, should motivate us to live pure, humble, thankful lives. Not all Christians do live this way, but they should.

The discrepancy between a person’s worldview and his daily life is best explained by the difference between profession and possession. I may claim to have a Christian worldview, but if my life is marked by squandering my resources, practicing immorality, being cruel to others, and living for myself, then I am merely professing Christianity. The Apostle John compares those who merely profess the right beliefs without truly being possessed by them. Those who truly possesses saving faith in Christ will live a life marked by light (truth, purity, and obedience—1 John 1:6-7), admit that they have sinned (1 John 1:8), confess their sins (1 John 1:9-10), live in obedience (1 John 2:4-5), and love other believers (1 John 2:9-10).

Discerning a person’s worldview is key to being able to challenge her unbelief or answer her challenges to the Christian faith. Having a well-developed Christian worldview helps us hold our faith consistently and confidently, and consequently engage unbelievers effectively.

[1] James Sire, The Universe Next Door, 5th ed. (InterVarsity, 2009), 20.

[2] David Naugle, Worldview: The History of a Concept (Eerdmans, 2002), 267-74.

Understanding the concept of “Worldview”

world_view-eyesWorldview is a concept that has become more common over the last few decades. One of the reasons for the growth of its use in intellectual and religious conversations is that it allows us to understand why people believe the things they do. Understanding a person’s worldview allows you to trace the logical outcome of their heart commitments, and to discern inconsistencies and contradictions when people don’t remain coherent in their beliefs.

Coherence is a significant part of thinking rationally, and the nature of worldviews allows us to test the rationality of a belief system. This is essentially what you are doing when you are asking the type of questions we discussed in earlier chapters. Coherence means internal consistency, and a coherent position is one in which all the beliefs fit together. If, for example, I believe that man is nothing more than an animal, and with no more significance or value than an animal, it would be inconsistent for me to argue that humans have dignity or rights that animals don’t have. If I believe that this world came about by chance and mindless forces, it would be incoherent to talk about meaning in life.

Surprisingly, then, many worldviews contain internally incoherent elements. One way to become a better apologist is to familiarize yourself with various worldviews and learn to identify the logical implications for them. When you are able to do this, you will find that your ability to tear down strongholds and undermine the unbelief of the non-Christian grows significantly.

Definition and Explanation of a Worldview

Worldview is a complex concept that encompasses a person’s intellectual, emotional, religious, and psychological beliefs. Philosopher James Sire captures the heart of the concept in his definition. He writes that a worldview is “a commitment, a fundamental orientation of the heart, that can be expressed as a story or in a set of presuppositions (assumptions which may be true, partially true or entirely false) that we hold (consciously or subconsciously, consistently or inconsistently) about the basic constitution of reality, and that provides the foundation on which we live and move and have our being.”[1]

Sire’s definition helps us see the personal nature of worldviews. They go beyond the head to the heart. The depth at which a person holds his worldview helps us see how radical it is for someone to change his worldview. This is why salvation must be a work of the Holy Spirit to internally regenerate a person so he can, in one moment, jettison his unbelieving worldview and embrace the gospel. Evangelism and apologetics, then, must happen prayerfully in the power of the Spirit for genuine conversion to happen.

In the next post we will look at the component parts of Sire’s definition.

[1] James Sire, The Universe Next Door, 5th ed. (InterVarsity, 2009), 20.

Why Worldview Training Is not Enough for Godliness or Apologetics

not enoughWhen most people who are familiar with apologetics hear the term, they think of worldviews. While the concept of worldview is important, teaching it does not guarantee that a) students will automatically grow deeper in their faith and resist unbelief, and b) that they will equipped to engage unbelievers effectively with the gospel. Stephen Altrogge hits the nail on the head in this article, A Solid Worldview Won’t Save My Kids.

I’ve seen too many of my childhood friends grow up to reject the biblical worldview that was so furiously drummed into them as children. I’ve seen too many people make choices that they know are in direct contradiction to the worldview they embraced for so many years. I’ve seen too many train wrecks to think that worldview alone is enough.

Read the whole thing!