Saturday, February 8, 2014

finding common ground in a divisive world

Here's a very good interview with Francis Schaeffer Institute Director Mark Ryan, entitled “Finding Common Ground in a Divisive World” (Covenant Seminary, August 27, 2013)  There are some excellent real-life examples. Here are a few highlights...
When looking to engage others honestly with the gospel, we must not let ourselves validate the common stereotypes. There are enough other barriers to the gospel already; we don’t need to add to them by behaving in ways that play into the negative or restrictive images many people have of what they think Christians are like. Also, we have to learn to approach people not as evangelistic projects, but as fellow human beings—made in the image of God even though fallen and imperfect—and so give to them the same consideration and attention that we would like and expect for ourselves...

My emphasis is to help people reframe apologetics and get them to see that it’s not so much a discipline to be mastered as it is an orientation of the heart. Are we willing to live openly, to engage the questions that come our way? Are we willing to engage in conversations, offer clarifications, share our own testimonies in transparent ways? I want to frame apologetics in this broader, more personal sense...

Many Christians assume that the basic problem we encounter in apologetics is ignorance. Much of the literature on evangelism seems to makes this same assumption. That is, people just don’t know the gospel so we need to give them more information. But my experience is that it’s not that simple. The problem is not people’s ignorance; rather, it’s confusion. In much of North America, people hear about the gospel all the time, but they hear it in sound bites and in other very fragmented ways...

I think a more fruitful approach is to listen well and try to get some perception not only of what the other person believes, but also why they believe it, how it is meaningful to them, and to what degree it functions to explain their experience, generate hope, or counter fear. Then I can speak back to them in light of those things. I can say, “I understand why you would think that way. Let me shift your focus so you can see where I’m coming from and perhaps even why I think the way I do.” I can begin to tell the gospel story in a way that makes sense of what they value but puts that into its proper place or context. That’s bit more work and it makes the conversation slower, but now they’re not getting just a sound bite anymore...

If we allow ourselves to think of apologetics less as a discipline to be mastered and more as an orientation of the heart, then I think we can approach apologetics like any other aspect of our Christian discipleship—as something Christ by his Spirit delights to aid us with and is committed to growing us in.


 


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