Addressing People with a Different Source of Authority

(SeanO) #1

I remember Nabeel Qureshi saying that before he was Christian he heard Dr. William Lane Craig debate with an Islamic scholar and he felt the Islamic scholar won simply because he was more passionate - it had nothing to do with the argument. Nabeel’s American friend was quite convinced Dr. William Lane Craig had won because of his impeccable logic. Nabeel probably did not even realize that one of his sources of authority was the passion of the speaker - but it was…

Different sources of authority may include culture, tradition, family, mood, a holy book, story, social harmony, reason or a complex mix of these sources.

Does anyone have experience speaking across source of authority boundaries? Did you find any particular method to communicate across sources of authority well (stories, for example)? How did you change the illustrations, logic and examples that you used?

I understand that the Scriptural foundation for this would be becoming like a Greek to the Greek and a Jew to the Jews, but I am curious about how others have both recognized that someone had a different source of authority and then adapted their approach.


(Carson Weitnauer) #2

Hi Sean, interesting question!

First and foremost, I think we need to keep in mind that our greatest source of authority is Jesus.

Matthew 28:18 comes to mind: “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go…”

We need brokenness and surrender to Jesus so that he can direct our every step. If this isn’t foundational, then all other attempts at gaining authority, even for the goal of evangelism, will be done in vain.

One other verse - Jeremiah 9:23-24 -

Thus says the LORD: “Let not the wise man boast in his wisdom, let not the mighty man boast in his might, let not the rich man boast in his riches, but let him who boasts boast in this, that he understands and knows me, that I am the LORD who practices steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth. For in these things I delight, declares the LORD."

That said, I found the book Ministering in Honor-Shame Cultures to be very helpful for reflecting on these questions. By some accounts, the Facebook “like” button has been pushed over 1.3 trillion times since the social network was launched in 2004. I keep trying to ‘take in’ how profoundly social networks may have shaped human societies and individuals to value receiving honor (or avoiding shame) in the past decade. There seems to be an incredible and growing authority given to those who are popular.

I’m curious to hear what you and others think on this topic. It is an important question in each encounter. As Ravi says, “We answer the questioner, not the question.” We need to listen deeply to really understand where someone is coming from so we can minister to them with love and wisdom.

(SeanO) #3

@CarsonWeitnauer Great quote from Jeremiah. I remember reading “Misreading Scripture With Western Eyes” and appreciating it a great deal; especially after ministering in a Korean Church. I wish I had read it beforehand - so insightful as to the ways we in the west impose our understanding of the world onto Scripture. It would have helped me tremendously.

Dr. Zacharias certainly has an uncanny ability to get beneath the question. Whenever I listen to him, I am always amazed at how he so often answers the question with a story that I would never think to use and turns the question back to the questioner so that they can see themselves. Very reminiscent of how Christ taught. Hopefully I can glean a little bit of that in the EAP program - definitely an area where I want to grow.