Ask Logan Gates (May 13-17, 2019)

logangates
(Kathleen) #1

Hello, friends! (@Interested_In_Ask_RZIM)
We’re thrilled to have the kind, intelligent, and thoughtful Logan Gates, member of the RZIM Canada speaking team, with us this week to answer our apologetic and evangelism questions!


Logan’s Bio:

Logan is one of the lead speakers and writers on the RZIM Canada team. He is fluent in Spanish and French and is passionate in helping others encounter God by exploring the big questions in life.

At the Univ. of Virginia, he double-majored in Political & Social Thought and Latin American Studies, and minored in Religious Studies. He went on to earn a master’s degree in Theology at the University of Oxford alongside two years of study at the Oxford Centre for Christian Apologetics.

Topics he often tackles include “Why believe anything?”, “Jesus: man, myth, or more?”, “Why would a loving God judge me?,” and “Finding unity in a culture of division.”

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(Heidi Mitchell) #2

Hi @Logan_Gates !

Thanks for being here to answer some of our questions :blush:

As I read in Colossians 2:8 this morning:
Beware lest anyone cheat you through philosophy and empty deceit, according to the tradition of men, according to the basic principals of the world, and not according to Christ.

I’m burdened lately by my progressive Christian friends’ theology- often times, sounding so full of love and acceptance. I do believe they love Jesus. I’m concerned, though, that they’ve believed some lies…picking and choosing scripture/ following a “philosophy” of living a Christian life- instead of really digging in and knowing the truth.
I’m not sure they get the part of our Christian journey when we take up our cross…and sometimes following Jesus is hard. But, there’s deep joy there.
How would you suggest we reach these “already Christian” friends and family?
I admit, I sometimes have trouble sorting out the progressive ideas from the truth.
Thanks Logan !

PS- Our oldest son is Logan :wink: Great name!

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(Logan Gates) #3

Hello Heidi!

That’s neat to hear your oldest son’s name is Logan! I’ve liked having that name : ) I hope your son has too!

Thank you for your question. It’s one that’s close to my heart as well.

I went ahead and checked to see whether other RZIM Connect threads have pressed into this topic a bit, and I found one on “Can we find common ground with progressive Christians?” and another on “Have you seen liberal churches unite with conservatives?” Their thoughts are helpful.

I might just add one more dimension to consider, namely, what “kind” of progressive Christian we’re relating to. To give you a sense of what I mean, I think someone could call himself a Christian, hold a “progressive” view on a major issue (like sexuality, inerrancy of the Bible, salvation outside of Jesus, etc.), and yet fall into a one of several categories, which should impact the way in which we relate to him:

  1. He could be a new Christian still working out a biblical worldivew, and is still carrying with him the secular views he had before he became a Christian. Perhaps he’s had a powerful encounter with the Holy Spirit, but he’s not far beyond the faith of the “thief on the cross.” Like the thief perhaps he knows he’s a sinner, and that Jesus was not. He has sought Jesus’ forgiveness and trusted in Him as the only one who can save him. He has submitted his life to Jesus and to living under His lordship. “Reaching” a friend like this might involve being like Priscilla and Aquila, offering correction and instruction to Apollos in Acts 18:18-28. Someone in this category will have more of a “teachable” attitude, even if it might be hard for them to accept what submitting to Jesus’ lordship will imply on certain issues. Our job will be to show how what God’s Word has to say on these topics actually offers a better answer with a deeper beauty than the other answers out there. (If you have any specific topic that you find often coming up, I’d be glad to offer thoughts that might be helpful). The other day a friend of mine in this category (a new Christian, wrestling with what the Bible says on some controversial issues) remarked to an older Christian, “I’m starting to realize that my views on this topic are against both yours and against God’s.” I’m happy she’s gotten to that point – she’s on a journey, and I think she’s on her way to submitting to God’s Word on these tough questions. I should add, it’s not just new Christians who sometimes need to be corrected (2 Tim 3:16). I’ll just share personally in my life there have been at least three occasions when I have been “rebuked” for progressive views on issues that were out of line with Scripture. Some of those rebukes were delivered better than others. The rebukes that were most helpful (and for which I’m thankful today) were when I wasn’t just told “your views are unbiblical,” but rather had someone express kind concern for my viewpoint, give me a good book pointing me to relevant Scripture, invite me wrestle with the Scripture myself, and then be willing to walk through any questions I had. I felt “gently restored.”
  1. He could be familiar with Christianity, but has never truly grasped the Gospel message for himself. I have many extended family members in this category. They are culturally or nominally Christian. Some have even been in church most Sundays of their lives! In this case, I think we should engage these friends basically as non-Christians. We should be looking for ways to share the Gospel with them. That would mean applying all the Biblical wisdom I’m sure you picked up in the RZIM Academy :wink: like “majoring in the majors” – setting aside controversial issues for the moment, and instead trying to focus on sharing God’s reckless love for them, and what he has done on their behalf through his death and resurrection. With these friends, it might actually be helpful to call to mind something familiar to their Christian background (perhaps the Lord’s Supper), and expand on it – bringing it into relevancy for their daily life. Perhaps look for opportunities when they’re going through something hard, ask how their faith is helping them – share how your faith helps you, and perhaps ask if they have that kind of secure relationship with God that you have, through Jesus. The book on evangelism I’m reading and recommending these days is Rico Tice’s book Honest Evangelism.

  2. Lastly, he could be actively involved in a church and be promoting views that go against the clear teaching of Scripture on core Gospel issues. This would be someone who has resisted gentle rebukes (including perhaps from church leadership), and who continues to actively promote a view that would fall into the category of what Paul called “another Gospel” (Galatians 1:6-8). In this case, a key passage for us to wrestle with is 1 Corinthians 5:11-13, which tells us “not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of sexual immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or swindler—not even to eat with such a one.” We must read this carefully. Paul isn’t speaking here of Christians who simply have an odd view on a minor theological issue, but rather believers who are caught in serious sin or, as in the case of idolatry, who have distorted the Gospel. Furthermore, just a few verses earlier, Paul has clarified that he isn’t saying Christians shouldn’t associate with non-believers who fall into these categories – clearly Jesus associated with such people – and so should we! However, for those who “bear the name of brother,” we aren’t to “associate” with them in such a way that would suggest to them that we see them as faithful brothers and sisters in Christ. This is, ultimately, for their own good – that the Spirit would convict them and bring them to repentance. This doesn’t mean, I’m convinced, that we aren’t to lovingly relate to such people, or necessarily to leave off having conversations about God. Paul tells us, however, for their spiritual good, we aren’t to associate with them as if they were fellow believers. What this might look like is no longer praying together. It might look like simply expressing that, though you love them, you believe they have walked away from their faith to “another gospel.” It should certainly involve praying for the Spirit to convict them and draw them back into a full relationship with God.

These are three rough categories, and I imagine there are many who don’t fall into any one category neatly! My sense from what you’ve written is that you’re speaking mainly of people in those first two categories. I hope, however, it offers at least a high-level framework for how to lovingly relate to those who see themselves as Christians, though “progressive” on certain key issues.

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(Kathleen) #4

Hi, Logan!
We’re glad you’ve joined us this week. Hope you had a lovely time last week with the rest of the speaking team! You mentioned in a older interview that you love to communicate to others what God is like, and I am curious to know if you have any attribute of God that you make sure to emphasise when you’re speaking to a group of people in an evangelistic context? Do certain things about His character strike you deeper than others? :slight_smile:

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(Heidi Mitchell) #5

@Logan_Gates Thanks for the thoughtful reply, Logan!

I will have to check out the book you suggested, as well as, the other threads in Connect dealing with progressive Christians.

I’ve never considered using categories for understanding, first off, where the person is coming from…their place in the journey of knowing Christ.

Your framework certainly helps me have an idea of how to engage friends/family depending on how far they’ve been in the faith.

I appreciate your time, and look forward to thinking on this topic and how I can engage more friends in a natural, yet honest way.

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(Logan Gates) #8

Hi Kathleen,

That’s a great question. Like many on our speaking team, I’ve been touched by the ministry of Tim Keller. He puts into words an attribute about God I seek to emphasize in my evangelism, which is that in Jesus God offers us the chance to be “fully known and fully loved.”

Keller explains what he means by this by breaking it up into parts. First, to be fully loved but not fully known is shallow. If someone loves you that way, you can always wonder, if this person really knew you, would they still love you?

But then, to be fully known and not loved, is our greatest fear. To have someone see you at your worst and then to be rejected for what they see – what could be worse than that?

But to be fully known and fully loved, that is our heart’s greatest desire. That’s the kind of love we’re all looking for. In God’s love for us in Jesus and the cross, we are fully known and fully loved. “Fully known” because we see in the cross that God knows us at our worst – he has taken our sins on himself. But we’re also “fully loved,” because we read it was for the “joy” set before him that Jesus went to the cross on our behalf.

I find myself often asking people, do you know what it is to be fully known and fully loved? I think many resonate with Keller’s language, because we know there are parts of ourselves that aren’t loveable – parts that we’d be inclined to hide. Many of us know also the feeling of being rejected by someone once they’ve learned something unflattering about us. To have someone know us at our worst, and still love us like Jesus – that’s the kind of love that can change your life!

I think this idea of being “fully known and fully loved” also introduces the idea that love without knowledge – or love without judgment – is really quite shallow. Michael Ramsden is fantastic at expressing this :slight_smile: Santa Claus offers love without judgment. But who has their life changed by Santa Claus? I think discovering that true love is to be “known and loved” opens us up to realize that if God is all loving, he will love us, as Michael often says, “not in the absence of God’s judgment but in the presence of it.” God in Jesus has taken our judgment. But that means too that, in some cases I should expect to feel God “judging me” in the sense that he lays down expectations for my life and character – because that’s how true love really works. It always goes together with judgment, and with knowledge. Hope that’s a helpful answer for a start!

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(Bill Brander) #9

Good day Logan, [nice to see that people still use flip charts]. How may a boomer help a millennial to find meaning, purpose and value for their lives?
Thanks
Bill

(Bill Brander) #10

Logan, I don’t find your talk on this topic on YouTube, nor as a pdf. Can you please give a summary of what you covered on this topic? (I live in South Africa so this sort of thing is important to me/us.)
Thank you
Bill

(Logan Gates) #11

Hi Bill,

I imagine being from South Africa, you’ve probably thought more about this topic than I have! I’m keen to hear what your thoughts are on it. But, for a start, I’m glad to give a bit of a summary of what I cover with that topic, “Finding unity in a culture of division.”

I start just by reflecting on the Oxford England Dictionary’s choice to have “post truth” be the 2016 “word of the year” – the word that was seen to best capture the spirit of our times, at least in the West. It’s been said that, where the worldview of modernism held that objective truth exists (especially from science), and postmodernism held that truth was relative, “post-truthism” holds that truth exists, but that it has been subordinated and lost to an agenda. The phrase “fake news” reflects this idea. When someone is accused of disseminating “fake news,” they’re said to be obscuring truth intentionally, to get a particular agenda across.

A key difference, however, between “post-truthism” and the other worldviews of the last century in the West, is that in the heyday of modernism, people were proud to take the label of “modernists.” To be a “modernist” meant to stand for progress and confidence in the advances of science. Likewise, in the heyday of postmodernism, people were happy to be called “post-modern” – that was to be seen as tolerant, progressive and up with the times. In today’s post-truth culture, however, no one wants the label “post truth” for themselves. “Post truth” always describes the “other.” It’s what Fox News accuses CNN of, and vice versa – it’s what liberals and conservatives throw at each other, but would never want for themselves, to be seen as “post truth” or the source of “fake news.”

I think there’s something significant in this for us. If “post truth” is our cultural moment, it means we’re living with a worldview that inherently divides us, because at its core is the idea that “post truth” is always describing someone else. While I don’t think we can say we’ve never been as divided as we are now, I do think we’re in a unique time of actually having a metanarrative or worldview undergird the division we see in our culture.

I think if a worldview is a contributing factor to the problem of division, I think it’s fair to ask what worldview puts us on the path of a solution. Here in my talk I spend some time reflecting on our scepticism (particularly in a multicultural place like Canada) that an exclusive belief system, like Christianity, could be something that unites rather than divides. I’ve found Tim Keller helpful in explaining how, in reality, all of us have exclusive beliefs when it comes to spirituality. Even the belief that all religions are equally valid is a view of spirituality that still excludes any religion that claims to be the only way! Keller points out the real question is not whether we have exclusive beliefs (we all do!) but whether our exclusive beliefs make us into inclusive people.

It’s at this point that I turn to what Christianity says about the source of division in our world. James writes in James 4:1, “What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you?” Instead of locating the source of social division in the “other,” the Christian faith points to a division in ourselves. But it tells also the story of a God who meets our divided hearts with grace. Keller points out that if the story at the heart of your life is that God met you with relentless love “while we were still sinners,” when we were believing the wrong things and behaving the wrong way, how can we fail to extend that kind of love to those we see in that same light – believing and behaving “wrongly.”

I think we see few better examples of this than Martin Luther King in the States. The US certainly still has much to grow in, by way of race relations. But they’re not in the place they were 50 years ago. I think this is much thanks to King – but moreso than his teaching, I think this came in response to images – photographs – disseminated across the country that captured non-violent resistance to racial oppression: protesters sitting in at white-only restaurants, having drinks poured on their heads, while they simply endured it silently. Pictures like these reached the heart of a generation – a response of love to those who deserved it least. At the heart of those images is the kind of nonviolence that King embodied – and that King, as a pastor, took from the message of the cross, and the way God met the division between Himself and us, with grace and suffering on our behalf, when we deserved it not.

Where we see Christians failing to act in that way – it’s not a matter of them being “too Christian” and exclusive, but rather not Christian enough. The Gospel alone has the power to make us into truly inclusive people, and to meet our worldview of division with one that inclines us to love and grace.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this and how you find the Christian faith speaks into the division in your context!

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(Jeremiah Schuler) #12

Hey Logan. I have a question concerning Blessings and Works. Does God bless those who work in their faith more then those who don’t? Does this concept spill into the area of faith and prosperity? What’s the biblical relationship between faith and works? Thanks

(Logan Gates) #13

Hi Jeremiah,

Thanks for your question – I got thinking of something similar a few months ago when I came across some videos from the Bible Project. They make helpful videos summarizing books of the Bible, and they did a three part series on “wisdom books” in the Old Testament. I highly recommend them – particularly the videos on Proverbs and Ecclesiastes, because they draw out the seemingly contradictory messages between the two.

Proverbs seems to underscore that those who do right and follow God’s laws (which I suppose you could also refer to as doing good “works” or “working in your faith”), do well in life. In that sense Proverbs suggests those who do good works do receive material “blessings” from God, in that things tend to go well with them! We read in Proverbs 1:21, for instance, “the upright will inhabit the land, and those with integrity will remain in it, but the wicked will be cut off from the land, and the treacherous will be rooted out of it.” The message seems to be, God gives us in this life the return on our actions! If you have integrity, chances are that your life will be more stable and prosperous than if you’re a lie and a cheat.

Ecclesiastes, however, seems to paint a different picture. Ecclesiastes says, those who do right, don’t always do well in life. The author is overwhelmed with how much injustice there is in the world. In Ecclesiastes 7:15 he says, “In my vain life I have seen everything. There is a righteous man who perishes in his righteousness, and there is a wicked man who prolongs his life in his evildoing.” Here is someone who is doing good works, but does not receive material blessings for them. Prosperity theology doesn’t square with this.

How do we reconcile these two messages? I think intuitively we sense that both have truth to them. In general, through the way in which God has set up the world, following God’s law often does lead to material blessings – even prosperity! If you remain faithful to your spouse, chances are you’ll suffer less in your marriage than if you choose to be unfaithful! Sin tends to be costly. However, of course, we can all think of people who have sought to follow God’s laws, but encountered profound suffering along the way, while others who aren’t Christians, seem to suffer little! There’s a sense in which both of these realities are true to our lived experience.

What is the relationship between Blessings and Works? If we’re talking about material blessings, I think the answer is, the relationship isn’t straightforward. There is a tendency in God’s design, but fallenness in this world too.

However, I do think if we expand what we mean by “blessings” – and not just speak of material blessings – we get a more straightforward answer. John Piper in his book Desiring God has helped me see this most clearly. When we obey God and do the good works he calls us to, there is always blessing. But the nature of the blessing is not necessarily (or primarily) material – Piper would say, we get more God. By way of example I think we could think of a good friendship, or a husband and a wife. If one good friend does a “good work” for the other, even if they get hit by a bus in the process, there is a resultant blessing where the intimacy of the relationship is built and kindled.

I know in my experience, there have been times when obeying God was excruciatingly challenging (and unpleasant in the moment!), but there was blessing for me in it. When I leaned on God and said, “Lord this is hard and I wish I wasn’t in this situation,” I was brought into a place of dependency and need for God, where he was able to meet me with a depth of himself I hadn’t experienced before. I think that kind of blessing always follows our good works, provided we do those good works for the right reason, because we love God, and not to make him owe us anything.

It’s worth noting that actually the book of Proverbs seems to speak of this kind of blessing, more than it does of material blessing. For instance, Proverbs 2 reads, “My son, if you receive my words and treasure up my commandments with you, making your ear attentive to wisdom and inclining your heart to understanding…if you seek it like silver and search for it as for hidden treasures, then you will understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God.

In this sense, there is always blessing in following God’s laws. Sam Allberry likes to say, “It is never a bad deal to follow Jesus.” It may be costly, but it’s worth it. There will always be blessing – but not material blessing, as prosperity theology teaches – blessing of a far deeper kind, walking into a deeper “knowledge of God” and intimacy and dependence on him.

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(Bill Brander) #14

Thank you for this Logan. I found these short videos enlightening.
Bill

(Kathleen) closed #15

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(Logan Gates) #16

Hi @billbrander,

I’m glad you found those Bible Project videos enlightening – I’ve enjoyed them very much as well.

I love this question of yours, Bill, about how can boomers help millenials find meaning, purpose, and value for their lives. May I just share, as a millenial, I’m touched that you have a heart for millenials – and that you’re not put off by all the ways we don’t get things right! It would be easy to respond to a generation like ours with cynicism, but I’m touched that you have a heart to serve, and point millenials toward God. Thank you : )

I think the “go to” passage of Scripture for thinking through how to reach out a new demographic is Acts 17. We see Paul in Athens as a student of the culture, walking through the religious temples, and getting a sense of the idols of the day. Then, with that awareness, he preaches Christ to the culture. To get to know the millennial demographic, here are a couple resources I’ve found helpful –

  • Simon Sinek is an organizational consultant who went viral with this video on millennials.

  • Jonathan Haidt is a psychologist who has written an insightful book called The Coddling of the American Mind, which I think has application for millenials outside the US. He has done a number of interviews on the book as well, like this one.

These resources argue that millennials, more than other generations, wrestle with a sense of self-worth – they have a desire to make a difference in the world, but haven’t always been raised with realistic expectations about the difficulties and long-suffering needed to bring change about. As a result, many millennials are finding themselves frustrated with their work, and always thinking about the “next thing” that might be more fulfilling or impactful. Millennials and “iGen” (the generation after) are also more prone to have disordered relationships with technology. Addiction to smartphones is a real issue, but beyond this Jonathan Haidt in his book argues that social media is actually leaving us insecure, as we’re able to compare ourselves with everyone. This seems to have had a measurable impact on mental health, and even suicide rates.

All this, I think, sheds light on some practical ways non-millennials can come alongside and help millennials find meaning, purpose, and value.

  1. Relationships. As millennials increasingly interface more with an online community of friends, we can often have fewer close, personal relationships. I think this provides the opportunity for non-millennials to extend that kind of in-person friendship, and to help us remember what that looks like! I think the easiest way to build a friendship with a millennial is to ask them “What are you passionate about?” Most millennials have causes they care about, or careers they want to break into, and they’re eager to share! I think they’ll be touched that you took the time to ask them about that, and they’ll receive well any encouragement you might give them!

  2. Encouragement. Many millennials, if they’re honest, are wrestling with discouragement about questions of identity. Part of this stems from growing up believing we can do great things, but then learning our weaknesses and encountering failure in our work and personal lives. I think actually this provides a great place to meet Jesus in – and that was my story. It was when I faced some of my first disappointments in life through a sports injury, and then falling short of my academic hopes, that I realized I needed a more stable basis for my identity. Speaking practically, when a millennial opens up about some areas of discouragement, I think it’s a great opportunity to ask a question like, “So what gets you through times like this, when you fall short? Where does your sense of meaning and purpose come from? Do have a basis for those things that won’t fall through?” It could be a great opportunity for you to then share how Christ was meant to fill that hole.

  1. Wisdom. I’m so thankful for the older mentors in my life who have given generously of their time to disciple me and care about my life. Some of these “mentors” are just older believers at church who tell me they’re praying for me and ask how I’m doing. As millennials, we need wisdom! We can use help as we navigate life, and as we grow in knowing the Bible and loving Christ. Practically speaking, non-millennials can bless millennials with wisdom by perhaps just praying for millennials and by going out of their way to ask how they’re doing. Perhaps it’s worth praying about whether God might have you disciple a millennial, or serve with the church youth group from time to time.

I hope those are helpful thoughts, Bill. Again, I’m touched by your heart for millennials, I think that can only be from the Lord, and I’m confident he will (and has already) use you to bless and help many as they seek to find meaning, purpose, and value for their lives.

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