I recently watched the video of Mr. Andy Bannister’s lecture, “What If I Don’t Need God?” What about avoidance?
@MontyD I think there are times when we must allow people to take the road apart from God if that is there choice - at least for a time. And other times when we should exhort them / reach out. And I think it takes wisdom to know which is wisest. I remember a story from D. L. Moody - his son had been refusing to come to Christ as long as Moody badgered him. But after a friend suggested he give his son some space, after a certain space of time his son did become Christian.
But - to the avoidance tactic, a few thoughts:
- people decide to become Christian for 3 core reasons (as Tim Keller says) - social, rational and emotional - if someone is avoiding Christianity, perhaps we could surround them with Christian community - invite them out to bowling or movies with our Christian friends - get that social component of the Christian faith into their lives a bit - surround them with people who shine Jesus’ light
- understand why they are avoiding Christianity and attempt to provide reasons that would be truly convincing for them personally
- live our lives in such a way that they wish Christianity were true
- take a look at the Engel scale and consider how to best engage at this time in their life
A few additional resources you may find helpful below. Guiness talks about ‘signals of transcendence’ that cause a person to go from being disinterested (avoidance) to being a seeker. It is really seekers that are the easiest to reach out to.
A Lesson from Pascal
Since it sounds like you are dealing with modern pagans, here are some thoughts from Pascal you may find insightful.
Men despise religion. They hate it and are afraid it may be true. The cure for this is first to show that religion is not contrary to reason, but worthy of reverence and respect. Next make it attractive, make good men wish it were true, and then show that it is.
Apologetics is not just about answering peoples’ rational questions - it is about making them wish Christianity were true. And we should wish it were true! The Gospel is the most beautiful truth in the entire world.
Here is an article from Tim Keller explaining Pascal’s approach and a book that I personally enjoyed reading on the Pensees by Peter Kreeft. I think the imagination has a large role to play in this process of making people wish Christianity were true. For me, the ‘The Chronicles of Narnia’ by C. S. Lewis I read as a child always made me wish I could be in Narnia - they taught me the beauty of righteousness and goodness and even, in a way, of God. They sanctified my imagination. Lord of the Rings had a similar impact once I was already Christian. I read it regularly because it reminds me of the glory of a righteous king reigning on the throne and of a longing for things greater than this world.
Hope these thoughts are helpful - feel free to take the discussion to a deeper level or probe more deeply. Christ be with you.
“But the phrase “make good men wish it were true” gets across that this takes determination and ingenuity. We must know our culture—know its hopes—and then show others that only in Christ will their aspirations ever find fulfillment, that only in him will the plot lines of their lives ever have resolution and a happy ending.” Tim Keller
I am trying to learn a way to deal with an avoidance tactic that skeptics use.
@MontyD I’m not sure if there is anything that we can do to make someone quit avoiding God. They do have a choice in the matter. In his book Os Guiness talks about ‘signals of transcendence’ - worldview shattering events in a person’s life that cause them to open their mind up to the possibility of God once again. I pray that the Lord might send such a ‘signal of transcendence’ into this person’s life so that they could open their heart / mind up to God. It is heartbreaking to watch someone we love choose a road that we know leads to destruction. May Christ have mercy.
Persistence in prayer and in loving the individual / looking for ways to communicate truth that will do more than illicit reactions of scorn are what I would know to do. I recall a story from George Mueller where he prayed for 5 of his friends and they call eventually came to faith, 2 after he had died. And I have a good friend whose Dad has slowly opened up to Christ as my friend gently pressed him to consider the claims of Christ and prayed for him. So there is always hope. But in the end the person must choose to open their heart.
Mueller’s Persistent Prayer
In November 1844, I began to pray for the conversion of five individuals. I prayed every day without a single intermission, whether sick or in health, on the land, on the sea, and whatever the pressure of my engagements might be. Eighteen months elapsed before the first of the five was converted. I thanked God and prayed on for the others. Five years elapsed, and then the second was converted. I thanked God for the second, and prayed on for the other three. Day by day, I continued to pray for them, and six years passed before the third was converted. I thanked God for the three, and went on praying for the other two. These two remained unconverted.
Thirty-six years later he wrote that the other two, sons of one of Mueller’s friends, were still not converted. He wrote, “But I hope in God, I pray on, and look for the answer. They are not converted yet, but they will be.” In 1897, fifty-two years after he began to pray daily, without interruption, for these two men, they were finally converted—but after he died!
Man’s Father Persecutes Him But Accepts Christ Before Death
I have no way of verifying this story, but I really enjoyed it when I saw it. I think it demonstrates that there is always hope as we patiently love and pray for loved ones.
Maybe other members of the community have more personal experience they could share?
Over the years, I’ve had many friends and family members that sound like your friend. He sounds more than apathetic, your friend sounds hostile. So, is he hostile toward religion or toward God, or both?
I’ve found people like him often rail against the hypocrisy they perceive in preachers or in the people that sit in the pews. They love to tell stories about the greed of the preacher living in a huge estate and driving an expensive car, or the fact that he personally knows a church member who beats his wife.
I’ll say something like, "Well you know church is for sinners not for saints - but then I respond to his line of reasoning with a question that I was once asked.
A friend of mine, a Christian with a deep relationship with the Lord, once asked me: “Where can you find the most demons in this world?” After a short pause he answered his own question, “In Synagogues on Saturday and Churches on Sunday.”
That usually brings a halt to the person’s railing and allows me to re-cast the conversation and to start asking questions. (And if you think about it for a second my friend’s question makes perfect sense - what better place for Satan to try and destroy the People of God and plant false flags about who God really is than to lie about Him right from the church?)
What’s really your friend’s issue? Is there any way to get on the same side of the fence with him? Because people with his attitude are all bluster, but there is always a reason for their bluster, and until you find that reason, they will only harden their heart more and more.
So, looking at your example I’d say to your friend with a laugh, “Got something against used-car salesman?”
I’d follow-up by saying something like, “Okay. So you want to buy a used car, you’ve done your homework, you know exactly what your looking for and what price you’ll pay. You find the car, but then you decide not to buy it because you disrespect the salesman? That sounds foolish.”
Then stop talking and pray and let the Holt Spirit guide you. Your friend has a hard heart right now, so even though you’ve been talking with him for a long time, right now I’ll you can do is plant seeds.
In closing, I just remind people that we are all sinners, so don’t look for perfection in followers of Christ and that there are wolves in sheep’s clothing and many of them stand in pulpits and preach false gospels. Don’t look at Jesus through their eyes.
Can you think of any Scripture that will have meaning in your friend’s life? Plant that seed with him and pray that the Holy Spirit draws him to accept Jesus. God bless.
There’s evidence and then there’s proof.
@MontyD I appreciate your posts I can see your heart for your brother and for the lost and I agree that we should do all within our power to reach them. I simply think that sometimes people choose to be beyond reach - they don’t want to be reached. And it requires great wisdom to know how to engage them at that point - whether to give space or to press in. I pray that Jesus might grant you that wisdom and open your brother’s eyes and heart to His love and glory! Jesus, we know you know the number of hair’s on Monty’s brother’s head and all of his life and we pray with all of our hearts that you would draw this man to yourself and open His eyes and heart to Your goodness and glory.
You may find some thoughts on this thread about being Christ’s representatives versus rescuers helpful:
It is one thing to try to reach “people,” but another to try to reach my very own one and only brother.
@MontyD Thank you once again for sharing your concerns. I think you have misunderstood the distinction between a representative and a rescuer. The point is not that we should focus on our own safety or ease or feelings, but rather that we do not have the power to rescue another person’s soul. Only God can rescue. We represent God to the world - we are His ambassadors - exhorting and pleading on Christ’s behalf that others would come into the Kingdom. But ultimately God gives the increase.
I agree that the ‘halo approach’ is not holistic. Evangelism is ultimately both relational and proclamational - we must both live out our faith in a loving way and declare the truth of Christ. Love and truth work together.
I also take perishing souls very seriously, but sometimes in our zeal we can try to reach them in ways that actually only serve to push them further away. And I think that is where wisdom comes in. We are willing to lay down our lives to save lost souls, but we also know that if we are overly rash or foolish in our approach we may only alienate them further rather than actually drawing them near.
I think every individual is different. Some people need to be loudly and constantly exhorted. Others need to be given space and time to think and to consider. I don’t know your brother, but I pray that Christ would grant you wisdom to know how to reach him best - no matter what the cost.