Witnessing Using Truth in Other Worldviews


(SeanO) #1

I’ve been reading Os Guiness’ book ‘Fool’s Talk’ and he noted that often unbelivievers’ eyes are opened not through Christian material or sermons or books - but by reading challenging truth from within their own context. Guiness said “it is wiser to argue from the other person’s prophets, rather than our own”.

The most powerful example he used was the story of Issa - an eighteenth-century Haiku poet from Japan. Through a series of unfortunate events, Issa’s wife and five children all died. When he went to the Zen Master for advice, he was told “Remember the world is Dew”.

Dew is temporary - in the morning it melts away - only lasting a night. So too, said the Zen Master, are suffering and death - it is all an illusion. “Be more detached, and transcend the engagement of mourning that prolongs the grief” the Zen Master said.

These words did not comfort Isaa - he went home and wrote his most famous poem:

The world is dew.
The world is dew.
And yet.
And yet.

Guiness said that this one story in his book had turned people he has personally met away from Eastern philosophy and toward Jesus because it spoke to them in their own language.

What do you think of this idea of allowing people to hear their own prophets? Have you ever had the opportunity to do this? How?

Can you think of any other good examples?

I think the idea of speaking to people in their own language is very powerful.

(Seth Myers) #2

thanks, I love that example! To your question, I do recall how in the lecture on Hinduism in the RZIM Academy online Core Module, Ravi mentions how ironic it is that in a culture in which relationships and family are so prominent (esp. compared to western ‘individualist’ … think family, caste, etc.), when it comes to their gods, they are oddly quite distant. IN talking with Indian friends and students, I do find it odd how easily they admit how various of their gods are a little bad characters (KRishna is flirtatious with women, his father Brahma incestuous I believe). Per the patented RZIM worldview matrix (!) - 4 questions they must answer, being origins, destiny, meaning and morality - it is odd that they somehow have a higher sense of morality than their gods - where did that come from??

And I heard a similar note from Jo VItale I think, in discussing Islam, how once they get to paradise, Allah is pretty distant - he just ‘gives them stuff’ basically. Score one more for the community within the Trinity that we get to join.

(Arthur Tepichin) #3

I think it is important to be well informed of the world view of the person you are speaking to. To understand what common ground is already laid out. Such as the concept of one God between Muslims and Christians. To quote Nabeel Qureshi “… but is He Allah or is He Jesus?”
Also to understand what they view differently about your own world view (Muslim view of Jesus life, death, reserection). It is also critical to understand what will change in their life if they give up there current world view. To paraphrase from Nabeels book “No God but One Allah or Jesus” “Leaving Islam can cost you everything family, friends job … maybe even life itself”. I do think that using and examining aspects of other world views can lead them away from it and towards the Truth.

I left Islam because I studied Muhammad’s life. I accepted the Gospel because I studied Jesus’ life. #MyStory #SeekingAllahFindingJesus"

  • Nabeel Qureshi

(SeanO) #4

@Tepichin Praise God for His work in your life and for the way Nabeel’s book appears to have ministered to you. Yes - a large part of being able to speak prophetically within another worldview is understanding what words / concepts mean in that worldview. May the Lord use you to reach others by the same road that you have traveled!

(SeanO) #5

@Seth_Myers That is a good point that the gods in other religions are generally not as near - they are not ‘Immanuel - God with us’.

Regarding how ethical the gods are in Hinduism - I personally think that people make gods in their own image. If even the gods sin, how much easier is it for someone to justify their sin? Greco-Roman theology, Norse theology and Canaanite / Egyptian religion - I would hazard to say most non-Judeo-Christian religions before Christ - created gods who were little better than men.

As Calvin said - “the human heart is a factory for idols”. People have a hard time imagining Someone who is truly more righteous than they are - if they are messed up, the whole universe must be a mess.

But I think your approach is wise - “How is it that your sense of morality is higher than that of your gods?” That question could certainly cause some dissonance.

(Arthur Tepichin) #6

@SeanO I never knew Nabeel Qureshi and yet I miss him. His way with the spoke and written word was always loving. I had the privilege and honor to be on his launch team for his books.

(SeanO) #7

@Tepichin That is an honor indeed. I followed his video blog and was very moved and encouraged by his honor, devotion and love for the Lord and his family and look forward to meeting him one day in the Lord’s house.

(Ivy Tyson) #8

This is great food for thought, Sean! Thanks for posting.

In thinking about “using the other person’s prophets”, what came to mind for me was my time studying anthropology in college. As I learned the various theoretical lenses that inform cultural study and provide potential anchors for definitions of personhood, God helped me to see that most of these theories quite frankly just defeat themselves.

Oddly, this was a freeing realization for me, and I’m thankful that God gave it to me early in my studies, because without it I think that degree would have gone very differently. Rather than resisting what I was learning, I instead went the other direction – I learned as much about Darwin and Foucault and Marx as I could, and really tried to understand the potential repercussions of those ideas. Every time we got to a new theory I would treat it as if it was real. I’d ask questions like, “Alright, let’s say that’s true. So what does that mean for ___ ?”

The great part about this was that it really freed me up to just listen to the person I was talking to, and to be able to pray and hear their heart past the new words we were all learning and using. And it also showed just how quickly most people draw the line on an idea – they’re comfortable with some of the classroom applications of theory, but are very uncomfortable with some of the more extreme applications to things like ethics. Many of my friends ended up actively arguing against elements of a position they’d claimed to hold an hour before that. I don’t think that speaks poorly of them, so much as it shows that the education system we were in didn’t actually encourage us to really pursue ideas down to the ground.

I think that the strongest example of this for me was the many conversations I had around consciousness and cognitive evolution in my senior year. Being able to have friendly, interested, and open conversations with my classmates and professors around the limitations and holes in the prevailing theories was a real eye-opener for me. Most people I met were willing to admit that the current prophets of their field weren’t actually speaking truth about the human experience.

(Jimmy Sellers) #9


I know you are looking for contemporary or personal examples, but I would like to suggest that in a strange sort of way this is exactly what Paul was faced with, the truth of Torah and all that it entailed against the truths of Messiah. The difference being that the truth of Torah confirmed the truth of Messiah and Messiah confirmed the truth of Torah.
I think that the Bible has numerous examples of Paul confronting his world of Greeks, Romans and Jews with truths about their worldviews. The Greeks with their philosophy, the Romans with their Caesars and the Jews with their story of Israel all spoken with a careful eye towards the rhetoric and culture of his audience all with the desire that some would come to Christ.
This is an after thought. can we assume that all truths is God’s truth regardless of the source?

(SeanO) #10

@Ivy_Tyson That is certainly a blessing that you were able to engage honestly and deeply with modern thinkers without fear of their ideas leading you astray. And even more of a blessing that you were able to have open discussions with professors and colleagues.

Consciousness is certainly still an evasive field - some people seem to be reaching for quantum interactions to explain how self-consciousness works.

Did you find that any of those you interacted with were open to ideas from the Christian worldview? Did you ever find a way to bridge the gap between acknowledging the weaknesses of their views and having a discussion about what Christianity brings to the table? I find that is the most difficult part, perhaps we could learn from your experience.

(SeanO) #11

@Jimmy_Sellers Spot on - that is an example Os Guiness used in his book as well :slight_smile:

(Jimmy Sellers) #12

Do you think I need to send Os a bill? :grinning:

(SeanO) #13

Lol - I think it’s already been paid :slight_smile:

(Seth Myers) #14

Ivy - from anthropology to cognitive science - interesting journey! I got to meet a cultural anthropologist from the missions department at Asbury last fall, its nice to see the Christians represent themselves in the field. Owen Barfield’s “Saving the Appearances” is on my list of “should try to read sometime” for summer - sort of anthropological I believe.

(spoiler alert :slight_smile: sorry this may ramble a little bit! )
(here is a wiki soundbite on it: Saving the Appearances has in common with some thoughts of Teilhard de Chardin the understanding of idols as appearances having nothing within. “[A] representation, which is collectively mistaken for an ultimate – ought not to be called a representation. It is an idol. Thus the phenomena themselves are idols, when they are imagined as enjoying that independence of human perception which can in fact only pertain to the unrepresented.” )

I think it is in "Myth became fact’ essay of Lewis’s in God in the Dock where he states something like "if other religions’s mythological structure (dying god coming back to life, reinvigorating a dying creation thereby), then ‘so much the better for them’ not ‘the worse for Christianity.’ (actually, I think that’s a quote from a letter or something.
But in mainstream religions - Judeo-Christian and Hinduism(/Buddhism)Lewis at one point said they all boiled down to, one or the other. The exact mythological form is maybe not always as above (‘dying and rising god’) though he did state (very end of "Christian Apologetics’ essay in God in the Dock) that all universal religions need to have a “clear” ethical formulation, as well as address the mysteries of existence, a “thick” ness - clear and thick. Voodoo religions have the latter, atheists may claim to ahve the former, but only Christian and Hindu systems he claimed had both. But the Christian faith had so much more history on its side seemed one of the main reasons he chose that one after becoming convinced that some Gopd (or other) was real (see SUrprised by Joy). Sorry, I slip into CS Lewis course regurgitation mode sometimes - it was part of our online apologetics program at Houston Baptist … but cool stuff.
I was going to also try to go Daniel Dennett with your cognitive science remark (or, bring him in), but I know little from him. On the other hand, a Philosophy course I recently took online had this interesting summary of Pope John Paul’s summary of faith and reason - Fides et ratio - can be found. Below are some quotes from it, the main point of it all being: faith/revelation and reason - they complement each other. Modern trends towards epistemology and knowing capture just part of the picture, you need a more (medieval? ancient) inclusion of the study of being (Being) - to supplement such excursions into human rationality as Dennett does. (http://w2.vatican.va/content/john-paul-ii/en/encyclicals/documents/hf_jp-ii_enc_14091998_fides-et-ratio.html )

“Through philosophy’s work, the ability to speculate which is proper to the human intellect produces a rigorous mode of thought.” – “a core … principles of noncontradiction, finality, causality, as well as the concept of the person as a free and intelligent subject, with the capacity to know God, truth and goodness.” (4) “at the same time, the Church considers philosophy an indispensable help for a deeper understanding of the faith and for communicating the truth of the gospel to those who do not yet know it.”
“must not obscure the fact that reason, in its one-sided concern to investigate human subjectivity, seems to have forgotten that men and women are always called to direct their steps towards a truth which transcends them.” “Abandoning the investigation of being, modern philosophical research has concentrated instead upon human knowing. Rather than make use of the capacity to know the truth, modern philosophy has instead preferred to accentuate the ways in which this capacity is limited and conditioned.” (5) …

Is all truth God’s truth?