Death, the Unexpected Eventuality

Sometimes I arrogantly think death cannot surprise me. It’s a really stupid thought. A couple of months ago, two of my friends died. One, unexpectedly in an accident, and the other in a fight against cancer.

One was my buddy from high school. He was always up for talking about cars, going riding around, and never turned down a fishing trip. Time and life stepped in and my group of friends grew apart, as life went on. In that moment we came back together.

People grieve differently. I will get quiet, walking away to process it. If it hits really hard, then I’ll write a poem. My wife wanted to get a card. A nice gesture, but to me, it feels empty to get a sympathy card full of cliches.

I would rather have someone just sit with me and listen. Like Job’s friends in the the Bible. My friend Bobby listened to a rambling two hour monologue over the phone after my godson died. Other family came from hundreds of miles to just be there for us.

A week after my buddy’s death, Randal, Howls coauthor and coeditor, died of cancer. I thought of him daily, he was wrote down on my prayer list. Earlier that day, I had checked his Facebook page to see if I missed a post. Nothing since December, and it was a post that I would expect from him, a rant. Surely he was doing well, I thought.

It wasn’t well.

This is one thing that gives me hope at funerals, when I hear that they were in a saving relationship with God. If so, then I’ll know I will see them again. If not, never again, and the hope dies, and pain rises. With these two, I have some confidence, if not assurance. I’ll close with a poem I wrote after the funeral:

 

Did You Whisper?


My heart is heavy
and burdened
Lord.


Death after Death.

Twelve in Four.


Twelve people
gone in
four years time.

Whos next?
Tick-tock.

I have a hope.
I have a freedom.

My own death
does not
hold the grip
that it did.

I have died twice
already.

Is my hope
the same as
my friend’s
hope?

That is
my burden today.


I will see the others again.
They are where I will be.
Is Michael there?
Is Randal there?


Michael was pursuing you.
Seeking and knocking.
Did you whisper in his ear?
Did he turn and come near?


Did he know
his time had
arrived?

The seed was
being sown.
Did it take root?

Randal lived
on his terms.
As mortality
approached…

Did you whisper in his ear.
Did he turn and come near?

Was he lost or
a prodigal
far from home?

I joke
that I want to see
crooked halos
on saved sinners.

It’s a
plea
as well.

Did you whisper in his ear?
Did he turn and come near?

Was my hope
their hope?
Are they waiting
on me in the
Glory?

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What’s Holding Back Those Who’ve Thought It Through?

We’ve gotten to the final post of this series where we’ve been analyzing and answering why some people aren’t listening to the case for Christ. We’ve explored the systematic processing error that is cognitive biases, that three types of conscious unbelievers from Tim Keller’s book Preaching: Communicating Faith in an Age of Skepticism and Mark 4:15, are prone to. The types are the willfully rebellious, the unreasonable skeptic, and the willfully ignorant. The final type we’ll look at is different; they’re genuine.

8815533744_fa7fe5a687_zIt’s the person that is aware of most of, if not all, their biases. They’ve examined the evidence, dived into the philosophy, the theology, and how it fits with the world. They have come to their conclusions with well thought out reasons for not accepting it. They still consider every new piece of information that comes to light.

So, what could be stopping them?

Maybe they want a smoking gun piece of evidence. Or a voice from heaven directed to them in a public place. They could be putting their trust in science, believing that it will figure out the mysteries we have currently in the future.

There may be another reason.

Say you’ve read Cold-Case Christianity, God’s Crime Scene, and I Don’t Have Enough Faith to be an Atheist. Then you watched every one of William Lane Craig’s debates on YouTube. You checked bibliographies, read opposing views by Bart Ehrman, Christopher Hitchens or Richard Dawkins. You may think the evidence for is better than the evidence against.

That leaves you with a decision to make. To accept it, or reject it. Intellectually, you accept that Jesus and God are real. All the points lead to this being true, so what happens if you accept and put your trust in Jesus as a person and not a concept alone?

What does it mean if the God the inference of the evidence matches the God of the Bible who created everything?

What does it mean when you see thousands of years of prophecies are pointing to one historical figure, Jesus of Nazareth? The same person that history records being killed by crucifixion. That there was a darkness and earthquake as recorded by an extrabiblical source. That no one can see the body of Jesus because it’s not in the tomb or an ossuary. The disciples that claimed to see him and died because of it when rejection would’ve saved them. That James and Paul, hardened skeptics, believed after seeing him after he died.

It means there must’ve been some truth to his words. That he was the Son of God here to die for you so you can have eternal life. If you accept that, what does it mean for you?

That you or any other person are an accident of nature?

Or that you have tremendous value.

God wants a relationship with you.

Your world will not be the same.

It’s the last part that worries people. If no one is an accident, then it follows that they were created for a purpose. If God the Son incarnated as a man to pay the penalty for your sins on the cross, then you must be incredibly valuable to him. So is your best friend, and your worst enemy.

If you follow Jesus and do as he says, it won’t always be rainbows and puppies. You’ll see this life as a fleeting moment in light of eternity. Because you’ve been forgiven, you’ll be called to forgive. You’ll have to let go of hate, grudges, and anger, it’s a process, and on this side of it, I can tell you it’s easier than you think.

You’ll have a new nature, and as you grow, the old you will start to flake off, exposing someone pristine underneath. Is it fear that keeps you away? Fear of the change? Or the desire to not let go of something or someone you know isn’t good for you?

In the end, it still falls to a heart issue. Do you have a heart issue? Is it due to an ‘all about me’ attitude? Maybe it’s an anger issue? What is it? Ask yourself that.

The Willfully Ignorant

We’ve been looking at the receptiveness, or lack of it, in people over the course of the past two posts. The idea came from the Parable of the Sower in Mark 4:14-20. We’re looking in particular at verse 15, the conscious unbelievers.

Some people are like seed along the path, where the word is sown. As soon as they hear it, Satan comes and takes away the word that was sown in them.

To recap, we’ve looked at those who are willfully rejecting Christ, and the heart issues underneath it that are fueling their biases. Then we looked at those that reject the evidence of Christ out of hand without much consideration. This comes with it’s own set of biases.

Remember, cognitive biases are from a system error in our thought processes like memory, attention, and attribution. It’s a two-edged sword, sometimes shortcuts are necessary, like making decisions in the face of a charging lion. You don’t put much thought in that. In this post, we’re going to look where I suspect many people fall, rejection due to imitation.

It’s not much of a secret that our attention spans are shorter. The internet is a blessing and a curse. All the information is a click away, available, and you don’t have to remember it. We also don’t really think through things as thoroughly as we used to.

We collect information, mash it up, and spout it without much, if any, fact checking. Who has time for that? I have cat videos to watch on Facebook. It’s opinion by consensus.

One of the most obvious biases at play is the bandwagon effect. If you’ve heard the term, then you probably know what it means. Adopting a belief because others do. Paul quotes the Greek poet, Menander, in 1st Corinthians 15:33 when he writes, “Bad company corrupts good character.” That’s the same principle in effect with the bandwagon effect.

A bias that isn’t obvious to anyone is the blindspot bias. We see others’ biases much easier than our own. Try this, look for your own biases and find ways to counteract them. The anchoring bias is one I have to watch for. That’s why I stressed thinking like a detective in the last post.

Stereotyping is another bias; it fits a mental profile on the first impression, so the person goes with it. Blondes are dumb, people with glasses are smart (people thought that about me until I showed them my report card), and gingers have no soul. All Latinos are here illegally, black people steal, Democrats hate America, Republicans love war and want Jesus for president. It goes on and on and on. It’s pervasive.

These at the heart are blind group think. Sadly, they’re found in every group. They either haven’t vetted the information or have never been taught. Bible verses are taken out of context, without anyone looking beyond it. I run into that a lot more than I would care to. For example, loving your enemies (Matthew 5:44) ties into loving your neighbor (Luke 10:27), who your neighbor is (Luke 10:25-37), and which of the four Greek words used for love is used in those verses.

The willfully ignorant won’t go deeper than that.The Willfully Ignorant

Then it’s justified with the confirmation and selective perception biases. The last two posts covered the confirmation bias. Selective perception is allowing our expectations to influence our perceptions.  You expect the opposing sports team to cheat so you see “every infraction” and suspect the referees were bought off.

There is a saying that you’ll find what you look for. Someone cuts you off in traffic, well they’re obviously a jerk. What you may not know is that their kid was bit by a snake and they’re rushing to the ER.

Being willfully ignorant is at the heart of rejecting Christ by consensus. You have to learn about and meet him before passing judgment.  This type is the opposite of our final type that we’ll go over in the next post. In it we’ll look at those who “have their decision and these are the reasons why.” With it, we’ll close the four part series.

When Skepticism Leads to a Closed Mind

In the previous post, we looked at the cognitive biases of the mind and the underlying heart issues. Remember, a cognitive bias is a processing glitch. Jesus characterized the type we’re looking at as the “Path” or “Road” soil, nothing gets in, from Mark 4. We’re still looking at verse 15, “Some people are like seed along the path, where the word is sown. As soon as they hear it, Satan comes and takes away the word that was sown in them.

 

10757623486_cb6c4f25a9_z

The last post was about those who say, ‘I know and I don’t care’. This one is about the type that says, “it can’t be proven” or “it’s false”. It stems mostly from a rebellion of the mind, and it can get tribal. Politics is a good example of that.

 

In this issue—rejecting Christ—there are six biases in play:

The anchoring bias, going with and allowing the first piece of information to influence you. Suppose you see a link on Facebook that says Jesus is a copycat of pagan myths. Everything you see after that is shaded in that lens despite any evidence to the contrary. You dropped your mental anchor on that piece of information.

Rather than dropping anchor, be a detective, make a note of it and continue the search for evidence. Then see where it leads. Pull a piece out, see if it changes direction or is still the same conclusion. I wrote about that in Investigating Christianity. Once we fixate, the next bias tends to feed that fixation.

The confirmation bias, only listening to information that confirms our preconceptions. It’s evident everywhere in daily life. You research a car you always wanted, that brand is the best ever, despite the amount of recalls on it. Your boyfriend is so nice, he’s the one, everyone saying he’s been going behind your back is lying. A good Christian casemaker doesn’t ignore the arguments against Christianity, they evaluate them. Investigating all the evidence and coming to a reasonable conclusion is how to defeat it.

The choice-supportive bias ties into it a bit, it’s where you feel good about a choice despite its flaws. Your spouse hits you sometimes, but they’re “not that bad”. These are dangerous biases that go down to a tribal level.

It’s seen in politics a lot, where a politician you like makes decisions you wouldn’t tolerate from another, yet you still support them. This is why I don’t play in politics anymore, the blind tribalism got tiring. Where do these point? What’s the center of it?

It’s the emotional investment in select information. The stronger you feel about something, the less engaged your neocortex‒the logical part of your brain‒is. It creates an emotional blind spot. Belief is fine, but only after reasoning through all the evidence, not just a single piece.

The availability heuristic is also at play, basing a judgment on limited info that leads to poor estimates. We all should all watch for it. On a personal level, it’s when you only have a limited side of the story. On a bigger scale, it will help you if you picture a circle. That’s the world of information. Place a smaller circle inside it. That’s the information that you have in comparison. It can lead to nihilism.

The Greek philosopher Socrates said, “The only true wisdom is knowing you know nothing.” Skeptics love this quote. It’s good to question. However, at a certain point, it’s reasonable to accept something when it’s beyond a reasonable doubt. Face it, we’ll always have questions.

If we don’t have questions and accept something wholeheartedly, then it may be the bandwagon effect at work. That bias is where you accept a belief because others do. Tribalism again. Do you go one way because of your friends or family? Or did you jump from one bandwagon to another?

Recency is the tendency to weigh newer information heavier than older data. The danger is that the older information was heavily evaluated and yet still stands firm. The gnostic gospels, for example, are dated later than the four in the Bible. Mark was written within 10-20 years of Jesus’ death and resurrection. So was Luke, it was written before he wrote Acts, which documented Paul’s travels before his execution in AD68. Look in the New International Version of the Bible, and you’ll see footnotes and sections where scholars show where different words or phrases are used, and what sections aren’t in the earliest manuscripts. Contrary to popular belief, the Bible is a very heavily evaluated book.

The core of these last three biases is decisions from limited information and peer pressure. It depends on the depth of one’s thought. We can make a claim, but it takes more work to support it with reason. Have you noticed the sliding scale of intensity, from deep to shallow. There’s a surprising depth to it.

I have two more subtypes to examine and not enough space. Next week we’ll continue with the imitator and the thinker types. My question for you is do you fall into any of these subtypes or know someone who does?

Speaking With the Stubborn

Have you ever tried to persuade someone and nothing changes their mind? You appeal to their emotions, form logical arguments, present every piece of evidence short of a video. Facebook is really bad when it comes to memes that are so easy to knock down, and when you do, nothing changes. It’s frustrating.

The answer is simple and complex. There are at least two ways to look at this. They’re obstinately hard-headed, or there are deeper issues at play. We’re going to dig. It’s important for a few reasons: first, it’ll identify our own issues; secondly, we’ll understand the person we’re talking to; and thirdly, we’ll be able to speak to them on a deeper level rather than talking at them.

Jesus taught a parable about a sower scattering seeds through a field. Some landed on the road, some in the rocks, some in the weeds, and some in the good soil. The sower is us when we talk about the Gospel and the seed is the Gospel.  We’re focusing and going deeper on verse 15 in Mark 4; “Some people are like seed along the path, where the word is sown. As soon as they hear it, Satan comes and takes away the word that was sown in them.

Tim Keller in his book Preaching: Communicating Faith in an Age of Skepticism breaks down the four soils described in the parable even further. I’m going to look at it from a different perspective, from our cognitive biases. We all have them, and even our biases have biases. If you want your brain to hurt, look them up, find yours and find a way to combat them.

What is a cognitive bias? It’s a mental system error in our thought processes like memory, attention, and attribution that affects judgment. It’s when the mind takes shortcuts to reach decisions.

They’re not the same as logical fallacies. That comes from errors in a logical argument. Logic can help in mitigating biases. However, we make too many quick decisions to think that we’re thinking logically all the time. Those decisions are generally in the lower levels of the brain. That’s not a bad thing, some decisions need to be made quickly, like when jerking the wheel of the car to avoid hitting something.

The first type of receptiveness is characterized by the hard packed road. Nothing is getting in. Tim calls those of this type the conscious unbelievers, skeptics, and rejectors of the faith. Then he breaks this group into five subtypes. We’re looking at the first subtype in this post, those in willful rebellion. Is that you?

Willful Rebellion

This type knows, or think they know, but just don’t care. In this, several biases are at play. 366927039_0a227467f4_zStarting with the Overconfidence bias–too confident in their own abilities, thinking they don’t need God. That was me at one point.

Personal Preference bias–how we perceive our actions as opposed to what we see others do. Humans are really good at rationalizing and justifying bad behavior that we wouldn’t accept from others. Yeah, been there too.

Self-Serving bias–when things are good, it’s because of our intelligence and abilities. When things are bad, though? Well…we just didn’t have control over that, it’s not our fault. Sometimes that is the case; it also means that sometimes we did mess up.

Blind Spot bias–not even seeing our biases, a scary one. This holds the others together, where while I can spot your particular biases a mile away, I can’t see my own. That’s why I issued the challenge earlier to explore and combat your biases.

These four biases, distilled to their essences, point to an underlying heart issue. They all stem from our focus on ourselves to the point we have essentially put ourselves in God’s place. Then we justify it with four more biases.

False Consensus–the overestimation of how many people agree with us. We hear it when someone says, “Well, everyone knows…” and you can probably finish the sentence. It can happen when we surround ourselves with others like us, so everyone else must be the same as our group, right? Broaden your horizons, serve and eat with the homeless, speak with the powerful, comfort the hurting, and hold a conversation with someone from a different culture.

This rolls over into the Bandwagon bias, which is essentially, “everyone else is doing it so I will too.” Whenever someone presents contradictory information, it’s ignored in favor of what we want to hear. We’re all in danger of that one, especially on the information superhighway.

The final bias for this type is Selective Perception. It’s where we allow our expectations to influence our perceptions. Think about the time someone said, ‘Of course they did that, they’re ________.’ Or how about this, are you an optimist or a pessimist?

These boiled down show our heart’s desire for justification. In this type, it’s justifying their self-centeredness. There is hope for this type, though it’s not anything that we can do other than praying for them.

Here’s why, it’s a heart issue, something at their core that needs changed. We can change minds, but we cannot change the hearts of others. While we can work on our own hearts, it’s a holding action. A better option is a heart transplant.

“The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?” Jeremiah 17:9 NIV

We’ve seen how far it will go to hold us in place. Here’s how it can be fixed.

“And I will give them one heart [a new heart] and I will put a new spirit within them; and I will take the stony [unnaturally hardened] heart out of their flesh, and will give them a heart of flesh [sensitive and responsive to the touch of their God],” Ezekiel 11:19 AMP

God is the heart surgeon that is able to help the sick in heart. Some say be true to yourself, however, what if you’re a horrible person? Should you still stay true to yourself? Or will you justify it in pseudo-spiritual language like, “God knows my heart.”

He does, and that should concern you as we’ve seen above. The only time it shouldn’t is when with your heart–the core of your being–you put your trust in and rely on Jesus. Then there will be true justification before God (Romans 10:10).

This was going to be one post on the five subtypes, but we dug so deep that for the sake of time, I’ll split it up. The next post will deal less with the heart and more with the head.

The Dangers of Giving In

Have you ever been tempted? Most likely you have, and it was probably by food. That’s a weakness of mine for sure. It can lead to more serious issues as well.

Dangers of Temptation

Giving in to it can damage your life, and relationships to God, family, and friends. A one-night stand that devastates your spouse. The impulse-buying that wrecks your finances. The fact that every addiction began with just one drink or hit. Friends are pushed away, families are broken, and if you’re a Christ-follower then your representation of Christ is damaged.

How It Starts

“When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it.” Genesis 3:6 NIV

It was something that was available, desirable, attractive, and in the previous five verses, some pressure was involved. You can remove two of those and lessen the chances of giving in. If the pressure or availability isn’t there, then the impulse will weaken.

What’s The Harm?

“When tempted, no one should say, “God is tempting me.” For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; but each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.” James 1:13-15

Lay’s Potato Chips had a slogan, “I bet you can’t just eat one”, a few years ago. You’d get hungry, 

take a bite, finish the chip, then another, and…soon the bag was empty. It’s a series of compromises, small at first, and then get easier to rationalize.

“It won’t hurt to flirt a little, nothing will come of it.”

“Just one drink, then I’m going home.”

Afterwards, you’ll learn and stop, or escalate. If you’re caught in a compromising situation, then the damage is done. I’m going to give you the secret to never getting caught.

Ready?

 

Don’t do it. Simple, huh?

Sorta.

Temptation works on our weaknesses, our addictions, the hard-to-control urges. Desserts, alcohol, shopping, porn, TV, etc. If you know your weakness, then you can put some safeguards in place.

For example, you’re married, but the new girl sure is cute, or you travel a lot and are lonely. In the first situation, avoid or and keep it professional. In the second, stay out of places where singles hang out, like clubs or bars. Travel with someone who’ll keep you accountable.

It also attacks your strengths, too. Overconfidence can lead to an overestimation of your abilities. “I’d never do that.” A lot of famous people thought that and BAM, their affairs were trending online. Pride goes before the fall.

What Do I Do?

Assess and have safeguards in place. Be accountable to someone who will call you out. Your life should be an open book to your spouse; the only thing you keep from them is what gift you got them. Do not give the accuser, Satan, a foothold.

What worked with Adam and Eve, he tried with Jesus. The difference is, it didn’t work. Jesus stood on scripture and corrected Satan’s out-of-context scripture. The thought pops in your head, “they won’t notice if I take a box of pens from the office supply closet”. Counter it with ‘thou shall not steal’. “Everyone else is doing it,” will probably follow. Personalize Romans 12:2 or Ephesians 5:11 like this:

I will not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of my mind. Then I will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.”

If it gets to be more than you think you can stand, use the ‘Joseph Method’ from Genesis 39:10. Run away. Pastor Rod says to shout “I love my wife,” so they’ll never flirt with you again. Still, if the option is there, leave. You can’t fall if you’re not there.

I wrote this because we all face temptation. It doesn’t go away, even for Christians. Broken homes, divorce, jail, unemployment, those times of pleasure come with a cost. Think about this…what will you lose if you give in?

Are You Strong or Tough?

When you think of someone who’s strong, who do you picture?

Got it? Now ask yourself, what makes them strong? Why do you think that? This was from a conversation I had with my wife on a date.

The thought was someone was stronger than her. Except, the person she was comparing herself to wasn’t stronger than her. In all honesty, she’s actually stronger than I am.

She told me that they had lived a hard life. She began making a list of bad things that had happened to them. It sounded a lot like my own life. I told her that she was still the stronger one.

Enduring trials and life’s hardships do make you tough. I’m not denying that, however, that’s not what makes you strong. There is a difference.

Strength comes from not only enduring the harshness of life, but to come out of it a better person. If you remain the same, become bitter, or never try to climb out of it, then you’ll never get any stronger.

The world will crush you. Death is inevitable. There isn’t anything admirable about being angry, bitter, and self-serving.

That’s easy to do.

If you can be hit hard, get up, and still give joy and hope as you move forward; that’s strength.  When life steps on you, and you still want to help others, that’s strength. When you have no reason to get up, to learn, and move forward in a positive direction despite your past, that’s harder to do.

That’s why it takes strength.

 

How To Take A Stand

You’re in jail, and you know you’ll die there. The final part of your life has been about a central issue and you worry that it will die with you. Unless…you have a legacy. People who will pick up the baton and carry on the race after you’ve fallen.

Security Guard

That’s the backdrop of 2nd Timothy, the Apostle Paul’s last letter. The central issue was guarding the Gospel. As apologists, or to use J. Warner Wallace’s term, Christian Case-Makers, that’s what we do. We guard it from outside attacks, inside attacks, and strengthen our own faith through it.

I originally looked at 2nd Timothy 2:23-25 for a way to deal with squabbles at work. While applicable there, its context is in defending the faith. How can we guard the Gospel? To summarize before we expand; by picking our battles with the right attitude, and ability with a goal in mind. This will be almost universally applicable as you’ll see.

Pick Your Battles

Don’t have anything to do with foolish and stupid arguments, because you know they produce quarrels. 2nd Timothy 2:23 NIV

On social media sites like Facebook and Twitter, arguments start and devolve really quickly into anger and pointlessness. YouTube is infamous for attacks in the comments. In the end, you’ve wasted energy and time for nothing. It’s worse when the other person enjoys winding people up, manipulating them for their entertainment.

This is why you have to pick your battles. Ask yourself if it’s an area of tradition or opinion. Is it a non-negotiable, an area that if it’s gone, everything falls apart?

An example of this is the deity of Christ and the Resurrection as compared to method of baptism or church attire. The first is a core doctrine of the faith, the second is a tradition, and the third is a matter of preference. It’s majoring in the minors. Which is of more importance?

We have to gauge the person we’re addressing as well. The Four Soils parable in Mark 4 is a good metric; rigid, shallowly receptive, receptive but overwhelmed, and open enough to consider what you say. If it’s been a repeated conversation with no give from them, then they may not be ready. If you see something so blatantly out of context, they either aren’t knowledgeable in it, or trying to wind someone up. This leads to anger and fights that hurt our example to non-Christians.

The Attitude Needed

“And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful.” 2nd Timothy 2:24 NIV

“The servant of the Lord must not be quarrelsome…” Honestly, that’s a good attitude to have overall. Who likes to be around argumentative people? Can you have a legitimate conversation with them or do they just dispute everything you say?

Being nice is good, kind and gentle is even better. However, if you get angry easily, then your attitude isn’t ready. I get annoyed easy which is why self-control is needed. Fortunately, it’s a fruit of the Spirit that growing Christians have. That’s a good thing because I sure didn’t have much of it before.

Then you can still be kind, not trying to hurt them, so you can engage them civilly. A wild fighter flails away. A calm, focused one delivers precise strikes. Same with dialogue, if you intend it to be meaningful.

Which is better?

This leads to knowing what to say and being the right person for the job. You can have the knowledge, and the skill, but without the other’s trust, your effectiveness is limited. On the other hand, you can have their trust, but not the ability (ow…my pride).

This means a few things: know your stuff about the non-negotiables (including arguments against), and know the history of the traditions and know it inside and out. It’s a process, a learning curve, you probably won’t be on the level of a college trained theologian..yet.

Plus, you’ll have your particular areas of interests where you’ll have more understanding. If it’s a philosophical argument, I’m good at a very elementary level. If it’s evidential, then I’m a bit better in that arena. However, my strength is when I have time to weave apologetics, theology, philosophy, and evangelism into a post.

Patience is key, frustration only hurts the movement of the conversation. Rather, forgive slights and lack of knowledge, and be gentle. We all are guilty of being ignorant in other areas. Let them teach you by asking them questions, so you can find common ground, areas that need addressed, and areas that need to be set aside.

How To Engage

“Opponents must be gently instructed,…” 2nd Timothy 2:25 NIV

“I thought we weren’t supposed to fight,” you may ask. About trivial things and certain people, yes, that is true. Some things you have to stand against, like murder, rape, slavery, and abuse. stand-up-for-what-we-believe-captain-america-daily-quotes-sayings-pictures-810x1048 There is a saying, ‘Stand for something or fall for anything.’ I thought Thorin had said it, but couldn’t find it. I did find this, “Fill your life with purpose. Without purpose man is just an empty vessel filled with maggots.”

He’s always had a way with words. The thing is that some things you plant your feet and tell the other, “No. You move.” Other things, you have to move on, or not even worry about it.

Then you have those that are receptive, and aren’t opponents in the traditional sense. They just have an opposing view. These, we question, listen, learn and guide; all with politeness and respect. Not rude, nor rough, but kindly and without arrogance. The sum total of our interactions is to get them to think about and through our point.

It’s an economy of thought. They deposit an idea, thinking through it is equivalent to interest building up. Answering a question is like withdrawing the amount of interest to transfer over. All benefit from this.

Attitude In Action

The Asbury commentary reads that the Lord’s servant (a Christian) is characterized as a shepherd of words, not a gladiator. The goal is to bring back lost sheep, not kill them and make an example out of them. It kinda hurts the goal of bringing people to Christ. Fear of man is a poor tool for a true conversion. The focus is hopeful, not resentful. They’re captive and this is a rescue mission.

Why?

“…in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth” 2nd Timothy 2:25 NIV

Why do we try to persuade people? For us as Christians, it hinges on this: “Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me,” in John 14:6.

We want them to consider a better way by following Jesus. To know the Truth that is Jesus. Truth by its nature is exclusionary, shades of it still end in absolute truth or falsehood.

To have the Life that is more than now, but eternally. The opposite is death, eternally.

It’s a rescue mission, except who we go after has the option to say no. It’s not compulsory, we just plead, and the individual has the final say. Not us, not even God. Hell is when God lets us have our own way—to not have a relationship with him, so he separates from us. C.S Lewis wrote that it’s when God says, ‘Let thy will be done.’

He loves you enough to give you a choice. To force you into Heaven would make you miserable since you’re with someone you don’t want to be with. So, like marriage is an example of the depth of a relationship with Christ, divorce could be thought of being like the final separation. Off the path, without knowledge of, and away from the source of life, being forever separated in a place that wasn’t even intended for you, but for fallen angels.

Satan doesn’t rule Hell. He’s destined for imprisonment there. His pride led him there, and he wants to bring as many with him as he can. The war is won, but the battle continues, and we—the once wounded—are rescuing those who are still wounded.