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Learning Evangelism from G. K. Chesterton and C. S. Lewis

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This is a guest post by Dan DeWitt, dean of Boyce College at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. His newest book is Jesus or Nothing.


Two Unlikely Friends

H. G. Wells and G. K. Chesterton were dear friends despite their categorically different worldviews. After Chesterton’s death, Wells said, “From first to last he and I were very close friends . . . I never knew anyone so steadily true to form as G. K. C.” They maintained a love and respect for one another even as they often challenged one another in print.

In fact, Chesterton’s famous work, The Everlasting Man, was a response to Wells’s naturalistic summary of humanity in An Outline of History. The two books share a surprising influence in the life of young girl in the Bronx; one directly and one indirectly. As a prodigious eight year old, Joy Davidman, at her father’s request, read Wells’s work in its entirety. Upon completion she announced that she had adopted an atheistic worldview following in the footsteps of her skeptic father.

Back in Britain, C. S. Lewis considered Chesterton’s rebuttal to Wells a significant contribution in his own conversion to Christianity. And the later influence of Lewis’s writings would also cross the Atlantic and eventually impact the same home in the Bronx. Lewis’s simple presentation of the Christian faith helped to lead Joy on her journey to faith. The two later met and were eventually married, bringing the literary influence of worldviews full circle. And, as they say, the rest is truly history.

It could be easy to miss some evangelistic principles from this story because of the larger-than-life intellects and international platforms of the personalities previously mentioned. But there is much to learn and apply.

1. Relationships

Chesterton and Lewis were both known for not only befriending skeptics, but for actually delighting in these relationships. They committed their lives to genuine and caring relationships with people who held contrary truth claims. By the way, Jesus was kind of known for doing the same thing. All three model a way forward for sharing the gospel with people who think our beliefs are delusional.

The way is love. As the Apostle Paul said, we can have the tongue of angels but if we don’t have charity our words are meaningless. It is really impossible to say we love skeptics if we don’t actually know any. And I think this entails much more than the normal “drive by evangelism” approaches of previous generations. Until we really love unbelievers, all of our quick gimmicks will likely fall short.

If your relationship with a skeptic is contingent upon them accepting the gospel then you are starting in the wrong place. Your love for them must transcend these fundamental differences. This is not to imply compromise, but rather a life-long commitment that is motivated by biblical compassion.

2. Revelation

In a letter Lewis once penned to a friend who was drifting from orthodoxy, he said, “We have no abiding city even in philosophy: all passes except the Word.” As a public intellect, Lewis understood where his ultimate authority was found. “Art consists of limitation,” Chesterton once said, “The most beautiful part of every picture is the frame.” The biblical framework provides the necessary, and according to Chesterton, beautiful, limitation of our apologetics.

In this way, apologetics is really applied theology. It is the application of Scriptural principles to contemporary questions. And evangelists are never less effective than when they depart from the bedrock of biblical truth. All passes except the Word. That’s why one of the best things you can do if you want to share the gospel with skeptics is to read, understand, and apply the Bible every day.

3. Reason

Perhaps this is why many consider the careful Christian thought and writings of C. S. Lewis to make it possible for them to be “intellectually satisfied” as believers. Lewis helped many understand Mere Christianity as it relates to all of life, including the doubts we often face. This reminds me of the Apostle Peter’s charge to be prepared to give a reason for our hope with humility. If we are to love our neighbor as ourselves we will be compelled to search diligently for the answers they are seeking.

Sadly, sometimes believers treat the gospel as if it is a fragile heirloom to be carefully protected and preserved for future generations. This should not be so. The gospel is neither intimidated nor overshadowed by rival truth claims. With Scripture as our foundation, we are to reason with those who ask about the hope we have found in the gospel. A love for God and neighbor compels us to listen and respond.

4. Rhetoric

The Apostle Paul said that we are to “season our words with salt” so that we can make the most of our opportunities with “outsiders” (Colossians 4:4-6). Like salt, our words are to draw attention to the natural qualities of the gospel content. We don’t contribute to the gospel message. We invite people to “taste and see that the Lord is good.”

I think we can find a better way to do evangelism with “outsiders” if we begin by discarding the kind of monologue approaches that have typified evangelistic programs of the past and search for inroads into meaningful dialogue. In a progressively post-Christian culture, we no longer enjoy a biblically literate audience ready to listen to our ready-made outlines. But in the context authentic relationships we can find an “evangelistic sweet spot” in the overlap of revelation, reason, and rhetoric.

Though we will likely never establish the sort of platform of Chesterton or Lewis, through their examples we may find the kind of confidence that compels us to cross our yard and begin a friendship with that neighbor who has made it clear that they don’t believe in God. You’ll probably encounter a lot of questions about your faith in the process, but don’t fear. The gospel is the power of God unto salvation for all who believe: of this we need not be ashamed.


Dan DeWitt (PhD, Southern Seminary) is the dean of Boyce College, the undergraduate school of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, where he teaches courses on worldview, philosophy, apologetics, and C. S. Lewis. He is the author of Jesus or Nothing.

April 8, 2014 | Posted in: AAA - BLOG UPDATE,Apologetics,Books,Church History,Evangelism & Missions,Life & Doctrine,Ministry,Theology | Author: Crossway Author @ 8:30 am | 0 Comments »

Weekly Specials – 4/7/14

Crossway’s weekly specials are available to members of Crossway Impact. You can also find this week’s featured resources with participating online retailers such as AmazonBarnes & NobleBookshoutChristianbook.comeChristianiBooks (Apple)Vyrso (at each individual retailer’s discretion). Discounted prices available through 4/13/14.


Proclaiming a Cross-centered Theology

By Mark Dever, J. Ligon Duncan, R. Albert Mohler Jr., C. J. Mahaney

E-book: $14.99 $4.99

Developing and preaching a cross-centered theology is critical, for by Christ’s atonement the church lives or dies. Leading voices in evangelical Christianity elaborate on the church’s need for a fully biblical theology.

Contributions by John Piper, R. C. Sproul, John MacArthur, Thabiti M. Anyabwile

Buy: E-book

 

Biblical Foundations for Manhood and Womanhood

Edited by Wayne Grudem

E-book: $13.99 $1.99

Sixteen respected men and women of God apply the biblical view of manhood and womanhood in areas that concern pastors–from the personal to the practical.

Contributions by Wayne Grudem, Bruce A. Ware, John Piper, Dan Doriani, Peter R. Jones, Daniel R. Heimbach

Buy: E-book

 

The Message of the New Testament: Promises Kept

By Mark Dever, Foreword by John MacArthur

E-book: $19.99 $4.99

Mark Dever surveys the historical context, organization, and theology of each New Testament book in light of God’s Old Testament promises. His message is that of the New Testament itself, one of hope fulfilled.

“Dever’s approach is thematic without ignoring the literary and theological structure of the books. A stimulus to doctrinal preaching.”
Graeme Goldsworthy, Former Lecturer in Old Testament, Biblical Theology, and Hermeneutics, Moore Theological College

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Stand: A Call for the Endurance of the Saints

Edited by John Piper, Justin Taylor

E-book: $12.99 $1.99

These calls to godly endurance uphold its value and beauty while bearing personal witness to its power. Stand will solidify rugged, Christ-exalting perseverance in everyone who is weary in this vacillating generation and who dreams of a culture-shift toward lifelong faithfulness.

Contributions by Jerry Bridges, Randy Alcorn, Helen Roseveare, John Piper, John MacArthur

Buy: E-book

 

April 7, 2014 | Posted in: AAA - BLOG UPDATE,Book Deals,Books,Impact Specials,Weekly Specials | Author: Matt Tully @ 8:30 am | 0 Comments »

Christ in All of Scripture – Exodus 3:13-16

 

 

Exodus 3:13-16

Then Moses said to God, “If I come to the people of Israel and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ what shall I say to them?” God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM.” And he said, “Say this to the people of Israel, ‘I AM has sent me to you.’” God also said to Moses, “Say this to the people of Israel, ‘The LORD, the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has sent me to you.’ This is my name forever, and thus I am to be remembered throughout all generations. Go and gather the elders of Israel together and say to them, ‘The LORD, the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, of Isaac, and of Jacob, has appeared to me, saying, “I have observed you and what has been done to you in Egypt.


Naming has great importance in the Bible. In the garden of Eden, the giving of names demonstrates lordship over the creation (Gen. 1:26–27; Gen.2:19, 23; Gen. 3:20) and can often relate to hopes (Gen. 4:1), memories (Gen. 35:18), or prophecies (Isa. 7:14; Matt. 1:21). In naming, one’s character is revealed.

Moses’ question is therefore supremely important: what is the name, the character, of this God of whom I will speak? God’s response seems enigmatic. But notice how the revelation of God’s name builds: “I am who I am” (Ex. 3:14a); “Say this . . . , ‘I am has sent me to you’” (Ex. 3:14b); “Say this . . . , ‘The Lord [I am], the God of your fathers’” (Ex. 3:15, 16). In other words, this living, personal God who revealed himself to Abraham and made covenant with him is the God who is moving to deliver his people now.

All of this makes Jesus’ own use of this divine name significant as well, not only in the seven “I am” statements in the Gospel of John (John 6:35; John 8:12; John 10:9, 11; John 11:25; John 14:6; John 15:1), but especially his declaration to the Pharisees that “before Abraham was, I am” (John 8:58). In saying this, Jesus was claiming to be the same living, personal God who made covenant with Abraham, the same God who revealed himself to Moses, and the one who was now moving to deliver his people.


This series of posts pairs a brief passage of Scripture with associated study notes drawn from the Gospel Transformation Bible. For more information about the Gospel Transformation Bible, please visit GospelTransformationBible.org.

 

| Posted in: AAA - BLOG UPDATE,Books,ESV,Gospel Transformation Bible,Uncategorized | Author: Lizzy Jeffers @ 8:30 am | 0 Comments »

Surprising Peace After My Son’s Surprise Birth

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This is a guest post by Gloria Furman. Her newest book is Treasuring Christ When Your Hands Are Full: Gospel Meditations for Busy Moms.


A Big Surprise

The midwives on the midnight shift in the maternity wing each paid a visit to my room to encourage me. I didn’t sleep that night, but not necessarily because I was up caring for my newborn son. I was awake replaying in my mind the shocking circumstances of his birth.

My fourth child was born ten days early, at our apartment, and into my husband’s disabled arms. In the span of about five minutes, I had some pain, called my doctor (who advised us to meet her at the hospital), hung up the phone, told my husband we had to go, and the baby was born. Health-wise, both the baby and I are completely healthy. But the event left its mark on my mind for months as I continued to have flashbacks.

Neither Life Nor Death

When I realized that the baby was a moment away from being born my mind began to spin out of control. “It’s not time yet. Something must be wrong. Who will help me?” An overwhelming fear of death engulfed me, and I thought that my baby and/or I were about to die. My husband stood by asking what he could do to help me, and all I could say was, “Just pray!”

And then, like lightning breaking through the storming darkness, I heard a song that played on my iPod earlier that day. The hymn “It Is Well With My Soul” was playing in my mind and I remembered a phrase from Romans 8:38-39: “neither death nor life.” In an act of war against all the horrors of sin and its consequences, God sent his Son to redeem lost sinners out of the grip of death by shedding his own blood on the cross. “For I am sure that neither death nor life . . . will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Even death submits to Jesus, and one day Jesus is going to throw death into the lake of fire (Revelation 20:14).

By the grace of God, my panic was replaced with a peace that surpassed understanding as I considered his Word. In that dire moment, I needed to be kept in God’s perfect peace and not wade around in some shallow, fake peace—the kind built on trite consolations like “just look at the bright side.” Jesus didn’t say, “Take heart and think of others who have it worse than you.” He told us to think of him: “In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart, I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).

God reminded me that even death can’t keep him from loving me perfectly. Because of Jesus’s victory at the cross, all things—including death and life—are his servants and do his bidding. That’s the foundation for perfect peace. We cling to God’s promise in Isaiah 26:3:

You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you.

Then there is the massive implication in the next verse:

Trust in the LORD forever, for the LORD GOD is an everlasting rock. (Isaiah 26:4)

God’s peace is perfect in quality and eternal in duration. There’s no better peace you could enjoy.

The Predictable Monotony of Daily Life

Odds are you will not likely find yourself in a surprise childbirth scene such as the one I just described. But you will likely find yourself in the predictably monotonous daily grind of life, tempted to trust in yourself and create your own peace. You may routinely evaluate your circumstances and doubt God’s love for you and wonder if he cares. The intervention you are looking for in your temporary earthly circumstances may not come.

But there is one great, permanent intervention through which you are given the gift of an eternity to delight in God’s love. We may “Trust in the LORD forever” (Isaiah 26:4) because Jesus trusted his Father and went to the cross in our place. The cross is precious and central because it gives us God.

On this side of heaven, we labor in God’s Word to stay our mind on Jesus so that our minds can be renewed by his truth. Jesus said,

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid. (John 14:27)

The world keeps us in fearful suspense; Jesus keeps us in perfect peace. Redeeming love has purchased for us this blessed assurance: that Christ has regarded our helpless estate and has shed his own blood for our soul.


Gloria Furman is a wife, mother of four young children, doula, and blogger. In 2008 her family moved to the Middle East to plant Redeemer Church of Dubai where her husband, Dave, serves as the pastor. She is the author of Glimpses of Grace and Treasuring Christ When Your Hands Are Full, and she blogs regularly at Desiring God, The Gospel Coalition, and GloriaFurman.com.

April 4, 2014 | Posted in: AAA - BLOG UPDATE,Books,Children & Parenting,Life & Doctrine,Marriage & Family,Women | Author: Crossway Author @ 8:30 am | (2) Comments »

Three lessons about Scripture from 2 Timothy 3:16-17

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All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work. – 2 Timothy 3:16-17

1. Scripture is inspired.

Paul affirmed with elegant finality that “all Scripture is breathed out by God.” You can hear the meaning of the transliteration of the Greek word Theopneustos (God-breathed–Theo = “God” and pneustos = “breath”). More literally, “All Scripture is breathed into by God.” When you speak, your word is “you-breathed” – your breath, conditioned by your mind, pours forth in speech. You breathe out your words. This belief that Scripture was “breathed into by God” perfectly expresses the view of the first-century Jews about the Old Testament writings.[1]

The early church believed exactly the same thing. As Peter declared, “No prophecy of Scripture comes from someone’s own interpretation. For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit” (2 Peter 1:20, 21). The Old Testament Scriptures were God’s breath, God’s words.

Beautifully, we see that this is also how the early church regarded the Gospels and the Epistles. In 1 Timothy 5:18 Paul uses the same word for Scripture (graphe) that he uses here in 3:16 to refer to quotations from both the Old Testament and New Testament: “For Scripture says, ‘You shall not muzzle an ox when it treads out the grain’ [Deuteronomy 25:4] and ‘The laborer deserves his wages’ [Luke 10:7].”

Similarly, the Apostle Peter includes Paul’s writings in the category of Scripture (graphe): “There are some things in [Paul’s letters] that are hard to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do the other Scriptures” (2 Peter 3:16). It is clear that Peter regarded Paul’s writing to be Scripture!

2. Scripture is useful.

The apostle uses two pairs of words to flesh out Scripture’s usefulness – “and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness” (v. 16b). The first pair – “teaching” and “reproof”– have to do with doctrine. Positively, all Scripture is “profitable for teaching.” That is why the whole of both Testaments must be studied – not just Romans, not just the Old Testament, not just the Gospels. All the didactic, poetic, narrative, apocalyptic, proverbial, and epical sections together are to make up the tapestry of our teaching. “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching.”

And of course when this is done, there will also be “reproof.” Those true to the Scriptures cannot escape this duty. Together the “teaching” and the “reproof” produce the boon of sound doctrine. It is for want of both that the church has so often fallen into error.

The second pair–”correction” and “training in righteousness”–have to do with conduct. “Correction” comes from the Greek word for “straight,” which the New Living Translation helpfully renders, “It straightens us out.” God’s Word is useful in a practical way. Those who accept its reproof will begin to find their lives straightening out. Then they will be ready for the Word’s positive effect of “training in righteousness.” The righteousness that has come to the believer by faith is actualized by the training of God’s Word. In sum, the God-breathed Word is “profitable” for all of life, all doctrine and all duty, all creed and all conduct–everything!

3. Scripture equips.

Paul ends this section on the sufficiency of Scripture by saying, “that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work” (v. 17). Paul here uses two forms of the Greek word for equip (an adjective [“complete”] and a participle [“equipped”]) to make his point. The man of God is super-equipped by the Word of God. The man of God is before all else a man of the Bible.

The testimony of God’s Holy Word is that it is his breath and that it is everything to believers. The book of Deuteronomy records that when moses had finished writing the words of the law and had given it to the Levites to place beside the ark and had sung his song, the song of Moses, he said, “Take heart all the words by which I am warning you today, that you may command them to your children, that they may be careful to do all the words of this law. For it is no empty word for you, but your very life” (Deuteronomy 32:46, 47; cf. 31:9–13; 21:1–43).

This set the standard for the proper regard for the Scriptures of the old covenant. This is why the psalmist devoted the 176 verses of Psalm 119 to the celebration of the Scripture, using the twenty-two letters of the Hebrew alphabet as a structure. In effect, he said God’s Word is everything from A to Z. The Scriptures are life!

When Jesus began his ministry and was tempted by Satan, his encyclopedic knowledge of the Word enabled him to defeat the tempter with three deft quotations from Deuteronomy (see Luke 4:1–13; cf. Deuteronomy 8:3; 6:13, 16). Jesus Christ, God incarnate, leaned on the sufficiency of Scripture in his hour of need. Indeed, his summary response to the tempter was like a bookend to Moses’ declaration that the Scriptures are “your life,” for Jesus insisted that they are the soul’s essential food–”It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God’” (Matthew 4:4; cf. Luke 4:4; Deuteronomy 8:3).

The Scriptures were life to Moses and food to Jesus. They cannot and must not be anything less to us. They are the very breath of God.

 

This post was adapted from the Preaching the Word commentary 1 and 2 Timothy and Titus: To Guard the Deposit by R. Kent Hughes and Bryan Chapell.

 


[1] J. N. D. Kelly, A Commentary on the Pastoral Epistles (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 1963), p. 203.

April 3, 2014 | Posted in: AAA - BLOG UPDATE,Books,ESV,Uncategorized | Author: Lizzy Jeffers @ 8:44 am | 1 Comment »