Saturday, 7 January 2012

Apologetic Sound Bites: ‘Why do you want to force your opinion on me?’ Tim Chester

Continuing the Apologetic Sound Bites series, here are some pointers suggesting how to answer the question ’Why do you want to force your opinion on me?’
1. Avoid trading personal opinions by pointing people to something Jesus said or did. Confront people with Jesus so it becomes their opinion verses Jesus.
2. Suppose I spot a serious fault with your car that will soon cause a life-threatening accident and so I warn you of it. It would be madness to say, ‘Don’t force your opinion on me.’ Suppose I knew of a wonderful free gift available for all who ask. It would be madness to say, ‘Don’t force your opinion on me.’
3. ‘You may make it sound like a noble struggle for freedom. But the truth is you simply want the right to be selfish.’
4. When you say, ‘Let me decide for myself,’ you are saying, in effect, ‘I know better than God. I make a better god than God.’
5. “One of the most frequent statements I heard was that ‘Every person has to define right and wrong for him- or herself.’ I always responded to the speakers by asking, ‘Is there anyone in the world right now doing things you believe they should stop doing no matter what they personally believe about the correctness of their behaviour?’ They would invariably say, ‘Yes, our course.’ Then I would ask, ‘Doesn’t that mean that you do believe there is some kind of moral reality that is “there” that is not defined by us, that must be abided by regardless of what a person feels or things?’ Almost always, the response to that question was a silence, either a thoughtful or a grumpy one.”1
6. Christian missionaries are often accused of destroying indigenous cultures. Sometimes this has been true, but more often Christianity has adapted to, and reinforced, local culture. God himself came not in a transcultural form, but as a first century Jewish man. Unlike Islam, Christianity has always translated its message into local languages and practices. This has often created a new sense of cultural identity. ‘Now God speaks to us in our own language,’ said one tribal leader. The Bible celebrates cultural diversity and looks forward to a future when people from ‘every tongue, tribe, people and nation’ worship Jesus together and bring their glory into his kingdom (Revelation 7:9, 21:24-26).
1 Cited in Tim Keller, The Reason for God, Dutton, 2008, 47.


Ρωμανός ~ Romanós said...

An interesting group of propositions.

From my experience, (1) is absolutely true.

(2) is an argument based more on the idea that man in his natural condition is bound for hell. This is a yes and no in my Book. Man in his natural condition is on a trajectory that leads away from God and eternal life and eventually to permanent irreversible separation from God. This argument, however, is invalid as a primary tactic to evangelize, because it is based on a threat, against which natural man rebels, entrenching himself. What Pascal wrote in his book Pensées about religion, is actually true of Christ (who is the end of all religion, in my Book), 'Men despise religion; they hate it and fear it is true. To remedy this, we must begin by showing that religion is not contrary to reason; that it is venerable, to inspire respect for it; then we must make it lovable, to make good men hope it is true; finally, we must prove it is true.' Especially pertinent are his final two propositions, [Show men Jesus] to make good men [that is, men who seek the good] hope it is true, and then [in our own lives as a primary witness, as we follow Jesus ourselves] we must prove it is true. I know this is a rather lengthy response to (2), but I think that (2) is in practice too rigid and too shallow for the reality it is attempting to capture.

(3) in my experience is absolutely the case. People hide their selfishness under the guise of any virtue they think will cover it, rather than admit the truth that 'you can't go home [to Christ] without going home.'

(4) is, like (2), a somewhat simplistic characterization of a real process that almost everyone must go through on the way of salvation. Although Christ's choice withdraws us from the world, as scripture teaches, because of our location in body, time and space, at first we labor under the illusion of 'let me decide for myself.' The second part of this proposition is, I think, of much wider application than the first, and most Christians are just as guilty of it as are unbelievers. Hidden in much of our piety is the notion 'I know better than God,' which is proven by so much of our prayer asking Him to change things to fit our desires; and our always seeking to change others or our environment immediately upon making contact with some obstacle, without even asking ourselves first 'could this be the will of God [that I am rejecting and fighting against]?'

(5) is the classic question and argument so aptly handled by our father among the saints, C. S. Lewis, in his book Mere Christianity. After reading his defense of a real right and wrong in that book, I began to notice that there was a real God with a real law pressing down on me, and that, even though I was not morally depraved, was what convinced me that if He were nothing else, God is still 'out there' because He has left vestiges of Himself in our very flesh by giving us a conscience, knowing the difference between right and wrong.

Ρωμανός ~ Romanós said...

I am not sure that (6) is indefensible, because as an historian by habit and training, and an anthropologist by experience, I have noticed that certain types of Christian mission deal ruthlessly with native peoples and their cultures. My current experience of living indigenously (not as a tourist) in Indonesia for three weeks made me see something very obvious in this regard. Protestant Indonesians (I met no Catholic ones) consistently appear to live as Americans, rejecting completely their cultural roots except for a few things like food traditions. They want to have white skin like us, and are in a mad rush to become more Western than the Westerners. The Orthodox Christians I met there were a little less determined to become 'white' and those that did were mainly converts from already Christian families, especially Pentecostal and mainline Protestant. Only in Bali did I find a remnant of Orthodox Christians (and looked at with some indulgence by the majority) who were consciously building their new faith inside a thoroughly Balinese culture: My hosts, for example, in Singaraja, the first Orthodox Christian family on Bali, had not only the first Orthodox church within their family compound, and the font in which the first 70 Orthodox believers were baptised, but also the traditional family shrine was still in place and in use, the Hindu gods being displaced by emblems and ikons of Christian faith. I prayed at this shrine without any injury to my conscience. Balinese Hindu Dharma forms an 'old testament' upon which the revelation of Jesus Christ has been built. But this first family is probably the only one that still practices Balinese Orthodoxy, while the rest of the congregation has grown and has built a new church elsewhere in town, where the first family also worships. Part of my mission there was to understand better what was going on, but that mission has only barely begun, and I don't know for sure if the Lord is sending me there: I am now in the process of finding out.

I know I have used this brief post as a platform for a much longer discussion, but only because I would rather be with you in person, to share our lives in Christ and get to know you better in the Lord. If I ever come to Belfast, I will be with you and your congregation, though I might visit the Orthodox church there, because as you know, for me, Christ is Christ, and Church is Church, and 'love the ones you're with.'

Grace and peace to you, brother, and to your family, in this new year of our Lord 2012.