Do we simply share the gospel? Not really.
We present the gospel in a way that is understandable to the person we are speaking to; we take their background understanding about God into account. In the book of Acts we see the apostle Paul do this. To the Jews he presented Jesus as the fulfilment of the promises God made through the prophets. To the Gentiles he proclaims that God is the creator, idols do not represent him, and that his true representative is Jesus who he raised from the dead. (more…)
Back in 1981, Christian hearts thrilled to see a mainstream popular film treat Christian conscience positively. The film was Chariots of Fire and the Christian conscience was that of Eric Liddell, the man who refused to run in the Olympics on a Sunday. It was just so different to see a man of genuine faith presented in a film as a hero instead of a moral failure or a narrow-minded hypocrite.
Yet there was something odd about the insistence on the Lord’s Day Observance. If we were going to stand for principle somewhere should it really be about not running on a Sunday? It was not like having sport organized for every Sunday in opposition to Church as we have it today. It was the once every four years Olympics drawing people from all over the world to Paris in 1924 for a short period of competition. Is it really forbidden in Scripture to run on a Sunday in such a circumstance? (more…)
Should Australians be upset that one of the new ministers in the Federal Cabinet swore his oath on a Qur’an?
This week as the Governor General swore in the new cabinet, Mr Ed Husic, chose to swear on the Qur’an rather than the Bible or make an affirmation. A ‘non-practising’ Muslim from Bosnia, Mr Husic was sworn in as the Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister and Parliamentary Secretary for Broadband.
Swearing is a strange symbolism, by which we persuade and reassure people of our integrity in making promises. Christians should not need to swear for we should be people of our word. As Jesus said in response to pharisaic hypocrisy, “Let what you say be simply “Yes” or “No”; anything more than this comes from evil (Matt 5:37, cf. Jas 5:12). (more…)
I have heard the claim that Jesus never died on the cross many times over the years, in person, in the press, on the web and via social media. Here is my reply. (more…)
[This article is an edited and compressed version of the Marching for Allah series originally published here in September 2012. This version appeared in the print edition of the magazine, and is published here for the sake of completeness. – Ed.] (more…)
I have been arguing that sometimes we fail to realize that some things we think are just western are actually Christian, and we have been shaped by thinkers who worked in an at-least-vaguely-Christian milieu. Let us take an example; a theological issue current in missiological literature. Above, when I was discussing the way people from shame-cultures understand the gospel, I mentioned that very often they see the work of Christ in terms of his humiliation, shame and exaltation. Might we then, when we commend Christ to people from such cultures, explain the gospel in those categories?1 Do we need a new version of Two Ways to Live that is better contextualized? There are many good reasons to do so; not least of which is that the Bible itself understands Christ’s work in this way sometimes (eg. Is 53:3, Ps 25:3, Rom 9:33, 1 Pet 2:6). Christ has dealt with our shame as much as our guilt. He has exalted the humble, and destroyed the proud. In many ways this is a fantastic example of the way people from other cultures can help us to see better what is there in Scripture that our own culture has made us blind to. Even making this observation will be a big step forward in speaking with people of shame-based cultures about the gospel. (more…)
Having made the observation that what is rational in one culture is often weak and irrational in another, as Christian evangelists, we are left in awkward place. On the one hand, when we speak as missionaries to people of other cultures—whether in Egypt or Hyde Park—we probably want to be understood. We feel like we should commend the gospel to them in a way that will appeal to their rationality, using arguments that will be convincing to them. After all, do we not want to become all things to all men so that by all means we will win some (1 Cor 9:22)? (more…)
Over the last couple of days we’ve been thinking about the idea that what we call rationality is actually, in part, cultural, and so different cultures will have different rationalities. One example of the difference between rationalities came across starkly in a public Christian-Islam debate I attended recently in Melbourne. It was done well. It was set up as an irenic dialogue about the differences in our ideas of God. The two participants were allowed to speak freely, and each responded respectfully to the other side. But in the end it was most valuable as an exercise in how difficult cross-cultural communication can be sometimes. I don’t pretend to be a dispassionate observer, but for my part I was impressed with the way the Christian debater engaged. He was soft-spoken and difficult to provoke. His arguments were careful, they relied on firm evidence, and he was very measured in his statements. If he didn’t know something, he said so. He committed only to say what he could demonstrate. And he wasn’t afraid to acknowledge that his opponents made good points from time to time. For the most part, I found his case compelling. (more…)
What should Christians say about the recent protests by Muslims against the film Innocence of Muslims? I suggested yesterday we need to start thinking about rationality, and how what we think is rational is at least in part culturally determined. (more…)
Last week I awoke to the news of an Islamic protest march through the centre of Sydney. It wasn’t an entirely peaceful protest. I am Australian, but I live in Africa where this kind of thing is common, and often worse. Earlier this year, one of my students from Nigeria was unable to attend the first two weeks of term because his town was literally under siege by Muslim insurgents who were burning churches and the homes of Christians. No doubt the Christians were doing their own share of insurgency also. Nevertheless, it was still shocking for me to see pictures of Muslim protestors marching through Hyde Park to uphold the honour of their prophet Muhammad. One photograph showed a child holding a banner that read, “Behead all those who insult the prophet!” How should Christians respond? (more…)
We discover in Scripture that the gospel is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes (Rom 1:16) and God has given us the staggering responsibility to preach this message. So we must spend some time thinking about the process of evangelism. Most people I know consider the task of evangelism to be a difficult one, however if I ask them what the gospel is, most will quote me something from a book on Systematic Theology. For example, Wayne Grudem, in his excellent Systematic Theology, says that the facts of the gospel are:
Recently in Sydney there has been a billboard advertising campaign, with signs carrying various messages, including “Jesus: A prophet of Islam”, placed around the city. Run by Diaa Mohamed from the Islamic organization MyPeace, it certainly got some media attention. What was more interesting was the Christian response to it. Some were positive about it, others were negative, and some even said that it was offensive. (more…)
The Universe Next Door (5th edition)
James W Sire
IVP Academic, Downers Grove, 2009. 293 pp.
I first read The Universe Next Door while I was at university. We were running an evangelistic event where students lined up to take a quiz to discover what world view would suit them best. We would then give them a pamphlet that explained their likely world view, along with any weaknesses it had and relevant Christian viewpoints they ought to consider. It was my job to write these handouts, and the Christian survey of various world views, The Universe Next Door, was my main source (in combination with Wikipedia, of course). I pored over it for a week, reading and re-reading, and got the pamphlets done in the nick of time. Then, in true student style, I ejected every piece of information out of my brain and moved on to my next assignment. (more…)
The Third Choice: Islam, Dhimmitude and Freedom
Deror Books, Melbourne, 269pp.
The image of giant passenger airliners being flown into the twin towers in New York remains burnt into our retinas. For those of us in the West, it remains a baffling puzzle: what could motivate anyone to do that? (more…)