Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Bypassing the Mind

There is a tendency today to minimize the part of the mind in evangelism. It is thought the best thing is to appeal to the emotions and avoid the intellectual altogether. Now there is a danger in putting too much emphasis on the intellectual (1 Corinthians 2:1-5; 1:18-25; 3:18-20). But Scripture calls for the allegiance of all of us, including the mind (Matthew 22:37; Romans 12:2; Ephesians 4:23). Now this requires more than just intellectual knowledge (James 1:22-25; Romans 2:17-24; Matthew 5:19). But that does not mean we can dispense with knowledge altogether (Jeremiah 9:23,24; 2 Corinthians 10:5; Ephesians 1:17,18). Also, Scripture uses arguments that appeal to our understanding (Romans 1:18-20; 1 Corinthians 15:1-11; Isaiah 46:9,10). And it gives examples of such arguments (Acts 17:22-31; 14:15-17; Matthew 4:12-16). Christianity is based on the historical event of God invading history (John 1:1-18; Philippians 2:5-11; Hebrews 2:9-18). Now this requires a response that goes beyond the intellectual, but it is still a necessary foundation.

No argument can convince anyone unless the Spirit of God works in their heart (John 6:44; Acts 16:14; 2 Corinthians 4:3-5). But neither can any experience convince anyone unless the Spirit is working. However, we are commanded to proclaim God's truth so that the Spirit might use it to accomplish His purposes (Luke 24:47; Acts 1:8; Romans 10:14,15). Now I do not want to minimize the need to live a life that backs up our witness (Matthew 5:13-16; 28:18-20; 1 Peter 3:1,2), one characterized by love (John 13:34.35; 1 Corinthians 13:2; Galatians 6:10). Nor do I want to minimize the need to deal with people in a loving way (1 Peter 3:15; 2 Timothy 2:24-26; Colossians 4:6). But we need with that a reasoned proclamation.

Why is this important? It has been my experience that God can use various different gifts to lead different people to Christ. Now I do not want to limit God; I am sure He can accomplish His will even if we refuse to use all the resources He has given us. But I do believe we are required to use those resources. Further, there are various kinds of false teachings which can produce an experience. It is hard to reach those who hold them unless we challenge them on another level. Also, if we use only one avenue of approach it is easier to make false converts, If we use only the intellectual, we can end up with converts who only know information but have not acted on it. If we use only experience, we can get people who have an emotional experience but no substance. If we use only the relational, we can produce converts who have a relationship with us but never fully embrace the truth of God. Also, if we leave out the intellectual, we can end up with a truncated faith that does not embrace all of life. We do not want to be people who have God relegated to one corner of our lives rather than ruling all of it.

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