Monday, May 29, 2006

Four Deadly Questions

Two of the sessions for the conference were given by Bill Jack of Worldview Academy. I first heard of Worldview Academy several years ago after a guy from my church went to one of Worldview's camps and came back with glowing reports. Bill Jack and the other man from Worldview Academy (Jeff Baldwin) were among my favorite speakers for the conference.

One of Bill Jack's talks was called Simple Tools for Brain Surgery, essentially a primer in sharing with non-Christians. He started his talk by telling the audience that one thing he wanted to make clear was that he was not a nice guy. He explained that nice is an imprecise word, and originally meant not knowing or ignorant. As Christians we should definitely not fit that description. As Christians we tend to take an extreme, either being over-bearingly truthful to non-believers or (usually) too nice to nonbelievers. We forget that we are to (1) speak the truth (2) in love, and obedience to that command is incomplete unless we attend to both parts. Jesus was not a nice person, and he didn't mince words, but he was also loving.

Bill Jack gave a list of what he called the Four Deadly Questions for conversations with nonbelievers. Rather than cramming Biblical truths down someone's throat, first let them tell you what they believe, and make them do the thinking. The following questions can be used to probe someone for clarifications and to make him think through the implications of his beliefs:

(1) What do you mean by what you're saying?
(2) How do you know that to be true?
(3) What difference does that make in your life? or So what?
(4) What happens if you are wrong? or What happens if you die and are wrong?

The Four Deadly Questions are designed to make non-Christians think about their own beliefs, and to provide opportunity for sharing Biblical truths. As Bill Jack said, they are to be used like a crowbar, not a sledgehammer. Use the questions to pry open a person's brain, not to obliterate him. He gave examples of conversations with humanists and atheists who did not believe in moral absolutes, and tied various conversations to the Four Deadly Questions as examples in how to use them. It is important to remember that ultimately the working in a person's heart is not up to us, but the Holy Spirit, who alone can quicken someone's heart to believe. I really liked what Bill Jack said about this:

Sometimes all we can do is make someone think. Our job as Christians, if nothing else, should be to make an atheist be the most consistent atheist he can be.

We are not supposed to be nice people, but we are to speak the truth to non-Christians in love. We are to be prepared to make a defense for our faith, but do so with humility. One of Bill Jack's closing statements was that as Christians, we are too often soft-headed and hard-hearted. We should be hard-headed and soft-hearted. I liked what another speaker of the conference said:

Never forget that there is always a human made in God's image behind every bizarre idea.

I think evangelism too often takes the form of simply telling people that "Jesus died for them to save them," which is doctrinally unsound, not to mention meaningless to someone who is not a Christian. They're going to think saved from what? That is why it is so important to not just frame the gospel as a "Get out of Hell free" certificate in a rose-colored picture frame. Salvation means nothing unless a person first realizes he needs saving from something. The gospel is not the gospel unless it includes an explanation of the sinfulness and helplessness of man. One of the lectures by Jeff Baldwin (the other Worldview Academy speaker) addressed the nature of man and the nature of God - summary to be forthcoming.


Jessie said...

Wow. Very good and insightful.
("What a nice post," I almost said... he he!) I like what you have reported. We need to balance the approach we take in witnessing to people. And I appreciated the reminder that we are to "speak the truth". It's too easy sometimes not to say things that might offend people, thinking we're saying only things that are "in love", but actually we are not loving them, because we are not telling them what is not only true, but also is endangering their souls! It would not be unkind to place a sign that reads "Road Ends 500 feet" 500 feet before a cliff, would it? But we sometimes make excuses for our lack of witness, by saying basically, "Well, I don't want to bother them with a sign. They're having such a good time driving and listening to their music, I don't want to make them have to stop..." That's a pretty puny excuse! But it is no different for us when we refuse to speak the truth, and in love.

Susan said...

And what a nice response, Jessie ;).

You are convicting me as much as anyone else, mind you. I meant to clarify in my post how much I fail at the not-so-subtle suggestion of Matthew 28:19. I'm pointing three fingers back at me as I'm admonishing anyone else.

I liked your analogy about the road sign. Very good - but not nice!

Jessica said...

So I'm FINALLY getting around to reading all your "pithy" posts, Susan...I wanted to have ample time and not be rushed through reading them because I figured they would be pretty "deep" thus the late comment.

A very thought-provoking sounds like that was a great talk/lecture! The "We forget that we are to (1) speak the truth (2) in love, and obedience to that command is incomplete unless we attend to both parts." was convicting...I tend more towards the "speak the truth" part, but I need to balance it with love. Have you ever read The Grace and Truth Paradox by Randy Alcorn? It addresses that issue... to read the next post...I hope my brain doesn't overload!

Susan said...

I've never read that book by Randy Alcorn, Jessica. It sounds good. I think my sister may have read a book or two by him. Did he write The Treasure Principle?

Jessica said...

Yes, though I've never read it, I think Randy Alcorn did write The Treasure Principle. He also wrote Safely amazing book regarding the persecuted church in China...I would definitely recommend reading it, especially considering your sister's excellent post on Chinese Christians (which I just finished reading...I think I'm all caught up with your blog now!).

Susan said...

Oh that's right; I forgot Randy Alcorn wrote Safely Home also. Hannah has read that and thought it was very good.