• Caleb Harrelson

Disengaged: how lies and passiveness are hurting evangelism and discipleship

Updated: Nov 14, 2020




Too many Christians in America have bought into false ideas that are keeping them from being salt and light (Matthew 5:13-16) in this dark world.


We have been told these two lies:


1. It is sinful to debate or argue.


2. We can't share our ideas on morality because they are "religiously biased"-whereas the person trying to silence you is not "biased" and is "neutral."


The problem is that we can't be a light to this dark world if we hide away from this dark world. We can't be like salt if we aren't continually engaging with people and pointing them to the only preserving hope of our culture: Jesus and His perfect Word.


Now, let's unravel these misleading ideas so that we can better engage our culture and disciple the next generation.


First of all, debating and reasoning is not a sin.

Jesus reasoned with people. Paul reasoned with people. God said "come let us reason together" in Isaiah 1:18.

It's when we become quarrelsome, legalistic in our emphasis, rude, slanderous, and give out ad hominins (attacking the person and not the argument), that it becomes sinful.


If Christians just lump ALL arguing as sinful and do not distinguish between the good and bad type, then we will have "argued" ourselves into thinking that it is MORE Christ-like if we simply become DIS-engaged with the lies our culture is promoting and just mind our own business.

We must remember, however, that God has ordained the advancement of his gospel to spiritually dead people through believers ENGAGING with the lost and proclaiming his Word.

We must ENGAGE in Godly reasoning to persuade others to place their faith in Christ and to persuade others to abandon dangerous philosophies that promote the murder of the unborn, the destruction of society, and more injustice.


Being passive is not an option.


We need to encourage Christian leaders to influence and serve culture in Christ-honoring and people loving ways in various positions: teachers, government officials, medical professions, etc.


We can't do that if we don't disciple the current and next generation of believers to thinking Biblically about each of their professions and positions of influence in culture.


This will take work and a completely new view of discipleship in the church that is away from mainly fun and games and short Bible stories and towards training in Biblical memorization, prayer & worldview training.


The problem is that, by and large, most churches have very low expectations and goals for training believers to think Biblically about everything. Our culture generally has a high expectation for students to learn tough subjects in school, but the church has a very low expectation for how much they can handle in Biblical worldview training. Yet, we are naive if we think students are merely learning "neutral" facts and not being trained in various worldviews while they are at school.

In order for us to disciple the next generation better, we must engage in training believers in good arguments for the Biblical Worldview and stop acting like ANYONE can be neutral when it comes to their philosophy of life.


This leads to refuting the second lie on neutrality and bias:


2. Everyone has a bias and Neutrality is a myth.


People are always being discipled either by God's Word or by the culture. There is no neutrality.


Our passiveness has led to what we are seeing in the church today: the rise of the least religious generations in American history in Gen Z and Millenials. To learn more about this research, click on these links: Here and here.


Everyone has a philosophy whether they admit it or not. Their philosophy (or worldview) will try to answer some of these main categories of thought:


  1. How do you know what you know? (epistemology)

  2. what is the nature of man? (Ontology)

  3. What is the nature of morality? (ontology) What is right and wrong? What is the standard to determine morality? (ethics)

  4. How ought we to live? What is the purpose of life? (ethics)


When people say "you can't bring your religious ideas to this discussion" of abortion or any policy they are showing their philosophical starting point: humanism. They are presupposing their starting point of humanism. They want YOU to leave behind your starting assumptions, but they won't leave behind theirs. Double standard much? Indeed it is. They are assuming that we can ground moral "oughts" apart from God himself and that humans can determine morality/ethics themselves. Yet humanism is really about the worship of self: "The self determines what is right and wrong. The majority determines what is right or wrong." Our culture worships self and the pursuit of self-pleasure without any commitment (i.e. our culture worships sex). Sounds like a religion...cause it is.

No one is neutral when it comes to morality or any issue. Neutrality is a myth. Perhaps we should just admit our presuppositions and then ask others, "by what standard" are you grounding this decision or policy? By what standard can we say that humans deserve to have rights? Does the government endow us with rights or is it simply the government's job to recognize and enforce those inalienable rights that are inherent in all humans because we are made in the image of God?

What is the best way to live in His World? By knowing God, through faith in Jesus, and Glorifying Him forever.


We must always urge the unbeliever to recognize the God-given and self-evident rights and dignity of all humans from the womb to the tomb.


 

(Side note: Going against God's design for marriage and sexuality is not a right prescribed or condoned by God. Affirming anything besides marriage between one man and one woman will only weaken culture. (click here and here for more on this). We must treat all humans with dignity, but our sexual feelings are not our identity, that is the cultural narrative, not the Biblical one. As believers, we must still love people that embrace sinful choices in regards to their sexuality and attractions, but, as Jeff Durbin once said, "I'm all for love winning, but we are not to celebrate [the sin] for which Jesus died for." It is not loving to celebrate and affirm what God has defined as sin. Love delights in the truth (1 Corinthians 13:6) and speaking the truth about what God's Word says is loving. Sadly, as described in Romans 1, when sex and our sexual feelings become our identity and idol, God may "give us over" to our sinful and twisted sexual passions as we worship things in creation instead of our Creator. This is what we are seeing. All humans are called to repent of their sin and Be Holy in Christ. We are called to a 'Holy Sexuality" and that may look like a marriage between the oppositive sex or singleness, but "Holy Sexuality" is the goal. To read a great book by Christopher Yuan on this topic, click on this link: Here. )


 

God has made himself known so that all people are without excuse (Romans 1).

God has not left himself without a witness.


Most unbelievers will recognize that it is wrong to kill innocent people, steal or lie, but they have to borrow that standard of morality from the Christian worldview because (if they are consistent) it doesn't actually exist in humanism. We must ask people, even the unbeliever, to justify their decisions in good standards. They must all live in God's world and sin is still wrong and destructive to society and only God's standard of morality can ground morality itself.

As Francis Schaeffer once said:

"Every man has built a roof over his head to shield himself at the point of tension...The Christian, lovingly, must remove the shelter [the roof] and allow the truth of the external world and of what man is, to beat upon him. When the roof is off, each man must stand naked and wounded before the truth of what is....He must come to know that his roof is a false protection from the storm of what is.”

Again, no one is neutral.

In his book, Tactics, Greg Koukl offers a great breakdown on the myth of neutrality and that having a 'bias' is always wrong:

"It is not fair, though, to assume someone has distorted the facts simply because he has a stake in the matter. People who are not natural can still be fair and impartial. If you think there has been distorting bias, you have to demonstrate it by looking carefully at the evidence itself. A Mom may think her high school daughter is brilliant. You might dismiss the claim as overly partial since her mom has a bias. But if the students maxed out her SATs, her mom also has a point. Clearly, not all forms of bis distort.

When a Christian deals with issues like science and history, it's fair to say he's biased in the sense that he brings certain assumptions to the process, just like everybody else. A Christian's bias, though, does not inform his conclusions the same way that biases inform the conclusions of scientists or historians restricted by a commitment to materialism. The current bias of science is a bias that distorts, in many cases, because it illicitly eliminates certain answers before the game gets started. Many scientists and historians must come up with conclusions that leave a supernatural agent out of the picture- even when evidence points in that direction- because their philosophy demands it.

A theist is not so encumbered. She believes in the laws of nature but also is open to the possibility of supernatural intervention. Both are consistent with her worldview. She can judge the evidence on its own merits, unhindered by a philosophy that automatically eliminates divine intervention before giving the evidence an even-handed hearing.

Ironically, the Christian's bias broadens her categories, making her more open-minded, not less. She has a greater chance of discovering truth, because she can follow the evidence where it leads. That's a critical distinction. Can bias make a person open-minded? Under the right set of circumstances, absolutely.

Ultimately, the issue isn't bias but distortion. It's unsound to say that because the gospel writers were Christians, their testimony cannot be trusted. Conversely, a nonbeliever's conclusions should not be dismissed because he is not among the faithful. In both cases, we have to look at the reasons themselves."

Greg Koukl in Tactics pgs. 210-211

The Christian must, in some form or fashion, actively engage the culture with the Truth of the Biblical worldview. We want to persuade others to the truth with gentleness and respect.

Evangelism itself is an argument. It is the "good type" of reasoning that we must engage in!

I know that many say evangelism is just a proclamation or announcement, which it is, but it is also reasoning with people to persuade them to place their faith in Christ. Paul reasoned with people in Acts 17 and we shouldn't be afraid to either.


Yes, God alone is the one who can change the unbelievers heart, but remember, he has ordained His gospel to go forth THROUGH people engaging with others about the truth of the resurrected Messiah. Our job is to faithfully engage with others about the truth of the gospel and leave the results up to God.


In evangelism, we are arguing that the promise of sin has lied to you. Sin has lied to us about God by saying he won't satisfy us and this will. We are arguing and affirming that what the Scriptures say about sin being rebellion against God is true. We are arguing that all people are guilty before the King of the Universe and making the case that only God has provided the substitute for our sin in Jesus.

Our supporting reasons that you must trust in Christ alone for salvation tend to be one or more of the following reasons:

  • God's Word is true. It is inspired and inerrant.


  • We know that it is true because of the consistency of its message over 1500 years of its writing and over 40 authors.


  • We have fulfilled prophecies. The Dead Scrolls confirmed that the OT prophecies about Jesus were not written after Jesus but before Jesus. They were so accurate that they can only be explained by God himself directing history to fulfill them.


  • The New Testament was written early by eyewitnesses of the resurrected Messiah. Most, if not all, of the New Testament, was written before the destruction of the Jerusalem temple in A.D. 70. This means we have a very early New Testament during the "age of eyewitnesses."


  • The New Testament has been preserved. We even have a large majority of the apostles' writings quoted by church fathers in the 2nd-3rd centuries.


  • It is self-evident that humans are guilty and broken. The problem lies within us. We have sinful natures and we need a new nature.


  • It is self-evident that we long for something this world can't satisfy. why can't it? Because every single person on this earth is sinful. Sin hurts relationships and thus no human can give us perfect and unending satisfaction. There will always be wickedness here until Jesus returns to render out perfect judgment. Either we are covered in the righteousness of Jesus alone or we have to give account to God for our filthy rags of unrighteousness.


  • It is self-evident that our government will not save us. No perfect leader will save us. All of history shows this. Nations fall and rise. Why? Because ALL HUMANS ARE SINFUL. We are making the case that the government can't save because we are presupposing that a "utopian society" is not possible because inherently humans are flawed.

We all realize that we must become "united" around something to move forward and away from division. Yet, we must remember that unity with truth is like Boaz without Ruth. It doesn't make sense! We can't just unite around a vague sense of "unity."


Culture tries to enforce this superficial unity but then demands that you deny your convictions and agree with what the majority has decided is right or else you will be canceled.


Truly good unity can only be found in one who has set the standard for how men OUGHT to live, and is in Himself, by His very nature, the standard of goodness.


This standard of perfection is the Triune God himself. He doesn't look to a standard above himself and things don't arbitrarily become good because he says so, his nature IS the standard.


Yet, as I said earlier, none of us can measure up to that standard. So, the only solution is that the eternal God himself, in the person of Jesus (the 2nd person the of the trinity), takes on human flesh, and lives a life of perfection under His own law and dies the penalty for sin that we deserved to die and rises from the grave defeating the sting of sin and death, proving He is God, Messiah, and our King.

Thus, I argue that only Jesus is the solution to our society's ills. Our problem lies within ourselves, but we can't look within for salvation. The only thing that we should look at when we see ourselves is how God's law works as a mirror and shows us who God is and how we have failed to measure up to his law. His law points out to us our great need for a perfect Savior. In this great need, we are all united. Yet, through the reading, listening, and teaching of His Word we come to see that we must be united in being broken and humble before Him. The only thing we need is to see our "need" for him. David understood this when he wrote this:

"The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart you, God, you will not despise." Psalm 51:17

I urge you to look outside of yourself and look to the one who knew no sin but become cursed for your sake. He defeated the power and penalty of sin and is the reigning King of the Universe now and forever.

"Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, that everyone who believes may have eternal life in him.” John 3:14-15

Thus, I argue that if you don't place your faith in Christ, Scripture affirms these true statements:

"Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son. 19 This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed. 21 But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done has been done in the sight of God." John 3:18-20

Trusting in Jesus is your only hope. He is our only Hope here in America. He is the only and ultimate hope of all nations in the World.


Christians, we must engage with others about this truth.

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