Try Some Of My Jesus

Just today I was thinking about a three-way conversation I had with another Christian and a skeptic.  To be honest, I had introduced myself into the conversation upon overhearing the subject; since I know both individuals so it was not out-of-place to interject.  The Christian was “witnessing” to the skeptic.  I certainly support spreading the Word and discussing Christ and Christianity whenever the opportunity presents itself.  However, I believe there are ways to go about it which are more effective than others, as well as very poor points to be made in favor of Christianity.  In this case the Christian was offering Christianity as a more favorable lifestyle.  That Jesus can fill the “cross-shaped hole” in their life; that true joy can be experienced only through a personal relationship with Jesus; and Christianity offers a more superior ethic than other religious systems.  These points have their merits, but in my opinion have little value when in discussion with a skeptic for the truth of Christianity.  I believe the premier reason each of these arguments fail in evangelism is that non-believers will not recognize these points as being even potentially true.  I will take each point in turn.

Is it true that only Jesus can fill the “cross-shaped hole” in the skeptic’s heart?  As far as the statement goes, I believe so.  I’m sure at some point everyone ponders the meaning of life.  Everyone will think about their own life and whether it has meaning.  I also think there comes a time when it feels like there is something missing from their life, a void which is not immediately explained — this would be the cross-shaped hole.  Speaking from my own experience, I had thought about ultimate existence and whether it or I have any real meaning.  I think actual meaning is found only in God — the only “plug” for the cross-shaped hole.  I am willing to affirm each of the three points above as true.

That being said, people will inevitably fill that hole with any number of things other than Christ.  The problem is, the hole can be artificially filled with just about anything which distracts the person from the emptiness.  For the time being, the hole feels filled.  When the Christian makes an appeal to a subjective feeling such as an emptiness, and the skeptic has filled it with something else, they will feel no emptiness and from his perspective there is no hole.  It is like telling them they are hungry and just do not know it, but yet the skeptic is not the slightest bit peckish.  I do not see how it is possible to effectively convince someone there is a spiritual void in their life when they have no sense of that void.  This will always be the case when appealing to someone’s feelings.  Feelings are the only thing you cannot argue with.  Ideas can be investigated and tested and determined right or wrong, but not feelings.  Feelings are not open to debate.  In the end the evangelist is fighting a losing battle.  All credibility is lost when you tell someone what they do and do not really feel, what they are lacking, and how to cure the problem; if the skeptic feels the opposite of the evangelist’s analysis, do not feel a lack, and believe there is nothing to cure.

The problem in offering “true joy” is like that of filling the hole.  I think most people are at least moderately happy.  True there is a difference between happiness and joy, but as far as John Q. Public is concerned, they are functionally identical.  Since most people feel generally happy, telling them their happiness is false or illusory gets you nowhere.  Offering a personal relationship with someone they do not want to meet will surely not garner a concession.  For one thing, something we all know from experience is personal relationships manifest themselves differently.  I have been introduced to plenty of people whom I was told were great people only to be highly disappointed.  Furthermore, I have been a Christian for sometime now and have yet to pin down what it means to have a “personal relationship” with Jesus.  Herein lies the problem.  If  Christianity is offering joy, and your potential convert already feels some degree of joy, there is no reason, from their stand-point, to add Jesus.   I feel I am generally happy but you offer that even though I think I feel happy, I’m not, and the only way to really feel happy is by meeting your friend; what is it that would motivate me to need to meet your friend, and what does your friend change about my happiness?  Not much I suspect.  People can add happiness and joy to their lives without Jesus.  If Jesus is reduced to turning illusory happiness into actual happiness, the evangelist misses the point of who Jesus really is, what He actually did, and why someone really needs Him.  Who are you to say your source of joy is better than my source of joy?  This really is a problem.

Lastly, if Christianity is reduced to a system of ethics, what makes the Christian’s system better than anyone elses?  If all Christianity offers is that it is right and good to preserve life, refrain from theft, and treat others as you wish to be treated, why is that superior to another system which proposes the same?  If the evangelist is arguing Christianity’s truth because of its ethical superiority, all the skeptic needs to do to successfully justify rejecting Christianity is offer an equal set of ethics, sans Christ.  I have no doubt any skeptic would be willing to affirm most, if not every point of moral behavior outlined in the New Testament, yet reject Christ.  Christianity’s ethical standards, generally speaking, are not wholly unique to Christianity.  Not murdering, adultering, stealing, etc. can be found in any number of other religious systems and philosophical worldviews.  Adding Jesus is unnecessary if Christianity is merely another system of ethics.  Why must someone affirm Jesus if the only reason to add Him is to transform illusory ethics into true ethics?

These reasons for accepting Christianity are empty and void of any substance.  Take a look through the book of Acts sometime.  There are no less than 13 instances of evangelism recorded and not one of them include the Apostles appealing to cross-shaped holes, true joy in one’s life, or a better system of ethics.  In fact, throughout the entire Bible I cannot recall anyone making an appeal to personal feelings as a test for the truth of Judaism or Christianity.  The Gospel has nothing to do with my feelings or yours.  It is a specific message of redemption, why it is needed, and how it is attained.  Let that be the message which is rejected, at least the skeptic would be rejecting Christianity for what it is, and not for how it makes them feel, or not feel.

Comments

  1. What religions do you feel come closest to offering redemption similar to Jesus’? (old or new)

    • The only one I see being on par with redemption is Judaism.

      Buddhism doesn’t need it, Hinduism doesn’t need it.

      Islam you attempt to earn it yourself, but in the end Allah could send you to hell if he wants to. There is no sure way into heaven except martyrdom, but even then its all on Allah’s whim.

      Catholicism you must perform the right rituals, right cerimoonies, and must help earn your salvation. Jesus did some, you must also put in your part.

      Mormonism does not allow you to be redeemed. I had written a brief thing (not published) about their own literature and by the way they define words, they define right out of the picutre the ability to be saved. But taking on face value, they claim to be saved by Jesus but its also earned. His grace is only applied “after all you can do”.

      Jehovah’s Witnesses is wholly works based, you have to put in hours of service, hours in meetings, and earn through being good. And in the end you cannot even go to heaven, it was reserved for 144k and they’re all there.

      The older ancient ones are not unlike these, you must be good, do good, offer the right sacrifices, and perform the right rituals.

  2. I could not agree with you more…There are Christians that die for the faith everyday in other countries. Becoming a Christian does not give us our “best life now”. Jesus is not a life enhancement tool. HE came to save sinners…a person must see their sin before a HOLY GOD. Outside of Christ they are under the wrath of a HOLY GOD. They need to flee this wrath and run to Jesus, repent of their sins and trust in HIM alone and HIS finished work on the cross for their salvation.
    May the Lord bless you brother!

  3. Excellent post.

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