Monday, June 11, 2012

Does Christianity Need a Better Story?

I was recently sent an article by a friend who wanted me to read this article by Dustin Christensen on whether or not Christianity needs a better story. Here is the article and below is my response.


There are several flaws with this article.

The author does not understand man's nature according to scripture.

He says
" There’s no connection. No connection between speaker and audience, between audience and message. There are no emotional bonds being formed and it comes down to this: the man’s not telling a story. He’s lecturing. He’s moralizing and reprimanding. His sermon is devoid of any narrative or storytelling qualities. His words are brash, one-dimensional and inflexible, with no room for interaction or interpretation. "

He makes it sound as though men are earnestly searching for God and if we change our method and not be so dogmatic (Many times those saying this mean do not take a hard stance on the essentials of the faith and allow people to have their own views on the Trinity,deity of Christ, existence of Hell, etc) then people will run to the Cross. However scripture says 

(Romans 3:10-18 ESV)
as it is written:
“None is righteous, no, not one;
no one understands;
no one seeks for God.
All have turned aside; together they have become worthless;
no one does good,
not even one.”
“Their throat is an open grave;
they use their tongues to deceive.”
“The venom of asps is under their lips.”
“Their mouth is full of curses and bitterness.”
“Their feet are swift to shed blood;
in their paths are ruin and misery,
and the way of peace they have not known.”
“There is no fear of God before their eyes.”

Scripture is clear because of total depravity nobody is searching for God

It is the dogmatism that he does not like but scripture is dogmatic on the essentials. If one does not see their need to repent, they will go to Hell and be separated from God's goodness for eternity

He goes on to say"Without storytelling, there’s no way for him to meaningfully connect to the passersby, and there’s no way for them to truly internalize his words. There’s a one-way line of communication that falls flat before it can reach even the few receptive listeners making their way past. And at some time, somewhere, we’ve all seen this street corner."

These kind of statements demonstrate he does not understand what the Bible says about the nature of man.  You can be as relevant as you want and do all the gimmicks you want but if you are preaching the true message of the cross then the unregenerate will find it foolishness. 

What he is seeing is people preaching the true Gospel and nobody listening and thinking the guy preaching the true message is foolish. This is what the word of God says the natural man's response is going to be.  The author of this article is saying that they are not responding to scripture so we need to tell stories instead. You can do that but if your goal is to see people saved then abandoning scriptures for stories is like cutting off your nose before you smell the rose.

(1 Corinthians 1:18 ESV)
For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.

Does not matter how you dress it up, if you are being faithful to the gospel then the unregenerate will think it is nonsense. It must be a supernatural act of God to open the eyes of the blind.

(1 Corinthians 2:14-15 ESV)
The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned. The spiritual person judges all things, but is himself to be judged by no one.

The idea that if we are just more"relevant" then people will flock to the Gospel is just non-sense. They can't because they are unable to because they are spiritually dead.

(Ephesians 2:1-3 ESV)
And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience—among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.

By nature man is a child of wrath and as Romans 6 says man is a slave to sin and hostile towards God.

We also read that man does not come to God because he is "talked" into it but rather a supernatural  act of God has opened the blind eyes.

John 6:44 says "No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him."

(John 1:12-13 ESV)
"But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God."

Salvation is based on God's choice not man manipulating people through psychological means to make them feel good.

"We’ve all seen the (seemingly) crazed street preacher. We’ve heard the too-direct Christian come across as conceited and disparaging in their delivery. The street preacher, the zealous-bordering-pompous Christian—these have devolved into negative archetypes and, unfortunately, clich├ęs. Watching Christianity’s message falter on a public level, then, is a nearly universal experience. "

It is very clear that this guy thinks those who take a hard stand on the authority of scripture are arrogant, pompous, un-loving etc.  This is non-sense friends.  We are to stand upon the scriptures and not change the message like a chameleon to suit the culture.

The Gospel is confronting man with their sin and the law of God (10 commandments) is like a mirror that reflects mans sin so they see the need to repent.  If the Gospel being preached does not confront man with sin and warn them that God's wrath abides on them then they are not preaching any gospel at all.

I could go on but I will leave it there.

Secondly I want to address his view that if the way one preaches the Gospel does not produce numbers then it is wrong,  is based on pragmatism meaning if it works then it must be the right method.

Joel Osteen has one of the largest church's in America and yet he does not consider Mormonism to be a false belief system. They do not do any type of Biblical teaching and they employ heretical "prosperity" teachings. The fact he has a huge church and a big following does not mean he is preaching the truth. Numbers do not determine truth.

We as slaves of Jesus Christ are told we are to preach the word

(2 Timothy 4:1-5 ESV)
I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.

We are not told to tell stories but to preach the word of God (As the scripture above says) which is what God uses to draw His elect to Him

I have no problems using analogies but we can not replace the Scriptures with stories so we don't run people off. Let give an example of a "story" I use often with non-believers.

Imagine you are in a court of law and have been found guilty of a serious crime and it is either 50,000 or 20 years in prison. You do not have the money and as they take you off to jail someone stands up and pays your fine. You are now free because the debt has been payed.

It is analogous to the gospel because man has sinned against God (Romans 3:23)and are by nature a child of wrath (Ephesians 2) and God's wrath abides on you (John 3:18). And so  unless someone steps in you will be sentenced for your crimes against God. However Jesus steps in and His sacrifice on the Cross has payed your fine! Thus you are set free from sin (Ephesians 2:8, Romans 5:1) and now can spend eternity worshiping the Master.

If this is the kind of stories he is talking about then I would not have a problem because you are NOT replacing the scriptures but rather explaining them and telling them where the Bible teaches these things. The attitude I get from this is article is that we should not be dogmatic.

 Sadly he does not differentiate between essentials and non-essentials

1-Essentials are those that MUST be believed such as the Trinity, Jesus is God, physical Resurrection, virgin birth, justification by faith alone, etc.

These are issues that are not negotiable. If one denies these then they are not a Christian

2-Non-essentials  are things like, Are tongues for today?, mode of baptism, etc.

The context he is talking about with street preachers is dealing with essentials and they are dogmatic and not open for debate. These are truths that divide the kingdom of Christ from the kingdom of the cults.

We always need to go to scripture, preach scripture and stand on the essentials. We are told that it is scripture which is the instrument God uses to save man.

(Romans 10:14-17 ESV)
How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!” But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed what he has heard from us?” So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ."

I have no problem with being relevant to the culture but not at the expense when we trade in our Bibles to learn stories instead of preaching the Word of God.

Let me also point out that when we have a proper view of soteriology we see that man does not need to come up with gimmicks to try and get people to come to Christ. We are to evangelize and preach the word and God will take care of the rest

(John 6:37-40 ESV)
All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out. For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me. And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day. For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.”

God from the beginning has elected a people for Himself and His purposes can not be thwarted and thus we just need to be faithful to evangelism and faithful to the word of God.

(Ephesians 1:3-5 ESV)
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will"

I would argue that this author does not have the Biblical view of man's nature and is operating under pragmatism (What he thinks works gets results) instead of the Biblical charge to preach the Gospel which is first and foremost repentance of sin and submission to our Lord and Master.

I am sure the author has good intentions and I am in no way trying to attack him personally but I think this method is dangerous, un-biblical and based on pragmatism.  Please watch the videos below to get a in-depth teaching as to why we MUST NOT  abandon the scriptures for stories.

 This is an issue that is close to my heart and I have a passion to defend truth and Holy Scripture.

Here is a great series John Macarthur did on this very topic and why we must not be
 "Ashamed of the Gospel"

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

No comments:

Post a Comment