At least one Sunday a month we have “Come in, go out”-meetings in my house church, where we firstly gather in my living room for some worship, prayer and Bible study, and then we go out on the streets of Uppsala to hand out coffee and evangelize. Yesterday, we had two remarkable encounters during the outreach phase.
A Kurdish man came, received a cup of coffee and then loudly announced “I don’t believe in religion! Not in Islam, Christianity or anything else!” Thinking that this was an atheist, I started to bring up some apologetic arguments for God’s existence, but they fell flat to the ground. “I do believe in a creator! But not in religion! It is impossible for humans to understand God and to have contact with him!”
Oh, so it’s a deist then, I thought. My friend Tryggve and I then started to question him on how the Creator is able to create an entire universe without being able to cure a disease or talk to those that He has created, but our attempts were unsuccesful as the man repeatedly just stated “It’s impossible! It’s impossible! You don’t understand!” I then started to testify about miracles that I have witnessed and how Jesus revealed Himself to me, but I could hardly finish a sentence before the man shouted “No! Those are just illusions! You don’t understand the truth!”
The man furthermore claimed that we all believe what we believe because of our upbringing, whereas I told him about the amazing church growth in Nepal, where millions have converted to Christianity during the last 30 years mainly due to visions, healings, signs and wonders. Again, his response was that it was impossible. I asked him how he knew that it was impossible, and he claimed that “everybody” knew miracles are impossible. When I pointed out that this was a lie since we Christians know that miracles exist, he again said that miracles are impossible and that God does not reveal Himself to people.
Later during our outreach, a woman came to us. She said that she believe in ghosts, spirits and forefathers, but not in God. “I will never believe in God”, she said. I guess one can describe her as a new age atheist. I tried to use the cosmological argument for God’s existence, asking her from what everything comes from. “The fish!” was her response, which of course perplexed me until I realized that she thought that I had asked her where people come from, and she had been referring to evolution. “But why did the big bang occur? What lies behind the physical world as well as the spiritual?” – “Well, it’s surely not God!” she said.
Our church member Henrik testified how he had been involved in new age previously, and how Jesus not only had been the only one who was able to give Him peace, but also was the most powerful and gracious of all spiritual powers he had ever encountered. “I’m glad Jesus works for you”, she replied, “for me, Jesus is whatever gives us peace, and God is a category of everything that we don’t understand and the life that is to come. But God isn’t a person.”
I asked both the man and the woman what the sources of their religious beliefs were. We charismatic Christians refer to the Bible which in turn is verified by miracles and revelations that God gives to us personally. However, both the deist and the new age atheist didn’t think that an external source was necessary. Both were fundamentalists in that sense – the woman even said that “nothing you say will ever rock my fundament!”
It was obvious that neither of them were interested in logic, or a rational discussion. Which was why we prayed for them, treated them with respect and encouraged them to try to seek God whenever they felt that they current beliefs didn’t work. Of course, both of them immediately rejected the latter proposal, but we pray that they indeed will remember it when such times comes. Apologetics is awesome, but for some it is meaningless. Some just need love and the Holy Spirit to find Christ.
Really nice, sharing is great and it reminds me of what I keep seeing in people, they make God or their non God in their own image, rather than accept that we are made in His image.
I must admit some respect for any person who gets outside of the box of the militant atheists that believe with crude arguments and five minutes of logic that they can persuade anyone that their religion is wrong, which might be possible if we did not have a relationship instead of a religion, an experience rather than a doctrine, a life in God rather than an existence that we have been informed of being from God.
What ever their image of us as a body of Christ, or of God I just pray we can always show the love that Jesus has for them.
It’s also a matter of when the time is right for an individual. Early Friends (Quakers) believed everyone had a “Day of Visitation” which was the time in which they needed to make a choice. Hopefully reaching out to folks before that Day will plant seeds which may later bear fruit.
God knows I love your heart. You teach me brother, you teach me by expanding my imagination. But I know you are a Jesus disciple, not because of your apologetics, rather because of your love for others (John 13:35).
There is no doubt that we tend to fall into various categories. But in real life, it is very hard to pin most of us down in those categories. Most of us are growing and changing for good or for ill, and that means we are in process. I don’t consider myself charismatic. But others might, at least on some occasions. And I do not wish to avoid charisma.
Point being, I am a person, a follower of Christ with lots of strengths and weaknesses, struggles, confusions, knowledge and wisdom. I have hope and despair in me. I have goodness and sinfulness both running through me – good and evil. And somehow I am at my best for Jesus when I am most broken. – Go figure.
I say this because I see your encounter as more a matter of epistemology than apologetics, really. Apologetics is all about rational, logical, discussions. The things we believe can bear up to scrutiny under those guidelines in our more sober minded moments. But there are other KINDS of knowing. And those kinds of knowing don’t all fit neatly into rational logical thought. Some are more mysterious. Even if rational thought can explain that knowledge party, it cannot explain it in whole.
I KNOW my mother loves me. I have lots of rational evidence for it. But that rational evidence does not capture the totality of my knowing her love.
And so, I really like the last bit you said. Some just need love and the Holy Spirit…. The only thing I would change there is the word “Some”
Seeds are planted in the hearts you touched in this episode you depict. You may not get to see them grow or harvest. Some of those seeds will die and not grow to fruition. But there is no doubt you planted.
You expanded the imagination. You served coffee to a stranger. Your kindness didn’t fit his world-view. He is struggling with that now. Let us pray heaven invades that crack in his defenses. I am quite sure my apologetics will only cloud that invasion.
Love the natural flow of meet in, then go out. I’m a house church leader in the making!
[…] finally in a case of irony, the author of this post, writes in conclusion of a long […]
Having argued alot on blogs about the existence of God and specifically Jesus, I do get frustrated at how the arguments often fall on deaf ears. I will continue to argue, as one of the main ways I was converted was reading some books explaining the basic facts of Christianity. But yes, in the end, it is God who convicts us of the truth of Jesus.