Numerous things, probably, but I am thinking of something particular. My father and I had lots of debates over the years after I became a “Jesus Freak”, especially. Oddly enough, not alot of that was about God’s existance, but the peripheries of religious structure, history, Bible relevancy, etc. I had one desire in all this: I would’ve liked to see my Father’s conversion of heart. He just loved to debate and -if it were possible- bring the opposition to tears. I think that, because my mother told me that is what happened when my grandfather tried to talk to him about God and visiting ministers, etc.
My father never turned away a good debate.
I had something of his temperment, so I never went the tearful route, I just tried to get around being flummoxed into never ending circles of rhetoric. Because the main thing I learned from him is that the topic with an atheist doesn’t matter. That is right. The topic does not matter at all. What matters is honing in on the heart.
When you talk with people on religious matters you have to decide what your true goal is. If your goal is to change their minds, you might gain a foothold here or there. That is the nature of discussion. We do not usually remain completely unchanged…. we are strengthening or loosening our convictions of things in light of the way we are affected. Usually in small degrees if we have maturity in the subject. There is rarely the effect of influencing a complete turn of heart. That is left to the practice of preaching, anointed preaching.
But what if you have insurmountable barriers to the changing of the mind? This happens often enough. And it is this that you often find in religious platforms. Take for instance the post @ Brutally Honest today, which is on the intransigence of the Muslim world – especially as witnessed in the broadcast from the Palestinian media. The effect of Islam is to create an almost insurmountable barrier to change through discussion.
What does this have to do with what I learned from dealing with discussing things with an atheist? Mainly, the great difference I make between spending time in uproar about what is being said against trying to figure out what needs to be done. The first thing is to figure out your own goal. Then figure out what steps you take with that other viewpoint.
You have to understand that you might likely fail. You have no power over what others choose, but I think you have a duty to try every peaceful means possible to convince them of the validity and usefulness of what you are presenting. That is the first door. Because the first thing to stop consideration of another view is the idea that one doesn’t need it.
And religion is based upon what one believes one needs. I realize some would quibble with this, but break it all down and you are left with this practical base. I think God Himself put it upon this base, but I won’t go into that.
That is why I have come to the place where I think you have to aim for the heart of a person and not get all tangled up in the constant intellectual manuvers of justifying, blaming, rationalizing, etc. Those are useful for going forward in what your mind is open to, but when the mind has been shut, you have to bypass it until you have an opening.
If we close off efforts to reach the hearts of Muslims, what are we left with when there is only obdurate resistance? We are left with subjugating and eliminating. Which is plainly their goal for all of us.
As Christians I believe we are called to bypass that impasse. But we can not and will not, if we continue appeasement and shackling ourselves in refusal to change hearts. If we remain dissemblers in use of what is available to us. We say our weapons of warfare are not of this world, and truly they aren’t, but if we will not use the weapons, the preaching, the evangelism of the gospel, boldly proclaiming the name of Christ, doing the good works in His Name, what are we left with?
Only the cudgels and the swords of the World, or seeing the continuing loss of territory, resulting in our own subjugation and persecution, and elimination. With none of the accomplishment of our intended goals. Which is peaceful existance in this world and freedom to pursue it for the next. With as many won to that as possible.
Because as Christians we should be satisfied, like Paul, to be able to present the gospel, and then leave the results to God. But we have to maintain the ability and freedom to present it.
What I learned from my father is that we will not get to the place we need to with complacency in efforts, without overwhelming the barriers with goodness. That is where we so often fail…. we try a little goodness, and then give up, but strong barriers need to be overwhelmed, and the barriers of the heart need such a flood of goodness that there can be no doubt that it is needed and wanted.
And that is what we need, to keep open to, with the Muslim community. We must see the need of their humanity and maintain our sense of what is good and right. We need to pour on the Oil and the Wine, friends. It is time for our oil and our wine to be poured in the Name of Christ. We must not forget the Name of Christ- because everyone always wants to see where one can get some more of that good stuff.
But if you take nothing else away from all this, please remember:
Go for the heart….always the heart.