Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Who's Testimony; Ours Or Christ's?

I get the impression that contemporary evangelicals are at a loss for words when it comes to sharing with the unbelieving world. Aside from the various understandings of what exactly the Gospel is, there seems to be a lot of conversation that leans toward personal testimony. There is nothing wrong with giving ones personal experience however it is a bit problematic when that becomes the emphasis.

Why does this happen? That is to say why would anyone place emphasis on their personal experience as an evangelistic tool. Many have found that offering up the objective content of the Gospel is typically met with some sort of refutation. Not being able to respond results in an embarrassing situation. Or the exact opposite could happen where the refutation leads to a rebuttal then further refutation, add some emotions and now we have a heated debate, also another embarrassing situation. As a result many have come to believe that personal experience is a better way of going because "its unassailable". "It happened to me, I know it, therefore it cannot be refuted".

There are a couple problems with this. The first and vary obvious is someone might want to believe their personal testimony is irrefutable, after all it was their experience so it happened to them and no one else can refute it. If that is true and religious experiences are validated based on the individual having experienced it then that standard must be applied across the board to all religious experiences such as adherents who claim to have experienced a blue skinned Krishna.

Those who advance these type "irrefutable subjective truth statements" are not willing to extend the application to other religious experiences that do not line up with their belief system.  This reduces the nature of truth to a stipulated standard which is not characteristic of the nature of truth.  Any proposition is open to critique. This is especially the case if it is being used to advance some other proposition like Christianity is ultimately real/true. We must keep in mind that God is a rational God and is the standard for right reason. He creates on a representational model therefor all men are created in His image possessing among other things powers of reason. Therefor believers have no reason to shirk from responsible reasoning.

When our Lord left his disciples he left them with explicit responsibilities to disciple (or evangelize), Baptize in the Trinitarian formulation, and to teach them all that He commanded (Matthew 28.16-20). When we evangelize we are sharing the “good news” that is what the word means. What is the good news of all scripture? Paul says,

[15:1] Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, [2] and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you—unless you believed in vain. (1 Corinthians 15:1-2 ESV)

Why do we share the “good news”? Paul explains that it is the power of God for salvation. My personal testimony of how I received God’s grace might be useful in a cumulative case for Christianity but the means by which hearts are changed is Christ’s testimony the Gospel of Christ. If we are going to use “evangelistic tools” to win people to Christ, it is important that we use the tools that we have been given.

1 comment:

Denny Fusek said...

I wholeheartedly agree with you, and as a corrolary to what you are saying, I think it is wise for Christians not to constantly throw out all of their dirty laundry of what they were like before they were saved.

If I want to teach young people to be sexually pure and I want to give some examples of failure, I don;t talk about myself, I talk about David. If I want to teach people to avoid hatred, I don;t talk about myself, I talk about Paul. The Bible is replete of personal examples that don't involve me. I can find an example of any sin in the characters of the Bible.

I once visited a church where a woman told us about her five abortions. My reaction was to merely stay away from that woman; I wanted absolutely nothing to do with her. And this was not when I was a young Christian. This was a mere 2 years ago. Airing out all your past sins to a mixed group of people is always a poor idea.