Back to series
Listen or Download the Podcast
EPISODE 47: The Partnership of Apologetics and Evangelism
Apologetics without evangelism leaves the task unfinished. Evangelism without apologetics risks a shallow approach to a very deep process. Andy Bannister helps us weave the two together.
Welcome to Questions That Matter, a podcast of the C.S. Lewis Institute. I'm your host, Randy Newman, and today we're going to dig into our old files of a great conversation I had several years ago now with Andy Bannister. Andy is the director of Solas Ministries in Scotland and the UK, and he's a traveling apologist and evangelist, a very good thinker. He's written quite a few books, and we’ll list them in the show notes. And in this conversation, I explore with Andy how are we to do apologetics in our world today? And what are the needs in apologetics in our world today? So, we're diving into this conversation, where we talk about his experiences in evangelism and apologetics in our postmodern world.
Andy, it's great to have you on the C.S. Lewis Institute Podcast.
Randy, it's great to be with you and to be on the show. Thanks for having me.
Andy, so tell us about the Solas Centre. What are you all about? What does that mean? Solas Centre for Public Christianity?
Yeah, so the word Solas… Let’s begin there, Randy. It’s a Scottish word, a Gaelic word, meaning light, meaning sunlight, and so we like the imagery of the sort of light of the gospel spreading across the country. And for listeners who know their church history, at the time of the Reformation, of course, you also have the five Solas of the Reformation, particularly sola scriptura, back to the Bible, a cry of the Reformers. So, we like the play on words, kind of a little sort of play on words.
And then what we do, though, at Solas, is we do two things, really: Primarily, we're an evangelistic organization really focused on taking the gospel out of the four walls of the church and into places where people are. So, we put on events in universities, coffee shops, cafes, workplaces, restaurants. We try and sort of help churches put on low key, very accessible evangelistic events that it’s super easy to invite friends to. And then we also do lots of events in places like universities and so forth.
And then the other half of our work is we teach and train Christians how to share their faith with their friends, their neighbors, their colleagues in a way that's engaging, hopefully not too scary, that actually keeps the conversation sort of centered on Jesus and deals with perhaps some of the big questions in our culture.
Well, a whole lot of your ministry is about apologetics. I've heard you talk about that a whole lot. But I think for many Christians, for some reason, that seems like a scary topic. Or it’s, “Oh! There’s so much I have to learn. I have to memorize a million answers,” or, “I have to study books.” And sure, we do need to be prepared, but how do you think of apologetics and evangelism? How do they weave together? Maybe even definitions? How do you think about that topic?
Oh, gosh, so many great questions! And they're kind of piled into one, Randy. Yeah, I definitely agree with you. I think a lot of Christians are intimidated by apologetics. More than that, I think a lot of Christians are scared by the word apologetic. It sounds very sort of technical. And so, I have friends who I think it would run a mile when they hear that word. So, one of the first things we've done at Solas, and this is not unique to us by any means, is that we actually try to avoid the word apologetics quite a lot. The phrase that we’ve found really works well is persuasive evangelism.
There's a friend of mine called Greg Pritchard, American guy, that does a lot of ministry in Europe. I remember Greg, the way I learned from him of doing this is you say to people, “Look, would you rather engage in persuasive evangelism or unpersuasive evangelism?” Most people go, “Well, I’ll go for persuasive evangelism.” Well, that's apologetics. That's 1 Peter 3:15. And once you've helped people understand what it is… persuasion, it can mean arguments, and so for people who are able to kind of master perhaps that, there are some great arguments for the faith out there, wonderful books written on that. But if somebody really isn't wired that way but is very, very good at relating to people, has the gift of hospitality, can make people feel at home, is a great conversationalist. That can be as persuasive when we share our faith with our friends, than someone who's mastered all the arguments of William Lane Craig or something.
So, the first thing I think we like to do at Solas is try and really take some of the fear out, show people that actually apologetics, in terms of persuasive evangelism, is something that anybody can do. Find the kind of level you're at. But the thing I like, where you landed in the question, particularly, I think, the preparation piece. I think sometimes, as Christians, we don't appreciate that, whatever level we're operating at, it is going to take work, it is going to take effort. But if the gospel is true and we care about our friends and evangelism is worth it for those reasons, then I think it's worth putting the time in, whether it's the time to do the reading or the thinking, whether it's time to practice and work on our conversational skills, to be praying for our friends and our neighbors. Yeah, it's going to take effort and time.
Great! Persuasive evangelism, that’s really good. I like that phrase. All right, let me play devil's advocate for a moment, which I love probably far too much. All right, so quite often, people will say to me, when I'm trying to promote this idea that we need to get involved in conversations, we need to try to persuade. So some Christians will push back and say, “You can't argue people into the kingdom.” “No one's ever been won by an argument.” “We should just proclaim the gospel and let it do its work.” How do you respond?
Yeah, I think you do hear that sometimes. One of the first things I think I would say, and of course you and I are wired similarly in terms of loving questions and conversation, Randy.
I don't invite people here I disagree with.
Quite right, quite right. And so, I think when someone raises that, one of the first things I want to do is ask a little bit about where that's coming from. Because in my experience, Randy, that comes from one of two reasons. Either they're actually terrified of apologetics and evangelism and so forth, and so it's a nice sort of theological wall to hide behind. “All I've got to do is pray and proclaim the gospel in a really simple way.” And if that's the issue, you need to address that one way. If somebody genuinely theologically has ended up in a sort of position where they genuinely feel there is no use for reason and argument and so forth, then I think I'd want to take them gently to the Scriptures. 1 Peter 3:15 we've mentioned already, “Always be prepared to give a reason for the hope that you have.” Or look at Paul on his missionary travels, when he goes to Ephesus there and rents the lecture hall of Tyrannus. And two years, three years, they're arguing with the Greeks and disputing and debating. Or Paul in Athens.
So, we see the New Testament, the new first Christians were willing to use reason and arguments. The New Testament commends us to. So, I think that's important. But at the same time, I also want to recognize there is a segment of truth in what the person is saying. For those of us who love life of the mind, if we're heard to be saying we think we can actually literally argue someone into something, there is a problem, because I don't think that's what apologetics can do. What it can do, though, is, you know, C.S. Lewis Institute Podcast, so let's use a C.S. Lewis kind of, or at least a tangential reference. C.S. Lewis’s great friend, Austin Farrer, at Oxford University, famously said, “Arguments can't create faith, but they can create the climates in which faith is possible.” And so, if our friends have it in their mind that, “Well, I couldn't even consider Jesus, because science and faith,” or, “The Bible is riddled with errors,” or something. If we can help them go, “No. Look. There are good answers to those questions,” maybe that can help create a climate in which our friend might say, “Well, okay. Maybe I'll take a look at Jesus.” And then of course, the rest is down to Jesus and the Holy Spirit.
Good. Would you mind saying that quote again?
So, yeah. Austin Farrer. “Arguments can't create faith, but they can create the climate in which faith is possible.” It's worth checking out. That's a paraphrase, by the way, because I can't remember the exact quote, but that's largely what Austin said.
Well, you mentioned about the New Testament, and I think of the different verbs in Acts 17, first five verses. Not Paul's famous speech later on in the chapter, but earlier. It says that, when he was in Thessalonica, he persuaded, he argued, he reasoned from the Scriptures. And so I remember I was at a conference once, and someone was speaking and saying that no one has ever been led to the Lord through argument. And he said, “Here, let me just try this out, because I've done these many times. Are there any of you here who would say that you came to faith through argument?” And I sat there thinking, “Yeah, actually I did.” And I saw my hand going up out of the corner of my eye. I was like, “That's the only hand in the room, but there it is.” Because it was reading C.S. Lewis's Mere Christianity, filled with arguments and reason, and then also from my own wrestling and talking to people, because for me, it was, “No. Jesus wasn't the Messiah. Jesus was a good teacher.” And it was people who said, “Well, but here he said this, he said this, he said this.” And that's an argument.
You started by saying I would find out what the person meant by that. I do think a lot of people mean ugly, angry, disrespectful, sarcastic argument, which is rampant in our world right now, certainly here in the States and in the political environment. And so I think they're saying… part of their objection to argument is it can be disrespectful and rude, and it can be, but it certainly should never be that way. There is a kind of gracious, respectful, Spirit-filled argument that we need to develop, and I think you've modeled that for us well. I’ve heard you speak a number of times and to give us examples, not just of what to say, but even the demeanor and tone, which I really appreciate.
Thank you. No, yeah. I think you're right. I think we do live in an age where people have forgotten how to argue, and you have to turn on social media to see this, people shouting at each other from outside. We have it in politics. We have it in culture. And, yeah, I think you're probably right. And that whole approach of models is interesting. You mentioned that there. And of course, a big part of discipleship, right, is seeing people who are following Christ and being attracted to wanting to follow Christ the way they're following Christ. Paul says this, right? In the New Testament.
And so I think I was very grateful when I first got involved in evangelism and sharing my faith, Randy, is seeing people who are doing exactly what you were saying, who were doing it well, who were using arguments, but also in a way that was compassionate, that was gracious, and there are good examples in history. C.S. Lewis was a big influence. Francis Schaeffer was a big influence.
And so I think, yeah, helping our friends see, no, you can use argument, you can use reason, but it doesn't need to be a clanging cymbal or a resounding drum. You can do it in a way that compels people. One way, actually, I've always found, a little tip for people listening to this, is if you do use an argument, is don't then sort of end your presentation of that argument to your friend with a kind of triumphant, “Haha! There you go!”
“Gotcha!” End with a more of kind of, “Well, that's what I think. What do you think? Did that help? Was that useful to you?” Turn it into a question even as you share something, because that invites the other person to go, “Actually, it was quite helpful,” or, “It didn't actually quite answer my question.”
Faith Over Science
Is it possible to be a scientist and a person of faith at the same time? Are Christianity and science at odds with one another? I think there are a whole lot of people in our world who think that. Well, these apologetic questions and others are going to be explored in a prerecorded interview that we did with scientist and philosopher and mathematician and brilliant mind. Dr. Lennox is going to examine some of the latest scientific research and theories surrounding questions of the origins of life and concepts of the mind. He will demonstrate why a Christian approach to an understanding of the universe makes the most sense. So, if you're a believer who's looking for a way to explain the validity of the Christian worldview to some of your friends who are more scientifically minded or scientifically oriented, this is a really, really important event, and it's free of charge, but you do need to register for it because we'd like to be able to have all those kind of connections in place. So, to register please click Here. We sure hope you can make it for this event.
Well, so you use the phrase “persuasive evangelism.” We at the C.S. Lewis Institute like the phrase “conversational apologetics.” So, it takes apologetics. It's not just delivering information. It’s conversing about it, back and forth. And I don't want to spend a whole lot of time about the whole thing about social media and texting and Facebook Messenger or whatever, but one of the problems with the whole media kind of thing is it's not really a conversation. Even though, okay, you send your tweet out, and then someone responds, whatever. That's not a conversation. So, you're just making your statement, and you have no idea who you're talking to, and you're not seeing facial expression. In a conversation, you say something, and you watch someone's face, and you go, “Oh, they didn't understand what I meant. Let me try that again.” Or, “Ooh, I struck a nerve. I think I said something that really upset them. Let me try to clarify that.” That's totally impossible in the tweeting messages, but a conversation can be more of a back and forth.
So, I like your idea. At the end of an argument, rather than saying, “So there! You don't have a leg to stand on!” But rather to say, “So that makes sense to me. Does that make sense to you?” Or, “What do you think of that?”
I think that’s dead right. In fact, … I forget who it was I read recently described a lot of what goes on social media as very similar to a dog or a cat scent-marking its territory as it goes throughout its morning walk, because you're basically putting your opinions out there and marking out your territory. That's actually frighteningly true. And as Christians, we are not immune from that.
Just for people who want to dig a bit deeper into this before we move on. Randy, a wonderful book, actually, I think, on how we can get back to having good conversations in a social media age. Not a book on evangelism at all, just a great book on conversations. There's a wonderful writer called Sherry Turkle, based at MIT, and Sherry's book, Reclaiming Conversation. It's a wonderful book. She's a sociologist, specialist in technology. It's just a brilliant book. And it's one of those books that I read as a Christian, underlining vast amounts of it, going, “Gosh, there is so much here.” So Reclaiming Conversation by Sherry Turkle.
And I love the fact that she says it's reclaimable. Her book is not primarily negative. It's got some negative concerns and some complaints, but mostly we can reclaim conversation. And that's very encouraging. All right, so I want to go after a very common thing that we face when we're talking to people, when we converse about faith. It seems that, from a whole wide range of points of view, people basically believe if you're good enough, you'll go to heaven. Be a good personism may be the most popular religion, whether it's coming from a totally secular point of view or a very religious Catholic, Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist, whatever, it doesn't matter, point of view. Or whatever, it’s, “Well, if you're just a good person, you'll go to heaven.” Now, obviously the gospel is completely antithetical to that and is unique in that. So how do we help people out of that? In conversation, how do we help really set them free from, “I have to be a good person?”
Yeah. That’s a wonderful question, Randy. Thank you. The one thing I would add, actually, to the question is that you listed those other religious systems that fall into that. I think sometimes as Christians we fall into this, which concerns me. Either sort of directly or indirectly. The Christian version of it is, “If I go to church enough, tithe enough, pray enough, serve hard enough, God will like me more.” And one of the problems… I think you see one of the problems here, particularly in that religious form of it, is of course you can always do more. So, if you think that you are aiming to be a good person by good works, by good moral works, by good religious works, how do you know when to stop? How do you know what God's sort of score line actually is? And it can be devastating, because you can always do more. You can always serve the poor more. You can always give more money away. You can always work harder. And you can never rest. Up and up the staircase you climb, never knowing if you've reached the top. I think that's one of the tragedies of that position, that it means you can never rest secure in your identity in Christ. You can never know that God truly loves you and has accepted you in Christ. Because there's always more to be done.
With more secular friends who lean that way, again because I love the kind of conversational apologetics, the persuasive evangelism approach, a question, I think I would often lead with when I hear that coming is, firstly, I think, clarifying that's what you've heard. Because I think sometimes one of the dangers as Christians is we think we know what the questions are. Our friend says something vaguely in the ballpark, so we go, “Oh, well, you obviously believe that all good people go to heaven,” but that may not be what they believe. So, clarify that's what they believe. Say, “If I'm hearing you right, are you suggesting that?” And if they are, then I think a great follow-up question then would be to say, well, one of the first questions, “Who gets to define what good is?”
I think that's an underlying question there. Yeah, sure, I'm a good person if I get to define what good is. In the same way I'm an Olympic level archer if I can shoot the arrow at the barn door and then draw the target around the blinking thing afterwards.
By the way, isn't that what Jesus was doing when he told the rich man, “Why do you call me good?”
“Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” “Why do you call me good?”
“Why do you call me good?”
Let's talk about goodness.
And then only God is good.
No, no, I think that's going on there. So, I think that question becomes interesting. One of the lead-outs of that question, I think, that begins getting you then into gospel territory is I think there's a couple of things that subtly people do, sometimes realizing it, sometimes not realizing: One is that we tend to divide the world into good people and bad people. And of course, we always put ourselves in the good category. Very rarely do I hear people say, “Oh, there are good people, and they're going to heaven. There are bad people who aren't. And of course, I'm one of the bad people.” Because once somebody's there, they're almost at the gospel anyway, actually, which is great. They know their sins. But they always put themselves in the good bucket. And that's an interesting thing, to call that one out, because I think again it raises the question of who gets to set the standards and how do you decide.
The other way I like to go, which I find can be really sort of slightly provocative, but in a fun way in today's very sort of progressive and woke kind of culture, is when someone sort of suggests that maybe God might judge people on the basis of their good deeds and so forth, you can look at them and smile and say, “Well, my one concern with that, one concern I do have with that, would be that potentially makes God out to be a racist.” That gets a reaction. People do look at you go, “Well, think about this: It's very easy to be a good person here in a liberal Western democracy like the USA, like Europe, or wherever. It's pretty easy not to murder somebody. I often go for a whole week without killing somebody.”
What a relief!
What a relief, then. I saw Randy move slightly further away from me there. Because we have stable politics, right? Relatively. We have the rule of law, we have a police force, all those kinds of things. So, the whole setup of society helps you to be generally a good person. If you live in some of the war-torn trouble spots of the world, that is a darn sight harder. So are we seriously suggesting that God goes, “Oh, yes, of course, look at those Americans, those Canadians, and those British people. I'd love to have them in my heaven. Oh, those poor suckers living in Syria right now,” who perhaps it might be a case of kill or be killed in some situations, then to go, “Well, I'm sorry, mate, you're going to the other place.” And so whichever way you carve it, it ends up either looking very self-serving, “Yes, of course, all good people are going to heaven and I'm one of them,” or it looks devastatingly like you're dividing people into them and us and showing favor towards your own side.
The beauty of the gospel is not merely does it address us personally with what the issue really is, it levels the playing field. It completely levels it because God does not play favorites. And yes, that's quite shocking when you first realize that means, “He doesn't play favorites with me,” but it's also hugely reassuring. He doesn't play favorites with anybody. And that's only a couple of steps from there to the idea of grace, I think, that forgiveness is free.
Wow! All right, so you're touching on several things, and by the way, I can hear your being influenced by Francis Schaeffer. Maybe we'll come back to that. Schaeffer was so good about… he didn't always call it deconstructing, but there's a work of pre-evangelism we need to do of deconstructing people's worldviews. And so there needs to be a sense of, “Now wait a minute. If you're saying we all have to be good enough, well, can that really work? Who is good enough? Is anybody good enough? What's the standard?” And we have to try to lead people to… And it's a very painful place for them to get to. Again, going back to that story of the rich man, and Jesus said, “Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone.” He quoted some commandments. The man went away sad. And Schaeffer was brilliant in showing us about trying to deconstruct. But I love… Schaeffer talked about the need to do it with kindness and gentleness, because when people start feeling their worldview crumbling, it's a terrifying thing. So, it's a great challenge to do that, again kindly and gently. So, I think that's really important.
You know, there's another piece in this that I wonder about. For some of us, some of us can tell our testimonies as, “I used to think that I had to be a good person.” And either the testimony then goes to, “But I found out I really wasn't. I did some really horrible things, and I needed to be forgiven,” or, “I actually was a pretty good person. And I did this, I did this. I was really good. And you know what? It didn't set me free. In fact, it made things worse, like I had to keep performing, had to keep performing, had to do more. And when I found out that Jesus was the One who died for me and that I didn't have to perform, it was wonderful.”
And so, instead of the persuasion or the argument of, “Here's why that's wrong,” it’s, “Here's why this is so good.”
Why it's liberating. Yeah. I think you're absolutely right. I’ve got a friend of mine up in Canada who coined a lovely three-letter acronym that he likes to use, and he talks about the fact that one of the biggest problems in our culture these days is what he calls PBA. PBA is Performance-Based Acceptance. Our culture is constructed that way. If you perform the right way, if you work hard, do the right thing, don't tweet the wrong thing on social media, have the right opinions, you're accepted. And then we often apply it as human beings to spirituality. And I think you're right, particularly on that latter example you gave there, Randy. That yeah, if you bring that model into a relationship with God, you can never rest, you can never have peace. More than that, the other danger is, even if you do get to something approaching peace because you think you constructed it that way, then the danger is you end up with self-righteousness Pharisees. If you'd grabbed the average Pharisee in the first century and said, “Are you a good person?” They'd have probably gone, “I jolly well am. I've kept the law. I've tithed right down to the last piece of mint and dill and so forth.” But Jesus doesn't go, “Oh, well done, good and faithful servant. “You’re looking down on the rest of everybody from the tower of your moral self-righteousness.”
And that's the kicker. The other place I love to draw all the threads together is that, particularly with somebody I think has realized, has got to the stage of beginning to realize there are some things there that need dealing with, I always like to try and drop into the conversation somewhere the idea that forgiveness, by its very definition, has to be free.
If I offend my wife in some horrible way and I say something crass, which happens fairly regularly, or do something I shouldn't, that also happens fairly regularly. And if I say to Astrid, “Oh, Honey, I'm so sorry I did that. Would you please forgive me?” And she said, “Oh, of course I will. Yeah, I'll forgive you. Just make sure you take the garbage out every day for the next two weeks and buy me flowers three times and a couple of nice dinners, and I'll forgive you.” Well, that's not forgiveness. That's an economic transaction. And forgiveness, by its very nature, has to be free. By definition. So, the very idea that we can please God, if we have got stuff in our past that we need to deal with, that we might deal with it by doing good works, which is the Islamic model, and we may talk about this in other podcasts—I always say to my friends in that sort of faith community, “Well, let's be honest about what we're talking about there. You're talking about economics. You're not talking about forgiveness and mercy.”
What is spiritual warfare and does it really matter or does it really affect my everyday life? C.S. Lewis, in his introduction to The Screwtape Letters, said this: “There are two equal and opposite errors into which our race can fall about the devils. One is to disbelieve in their existence. The other is to believe, and to feel an excessive and unhealthy interest in them. They themselves are equally pleased by both errors and hail a materialist or a magician with the same delight.” Isn't that brilliant? Well, we're doing an event about spiritual warfare with our good friend and C.S. Lewis scholar Jerry Root. Dr. Jerry Root was professor for many years at Wheaton. Now he's Professor Emeritus at Wheaton College. And if you were fortunate enough to be at Wheaton and study under Jerry Root, you know that he is brilliant and a delight to listen to, one story after another and brilliant insight. And he's doing a special event for us about spiritual warfare. This one is an in-person event. So, if you're in the Washington, DC, area, if you're interested in learning more about spiritual warfare, if you follow Jerry Root, or if you're a Wheaton alumni, this event is for you. It's going to be at Cornerstone Evangelical Free Church in Annandale. There is a cost for this event, it’s $10 per person, and there will be a question and answer period following Dr. Root's presentation. We'll also have light refreshments, and we really hope you can make it. We're really eager to have Jerry Root with us once again. Please register for the Event. Don't let the devil discourage you from registering. If you go to our website, I don't think it'll be hard to find the spiritual warfare event.
Well, so let me go after one thing here. What about if people say, “Well, if all the stuff you're saying is about being free, and I just accepted that I'm forgiven, well, then I can just do anything I want,” which, by the way, is the Romans 6 argument. And so, when people raise that question, I'm always encouraged, as Paul raised it in Roman 6, it was, “Okay, if you're raising this question, you're probably understanding the gospel more deeply than you had before.” But what do we say? “Okay, if I'm just totally forgiven, well then I can do anything!” And then the list, whatever, “Why not go and sin like crazy, because I'm going to be forgiven?”
Yeah. And I love the way you began with answering your own question, of saying that when someone raises a question that scripture directly addresses, it's very exciting, A, for the reasons that you mentioned, and B, because just the ability to say, “You know, that's a brilliant question. And it's such a brilliant question, scripture actually addresses it directly.” Because then people are like, “Oh, the Bible actually addresses my question?” “Yes! Let's take a look, because God realized you'd be asking that question. He's on your case.” Where I think I would take that question myself, Randy, I think is… One of the things I think that's so beautiful about Christian ethics, when we take it seriously is, rather than Christian ethics being, “Live this way, so that God will like you more, and therefore you'll earn acceptance, which we've already talked about the damage that does.” It’s the other way around, “It’s, look how much God has loved you. Look what He’s done for you in Christ. Romans 5, verse 9, “. God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us,” and then, says the New Testament, “Now live in the light of that.” Philippians 2 and other passages. “Given what Jesus has done, therefore, go and live differently.”
And so the problem, I think, with that, “Now I can do whatever I want” approach is I think, firstly, it neglects that whole that you've now been brought into the family of God, and God's demonstrated love for you, and surely if you were really touched and transformed by that, you'd want to live differently. I think that's the first problem. And then, secondly, I think it also shows that the very fact you would ask that question, you still haven't quite grasped the heart of the Christian message is all about. What do you base your life upon and make ultimate? Do you try and find your identity and your security and your happiness in the pursuit of pleasure, money, satisfaction, fame, glory, all of those things? That underlies most sins, really, is that the love of the heart is fixed on the wrong thing. This is Augustine's idea. Our problem as human beings, we love the wrong thing.
And so I think that question still shows that's going on. “Okay, well, basically, of course I'd want to be happy, wouldn't I? By pursuing all of these things.” And I think I'd be saying to my friend, “No, no, no. You still miss it. If you pursue those things, you are not going to be happy. You’re going to be tragically unhappy because you still haven't found your rest in God.” But I want to do it gently, in a way that goes, as you say, “Brilliant! You’ve worked out the logic of the gospel here. Now let's follow the next step down.”
You know, the parable based on the New Testament, because one of the things I love doing in evangelism, if you take them to the Scripture, brilliant, particularly if you could take someone to Jesus, all the better! And I think Luke 15—I love the model there of the two sons. The younger son who tries this, basically, “Well, I'm going to try and run away and find my happiness over here,” and fails. And then the older son, who tries it through religiosity, and both miss the love of their father. But the great thing: The younger son who is messing around with this stuff, he's the one who finds reconciliation with his dad, because he figures out, “This just ends in pig mess.” The older son, the religious one, is the more dangerous one. And that's why Jesus ends that story with the oldest son out there in the field, and we don’t know his response, because Jesus then turns to the Pharisees, who he's telling this story to, and goes, “Well, now then, boys, what are you going to do?”
I don't remember the use of the word boys in the text, but that’s okay.
That’s in the original Aramaic.
Oh, is it? Okay, good. Just the way you said earlier, that God says, “Well, mate….” I don't remember that in the Psalms, but sorry.
You've just touched on something that is… it can easily be passed over, like, “Well, of course, obviously,” but it's a huge point: The sooner we can get people into the scriptures, the better. I'm not saying that we ignore their questions or we say their questions aren’t important. Their questions are very important, and I want to use reason and dialogue. But there does come a point where we want the scriptures to do the heavy lifting for us. And so, I love when someone raises a question that's raised in scripture. “Well, you know, that's a great question because it's actually raised in the Bible, and let's take a look at it. And if you could, on your own now, go read the book of Romans, and let's talk about it,” or one of the Gospels or Luke 15 or a passage in the Scripture. Because the Scriptures have a way…. Well, they're a two-edged sword, and there's a way that they cut past things or they help people get an answer to their question that's far better than any of our apologetics could do. Again, I'm not trying to downplay the importance of apologetics and reason, but the scriptures are far more powerful.
I agree wholeheartedly. And actually, it's a wonderful resource for people who want to dig a bit deeper into that very angle there, Randy. My friend and colleague, David Robertson. David set Solas up ten years ago, before handing on the reins to me in 2016. David's most recent book is called A.S.K., and it's a wonderful book. It's 50 apologetic questions, but they're questions submitted from young people around the world, so they're real questions from young people in different cultures. And David does a kind of answer, but then what he always does, which I love, he always connects it to a Scripture that addresses the issue, and then also ends with a prayer, which is great. So, it's got the persuasion, it's got the scripture, it's got the prayer, and people can find out more on the Solas website or get the book on Amazon or wherever you buy your books. It's a really helpful book. It reminds us that, yeah, try and connect the person to the word of God and also don't forget to connect prayer into it, as well. Sometimes I think we run away from that in apologetics, and people are more open to that maybe than we might realize.
Yes. And to encourage people who are struggling or doubting or wondering, to say, “Well, listen. Maybe you don't pray very much, maybe you've never prayed in your life, and maybe you don't even believe in God, but I would encourage you to say something like, ‘Well, God, if you're there, would You show me what the truth is?’ and, ‘God, if you're there, then I really want to get to know You.’” I want to help even put words in people's mouths, so to speak, or in their prayers, of helping them move toward God with their affections before their thoughts or their ideas or something.
Yeah, I agree with you. And equally as well, if you're having a conversation with someone who's very open and seeking, or perhaps a fellow Christian maybe struggling with an issue, someone who's open to you taking this approach, I think it can be helpful, before you start leaping in with your clever answers or digging into script, to say, “Hey, here's an idea. Why don't we pray together? Why don't we just pray, and go, ‘Lord, thank you for my friend’s question. Would You guide us as we talk this through together and just bring the Holy Spirit into the conversation,’” and then open the scriptures, talk through with them. But again, you just grounded it in the work of the Spirit, rather than feeling you take all the pressure on your shoulders.
Because that's another reason I think many Christians are afraid of evangelism a little bit, Randy, is that we feel we've got to do all the heavy lifting, that it’s our job to persuade people, it’s our job to reason with people, and if our friend walks away unpersuaded or unconverted, we have somehow failed. Rather than to go, “No. We are co-laborers with God. In fact, less than co-laborers. He's the one who's doing the heavy lifting. It’s His work. We are just there to sort of keep in step with Him.”
Great. Well, Andy Bannister, you have said a number of times on this podcast, I agree with you, and so we need to quit while you're still agreeing with me, so before we get into a fight or argument or disagreement, we're going to say, “Okay, that's enough.” So, no, really, it's been a thrill to have you on our podcast.
It’s been great to be with you.
It’s good to have you back. And we hope that, those of you who are listening, this and all of our resources will help you love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, strength, and mind.
We here at the C.S. Lewis Institute are delighted to tell you our newly redesigned website has been given an award. We're an early winner of the Gold Award by the dotCOMM Awards Agency. They hand out very few of these awards for excellence in web creativity and digital communication. This year's competition had entrants from 2500 entries or even more. Designers, developers, content producers. I mean, it was amazing. And we are so very grateful that we were given this award. We thank you for your prayers for this ministry and support for our ministry. This redesign took a lot of time, a lot of work, and a lot of money. And we would love for you to be joining us as a financial support of our ministry for paying for these kinds of things and also the great materials that we produce and the events that we do. So please, prayerfully consider, if you're not a regular monthly supporter of our ministry, we'd love to have you as a partner in that way. Or if it's only occasional gifts, we take those, too. But we really need your help. So, we hope that you can visit our Website. Thanks.