Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Is There a Problem with the Way We Evangelize?

Michael Metzger recently wrote a post on his blog DoggieHeadTilt titled Scracth-Off Faith which talks about the role of discovery in learning in the ancient world and how the Enlightenment distorted this. He then goes on to show how this infected the church looking at what it did to evangelism. Though Mike focuses on evangelism what he says applies to other things as well, especially teaching. So I encourage you to read what he says below then if you are interested go to his blog and read the rest of the post. Good "food for thought"!
Jesus said the kingdom of heaven is “treasure hidden in the field, which a man found and hid again; and from joy over it he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field” (Mt. 13:44). This is an older sense of discovery, “of finding something that was there,” writes Iain McGilchrist. In ancient times, it was believed truth is covered and we dis-cover it. It’s similar to setting out to see one thing and stumbling upon something entirely different. It’s the combination of surprise, discovery, and joy – exactly what Augustine meant when he said the soul delights in particular in what it learns indirectly.

McGilchrist believes the Enlightenment distorted this ancient view. It instead fostered a “grandiose sense” of discovery, with truth as “something we make, rather than something we uncover.” Enlightenment experts constructed theories, principles, and concepts that were presented to inquirers as truth. The ancient sense of discovery was dulled. To assess the damage done to education, catch Sir Ken Robinson’s critique of the Enlightenment and how it crimps students’ enthusiasm for learning.

The Enlightenment infected the Western church as well. Enlightenment evangelists set out to present truth rather than assist others in discovering it. This fostered new methods of evangelism. One is the direct method – sermons, speeches, and canned presentations like The Four Spiritual Laws. Another is the erudite approach, lamented by Roger Parrott, president of Belhaven College. It relegates evangelism to the domain of gifted apologists who present “biblical worldview.” The therapeutic method presents a “safe” God. The consumerist approach presents a God dying to “meet your needs” – but allows individuals to determine those needs, turning them into consumers.

The problem with these methods is not that they don’t work. They do. But they ignore the Enlightenment paradox. Presenting truth in modern ways “simultaneously makes evangelism infinitely easier, and discipleship infinitely harder,” writes Os Guinness. In not having to dig a little and discover truth, conversion becomes infinitely easier. But discipleship becomes infinitely harder, since Christian formation is arduous, requiring discipline. The effect of the Enlightenment approach “is not that Christians have disappeared,” writes Guinness, “but that Christian faith has become so deformed.” The solution is restoring the ancient sense of discovery.
So what do you think about what Michael says? What are some of the ways we can restore the "discovery" method to evangelism? How about to other topics?

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