Engaging the Non-Christian Mind

engaging the unbelieving mindThe following is a response I gave a number of years ago to a non-christian blogger who was trying to understand Christians.  His name was Zack and I think he was genuinely seeking truth. He was also very committed to being secular, and “progressive.”  In this post, I simply wanted to raise some doubt in his mind as to his use of the word “progressive.”  Of course, I never want to miss an opportunity to share the gospel.

Question: Does anyone on the right or the left ever feel uncomfortable with using the word “progressive” to describe themselves? To say “I am a progressive” is a huge value laden statement. “Others are backward but I am progressive.” “I’m better than the ones who aren’t progressive.” When you stop for a minute and think about it, doesn’t it seem a bit unseemly and arrogant in the ear?

Proverbs 27:2 (ESV)
Let another praise you and not your own mouth;
a stranger and not your own lips.

I have always liked the simplicity of simply being a seeker of truth. A truth seeker doesn’t declare an allegiance to a political party, a popular philosophy or perspective. He/she simply wants to follow the truth. If the truth overturns their most treasured beliefs, so be it.

If truth takes them to the left today on issue A, it may take them to the right tomorrow on issue B. In a week, the truth might lead to a third or previously un-thought of perspective.

I have told all my evangelical Christian friends that they ought not identify with any party. All Christians, in my mind, ought to be Independents. We ought not allow either or any party feel that we are in “their pocket.” Our allegiance is not to a party but to Christ and his will.

Christian “progressives” and Christian “conservatives” and Christian “liberals” and “Red Letter Christians” are all devisive terms. The most important thing about Christians, no matter what our ethnicity or culture, no matter what our socio-economic status, no matter what our attainments or education, is that we are His–Christ-ones.

Christians are people who believe we have been purchased by His blood, and we are daily involved in imitating His sacrifice for us, imitating His sacrifice for us in the sacrifice of our lives for others. It (the cross-shapedness and cross-boughtness) of our identity is the reason why we live as sojourners in the land.

The most important thing about me is NOT that I am a white, middle class, seminary educated, easterner, married, father of four kids, who resides in …. The most important thing about me is that I belong—body and soul, by virtue of Christ’s sacrifice of His life’s blood—to God. I have been bought by Him and now my life is shaped by His sacrifice.

I must not think of myself as a white male, with a middle class upbringing of German ancestry who has a seminary education, blah, blah, blah . . . The most precious, life-absorbing truth about me is that I belong to God by virtue of a brutal and bloody sacrifice on a hillside outside Jerusalem that purchased my redemption from the slave market of sin and now am called to sacrifice my life for my fellow man in a cross-bearing imitation of my savior.

Christians shouldn’t need any other designation.

Picking up another thread … The nature of modern TV and Radio is so purposefully polarizing that there is little benefit to using media figures personas (Bill O’Reily, Hannity, Combs, et al) to tar and feather those who may lean in one direction or the other. The personas at the top of the media pile (on both the right and the left) simply don’t represent the general population of the nation.

a Thinking imageThey may be entertaining. They may have larger or smaller media shares. They may have legions of people who listen or watch. But the legions are not knee jerk followers (by and large), no matter what O’Reiley’s and others want you to believe.

Book recommendation: Amusing Ourselves to Death by Neil Postman

One more thought. Zach, one of the things that makes your blog so attractive is that you do appear to be seeking truth (and taking some hits for it).

Questions and Exercises:

  • How can you affirm your non-Christian friend in ways that let them know you care for them, value, and respect them, in ways that don’t compromise the gospel? Start doing that at every opportunity.
  • How can you build a bridge from your world to the non-Christians in your life? How can you build a bridge from their world to yours? Spend some time thinking and praying about that. Have a pen and notepad at your side. Give it at least 15 minutes.

Update: A similar theme in a John Stonestreet commentary on an influential Christian in the Muslim past.

3 thoughts on “Engaging the Non-Christian Mind

  1. Postman’s powerful analysis written in 1985 describes the metamorphosis of our society from a typographical-based culture to an image-based culture. He contrasts the first Lincoln-Douglas debate in 1858, which lasted 7 hours, to his world in 1985. Now consider what changes have taken place since then with even shorter sound bites and the types of movies we see and the access to an almost infinite amount of immediately available information, pictures and videos creating distractions of every nature. The means of learning and knowing the truth has changed dramatically and so has our culture’s ability to find the pin of truth in the proverbial haystack of those seemingly infinite distractions.

    As it states in the forward of “Amusing Ourselves to Death”, Orwell feared that the truth would be concealed from us. Huxley feared the truth would be drowned in a sea of irrelevance. Orwell feared we would become a captive culture. Huxley feared we would become a trivial culture, … As Huxley remarked in Brave New World Revisited, the civil libertarians and rationalists who are ever on the alert to oppose tyranny “failed to take into account man’s almost infinite appetite for distractions”.

    In 1984, Huxley added, people are controlled by inflicting pain. In Brave New World, they are controlled by inflicting pleasure. In short, Orwell feared that what we hate will ruin us. Huxley feared that what we love will ruin us. “Amusing Ourselves to Death” is about the possibility that Huxley, not Orwell, was right.

    In a world saturated with both pain and pleasure, it appears they are both right and the powers and principalities of this present darkness are using both to distract the followers of Christ from being the disciples of truth, of salt, light and leaven, he has called us to be.

    The battle rages on. Thanks for your on-going fight to bring souls to life, truth and love, which can only be found in Jesus Christ. I sometimes wonder what life would be like with a one party system of truth seekers. I tend to think there would still be the same debates on the same issues as evil would not give us a break no matter what political methods are used.


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