Should we tell others about Jesus? If we don’t, the stones will cry out.
Evangelism, loosely defined as trying to get others to believe and practice a particular religious faith, has received a bad reputation in many circles in the last century. David Livingstone, the famous 19th century explorer-doctor-missionary in Southern Africa, reflected his times in his belief that Civilization, Commerce and Christianity would help Africa and the undeveloped world out of poverty and into relationship with Christ. He did not support European colonialism but others in his era did, and the association of the “3 Cs” with colonialism generated a backlash against missionary work in the post colonial era.
Evangelism also presupposes that the evangelist knows the true religion and the one being evangelized does not. Such a claim to knowledge cuts against the grain of moral relativism (“there is no true religion”) and can suggest that one man is inherently superior to another. It is difficult for any man to preach a belief system without importing his unseen cultural biases into his message, and the inherent conflict in trying to change another’s way of thinking can result in violence.
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Atheists and skeptics ask believers “Why God?” A better question might be “Why not God?” The choice determines eternity.
Man believes that his existence and importance are self-evident and that God’s existence and importance are not. He therefore questions God, and in history billions of words have been deployed arguing for and against Him. Christians have used arguments based on moral law, causation, design in the universe, and the beauty of creation to support their belief in God’s existence. Non-Christians have attacked these arguments and deployed their own, primarily the problem of pain and suffering in the universe, to support their disbelief in God. On 24 March 2012, about 20,000 people at the Reason Rally in Washington DC celebrated “irreligion, nontheism and secularity”, and the event was billed as a “coming out” party for atheists in America.
If it is true that God is the foundational reality, not man, and “Why man?” is a far more reasonable question than “Why God?”, why is there such controversy about Him? If God is so dominant in the universe, why do so many people disbelieve? Why is so much venom and bile directed towards the One who is revealed in the Bible as being so loving and so good? We could ask, “Why not God?”
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God is the fundamental assumption, the ground for all existence, and for every other assumption. He need not be proved and in the final analysis cannot be proved or disproved. So why is there so much controversy, and what do we do?
The question at hand is “Why God?” I was brought up in a Christian home and so I had a marvelous advantage over some who were not; God was just assumed in my home and none of the people around me thought otherwise. They had relatively minor differences about their understanding of His attributes but no one denied His existence or asked why He was important.
I have now had decades to consider the issue and decide for myself, as most people eventually get the chance to do. As a result, I believe in God more strongly than ever, for three reasons:
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We may not believe it, due to our materialistic bent, but blessings and curses are real and powerful in the 21st century.
Blessings and curses were very personal acts. Hebrew words translated as bless occur 131 times in 121 verses in the NASB translation of the Old Testament. Hebrew words translated as curse occur 105 times in 94 verses in the NASB translation of the Old Testament.
Blessings and curses were considered to release a very real power which could determine the character and destiny of the recipient (Genesis 27:12). A blessing was considered to be a visitation of the grace of a god and a curse was considered to be the visitation of the judgment of a god. Polytheists such as the Babylonians and Egyptians believed that pronouncing a blessing or curse could force the deity to do the will of the one who was performing the act. Monotheists such as the Jews (in their better days) believed that a blessing or curse simply reflected the future that the sovereign God had ordained.
Continue reading “Blessings and Curses in the Bible in the Ancient Near East”