In the last post I wrote about some of the changes the Lord is bringing me through in how I engage other people, particularly unbelievers. The men the Lord has been using to bring this change about are Francis Schaeffer and Jerram Barrs. L'Abri of course is the communal ministry that the Schaeffers started in the 50's, it has blossomed to numerous communities throughout the world. The idea of L'Abri was to be a vibrant community in which unbelievers and believers could come and study to find answers to their questions. One of the motto's of Schaeffer was that there is no question that is off limits, if Christianity is the truth it can answer any question man may have. So unbelievers are encouraged to come to L'Abri as questions, raise objections and really find answers in Christianity.
It is this emphasis on a communal/relational witness (although L'Abri is not technically a commune) that I think is desperately needed in our day. In that the Emergents are right, they are late in saying this but they are right. This relational approach to evangelism is really faithful to what the Bible says about man, because man is more than just a biological machine, man is personal, emotional, and in need of real love. This is because man is made in the image of God, and as such all men's lives are precious and valuable. There are no insignificant people. This is the heart of the Bible centered relational approach to evangelism I am falling in love with.
This brings me to the conference. I had been listening to Jerram Barrs' messages on these topics for the past few months and I knew I had to go to this conference in Minnesota put together by L'Abri on Postmodernism and truth. It was absolutely wonderful, I don't think I could have been more impressed with all that I saw and heard.
Apart from the content of the messages the thing that has impressed me the most is the sorrow over the lostness of man. One of the most touching examples was when one of the speakers was telling of his ministry in Africa and he recounted to us his visit to one of the old slave fortresses in Ghana. It was in this fortress that about a thousand slaves would be held prior to be shipped out to various countries. When you walk into the room the slaves were held you realize the floor you are treading upon is not dirt it is human excrement and blood. As he continued his tour of the fortress he saw a beautiful white building and asked the guide, "What is this building?" the guide replied "That was the church that the traders met in." The church was located above the dungeon that housed the slaves.
How utterly tragic. But what was beautiful was to be in the conference room and with tears in my eyes hear numerous sniffles and noses being blown as we sorrowed over how ugly and hypocritical man can be and that the Church did not act as the Church and speak out against these moral evils. That is something to weep over. This should be our attitude towards the lostness of our culture, one of sorrow. Don't get me wrong I think anger is also Biblical, but I just wonder how the world sees us when we speak out on the lostness of our culture. Do they see people who are mad at homosexuals and women who think abortion is a right, and thus are just an angry mob trying to impose our morality on everybody?
We must weep because these are real people who are made in the image of God whose lives are precious who are living in homosexual lifestyles. These are real women who are so warped in their fallen thinking that they honestly believe that as a women it is their right over their own body to choose whether or not to terminate a child in the womb. When we can see these people as lost people made in the image of God not "Them" or enemies then can we have a loving witness that is seasoned with salt. If we can't do this we will always be dismissed as an angry hateful activist group seeking to impose our will on others.
Don't get me wrong this will not be at the expense of conviction, we must tell the homosexual that he is living in a sinful lifestyle, we absolutely must. But, if we don't truly love the lost person who is caught in this lifestyle why are we even telling him he is in sin at all?
That has really been what the Spirit of God has been working in me, how to truly be salt and light in this lost and dying world. One of the examples Jerram brought up was how Jesus dealt with Zacchaeus. Zacchaeus was a tax collector and as such he used his power to strong arm money out of people, it is also noted that he was rich, so put the two together. When Jesus sees Zacchaeus he invites Himself over to his house, to the dismay of the "Religious" because they knew what kind of person Zacchaeus was. Zacchaeus repents and repays fourfold what he stole. This is how we are to be with lost sinners, we are not to be friends with them in their sins by participating with them but friends with them while they are sinners.
Now as for the messages themselves time would fail me to write on all of them and I really am still digesting what I heard. But one of the clearest was Jerram's message, it was in part testimony and all in all an exhortation to take the Bible to the lost man because the Bible answers all of man's problems. It really does, and if we don't think so we might as well pack up shop. There were three questions in particular that Jerram hit on that the Bible gives needed answers to postmodern man:
1) Who/what Am I?
2) Where can we find a basis for morals?
3) Why do I see so much that is evil in this world?
These were the questions that Jerram had prior to his conversion to Christianity, he found no answers. These are fundamental questions surrounding our existence. It is the hallmark of postmodernism that it has given up hope of ever finding any answer (At least in any universal/rational sense). Schaeffer called this giving up on reason and the hope of ever finding a uniformed answer to man's problems and questions going under the "line of despair". All that is left once we give up on the hope of a universal uniformed answer is leaps into non-reason hoping to find some sort of answer through personal mystical experience.
What Jerram warmly heralded is that the Bible has the answers that postmodern man is in desperate need of. I say desperate because man's state in this postmodern ethos is truly desperate, it is the suicidal and the Nihilists who feel this desperation and are being the most consistent with their thinking. I am being serious.
When in our thinking we can make no sense of life all we are left with is absurdity. Duchamp's bicycle wheel on the stool (pictured above) is an example of a statement about the absurdity and meaninglessness of the human condition.
I have found this with all the non-Christians I have talked with, they simply don't have any answers to these questions, but they will always inconsistently with their worldview hold on to the Biblical truth irrationally. This is glaring in the area of morals. Most unbeliever make moral judgements all day long yet really have no real basis to determine right from wrong any higher than personal preference. This is tragic.
But we as Christians have an answer for modern man, the Bible, the written word of God. It explains who/what man is saying that he is a creature and is personal, creative and moral because he is made in the image of God. It gives a foundation for ethics which is outside of man based upon the character of the God who made man, thus they are objective and universal ethics. The Bible also answers the question of why we see so much evil in the world, man is fallen and in rebellion against his Maker. The image of man Jerram gave citing Tolken is that of a prince who was once clothed in a royal robe now still wearing what used to be the robe man is clothed in the rags of his former majesty. Thus, we see both beauty and ugliness in man. The beauty is what man once was as God created him, the ugliness is what man has become as he has rejected God.
To wrap up, there is still so much to say but I really am still digesting and praying through what the Lord is bringing me through. All in all I a just very excited, I am excited to live in a manner that is heartfelt and salty to all I may encounter.
If anyone wants to listen to some of Jerram Barrs' messages you can find some here.