Last Friday at work was simply another average, run-of-the-mill routine day. The week was notable only for a severe case of discouragement I inflicted on myself due to my inability to fix a couple of laserjet printers. I took them apart, replaced vital components and reassembled them only to find that neither worked!
As my depressing week drew to a close, I had a surprise visitor walk through my office door at around 2:00. ‘Barney’, a fellow computer tech and friend for the last 15 years or so, came by for a chat. Now, Barney is a fellow who by his own admission is not a Christian, nor does he give any pretense to become one. He has resolutely shrugged off my preaching and pleadings for the last decade. The interesting thing about him is, this past year he regularly attended an evening bible study I had held weekly. The group was dissolved last fall for personal reasons. However, even more fascinating is, of all the students who participated in my class, he has been the most insistent on getting the group back together. He has teased me that since the breakup he has been intrigued by Scientology and is considering joining up with them. The first time he told me I was appalled, but when he followed up by saying “You should really start that bible study again so I don’t go astray”, I realized he really missed the teachings and was prodding me. I truly believe the Holy Spirit is doing a great work in him.
During bible study he would frequently play the role of devil’s advocate. he thoroughly enjoyed playing his part and made no bones about it. He told me straight up from the beginning that he would challenge my beliefs. By all accounts, he has remained true to his promise. It has never bothered me. In fact, I welcome the trying of not only my faith but of THE faith. My confidence remains not in my ability to argue but in the work of the Holy Spirit through me and in the truths of God’s word to answer all challenges.
This day he came in ready for a feisty debate and it wasn’t long before the round 1 bell rang. I can’t quite recall how the conversation turned to spiritual matters but Barney at one point shrugged his shoulders and said “When you die, you’re worm food.” I responded that in his worldview, ‘worm food’ is the best possible outcome he can hope for. I said that without Christ, non-existence was his only hope. I proclaimed the truth of a place of punishment for sins called hell, but did not linger on it. He has heard my teachings on it before so I did not belabor the point.
The discussion heated up from there. In defense of his ‘worm food’ premise, he attacked the authority and authenticity of the scriptures. He believes (or in the role of devil’s advocate, erects a counterpoint) that the bible was ‘made up’ by a group of ancient fellows wanting to give mankind hope other than a brief difficult life ending in frailty, weakness , disease and death. These wise men apparently wanted to create laws and principles for the masses that they may follow to keep order in society. By creating a blazing lake of fire these shrewd philosophers hoped to keep all people in line. ‘Fear is a great motivator’ must have been their motto when dreaming up the fiery torments of hell.
First, I looked deeper into the idea of a handful of wise men creating ‘good’ laws. How did they know what was good from what was evil? Did this committee set the standard of right and wrong for the whole world? If so, on what basis? An inner moral compass? If so, then where did this compass originate? Good and evil can only exist if there is a supreme moral governor reigning over all the affairs of the universe. Without a Creator the universe would be amoral. There would be no right or wrong, only survival of the fittest. A moral compass, therefore, is sufficient evidence for the existence of God.
I then addressed that no man would ever have written the bible because of the light in which mankind is portrayed. The scriptures reveal him to be a totally depraved sinner, who is corrupt in all his ways and whose thoughts are only evil all the time. I also questioned why man would create laws he could not possibly keep, then prescribe eternal death for breaking them. These supposed wise men condemn themselves and the whole human race. That’s not very hopeful!
Lastly, I pointed out the obvious. The scriptures were not created by committee but by holy men as they were led by the Spirit to write the inspired words and will of God. The bible was written over a period of many hundreds of years by dozens of authors. yet, it is cohesive, non-contradictory and has two prominent themes; the fallen state of man, and the mercy and grace of a loving God.
The conversation moved on to evolution and the Trinity, which is a common attack point for unbelievers. ‘Ned’ a student worker, who was assigned to me this day, chimed in his views on these subjects as well as the previous topics. I was beginning to grow weary engaging in apologetics. I realize it has value, but I believe it is limited in its power in the process of evangelism. (I’ll post on this thought at a later time.)
Barney also chided me for my Calvinistic beliefs. He said if the Doctrine of Election were true then there is nothing he can do about it. He would just wait for God to ‘Zap’ him. He’s used that argument in the past, but the Lord gave me a response this time that I believe gave him pause. I said, “The bible nowhere teaches for us to wait on God to save us. He commands all people everywhere to repent and believe the gospel. That is the responsibility of every living person. Seek God while He can still be found. The scriptures say, ‘seek and you shall find, ask and you shall receive’.” He seemed to reflect on that thought pretty hard.
Barney had to get going and by this point it was after 4:00. I believe he left amicably. I certainly wasn’t upset, in fact the conversation proved profitable in the sense that it opened a door of opportunity to witness to Ned, which I have desired to do for some time. I realized at this point, Ned had a similar worldview to Barney’s, yet his was not grounded in secularism but more in the spirituality realm. I decided to make the debate with Barney a launchpad for a discussion of Ned’s worldview and draw out of him what he truly believed. In my next post I will journal that portion of our conversation.