Evangelism Objections
by Paul Hazelden


Introduction

This page is a collection of the objections I hear when teaching people about evangelism, along with a summary of the kind of response I generally give. I might think up a better overall title, eventually.

1.   Objections to the Gospel

In general, the objections are about important doctrines I sometimes or often miss out when telling someone who is not already a Christian about the good news.

1a.   Substitutionary Atonement

For many evangelicals, this is the gospel message. How can I possibly miss it out?

Firstly, it is only one of a number of pictures or descriptions we are given in the New Testament to explain what happened on the cross. Evangelicals today have latched onto it as the primary lens through which we view the cross, but that is not the way the New Testament treats the subject.

We tend to read the doctrine of substitutionary atonement ito passages where it is not actually present. We read things like 'Jesus died for you' and assume for some reason that it means 'Jesus died in your place' I don't know why - but I have heard many preachers confuse the two.

And, secondly - this doctrine, which it is certainly found in the New Testament, is not a part of New Testament evangelism. Have a look through the evangelistic sermons recorded in Acts. If Peter and Paul could preach an evangelistic sermon without mentioning the doctrine of substitutionary atonement, maybe we can, too.

1b.   The Deity of Christ

"Surely," I am sometimes asked in a shocked tone of voice, "you cannot be a true Christian without believing in the Deity of Christ?" Well, that may be true. But what I am sure is that you cannot be a healthy, mature Christian without believing in the Deity of Christ. The two are not the same.

If you read any reasonable book on the early church, one of the things you will soon discover is that the early church did not think the question of the Deity of Christ was a simple or straightforward one. Or, rather, some people in the early church may have thought this, but lots of them had different ideas on the subject.

The fact is, the statement 'Jesus is God' does not appear in the New Testament. I have come to the conclusion, as the early church did - eventually - that this is the only way to consistently understand all the New Testament says about Jesus. But it took them a century or two to reach this conclusion.

I am not going to say that a person is not soundly converted if his or her understanding of Jesus goes no further than, say, the Apostle Peter.

I believe that if a person is soundly converted and follows Jesus, the Holy Spirit will lead them to encounter in the Bible and in their experience the One who is both human and Divine. They will come to recognise the truth, sooner or later, if they are open to it.

But in the meantime, if they just understand what the New Testament clearly and repeatedly says about Jesus, I think they will be doing fine: He is the image of the invisible God; God was present in Him; He claimed to be equal in status with God.   If you follow this Jesus, I don't think God will turn you away.

1c.   The General Problem

These problems are sometimes generalised as follows: it is claimed that I am trying to get people saved too easily, because I don't require them to believe all the Bible tells us.

I will address the 'too easily' bit in a minute. But the latter part is certainly true. I don't believe we are saved through sound theology, and I don't believe we can be saved only if our theology is sound.

Is your theology sound yet? How long is it since you understood some Biblical truth more clearly and more accurately? If it is a long time, I question your spiritual health. But if you are still discovering God, how sound does this new convert need to be? How close does their theology need to be to yours before you will allow them into Heaven?

I am saved by Jesus. Not by my understanding of Him. Not by my grasp of deep Biblical truths. Not by my ability to quote John 3:16. I cannot be saved by my own intellect, any more than I can be saved by my own holiness.   Salvation comes from Jesus alone.

1d.   An Easy Gospel

And do I preach an easy gospel? Some people make the opposite complaint: I make it too hard for people to respond to the gospel. I require a commitment to Jesus which most people in our churches do not have.

To this, I plead guilty. Too many people in our churches are only half-saved, if there is such a thing. Too many people want a ticket to Heaven which allows them to live how they like. They want the benefit of Jesus' death without walking the Way of the Cross with Him.

We are not told to make converts - we are told to make disciples. The disciples are the people who give up everything to follow Jesus. There is no point in asking someone to do any less.

So, is it an 'easy gospel'? Theologically, yes. I do not ask people to do something they cannot do - give full assent to doctrines they cannot possibly understand until after their minds have been renewed by the Holy Spirit - but I do ask them to do everything they can do - to give up everything for the sake of following Christ.

2.   Other Objections

This section deals with the objections I hear which do not relate to the gospel message itself.

2a.   Different Levels

I suggest that God deals with us on three levels: the individual, the congregation and the community. This differs from the traditional breakdown into Cell, Congregation and Celebration. Why change a well-established convention like this?

Firstly, I am not convinced that the New Testament distinguishes between the Housegroup (or 'Cell') and the Congregation. I am willing to be convinced, but the results of my study so far suggests that what we mean by 'Congregation' - the Sunday Service - and the way it is distinguished from the smaller groups meeting in people's homes has more to do with church tradition than the Bible.

After all, what distinguishes the Sunday morning service? You have notices and a collection. Everything else that happens is usually shared with the Homegroup meeting: you worship, pray and study the Bible together. Of course, how you do these things depends on the number of people present, but that kind of thing is not spelled out in the Bible one way or another.

Secondly, there is no evidence at all that Congregations in the early church joined together for the occasional (preferably, monthly) Celebration. If you are being persecuted, it really would not make a lot of sense, would it?

And thirdly, the usual division completely ignores the individual, which seems to me to be one key area. We often mis-read the Bible these days, because we understand it to be talking about the individual when it is often talking about the corporate. But that does not mean the individual has no place in the Bible. The problem is to find the right level of emphasis to place on the role of the individual - and we are not helped by ignoring the individual completely in the traditional breakdown.

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