Many people argue that the Bible is out-dated or applies to another age. That is at the heart of arguments that denominations have regarding women in office or even same-sex marriage. A seminary professor in our own denomination says that marriage customs are so “relative” around the world, and while that is true, that doesn’t mean that just because polygamy is OK in Africa that I can have more than one wife in the USA. So this gives me reason to think through this subject myself which sometimes we do not examine too critically. “Just why do I think such and such?” – Tradition? Other people’s ideas? No reason?
Really, what it comes down to, I think, is – a person’s conception of the Bible. A low view of Scripture, which even some of our preachers have, puts almost everything in it “up for grabs.” Despite the arguments on behalf of the Bible inspiration, the Word of God, etc., we accept it as authoritative, basically error-free (not quibbling about dates, eg.) and applicable to all times and all people in the same way we believe in Jesus Christ, heaven, miracles, etc. – namely, by faith. And faith cannot be argued. (Though that does not mean it is irrational; is “above reason” in the fashion that calculus is above simple arithmetic, involving “negative numbers” etc.)
So, I don’t think we can argue with a person who doesn’t agree with us as to inspiration and infallibility of Scripture. What is more, there are genuine Christians who make so little use of the Bible in practice (while believing it is ALL God’s word, etc.) that they do not have “the mind of Christ”, think like God himself, have his view of their lives. Hence the divorce and what-not even right within our our relatives.
All that being said – something that occurred to me is much of our approach to non-Christians is negative: “This is wrong with your view, that is wrong with your life” – such as “live-ins”. We should be more positive, much like the Lord Jesus Christ whose positive approach was “Come unto me, all you that are weary, ” etc. We often start off with the idea that a person FIRST has to recognize his (her) sin, then turn to Christ, etc. No! God has given us a head start (as his witnesses) by putting into every human heart a sense of need, deficiency. Nobody is satisfied with life as is, with himself, really. What we do is come with Good News – that Christ is really the answer, for here and hereafter. Real joy. Peace. Wisdom.
I think one point of contact is that of prayer, which (again) all people do instinctively. “There are no atheists in foxholes.” In the hour of trouble, not necessarily as deep as death, all people just DO pray. I find this a sensitive common denominator in my chaplaincy and other contacts, simply testifying that “life is too much for me, all alone”, but that “God is the friend who is better than a brother”, etc. At the very least a Christian can say to a seeker, “I sure will remember you in my prayers.” EVERYBODY appreciates and is touched by that.
And I think God has a host of his children who don’t come in the same packages that we do, beginning with infants and small kids who don’t know beans about Jesus. And what about even the Old Testament “saints”, before Jesus was even born? Is like the man in the Bible, “Lord, I believe; help my unbelief.” The Bible says that whoever calls upon God will be heard. As to all the mechanics of his “salvation”, that’s for God to work out. Salvation is all his doing. And by that I don’t mean simply getting into heaven, but a change of life, character, personality. Prayer (even the simplest) is evidence of dependence, reaching out, looking to God.
Our big problem in America (which is why the church is neither growing nor held in very high esteem) is that we are operating in a post-Christian culture. We have most of the benefits of Christianity – Christmas, prayer in congress, Thanksgiving Day, universities founded by Christians, equality of all men (slavery was fought by Christians, Quakers), etc. All of which can be enjoyed without oneself becoming a Christian. Basically, ultimately, an atheist cannot trumpet that “there is no God” if God did not “live and move and give him his being.” Enable him to read/write, etc. Always keep in mind through life the slogan – “In fundamentals (or essentials) unity; in non-essenstials (peripheral, adiaphora) liberty; in everything charity (or love, of course).”
We are all members of a team (just as in football, etc.) with God as the coach. We don’t have to lead a person to Christ all by ourselves. “One plants, another waters.” Personally, I don’t know of a single soul I led to Christ all by myself. Think of the Bibles I used and others wrote. Of Christian songs. Christian teachers, etc. Just your desire to be useful, available, is all that God wants. And uses.
The basic question is, “What think ye of the Christ (a recognized historical figure); whose son is he, really?” Coordinate question: “What do I think of myself, viz. the judge of Christ and God, of others, even self? Or am I under ‘judgement’, God’s evaluation.” All others, even Bible questions, are peripheral, secondary, irrelevant really.