Sometimes a blogger runs the very real risk of sounding self-promoting, or even actually becoming self-promoting. I am acutely aware of these dangers. Blogs are understood by many as personal journals. Others see them as a place to put their essays on favorite subjects. Still others see them as a way to promote a cause. And some use them to sell, whether it is a candidate, a product or a religious special interest. I see this blog as a "think spot" where I can share what I am thinking about the Church, the culture and the way we live as moderns. This is why my blogs run all the way from issues of Christian faith, the renewal of the church and issues inside the Church to politics, music, art and film. Even college football and baseball gets blogged here since I love them both personally. (Sorry for you who do not love these items. You have my permission to skip them!) In some way I do all of this writing just because I just love to think and then write. It has become a habit, I hope not an obsession, though I have that tendency for sure.
Having said all this I received an email today from an Inter Varsity staff member who took my class in evangelism and apologetics
this summer in Madison, Wisconsin. I taught there as a Wheaton adjunct professor and thus I was an extension of Inter Varsity via several schools such as Fuller, North Park and Trinity. This particular student serves at a major secular university on staff. This letter was a huge blessing to me when I read it this afternoon. I share it not to "puff" John Armstrong but to let you see another aspect of my life and ministry via ACT 3. I also have another reason that I will add at the end after you read the letter. Here is the letter, edited to fit this context and given without any names and places. (Italics are all mine.)
I hope that the start of 2008 has been good to you and your family. I again thank you for teaching the 12 of us IV staff this past summer. It was one of the greatest classes I have ever taken because I am applying what I know to this day. My love for apologetics and evangelism has grown tremendously since the class and as a result, has become something that my students are starting to embrace as well. We had 6 people respond to the gospel all of last year, praise God. But after this summer we as a fellowship decided to focus on evangelism even more. Because of that, 6 people responded to the gospel the very first week of school! It was amazing to see what God was doing. I think it had much to do with having a better grasp on the postmodern perspective.
Apologetics have been instrumental to me this semester because I have had many spiritual conversations that were able to go to a deeper level because I was able to answer questions that people had.
Again, people on this campus are apathetic, but I was surprised to meet so many people that had a personal religion but didn’t care about practicing it much. I especially met a handful of Catholics that didn’t understand the concept of following Jesus with their whole lives. I also met two Muslims who were not fervent followers of their faith and were open to hear about Christianity. Because of the research that I have been doing in Catholicism and in the Islamic faith, I was able to talk to them on their level, allowing a deeper conversation and appreciation of where they were in life. There was one thing that I realized more than ever: people are lost and are looking for a Savior even though they might not realize it. Thank you for helping me get more tools and resources in my arsenal in order to fully become the evangelist God has called me to be.
This semester is going to be filled with much excitement and much uncertainty. I am looking for people who would be interested in partnering with me in this journey as I learn how to engage and serve my campus with the gospel. I am looking for people that would like to get periodic updates of what is happening on campus and would pray for the campus and I am looking for people who would be willing to help me financially, so I can continue to do the work that God has given me to privilege to do. For some reason, as I looked back over the past 6 months I thought about our class and your teaching and realized how instrumental it is to me fervor in apologetics. I thought it would be an honor to humbly ask if you would partner with me in this call to reach college students with the gospel. I want to be on campus more than I am now and know that there is so much work to be done. Would you consider praying about helping me get one step closer to seeing that happen?
I know this is a long e-mail but thank you for reading it. I guarantee you it could have been longer. I hope you have been doing well and like I told you before in a previous e-mail, if you are teaching another class with IV in the future, please let me know because I would love to take it. Hope to talk to you soon. Take care and God bless.
I answered my student tonight and hope we can become even better partners for the gospel on his campus. He is a first-rate Christian man and doing a solid job in reaching out to non-Christians with integrity and care. I am the one who is honored to have taught such a good student. I hope his comments thrill you. I also hope you will pray for him as I do and then realize how very hard it is to reach people who are not yet Christians in the modern college campus setting. The world has truly changed and the Church has to change its approach without changing its message. This calls for a new apologetic that is not filled with the old certitudes of the past but the Christ-centered hope of the future which resides in the living Christ, not our systems. My student got that and you can see what a difference it made.
If you would like to read one truly useful book that gets this right then secure Lesslie Newbigin’s classic little book, Proper Confidence. It was the kind of thought found there that impacted this student so deeply. You will not be sorry you read the book I promise you. It is my favorite book for exposing people to the right way to have confidence in the gospel in the age in which we now find ourselves seeking to live faithfully as Christians. It will both inform you and move you
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I would like to encourage all my friends to take a closer look at the Argument from Reason, or as I have called my version of it, “The Epistemic Trigger Argument.” (ETA)
ETA is an argument that attempts to show Naturalism’s failure to metaphysically and epistemologically account for our access to immaterial abstract entities (like numbers, concepts, propositions), laws of logic, and necessary truths.
I think Lesslie’s book is helpful for creating a tone for conversation in our postmodern age. But, personally, in my humble opinion, there is still some very good Standard Analytic Epistemology work out there being used in Christian apologetics.
Don’t fear being self promoting! People read your blog in part because of what you do. We want to know so we can pray for you. Hearing positive reports is encourging to us as well as you. Thanks for your continued work for the Lord!