When a receptive Christian back story is missing, some approaches to evangelism no longer work very well. I think of the street preacher discussion on @JimHazelwood video set from the New England Synod Assembly. The street preacher could have just as easily been trying to sell gold plated buggy whips to a person who just brought a brand new car. He was seemingly manufacturing things out of thing air and was trying to sell them as obvious truths.
Consider this attempted 2nd use of the law for another example
“…this opening of ourselves up to question is central to our Christian duty. Near the heart of the Christian message is the declaration that we are in the wrong, that our subjective position is radically compromised, and that we must be put to rights by someone else.”
Without a framework of the a specific type of evangelical Christianity underneath, this verbiage outside of the scriptures could just as well have been a foreign language.
Granted, its easy to see the dark triad to say nothing of the theology of original sin in the world, but without serious reflection, it is for the most part non-obvious on a individual level today. In some ways, presenting the God-man gap as the first step of evangelism is easily perceived as something manufactured and an end justifies the means to gain converts and their money. I don’t think it computes all that well anymore as a first step, and perhaps not even at all until much later.
Professor John Hoffmeyer expands on this a bit.
….I’m now wondering if we are offering an answer to a question that is no longer being asked. Is that possible? Let me be clear, I am not questioning our theological structure, nor am I doubting our core understanding of Justification by Grace through Faith. Rather, I’m raising the possibility, that in the 16th century people did experience, feel, think about and have a “terrified conscience”, and therefore Luther’s re-forming of the faith resonated culturally as well as theologically. Our panelists may suggest that in the 21st century people are not experiencing, thinking or feeling a strong sense of having a “terrified conscience.” If this is the case, we may be providing answers to a question few are asking.
This lack of alignment begs quite a bit of wrestling and pondering. I came across the following and the author puts in words what I’ve been trying to nail down out for weeks.
The wrong questions force reality into ill-fitting frameworks of understanding. People who take the appropriateness of their questions for granted are people who presume the universal applicability of their terms of understanding, of their ways of perceiving and framing the world, not alert to the possibility that reality might only be rightly understood on quite different terms.
One could take this a couple different ways. One path might be to double down and try to bend the seekers reference frames to a 16th century model prior to engaging them. Such often falls into the domain of the fire and brim stone street preacher. Ie, first create an environment where a person aligns with Luther’s terrified conscience model prior to the Gospel, to drive folks to ask the “right” and canned answerable questions. Anecdotal evidence suggests this does work some of the time. Other anecdotal evidence suggests bending as an ends justifying the means thing doesn’t last, as the re-framing eventually springs back to normalcy, ie its a borderline theology of glory.
The other possibility is to consider that a near exclusive 16th century framing is not really viable in the 21st century. Luther seemed to consider that in his commentary on Galatians 5:8, not by throwing the terrified conscience out completely, but by making it situational.
Satan will circumvent the Gospel and explain Christ in this his own diabolical way: “Indeed Christ is meek, gentle, and merciful, but only to those who are holy and righteous. If you are a sinner you stand no chance. Did not Christ say that unbelievers are already damned? And did not Christ perform many good deeds, and suffer many evils patiently, bidding us to follow His example? You do not mean to say that your life is in accord with Christ’s precepts or example? You are a sinner. You are no good at all.”
Satan is to be answered in this way: The Scriptures present Christ in a twofold aspect. First, as a gift. “He of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification and redemption.” (I Cor. 1:30.) Hence my many and grievous sins are nullified if I believe in Him. Secondly, the Scriptures present Christ for our example. As an exemplar He is to be placed before me only at certain times. In times of joy and gladness that l may have Him as a mirror to reflect upon my shortcomings. But in the day of trouble I will have Christ only as a gift. I will not listen to anything else, except that Christ died for my sins.
Granted, one might suggest this is only a third law type of thing, ie only for believers, and that 16th century framing is an absolute for the seeker… I think that is running dangerously close to the diabolical explanation Luther attributes to Satan. I’m also more than a bit concerned that it opens the door to spiritual abuse and forms of passive aggressive behavior, neither of which have any place near the Gospel.