Biblical creation proves pivotal to evangelism
A hospital witnessing experience
Published: 29 September 2016 (GMT+10)
Recently I had a series of unplanned admissions to hospital. This resulted in a couple of unexpected opportunities to witness to fellow patients regarding my Christian faith. The responses varied, but we can all learn lessons from the reasons they gave for their unbelief.
The first opportunity involved a discussion with two men—the guy in the bed next to me (guy A) and the guy diagonally across from me (guy B). Guy A, in his late 60s, was a tough manual worker on a country estate farm. He was recovering from a heart attack and awaiting coronary bypass surgery. Guy B, in his mid-60s, was retired, recovering from a life threatening chest infection that had very nearly irreversibly damaged his heart. During our time together we had some interesting three-way conversations; one lasted for almost an hour, by which time we were all exhausted. I listened to what they had to say and they listened to me.
Gently challenging false worldviews
It turned out that, in addition to his day job, Mr A had once worked as a nightclub doorman and had a life-long interest in motor bikes, rock music festivals, game shooting, and solstice gatherings. He also claimed to have seen UFOs, and indicated that he’d dabbled in so-called soft drugs. Coincidentally, Guy B, another music festival fan, had also worked as a nightclub doorman and attended solstice gatherings. He seemed to be a bit of a ‘new-ager’ and frequently joked about having the devil sit on his shoulder. During the conversation, I pretty much laid out the whole of history from a Christian biblical standpoint, in a nutshell so-to-speak. I was pleased to get the opportunity briefly to explain why I believe in creation rather than evolution, and to be able to talk about differing worldviews, faith, and philosophy. I asked these guys to consider the fact that we all believe things that we can't prove to be true, and that our interpretation of the things we see and touch (the facts) vary according to our worldview. Guy A neither agreed nor disagreed with what I was saying, but was willing to engage.
Guy B politely, but frequently, stated his opposition to what I was saying (I got the impression he was speaking for them both). I assured him that I wasn’t offended by his views and, that as a late convert to Christianity, I had once held similar views. He seemed to be taken aback by the things I had said, saying that he had never thought about faith and philosophy in that way before. He said that it was the second important thing he had learnt whilst in hospital; the first being that he was now determined to make the most of the rest of his life. I went on to briefly tell of our fallen nature and why Jesus had to come to rescue us. I asked them both if I could get them a copy of the booklet, What on Earth is God doing? Making sense of our troubled world - A biblical Christian Worldview, and they willingly agreed and accepted these when my wife brought them in later. Guy A thanked me and, unprompted by me, Guy B promised that he would read it. I was discharged from hospital that evening so I don’t know if my time with these guys will bear fruit; I certainly pray that the seed of the gospel will take root and that God will bring them to salvation in Christ.
Responding to objections to the Christian faith
The other opportunity to witness came during my next admission to the Cardiac Unit of the same hospital. This time I found myself responding to the comments of a guy in the bed opposite. I had been chatting with him, and at some point I mentioned that I’m a Christian. I don’t remember exactly what I said, but he later picked up on it. He said he ‘didn’t want to offend me or anything’, but that he didn’t hold with religion at all. I assured him that he could say whatever he wanted, and that I would not be offended.
Objection #1 – the awful state of the world
He began by saying that if there was a God that cared for us there wouldn’t be all the awful things we see happening in the world. I attempted to explain that the problems in the world are not of God's doing, but our own, that if a nation follows after God there will be blessing, but when a nation turns away from God calamity will follow. Before I could say any more, he commented on there being many different religions all looking to the same God. I guess he was objecting to the concept of God in general; his perspective was perhaps much the same as mine before I accepted the Bible as God’s word and came to know Christ as my Saviour. As an unbeliever I remember thinking that religions can’t all be right, so they must all be wrong.
During my interaction with this guy I was very aware that I should be trying to engage with him rather than preach at him. I’m certainly no skilled evangelist and, probably like many reading this, I find this difficult. Sometimes we can find ourselves blurting out what we believe, not giving the other person a chance to speak; sadly, our good intentions can put him/her off from even listening to what we have to say, ruining our chance of sharing the gospel of Christ. So then, I briefly mentioned that the Bible teaches that there is only one true God (the God of the Bible), and one true faith. I guessed correctly that he wouldn’t accept this. Wanting to give him the opportunity to speak, I asked him if he had any ideas for solving the world’s troubles. He didn’t have an answer, and seemed agitated that I had even asked. Perhaps, like many others, he was either blaming God for all the world’s troubles, or rejecting the existence of God because of the troubles.
Objection #2 – ‘survival of the fittest’
He then boldly declared his belief in evolution, and went on to say that he believed in the survival of the fittest. Looking around the hospital ward I thought to myself, ‘none of us look very fit’, which almost made me smile. I resisted, however, saying, “You’re talking about natural selection?” “Yes,” he said. “That’s not evolution!” I responded. He went very quiet and looked confused. I don’t think he expected me to respond; perhaps he considered his comment to be a knock-out blow to his fellow (Christian) patient―nullifying any notion of God. In all probability, like many others duped into thinking that evolution is a proven fact and that natural selection is evidence for evolution, he was using this to justify his rejection of God. I went on to mention that television programs frequently give examples of natural selection, yet incorrectly refer to it as evolution. I endeavoured to explain that natural selection does occur, but that it’s not the kind of change required for microbes-to-man evolution to occur; also, that as the name indicates, natural selection simply selects from what already exists (including DNA information) without adding anything new to a creature.
I attempted to explain that certain characteristics can be beneficial to a creature’s survival in a particular environment. On the other hand, those creatures with unsuitable characteristics for that environment tend not to survive, so that overall this kind of change eventually weakens a creature. At that point he told me I was making him very angry. He said something about not knowing enough about these things, and that he didn’t want to talk about it anymore. I assured him that it was not my intention to make him angry, and politely reminded him that it was he that had begun the conversation, and that I was simply responding to what he had said. Then, bringing the conversation to a close, I asked him if he would accept a small booklet explaining the biblical Christian position, without any obligation on his part. He acknowledged that he had started the conversation, but refused to take the booklet. For a while he avoided eye contact with me, which was a bit awkward given that he was in the opposite bed. However, I continued to show myself friendly, managing to break the ice. From then on, respecting his wishes, we conversed about everyday things and got along just fine. I had hoped to eventually get around to sharing the Gospel message with him but, sadly, that didn’t happen.
‘Brain surgery’ isn’t easy!
I pray that what I said to my fellow patients will go some way towards encouraging them to reconsider seriously the state of their lives, that their hearts will be opened to the Gospel, and that ultimately they will come to know Jesus as Saviour. The things I said didn’t result in an immediate change of heart in these guys, but when you think about it, that’s not at all surprising. Each had a starting position―their worldview—from which they felt they had good reason to reject God. Their rejection reflected what they had been taught throughout their whole lives―evolution. Let’s be honest, when it comes to the western world’s teachings on the origin of man and life on Earth we hear little else.
It was very clear to me that the things I mentioned regarding the natural world and how it fits with the biblical account of Earth’s history were completely new to these guys. This shows why, in our secular culture, we Christians need to look closely at our approach to evangelism. If people are rejecting the very notion of God because they believe in evolution—and it seems to me that they most certainly are—we need to prepare the ground before attempting to sow our ‘Gospel seed’. Simply presenting someone with a Gospel tract is much less likely to be fruitful these days; it will most likely head straight for the waste bin (trash can). Almost everywhere you look―news media, television, schools, etc.―evolution is assumed and presented as fact. The biblical account of life on Earth is either not mentioned at all, or is distorted and ridiculed.
Consider also that, having rejected God on the grounds of belief in evolution, the guys I met were hardly likely to give the time of day to the church’s message of salvation in Jesus—and their views are pretty much the norm today. Even the popular belief in aliens and extra-terrestrial civilizations, which reared its head during my earlier conversation, stems from an evolutionary worldview. It’s commonly believed that, if life evolved here on Earth, it also must have evolved somewhere out there in the vast reaches of the universe. Our adversary, the Devil, takes full advantage of such beliefs, as CMI’s Gary Bates has often pointed out. If we truly want to reach our communities with the Gospel message we cannot simply present the truth and sit back and wait for folk to respond; we need to prepare the ground first.
An effective strategy and equipped by God
We must first persuade men and women that the Gospel is worth considering; “…knowing the fear of the Lord, we persuade others” (2 Corinthians 5:11). We need to stand firm in the face of opposition, “…always being prepared to make a defence to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect” (1 Peter 3:15). We need a coherent approach to sharing the gospel message, reflecting the whole of God’s Word: “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16–17).
Currently, to our shame, millions of people, including many of our own neighbours, have no idea that there is a biblical alternative to evolution. They have never been shown the flaws in the evolutionary hypothesis, and they certainly don’t know the strength of the evidence for a creation thousands, not billions, of years ago. It’s up to us to enlighten them―to challenge their assumptions and to present the biblical account. In God’s strength we can do this, “For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God” (2 Corinthians 10:4–5). For the gospel to be fully understood our message must be built on the firm foundation of God’s Word. People need to be made aware of the Bible’s account of history and of the predicament we are in. It’s true that many will reject the biblical account, but one thing is certain: if they never get to hear about it (because we are afraid of looking foolish), they’ll never even be able to consider it. On the other hand, if we take God’s word seriously and are willing to appear foolish in the eyes of those who think themselves wise, we can confidently and unashamedly “…Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation” (Mark 16:15).
To those in our churches who suggest that the creation/evolution debate is just a side issue, which should be avoided for the sake of the Gospel, I say think again. It’s not talking about creation that prevents people from considering to the Gospel of Jesus Christ, rather a belief in evolution. Recently, Sherry L. (who identified herself as an indigenous Australian) phoned CMI to voice her support, saying “Teaching on creation is very, very vital. It is very, very key. There is no point in giving John 3:16 to people who are into Animism (or other naturalistic beliefs).” She finished by saying “If you ‘get’ Genesis, you ‘get’ the rest of the Bible.”1 How true that is. Ignoring clear Bible teachings just because they don’t fit with current secular thinking is not an option for us.
References and notes
- Comment received by CMI on 11 July 2016, cited in a CMI DailyBytes e-mail bulletin. Return to text.
As I may have commented before, I think possibly the most important gospel task for the church could be ensuring all pastors in all churches understand the scientific evidence on origins, how the Biblical record fits in with it, and how evolution contradicts early Genesis.
Once our pastors are educated, we stand some chance of making the world (and the congregations!) understand how recent and imminent God is.
In bygone days, without this sense of urgency and understanding of the power and presence of God, some would question whether an individual was actually a Christian.
The sad reality is that people will always believe what they want to believe; the evidence being that when people are presented with something that disagrees with their worldview, the worldview always wins out.
You only need to look for the blogs which follow on a typical website promoting evolutionary thought to see it in action. Any comment to the contrary results in explosive and angry responses, not considered replies with the weighing of evidence. Why?
Quoting DAWKINS from a controversial documentary debate called “Expelled”:
BEN STEIN: What do you think is the possibility that Intelligent Design might turn out to be the answer to some issues in genetics or in evolution?
DAWKINS: Well, it could come about in the following way. It could be that at some earlier time, somewhere in the universe, a civilization evolved, probably by some kind of Darwinian means, probably to a very high level of technology, and designed a form of life that they seeded onto perhaps this planet. Now that is a possibility, and an intriguing possibility. And I suppose it’s possible that you might find evidence for that if you look at the details of biochemistry, molecular biology, you might find a signature of some sort of designer.
The belief aliens created us is clearly less threatening. What drives the formation of anyone’s worldview? – yours, mine, your next door neighbour's? It can only be down to a spiritual decision about who is god (with a small g). Is it God (with a big G) or is it self?
A metaphor could be [that] when one empties out a jigsaw from the box and starts to put it together a prior assumption is required. This assumption, which is an essential prerequisite, is that the jigsaw was put into the correct box and picture on the lid is the right picture.
The Way of the Master material by Ray Comfort of Living Waters, does appear, as Tommy S says, to often bring people to a greater understanding of their need of Christ much quicker than many other methods. I have not personally had success with it yet, but apart from appearing to be a bit formulaic, it does seem to be supported by scripture.
For those who are interested and would like to check it out, there is a massive amount of free material by Living Waters on the 'net (e.g. youtube and their website, including a number of excellent movies, (e.g. 180 and The Atheist Delusion).
But I would like to hear from CMI as to their opinion of Ray's method. Personally I believe we should be ready with multiple approaches as humans are not machines and Jesus clearly didn't use Ray's approach every single time. And I think that at least investigating Ray's teachings through scripture is worthwhile, as well as being aware of the biblical support for CMI's excellent articles and information on evangelism, such as this fantastic article.
We have commented before on some on the work of Ray Comfort, for instance, the Evolution vs. God resource. CMI also stocks a book by Ray Comfort, Made in Heaven, which showcases in full colour many instances of human designs inspired by the natural world. With both resources, the intellect of interviewees/viewers/readers is certainly being engaged with. However, we recognise that, whatever a person's professed/actual intellectual barriers to faith, everyone has a moral problem (we're all sinners) and must humble themselves before the Creator and Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ.
The author of this article, Rob Clark, further comments re: the Way of the Master program:
"It's always good to hear that the Lord is using an evangelistic work to change hearts, however, in our outreach efforts we cannot totally circumvent the intellect (I doubt that to be the intention of the program you mention). Surely we want new converts to love the Lord with their mind as well as their heart (Matthew 22:37)."
For a powerful and effective evangelism technique I would highly recommend the Way of the Master program. It circumvents the intellect and gets straight to the heart of the issue. It doesn't always, but it has at times changed people's hearts in a single conversation.
Thanks you for this article. It takes courage to write about real-life situations, like this! I would love to see more articles on how to engage with people during the course of our daily living. We just miss so many opportunities!