Arguing and Outreach / by Michael Nichols

I just finished watching the new feature film God's Not Dead with a bro from my congregation. I had preconceived notions about what I would see. Most of those notions were pretty awesome. I expected it to be a well-executed movie. I did not, however, expect as much conviction from it as I got.

God's Not Dead, if you haven't seen it, is about a college freshman who is presented with the fearful challenge of defending his faith in front of his philosophy class. The reason? His philosophy professor required all of his students to write the words "God is dead," sign it, and turn it in. The alternative? Defend the antithesis. Argue/prove the opposing viewpoint.

The main character in the story feels that God is leading him to do this and not back down from it. In standing for his beliefs and for Jesus, he was discouraged by most of the people from whom he sought guidance. His girlfriend, one of them, actually broke up with him over it--to boot, she also professed faith, but was convinced that doing this would somehow wreck their future together.

It was a great example of what good can come out of being able to defend your faith. That having been said, watching the professor, who ardently opposed God in all ways, along with the general use of philosophy in the context of the Christian faith, made me think about philosophy's place in outreach.

Parallel to this story were several others being told throughout the film. Many of the stories had to do with people living with the backlash that comes with following Jesus, or conversely dealing with their own doubts and feelings/oppositions about God Himself. In addition, these parallel stories included the hardships that these people were going through. One person had cancer. Another had dementia. The professor--need I say more? Another freshman was kicked out of her home for following Jesus and not recanting. A minister was struggling with not feeling used.

I realize I've given you spoilers. Sorry. But I want to paint a picture for you. These people had real lives. It wasn't just the things they believed about God. They had lives that shaped those beliefs, and in turn their beliefs shaped their lives. Then there was also so much that was beyond their control! Isn't that true of life!

No matter how comprehensively you argue to defend the faith, no matter how convincing your speech is, no matter how many words you put in the correct order--simply put, a person cannot be convinced to believe. They must choose for themselves. That having been said, they're not going to choose something that they don't know about, or something that they believe is silly or bad for them.

We can argue all we want, but are we loving the least?

Are we lifting up the losers in the hallways of the school?

Are we ensuring that people know they're not alone?

Are we willing to sacrifice a little bit of time, effort, or money, just for the sake of being sure that maybe one person gets a meal for the day, or has proof that they really do matter to someone?

Do they know that Jesus died for you?

Do they know that Jesus' love for you has saved your life and given you the ability to live more fully than ever?

Do they know that the same is true of them?

Do they know that He's more than just some idea, but that He is 100% real?

Convincing people of the truth of Jesus is infinitely important...

...But has convincing people of the fact of it replaced our desire to really live it?

"If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but do not have love, I have become a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal..."

--Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 13:1)

God's not dead.