56. Building Bridges Part 2

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Episode 16 of Reconnect featured guest, Ken Chitwood, sharing an article he wrote entitled, “Building Bridges: Toward Constructing a Christian Foundation for Inter-Religious Relationships in the Shift from Religious Privilege to Spiritual Plurality”.  The key points for inter-religious dialog that Ken suggests are: pay attention, find, and form, friendships, listen and learn, dine, dialog, and do together, discern, and witness to the worldview.

While I agree with many of Ken’s points to approaching inter-religious dialog, I have a different application of the term “building bridges”.  I explain this approach in an article that I wrote for Reformation 21: “Embracing Religious Contradictions to Proclaim Christ Crucified: Tolerance and Coexistence”.   Looking at Acts 17, I see how Paul knew the beliefs and culture of those he was sharing the Gospel of Jesus.  He made the presentation of the Gospel from starting within their belief system with a point of contact that he could use to make a connection to the Biblical narrative of salvation.  I was given the opportunity to share this approach to evangelism at Brookfield Lutheran Church in Brookfield, Wisconsin.  This episode contains that sermon message. 

Senior pastor at Brookfield Lutheran Church, Robert Mrosko, was a guest on Reconnect Episode 39, discussing Star Wars.

The building bridges technique I am advocating for is also shared in Episode 34: “Storytelling Evangelism”.

34. Storytelling Evangelism

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Liang and ZhuGeorge interviews Andy about his MA research project, THE USE OF CHINESE LITERATURE AS A CULTURAL STARTING POINT TO PRESENT THE GOSPEL OF JESUS CHRIST.

 

Abstract

Common methods of Christian evangelism present a list of facts about man’s depravity and God’s act of salvation for mankind.  These methods are problematic in today’s mostly postmodern world that does not accept absolute truths.  These methods also use terminology and concepts unknown outside of the Christian faith, furthering the difficulty of communicating the Gospel.  This research project then seeks to find a well-known piece of Chinese literature that Christians can use as a cultural starting point when presenting the Gospel in China, eliminating the problems of a facts-based presentation of the Gospel.

Key List of Words

Chinese folktales, Chinese literature, Liang Shanbo and Zhu Yingtai, monomyth, and storytelling evangelism.

Show Links

Andy’s MA Research Project

Reconnect Episode 6: Contradict – Campus Evangelism

Reconnect 15. Christian Freedom, Eucatastrophes, and Rock ‘N’ Roll

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First Reconnect July Fourth Special!  Andy discusses the concept of “Christian Freedom” with Pastor Samwise Praetorius (Samuel Schuldheisz) by addressing the eucatastrophes of fairy stories and the Gospel connections that can be made with rock songs.  They both share their top three favorite rock songs to use for sharing the Gospel. If you don’t know how that’s possible, you need to give this episode a listen. 

Reconnect Episode 15Listen to Episode 15 Here.

Videos of Andy and Pastor Sam’s favorite Rock ‘N’ Roll Evangelism Songs:

Please listen to episode before watching these videos of our favorite rock songs to use when sharing the Gospel.  I’m keeping the song titles and bands a secret on this page to not spoil the fun when listening to the episode.  We’d love to hear your feedback on our approach and song selections.  If the linked videos are ever removed, please send me an email at andy@contradictmovement.org to notify me.

Andy’s third favorite rock song for evangelism
Andy’s second favorite rock song for evangelism (the studio version is better but here you can see the drummer in action)
Andy’s top favorite rock song for evangelism

Sam’s third favorite rock song for evangelism
Sam’s second favorite rock song for evangelism
Sam’s top favorite rock song for evangelism

Other Episode links:

Pastor Sam’s blog: E-nkings
Pastor Sam’s congregation’s website: Redeemer Lutheran
“Faith and Fairy Tales” by Pastor Sam
1517 The Legacy Project

“Haunted by the Dead” – The Walking Dead

walking deadI know that some Christians are highly opposed to watching any movie related to zombies, vampires, witches, ghosts, and demons.  I typically avoid these types of shows and movies as well.  Most of the time they seem to be filmed for shock value and have what I consider to be excessive and unnecessary sex, gore, and violence with little to none redeeming value.

However, I have found a lot that I enjoy about AMC’s The Walking Dead, which is based on the Image Comics series with the same name.

Here’s what I enjoy about the show – the moral dilemmas.

If one of us must die to save the rest, who should it be and why?

When is it appropriate to kill someone else?  If you know letting the person live will likely lead to many more deaths, murders in fact, murders within your own family, do you let the person go!  An entire episode dealt with essentially a debate about this topic with arguments from both sides.

The show raises questions about government authority. If our entire governmental system were to crash, who makes the laws, who enforces those laws, what laws from before still apply and which ones no longer do?

All of this is connected to the value of humanity.  The one character in the show who has consistently fought for the intrinsic value of all humans as being equal has been the Christian pastor, because he of course knows that we are all created in the image of God.  He again and again calls people to look to the good that God is working out through the zombie apocalypse.

As fictional as a zombie apocalypse might be, the scenarios come down to what we all face in our day to day lives on much smaller levels – provision and safety for our families – are we selfless or selfish – do we seek to love God and love our neighbor – or do we seek to save our own lives?

Spoiler [this paragraph break only] Once the Christian pastor is removed from the show, the group quickly begins to dissolve into us first, and kill everyone else mode.  Maybe rightfully so in the scenarios presented thus far, but there is no hesitation any longer!

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And there are of course some really good quotes one can pull from the show.  Here’s one that stuck out to me:

“That’s the fear, right?  People who are living are haunted by the dead.  We are who we are; we do what we do, because they’re still here – in our heads, in the forests, the world is haunted now, and there’s no getting out of that.  Not until we’re dead.”

Isn’t this true for us, here, in this world, our very real world not overrun by zombies.  We are who we are and we do what we do because of those who went before us – the dead if you will.  Why do we sin?  Because Adam sinned and his sin has been passed on to all of us (Romans 5).  Why do I do the things I do, why am I the way I am?  Largely, it’s a result of my ancestors (the dead).  I am in very much the same way as my father and mother, and I’m sure they are very much who they are because of their father and mother, and it can keep going back down the line.  Genesis shows this from the very beginning – just look at the patterns that flowed from Cain to his descendents compared to those that flowed from Seth down to his.  The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree – if you will.

Also, aren’t we haunted by the dead?  It’s always in front of us, death.  Those who have died that we have known, are always in our heads, in our thoughts.  They remind us of our own mortality.

This world is truly haunted!  Is it not?  At least, as it is now, in its fallen state due to sin!  And there is no escaping it.  Not until we die.  At which point there is an escape, but that escape only comes to those who have died in Jesus Christ our Lord.

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Hinduism – Connecting Hindu Beliefs to the Gospel of Jesus Christ #2

Paul spent time in the market place, observing and interacting with the Athenians.  When he was asked to address their questions about the message he was sharing, he first began by praising their religiosity.  He acknowledged the gods they worshipped and used an idol they had built to the unknown god as a connecting point to present Jesus, “the unknown god.”  He then quoted one of their poets, not Scripture, to make another connection to the Gospel.  He started with them, where they were at in their relationship and knowledge of God, addressed their questions and concerns, and built a bridge to the Gospel.
About 500 BC, there was a big shift in Hinduism.  It was during this time that the Upanishads were written, as a collection of meditations and teachings based on the Vedic texts.  Upanishads means “sitting near.”  This gives the image of a pupil sitting near a teacher learning.  I relate the Upanishads to the Jewish Talmud.  The Talmud consists of a massive quantity of writings from Jewish priests and teachers on traditions, history, and interpretation of the Scriptures.  I also liken the Upanishads to the footnotes in many Study Bibles – an explanation of the text and a backdrop to the history and traditions of the time the texts were written.  However, the Upanishads take more liberties for personal interpretation than the Talmud and Study Bible notes.
It’s from the Upanishads that some key teachings of Hinduism arise and take root.
Brahman – Brahman is the divine essence that is at the heart of all things in the universe.  This teaching ultimately says that there is only one divine reality and that we are all united in it, in fact we consist of it.  This one divine reality also means that there are not many gods, just Brahman.  I like to think of this as the Force in Star Wars – it’s all things.  Hindus compare Brahman to salt in water.  It’s there, but you don’t see it, and it’s in all parts of the water and can’t be separated from the water (but it can be, right?).
Atman – At the same time that all things are one, we still maintain our individuality.  Brahman at the individual level in humanity is called Atman.  Atman can be compared to our soul – that which makes us unique.
Maya – This word means illusion.  The reason we don’t see and grasp the divine oneness of all things is because of Maya.  It’s just an illusion that we see ourselves as separate from one another.  This illusion is what brings rise to selfishness, pain, and suffering.
Samsara – Samsara is the cycle of death and rebirth.  When our bodies die, the divine within us does not.  Our soul is reborn into a new body.
Karma – This is the moral law of cause and effect.  Karma determines the direction of our rebirth according to Hinduism.
Moksha – This is liberation from Samsara and the yoke of Karma.  When a person reaches Moksha, they are no longer reborn but are completely united with Brahman, once and for all.  Little is said about how to obtain Moksha in the Upanishads.  It’s essentially up to the individual to discover self-realization of their oneness with Brahman, thus escaping bondage to worldly existence.
Making the Connection between Hindu Beliefs and the Gospel of Jesus Christ
At first glance, it might be difficult to envision how a connection from these Hindu concepts can be made, but it can be done.  I’d like to be adamant that these connections, in no way mean that Christianity and Hinduism have the same teachings!  That is far from the truth.  All I am doing is pointing out similarities, which can then open the door for presenting the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
For example, it’s very easy to say, “Oh, Christians hold a similar belief.  We believe the same thing concerning ___________, but we don’t believe ___________.  Instead, the Bible teaches _________.”
Hindu Teaching:
Brahman – Brahman is the divine essence that is at the heart of all things in the universe.  This teaching ultimately says that there is only one divine reality and that we are all united in it, in fact we consist of it.
 brahman
Christian teaching:
Acts 17:28 In this verse, Paul is recorded as having said, “For in him we live and move and have our being.’ As some of your own poets have said, “We are his offspring.”
Connecting to the Gospel of Jesus
 
Christians hold a similar view as Brahman in that we believe that it is from God that we live and move and have are being.  Colossians 1:17 even teaches that Jesus holds all things together.  However at the heart of each and every one of us, Christians disagree with the Hindu understanding that all is divine.  Christians however recognize that all things in the universe have come from God, but that all things do not consist of God, because God created the universe out of nothing by speaking it into existence.  This however does not mean that we believe God is far off from us.  Paraphrasing what Paul shared in Acts 17, God is still at the heart of all our lives; we have our being because of him, and he determined the times set for us and the exact places that we should live.  In this way, Christians agree with Hindus that God is at the heart of all things, but we certainly would not say that all things are God.
Jesus is very near. Everything that lives and breaths, because of him. In Christianity, God is at the heart of all things; Christ holds all things together. However, this does not mean that all things are divine as Hinduism teaches.
This still has not made a connection to the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  The connection to the Gospel will come in the next blog post by connecting Karma, the cosmic law of the universe in Hinduism, with the Law of God, and Moksha, the liberation from Samsara, with the pardon from the penalty of breaking God’s Law found in the Gospel of Christ.