On Dealing With A Street Preacher

Could there be a better way to spread the Gospel? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Saturday Allie and I were driving around and happened to pass by some street preachers on the side of the road waving their Bibles and holding the signs telling people to repent. These kinds of guys I think have really good intentions. I don’t doubt they want to serve the Kingdom. What I think is that in the long run, they turn more people away from Christianity than they turn people to Christianity. I told Allie sometimes I’m tempted to stop and put on an atheist hat and see what happens.

And she suggested that I should just do it. How well could a street preacher do at defending the faith?

So we stopped and ended up talking to one of them. We’ll call him Jim, though that wasn’t his real name. Jim seemed to be a nice enough guy. I just went up first and asked him “Why should anyone believe what you’re saying?”

It really is a reasonable enough question. If you’re going to say that you think something is true, it would make sense that you would have some reason for believing that that something is true. In fact, this is why I think everyone needs some basic apologetics. If you want to talk about the change that Jesus made in your life, which is usually the most common apologetic, that’s fine, but it’s far better if you can build that on an argument beyond the subjective.

Jim didn’t have much. He did talk about some tablets found that talked about an OT king that existed and we had no record of that until we found these tablets. I do not remember the name of the tablets, but unfortunately, he could not tell me the name of the king. I suspect it was king David.

He also said he had astronomical data to show the truth. I asked what that was. He replied that the moon follows the sun every day in its circuit. The moon is to be a symbol of the church and the church is always following the Son.

Oh dear readers. Please never ever ever use an argument like this.

To begin with, this kind of thinking relies on astrotheology and you’ll find someone like Acharya S. who will happily use that kind of argument to show Jesus never existed and the whole thing is based on astrological symbolism. This would also fit in since the guy pointed to a Gospel in the Stars approach where the constellations are meant to tell us about the truth of Christianity.

Second, it relies on the English language entirely. In the Greek, the words for sun and son are not that close. This would assume then that God wanted to make this revelation known yet only to people who spoke English. (Which fits well since the guy was, shock, a KJV-onlyist.)

He then tried to ask Allie and if we feel any lack in our lives or anything missing. We just said “No. We live pretty good and happy lives.” This is again another problem with this kind of methodology. If your opponent does not admit that they are feeling the thing that you want them to feel, at that point you are sunk.

As we went on, we started talking about the problem of the Biblical manuscripts. To his credit, he did get right that the Bible was an oral culture. From there, it went downhill. I used the Ehrman line about copies of copies of copies. Jim’s response was to point to the Textus Receptus and how this is the one manuscript that has been proven to be right and scholars have found that the other manuscripts are wrong. (And in fact, he blamed it all on satan.)

This was quite problematic for him. When I asked him when the Textus Receptus dated from, he didn’t know. When I asked him what scholars proved the TR was the most reliable manuscript, he didn’t know. When I asked what scholars had proven the other manuscripts wrong, he didn’t know. So I was to trust a document from an unknown time to be proven by unknown scholars and other unknown scholars had proven the other manuscripts wrong.

Does that sound convincing to you? It shouldn’t.

As we went on, we kept explaining that with each claim, Muslims and Mormons give similar. He pointed out that Christianity is a religion that relies on grace instead of works. That is true I think of course, but that does not mean Christianity is true. It just means it’s a system someone can like a lot more. We have no independent grounds I know of to say “The true religion will be one of grace.” It’d be nice, but we need to establish that somehow.

Eventually, we did tell him that we are Christians and that what we do is to prepare Christians for when real opposition shows up. Allie gave a bit of her personal testimony saying that she was a suicide survivor, twice. He asked if she was a Christian both times and she said yes and he said “Do you really think someone with the Holy Spirit would try to kill themselves?”

I really wish I’d had the presence of mind then to realize what had been said and let the guy have it for insulting my Allie like that right in front of me. I’ve taken my own personal vow to do better next time, but if you meet someone who has had suicidal inclinations before and acted on it, the last thing you want to tell them is that they should question if they are really Christians at all. This is not an act of love. People who are like this need to be treated gently. (I can proudly say that Allie has bounced back incredibly from this latest attempt, which was in fact this month. It is like having a whole new person around the house and our relationship has never been stronger)

He also viewed the claim that I’m a Christian with great suspicion because he said he didn’t see any fruit in me. Now he added that he couldn’t really judge, but the Spirit in him did not see the spirit in me. It’s a way of saying “I’m going to judge you, but I’m going to blame it on God instead of on me.” The judging is still going on and it’s amazing this guy could see something after so brief a conversation as we had.

I am sure there are out there some street preachers who can do a good job. There are some who know what they believe and why and they can show it in a Christlike manner, but I’m also convinced that the majority do not do this. They turn off more than they get to come to Christ. Zeal without knowledge is something dangerous to have. Would that we could have more of the zeal of street preachers and the knowledge and love to go with it to show the reality of Christ.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

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