Sunday, October 17, 2010

Petrus' comment on our encounter with Vinoth Ramachandra

This is a guest-post (with revision) from Petrus, a postgraduate student from Indonesia, who attended the session we had with Vinoth:
It was me who asked the question about the relation between Mission and Evangelism, "Mission is not primarily evangelism. What is your opinion about this statement?"

My reason to ask this question was because I ever heard one of my lecturers said something like sharing the gospel is not always the goal of mission. This had disturbed my thinking for several days, and that's why when Dr. Vinoth came, I asked him.

For me, Dr. Vinoth's answer was not convincing and even debatable. First, he said that it is not always necessary to share the gospel for it is not the goal of mission. Then I asked him what is the ultimate goal of mission. He said it is to glorify God, to worship God. And he gave the example of the good Samaritan, who helped the neighbor without sharing the gospel to him.

Up to this point, several students continued to ask him question [about his point on] loving the neighbor.

Then I continued to ask, "If so, what's the different between our good works and non-believers' good work? We must have a 'hidden agenda" in our good works that is to witness and share the gospel to others, if not they may follow the non-believers."

Then Dr. Vinoth seemed to get impatient with me. He said that why must I compare with non-believer's good work? God will accept their good work too as He accepted the Samaritan's good work.

Up to this point, indeed Dr. Vinoth hasn't answered my question about why it is not necessary to share the gospel to others in our mission.

Second, I felt uneasy when I heard him say that God will hear the prayer of unbelievers. This really disturbed my conviction. As I hold firmly, our Christian God will only listen to the prayer of Christians who pray to Him in the name of Jesus.

So if what Dr. Vinoth said was true that God will also hear the prayer of non-believers, why do we need mission anyway?


reasonable said...

Hi Petrus,

Part 1

1. If u are reading this, and one day we may meet in your campus since I always have books to borrow and "donations" to give to the TTC library (read: fines! haha), my 1st fallible statement or point to respond to your sharing is (I take my fallible point as true until there is evidence to show that this point is probably mistaken):

I see no reason why God does not hear the prayers of non-Christians. Why do u think that God does not hear the prayers of non-Christians?

2. Second point from me:

God rejects many Christians (defined as one who accepts Jesus as one's Lord), even those who managed to perform miracles such as healing, exorcism and so on in Jesus' name. The key to acceptance by God lies not in one's identification as Christian. God accepts at least some non-Christians (those who did not become Christians before they died) into his future renewed-creation, the "new heavens and the new earth".

3. At the same time, it can nevertheless still be true that no one comes to the "Father" without going thru Jesus. It can nevertheless be true that there is no other name by which one can be "saved".

4. A non-Christian, by the formation of his character towards unselfishness and love for truth for truth's sake, will likely embrace and worship the Truth when he encounters the Truth face to face after his death. In that sense he comes to the Father via his love and embracing of Truth (Jesus is the Truth). Consequently his imperfections and sins are all forgiven. Hence he does not come to the Father apart from Jesus even though he recognises the Truth only after death.

5. But many non-Christians (and many Christians too) would not be able to genuinely love and embrace the Truth if they have lived their lives such that they become more and more selfish. When they see the Truth face to face, they can only submit to the Truth out of selfish reasons (e.g. fear of "punishment"/"hell"); their long-formed character of selfishness would make it impossible for them, at that moment, to embrace Truth for the love of Truth. This type of "submission" would not be accepted by God for such "submission" is really still an manifestation of selfishness. "Depart from me" would likely be the response from God.

to be continued in Part 2

reasonable said...

Part 2

This is part 2 of my response to Petrus:

6. God is thus fair; no one would be rejected for failing to understand the Gospel or for failing to have any chance to hear the Gospel.

7. You may then ask: why evangelise? My answer: we evangelise not so much for the sake of preventing people from going to "hell" but more for the glory of God. Truth is intrinsically worthwhile to be proclaimed whether or not it brings forth "pragmatic" use such as "saving one from future hell". The idea is: even if we are send to hell, we ought to worship God for Truth/God is intrinsically worthy of adoration. Sometimes or perhaps too often people think of evangelism mainly in terms of "saving souls from hell".

It is unfortunate Vinoth used an approach that instead of bringing forth truth, it raised additional obstacles blocking the truth. (by "truth" here, I refer to our fallible interpretation of reality - which all of human beings are trapped in since non of us can view Reality as it is but uses our fallible lens to look at Reality)


reasonable said...

Sorry I missed out including this important explanation to part 2:

Suppose we Christians come across a very good, compassionate unselfish atheist or Buddhist whom we are convinced that she would be accepted by God after his death because we believe that she would embrace and adore and worship the Truth when she encounters the Truth, Jesus, face to face after her death.

Should we evangelise to her given the above hypothetical situation?

Yes we should. Because the reason for missions & evangelism is ultimately not about saving her from hell, but about glorifying God. It glorifies God that the Truth be known and understood and embraced by her now, instead of delaying it till after her death. So we should still explain the Truth to her now even if we are convinced that for her special situation she would embrace, adore and worship God after her death when she encounters Truth face to face.

(if a Christian's ultimate aim of evangelism & missions is about saving her from death, then that Christian may think that in her case there is no need for evangelism; but if the aim is about the glory of God, then she should still be evangelised)