Friday, February 22, 2008

Unprepared

Today a co-worker (not for the first time) tracked me down and tried to ask me spiritual questions.

Now, I know I should be rejoicing at her interest in spiritual things, or at least, in why I am so “weird.” But instead, I became very nervous and quickly found an excuse to run off and finish up some work.

It all began during a friendly discussion yesterday when I casually mentioned my pastor doesn’t like to use the word “luck.” When my co-worker questioned why, I pointed out we believe everything in life is pre-ordained by a sovereign God.

She seemed genuinely stymied, and said something to the effect that was a “shocking” thing to say. She went on to say that if everything in life is pre-ordained then there is no hope – what will be, will be (and all that jazz).

I was uncomfortable talking so openly about this. Mainly, of course, because I am not a theologian. Secondly, because I’m not so sure myself how the balance works in the whole free-will vs. pre-ordination see-saw.

My experience in witnessing is more along the friendship evangelism model and mostly includes the words, “God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life.”

When I witness, the emphasis is put on Jesus’ sacrifice, death on the cross, and miraculous resurrection. Truth is, I’m a bit simplistic in my understanding and trust in the Bible and its absolute authority in my life.

I’ve never wanted to delve deeper. I’m an empathetic person, so my connection to salvation is based on how God works personally – not in the nuts-and-bolts of theology.

I suppose there is also a generational difference. My generation is of the “Live and Let Live” tolerance, acceptance, etc. variety – and I’m afraid I’ve bought into that myself at times.

Having to explain something so technical and theological, in defense of my own beliefs, seems unnecessary – “I believe it, and it’s good enough for me” is my thought (and I know many others in differing religions who feel the same – in today’s day and age, it’s a hard argument to get past)

So, when someone tracks me down and wants to talk specifics about pre-ordination, free will, and the existence or non-existence of luck, I’m out of my bailiwick.

This particular co-worker is very intelligent and of the deep-thought variety, so I’m scared of messing up. *If my explanation is what lies between her and salvation, I fear my inevitably weak explanation.

Which so far has been, “It’s, um, complicated. Oh darn, my lunch is over. See you later!” And I skitter off to my office praying for forgiveness, even as I sink into my desk chair in relief.

The fact is that I did study theology in college, but I studied it to get through college. To me, the basics were good enough, and when I shared the truth with people, I could relate on a personal level how God has worked in my heart.

However, there are those smart people out there- much smarter than I - who need facts, figures, and small-scale models to figure out the “whys” in life. And my co-worker falls into this camp.

I also have trouble with offering defense, since my basic premise is, “’Cause the Bible said so!” If my opponent or even eager listener doesn’t give credence to the Word of God, then my argument (as it is) falls apart.

So, then do I start by proving the Bible is the true? And how do I start that explanation?

I guess what I’m looking for here is HELP! How do I explain pre-ordination, a sovereign God, and why life pre-ordained by a sovereign God would not be hopeless, robotic life?

If you are of a theological bent, please help! This co-worker is insatiably curious, and I can’t help thinking this is a clear sign from the Lord that I am supposed to DO something.

Please offer guidance!

*Obviously, I know my explanation would not save anyone, and God can use my words to His glory any way He wants. I’m speaking of my own fear of human failure, based on my lack of knowledge.

8 comments:

mom2mine said...

I, too, am not a theologian. I often feel very *guilty* for now knowing more of why I believe what I believe. But, so Help me, I can not wade through Revelation and still sleep at night :)

This is a topic that I have wrestled very much with in my own mind and heart. I have put study into it, but am not ready to explain (or sometimes understand) what I have learned. I am going to pass this along to mu husband since this is one of his FAVORITE theological subjects.

I know that I am not much help here, but one thing I do know is that I serve a God that is MUCH, MUCH bigger than our limitations of knowledge and understanding. He doesn't need you to be perfect in your explanation to call her to Him. Yes, He is obviously using you and has put you in her path. She has realized that you are different, and that she can ask you these things. God ordained that relationship. Study the subject as much as you can and pray God uses you.

Alice said...

Well, I don't know your co-worker, but I think a lot of us might be able to diagram the theology of sovereignty but to really live it--that's something different. I've done some studies this year--God @ Work Even When I'm Not Seeing It (from various OT sources) and God Is In Control (from the book of Acts) that have really helped me so much. Since I know we'll be meeting up soon, I'd be glad to lend any resources if you're interested!

October Dawn said...

Don't answer her with an explanation. Just tell her that you take the Bible as your authority and encourage her to read whatever you think will be the most encouraging. Being ready to respond has more to do with not being afraid to point to God than with trying to explain God. God can handle it...point her to the Bible...your favorite passage or gospel. God will handle it. And don't be afraid either to tell her flat out that you don't spend much time on theology...that your devotion comes from faith that God is who He says He is and you trust Him with the details. K?

October Dawn said...

Or you might just point her to a good author. If she's really looking to apologetics then I would recommend Josh McDowell... he's done the research.

Heidi said...

or John MacArthur, John Piper, or Steve Lawson who puts it in easy language. I can probably find a few book ideas from my husband as well as good explanation ideas. I am like Tancy here too. I enjoy studying it, but explaining it is not easy. It is hard for me to understand the Sovereignty of God.
I believe that God will give you the words to say if you let Him. Don't be afraid to say "you know, that is a good question, let me study on it". You can then go to Pastor and see what he thinks.
Just don't get into the mindset that you are the one responsible if that person never comes to Christ because that is ultimately between them and the Holy Spirit. We IFB's have a tendency to take that responsibility from the Holy Spirit.

WendyJanelle said...

I agree. When talking to someone who doesn't claim to be "religious" or a Christian, it's best to just steer them to the Truth.

I like Philip Yancey, too. He's one of those authors that says, "yeah, I've had my doubts, too. This doesn't always make sense to me. I don't always 'feel' God here, but I believe anyway and this is why..." I love his honesty. I don't always agree with him on everything, but there is a lot to glean from his books! Just read something of his and then decide if you want to suggest it to her. :-)

Deb said...

I struggle with this too, Ann-Marie. I just figured out recently that God doesn't expect us to achieve the results that the salvation message can bring or not bring in someone's life. He expects us to live our life for him in public and private view and share the message. Hopefully our life matches the message. And even if we can't be perfect saints in front of unbelievers, it leaves them with no excuse for their rejection of Christ. I hope I am yammering on about the right thing here. Concerning your co-worker...just tell her what Christ did for you in your life. You can't mess up your personal experience of your own salvation. Ultimately, people who really want to find Jesus, always do.

Ann-Marie said...

I really appreciate everyone's help/advice. This past Sunday, our Pastor preached a message about how Chrsitians have to believe in the "supernatural" in order to truly BE Christians, and I understood that faith is what takes us to the point of believing what we believe.

I appreciate the advice and will keep everyone aprised of the situation! Please keep me in your prayers!