The SBJT Forum: Neglected Matters in Evangelism -- By: Anonymous
SBJT 5:1 (Spring 2001) p. 78
The SBJT Forum:
Neglected Matters in Evangelism
Editor’s Note: Readers should be aware of the forum’s format. D. A. Carson, Al Jackson, Ajith Fernando, Robert Coleman, and John Mark Terry have been asked specific questions to which they have provided written responses. These writers are not responding to one another. The journal’s goal for the Forum is to provide significant thinkers’ views on topics of interest without requiring lengthy articles from these heavily-committed individuals. Their answers are presented in an order that hopefully makes the forum read as much like a unified presentation as possible.
SBJT: Granted that there are spurious conversions in the Bible, what criteria help us to discern that a profession of faith is genuine?
D. A. Carson: Many complex questions occupy the attention of the thoughtful evangelist, but this is surely one of the most complex.
The reason why it is an important question is bound up with the many passages in the Bible that depict spurious conversions. For instance, in the parable of the sower (better called, perhaps, the parable of the soils), Jesus says that some people, “like seed sown on rocky places, hear the word and at once receive it with joy” (Mark 4:16), but that as soon as trouble comes they quickly fall away, for they have no root. In the Palestine of Jesus’ day, “rocky places” referred to a setting where there was a thin layer of topsoil over limestone bedrock. Because the topsoil was so shallow, it warmed up the fastest in the spring, and the seed embedded there germinated most quickly. Outside the metaphorical world, some people hear the word and “at once receive it with joy.” They seem to be the most promising of the crop. But once the early rains have died away and the full heat of the mideastern sun blazes down, the roots stretch down for water, cannot penetrate the bedrock, and the plant dies. Outside the metaphorical world, sometimes the very people who seem to be the most promising of a crop of converts turn out to have no root, and when the first whiff of trouble shows up, they wither away. But who could tell at first which plants would endure, and which would not?
Or consider the series of people depicted in Luke 9:57–62. Three different people offer to follow Jesus, or promise to do so on some condition or other. In every case, Jesus gently repulses them. One says, “I will follow you wherever you go,” but Jesus promptly erects a barrier: “Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.” I suppose the question we must ask ourselves is this: When was the last time that we repulsed someone who promised to follow Je...
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