Winning arguments is not the same as winning souls. Very few, if any, have lost a quarrel and found themselves converted. But we all know the impulse deep down, when engaging with unbelief, to lash out in an effort to show ourselves right rather than win the unbeliever.
If we genuinely are willing to take our cues from the New Testament, rather than instinct, we might be surprised to find the way the apostles would have us to engage with our society. Paul points to kindness, patience and gentle correction (2 Timothy 2:24–26), and Peter lays out the way of “gentleness and respect” and compelling hope.
In your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect. (1 Peter 3:15)
Will they ask about our hope if our rhetoric is full of fear and at fever pitch?
Church Meets World
Don Carson has seen a lot come and go in the church and in the world.
Not just a world-class scholar of the New Testament, he’s been a keen observer of cultural upheaval and societal change for some five decades now. He laid bare the philosophical foundations in his impressive volume The Gagging of God: Christianity Confronts Pluralism and authored Christ and Culture Revisited as a steady guide for orienting Christians in a swiftly changing milieu.
Being cosmopolitan, in the best sense, has helped. He was born to British parents, raised in French Canada, has taught at the graduate and doctoral level for more than 30 years and has traveled extensively, observing trends worldwide like few have.
Recently I had the privilege of sitting down with Carson to ask about his sense on the state of the church in America today, and going forward.
You might wonder whether someone with his ecclesiological pedigree and breadth would dream nostalgically about the 1950s and join the fight to reclaim the golden era that seemed so much more conducive to Christianity. Carson, however, is much less worried about the broadening gap between church and society—and much more eager for Christians to learn to engage with humility and kindness.