Universal’s Islands of Adventure; photo credit: Orlando Informer
After this last series on Jesus and the atonement, I want to demonstrate how this early church atonement model (medical substitution, or ontological substitution) leads to better conversations with non-Christians. So this new blog series is called Adventures in Conversation. My most thoughtful and effective conversations about Jesus have been about (1) human nature; (2) good and evil; and (3) the character of God. They’re interrelated topics, and I think you’ll see why.
Here are abbreviated examples of real conversations I’ve had. Be mindful that I’m really just giving a bare bones outline here. If you find this helpful, be more personal in actual conversation. But watch for how I keep pressing other people to have a coherent story of good and evil, a clear location for the evil, and whether they can really live in the story they’re telling me.
Postmodern Skeptic: Even if Jesus was raised from the dead, so what? You think I need him…why?
Me: Because the only person who can offer us a healed human nature is Jesus. Why do you think we’re messed up as people?
Postmodern Skeptic: Well, what makes you say we’re messed up? There you go, like other Christians, saying that we are evil. I think we’re good.
Me: Why do you think we do so much evil?
Postmodern Skeptic: Some people have been through trauma, and they take it out on others.
Me: Do you lock your doors at night? Do you keep a password on your email account, or bank ATM? Would you flat out encourage your younger sister to go to a frat party and get drunk?
Postmodern Skeptic: So what? We’re holding each other in check.
Me: Why did we have to make locks and passwords and rape laws in the first place?
Postmodern Skeptic: Ok, I guess we do kind of suck.
Me: Well, so doesn’t that include you and me? I can tell you my epiphany story if you like.
Postmodern Skeptic: Sure, let’s hear it.
Me: [one of my personal transformation stories]
Postmodern Skeptic: So you’ve told me your story. Do you think we’re only evil? What about all the good that people already do?
Me: How do you define good?
Postmodern Skeptic: Not being selfish. It’s realizing that we are all connected. I don’t think we need religion or God to realize that.
Me: I think we do good because we were made in the image of a good God, and because He keeps stirring up goodness in us to remind us of Him. The question is: Why do we do evil? And then the question is: Can Jesus heal our human nature?
Postmodern Skeptic: How do you know it was Jesus? Why not just connect with a ‘force’ like ‘the force’ in Star Wars?
Me: If the problem is cancer in the body, the solution must be antibodies that fight the cancer in the body. In the same way, if human nature really has a disease, the only solution for it must be a healed human nature. Some ‘force’ that floats out there can’t be the solution to human nature. An actual human being in actual human history must perfect the antibodies to evil in his own body. We have to be able to see true goodness in human form and human life. Then he has to be able to spiritually connect with us. The only person able to do that is a God who is 100% good. That is why he came in the person of Jesus. Do you want to compare what you currently believe with Christian belief?