Missions History of the East– Can These Bones Live?

Nestorian cross of the Yuan dynasty

Occasionally I get to teach Missions History, and one time I was able to teach Church History. As I reflect on these topics, I am struck again by the shocking lack of respect given to the missions movement(s) of the Eastern Church in the first millennium (primarily) and to a lesser extent in the second millennium. Why is that? A few guesses:

  • Popularized Missiology tends to come in two major varieties– Roman Catholic and Protestant. Both come out of the Western Church not the Eastern Church(es). Hardly surprising that they would focus on the missional stream they grew out of.
  • Related to the first, the Church(es) of the East are often seen as schismatic or even heretical by the Western Churches. The term “Nestorian” used by many in the West for the first millennium missionaries in the East is a term of heresy– although it is doubtful that the term really applied (and now where most Christians can’t even understand the difference between the modalism of the “United Pentecostal Church” and orthodox Trinitarianism, it is doubtful that many would consider actual Nestorians or Monophysites heretical anyway)
  • Related to the second, the Western churches have tended to seek to minimize or squelch missions of the Eastern churches. In the Crusades, the Western church tended to attack churches of the East.  Excommunications (such as the bizarre last straw of the Great Schism in 1054AD), competition (such as “Latin Rite” churches set up in Eastern lands), book burnings (such as in the Thomasite churches of India by the Portuguese), and general uncooperativeness (such as in dealing with the Mongol Empire) were the norm. With Protestant missions today, there is often a general belief that Eastern churches lack “saving faith” (strange since there’s is a faith that has survived 2000 years of minority status and considerable periodic persecution).
  • Much of the missionary gains of the Eastern Church disappeared in the 11th through 13th centuries. There is a tendency (especially among Protestants, but perhaps with all people to some extent) to see the “Body of Christ” as existing only in the NOW. We are tied to the church that exists now… not to the church of the past or the future. Why? I honestly don’t know. In the end, there seems to be a feeling that the Church of the East ultimately was a missional dead-end. A failed experiment dead and gone.

Since I teach in the Philippines, I feel there is a real need to teach missions that has flowed through Asia in the first millennium and into the second millenium. While the church may not have reached the Philippines until the 1500s (although some believe traders brought it far earlier on a small-scale) the church has been alive and well in Asia for two thousand years. But here are a few reasons that I think that all Christians should study Missions of the Eastern Church.

  1. Three of the most successful missionary movements in Christian history involved Asian/Eastern Churches. One of these is the so-called Nestorian missionary movement that swept from modern-day Syria and Iraq across the Silk Road(s) to China and beyond in the first millennium. This was an amazing accomplishment during a period that missions in the West was almost non-existent (except with the Celtic missions). Less immediately impresseive, but ultimately more enduring was the mission movement of the Orthodox church into Slavic lands inthe first millenium. The third great missionary movement was the Russian Orthodox movement that swept across Northern Asia and into parts of North America in the 1700s. While this may have been tied to expansion of the Russian Empire, that is often true in mission movements anyway. And in the case of the Russian Orthodox movement, it has also endured. To study missions history while ignoring these three major movements is,  I feel, inconceivable.
  2. Christianity needs to embrace its Asian roots as part of its present mission. Christianity, although founded in Asia, and having most of its early centers in modern-day, Syria, Turkey, Lebanon, and Iraq, has become thought of by many as a European religion (or a religion of Europe and the Americas). Frankly, such a view is woefully out of date. However, it is also historically flawed. The largest continent with the largest population with the largest number unreached is Asia. Christianity needs to embrace its Asian roots and its Asian history. The growth of the Chinese church in recent years has been helped with the understanding that Christianity is a “Chinese Religion” dating back at least to 635AD — only three years after the death of Islam’s founder, and only 34 years after the first major Western missionary work in Great Britain. Christianity was well established in India within the first two centuries of the church age. It has been argued that the “bhakti” devotion found in the Bhagavad Gita, was influenced by Christians in India. The first “Christian kingdoms” were in Asia (Osrhoene and Armenia) not Rome.
  3. The missionary movements of the church of the east are far from gone. There are millions of Christians in Asia today who are the product of the outreach of the Eastern churches. Churches survive throughout the Middle East and India. Some, like the Armenian church are quite strong. They are not just part of our past, but part of our present. The Orthodox Church has, in the last century, woken up to missions, and has again become an effective missionary force.
  4. We can learn from them. The missionary movements of the East were wildly successful… and disastrous. What can we learn from them both positively and negatively? What can we gain from them in terms of contextualization and strategy? We can learn about how to do Inter-religious Dialogue from the Nestorians (Consider the Apology of Timothy I). The Eastern churches were interacting peacefully with the Asian great religions when the Western church only knew interaction through the sword. The  Eastern church were converting people from those same great religions centuries before the Western church recognized generally that they can be brought to Christ.

This is not a call to switch from the Western church to the Eastern. Rather it is a call to recognize that we all are part of the Global Church and can learn from the Global Church.

Ultimately, I would like to add the thought that the past can come alive again. The church in China is thriving in part due to mission work centuries earlier that appeared to have died. The church in India and Syria and more have deep, deep roots that perhaps can be watered and tended to bear new fruit. I would like to apply a passage of Scripture (somewhat out of context) to God’s work in the East. In the words of the prophet Ezekiel,

The hand of the LORD was upon me, and He brought me out by the Spirit of the LORD and set me down in the middle of the valley; and it was full of bones. He caused me to pass among them round about, and behold, there were very many on the surface of the valley; and lo, they were very dry. He said to me, “Son of man, can these bones live?” And I answered, “O Lord GOD, You know.”  -Exekiel 17:2-3

Kintsukuroi Faith: Beautifully Broken. Part 2

You may want to look at Part 1 of this Post

Pottery is big in the Bible. No surprise since pottery was highly useful (as it is now) and was pretty high tech. Having taken a class in high temperature materials back in my mechanical engineering days, I can confirm that pottery-making/ceramics is still high-tech.

Pottery also has a lot of metaphoric value. The passage starting in II Corinthians chapter 4 speaks of humans as being “jars of clay.” Of course there is a semi-literal sense. We are described as being formed of the dust of the earth (which, in itself, is a semi-literal metaphor). Additionally, pots are both fragile and durable. They break easily, but also potentially have the ability to last pretty close to forever, and protect their contents pretty much forever.

But what do you do with a flawed or broken pot?

1.  Reform it. This is before firing in the kiln. The base material (clay or mud or whatever) has not been hardened through heat. Romans 9:19–21 speaks of this in terms of God being the potter and we being the moldable medium (like clay). Isaiah also uses this theme in chapters 29, 45, and 64. The idea is that God has the ability to determine our own form as He chooses.

A problem with the metaphor is that it suggests that transformation is only realistic at the beginning. Once it is fired, it can’t be remade. Of course, that limitation was based on the technology of the time… not necessarily suggesting that transformation in a human life is impossible later. Transformation at a later date in the Bible is described in other ways such as being born again or being made a new creation/creature.

2. Accept the destruction. If it is flawed, or cracked, it can be destroyed. The last chapter of Ecclesiastes describes a broken pot as a metaphor for death. Job uses the question of God returning fired clay back to unfired clay (“dust”) as being metaphoric of his being destroyed by God (Job 10:8-9).

In the Philippines we have a game, “Pukpok Palayok.” Earthenware used as inexpensive serving dishes (“palayok”), are filled with goodies and hung on a string to be broken as a game (similar to the pinata). Near us there is a restaurant Isdaan where one can pay to break dishes and other items (a bit like the Greek tradition of breaking dishes as a form of expensive celebration). One is reminded of Romans 9:22. In this passage there is the implication of pottery…  “…vessels of wrath prepared for destruction.” Some use this to suggest that God elects some to hell. While such an interpretation is consistent with the passage, it is not the only interpretation… and one has to address passages where God’s love and sacrifice is described as made available to all.

But of more interest to me is what one does in accepting the destruction. Commonly, the broken pieces are thrown out. Sometimes they are utilized as shards. Job used pieces of broken pottery to scrape his diseased skin since the edges are sharp and rough… having not had opportunity to be eroded down. However, more recently, broken pottery has been found useful by archaeologists to gain great insight about ancient cultures. Their fragility caused them to be thrown away, while their durability ensured the pieces remain to enlighten about things that have otherwise faded away.

3.  Restore. Broken or cracked (post-fire) pottery have been traditionally thrown away because repair is difficult and expensive. Additionally, it is easier to start over. But there is at least one ancient way of restoring, and two more modern ways. Lets look at these:

  • Deceptive Repair. In ancient times, broken pottery can be repaired with wax. The wax can be blended in so that it is hard to see that it is repaired. If a person bought it and put hot water in it, the wax could melt and the pottery fail. One could sometimes look into the interior of the vessel and see if light sneaks in along waxy seams exposing the deception. Vessels that were not deceptively repaired were described as “sine cera”– without wax. We get the term “sincere” from this. Several times the expression “without wax” is used in the Bible in this figurative sense. One of these is Philippians 1:9-10 where we are told to be “without wax.” We are not to have our flaws deceptively (insincerely) covered.
  • Functional Repair. In more recent times, there have been improvements in adhesive technology, and it is possible to have functional repairs. Some epoxies can restore the pot to where it can be used for its original function. If the pot is decorative, of course, “super glue” can be enough (or wax as far as that goes). However, in these forms of repair, the goal is to still hide the flaws. The goal is still to make it look as much as possible like it did originally.
  • Beautiful Repair. “Kintsukuroi” (“golden repair”) seeks a fairly functional repair… but the interesting thing in it is that the flaws are accentuated, not covered up. The idea is that the “flaws” repaired serve as a form of beauty that the unflawed vessel lacked. They demonstrate the artistic skill of the repairer. It is said that some Japanese artisans would intentionally break pots so that they could then repair them in this manner.

I would like to suggest that Kintsukuroi is a useful metaphor for our lives as Christians. While moldable clay shows God’s role in creating us… making us beautiful in His eyes… Kintsukuroi describes how God transforms our broken lives. The transformation does not restore us to our original condition, but to something better. The repairs are not to be hidden, deceptively covered up, but visible to demonstrate the power and the skill of God who restores and transforms things to a more beautiful, glorious state.

Often we describe heaven in terms of unflawed beauty. But perhaps that is more of a Greek ideal, than Biblical ideal. When Jesus was resurrected from the dead, His resurrected body still had the scars of the crucifixion on it. Thomas was able to identify Jesus and thus identify God’s true power through those scars. Sometimes “flawed beauty” is better than “unflawed beauty.”

It is entirely possible that we glorify God most NOT when we appear to have no flaws, but when those flaws point to God’s power and glory in their evident repair. A lot of Christian workers and churches like to appear to be unbroken… but people know that breaks are there… hidden. They know Christians and churches have waxy seams.

We need a different direction. Don’t hide our brokenness. Demonstrate God’s power in our brokenness.

Kintsukuroi Faith: Beautifully Broken. Part I

Kintsukuroi is a Japenese word for “Golden Repair.” It is related to another Japanese term,Kintsugi (“Golden joinery”).  It refers to pottery repair. The repair has two purposes:

a.  To restore something that is both physically and functionally broken.
b.  To increase beauty by enhancing the break lines rather than seeking to hid them.

Before applying this concept to faith, salvation, and theology… here are a couple of quotes and a webpage to consider:

Quote #1

“Imperfection is in some way sort of essential to all that we know of life. It is the sign of life in a mortal body, that is to say, of a state of progress and change. Nothing that lives is, or can be, rigidly perfect; part of it is decaying, part nascent… And in all things that live there are certain irregularities and deficiencies which are not only signs of life, but sources of beauty… To banish imperfection is to destroy expression, to check exertion, to paralyze vitality. All things are literally better, lovelier, and more beloved for the imperfections which have been divinely appointed, that the law of human life may be effort, and the law of human judgment, mercy.”   -John Rushkin (quoted in the webpage listed below.)

Quote #2

Not only is there no attempt to hide the damage, but the repair is literally illuminated… a kind of physical expression of the spirit of mushkin….Mushin is often literally translated as “no mind,” but carries connotations of fully existing within the moment, of non-attachment, of equanimity amid changing conditions. …The vicissitudes of existence over time, to which all humans are susceptible, could not be clearer than in the breaks, the knocks, and the shattering to which ceramic ware too is subject. This poignancy or aesthetic of existence has been known in Japan as mono no aware, a compassionate sensitivity, or perhaps identification with, [things] outside oneself.   -Christy Bartlett (quoted in Wikipedia article “Kintsugi”)

Webpost #1

Kintsukuroi – The gentle art of soul restoration, by Audrey Meyer


Continue on to Part 2


“The Customs of Heaven” Quote of James Martineau

“The universe, open to the eye to-day, looks as it did a

James Martineau, 1805-1900

thousand years ago: and the morning hymn of Milton does but tell the beauty with which our own familiar sun dressed the earliest fields and gardens of the world. We see what all our fathers saw. And if we cannot find God in your house or in mine, upon the roadside or the margin of the sea; in the bursting seed or opening flower; in the day duty or the night musing; in the general laugh and the secret grief; in the procession of life, ever entering afresh, and solemnly passing by and dropping off; I do not think we should discern him any more on the grass of Eden, or beneath the moonlight of Gethsemane. Depend upon it, it is not the want of greater miracles, but of the soul to perceive such as are allowed us still, that makes us push all the sanctities into the far spaces we cannot reach. The devout feel that wherever God’s hand is, there is miracle: and it is simply an indevoutness which imagines that only where miracle is, can there be the real hand of God. The customs of Heaven ought surely to be more sacred in our eyes than its anomalies; the dear old ways, of which the Most High is never tired, than the strange things which he does not love well enough ever to repeat. And he who will but discern beneath the sun, as he rises any morning, the supporting finger of the Almighty, may recover the sweet and reverent surprise with which Adam gazed on the first dawn in Paradise. It is no outward change, no shifting in time or place; but only the loving meditation of the pure in heart, that can reawaken the Eternal from the sleep within our souls: that can render him a reality again, and reassert for him once more his ancient name of ‘the Living God.'”

<From his sermon “Help Thou My Unbelief. ” Quoted by William James in “The Varieties of Religious Experience.”>

The Devil and the First Church of Job’s Friends

The Philippines gets bombarded with all sorts of theories as to what is “Christian” when it comes to psychology, pastoral care, and counseling. In truth, anybody from the West (or East) with the ability to make words with their mouth eventually comes to the Philippines to share their lack of insight with others. During the first term at seminary here, our group (Bukal Life Care) held a short seminar reviewing the different models of counseling and pastoral care as it relates to the interaction of psychology and theology.

But here are three writings/reflections that got me thinking on the issue of contextualization when it comes to pastoral care/healing in missions.

A. One article was “Is Mental Illness Actually Biblical?” by Stephen Altrogge. The first paragraph describes the situation he was responding to.

“I recently read two articles by a well-known Christian author who is also closely connected to a Christian counseling foundation. The articles essentially argued that mental illness was a social construct created by secular doctors and psychiatrists, and therefore is not biblical.

So, when a person is depressed, he is really just experiencing sadness, and to try to treat it medically is to short circuit the power of God. When a person is anxious, she is really just experiencing worry, and to treat it medically is a secular answer to a spiritual problem.”

Altrogge challenged this view, but made the case somewhat differently than what I am familiar with. The argument I am familiar with focuses on verses that show that not all problems described in the Bible are diagnosed as spiritual problems. That is fine… but Altrogge starts from (what I consider to be) the Biblical doctrine of the total depravity of man. The name is poor because it suggests that we are totally evil in everything we do or think. However, the doctrine basically means that we are broken. With the Fall, man is broken as a holistic being. As such man is broken physically, broken mentally, broken emotionally, broken socially, broken spiritually…. broken and living in a broken world.

If that premise is sound… then it is quite reasonable to assume that a major reason we have physical problems is that we are broken. It is not necessarily that we are physically perfect except for sins, curses, demons, and such. Could we be sick because of sin? I am sure it is possible… but why would one assume that this is the cause in every case? If we have emotional problems… perhaps it is because we are emotionally broken… the problem may not be external to us. If we may be broken in many ways, not just spiritually, then it is possible that spiritualizing every problem we face may be misdiagnosis and mis-treatment.

B. A second set of articles came from a discussion on LinkedIn regarding suicide of pastors. A writer described going to a pastors’ conference and the issue came up about emotional problems. The general consensus of the pastors at the conference was that bad stuff emotionally and mentally were due to demons.

Of course, that got me thinking… does it matter? After all, a lot of different treatments may work. If a person is depressed, medicine may help, but so may counseling, or behavioral modification. Perhaps treating for demons may also work. However, again, externalizing our problems (it is not about us, but the devil made us do it) may direct us away from the proper treatment.

But before we get to that, there is a third thing.

C. My son has atopic dermatitis. It is fairly stabilized, but can certainly be annoying and a bit embarrassing. So many want to give advice. Sometimes the advice is helpful. Sometimes perhaps not. One recently told him that he may have a curse on him. The person comes from a church that utilizes a training program called EGR (Encounter God Retreat). One of its innovations is that it teaches “generational bondage.” Essentially, a Christian may have a curse on him or her if an ancestor has done something bad. Sometimes, if one has a problem (especially a visible problem) the last place one wants to be is at church… a place chock full of well-meaning but ignorant“Job’s friends.”

I would like to think that most readers here would know that generational curses (not talking about family systems stuff… but an actual divinely-dictated curse) is not biblical. Ezekiel chapter 18 makes that clear, Jeremiah repeats the same idea, and the New Testament lacks the very concept (although we know that at least some people in the time of Jesus still believed in such things… thus Jesus had to assure the people that a man blind from birth did not have such a curse).

So how does one respond? Here are a few ideas.

  1. Be double—openminded. In certain circles, a naturalist paradigm dictates. In other circles a more spiritualist paradigm dominates. Being double-openminded means being open to the idea that either paradigm may be right… or wrong. Far too many from the West give little value to the spiritualistic paradigm. However, some go to the other extreme and seem to embrace a christoPAGANISM where the spiritualistic paradigm is uncritically accepted.

  2. Be theologically centered. Generational bondage is a theologically/biblically flawed belief. One doesn’t really need to be particularly openminded in this. The Bible does describe demons as truly existing, sentient, and malevolent. Rejecting out of hand demons is theologically flawed. However, so is blaming everything bad on demons. Seeing the world as a dualistic battleground (who is going to win???) between God and Satan is Biblically flawed, and should have no place in Christian ministry either. Missionaries and pastoral care providers need to be theologically grounded and centered.

  3. There may be a healthy pragmatic understanding that goes beyond reality. Externalizing all problems as demons and curses is not necessarily healthy for individuals who need to accept a level of responsibility for their problems. On the other extreme, removing all morality from problems (problems becoming simply diseases or syndromes) is also not healthy. Developing a balanced understanding of problems in people’s lives that still finds moral self-responsiblity as an important ingredient in the formula is good. What does that mean? Work towards what is healthy when one doesn’t know what else is true.

  4. Don’t be Job’s friends. Job’s friends “KNEW” what was wrong with Job. But they were wrong. Not knowing is not a sin… but declaring what is so when it isn’t is a dangerous game. A friend of mine showed up for his first day at a Bible school. He sneezed and one of the staff told him that he hasn’t been praying enough. He decided that he may be at the wrong school. A lady with “the gift of discernment” (allegedly) came to Baguio to tell people what sins they have. Seeing one teenage boy, she wrote “SEX” on his forehead. For teenage boys, “discerning” sex on his mind as a problem is hardly a risky guess. But is all of this the type of church we want to be in? A church full of Job’s friends? More importantly, does God desire us to all be part of the “First Church of Job’s Friends”?

Ultimately, this brings us back to “counter-cultural contextualization.” Contextualization challenges the culture, but from within… not from outside. As such, the outsider does not impose change, but utilizes the Word of God and the counter-cultural elements/thoughts within the culture to challenge what needs to change (while also supporting what is good within the culture). That means in pastoral care we don’t attack the culture (nor its opposite) but we are open to challenging presumptions and allowing an environment for reframing.

Learning Nothing from the Past in Three Beautiful Ways

I will be teaching “History of Missions” again this coming term at Philippine Baptist Theological Seminary (www.pbts.net.ph). It is one of my favorite classes. I have yet to figure out how to get my students to share that interest. I don’t really want to fall into the “just show another video” mode.

This uninteresting fact was compounded by an article recommended to me by Warren Throckmorton.  The title is

Mormons and the Nazis: More about Glenn Beck’s Purple Triangle Story at Liberty University

Just to make it official… This is not a “Mormon (in this case, LDS)-Bashing” thing. At least for today, that’s not really the point.

The article was reflections on Glenn Beck speaking to students at Liberty University. Liberty is a conservative Baptist institution, while Beck is a Mormon political type. Obviously, the similarity of politics brought this person and this institution together, since obviously their theology wouldn’t.

Beck was talking about the use of the Purple Triangle by the National Socialists (“Nazis”). Beck said that the purple triangle was used as identification of “Biblical Scholars.”

In Throckmorton’s review he noted some issues with the historical inaccuracies here. But, a major point he made was that there was a bit of religious revisionism here. Why? Because Beck’s own group, the LDS, were accommodationists when it came to the Nazis. As an afterthought, Throckmorton also noted that Baptists as a whole were also accommodationists. The point being, Beck’s statement was inconsistent with the history of both his group and that of the majority audience.

Okay… So What? My interest was in the response to this article. The responses were typically by LDS folk and were generally different ways to learn nothing from the past. <Honestly, Baptists tend to be about as bad in this area.>

One method to not learn from the past is to be ignorant of the past. This can be effective… but it starts to fall apart when faced with historical facts (or historical fiction). Since, facts were presented in the article, the following methods were used to learn nothing.

!. Minimization. Some responded in trying to minimize the negative facts. For example, one suggested the fact that people back then did not fully understand how bad the Nazis were, made their response more appropriate. That makes no sense since the article referred to activity and beliefs commonly known… not to later attrocities.

It is always tempting to minimize the mistakes of one’s denominational history. It helps one feel good and learn little.

2.  Relativization. Some felt that the fact that many religious groups were accommodationist meant that they all should be equally identified– diluting the data. That would have been deceptive, however. The article was about an event at Liberty University. Beck described “Biblical Scholars.” It would have to be presumed that he considered some members of his own religion to be among the Biblical Scholars. His speech would be pretty confusing if he did not. It might also be presumed that conservative Baptists would also be among the Biblical Scholars intimated at by Beck. If not, the term would be extremely misleading. Based on the speech, one has to focus on LDS… and perhaps to a lesser extent, Baptists. Bringing in other groups would be inappropriate unless one knew for sure that Beck was referring to other groups. That is something that cannot be ascertained at this time.

Relativization is useful because it can hide unpleasantness in a sea of data. It can also lead to statements such as “we are not as bad as…” or “they are no better than us…” As long as others are as bad as us, we don’t really have a whole lot to learn.

3.  Obfuscation. Several respondents used this. For example, one mentioned American LDS individuals who fought Nazis during WWII. This clearly has no bearing whatsoever on the discussion. Let’s take my dad’s case for example. A lot of Baptists in Germany were accommodationists… and many Baptists in America did not want to go to war against anyone (Germany, Japan, or anyone else). I could seek to obfuscate this by saying that my dad (and many other Baptists) fought bravely on the American side during WWII. However, my dad served because he was the age where he would pretty much have to. His fighting in the Philippines against Japanese forces really had nothing to do with his own theological reflection with regards to Imperial Japanese beliefs and policies. His actions would have even less relevance with regards to denominational reflection on said beliefs and policies.

Confusing the issues or twisting the topic may help one win a discussion, but it also helps one to learn little.

But let me suggest a better way. Instead of minimizing unpleasant facts— instead of diluting unpleasant facts with actions of other groups to seek to relativize the situation– instead of obfuscating the issues with irrelevant discussions and facts— let’s just face the unpleasant the truth. We all are human. We all make mistakes. To err is human… but to learn is… divine.  When we don’t reflect and learn… we won’t learn… and eventually, others will notice.

Dale Carnegie and the Gospel

My dad used to like to say “A man convinced against his will is of the same opinion still.” This bit of wisdom is something lost on Christians often. It seems to me that many of us

Dale Carnegie, 1888-1955

have been seduced by the false promises of argument. My son, Joel, was on the debate team at his University, and was quite good at it. Debate gave him quite a bit of confidence in speaking in front of people. It also helped him research and understand issues. It further helped him to gain an understanding of the art of logical persuasion. However, it did not teach him, really, how to change people’s minds. Issues are emotionally laden and argument/apologetics tends to be cognitively laden (or at least verbally laden).

The quote from my dad is from a longer quote by Dale Carnegie:

Why prove to a man he is wrong? Is that going to make him like you? Why not let him save face? He didn’t ask for your opinion. He didn’t want it. Why argue with him? You can’t win an argument, because if you lose, you lose it; and if you win it, you lose it. Why? You will feel fine. But what about him? You have made him feel inferior, you hurt his pride, insult his intelligence, his judgment, and his self-respect, and he’ll resent your triumph. That will make him strike back, but it will never make him want to change his mind. “A man convinced against his will is of the same opinion still.”  -Dale Carnegie

Christianity is not about arguing people into heaven. First, of course, salvation is the act of the Holy Spirit not an act of our will. Second, to the extent that it is us and not God, it is an act of the will, not an act of cognition. As such, it is heavily tied to emotion, culture, and personal paradigm.

Consider another quote by Dale Carnegie:

In talking with people, don’t begin by discussing the things on which you differ, but emphasize the things which we agree. Keep emphasizing that you are both striving for the same end and our only difference is one of method and not of purpose. Remember the other man may be totally wrong, but he doesn’t think so. Don’t condemn him, any fool can do that. Try to understand him.   -Dale Carnegie

Emphasizing differences tends to tell the other person why they SHOULD NOT agree with you or change their own mind.

Rather, demonstrating kindness and God’s love is more likely to inspire change. After all, Proclamation of the Gospel is likely to be given little attention unless there is first Demonstration of the Gospel. Taking a third quote:

Here’s a fable about the sun and the wind. They quarreled about which was the stronger, and the wind said, “I’ll prove I am. See that old man down there with a coat? I bet I can make him take his coat off faster than you can.” So the sun went behind a cloud and the wind blew until it was almost a tornado, but the harder it blew the tighter the old man wrapped his coat about him. Finally, the wind calmed down and gave up. The sun came out from behind the cloud and smiled kindly on the old man. He mopped his brow and pulled off his coat. The sun then told the wind, “gentleness and friendliness were always stronger than fury and force.” Friendliness and appreciation can make people change their minds more readily than storming at them can. -Dale Carnegie

NOTE: All of these quotes are from the book “How to Win Friends and Influence People.” I actually enjoy the book despite it coming from the (often odious) self-help section of bookstores. But if you don’t want to read it yourself, look at the collection of quotes and lists compiled in THIS WEBSITE. Try reading them from the standpoint of an evangelizer.