The Folly of the Fool (4)
“Come now, and let us reason together,”
Says the LORD…” Isaiah 1.18
Ready to reason
Is it possible to reason with hardened sinners? Self-confessed atheists or agnostics? Deniers of God? Wrong-believers? Those who scorn the Gospel?
Evidently the Lord thinks it is. In seeking to answer the fools in our lives with the glorious Good News of the Kingdom of God, we must reason with them, just as the Lord intended to reason with His rebellious people through the prophet Isaiah.
That is, it won’t do simply to say to those who are blinded by a false worldview, “Because this is what the Bible says.” To be sure, we need to tell them what the Bible says, but we need to do so in an atmosphere of loving service, gentle patience, respect for their views, and clear and careful reasoning.
Wrong-believers may be lost and foolish, but they are not completely beyond the reach of reason. Their main problem is that all the reasons they embrace and the convictions they hold dear are based on false premises – that there is no God and that someone or something other than Jesus is their best hope in life.
We know this “under the sun” worldview is false; we know our wrong-believing friend is captive to the father of lies. So, to “answer the fool according to his folly” we will need to come over onto the platform of his own worldview, take a little guided tour, and, using careful reasoning, point out the flaws in the foundation and superstructure of what our friend believes.
A word of caution
At the same time we’ll need to be careful, as we reason with fools, that we do not lend credibility to their false premises and skewed opinions; otherwise, we may end up becoming like them, having affirmed them in their faulty reasoning and foolish notions about life.
How do we do this? How do we expose the folly of wrong belief and, at the same time, keep from granting our deceived neighbors any solid ground on which to stand?
The answer is that we reason with them, like the apostle Paul reasoned, as the spokesman of God, with unbelieving Jews and Greeks everywhere he went. What, then, are the elements of such reasoning?
Elements of sound reasoning
To begin with, like Paul in Athens, we need to be willing to come onto the platform of our wrong-believing friends, to mingle with them and get to know them, to ask questions about their beliefs, and to learn as much as we can about the worldview animating their day-to-day existence. This is what Paul was doing as he wandered about in Athens and chatted with the people there (Acts 17.16ff).
At the same time, we’ll want to take every opportunity to inject our own beliefs in a winsome, glowing, matter-of-fact manner. From Paul’s example in Athens and Rome, we may glean a few key practices that will enable us to reason effectively on the platform of the fool.
First, we must engage in conversations with wrong-believers, either personally or virtually, according to their own views and opinions (Acts 17.18). We must take the initiative here by starting or resuming conversations, based on what we already know about the folly of the fool, and being ready with sincere questions to learn as much as we can. We’re listening to understand, but we’re also listening to discover inconsistencies, contradictions, and areas where our friend’s views affirm what the Scriptures teach (cf. Acts 17.24-29).
We must pay careful attention to the views, beliefs, and practices our wrong-believing friends hold dear, so that we can understand them as fully as possible (Acts 17.22, 23). It is in these views, beliefs, and practices that the folly of unbelief will become evident.
Further, we must demonstrate to our wrong-believing friends that their worldview contains inconsistencies and contradictions. Their view is unreasonable; it doesn’t make sense, will not work, and so can’t be relied upon (Acts 17.24-27).
Also, we must try to discover evidence from within their own worldview that supports the truth about life and the world as presented in the Bible (Acts 17.28, 29).
Finally, we must be patient and willing to stay at such conversations for as long as it takes to set forth the claims of Christ clearly against what we will show to be the rubble of our foolish friend’s failed worldview (Acts 17.32-34; cf. Acts 28.30, 31).
We’re going to reason with our foolish friends, but not from a position affirming the platform of their faulty reasoning and false worldview, merely of surfacing it for more careful examination. We’ll assume a starting point for our reasoning that is firmly based on our own Christian worldview. From that vantage point, then, we will, with patience, gentleness, and love, try to help the fools in our lives see the folly of their false worldview.
As Jesus demonstrated to the Pharisees (Matt. 12.22-29) and Paul showed the Athenian philosophers, a careful consideration of the tenets of wrong-believing worldviews will demonstrate at least two things: First, such worldviews are self-contradictory and therefore unreasonable and unworkable; and second, to the extent their false views work at all, it’s only because they have borrowed premises from the Biblical account.
If we can do this, if we care enough about our lost friends to talk seriously with them, we may at least plant a sense of disquiet in their souls which may, in time, lead to a thoughtful reconsideration of the Gospel.
1. Why must we try to reason with our wrong-believing friends about their worldview?
2. What do we expect to discover as we do?
3. Will reason alone save a fool and rescue him from his folly? What must we be careful to do in addition to practicing sound reason?
Next steps – Conversation: What do you know about your lost friends or co-workers that might make a good starting point for a conversation? See what you can find out this week. Pray about how you might use what you learn to begin a conversation about a lost friend’s worldview.
T. M. Moore
You can download this and all the studies in this series, “Let God Be True,” by clicking here. For a series of discussions on improving your conversational skills, begin here in our Personal Mission Field Workshop to learn the art of Christian conversation.
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Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved