- Pastor John Smith
Engage the Market
We live in a pluralistic age. The market place of ideas is ever expanding and ever increasing. With the advent of the internet it has not only provided a forum to discuss ideas but also has given rise to the availability of conversation. At any given moment there are literally thousands of interactions between people concerning the issues of the day, some of them good and constructive, others perhaps not so much. However, the accessibility of content and the exchange of thoughts and ideas present a unique opportunity for the Christian today, and one that we need to readily embrace.
At the rate of speed of which ideas can spread as well as the numerous worldviews that are in existence today, it can seem rather daunting as to how the Christian should engage. Should we retreat into our churches, bar the doors and windows and remain cloistered from the outside world? After all, that is the safest and easiest path to choose and prevents the risk of being uncomfortable. Or do we go the other extreme and become, as G.K. Chesterton said, “so open-minded that our brains fall out”? An attitude of withdrawal from society or an over emphasis on toleration leading to capitulation, are not the answers. To engage in the market place of ideas is to first, have conviction on what is absolute truth and second, be able to communicate that truth in a way that is productive.
Fear is the reason why so many of us fail on this front. Either we are afraid that we do not have enough conviction or knowledge about the truth and therefore do not approach the culture, or when we do have some conviction about truth and we engage the world around us, fear of opposing worldviews and their influence can drive us to react rather than respond. But what are we so afraid of? If absolute truth does exist, and I might add, that absolute truth is a person named Jesus and Christians know Him, then does it really make sense for us to be afraid of individuals who may have a completely different worldview? In fact a certainty about truth should propel us into dialoguing with people of all walks of life and dare I say, be somewhat bold in doing so.
Our day and age is really no different than the times of the apostles. The Roman Empire in the first century was incredibly pluralistic. There were so many different belief systems, polytheism (belief of many gods) was the prevailing theology of the day, so much so in fact, that as the Apostle Paul was walking the streets of Athens, he stumbled across an altar to “the unknown god” (Acts. 17:23). This propelled Paul to crash a philosophy club meeting on Mars Hill and share with them the Good News. Additionally, the early Christians, although persecuted not necessarily for religious reasons but as enemies of the state, had to interact with the world around them. There are scores of examples of Christians engaging in open public debate with those who may disagree strongly with their worldview. Christians are called to be “always prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for the reason for the hope that is in you” and we are to do it “with gentleness and respect.”(1 Pt. 3:15).
I say all this because we live in an unprecedented time in history. With all the happenings of our world today, even within our very own communities, we have an opportunity to leave an indelible mark on the culture. Now is not the time, as the Theologian and Christian philosopher Francis A. Schaeffer once quipped, “to shut up our spirituality into a small corner of life in our Sunday services or Bible studies…” rather we are to engage the culture in a bold pursuit of truth and grace. As for me, the door to my office is always open and I welcome the conversation.