In our latest podcast we talk about Adam. Doesn't he complicate evangelism? Why discuss him?
The first thing to say is that 321 is not meant to be an inductive argument. It's not about getting agreement from people about the basics and working towards Jesus. It's simply about inviting the non-Christian into the Christian story and asking them to look around it from the inside.
I certainly do not expect agreement at the outset (otherwise I wouldn't begin with THREE!) What I want to do is paint a picture and ask the non-Christian to suspend disbelief for a few minutes while I explain the gospel.
Once I've explained the logic of Adam and Christ (perhaps from 1 Corinthians 15:21-22), then I can say something along the lines of...
"Do you understand the logic of the story - i.e. that Adam fell but Christ rose? If you get the logic then, sure, I completely understand your problem with Adam. But let's talk about Christ because, as you can see, the two are linked. I know you don't believe it, but the central Christian claim is that Christ rose. Let's examine whether Christ rose or not (from 1 Corinthians 15). If He rose, then Adam fell."
I am well aware that Adam is not a great stepping stone to Christ :) But then, nothing is a good stepping stone to Christ. Christ makes the bridge Himself.
Once again... we begin with THREE (and with creation and Adam) not because we're seeking to get agreement from the outset. We begin here because that's where the Christian story begins. And we beg the non-Christian's indulgence to let us finish the story.
If the non-Christian wants verification of the story's truth - we point to Christ and His resurrection from the dead. If Christ rose, the story is true (and Adam fell). If He didn't rise then the story is just a fairytale and we can forget it all.
In all this I'm saying "Don't get too hung up on the Adam question. Adam does not vindicate the story, the story vindicates Adam". But as we discuss these things, I find that non-Christians really get the emotional impact of Adam. Seeing humanity as a family, seeing how the whole family tree has been corrupted from the outset, seeing the disconnected state we're all naturally in, this all makes a heck of a lot of emotional sense. The wonder of Christ entering in to this mess to address our problems from the inside. That's a wonderfully attractive proposition. Play on that. And then let Jesus vindicate Adam (not the other way around.)
I speak more extensively about Adam and evangelism here and here.
3 thoughts on “Adam in Evangelism”
I appreciate what you've done, both in the blog and in the recent podcast, in showing why original sin (the concept, not necessarily the term) is essential in evangelism.
I was beginning to suspect more and more that the popular approach of convicting people of sin with "Have you ever told a lie? Have you ever stolen anything? etc. ... Then you're a liar and a thief." was wrongheaded.
I couldn't put a finger on why it was a problem though until I read your reflections on Adam and Christ on your blog. After reading what Scripture as a whole had to say (especially Romans 5), I've found what 321 had to say about sin is much more biblical (and helpful in dealing with both Christians and non-Christians), and much less problematic.
Thanks a lot, Glen. I just wish original sin and Adam and Christ were talked about a whole lot more in evangelism than they normally are (whether or not a person uses 321). It certainly makes a lot more sense.
We'd better talk about Adam. We carry him around with us like a dead goose hanging from our neck...until the day we die.
Personally, I don't like the "have you ever told a lie..." method. The law is all around us and the world, the flesh, and devil are taking bits of flesh out of us each day.
I like to find out where people are really being had. Where they are struggling and hurting. And then tell them my own pain and struggles...and then what Jesus has done about it.
Ron - a massive problem is that we are english-speaking and the English-speaking world is very much affected (infected?) by the 4th Century Welshman Pelagius (the protestant work ethic was quickly distorted into a pelagian work ethic, for instance). Not that the 'Anglosphere' is alone in this, of course.
The Church (even 'Evangelicals') in these countries baulk at original sin. Not just as Pelagius is in the cultural air we breath, but as, most of the time, there's no understanding of why original sin is important.
I've found that many people when exposed to the 4th century debate consider Pelagius 'not too bad' as they haven't thought through the effects of his doctrine. Much of the debate I've had on these issues are ad hominems against 'sexually-repressed' Augustine and those nasty Calvinists (by which they mean hyper-Calvinists in the cage-phase and that caricature characterising all 'Calvinism').
I find the 'well then you are a liar' approach closes people down, shutting them out from continuing to listen to you, and if they do listen, it is easy for them to start off on the wrong foot with Christianity being about dealing with our sin. Condemning in Adam is much more alien, but - not only not driving a condemnation wedge between you and the hearer(s) - much more fruitful in the long run.