Alan Shlemon

How to Evangelize with Humility

If we lack humility when we share the gospel, that’s a problem. A prideful attitude will affect the manner in which you share your convictions. That’s not good. Remember, though, you’re an ambassador for Christ (2 Corinthians 5:20), and you’re called to present the truth in a persuasive and gracious way.

If you believe someone is mistaken about an important matter, are you more likely to come across as arrogant? Do you find yourself lacking humility in those conversations?
I was recently asked what believers can do to remain humble when they engage non-believers. After all, I was told, Christians think non-believers are mistaken about Jesus. Is there a solution that will help believers evangelize with humility? Three quick thoughts come to mind.
First, the Bible commands believers to be humble.
Philippians 2:3–8 tells us, “With humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves.” The passage later tells believers to have the same attitude as Christ, who “humbled himself.” First Peter 5:5–6 commands younger men in this way: “Clothe yourselves with humility toward one another” and “humble yourselves.” Scripture routinely reminds us that humility should characterize our attitude in various situations, and so it seems reasonable to think that such an attitude should carry over into other areas of our life, including evangelism.
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Unborn Images Matter

The Guardian’sarticle and imagery suggests there are no human body parts at nine weeks development. That’s not true. The irony is that the article is guilty of the deception it castigates.

Abortionist Dr. Joan Fleischman says she sometimes shows her patients the pregnancy tissue she removes after an abortion. She says that post-abortive women are “stunned by what it actually looks like,” and the women “feel they’ve been deceived.”
Her testimony was recently reported by The Guardian in a story about “What a pregnancy actually looks like before 10 weeks—in pictures.” The article contains pictures of a “pregnancy” at four, five, six, seven, eight, and nine weeks.
When I saw the pictures, I was stunned as well. Not only could I not believe my eyes, but I also couldn’t believe the dishonesty of this story. Why? See for yourself. Here is the image the article labeled as “Nine weeks of pregnancy.”
It’s surprising because the image doesn’t show anything resembling a tiny person or even what one would imagine looks like a tiny embryo. All you can see is what appears like wet cotton material floating in a petri dish.
It’s no wonder the article slams pro-lifers for propping up images that, as Dr. Fleischman claims, lead women to expect “to see a little fetus with hands—a developed, miniature baby.” After seeing the tissue, women respond with, “You’re kidding. This is all that was?”
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Who Says Who We Are—Man or Maker?

There’s an endless set of principles and prohibitions that are conveniently written down by our Maker and made available in our “owner’s manual.” Could it be any better? Despite the easy access to our Maker’s teaching, Christians often look for ways to sidestep his precepts. We’re tempted to believe anyone other than our Maker when it comes to how to live, how to identify, and how to behave sexually. Maybe we think we know better, but it seems we want to listen to man to justify our penchant for sin.

Whenever I watch an ad for a GoPro camera, my life feels boring. If you don’t know, GoPro is the company that makes those tiny video cameras that capture footage of extreme sports. Their promotional videos show people surfing massive swells, skiing off cliffs, and jumping cars—all while the action cam is mounted on their helmet, surfboard, or under a wheel well. It’s impressive.
But I have some questions. How far underwater can you take a GoPro? What’s the lowest temperature it can tolerate? What’s the best way to optimize its battery life? Is there a way to mount it so it doesn’t fall off accidentally? Any GoPro owner needs to know what this action camera can handle.
Who is the best person to answer these questions? Would it be a sports star, a news anchor, or the president of the United States? None of them is qualified, obviously. The best people to answer my questions would be the engineers at GoPro. They’re the ones who decided what materials to use, designed the device, and fabricated it. They know its limits and how to optimize its performance. After all, they’re the makers of the GoPro camera.
That’s why every GoPro camera comes with an owner’s manual that’s informed by the makers of the device. It tells the camera owner how far underwater you can take it, what temperatures it can tolerate, how to optimize its battery life, and many more important limits and features. Failure to heed the directions in the owner’s manual will lead to damage or catastrophic failure.
In the same way, there are a lot of questions we humans have about ourselves. How are we made to function? How should we build relationships like friendships and marriages? Should there be any boundaries for sexual activity?
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Gay Idioms Don’t Time Travel

Pro-gay theology advocates have tried to undermine the historic Christian teaching on sexuality for decades. The problem with their approach has often been their inability to follow commonsense interpretive rules that help determine the meaning of any text, not just the Bible. When they violate these rules, they can make Scripture say anything.

“Did you know that Jesus helped his friend come out?” That’s how one pro-gay theology activist starts his video. Then he shares a New Testament passage in which Jesus supposedly tells LGBT people to come out of the closet and show their true selves, implying that Jesus affirms living a life satisfying LGBT desires. Before we get to the passage, we need to unpack how to interpret an important literary device: the idiom.
An idiom is a phrase whose meaning can’t be deduced from the individual words. For example, if I say, “It’s raining cats and dogs,” you know I mean it’s raining hard, not that felines and canines are falling from the sky. Notice the meaning of the phrase doesn’t emerge from the words “cats and dogs.” Rather, the combination of words has an established usage that’s understood by modern English speakers.
Idioms, however, lose their meaning when they are translated into another language, moved to a different culture, or transported to another time period. If I translate “It’s raining cats and dogs” into Russian, the phrase will lose its meaning. You would have to use a different group of words that carries the same meaning in Russian. It’s also possible that in 2,000 years (assuming the English language remains), the phrase “It’s raining cats and dogs” will no longer be understood to mean it’s raining hard.
That’s why it’s important to remember the Bible was not written in English, in our culture, or in a remotely similar time period. Biblical languages have their own figures of speech, and, most relevant to my point, idioms don’t time travel. Words used to create idioms back in the first century don’t mean the same thing today and vice versa. Sometimes, though, a reader today will see a group of words in Scripture and interpret them through the lens of modern English when the biblical author neither used English words nor meant to communicate the idiom they have in mind.
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Christ’s Crucifixion Isn’t Child Sacrifice

Children did not consent to being sacrificed to Molech. Their death was forced upon them, and had they been knowledgeable of their fate, they would almost certainly have refused to die. By contrast, Jesus was not a helpless victim thrown into the fiery hands of Molech against his will. He willingly went to the cross because he had full knowledge of his identity, his mission, and the importance of his work. Jesus said, “I am the good shepherd; the good shepherd lays down His life for the sheep” (John 10:11), and again, “I lay down My life so that I may take it again” (John 10:17). 

In an age of political correctness, Christianity is a prime offender. It’s not only Scripture’s sexual ethics that get canceled. Even bedrock creeds like Christ’s crucifixion are on the chopping block. Many professing Christians are uncomfortable with God killing his Son as the penalty for our crimes. They see this as child sacrifice. From their perspective, it’s impossible for such a doctrine to be consistent with God’s character when it’s so clear that God abhors the killing of innocent children.
Part of the temptation to shy away from historic Christian teaching stems from a disturbing new trend of “deconstructing” faith. What practitioners claim they’re doing is jettisoning Christian doctrines that have been tainted by time and tradition and therefore shouldn’t be believed today. In other words, they believe they are merely reforming their faith, a process, they would say, Martin Luther practiced with the Reformation or Jesus practiced with the Pharisees.
In reality, “deconstruction” is a broad term that is difficult to nail down. You’ll get different definitions depending on who you talk to. In my observation, it is the process of pulling apart aspects of the Christian faith that are undesirable and aligning one’s doctrines with culture or one’s own personal beliefs. By contrast, the biblical (and healthier) approach is to correct mistaken theology by conforming it to what Scripture teaches. The key difference between the two approaches is the standard used to determine theology: it’s either Scripture or it’s something else (e.g., society and self).
Given that the historic understanding of the atonement has fallen out of favor with some deconstructionists, let’s consider three reasons why characterizing it as child sacrifice is inappropriate.
First, Christ was not a child. In ancient Israel, children were sacrificed to cult deities like Molech. Those sacrificed, however, were babies or infants. Although Jesus is given the title of Son of God, he was not a small child. Scripture tells us he was an adult, crucified while in his early 30s.
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If God Became a Man, Can a Man Become a Woman?

Defining terms is always essential to a conversation because you don’t want to talk past each other. In this case, it’s even more critical because the tweet compares two things: the incarnation and transgender ideology. The only way the tweet works is if the two things being compared are parallel…They are not.
Does Christian theology support transgender ideology? You wouldn’t think so, but someone recently tweeted, “If you believe God became a human, then you can believe someone can be a different gender than what they were assigned at birth.” Seems simple enough. God changed, so why can’t we? What’s the problem?
This is a single tweet, so why bother answering it? Though it seems like an isolated challenge, it’s worth addressing for three reasons. First, it’s a popular tweet with thousands of likes and retweets. Second, it represents the increasingly common but errant view that Christian theology provides a safe harbor for transgender ideology. Third, it’s good mental practice to see a tricky challenge and learn how to evaluate it and respond.
Christians who uphold a biblical anthropology read the tweet and know that something is amiss but often struggle to identify the problem. It’s easy to be taken aback by a simple slogan and not know how to respond. Why? The tweet trades on a different dictionary. The author defines the terms differently than you. When you clarify the meanings, though, the solution becomes apparent. Three terms in this tweet demand definition: “God became a human,” “gender,” and “assigned at birth.” Those three terms entail almost the entire tweet, which explains why this challenge seems so mystifying.
Defining terms is always essential to a conversation because you don’t want to talk past each other. In this case, it’s even more critical because the tweet compares two things: the incarnation and transgender ideology. The only way the tweet works is if the two things being compared are parallel. I recognize that in any comparison, it’s not fair to expect everything to be parallel. There will always be areas of similarity and dissimilarity. I get that. In this case, however, the details of what’s being compared need to be parallel in relevant ways. They are not, however.
First, let’s clarify the claim that “God became a human.” This phrase is theologically imprecise. I understand the author is trying to make a general reference to the incarnation. By being overly simplistic, though, he ignores the theological nuance he needs in order to see that his point is unsound. In the incarnation, God does not become human. That’s not orthodoxy. God doesn’t change his nature and become something else. While remaining fully God, the second person of the Trinity (the Logos), adds human nature to himself in the person of Jesus. God’s divine nature, however, doesn’t change.
Though this might seem like nitpicking, clarifying the nature of the incarnation is relevant. After all, the author uses the incarnation as an example of what’s possible with a transgender person. Since God changed from divine to human, so the author says, it’s alleged a transgender person can change from man to woman.
The problem with this reasoning is twofold. First, just because God can do something, it doesn’t mean a human can as well. In fact, the opposite is true. God’s miraculous activity is just that—supernatural—something mere mortals are impotent to do. Second, as we clarified, God does not become human but merely adds a human nature. That’s different, and the details matter. A transgender person claims they can change their gender from the one they were born with. God doesn’t change in that way, and therefore, it’s not evidence that a person can change their gender, either. Of course, what is meant by “gender” is precisely another key question.
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God’s Preferred Pronouns

The biblical data overwhelming supports the position that God wants us to refer to him with a singular, masculine pronoun. Since that’s how God has chosen to reveal himself, we should honor him by using the pronouns used in Scripture.
God is not a he. That’s what gender theorists claim. God’s pronouns are they/them, we’re told. After all, God is an ungendered spiritual being. He’s three persons in one: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. That’s a plurality of persons. Furthermore, “Elohim”—the ancient Hebrew word for God—is in plural form. Doesn’t all this evidence signal a reason to change how we refer to God? Should we abandon he/him and adopt they/them?
To be fair, there is some truth to what is being said. God is a spiritual, not physical, being. He’s not gendered and, therefore, neither male nor female like a human being. That’s true. Also, God is triune, which means he co-exists as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit—three persons in one divine being. Therefore, it does make sense to refer to the three persons of the Trinity as they/them (e.g., “They all have the same divine nature”). Apart from that instance, there’s no reason to assign the Almighty new pronouns.
It’s also worth noting that modern gender ideology is, historically speaking, incredibly recent (and, I’d argue, highly dubious). To grant it full authority and then retroactively impose it on an ancient culture that never operated in those terms is like trying to impose automobile regulations on horse-drawn carriages. It’s anachronistic.
The attempt to map modern ideology on ancient texts is nothing new. Cancel culture is fraught with problems because it assesses past behaviors and expressions of ideas according to modern sensibilities. People have also recently claimed that the Bible doesn’t limit sex to male and female, which, again, attempts to map today’s cultural categories onto ancient texts. There are other examples, to be sure. All of them, however, fail because they are anachronistic. Even so, there’s a better reason to reject they/them pronouns for God.
God has already revealed his pronouns in the Bible, and they are he/him. In one sense, there’s no need to debate this question since God has already decreed his decision. Remember, the Bible is God-breathed (2 Tim. 3:16). That means the Holy Spirit inspired the biblical authors to write the words of Scripture, and that includes the singular, masculine pronouns he chose for himself.
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Everyone Needs to Change, Including LGBT People

Do LGBT people need to change who they are and who they love? If they want to follow Jesus, then, yes, of course. God calls us to change our unbiblical identity (whatever it is) and align our will (whatever its desires) with the Father.

I’m told I’ve got this wrong. I’m told that when it comes to people who identity as LGBT, God doesn’t expect them to change who they are or change who they love. I’m also told this is too hard a pill for evangelicals to swallow.
I presume that what they mean is that people with same-sex attraction, a transgender identity, or who claim to be non-binary are free to embrace those impulses and satisfy those desires. God doesn’t expect them to change their identities or the the objects of their affection. They can be faithful followers of Jesus while fully embracing their LGBT identity.
The claim that becoming a follower of Jesus doesn’t entail change, however, is totally foreign to what it means to be a Christian. Every believer who is transformed by the sanctifying power of the Holy Spirit experiences a change of identity and lifestyle. It’s unreasonable to expect that the same power that raised Jesus from the grave—that resides in a regenerate person’s soul—is not going to change who you are and change your desires.
That’s because becoming a follower of Jesus isn’t an minor change. It’s not a slight shift. It’s a total transformation. You’re born again (John 3:3). You exit darkness and enter the light (1 Pet. 2:9). You were once a slave to sin and now are a slave to righteousness (Rom. 6:16–18). You were dead in your sins but now are alive in Christ (Rom. 6:11). You are adopted by God and have become his child (Rom. 8:15). The old things pass away and the new things come. You literally become a new creation (2 Cor. 5:17).
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A Verse That Illustrates Three Interpretive Principles

Hermeneutics is critical because it’s the connection between God’s Word and its application. The single most influential class I took in seminary was hermeneutics. It did more to enrich my knowledge and understanding of God’s Word than any other subject.

There’s one topic I wish every believer would study. Even though I’m an apologist and have taught apologetics for nearly two decades, it has nothing to do with defending the faith (though it can help with that). It’s called hermeneutics, but it’s more commonly known as biblical interpretation. If I could, I would require every believer in the global church to learn its principles.
Now, I can almost hear the pushback. Hermen-what? It sounds like a dry, academic subject that has no practical value for my walk with God. It’s probably just for pastors, people say.
That’s just not true. Hermeneutics is an exciting topic because it helps us believers better understand what God is saying to us. You’re going read the Bible between now and the day you die, and what you read will define your theology, affect major life decisions, and determine what you teach others according to what you think it says. Hermeneutics is critical because it’s the connection between God’s Word and its application. The single most influential class I took in seminary was hermeneutics. It did more to enrich my knowledge and understanding of God’s Word than any other subject.
Let me illustrate how three key principles of biblical interpretation can help you understand a commonly misunderstood passage. It’s based on a verse that has fueled numerous skeptics to challenge the integrity of Jesus.
They claim that Jesus commands his followers to round up those who reject him and kill them. They cite Luke 19:27 where Jesus says, “Those enemies of mine who did not want me to be king over them—bring them here and kill them in front of me.” That doesn’t sound like the tender and compassionate Jesus we all know. What’s going on? The problem is entirely a hermeneutical mistake—people are misinterpreting the passage. Consider how applying the three keys to biblical interpretation clarifies the meaning and application of this passage.
Context: The first key to interpreting any biblical passage is to read the verses before and after the passage in question. The more you read, the better. That’s why we say at Stand to Reason, “Never read a Bible verse.” Always read the whole paragraph, the chapter, or the whole book. When this verse is read in context, you discover that Jesus is telling a parable about a nobleman and his servants. Parables, of course, are fictitious stories intended to illustrate a point. This story is about a nobleman who leaves ten minas with his ten servants and departs to be crowned king. His servants hate him, though, and send an envoy to petition against his appointment. After he’s crowned king, he returns to judge his servants on how they’ve invested his money. After rewarding the faithful servants, he punishes the unfaithful ones and then orders his enemies to be killed.
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Can You Stand for Truth Without Being Offensive?

We can expect to be hated and persecuted by virtue of following Jesus. In the meantime, do your best to be a winsome ambassador for Jesus. Try to be as inoffensive as you can when addressing controversial topics. But when people are offended by your biblical values, don’t be surprised. That’s part of what it means to be a follower of Christ.

I often speak on controversial subjects: abortion, homosexuality, Islam, transgenderism, bioethics. These aren’t topics that are casually brought up over Christmas dinner and calmly discussed with out-of-town family. That’s why believers often ask me how they can stand for truth on controversial topics without being offensive. Here are three quick things I tell them.
First, I’m grateful for their concern to avoid being crass and offensive. I see too many believers who don’t care at all—or at least appear to not care. They use the truth like a club to beat people over the head. Grace? What grace? That’s for Christ to extend to non-believers, they say.
But believers should do whatever they can to communicate the truth in a winsome and gracious way. Scripture identifies them as ambassadors for Christ (2 Cor. 5:20). That means they represent Jesus with their life. How they come across to other people will be a reflection upon the good name of Jesus. Believers, therefore, should strive to speak in a warm, friendly, and kind manner. That’s especially necessary when they’re addressing a controversial topic.
Second, they need to manage their expectations. It’s unreasonable to expect people who hold a non-biblical worldview will find all our positions unoffensive as long as we communicate in a certain way.
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