The Missìonal Approach: Reconsidering Elenctics (Part l) 1

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  C7/44 (2009): 37-48 The  Missìonal Approach: Reconsidering  Elenctics (Part l) 1 Cornells J. Haak  But  the  LORD  God called  to the man: Where are y oui  (Gen. 3:9) When he [the Counselor] comes, he will convict the world of guilt in regard to sin and righteousness and judgment...  (John 16:8-11) Introduction If mission really is  mission,  the key topic must be the conversion of those who do not believe in Christ as the Savior of the world: according to Scripture, unbelievers. 2  How will they convert without someone to preach to them? How can they preach unless they are sent? (cf. Rom. 10:14-15). Conversion, in turn, leads us to the concept of   missionalapproach.  That  is,  how can we approach those of other religions and ideologies—even atheists— and effectively communicate the gospel to them? One's missional approach is all about how to connect with unbelievers, how to communicate at their level of understanding, how to adjust the gospel message to their vocabulary so as to lead them to the crucified Lord Jesus Christ and confront them with the gospel claim. What does it take to call a person to repent and believe in Christ  Γη  a way   that  is  properly meaningful  and  truly   repre- sentative  of   the  gospel? This  issue is  connected  to the  science  of   communication,  the  general rules  and  conditions  of   which  are also valid for missional  dialogue.  We gratefully use words  such  as  sender, message,  and  receiver;  the  time, place, and  atmosphere;  and the  start,  progress,  and  closing   of the  communication lr  The  second  part  of   this  article is scheduled to  appear   in the  November   2009 issue of the Calvin Theological Journal. 2  Here,  I use the biblical  term  unbelievers  for all those who do not believe in  Christ.  We admit though,  that  these persons are believers in  terms  of   their   own religion (or   nonreligion). 37  CALVIN THEOLOGICAL JOURNAL process.  Elenctics,  however, is more. It teaches us how to act and speak in a way that conforms to the biblical views on humanity, sin, redemption, and conversion. To avoid misunderstanding, I present the following three provisos: First, no human can convert others; only the Spirit by grace can. The evangelist's 3  task is to lead the believer to the person and the work of Christ; to guide him to the cross and the resurrected Christ. Then, the evangelist must ask the questions: "What about you? Who do you say Jesus is?" (Matt. 16:15). The  approach  one takes has to do with both speaking and feedback—adjusting the message and clarifying the goals to evaluate the unbeliever's answer. The elenctic process takes more than one conversation. It can take months of careful adjustment based on feedback; encircled by prayer that the Lord will touch the unbeliever. Then, one must leave the result to God. Second, any approach must be motivated by love. Before one obeys the Great Commission (Matt. 28:19), one must obey the Great Commandment (Matt. 22:37-40). The evangelist, according to Bavinck, is not a postman who drops a letter in the mailbox but a messenger of the Lord to announce the good news. Third, the approach is not just a biblical or theological topic. Although we can learn some of our approach from Scripture, the Bible is not a manual Tor such. Many disciplines, such as communication theory, cultural anthropology, sociology, linguistics, psychology, science of religion, and so forth, use various forms of approach. Our focus will be on the biblical dimensions of approach, but, I do recommend the study of these other disciplines. Elenctics: Biblical Principles Regarding One's Missional Approach  Introduction When we look at the biblical principles of missional approach, we cannot merely copy the historic ways of communication that are described in Scripture, but why not? First, one finds a variety of communication styles in Scripture—each having a different approach and belonging to a unique time and place. There is no single model for us to follow. Second, the contexts of Old and New Testament history are not the same as the twenty-first century's context, and the context in which we find ourselves is not like any other in the world. All kinds of changes have taken place in secular history 3 1 will use the generic word  evangelist  to indicate the range of   senders  in the communication process. Evangelist can thus refer to a professional missionary, evangelist, minister, pastor, teacher, preaching elder, ordinary Christian, and so forth. 38  THE MISSIONAL APPROACH as well as in the history of the church. Events such as the Enlightenment; World Wars; the fall of the Berlin Wall; 9/11; the global rift; and modern techniques, sciences, and cultures mean that one must not identify our era with biblical times. We must never try to communicate in the way that the prophets, Jesus, Paul, or Peter did. In Scripture, Paul did not hesitate to ask his readers to "follow his example" (1 Cor.  11:1;  Phil. 3:17  NIV).  He exhorted them to "be imitators of God" (Eph. 5:1  NIV),  to imitate those who persevere (Heb. 6:12), and to become "imitators of God's churches injudea" (1 Thess. 2:14  NIV).  However, imitation never means to copy exactly the way in which Christ, Paul, or Peter did things. Every person has a specific character, vocabulary, behavior, impact, and so forth, and, just as we do not need to wear the same clothes, eat the same food, or travel the same roads that Abraham, John the Baptist, or Paul did, we also do not need to use the same approach that they used. However, we do need to explore the basic elements, dimensions, flow, weight, and color of the rhetoric in Scripture. We need to dig deeply into the discussions to discover their backgrounds—why this or that word was used, why this or that answer was given (or, not given), how the questions were posed, and so forth. We need to search for a pattern, a constant factor that dominates, and a main reason behind a specific evangelistic approach. Of course, love always lies at the heart of the missional approach. Another constant in elenctics is the call to convert, be it encouragement, warning, reproach, or repentance. In fact, Scripture will always underlie any approach. How else can a person stand before the Creator of the world, how can she face the holy God and relate to him who is both a loving Father and a righteous Judge? Why did God address Adam with the words: "Where are you" (Gen. 3:9 NIV)?  This short question reveals the sinner's real situation in God's eyes. For God, the situation reveals both his desire to love and restore mankind's broken relationship and his divine call to mankind to account for a disastrous choice against the Creator. In the following section, I will explore the depth of this approach. Then, I will move on to the dynamics of the discipline of   elenctics. The Discipline of Elenctics Why have I chosen to use the word  elenctics?  It is because this is the basic word Scripture uses for the approach. The meaning of this word is seen throughout the whole Bible, but its actual wording can be found in John  16:8-11:  "When he [Holy Spirit, Counselor] comes, he will convict the world of guilt in regard to sin and righteousness and judgment": in regard to sin, because men do not believe in me; in regard to righteousness, because I am going to the Father, where you can see me no longer; and in regard to judgment, because the prince of this world now stands condemned. 39  CALVIN THEOLOGICAL JOURNAL The word  convict  is the translation of the Greek word  elengchoo.  Elenctics is a derivation of this verb. This and words such as  elenctic  and  elencticalhave been used for centuries to rebuke false teachings. It was only in the nineteenth century that people rejected this word—mostly for liberal and evo-lutionistic reasons. In the twentieth century, mainline conciliar missional discussion forcefully abandoned it under the pretense that it belonged to the colonial period. The word  dialogue,  which was based on equal rights between Christian and non-Christian religions, took its place in the 1960s and 1970s. However, due to Johan Herman Bavinck, the discipline of elenctics remained as a core element of Reformed mission. 4  Bavinck even pushed the discipline to a higher level of understanding. Although he overtly explains elenctics rather briefly, his missiology is fully stamped by this basic biblical element of missional approach. Today, we owe the issue of elenctics to him. In the following explanation, I use his views and publications as my guide. The Word   Elengchoo  Elengchoo  occurs in many biblical texts (e.g., Luke 21:15; 2 Tim. 3:16; Titus 1:9). The basic meaning is "unmask," and its primary atmosphere is juridical—the courthouse where  a  judge passes a verdict on litigation, but another meaning is to deliberately expose a person to the truth. From there, its derivations have different meanings: show a person's fault (Matt. 16:15), expose [to the truth] (John 3:20), rebuke (1 Tim. 5:20; 2 Tim. 3:16; Titus 1:13; Heb. 12:5; Rev. 3:19 [close to discipline, punish]), convict (James 2:9; Jude 15 [similar to judge), refute those who oppose Christianity (Titus 1:9), and prove guilty (John 8:46). The whole range, however, shows the juridical flavor of the word—from unmask to blame, insult, test, examine, inquire, refute, accuse, punish, and judge. Second, this word puts us in courtroom where the prosecutor and judge have to unmask someone's guilt and pronounce guilt or innocence. In John 16:7, the word  counselor  underlines this scenario (Greek:  parakletos  [lawyer, advocate]  ).  In fact, the gospel of John is stamped with ajuridical atmosphere. 4  Bavinck,  Science  of Missions;  Cf. Bavinck,  The  Church between Temple  and   Mosque  (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1966); Bavinck,  The Impact of Christianity on the Non-Christian World (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1948). Many of his famous publications are (as yet) only in the Dutch language: Bavinck,  Christus en  de  mystiek  van  het Oosten  (Kampen: Kok, 1934); Bavinck,  Rehgieus Besefen  Christelijk Geloof   (1949;  rprt., Kampen: Kok, 1989). Other recent publications on elenctics are: Klaus W. Müller, "Gewissen im Kontekts," in  Bilanz un Plan- Mission an  der  Schwelle  zum Dritten Jahrtausend,  ed. Hans Kasdorf and Klaus W. Müller (Bad Liebenzell: Liebenzeller Mission, 1988): 416-54 [Engl, trans.:  Reflection and Protection: Missiology at the Threshold   of 2001,  same publication  info.];  R. Lienhard,  Restoring Relationships: Theological  Reflections on Shame and Honor among the Daba and Bana of   Cameroon  (PhD diss., Fuller Theological Seminary, 2000); H. Wiher,  Understanding Shame and Guilt as a Key to Cross-Cultural Christian Ministry: An  Elenctic Study  (PhD Diss., Potchefstroom University, 2002). 40  THE MISSIONAL APPROACH His use of the word  witness  (Greek:  martureoo)  also connects to a courtroom. John and the other apostles brought witness to  Jesus'  birth, life, crucifixion, death, resurrection, ascension, and his promise of return. The facts of the historical events at Jerusalem are the undeniable evidences of this one truth: Salvation is only through Christ. The gospel message commands people to repent and convert. Those who do not believe that Jesus was sent by the Father will be unmasked by the gospel, exposed to the truth, and pronounced guilty before God, the supreme Judge. Third, preaching the gospel in a dialogical format (similar to the process of a lawsuit) and unmasking unbelievers as opposing Christian truth is the core issue of all missional work. In this way, mission is the provisional preparation of humankind to face the Creator. The world of unbelievers is accused before the throne of God. Humanity has to confess its sin, convert, and believe in Christ. Only then are they saved from the final judgment. Missional work is not a game. It is a matter of life and death. The Foundation of Elenctics: John 16:8-11 The text of John 16:8-11 is the foundation of elenctics. It clarifies the work of the Holy Spirit, intertwining it with the apostles' proclamation of the gospel. The evangelist proclaims the gospel, seeks feedback, clarifies, urges conversion, evaluates the unbeliever's position, and determines whether the unbeliever remains unrepentant. If the unbeliever has, in fact, converted, then the new believer will be baptized and received into the congregation. A close look at John 16:8-11 reveals that when the comforter comes, he will accuse the world of sin, righteousness, and judgment. (Jesus is speaking before his trial and crucifixion; looking beyond to Pentecost and the Spirit's  work).  John uses the word  world   (Greek:  kosmos)  many times. Here, it has a specific audience: the unbelieving Jewish people in his day. They are accused, not just of a general sin but of a very specific sin: unbelief (John 16:9). During all the years that Jesus preached and healed the sick in the midst of the Israelites, the majority of them rejected him as the promised Messiah. In John 1:10-11, it states: "He [the Word Jesus] was in the world [the people of   Israel],  and though the world [Israel as a separate people] was made through him, the world [Israel in the days of Christ on earth] did not recognize him. He came to that which was his own [God's specific, elected people Israel], but his own did not receive him." John's wording suggests that  his own  and the  world   are parallel in this text. For us, this means that we must expose the unbeliever to the gospel: Jesus  himself.  They need to have the opportunity to learn about  Jesus,  consider the message of salvation through him, and make up their minds. Then, if they still reject Christ as their Savior, they will be accused before God's throne and be judged guilty in God's view. 41
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