I recently availed myself of an amazing educational opportunity. While surfing the ‘net somewhat aimlessly the other day (I think I was looking at other search results for some of the terms that lead people to this blog) I eventually came to the website of a Christian ministry called ACT. Here’s how they describe themselves. Emphasis is original.
ACT is a worldwide evangelism movement that begins with you. The vision behind it is to encourage believers to train, pray and share the gospel as the Holy Spirit leads. We provide free online evangelism training so that the 2 biggest challenges in evangelism – fear and not knowing how – are no longer a factor.
The mission is to enable the communication of the gospel so that more and more people share the gospel in more and more places every day.
The training we provide to individuals, organizations and para-church ministries is based on over 35 years of evangelism experience. Our online evangelism training is a complete learning experience and its FREE. You can trust us to deliver a proven, faith-based gospel message that’s easy to understand and easy to use in any conversation anywhere.
Sharing the gospel with the lost is what we’re about.
ACTS 1:11 tells us that Jesus is returning one day – while we await His return, let’s ACT
Their training was free, so I signed up (using what I thought was a pretty clever pseudonym and my blog email address) and went through the courses. If anyone is going to be giving the really good arguments for Christianity, if those arguments are out there at all, it’s going to be the people telling Christians how to evangelize. They claim their message is “easy to understand.” Almost nothing about Christianity is easy to understand, from my point of view — so okay, I thought, let’s hear it.
What it turned out they meant, I guess, is that the sentences they use have very small words and the grammatical meanings of the sentences are easy to discern. There was a lot of repetition of very basic claims. Essentially, they story they want you to tell has four main parts: we are all sinners; sinners deserve death; Jesus died in our place; faith in Jesus will save you from death. These components of the message are drilled in, over and over. (Click to view larger.)
On the other hand, there wasn’t any kind of reason offered for believing these claims. They were just stated, again and again. Apparently, the key to being a successful evangelist is merely to proclaim your beliefs in a heartfelt and sincere manner! Then, heathens and heretics everywhere will be instantly convinced!
I’m serious. I went through all three of their courses, got 100% on all the review quizzes, and received my certificates — for the basic ACT training, the Seedlings training for evangelizing to children, and the Save the Mother, Save her Child training for pregnancy center employees (really) — and not once did I hear any mention of the slightest suggestion of evidence or logic to back up these claims. I would almost say that they were teaching something like, “Because the Bible says it, it’s true,” but I hesitate to give them credit for going to even that shallow depth with their argumentation. It felt more like they were telling you to say, “Jesus!! Jesus!! Jesus!!!1!! Now do you believe me? Yay, you’re saved!”
Lest you think I’m exaggerating, here is another screenshot from the ACT training. They are discussing the fears that some Christians might face, keeping them from going out and evangelizing, and explaining that those fears are founded on misconceptions. Here, they want to reassure you that by no means does an evangelist need to be prepared to explain why they believe what they believe. They just need to say that they do believe it. (Again, click to enlarge.)
It’s funny, because it seems to me that “why Christianity is true” lessons really should be included in a course intended to help you share the gospel effectively. I realize that people don’t make decisions perfectly rationally, and lessons on how to come across as trustworthy and clear are necessary too (if a little bit sleazy-feeling), but wouldn’t it help to share at least a tiny glimmer of a reason for why you believe what you do? Do they really anticipate that so few people will actually ask?
After a lot of searching, I did finally find two publications for sale in their store that seemed to promise evidence and logic. Unsurprisingly, both are woefully inadequate. One is a tract called How Can I Believe in Christ, When I Don’t Even Believe the Bible? Basically, it suggests that you read the book of John with an open mind and try to believe it — problem solved, right? Then there’s a pamphlet called Evidence for the Resurrection which purports to offer answers to twelve objections from skeptics. All the answers I can see in the preview are chock-full of references to the Bible, as though that’s evidence — although, yes, occasionally they also quote Christians who assert that there’s tons of evidence for the stories in the Bible. Nowhere do we get any actual evidence. Even better, some of their strawmanned objections have nothing to do with evidence at all, like #7, “The resurrection is not important.” What a waste of paper.
The reason that I am not a Christian is that nobody has ever given me a logically sound and convincing reason to suppose that Christianity is the most likely-to-be-accurate description of the reality we live in. If I did hear such a reason, I’d change my mind. There are many other atheists like me out there. When even a worldwide evangelical organization (note: putting a pin on that map is optional, so it doesn’t reflect the total number of trainees) so completely fails to offer Christians a single fact or logical argument to share with nonbelievers to back up their beliefs, well … it’s hard to see Christianity as anything more than a farce.