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Role-Playing for Jesus

rolePlaying

Tim, someone is on the phone with a Bible question.

I looked up from my desk at the Credo House. My brain started to switch into this neutral position trying to be prayerfully ready for the person on the other side of the phone to take the conversation in any of a million different biblical directions.

Hello,” I said waiting for the person to respond.

Yes, I have a Bible question,” the middle-aged man responded.

Ok, well I don’t promise anything but let’s chat,” I said in a way where I was trying to lighten the atmosphere. Sometimes people call and they’re very nervous talking about God or struggling with some issue that they feel ashamed of in their life. With no nervous laughter on the other side of the phone I was interested to hear the Bible question.

In the next thirty seconds I quickly sat up totally surprised at his next few statements. This man had obviously thought through every single word once I gave him the floor. His “question” was not a question, it was a rant. It was very clear he disdained the deity of Christ. This man used a deep voice I typically reserve for my dog when he’s misbehaving. It was interesting hearing the voice directed to me, I feel sorry for my dog.

Nearly every sentence toward me during this initial “question” stage began by him saying, “Now, Tim, tell me how you can possibly believe Jesus is God when…” This guy was not your average run-of-the-mill person with a Bible question. I could tell this guy had enough Greek and Church History to be dangerous. I could also tell he was working off some major talking points that I thought were a bit weak. I waited for his rant to end but I also started praying and pondering the next steps to take. Once there was a bit of silence a dialogue returned to our conversation. My first response slid out of my mouth before I knew I had said it:

Are you a Jehovah’s Witness?” I asked.

Yes, but that’s not important.

Have you called here before?” I asked.

No, I have never called here,” he responded with an impatient tone that I knew was making him frustrated that I hadn’t responded yet to his very detailed question filled with theology, Latin phrases and Church History.

Are you sure? You sound just like a guy that’s called here a couple times over the last few years.” Even though he denied ever calling I’m pretty certain he has called before and I’m even more certain that he takes pleasure in calling churches and ministries and blowing unsuspecting and unprepared Christians out of the water. It was now time to get to the “question.”

Look, I just don’t have time today to fight for the next hour. It sounds like you have your mind made up on Jesus and I’m pretty sure I do too. I think we’ll both hang up thinking we’ve each won the conversation. We are a ministry that cares deeply about truth but we have more important things to do than fight. I think we should simply not have this conversation. I don’t think it’ll be helpful for either of us,” I said.

Look, I’m not going to fight. Can’t you simply have a conversation? Are you so brainwashed that you can’t even talk about how clear it is in Scripture that Jesus is not God?” he replied.

After a couple back-and-forth statements where I was trying to hang-up and he was trying hard to get me to enter into his opening “question” I decided to engage on a very particular line of argument. We had each flexed our muscles enough to let each other know that both of us were decently fluent in the original biblical languages, Latin statements and Church History. Yet, I wanted to engage in a way that I thought would catch him off guard. This guy had clearly had many of these conversations. What could I offer that would be any different?

Ok,” I said, “I won’t hang up and I’ll try to answer your question if you will do one thing first.

What?

Tell me what my 5 best arguments are against your position.

What?

You’ve obviously talked to many people in this way using these same arguments. What are my best 5 arguments against you.” I waited for just a split second before he responded.

There are none.

What?” I couldn’t believe what he said, “You don’t think there is any reason someone would believe Jesus is God?

That’s right, there isn’t one reason any thinking person reading the Bible would believe Jesus is God.

Our conversation unfortunately went on for a while longer but I have been haunted by his response. This guy was so steeped in his view of Jesus being a creature he couldn’t imagine even one reason someone with a brain and a Bible would believe contrary.

One reason I was haunted by this guy’s response is I started to fear that I might sound the same way to someone else I am trying to talk to about Jesus. I think all of us need to get a whole better at “Role-Playing for Jesus.” I would have given this guy a lot more credibility if he could have reduced the anger in his rhetoric and then very precisely communicated the best reasons for the deity of Jesus. I would have at least known that he has understood, not just heard with his ears, but understood with his mind the top reasons I believe Jesus to be God. This man could have then said, “Tim, does this sound like what you teach people about the deity of Christ? If so, can I now share with you why I still believe Jesus is not God?” I would have been much more receptive to hear his position knowing that he understood my views on Jesus.

Role-Playing for Jesus can be helpful on two fronts.

First, do you know why some people around you hate God? Or perhaps why some people might be filled with anger as they drive by your church? Do you have a good understanding why some people think you are a bigoted quack? Can you list off their top 5 reasons? A postmodern person generally wants to know you authentically care and understand them before they have ears to hear anything authoritative from you. Don’t just try to get into their shoes for the fun of it, but genuinely role-play for Jesus. If you can really understand their position you have a good chance to really help lead them to Jesus.

Second, ask those attacking your faith to jump into your shoes. If they are unable to even imagine why you might believe what you believe then the door may be open to speak to curious ears. Many times we speak before people are ready for us to speak. If someone says to you, “I think the Bible is full of errors and I don’t believe in magic books.

If you respond by asking them to do a bit of fun role-playing by trying to list off some reasons I might think it is true, then a helpful interaction is now forming. If they say there are no reasons then the door is open to ask if you could share a few reasons. You can then share how you still have a brain in your head and also believe the Bible to be accurate words from God.

What do you think about Role-Playing for Jesus?

23 Responses to “Role-Playing for Jesus”

  1. This reminds me of the single best premarital counseling technique I was ever taught (from a book on management strategy, of all things). It was from the author’s days as a facilitator of labor/management disputes. He’d sit both sides down at the table and have one side present their case. When they were done, he’d ask, “Anything else?” If there was more, they’d say it. Then again, “Anything else?” And again and again until they finally said, “No, that’s everything.”

    Then he’d turn to the negotiators on the other side and have them repeat back to him, in their own words, what the first side just said. When they were all done, he’d turn back to the first side and ask, “Do you agree that that’s what you believe (or want or feel or whatever)?” If the first side could not sign off on how the second side represented their views, he’d start the whole thing all over. And all over. And again all over. Until finally the first side could say, “Yes! That is our position!”

    Then he’d turn to the second side and start the process all over again with their side of the argument.

    Most marital (and premarital) disputes I’ve seen get hung up at the “that’s not what I said!” stage. This is so helpful to get past the spin, preconceptions and bias that prevents arguments from even nearing resolution.

  2. That is a very good idea. I am not a jahovas witness but i am that person on the other side of the fence who does not believe. I have been researching Christianity and Judaism for the last year and a half. I have notebooks filled with information ive gathered to try and come to an ultimate conclusion as to which one is correct. I finally decided to put everything into an excel spreadsheet based on topic to try and see the bigger picture. Im not done yet but im hoping to get some clarity by doing this. I try to be open minded and just let the chips fall where they may.

  3. Carrie
    If you want to research “Christianity” it well be a life long endeavor that you don’t have time for. The amount of denominations out there is probably in the 10’s of 1000’s. There is one you should not pass up and that is Biblical Unitarian. They actually believe that “God” or “YHWH” is a uni-personal being and the “son” is not YHWH, in fact they believe he is his “son”, similar to Adam but brought into existence in a different manner. (the “last Adam”)
    The Trinitarian doctrine has the audacity to boast as being “the truth” yet you cannot find one passage of scripture that articulates it. By that I mean at least more than one verse in a row that seems to give support.
    The Unitarian verses are virtually on every page of the New Testament and especially at the beginning of every book Paul wrote e.g. Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.
    Or “unto the King , eternal, immortal, invisible, the only wise God” (1 Tim 1 v 17), Jesus was not immortal nor was invisible.
    The New Testament was written to show that Jesus was the Messiah. John even concludes chapter 20 making the statement that it is why he wrote the book, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ (Messiah) the son of God.
    Nowhere will you find “God incarnate” God the Son” “Fully God and Fully Man”. Read the book take it at face value if you find a verse that seems to say one thing but is outnumbered by dozens , hundreds or even thousands such as YHWH being referred to as words such as “I” “He” (1000’s) and not “us” (3x) maybe , just maybe there is another explanation.
    The Trinitarian community does not find any support in the O.T. by any modern scholarship other than staunch fundamentalist circles and surely not from the Jewish community. 1 Cor. 4v6 (scripture = O.T.)
    Trinitarians say John 1 v 1 says Jesus is YHWH (“Almighty God”) yet verse 18 says “no man hath seen God at any time”. Kind of makes you wonder, how simple did God…

  4. I’m a believer because God has made me one.

    And I wouldn’t trade the freedom for all the money in the world.

    http://theoldadam.com/2013/12/03/the-freedom-of-the-christian/

    That explains it better than I can.

    Thanks.

  5. Clearly the NT teaches the deity of Christ since JWs believe it. They believe he is “a” god. Then the discussion becomes not if he is a god, but which god is he.

    Since JWs reject so much of early Christianity, I’d go back a step and ask how he knows what books are in the bible anyway.

  6. Since you are fluent in the Latin statements, you know that Augustine and the creeds say that the Son is not unequal in potestas to the father, that is exousia, which is authority, or its synonym, in the creeds, power. Check this out in the Vulgate. Potestas is exousia. And this teaching is in the ETS statement that the Son is equal in power, or potestas, which is exousia. But I know few members of ETS who believe the creed and the doctrinal basis of ETS. They believe that the Son is unequal to the father in authority. Out go the Latin fathers.

  7. (I’m going to ignore the immensely off-topic Unitarian debate going on above)

    Tim – thanks for a great article. It reminded me somewhat of what I’m told is the Puritan style of preaching, whereby they would anticipate arguments against their position, and then rebut them within the sermon.

  8. We must be willing to “role-play for Jesus” to a certain extent and only when the situation warrants it. My response to this type of individual and in this situation would have been simple, and would have went something like this:

    I would have politely listened. And after he finshed his rant/question, I would have simply asked him “Sir, if I am able to answer these questions for you, will you be ready to make Jesus Christ The Lord of your life?”

    See, people in this phase do not usually have an actual issue with correct answers to their questions. They already know what the right answer is. They’re just afraid of the right answer. Their hang-up is more often than not, the Lordship of Jesus Christ in their life, not our alleged “lack of ability or willingness” to answer their questions.

  9. John and i have run circles on this topic. It can get really crazy because sometimes answering one question can lead to another question and sometimes you just end up back where you started. I would be able to answer that question of what is christianitys 5 best arguments for why Jesus is god without out hesitation…but then i could give you five reasons where your argument fails as well. So it comes down to whose interpretation is correct? Which commentary do you trust? which translator of the scriptures was right and why? Are the scriptures authentic? Do you see…it becomes chaos at somepoint when a person tries to justify christianity. But im lining everything up..the arguments for both sides…judaism vs christianity…we will see where it goes. With everything ive collected maybe i could write a book when im done! Lol

  10. Ralph Schreiber December 5, 2013 at 9:47 am

    John 14: You believe in God–believe also in me

  11. Its not that simple Ralph. There were many people during jesus time that claimed to be Messiah. There are many false prophets who come today and twist scripture claiming to have authority from God..ie joseph smith…the 7th day adventist founders etc. The only reason the jesus thing took off was because it had government backing by the catholic church at some point. It gets pretty shady when you actually dig into it.

  12. By “role-playing for Jesus”, I assume that Tim is talking about being empathetic about someone else’s viewpoint. While this may generate rapport and open up a conversation, I would also caution against the possibility of being “too empathetic”. Without a strong conviction in one’s own beliefs, “role-playing” may be playing with fire. My own experience of such exercises have been mixed and led to the conclusion that, ultimately the anchor of our faith is exactly that — faith.

  13. Francis,
    That is usually where the christian argument ends…your absolutely right.

  14. Carrie,

    You’ve certainly proven one thing right……”You can’t talk and listen at the same time.” I don’t want to tell you what to do here, but when I’m having a hard time hearing God speak, its generally due to the fact that my mouth is moving. Try it, you might like the results too.

  15. Josh,
    Ya christians and mormons both fall into that same category of if you cant find evidence to prove their claims its because you havent prayed enough, or you dont have the holy spirit or you cant hear god. Ya that must be it.
    Anyways, i do think its a good idea to look at both sides…even for someone who isnt seeking and is set it their beliefs. I think many christians dont even know where their beliefs come from…i think role playing would help them to step out of their little box of beliefs to see things from another perspective.

  16. Tim,

    I would challenge you to play those “role playing games” with the subjects of :

    Why Amillennialism leads to false doctrines in many ways (preterism, anti-dipsensational etc.)
    Why TULIP is essentially un-scriptural
    Why Lordship Salvation is heresy
    Why the imputation of Adam’s sin not biblical

    I have many more, but these 4 are a great place to start.

    I wrote to you on another post about the last item and I did not get a reply (I know you are busy).

    I am “game” if you are.

  17. Tim,
    I would challenge you to play those “role playing games” with the subjects of :
    Why Amillennialism leads to false doctrines in many ways (preterism, anti-dipsensational etc.)
    Why TULIP is essentially un-scriptural
    Why Lordship Salvation is heresy
    Why the imputation of Adam’s sin not biblical
    I have many more, but these 4 are a great place to start.
    I wrote to you on another post about the last item and I did not get a reply (I know you are busy).
    I am “game” if you are.

  18. Tim,

    I would challenge you to play those “role playing games” with the subjects of :

    Why Amillennialism leads to false doctrines in many ways (preterism, anti-dipsensational etc.)
    Why TULIP is essentially un-scriptural
    Why Lordship Salvation is heresy
    Why the imputation of Adam’s sin and guilt are not biblical

    I have many more, but these 4 are a great place to start.
    I wrote to you on another post about the last item and I did not get a reply (I know you are busy).

    I am “game” if you are.

  19. Tim,

    I would challenge you to play those “role playing games” with the subjects of :

    Why Amillennialism leads to false doctrines in many ways (preterism, anti-dipsensational etc.)
    Why TULIP is essentially un-scriptural
    Why Lordship Salvation is heresy
    Why the imputation of Adam’s sin not biblical

    I have many more, but these 4 are a great place to start.
    I wrote to you on another post about the last item and I did not get a reply (I know you are busy).
    I am “game” if you are.

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