Questioning Evangelism: Engaging People’s Hearts the Way Jesus Did. By Randy Newman. Grand Rapids: Kregel Publications, 2004. 269 pp. Paper. $12.99.
The basic thesis of this book is that Jesus used lots of questions when He taught and evangelized and so should we. If we engage unbelievers in a dialogue, then we will have much more fruitful discussions, Newman contends.
I would have liked for the author to show examples from Jesus’ evangelistic ministry where he did the type of thing that Newman suggests. Newman could have easily shown from Jesus’ encounter with the woman at the well in John 4 that Jesus sometimes had back-and-forth dialogue with people whom He evangelized.
Most of the book consists of giving examples of how to answer the tough questions. Newman discusses the charge that Christians are intolerant, that it makes no sense for a loving God to allow evil, that the Bible was written by men, that Christians are homophobic, and that some followers of Jesus are jerks. All of his discussions are back-and-forth dialogues between “Christian” and “Non-Christian.” In some cases there are two different dialogues presented, one bad and one good.
In terms of the Free Grace-Lordship Salvation controversy, the author is not crystal clear where he stands. Here are some of the things he says we must do to be saved/born again: “The only way people get to heaven is by accepting a gift—not by earning a reward” (p. 87). “Each person needs to trust in that means of reconciliation [i.e., Jesus’ death on the cross] for him or herself” (p. 97). There are no examples of the type of comments in this book that are typical in radical Lordship writers.
One of the longer presentations of the gospel was also one of the most confusing. Newman wrote,
We believe that there is a God and that He’s made Himself known to us so we can have a personal relationship with Him—one that would help us in this life and one that would last forever, in heaven. We also realize that we’ve all fallen short of any decent standard of goodness…We believe that Jesus is the answer for our problems…He died on the cross to do away with the penalty that we deserved for the problems we’ve created. Each of us has come to the point where we follow Him every day of our lives (p. 260).
According to that statement, what must a person do to have this life that lasts forever? Possibly the last line suggests you must “follow Him every day.” Or maybe that is just a statement of what some or all Christians do. It sure isn’t clear. Even eternal security is not clear in this statement. “A life…that would last forever, in heaven” is not the same as “life that lasts forever no matter what we do or fail to do before we die.”
If you overlook the fact that the good news is never clearly explained in this book, and if you simply view it as a helpful method of communication, this is an outstanding book. I recommend it for those who are well grounded in the faith-alone-in-Christ-alone message and who are looking for help in how to communicate to people who are not open to the traditional approaches to evangelism (e.g., “Could I read you this booklet for 15 minutes?”).
Robert N. Wilkin
Journal of the Grace Evangelical Society