Convincing the Unlearned
Norman E. Fultz
A few years ago friends kept telling me how much computers could help me in my work. From my strictly casual observation, folk basically were doing with computers what I was doing with an electronic typewriter. When I ultimately gave in and bought a computer, I eagerly opened the box, set up the machine, took out the manual and began to read. After a while frustration set in, and I felt very intimidated by that senseless machine. I turned it off and didn't touch it again for quite some time, for I had grown to resent the thing. I almost felt like "pitching it", but the existence of a canceled check quickly told me how foolish that would be.
This age of new technology has introduced many new words and given new meaning to old ones. It can be a daunting experience to plunge into computereez, for the language of the computer world can be most confusing to a newbie. One soon learns that a hard drive is not a baseball hit into center field nor a long trip made in a short time; hardware doesn't refer to the store where you to get every-thing from nuts, bolts, and tools to stove pipes and clay pots; and software, not all of which is user friendly, doesn't refer to an article of clothing and to run some of it requires a lot of megs and mhzs. A monitor is neither a teacher's assistant nor an instrument used in mining and firefighting; a byte is not something you chew; and a gig is not a pronged spear for fishing and frogging, nor a musician's engagement. A mouse is not a furry little rodent, and a port is not a place for the docking of ships. Serial does not mean a succession of weekly movie episodes nor a book published in installments. To go surfing has nothing to do with the ocean; and the information super highway isn't referring to a well-traveled road lined with billboards, and the on ramp isn't an approach to an interstate. Prodigy doesn't mean a musical whiz kid; and America on Line doesn't refer to military readiness. Windows are not some-thing you look out of; DOS is not a Spanish numeral; and a
CD is not a certificate of deposit. RAM doesn't mean a male sheep nor a Dodge truck; E-mail has nothing to do with the Post Office or UPS; and Cyberspace is not where the shuttle flies. Without persistence and determination, prompted by some sort of motivation, many folk feel overwhelmed and just turn away from all this computer jargon.
Well, if I haven't lost you yet, there's a point I want to make . . . about religious matters.
What if you had no religious training, knew nothing of the Bible? But one day you perchance found yourself in the assembly of worship, perhaps at the invitation of a friend or simply because you were searching for something, even if you didn't know what. How would you feel? Perplexed? Maybe intimidated? Confused? After the service would you depart wondering, "What was that all about?" For you would likely have been introduced to a whole range of vocabulary, the meaning of which you did not know. Your experience would neither be new nor peculiar to yourself. Paul, in 1 Corinthians 14:24-25, spoke of the difference in reaction that might be expected from a visitor in the early church if he only heard someone with the gift of "tongues" whereas the exercise of the gift of prophecy would be understandable. Even today, there are occasionally those among us who have no background for understanding what we're talking about. They know nothing of the Bible and not much of religion in general. And often what they do know is erroneous.
You, our unlearned visitor, hear words like saints, atonement, redemption, Old Testament, New Testament, old man, new man, salvation, new creature, confession, prayer and supplication, new creature, propitiation, repentance, and baptism. You hear names like Pilate, Abraham, Israelites, Herod the Great, Caiaphas, Pharaoh, Jacob, and Judah.
A whole mass of words, phrases, and names that are common to us might well leave you almost gasping for relief.
You see, when someone like we're describing comes among us, he may not know even the simplest little Bible stories, and if he does, they may be nothing more than a "nice little story." He may see nothing of their meaning and significance. We grew up hearing the stories, and years of exposure to them and further Bible study has deepened our comprehension; but our unlearned visitor may feel overwhelmed and intimidated. He may be embarrassed at not knowing, or he may pretend that he does understand when in truth he doesn't. This could be a real tragedy, even spiritually fatal, for it might well keep him from learning the truth just as a person intimidated by computers might deprive themselves of a truly fantastic tool.
What Are We To Do?
We must use the terms, names, and phrases for they are God's word and the message they convey is vital. But we must be alert to those who may not know. We must be "user friendly," doing all that we can to make things as plain as we can. We must help to arouse within those who do not know sufficient motivation to be willing to learn. We must encourage even the novice to feel free to seek assistance of us. But our knowledge must not reflect arrogance (cf. 1 Cor. 8:1). We must not say, "They can learn if they'll search it out," for they don't know where to begin or where to find help. Re-member the eunuch's question, "How can I except some man should guide me?" when Philip asked him if he understood what he was reading (Acts 8:31).
We must be alert to get to these people. Every visitor who comes among us from within our area should be personally visited and shown genuine interest. A few simple questions can open doors, and any indication of interest to study and learn God's word should be pursued (cf. 2 Tim. 2:2),
What Can the Unlearned Do?
With motivation, they can learn, grow, develop, and be-come a child of God. Just as one doesn't have to understand everything about computers in order to beneficially use them, so the religiously unlearned do not have to have a broad knowledge of God's word in order to be able to act upon the elemental things. They may then continue to grow and develop (cf. 1 Pet. 2:2), becoming an influence for good on others. They can become diligent workers in God's king-dom. Having become disciples, being baptized into Christ, they are to be taught "to observe all things" Jesus commanded (Matt. 28:20). But remember that growth is gradual and development comes progressively. That's exactly the course today's leaders in the church have followed.
Some Things of Which We Hope to Convince
Just as Paul said the unlearned who came among the Corinthians might be convinced of all, judged of all, and made to cry out that God was of a truth among them; so there are some things of which we should hope to be able to convince the unlearned who come among us: that God is (Heb. 11:6; Acts 14:15-16; 17:24-26), that he is a rewarder of those who seek him (Heb.11:6; Acts 17:27-28), that sin is an affront to our holy God, and that sin places one in jeopardy (Ps. 51:4; Isa. 59:2; Col. 3:5-6; Rom. 6:23), that God doesn't want any to be lost (2 Pet. 3:9), that the Bible, God's word, is fully sufficient to meet man's spiritual needs (2 Tim. 3:16-17), that Jesus is the Christ and God's Son (John 3:16), that in Christ the price of sin has been fully paid and reconciliation is possible (Rom. 5:11; 2 Cor. 5:18), that it is by obedience that one gets into Christ (Acts 2:38; Gal. 3:26-27), that in Christ is peace beyond understanding (Phil. 4:7), and that faithfulness to Christ means life eternal (Rev. 2:10).
Naturally we cannot hope that this will be accomplished every time we assemble, for in our assemblies we have to deal with many Bible subjects. But we can aim to make our assemblies as "user friendly" as possible and then be diligent to follow up on those who come our way in an effort to help them in spiritual growth and development, We don't want to leave them frustrated, intimidated, nor confused because they do not understand. Namely, we want to lead them to the Master for their salvation and for his honor and glory.
Guardian of Truth XXXIX: No. 21, p. 14-15