Distinguishing Christian Testimonies In his letter (April 2004), Phil Parshall shares how a non-Christian gentleman in Bangladesh gave a strong, positive testimony of what his god had done for him.
Distinguishing Christian Testimonies
In his letter (April 2004), Phil Parshall shares how a non-Christian gentleman in Bangladesh gave a strong, positive testimony of what his god had done for him.
So effective was this man’s testimony that Parshall was unable to use his own testimony, which he had prepared especially to counter the weak response he expected to hear.
This example demonstrates how we Christians may overuse testimonies filled with personal experiences to “prove” God (that he exists, who he is, and especially, what he does for you). I question how healthy this approach is because many non-Christians can likewise give positive testimonies of what their god has (apparently) done for them. (Even a good set of mental and moral values is found in many people of other religions.)
Many Christians who struggle with difficult circumstances do not receive the positive response (healing, financial aid, etc.) that they hope and pray God provides. Such a response would become a wonderful testimony for them, but often this response is absent. The simple reason God does not treat all Christians alike is his sovereignty.
Even if the gentleman in Bangladesh had given a sad testimony that opened the door for Parshall’s positive, prepared testimony, I must ask myself, “Would this kind of personal-experiences testimony really lead this gentleman to a correct knowledge of the God of all creation?” A Christian testimony that loses its evangelistic value when a non-Christian offers an equal or better one is not much of a testimony at all, is it? Furthermore, I have known people who do not profess to be Christians but who have a better “visible” testimony than many Christians.
Parshall’s example should drive us to identify the real distinction(s) between Christians who “walk with God” and have good testmonies, and those people who walk with other gods yet also have “good” testimonies. Of course, God’s son, Jesus Christ, is a major part of this distinction, but that still leaves the unanswered question: What shall we say to someone who gives a positive testimony of what his god has (apparently) done for him?
Our first step needs to focus on a personal knowledge through Jesus Christ of the one God of all creation—a relationship. What God does for you or gives you is not as important as how you and God walk together and know and understand each other (all through Jesus Christ). I believe all other aspects of Christian living and teaching may be based on this focus. Consider the greatest commandment.
—Alan Hillis, Maracay Aragua,Venezuela, Missionary with Evangelical Free Church of America, International Mission
Validity of Subjective Callings
I was sympathetic to the points made by Kevin Howard in his article on missionary calling in the October (2004) issue. But I lost all sympathy with him after reading his response to Wesley Duewel’s letter in the July (2004) issue.
Howard makes some valid points about simple obedience to the Word as a reason for going into missions. But he errs in denying that God may call individuals to certain places, and insisting that everyone’s experience conform to the pattern he describes.
Howard’s assertion that God only calls and directs through the words of Scripture is itself patently unbibilical. In Acts we read how Paul was clearly directed to certain places and away from others through visions and the voice of the Holy Spirit. Why should God not continue to direct people this way today?
Howard is worried that such callings are “subjective.” Yes, they are, but that does not make them equivalent to the “choice of what socks to wear.” God speaks subjectively to individuals, as well as objectively through the Scriptures. It is possible to disobey a subjective command as well as an objective one.
Recognizing the validity of subjective calling does not mean that mission boards can have no input. A mission board cannot know whether the voice I hear is authentically God’s, so they have the responsbility to look for confirmation in gifting, aptitude and proven ministry. If they reject me, then I will look for God to open another door. But I may also ask God to confirm my calling again, to be sure that I have heard him correctly.
It is possible for me to be mistaken about the calling I have received. Self-deception is always a danger. But in the end I am responsible to God for obeying his voice as I perceive it, through Scripture and the Holy Spirit. I may also misunderstand and mis-apply Scripture. But the fact that I am a fallible listener does not mean that God is not speaking.
Howard says that Scripture doesn’t “prescribe a calling—a clear and unalterable sense of God’s leading—as the norm for most believers.” True enough. But it does provide many examples of this kind of calling. There is no reason to deny that God still calls people this way, though we need not insist that all have such a calling.
—Russell Board, World Missions Ministries International Pentecostal Holiness Church
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