Pondering the South African Memesphere – Looking for the Good in Everything header image 2

Get the Good News Right (2 of 3)

October 8th, 2007 · Posted by Hugo · 20 Comments

This is the second post in a series of three, aimed at making evangelicals in the field more successful in their ministry to atheists. The first post was How to Convert an Atheist. Go and read that one first if you have not already done so.

What exactly is the “Good News”? Evangelising Christianity is about sharing the “Good News”. As such, it is important that the news is actually good. What might seem like good news to you, might not seem like good news from another perspective. It is important to understand this. As mentioned last time, it is important to look at it from an atheist’s perspective. This exercise may also help you understand the good news better yourself.

Below is a video titled “Kissing Hank’s Ass”. Be warned, this video tries to offend. Do not let it offend you, otherwise you will be unable to learn anything. Learn to turn the other cheek. Furthermore, I suspect if you are offended, it might be as a result of viewing it with an egocentric perspective. Instead, look at the video with compassion or empathy. Place yourself in the atheist’s shoes, try your best to understand how the atheist thinks. Also avoid the trap of feeling “pity”, that would also suppress a good understanding. Only when you understand how they think, will you have any chance to actually converse with them in a meaningful manner.

The clip is just over seven and a half minutes long. If your bandwidth is limited, you may read the script that inspired the video clip instead. There is also a sanitised version available, which replaces the words “ass” and “shit” with “butt” and “snot”. (The video clip also includes profanities. If such things bother you, read the sanitised version instead.)

It is now assumed that you have read the script or watched the video clip. If you have not yet done so, go do it! Also, think it over. Maybe come back to this post later, even.

What I think you should have learned from this (please share what you learned, let’s have a discussion!): “you are going to hell” is not Good News. All too often, however, this is the core of the news that evangelicals give to atheists. “You are going to hell (but I can show you how to avoid it).” There is no way you will get them interested with such news. Amongst other things, they do not fear a literal hell. So, what to do?

If this is a problem you are facing, it may be that you do not fully comprehend what aspects of the gospel would be considered good news by non-believers. I would suggest you read The Secret Message of Jesus by Brian McLaren (amazon, kalahari). That should get you started. I believe a lot of it is based on the work of NT Wright, a Bible scholar. I have yet to read NT Wright’s stuff itself, however, to the scholarly minded (or even the atheist), I could recommend reading Meeting Jesus Again for the First Time by Marcus Borg (amazon, kalahari), another Bible scholar. If you are in the Stellenbosch area, you are welcome to borrow my books.

If either of these books do not increase your respect for Jesus or your excitement about or your understanding of his message, let me buy you a meal at a decent restaurant if I know you personally, otherwise a cup of coffee or something similar, or maybe a beer: I’d like to hear your feedback.

Please be friendly in the comments. That doesn’t mean you can’t disagree, I love friendly disagreements. This blog is my home in cyberspace, and you are my guests – ideally, my friends even. (If we have not yet met, maybe we should…) Be sure to give a valid email address.

Categories: Religion and Science
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20 responses so far ↓

  • 1 kambani // Oct 8, 2007 at 11:38 pm

    this is the good news of the gospel: repent and be baptized for the kingdom of heaven is at hand. john the baptist was beheaded for boldly preaching this message. stephen was stoned. peter was crucified upside down. the apostle paul was flogged, and stoned, and jailed, and killed for this message. Jesus died for the kingdom of God is at hand.

    this is the good news: that men are sinners but there is salvation. that the blind shall see. the lame shall walk. the broken, and beaten and destitute shall find healing and comfort and a place of refuge.

    this is the good news: that the athiest will be transformed by the power of God. love him/her. understand him/her. don’t compromise on the truth and do not propagate blasphemous and offensive material in the name of truth.

    you have read some good books i guess this series is your effort to digest and propagate the truth you have learnt. i suggest that before you criticise ray comfort and kirk cameron you gain an understanding of their mandate. their teaching is simple but sound. the gospel is going out and i have found that the guidance they give is effective in cutting to the hearts of men.

    this series is not very practical nor too constructive in its advice. it’s an insubstantial criticism of the church but you have not offered any well thought, biblical solutions. you have referred to your own opinion and offensive material more than you have referred to biblical truth. how does a series on doing evangelism the right way, one of the great biblical topics of this day, pay heed to the scriptures?

    the truth is this: for God so loved the world that He poured out his wrath upon Jesus that we might be spared; and treated, and inherit eternal life.

  • 2 Hugo // Oct 8, 2007 at 11:48 pm

    “this is the good news: that men are sinners”

    You won’t reach atheists with that kind of message. At that point, you’ve lost their attention already.

    Steve mentioned he’d like to take “Kissing Hank’s Ass” to his Bible study group. He thinks it could be useful. Steve: when you get around to it, or if you already did today, please let me/us know how it turned out, what the feedback was!

  • 3 Stefan // Oct 9, 2007 at 12:28 am

    Kambani, if that’s the good news, then I’d rather not hear the bad news. You use terms like “kingdom of heaven” and “salvation” frivolously, and preach miracles as fact. You must surely realise that those words sound very hollow to people from a different backgrounds as yours. Your take miracles on faith, but many of us don’t.

    I’m afraid I don’t find your words very practical (based on factual observation) or constructive either.

  • 4 Johan Swarts // Oct 9, 2007 at 1:06 am

    ok, so ons kan veilig aanneem God gebruik ‘n macbook 😉

  • 5 skroon // Oct 9, 2007 at 8:10 am

    To Kambani: my impression of most of what Hugo is saying is that using a Christian worldview and labels when trying to explain something to an atheist tends to be counterproductive (which I feel is a VERY important message). To make something appealing (or even to get it to make sense) you have to put yourself in their shoes, and explain how the ideas you are dealing with are important from their perspective.

    So, to say the good news is:”repent and be baptized for the kingdom of heaven is at hand”. First, what does repent mean, exactly? Second, what value does baptism have. Third, what exactly is heaven, and the kingdom of heaven. Fourth, this isn’t news, but an instruction. The average atheist will view your very first sentence as spouting nonsense. And that means from there on, it’s an uphill battle: first impressions last.

    As for Ray and Kirk, one of my big criticisms against their approach is that it is not effective towards atheists. Their principle approach uses Biblical law to show people they are sinners, but to those who don’t take the Bible seriously, this approach is meaningless.

    “you have referred to your own opinion and offensive material more than you have referred to biblical truth”
    – in a sense, this is exactly what I’m talking about. Using “Biblical truth” to convince an atheist is just not a sensible approach. Would you be convinced by a Muslim who tried to convince you he was right because of texts in the Quran? Would that be because you discard the Quran as inspired scripture, or for another reason?

    However, like you, I feel that Hugo must still address what he thinks one SHOULD tell an atheist, given that we now know what to avoid. I asked him about that, and I got the impression that may be addressed somewhat in the next post (but I can’t promise anything, it’s just speculation).

  • 6 Pienk Zuit // Oct 9, 2007 at 9:16 am

    My feedback: I found it funny. It’s hilarious in fact. Does that make me a bad Christian?

    I’d like to borrow the Borg and/or McLaren books some time.

  • 7 Hugo // Oct 9, 2007 at 10:23 am

    @Pienk Zuit: Naah, I think that makes you a *good* Christian. 😉 You can give me a call when you’re in the area, and have time to read.

    @Steve: thanks, brilliant comment as usual.

    @Johan: jou opmerking bly nog te diep vir my… 😉

  • 8 Bertus! // Oct 9, 2007 at 10:34 am

    Ek wil ook daai Borg-boek leen. Ek het al baie daarvan gehoor, maar dit nog nooit gelees nie.
    Ek dink jy maak ‘n interessante punt oor egosentrisme. Ek dink die helfte van die mense wat evangeliseer doen dit meer vir hulself (om vissers van mense te wees verhoog jou kans om hemel toe te gaan) as dat hulle regtig besorg was oor die siele van sondaars. Ek meen, as jy regtig geglo het almal wat ongelowig is gaan vir ewig brand, sou jy mal geraak het. Jy sou heeldag rondgeloop het, omring deur die damned – dis soos om in Nightmare on Elm Street te lewe.

  • 9 skroon // Oct 9, 2007 at 11:05 am

    To Pienk Zuit: of course, the challenge to Christians evangelizing atheists is to try and explain sensibly in what way our lifestyle differs from Kissing Hank’s ass.

    So, while finding it funny is a natural human reaction, it’s also rather sad if as a Christian one can’t find the points where the metaphor doesn’t match up with (our(?)) reality. Which is why I think discussing it in our cell group will be useful.

    (Hugo: discussion is scheduled for Monday).

  • 10 Al Lovejoy // Oct 9, 2007 at 8:09 pm

    In my experience there are “Frankenstein” evangelists who paint a warm picture of huge angels – row, rowing like galley slaves into the centre of a lake of fire to toss your sorry ass into it with cement takkies if you don’t do shit God’s way. Works pretty good on the desperately poor who understand the currency of fear, pain and the value of a good pair of Reeboks.

    Then there is “Father Xmas” evangelism (very popular among those rather more monied) in which, Jesus is going to get you a second mortgage, upgrade the wife’s car and keep Medi-clinic off your back – IF you accept Him, get baptised, pray in tongues and start coughing a 10% Holy Retainer of all your income – including the mortgage, tax returns and credit cards. And you better not try and weasel out of any inheritances either – after death duties of course.

    Then there is the type of evangelism that realises that you cannot preach the gospel to a tattered man with hollow eyes – who has no shoes, an empty belly and the sound of his hungry children ringing in his ears, because long before you open your mouth to preach – you are going to have to water and do a lot of spade work to break the desert of that man’s spirit – and when you have done that properly you might have earned the right to plant a seed, like Christ demonstrated when took a man even His disciples rejected and tried to silence – spat on the ground to make mud and gave that man His eyes in the face of their disgust. If you don’t understand this and cannot live it – you simply could never have understood or accepted the gospel of Jesus Christ in the first place.

    God is the Author and Finisher of our faith. God will not hear a prayer without faith. Faith without works is dead…

  • 11 rightsaidreverend // Oct 10, 2007 at 10:05 am

    Bertus! maak ‘n meer as geldige opmerking oor sommige Christene se sg. kommer oor ander wat hel toe gaan. Ek kenin nie iemand wat in vrees en bewing lewe oor ander se verlorenheid nie. Ek ken wel party mense wat sê dat hulle hyyyyyl as hulle dink daar is mense wat hel toe gaan.

    Ek dink hulle sê net so. Hulle huil nie regtig nie. Meeste evangelicals wat ek ken, kan nie wag dat die verlore mense verlore gaan nie.

    In alle geval, ek geniet jou blog. Jy’s bevoorreg om op jou ouderdom al so ‘n denkraamwerk te hê. Ek was op 27 nog te veel van ‘n benoude boud. Dis nou tien jaar later. En ek het eers die laaste drie jaar van my lewe ‘n noemenswaardige kopskuif gemaak. Dis darem nie te laat nie, maar laat genoeg om dit ‘n seer een te maak.

  • 12 Johan Swarts // Oct 11, 2007 at 12:27 am


    Ek weet hierdie is van die topif af, maar – ek sien daar’s posters vir die freethinking maties society op kampus. Weet jy dalk van details wat jy my kan mail?

  • 13 rightsaidreverend // Oct 11, 2007 at 9:39 am

    Nog ‘n boek wat mens anders oor hierdie goed laat dink is John Dominic Crossan se The Historical Jesus.

  • 14 Hugo // Oct 11, 2007 at 12:28 pm

    @rightsaidreverend: Ek het “The Last Week” ook op my rak, co-authored by Marcus Borg + John Dominic Crossan. Nog nie kans gehad om hom te lees nie, wel al na stukkies geloer.

    @Johan Swarts: Daardie “Freethinking Society” lyk maar nog te veel soos ‘n “anti-theistic society”. Hulle wil graag ‘n society hê vir die “non-religious”. Dit raak bietjie moeilik dan, wanneer ek nie mooi onderskei tussen secular/sacred, religious/non-religious nie.

    Ek sien nog uit daarna om die eerste persoon te wees wat ge-“excommunicate” word deur ‘n Freethinking Society. Daarvoor moet hulle my natuurlik eers in laat in die eerste plek. My “How to Convert an Atheist” post het sommige van hulle ‘n bietjie bekommerd, blykbaar, so asof hulle bang is ek lei hulle nog na Jesus toe. 😉

    Self weet ek nog nie veel wat aangaan nie, ek moet nog iewers vir iemand my R10 en my hand-tekening gee, of so iets, dink ek.

  • 15 Johan Swarts // Oct 12, 2007 at 12:18 am


    dankie vir jou email, ek waardeer die info. maybe moet ons eerder self ‘n society begin. open minded humanist 0wnz0rz, dalk? ons slogan kan wees: we ar3 t3h 0wnage 😉

  • 16 skroon // Oct 12, 2007 at 9:23 am

    Heh: we can call it “Victims of Sylar” (Heroes reference).

  • 17 Hugo // Oct 12, 2007 at 9:38 am

    Aaaargh! Steve! You did that on purpose, didn’t you? Yea, I know you did… You’re still bullying me about not having watched Heroes yet… 😉

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