My thesis is simple. Jesus Christ is your savior, my savior, and the savior of all mankind. However, most of mankind does not believe this good news, even many of those who call themselves Christians. Can any special strategies be used to overcome this disbelief? Consider a history lesson from Wilbur and Orville Wright.
Suppose someone does not believe flight is possible. He tells you that flight is imaginary and we have been fooled. We would call this unbeliever insane! Airplanes are everywhere and we all know about them. However, not too long ago the opposite was true. The Wright brothers were considered insane, or at least foolhardy, to claim that they could fly an airplane.
According to The Wright Brothers by Fred Kelly, Wilbur and Orville proved to themselves and their neighbors that they could fly quite well. Good conscience demanded that they tell the United States government of their breakthrough. This discovery was larger than the Wright family and needed to be shared with their countrymen. So the Wright brothers wrote to the United States War Department, hoping to show off their airplane. They received only replies that no money would be granted for flight research until it was proved that fixed-wing horizontal flight was possible. It was possible! They wanted to demonstrate it! They wrote again and again, but only received the same response, unbelief every time.
Magazines likewise banished the idea to the realm of science fiction. How could the Wright brothers persuade the unbelieving? They hatched a plan to 'fly by' the 300th anniversary celebration of the colonization of Jamestown in Virginia. Many military officers would be present, and the prank would leave mouths gaping. Unfortunately, a mishap during take-off foiled their plans, but they would not give up. After further rejections the Wright brothers moved to their last plan - they turned East, in hopes of discovering a buyer in Europe. Their conscience was clear about serving their own nation first, so they turned elsewhere. This was the winning tactic. Just before a deal was closed with France, the United States came to its senses. The United States War Department learned about the deal the Wright brothers were signing and unbelief quickly dissolved. They invited the brothers to demonstrate and were shocked with the opportunity of the century.
Perhaps we should not be so hard on the disbelieving. Before the Wright brothers, flying was a crazy idea reserved for the eccentric. History is filled with stories of the adventurous trying to fly with all sorts of contraptions. Many lost their lives. Who among us would easily believe that flight was reality at the moment when the impossible became possible? Very few.
Thankfully unbelief was not the inspiration for the Wright brothers or others like them. These visionaries have shown amazing persistence in working hard, questioning tradition, seeing things as they are, humbly learning, changing, applying knowledge, and never giving up. Furthermore, the Wright brothers have taught us an important lesson about strategies for persuading the unbelieving. The invention of flight was so important that they were compelled to use creative means to persuade their audience to believe when reason alone was not enough. In their case, they planned a 'fly by' to show off the truth, and they also found a constructive use for envy.
The Wright brothers' story is the perfect introduction to this book. We face a similar problem to what Wilbur and Orville solved. Most people did not believe flight was possible, even after the Wrights had proved it. Likewise, most people do not believe that Jesus is their savior, and also the savior of all mankind, even after God has proved it. Apparently reason alone is not enough persuasion here, either. There are certainly limits to the comparison of the Wright brothers' experience and Christian faith. But there is one question that is certainly worth asking.
Are special tactics for responding to stubborn disbelief in Christ integral to the gospel message?
Most explanations of the gospel have limited themselves to merely educating their audience with facts about Christ and salvation. But listing facts only teaches the teachable. The gospel is also true for the unteachable! So does Jesus employ special tactics to reach the unteachable?
As we re-examine the gospel, we will also consider the possibility of special Biblical tactics, and the implications of Proverbs 26:4-5 (WEB), which says: "Don't answer a fool according to his folly, lest you also be like him. Answer a fool according to his folly, lest he be wise in his own eyes."
We will also consider the implications of Romans 11:13-14 (WEB): "For I speak to you who are Gentiles. Since then as I am an apostle to Gentiles, I glorify my ministry; if by any means I may provoke to jealousy those who are my flesh, and may save some of them."