In this chapter Guinness gives some very helpful insights into what people say as opposed to what they believe. That is, some thoughts can be articulated, but some thoughts can’t be lived out because we live in God’s world and are created in His image.
Guinness recalls a G.K. Chesterton account in “Manalive” where a pessimist philosopher waxes eloquent from the comfort of his chair and glass of port to a student that’s trying to make sense of life—to live or commit suicide from this “horrible world” was the student’s dilemma. The logical responses given by this professor’s philosophical pessimism however turned when he found himself staring down the barrel of this student’s gun on the ledge of a window.
The professor’s horrified eyes revealed that he’d rather live than die and thus resolved the student’s suicidal dilemma. The point is that what we believe surfaces when reality is about to pull the trigger. This is table turning which has several facets worthy of note.
First, in order to reach those whose minds and hearts are closed off to the gospel, we must appropriately use apologetics and evangelism. While these two are distinct, they are nevertheless inseparable (E.g., like the head is inseparable from the neck). Guinness laments modern day apologetics when he says:
“The isolation of apologetics from evangelism is the curse of much modern apologetics, and why it can become sterile and deadening intellectualism. Whenever apologetics is needed, it should precede evangelism, but while apologetics is distinct from evangelism, it must always lead directly to it. The work of apologetics is only finished when the door to the gospel has been opened and the good news of the gospel can be proclaimed.” (Pg.110-111)
Thus, in our defense and proclamation we need to scratch where people itch.
Second, in order to reach people that are contented and contending, we must find the inconsistencies of their worldviews and point them out. That is relativize the relativist, be skeptical of the skeptics skepticism. Too often, the relativist and skeptic think that everyone but they are immune to being questioned, but it “just ‘ain’t so”.
Third, in order to reach people that are sitting on the spiritual fence, we must with prophetic subversion apply their own criterion to their objection and mirror it onto them. God in Romans 1 gives up those opposed to Him to their own desires. We must challenge people to choose between God and any other treasure because the day of reckoning awaits us all. Moreover, we must remember that the consequences of words need to be considered in light of reality—can one live what they say?
Fourth, in order to reach those closed to the gospel sometimes requires no argument at all. The centerpiece of approaching these kinds of people often requires our focus to be on their treasure (I.e., their children) in order to come to faith (Pg.122). Sometimes life itself, not just logic, forces people to reconsider what they believe and how they are living because of who/what they treasure.
Fifth, questions that raise other questions by using another’s authorities rather than our own are powerful ways of peaking interest. That is, we must know the prophets’ people listen to, understand and be familiar with their big ideas so that we may be able to turn the tables on their unbelief.
Sixth, we must remember that people live in God’s world. That is, they are created in His image and are constantly bumping up to His reality, thus their claims will have a mixture of truth and falsehood. When these are discovered ultimately it will lead them to the dangers of their position because the Day of Judgment is forthcoming and their decisions have an end result.