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The Dangers of Door-to-Door Evangelism

Why winning people for Christ needs something better than a polished sales pitch.

I spent most of the 1980s attending secular colleges where tolerance and diversity trumped truth, especially Christian truth, every time. Needless to say, if I was to stay centered in my faith, I would need to find fellowship with other students who believed the gospel and desired to share it with others. But which group to choose? The best candidates were InterVarsity Christian Fellowship (IVCF) and Campus Crusade for Christ (now CRU).

Though I respected, and continue to respect, both groups equally, I eventually chose IVCF because it put more focus on friendship evangelism and less on door-to-door evangelism. Whereas the door-to-door method follows a sales model, with the evangelist approaching a stranger and then taking him through a carefully scripted gospel presentation (the booklet of choice in my day was “The Four Spiritual Laws”), the friendship model attempts first to cultivate a relationship with a non-believer (who might live in your dorm or attend classes with you) and then introduce the gospel in a more casual and natural way.

At the time, I did not possess any theories about the most effective or most biblical method of evangelism. I gravitated toward friendship evangelism because it better suited my personality and because, well, it “felt” right. Like many other Americans, I’ve always hated the “hard sell” and have quickly (if politely) closed the door or hung up the phone whenever a solicitor has tried to sell me something. If I was going to share the message of grace with my fellow students, I did not want it to sound like a sales pitch. I wanted it to rise up organically from our friendship, or at least from a sense of shared interests and passions.

Jonathan ...

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Christian Bale and Joel Edgerton on Reading the Bible, Making a Modern 'Exodus'

The actors talked with CT about the new epic film.

Most audiences—especially religious audiences—will have a complicated relationship with Ridley Scott's new epic film Exodus: Gods and Kings, out tomorrow (here is Brett McCracken's review). It's an old story that's been retold many times on screen (read Peter Chattaway's exploration of the history of Moses movies here). It's a beloved story that's vital to the identity and story of three major world religions.

And there is the complicated problem of casting white actors in the film's major roles—a question that has implications that go far beyond the film and that deserves to be treated carefully and in more depth, particularly given the story of the Exodus.

But no matter what, it's a film that many people will see and discuss. On Monday, I participated in a roundtable discussion with a number of journalists, during which director Ridley Scott, Christian Bale (who plays Moses), and Joel Edgerton (who pretty much steals the show as the Pharaoh, Ramses) talked about about Exodus: Gods and Kings.

After the roundtable, I got to sit down alone with Bale and Edgerton, who were funny and gracious. I asked them about how they prepared for their roles, what makes this film different from its predecessors, and why the story of the Exodus continues to be made into movies.

I'm really intrigued by the family dynamic of the story. The whole movie was set up as being about choosing your family, or being rejected by family. There's a really big emphasis on the question: “Are these your people, or not?” There's the death of the firstborn sons, and of course there's the brotherly relationship. This all feels really close to what the story of Exodus ...

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The Best Books to Read This Christmas (That You Wont Find in a Christian Bookstore)

Sarah Arthur recommends 10 under-the-radar titles.

In our house, Christmas wouldn’t be complete without a good book or two—or ten. A recent writing project—my new anthology Light Upon Light: A Literary Guide to Advent, Christmas, and Epiphany (Paraclete Press)—sent me hunting for examples of fiction and poetry that often fall under the radar. So, in the spirit of every librarian who ever handed you a book unsolicited, here’s my list of the top ten books to read this Christmas, but with a twist: These are books that aren’t well-known or, if they are, aren’t typically identified as holiday fare. Either way, you’re unlikely to find them along the shelves of the average Christian bookstore. We’ll start with contemporary works and wrap up with some classics.

Mr. Ives’ Christmas

Oscar Hijuelos (HarperCollins)

After becoming the first Hispanic to win a Pulitzer (for his 1989 novel The Mambo Kings Sing Songs of Love), Cuban-American Oscar Hijuelos went on to give the world the straightforward (not PG) tale of one good man’s shattering grief. For Mr. Ives, orphaned as a child and raised by a kind adoptive father, 1950s New York was always magical at Christmastime. But then came a Christmas Eve in the 1960s when life changed forever. How Ives dealt with the pointless murder of his son—and his own strange vision of heavenly glory shimmering over the streets of New York—gives us a glimpse of the late Hijuelos’ own sense that God’s “presence was as certain as the air I breathed.”

Accompanied by Angels: Poems of the Incarnation

Luci Shaw (Eerdmans)

Let’s just call her the Poet Laureate of Advent. Luci Shaw has been writing for longer than many of us have been breathing; and ...

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Why Torture Is a Complete Failure

Former war crimes prosecutor: Legally, morally, and practically, enhanced interrogation does not work.

The United States had not held war crimes cases since the end of World War II. During that time, Sherwood F. Moran—a missionary to Japan and a US Marine during the war—was the most effective interrogator of Japanese POWs. His secret? Treat them humanely, or as he put it, “human being to human being.”

A legend among military interpreters, Major Moran knew Japanese culture intimately and spoke fluent Japanese, but decent treatment was his best contribution to America’s war effort against a fanatical and implacable foe. This humanity resulted from his Christian faith. Major Moran knew that all were created in God’s image.

America desperately needs more Sherwood Morans conducting effective interrogations in our war against terror. The U.S. Senate’s report on torture, released last week, brought disheartening details from recent cases to public attention, including the abuse of Abu Zubaydah by rookie contract interrogators.

These contractors failed to get actionable intelligence, and their techniques prevented the U.S. from moving forward with prosecution. They showed that abusive interrogations do not work and do not thwart future plots. (The tragedy of the Zubaydah case is compounded by the fact that the original FBI interrogators treated him humanely and were getting actionable intelligence—including the huge tip that “Muktar” was a code name for alleged 9/11 planner Khalid Sheik Mohammed.)

One highlight from my 30 years in the US Navy JAG Corps was working as a war crimes prosecutor with the Office of Military Commissions in Washington DC and Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Our historic mission was to bring justice to detainees who violated the laws of war and were ...

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