Where to begin?
Many Christians witnessing for Christ have wondered what to say first. Many pastors have likewise wondered what curriculum to use in their new members courses. Where do you start when the person you’re speaking with knows absolutely nothing about the Christian faith? Some suggest the gospel of Mark, others the gospel of John, still others the Belgic Confession, but one of the most successful starting points has actually been Genesis 1, 2, and 3.
Presenting the gospel? Many Reformed churches have held training sessions for their members using Two Ways to Live, a course developed by Philip Jensen, an Evangelical (Reformed) Anglican from Australia, and marketed by Matthias Media. This course begins with the truth of the good creation.
God is the loving Ruler of the world. He made the world. He made us rulers of the world under him. “You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honour and power, because you created all things and by your will they were created and have their being” (Rev. 4:11).
Starting with “Jesus saves” begs the question what he saves us from. Starting with sin begs the question whether God is responsible for it. But starting with the loving Ruler creating a good world gets matters off on the right track.
Teaching new members? I’ve used Genesis 1 through 12 at least twice in a new members course, in two different congregations, with good fruit. It’s really quite amazing how, by journeying through the narrative of the good creation of Genesis 1, the blessed provisions of Genesis 2, and the disastrous rebellion of Genesis 3, one finds all the major topics of Christian doctrine covered: God as almighty, loving, and wise; the world as distinct from God, dependent on him, and all very good; humans made in God’s image, exalted, and made responsible; Satan seeking to destroy God’s creation by bringing down its rulers; God holding humans responsible, starting with the man; God bringing a curse upon us and creation so as to punish us and draw us to him; and, finally, God promising salvation by severing our tie to Satan and speaking of a single Descendant who would put Satan out of commission. There may be other ways to get at these teachings, such as following the outline of the Belgic Confession, but it’s certainly important to erect these teachings as biblical pillars early on in one’s journey of faith.
Mr. Antoon Breen, support officer of the John Calvin Schools in Australia, has kindly sent us a short, entry-level, meditative-style booklet that he recently published in the Reformed Guardian series. Readers will enjoy his reflections on the text of Genesis one through three. His title suggests that the gospel itself begins with these chapters. I couldn’t agree more.
You’ll appreciate his story about asking a question in front of a crowd of 750 people at an ACER Conference on learning back in 2013. He writes (pp. 28–9),
I’m thankful that I got the opportunity, before an audience of 750 or so people, to challenge one of the keynote speakers on his appeal to scientific method. I told him that I respected the call to be scientific in our approaches to linking neuroscience to education. “But earlier in your address,” I continued, “you mentioned the developments that had taken place in relation to the human brain some 400 million years ago; that’s not science, that’s metaphysical. In this respect I would like to offer an alternative view. What if the human brain did not come about by the processes of evolution, but that it was created by a transcendent and immanent God, for the purpose that it should be used by mankind to return to Him glory and honour for His great and awesome works? I offer that as an alternative perspective”.
The applause told me that there were many more who didn’t bow their knees to the modern Baal.
You can read the rest of this edifying 73 page booklet here (you’ll notice we’ve added a new category: books).