On Friday evening the team met at Cafe Nero for a time of Bible study before we headed over to Leicester Square. Including myself, we were six in number. If was a very profitable time of study in the cafe as we considered the confidence we have in God’s Word. Proverbs 1:7 says: “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge.” This means that in order to know anything, it must start with God. We can demonstrate this by reasoning in the following manner:
If I were to ask you for a knowledge claim you must appeal to something: to one of your senses, or to your reasoning, etc. But then I could say to you, "How do you know that is valid?" and you no doubt would say, "Because of this or because of that.” But then I could say, "And how do you know that is valid...?" and so on and so on. What this means is that you hit an infinite regress, because there is no stopping point unless you know everything. So unless you know everything, or have revelation from someone who does know everything, you can't know anything. It all starts with God. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge.
A little later we arrived in the Square and I got ready to preach. There was a man sat on the bench behind me, and I recognised him as someone who had heckled me in the past. On that particular occasion he had been very vulgar and rude. Still, we had prayed that the Lord would use us as He so willed, so I got up to preach as planned.
As soon as I did the chap behind me came forward and began to heckle me, and he came at me hard. His speech was venomous and full of hate, not to mention vulgar and rude, and so I asked him to refrain from using such foul language because of the ladies who were present.
His reply was to call me a misogynist pig.
A misogynist is defined as a man who hates women. It's a word that has been levelled at Christians more and more frequently in recent times. It's basis is built on the notion that women are treated as unequal and inferior to men, in the Bible, because there are certain roles that men are called on to perform, and these roles are not permitted by God for women. A typical example would be that of women pastors.
A rebuttal is quite simple here. God has designated different roles for men and women, for a specific reason. These commands come from God and therefore must be followed. But God is not arbitrary and so these are not random commands. Men and women are wired differently, for the very purpose of performing their unique roles to the glory of God.
However, I would like to address the charge that I am a misogynist, simply because I said: "Sir, please refrain from using that language, there are women present." I believe he took issue with this because somehow it implies that women do not curse and swear, and so they shouldn't be given preferential treatment. That of course is not what I was saying. I was simply appealing to the gentleman's civility. I was also trying to expose his lack of respect for the audience, particularly the women, who generally speaking are not as vulgar as men when it comes to speech (although I do recognise the tide is shifting, and has been shifting for some time now).
Still, it must be noted that what I said on Friday night was in no way misogynistic. If anything, I was esteeming women above men. So his assessment of me was wrong, and for many reasons. I must admit though, it was quite difficult to counter his aggressive rhetoric, but having had the time to think it through, I will certainly be better prepared for next time.
I did not continue to preach open-air for too long, simply because our heckler had made that to be quite untenable. There were some young people in the crowd who had argued in my favour, to allow me to speak, etc, and so we got talking. I thanked them for their support and asked them where they stood spiritually. They said that they believed in God. However, as the conversation progressed, it became apparent that they believed the way to God could be found through any religion, it was not exclusive to Jesus Christ. Ultimately, this meant that they were unbelievers. They said that they believed in God, but clearly they did not believe in the God of the Bible, but rather in their own interpretation of God. I reasoned with them from the Scriptures and did my best to bring the truth to them, but they stood firm on what they believed. They left with a number of gospel tracts, and we can only pray that the Lord would open their eyes to the truth.
Shortly after I got speaking with a young man who seemed quite open. I discovered later that he is a Muslim. Even so, it was quite remarkable how open he was. I explained to him why I believed in God and why the Christian God is the one true God. He did not object to the notion that knowledge and reasoning must start with God. However, when I shared more directly on the gospel, he started to object. In particular, he took issue with the doctrine of original sin. He did not accept that man is born with a sinful nature. I argued that this was abundantly clear and so could not be refuted. We do not teach our children how to lie or steal, in fact we teach them not to lie and not to steal. If we did not, they would simply do what their nature compelled them to do. I explained that the Bible tells us that unless there is an objective authority above us, One who teaches and directs us in the way we should live, to know right from wrong, we will all simply do what is right in our eyes (cf. Judges 17:6). I took this even further and asked him the following:
What is it that holds us back from doing those things we know we shouldn’t? Well, it will either be our love for what is good, pure and honourable (with God being the very standard of what is good, as well as the one who instills within us the desire and ability to be good) or, it will be the threat of consequence.
If it's the latter (the threat of consequence), ask yourself this question: what does that tell us of the human heart? How shallow must the human heart be when the only thing stopping us from doing wrong is this knowledge we have that we will suffer for it?
This resonated with him somewhat, which was encouraging. We spoke at length on a few other topics, most importantly, why the God of the Bible is the one true God, and Allah is not. I illustrated this for him by addressing the subject of justice and mercy. The Bible and the Qur’an say that God, in His nature, is both just and merciful. Yet, one cannot be both just and merciful at the same time. Allow me to explain:
If you show mercy towards a person, towards someone who deserves justice, then you haven’t acted in a just way, and if you show justice towards a person who deserves justice, then you have not expressed mercy towards the person. The point of course is that you cannot be both just and merciful at the same time, because you are either merciful at the expense of justice, or you are just at the expense of mercy.
Looking now to Jesus, we learn from the Bible why He purposed to die for the world on a Roman cross. Jesus gave Himself up to be punished on our behalf. He bore the punishment for the sins we have committed so that we can go free. He never died on a cross because He had sinned, He died on a cross because He became the sin bearer. In so doing He is acting justly towards sin. Justice is being satisfied. At the same time He is acting mercifully towards those who have committed the sin.
The unthinkable has happened: Justice and mercy are satisfied at the same time.
It is to be understood in this way: God pours out His wrath against sin ~ justice is fulfilled. And by fulfilling His justice in this way, mercy is extended towards the one deserving the punishment. Forgiveness is not offered at the expense of God’s justice towards sin. Forgiveness is offered because God so graciously chooses to substitute Himself in our place.
“He [God] made Him [Jesus] who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” ~ 2 Corinthians 5:21
The above reveals a God who satisfies fully His justice and His mercy in a logically consistent way. Yes, He does the unthinkable in substituting Himself in our place, but what He does is not illogical. God shows Himself to be consistent with His nature. He is just and merciful. And even though this “seemingly” is an irreconcilable problem, God solves it in a logical and rational way.
Moreover, because God shows Himself to be the perfect precondition for logic, this accounts also for Him being the perfect precondition for moral absolutes and the uniformity of nature, since God is indeed rational and logically consistent. Scripture reveals a God who is perfectly consistent in and of Himself.
This explains why every other theistic religion in the world is beset with the problem of a “god” who does not satisfy fully his justice and his mercy. Only in Christianity is there a mediator.
Acts 4:12 ~ “And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.”
1 Timothy 2:5 ~ “For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus.”
Only in a Mediator is there complete satisfaction for God with regard to His justice and His mercy. And only the Christian God offers to this world a Mediator, who stands in our place, taking upon Himself the judgment of God, so that we can receive mercy. Justice and mercy: two amazing attributes of God that reflect who He is, which come together beautifully on the cross of Jesus Christ.
As I shared this with my Muslim friend I could tell he understood the argument. Still, there was resistance on his part. This is to be expected, as the subject of justice and mercy attacks one of the very pillars of his belief system. If he acknowledges the necessity of a mediator, so that God can be both just and merciful towards us, he ultimately gives up his belief system. We parted on good company and he took an in-depth gospel tract to read. Do pray for him.
As we all started to wind down for the evening, I noticed that our angry and foul-mouthed heckler was engaged in a conversation with Roman. I wandered over and he began to boast how he had been able to have a much better conversation with Roman, one-to-one, in contrast to the conversation he’d had with me during the open-air. I explained that the answer to that was simple: “Sir, you used my platform (the ladder) to be your own platform, with the intent purpose to derail the message I sought to proclaim. Your agenda was to shut me down my being rude, vulgar, condescending and unreasonable.” To this he simply smirked disparagingly. Do pray that the Lord would soften his heart and open his eyes to the truth. Pray the Lord would save such a sinner as this, for we are all unworthy of His bountiful grace.
It was a tough evening for sure, but a blessed one all the same.
Soli Deo Gloria!