Chapter 1: Explanation of the Research Question
A parachurch organization known as Campus Crusade for Christ employs a method of evangelism that involves posing the question: “Have you Heard of the Four Spiritual Laws?” (Bright, 1965). This approach, as with others of its kind, present the Gospel of Jesus, the most basic teaching of Christianity, through a list of facts concerning man’s depravity and God’s act of salvation for mankind. “The Romans’ Road to Salvation” (Beebe, n.d.) is another example of a scriptural tract that follows this approach with a listing of verses from Romans that guides a person to salvation. Even if a popular evangelism tract such as these is not used in evangelistic conversations, many Christians still present the core beliefs of Christian salvation in a similar method, because this has been the method taught to many Christians.
This is problematic for three reasons. First, this method is not as conducive as it once was in what has become a largely postmodern world, in which many people reject absolute truths, especially in the realm of religion. Second, this method does not present Christian beliefs in a manner that connects people’s current position, beliefs, and culture in their daily lives to the Christian faith. Instead, Christians presenting the Gospel in this method tend to build up walls with a “we’re right and you’re wrong” presentation of the Gospel, creating a “you” vs. “us” dynamic in such relationships where religious faith is shared. Stated simply, this method starts from a position of conflict, therefore the message is responded to with hostility. Third, this method is difficult to present to someone who is not already familiar with the terms and concepts of the Christian faith, such as the Fall, sin, penalty of sin, condemnation, hell, the nature of Christ, the incarnation, holiness, righteousness, atonement, forensic justification, grace, faith, eternal life, and heaven.
Recent methods and ideas of presenting the Gospel message focus on working through the culture, movies, music, and literature of the receivers of the message; therefore starting with ideas and concepts the receivers already know. Presenting the Gospel through this method resolves all three of the problems associated with the facts-based presentation of the Christian faith. First, this method is relevant in a postmodern world, because it begins from a truth, a concept, or a story that is already part of the non-Christian’s current worldview. Second, this method does not build division like the facts-based presentation of the Gospel, but instead it starts with a common understanding between the Christian and the non-Christian that can be used as a connection to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Third, this method uses terms and concepts that the non-Christian already knows.
One method of making connections and working within and through a culture to present the Christian faith is to utilize Campbell’s (1972) work with the monomyth that depicts the recurrence of similar themes and story motifs found across all cultures, which point to a higher truth known unconsciously by all of mankind, yet A Christian who believes that the Christian faith is the highest truth could then use the stories of any culture and pull out the common themes of the monomyth and point those unknown truths to the Christian faith. can be seen manifest consciously through the art, literature, and poetry of humanity.
Considering these problems of a facts-based presentation of the Gospel and the method of using the monomyth for presenting the Gospel of Jesus, I went to China in August of 2006 with the research question: “Is there a well-known piece of Chinese Literature that can be used as a cultural starting point to present the Gospel of Jesus Christ?” The answer to this research project could be beneficial for helping a Christian present the Gospel in a method that is more effective in its relation to a Chinese non-Christian’s culture and worldview, and in a method that might be more conductive for future discussion and relationship with the non-Christian. I also believe this research would be beneficial to Christians who might only be familiar with the systematic, facts-only presentation of the Gospel.
Beebe, W. (n.d.). The Romans road to heaven. Lebanon, OH: Fellowship Tract
Bright, B. (1965). Have you heard of the four spiritual laws?. Orlando, FL: New
Campbell, J. (1972). The hero with a thousand of faces. Princeton, NJ: Princeton