The trends are sobering. With every headline about high-profile deconversion stories, rapidly decreasing rates of religiosity, and open hostility toward Christian beliefs, the task of evangelism in the modern world feels more daunting than ever.
How will the gospel advance in our secular age? Is it naive to expect unbelievers to convert to Christianity at a time when it seems more and more Christians are deconstructing their faith?
Proclaiming the gospel in today’s world can feel impossible. And it is, if it depends on us. But our confidence is in God, not ourselves. Nothing is impossible for him.
‘Merely Man’s Own Invention’
I’ve spent more than half of my life in evangelistic ministry. I’ve seen God work in ways that can only be described as utterly miraculous. I’ve listened to people wonder about meaning in life and how to know God. I’ve sat face to face with atheists, agnostics, people of other faiths, and young adults struggling with all sorts of temptations and consequences of destructive choices. I’ve heard many expressions of unbelief—like this letter written by a 17-year-old student to a friend:
You ask me my religious views: you know, I think, that I believe in no religion. There is absolutely no proof for any of them, and from a philosophical standpoint Christianity is not even the best. All religions, that is, all mythologies, to give them their proper name, are merely man’s own invention—Christ as much as Loki. . . . Superstition of course in every age has held the common people, but in every age the educated and thinking ones have stood outside it, though usually outwardly conceded to it for convenience. . . . Of course, mind you, I am not laying down as a certainty that there is nothing outside the material world: considering the discoveries that are always being made, this would be foolish. . . . Whenever any new light can be got as to such matters, I will be glad to welcome it. In the meantime I am not going to go back to the bondage of believing in any old (and already decaying) superstition.
You should know that this letter could have been written by any one of thousands, maybe millions, of people today. An increasing percentage of our neighbors, friends, and coworkers identify themselves as having no religion at all. Like the writer of this letter, they feel intellectually and morally superior to Christians who believe “mythologies of their own invention” or “superstitions.” You should know that many people embrace these kinds of thoughts with deep-seated conviction, even if they don’t say them out loud.
But you should also know that letter was written by C. S. Lewis, the one who called himself “the most reluctant convert.”
No One Too Lost
For every parent, pastor, or friend of someone expressing thoughts like those of 17-year-old Lewis, be reminded and encouraged: “Surely the arm of the LORD is not too short to save” (Isa. 59:1).
Lewis’s conversion story (among many others like it in history) is an inspiring reminder. No one is so lost that God can’t find, rescue, and redeem them. No one who is currently skeptical about, disinterested in, or openly hostile toward Christ is beyond his transforming reach. Today’s Saul could be tomorrow’s Paul. Today’s YouTube atheist influencer could be tomorrow’s leading voice in apologetics. Today’s deconstructing teenager could be the next generation’s C. S. Lewis.
This is an adapted excerpt from Randy Newman’s new book, Mere Evangelism: 10 Insights from C. S. Lewis to Help You Share Your Faith (The Good Book Company, 2021).