I was alone; my family had left me to myself while they enjoyed the rides. I didn’t mind, I much preferred chatting about history and genealogy. Mr. B was telling me all about his family, and he mentioned off-hand that though they had been Jews, he didn’t practice Judaism, nor did he agree with everything it taught. Just after my parents left, he told me that he had noticed something different about us, even before he met the whole family. He asked if we were Mormon and I told him no, we were Christians. We established early on that we both believed in a Supreme Being/God (and used both terms throughout the ensuing conversation).
We continued to discuss reenacting, historical sewing, and family history, until I got up the nerve to use what I had learned through JFA and STR* to direct the conversation. Choosing my words carefully, I asked him what he thought happened after death. This was a natural continuation of the conversation, since we had been speaking of ancestors, still, my spine tingled with anticipation and tension. He was open and emotional, as he told me what he had read about reincarnation. He liked the idea of having chance after chance to get it right, though after we are “good enough” he couldn’t say what might happen. So I asked him what “getting it right” is. Basically, he said, follow the golden rule, and do what you feel is right. I asked him if he thought that, so long as I felt it was right, I could practice child-sacrifice. He told me that if he were there to physically stop me he would, but otherwise, it wasn’t his responsibility. I asked him if it was right, and he said that according to “my truth” it might be, but “his truth” said it wasn’t. Though he had a response, I could tell he wasn’t satisfied with it and even admitted that he hadn’t thought it all the way through. I moved on and let silence do its work.
What about the nature of man? Do we all have a little bit of badness, or are we all essentially good? This is where he did a lot of talking and I got to practice listening. Oh, yes, even the best of us have that bit of bad. He almost killed a man once, and told me the whole story. I asked him some tough questions about the problem of evil and got the best answer I have ever heard from anyone who is not a church leader. He understood that evil is the absence of good, that without contrast we cannot understand things fully and that evil can bring about good endings (though the end does not justify the means). Since he believes in a good God, I asked him why evil persists. He speculated that this God was not sovereign, but (again, asking questions) I presented him with an alternative, using the points he had already made. I then challenged him to explain how a good God could be just, if He allowed evil to go unpunished.
I asked, what if you die, and face this good God, and He asks you what you have to say for yourself. How can you go unpunished? Mr. B quickly realized that there was no way he could be “good enough” because any evil must be punished. I let silence work on him, and did not demand an answer right away.
We spoke a little about the knowability of this God. If indeed He was supreme, as Mr. B had said, how could He be knowable? Mr. B didn’t have an answer, so I presented to him the biblical view:
If God is supreme, and perfectly good, then the only way He could be knowable is if He chose to know us. I believe He did.
That was awesome.
I shared the gospel, making only one statement. I am incredibly grateful to God for allowing me to have that opportunity.
We spoke for a little while longer, about Judaism, and other things, until he reluctantly ended the conversation for the sake of some friends who had been waiting. I left, touched base with my parents using the cell phone, and found a quiet place to pray, quiet being a relative term. I ended up at the top of the bleachers in front of the sea lion show, above the noise and distractions.
I thanked God for the opportunity, and prayed that something I said would stay with Mr. B, and encourage him to find out more about the One and Only Supreme Being.
Here’s a VERY brief summary of some of what I learned and used in this conversation:
Columbo Tactic: ask questions! Especially clarifying questions like, “What do you mean by that” and “How did you come to that conclusion?”
Take the Roof off:
1 Adopt the other person’s view (for the sake of argument)
2 Press the view to the logical and absurd view
3 Invite them to consider the logical end of their own views
Look for self-destructive claims (one who says, “don’t push your beliefs on others” is pushing his belief on you)