OK OK, so in fairness, I don’t think I was ever “in love” with Two Ways To Live. To be honest, I’m not sure that I ever really felt that strongly about it. But nonetheless, it’s certainly been the default outline I’ve fallen back on when explaining the gospel, even if I haven’t explicitly started drawing out the six boxes.
For those of you who aren’t familiar with Two Ways To Live, the whole presentation can be viewed here.
Even though I always seem to default to this outline, over the last year or so my attention has been drawn to a number of issues which have led me to question it’s helpfulness. Most of this has been a result of reading Glen Scrivener’s blog over at http://www.christthetruth.net which is undoubtedly the best and most challenging thing I’ve been reading in the last year. Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying that Two Ways To Live isn’t useful for anyone. It may well work for you. But I think I’ve reached a point where I need to part company with it and over these next 4 blogs, I hope to be able to explain why and bring together the things I’ve been wrestling with in the last year. And that’s exactly what these blogs will be. Me wrestling. I’m not saying I’m right, or that I’ve got it all sorted, nor am I saying that some of my criticisms can’t be met with an answer. This is just where I’m at.
Briefly, here’s why.
It’s Not Very Christ Centred
Jesus doesn’t make his grand entrance until box 4 of 6. God is mentioned before this but Jesus isn’t. So when Jesus appears on the scene, we can’t help but say “well who is this guy?” He looks like nothing more than a third party stepping into a dispute between us and God that has nothing to do with him. Now of course, Jesus is our mediator so there’s an element of truth in there regarding the stepping in. The big problem though, is that Jesus isn’t a third party, he is in very nature God. But as Jesus hasn’t been mentioned at all until he enters the world, there’s real confusion over who he is. This is the problem I most commonly come up again when using the classic two ways to live outline. I get through boxes 1-3 alright, but when Jesus appears, the whole thing goes to pot.
Seeker: “Who is Jesus?”
Me: “Well he’s God.”
Seeker: “But I thought he was God’s son?”
Me: “Well yeh he is that too, because uh, you see…um… God is a trinity…”
Immediately, I’m back pedalling. Because I haven’t bothered to do the groundwork regarding the Trinity and Jesus’ divinity, it gets complicated very quickly. Now I can already hear people saying, “hang on, the trinity? With a non-Christian? Isn’t that quite advanced stuff (you gnostics you)? Do we really want to be dragging that in at this stage?” Well I want to answer with a resounding “YES!” Why? Because the trinity is at the very core of who God is. It’s inherently part of his nature. Before anything else was, God was Father, Son and Holy Spirit, one God but three persons in unity. I’d say that’s pretty foundational stuff. In fact, the more I’ve thought about it, the stranger it seems that we try so hard not to talk about it.
And considering some of the great passages there are which can give clarity as to Jesus’ identity, it almost seems criminal not talk about it. John 1:1-18, Colossians 1:15-20, Philippians 2:5-8, Micah 5:2 are all stone cold classics and undoubted slam dunks in this area. They all clearly show us that Jesus is not a third party who “began”, so to speak, 2000 years ago. He’s the one whose origins are from ancient times, he’s the Lord of heaven, he’s God in the flesh, God with us, the visible image of the invisible God and in him the fulness of God was pleased to dwell.
If this isn’t naturally how we speak about Jesus, we’re always going to speak in a way that divides God and Christ, setting them up against one another and causing confusion for the non-believer. I’ve come to find this a big stumbling block for people and generally unhelpful.
As a slight addendum to this section, I’ve heard some Christians (who are pretty firmly entrenched in the two ways to live outline) almost sneer at this idea. “Oh you’re one of those people who thinks we need to mention the trinity in evangelism,” they say, implying that it’s just some passing fad. I’ve often felt the resistance here has come from those for whom the outline has become a bit of a sacred cow though. Let’s be careful not to be quick to dismiss and slow to re-evaluate. There’s a Pharisee lurking in all of us!
More thoughts on this in part 2. Coming soon!