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The Search for God – and the Path to persuasion 

Testimony is too me-centred - a robust case for the role of persuasive evangelism

Search for GodThe Search for God – and the Path to Persuasion
By Peter May
Published by Malcolm Down Publishing
ISBN 978-1-910786-37-6
Reviewed by Martin Poole

Persuaded to be a Christian?
Peter May believes that contemporary evangelism is falling woefully short in its attempt to reach today’s generation of non-Christians. In particular he maintains that most Christians fail to engage in establishing first principles that are major barriers to belief – Is there a God? Does scripture, and in particular the New Testament, have authority? The seeming inability to reconcile science and faith, and the questions thrown up by cosmology.
Peter believes that all Christians should be engaged in persuasive evangelism which includes formulating responses to such issues. In a hard hitting chapter under the title “Unpersuasive Evangelism” he attacks some of the current thoughts that are widely accepted in the Christian community today; namely Christianity is caught not taught; placing too much reliance on personal subjective testimony; seeing apologetics as a limited defensive strategy for helping enquiring intellectuals; regarding persuasion as worldly power play etc. He acknowledges that in this he is contradicting Karl Barth who maintained that the evidence of nature and apologetic reasoning had no role in bringing people to faith.
While reminding the reader that the authority of the Bible cannot be assumed when speaking to the unbeliever – no more Billy Graham “the Bible says” – he does base his approach on what he believes is the New Testament methodology for proclaiming the faith. Paul’s visit to Athens is a ready-made template and any suggestion that, as some have taught, this was Paul below his best is dismissed with scholarly argument that is the hallmark of Peter’s book.
Peter does acknowledge that Paul uses his testimony but Peter’s surprising playing down of this widely accepted “bottom line” of evangelism stems from his belief that it can become too “me” centred when the focus should be on Christ. It also, perhaps, plays too easily into the hands of the post-modernist who is quick to maintain that what is true for you is not necessarily true for me.
While this book is not without controversy it does contain some very helpful arguments that can boost the confidence of the Christian who is seeking to engage with unbelieving contemporaries – the section on cosmology is particularly useful.
Peter May's credentials as a former staff worker for UCCF (Universities and Colleges Christian Fellowship) followed by 30 years as a GP have created a well researched book that leaves the reader contemplating the part that persuasion should play in evangelism, together with the strong corrective that there should be more than the simple testimony in the evangelistic tool box.

The Revd Martin Poole (retired Baptist Minister having served churches in Penarth, Godalming and Eastleigh)

Baptist Times, 20/07/2016
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