Hard Core or Hard Case?

20 Jul

I looked awkwardly around the restaurant, pleased that it was mostly deserted.  The few customers who were there were staring at our table and I had to admit that I couldn’t blame them: I’d be doing the same if the shoe were on the other foot.  My friend had risen from her seat and in a voice that was far from conversational, was letting me (and everyone within a city block) know exactly how she felt about my Christian faith.

At some point during your evangelism adventures, you’re likely to encounter an adversarial situation.  The person may get angry and start yelling or calling names (as my friend did) or they may simply listen to you and then disdainfully walk away.  They may present you with rapid fire questions and allow you no opportunity to answer any of them or, if they do, may show an unwillingness to actually listen to the answers that you give.  Such people may be hard core anti-Christians (those who are unwilling to examine any evidence in favor of the faith and who are committed to its extermination) or they may simply be hard cases (those whose opposition is rooted in genuine questions and concerns about the faith).  While both may express themselves through similar words and actions, each must be approached differently.  For the next few weeks, we’ll take a look at what it means to be “hard core” or simply a “hard case” and discuss a few methods for defusing conflicts with both.

Before I begin, however, I need to take a moment to differentiate between “hard core” and “hard case”.  It is important to realize that true “hard core” anti-Christians are a rarity, despite their unique ability to attract the attention of the media.  These are people who really mean exactly what they’ve said against the faith and if Jesus Christ, Himself appeared before them, they’d spit in His face.  They may or may not have done their research, but they’re certain that nothing will cause them to ever become a Christian and their aggression towards those who are is truly genuine.  They view Christianity as a threat to a well-ordered and tolerant society or a truly religious society, depending upon which part of the world they hail from.  This doesn’t mean that it’s a waste of time to share the Gospel with them, just that the techniques you use will be a little different.  Our God is big enough to convert even the most adamant of His opposition – just look at the Apostle Paul!

The more common of the two, however, is the “hard case”.  Such people often have sincere intellectual or moral questions about Christianity.  Their belief that these questions cannot be answered may lead to very adamant and direct statements such as, “Even if you could prove to me that it’s true, I will never become a Christian”.  What is usually meant by this is that they genuinely don’t believe that you can provide them with any serious evidence to that end that Christianity is true, not that they actually would reject the faith if such evidence were provided.  Many times, these are the true intellectuals among the “opposition” – they try to think things through and they aren’t going to bite unless a substantial case is made in favor of a given position.

It is also likely that their objections run deeper than what they’re expressing.  They may have had some unpleasant encounters with Christians in the past (face it, some who claim the name of Christ are a bit aggressive, themselves) and may feel awkward around those who appear to have proven themselves incapable of living peaceably with anyone who disagrees with their world view.   “Hard cases” may have grown up in a professing Christian home that failed to live up to the Biblical vision or have “done time” in a church seemed to do more harm than good.  It’s also quite possible that their understanding of Christianity is limited to what they’ve seen on PBS and the evening news – two generally reliable sources.  (It is important to note that such people aren’t getting their information from conspiracy websites.  “Hard cases” are not a part of the lunatic fringe and should never be treated as though they are!)

Taking the time to determine whether your friend, co-worker, or family member is simply “spouting off” or is quite sincere in what they’re expressing is the key to determining whether a person is “hard core” or a “hard case”.  It requires a delicate touch, a loving heart, and an immense amount of prayer!  Next week, we’ll begin taking a look at how to handle “hard core” situations and I’ll be sharing the rest of the story with which this article opened, but for now, feel free to share your thoughts in the comment box below!

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14 Responses to “Hard Core or Hard Case?”

  1. deirdret July 20, 2012 at 10:49 #

    I am looking forward to the rest of the story! Great topic, and thanks!

  2. linneann July 20, 2012 at 10:57 #

    There are many people who want to believe but are afraid. And like you say, there are those who have been hurt by Christianity in some way. I know several. I think the biggest obstacle is the hypocrisy they see in the church and that’s a shame. Good stuff, Anna!!

  3. Delinda Mccann July 20, 2012 at 14:31 #

    Thanks for the articulate explanation of a difficult situation.

  4. Adeline July 20, 2012 at 17:32 #

    You wrote down a lot of good points here, Anna. There are a lot of possible reasons why it can be difficult for people to accept the Gospel, and at times, they can seem to be impossible cases. But nothing is impossible with God. I applaud you for your vigor to share the Gospel to others. Keep it up! God bless you.

  5. revjehood July 21, 2012 at 07:31 #

    Thanks Anna! You are making a difference in helping Christians share their faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and I’m looking forward to your next session!

  6. patgarcia July 22, 2012 at 04:25 #

    Hi Anna,
    I have noticed that the more you get to the truth with a person, when they realize that what you are saying makes sense, that is when they get loud and don’t want to hear what you have to say. They just don’t want to change their lifestyle or give something up that they know they should give up. In times like these, I pray for them because only prayer will help.
    Ciao,
    Patricia

    • acgheen July 23, 2012 at 09:50 #

      Patricia,

      I have noticed this as well! Indeed, it has been my experience that, oft times, the hardest battle is the one which directly precedes a profession of faith – the Enemy’s last-ditch attempt to retain his prize.

      My father attributes this to the fact that Christianity is both the easiest and most difficult faith to embrace. It is the easiest because all that is necessary to “merit” God’s favor is a willingness to place our faith in Christ as the one Who won that favor for us. It is the most difficult because our willingness to do so is contingent upon our ability to admit that there is nothing good or praiseworthy in ourselves. (Which one of us really wants to admit that we aren’t outstanding examples of all virtues… or at least better examples of those virtues than most of the people who surround us!)

      I would tend to agree with you that, when a dialogue reaches this point, a move towards prayer is the best move we can make. But more on that next week.

      Blessings,

      Anna

  7. Robin July 23, 2012 at 16:42 #

    Dear Anna: Our theologies differ somewhat — I am a liberal Episcopalian with somewhat different views on human nature, salvation, etc. — but you have raised valuable points about the difficulties of discussing religion and spirituality with atheists and agnostics, and I enjoyed your essay.

    I will offer a few thoughts:

    1. One approach I have taken when discussing my belief system with atheists and agnostics is to suggest that the heart of the scientific method is experience, and perhaps they might wish to try experiencing basic mystical practices, such as prayer, meditation, and reading sacred texts, just for a few weeks.

    I point out that such practices cannot force anyone to adopt spiritual beliefs against their will, and that it is only scientific to experiment with something new to see if it works. I also point out that there are scientific studies backing up the value of meditation for health reasons.

    2. I also point out — when I am dealing with someone who has been deeply injured by harsh, extremist forms of Christianity, Islam or Judaism — that not all people who practice those faiths adopt extremist viewpoints or behave in an intolerant manner.

    3. Some atheists and agnostics are rightfully concerned about the bloodshed and intolerance associated with historic Christian, Muslim and Jewish movements.

    I try to point out that the largest recorded slaughters and most intolerant regimes in history took place under governments that were militantly atheist — Nazi Germany, Stalinist Russia and Maoist China.

    I urge them to consider that maybe the real issue is not religion or spirituality themselves, but militantly intolerant attitudes towards the beliefs of others that I have found in both spiritual and atheist/agnostic settings.

    I also point out that as the atheist regimes of the 20th century resulted in violence immensely beyond anything any faith culture has ever perpetrated, that perhaps there is a design flaw in some forms of atheism and agnosticism. Perhaps people need spirituality.

    Cordially,
    Robin

    • acgheen July 23, 2012 at 16:51 #

      Robin,

      Thanks for taking the time to comment! Differences being what they may, I have always enjoyed our discussions and appreciate your input.

      Your comments on atheistic regimes and scientific method are both particularly relevant and I hope that they give our readers some food for thought!

      Blessings,

      A. C.

      • Robin July 23, 2012 at 17:11 #

        Dear A.C.:

        I learn a great deal from your essays!

        Cordially,
        Robin

  8. Stephen Smith July 30, 2012 at 11:39 #

    Thank you for your very thoughtful and well written essay. You raise an important issue. In my own spiritual journey I have come to believe it’s not necessary for me to “win” someone to believe in my faith, but to live the life of love toward them, as best I can. Staying in spiritually in touch with God helps me live that love more naturally, though I don’t always get it right. For me, the winning is what God does best. Our journey is to love with the love with which we are loved. It’s a journey. Sounds like you’re on it to. Thanks again.

    • acgheen July 30, 2012 at 12:48 #

      Stephen,

      Thanks for your reply! There is, indeed, some theological significance in the fact that that Christ commands His disciples to “go”, “preach”, “teach”, and “baptize”, but never to “convert”. God may chose to use us as the avenues through which the Holy Spirit works, but it is the Spirit, Himself, who is doing the work – and only He is capable of “winning” a heart to Christ! Continue to live in love!

      Blessings,

      A.C.

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Hard Core « acgheen - July 27, 2012

    […] Hard Core or Hard Case? […]

  2. Hard Case « acgheen - August 3, 2012

    […] the last few weeks, we’ve taken the time to discuss the difference between “Hard Core and Hard Cases” and examined a few reasons (legitimate and otherwise) that a person might adamantly object to […]

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