Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Ultimate Questions

John Blanchard, Author of Does God Believe in Atheists? wrote a little tract called Ultimate Questions back in 1987. the tract has always been good, though the graphics now look a little tired.

Well, now the excellent text of the tract is available without the tired look graphics online.
Ultimate Questions presents the gospel through a series of twelve questions.

These really are Ultimate Questions, and provide a good framework for exploring the gospel.
So, going through the criteria of assessment for evangelistic sites:
1) Faithfulness to the gospel.
The gospel is presented fully and well. One key truth that is dealt with well here is the need for revelation if we are going to know God.
"God is beyond our understanding and we need him to reveal himself to us."
This is an important truth to communicate and useful to do so up front when
then presenting the gospel that we find in Scripture.
Another useful inclusion is a brief outline of the attributes of God. This is really useful for being able to talk about the fact that God deserves our worship, and how terrible thing our sin is that we would rob worship from the unique, personal, eternal, independent, spiritual, holy, just, perfect, sovereign, omnipotent God and take it for ourselves: tiny, sinful creatures.
However, having laid up so well the character of God and therefore talk about the personal offensiveness of sin, I feel the tract could have done a better job talking about what sin is.
Sin is described primarily as disobedience to God (a perfectly good biblical category) and lawbreaking. I wonder if exploring the categories of rebellion and idolatry would have helped to demonstrate the horror of sin more clearly.
The site is also very clear about the reality of hell, giving important warnings. Yet I felt that in 7 paragraphs about hell, perhaps more than one should have been spent focusing on the rightness of Hell, it being such an important apologetic question:
Hell is fair. The Bible tells us that God will judge the world with justice,
(Acts 17:31) and he is perfectly just in sending sinners to hell. After all, he
is giving them what they have chosen. They reject God here; he rejects them
there. They choose to live ungodly lives; he confirms their choice — forever. God can hardly be accused of injustice or unfairness!
Both the person and work of Christ are well presented, as are the need for repentance and faith.
2) Clarity
The site could certainly not be more clear, almost to the point of bluntness at times!
3) Applicability
I felt that the gospel could have been fleshed out a little more throughout. It is very clearly stated, but I didn't feel that it was 'reasoning with us'.
4) Responsibility
There is an excellent call to join a bible preaching church for everyone who repents and believes.
5) Usability
It's not particularly pretty, but a very plain text. It's all on one page. Some of the other things on the www.the-highway.com site where it is posted may be less helpful to Non-Christians.

Ultimate Questions is a very clear, straightforward presentation of the gospel. It would be a great thing for Christians to read to check that they are covering the basics when trying to communicate the gospel to Non-Christians. It would also be a really useful thing for someone to read who had showed some interest in the gospel and wanted to look into the gospel in more depth. Perhaps someone has looked at Two ways to Live, and wants more detail.
However, the lack of 'reasoning with us' presumes a great deal of interest on behalf of the reader. It might not be the first thing that I would give to someone who has shown only a passing interest in the gospel.


That Hideous Man said...

Hello Mike, I stumbled accross your blog because I was doing a search on "Ultimate Questions". I have given away many copies of this book - but as you say the tired graphics were becoming a real distraction from the message. Do you know if there is a printed version available with updated photos?

Mike Gilbart-Smith said...

Hi Hideous Man (I don't know your real name, and feel a little odd calling you by this title you've given yourself!)

I don't know of one. I think the one with the old graphics is still in print. Might be worth shooting an email to the publisher, telling them that you love the tract, but are finding that people are being put off by the cover, and suggesting that they change it!


That Hideous Man said...

Actually I thought the cover was OK - just some of the groovy 1970s people with sideburns and squirly wallpaper inside made people laugh - and this booklet is far from being a laughing matter.

I contacted the publisher a few years ago about this and all they said was that they had received a several requests for this.. .