Book Review: “Questioning Evangelism” by Randy Newman

Newman, Randy. Questioning Evangelism: Engaging People’s Hearts the Way Jesus Did. Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Publications, 2004. 269. Available on Amazon.

Questioning Evangelism: Summary

Campus Crusade minister Randy Newman models evangelism on the example of Jesus from the gospels. Newman focuses on the “rabbinic evangelism” of Jesus and the engaging questions Jesus asked to disarm his challengers and reveal their hypocrisies (Newman 2004, 29-32). Newman first explains the benefits of “rabbinic evangelism” and “Solomonic wisdom” because engaging in gospel dialogue avoids arguments (particularly with fools), guards our speech, and treats individuals as souls with an eternal destiny and not as a mere statistic (Newman 2004, 15; 42-49). Having explained rabbinic evangelism, Newman applies the model to the classes of difficult questions asked by unbelievers from the problem of evil, homosexuality, and the “intolerance” of Christians (Newman 2004, 101-122; 143-164; 190-207). Throughout his treatise, Newman provides wise ways to handle difficult, gospel-centered conversations amidst the compassion we should have for our lost neighbors.

Questioning Evangelism: Strengths

Rabbinic evangelism seems the most practicable way to think and act like a missionary in the workplace, school setting, and neighborhood. Per his thesis, Newman provides numerous ways of engaging unbelievers and turning conversations towards the gospel, as well as sample dialogues of the most difficult issues facing evangelists today (ex. homosexuality). Newman acknowledges the cultural difficulties in engaging unbelievers with the gospel and gleams principles from the Gospels and Proverbs in order to cultivate relationships with unbelievers (Newman 2004, 45). Newman does not sugarcoat these difficulties, but ties each of them back to man’s sin and God’s mercy in sending us Christ (Newman 2004, 80-81, 148). Newman presents the “Creation, Fall, Redemption, Consummation” storytelling paradigm as an engaging way to explain the gospel in a postmodern culture obsessed with hero stories (Newman 2004, 136-142). As strengths, Newman excels in addressing difficult issues raised by nonbelievers, answering these questions with biblical wisdom, and tying such issues back to the gospel. 

Questioning Evangelism: Weaknesses

As an evangelistic approach, rabbinic evangelism can illuminate the inconsistency of unbelievers and transition conversations to the gospel. As an evangelistic methodology, however, Newman’s treatise seems well adapted to college campuses where ideas are freely exchanged among students and may not work well in other contexts. One cannot simply transplant Jesus’ model of evangelism into our contemporary context. Jesus knew the answers to the questions He posed to the Pharisees, and had perfect composure and confidence in His divine mission to deal with unbelievers. Newman, moreover, does not address the fear of man that erodes the confidence Christians should have when engaging unbelievers in gospel-centered dialogue. Lastly, the ease with which Newman’s approach may be implemented, in terms of asking questions to identify hypocrisy, may be its own best critique: the gospel is offensive and asking questions may motivate evangelists to avoid a difficult but necessary confrontation. As weaknesses, Newman’s model may not translate well out of the context of college campuses and does not adequately treat the fear of man hindering evangelism, while rabbinic evangelism may simply evade the difficult prospect of challenging unbelievers should the need arise.

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