[Latin -- more at onerous]
a : burden
b : a disagreeable necessity : obligation c : blame d : stigma
[New Latin onus (probandi), literally, burden of proving]
: burden of proof
Synonyms: blot, brand, burden, stain, slur, smirch, smudge, spot, stigma, taint
(from Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary)
So, well... I can't exactly say I didn't know what an onus was - I knew burden was a synonym, but couldn't give you a dictionary definition; however, it was definitely one of those words that I understood quite well in context. Out of curiosity, I looked up the etymology of the word... I had no idea it was in the same family as "onerous~" hmmmmm... that it contained such negative connotations... but I digress.
I started wondering because of a statement by well-known athiest, Richard Dawkins, mentioned towards the very end of Mark Mittelberg's book, The Questions Christians Hope No One Will Ask (with answers). Dawkins claims that the onus to explain Christian beliefs falls squarely on the shoulder of Christians. Sadly, instead of Jesus followers excited at this God-given occasion to share God's life-changing message with those who have questions or who don't believe, many Christians run from these encounters because it is to them an onus - a burden, a disagreeable necessity, an obligation. That is the very purpose of this book: to excite and encourage believers about this opportunit,y equiping them with information and then strategies for how to take hard questions and move from a defensive burden of proof stance to a compelling presentation of God's plan of salvation. After all, to quote one of my absolute favorite books, "...sometimes when you begin to wonder, you begin to make things happen."
Mittleberg is careful to make the point several times throughout the book that we need not be afraid of seekers asking questions... that means things are happening and the Holy Spirit is working. Always being prepared to give an answer for the hope that is within us is a biblical command, not something to avoid. So he tackles the perceived most difficult questions, as determined by The Barna Group in a national poll:
*Why are Christians so judgemental?
*Why trust the Bible? It's full of myths?
*How could a good God allow so much suffering?
*What makes you so sure God even exists?
*Why do you condemn homosexuals?
*Sure, Jesus was a good man. Why make him into the Son of God, too?
*Why should I believe heaven and hell exist?
*Christians are hypocrites - so why should I listen to you?
*Why are Christians so obsessed with abortion?
*Didn't evolution put God out of a job?
I appreciated Mittleberg's grace filled approach to talking with questionners, his ever-present focus on revealing Christ as the ONLY Way, Truth and Life and especially the fact that he doesn't shy away from the fact of naming sin as sin. The following two paragraphs I found very representative of the tone of the entire book:
"...don't focus on trying to reform people from the outside in, but rather on sharing the life-changing gospel, which reforms us all from the inside out. People usually come to Christ by responding to the general message of God's love and Jesus' payment for their sins on the cross - then the Holy Spirit begins to indwell them, applying the teachings of the Bible and guiding them into his fuller truth and a lifestyle marked by purity. All of us must 'come to Christ as we are' - often with mistaken ideas and messed-up morals. But that's what grace is for! That's what the sanctification process is designed to deal with. What God looks for is a humble, contrite heart from a person who is willing to be made new."
"We must not ignore or excuse sin. Equally, we must keep it in the right perspective - whatever it is, whether of a sexual nature or something else - knowing that 'when we were utterly helpless, Christ came at just the right time and died for us sinners' (Rom. 5:6). He 'justifies the widked' (Rom. 4:5, NIV), not the people who think they're all right without him. His specialty is dealing with rebels like us in order to root out the moral decay in our lives and to conform us to the image of Christ."
I highly recommend Questions... to all. With a focus on preparation, proximity and especially prayer as keys to sharing this message, Mittleberg emphasises that all efforts to communicate God's message to others are ultimately dependent on Him. Even if most of the information is already well-known to you, it is encouraging and challenging to see how gently moving from defense to offense gives amazing opportunity to openly share God's Word and His plan and then watch as the Holy Spirit acts in the lives of friends, seekers, and questionners. This book is sure to challenge any follower of Jesus as well.
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Tyndale as a part of their Book Review Blogger program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 244: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and and Testimonials in Advertising."