You Winsome? You’ll Lose Some

By Donald Williams Published on September 15, 2023

Apparently, the word winsome has become a bone of contention in the Christian subculture. What? Where did that come from?

Some popular preachers and apologists using that term to describe their approach have conceded legitimacy to “woke” perspectives or social-justice warriors, and have done so in ways that are ultimately incompatible with the biblical worldview. In their efforts to avoid giving offense, they set themselves up for compromise.

Now, as a result, anyone who uses the word “winsome” or talks about trying to make clear why the Gospel should be attractive or appealing to non-Christians is suspected of compromise. Well, there is a right way and a wrong way to do that, but the distinction gets lost in the kerfuffle.

Don’t Lose Jesus in the Kerfuffle

Hence we get two sides we are seeing now. To one side, a “winsome” approach seems to connote a simpering attempt to defang the Gospel and make it palatable to sinners rather than boldly proclaiming it. To them, it brands the user as squeamish about accepting the offense of the Gospel at best, a Spirit-of-the-Age-loving accommodationist at worst.

To the other side, it seems as if the first group think we are not being faithful unless we are rude and obnoxious. The original issue — whether actual compromise is taking place — easily recedes into the background.

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Posts on social media by both factions are replete with selectively quoted Scripture to prove that Jesus was a Nice Person or a Bad***. They’re filled with horror stories about people abusing the art of witness either by practicing winsomeness or not. I’ve no doubt that some of the stories on both sides are true.

Well, we can surely err on either side of that divide. We should surely avoid either error. We must be prepared to give offense while never giving the world any legitimate excuse for taking offense. And we could leave it at that if common sense had any sway at all with contemporary Evangelical Christians.

It doesn’t.

“Good Grief!”

Do we really not understand what is happening here? Satan’s old strategy of goading us into polarization over whatever issue is paying off for him yet again. It’s a double whammy for his kingdom: We waste our time arguing with each other and destroy our credibility while doing so.

And so we end up wasting our energy arguing over a word instead of being the right kind of winsome or the right kind of bold.

Seriously, people? We’re going to fall for that trick again?

As that great theologian Charlie Brown would say, “Good grief!”

 

Donald T. Williams, PhD, is Professor Emeritus of Toccoa Falls College. A border dweller, he stays permanently camped out on the borders between serious scholarship and pastoral ministry, theology and literature, Narnia and Middle-Earth. He is the author of fourteen books, including Answers from Aslan: The Enduring Apologetics of C. S. Lewis.

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