Apologetic Wednesday: Can You Argue Someone Into Believing In God?
Sometimes, we as Christians approach apologetics and evangelism with the mentality that we can argue someone into becoming a Christian. So we get on our soapbox and we argue for Gaw-Duh (that is said with my best televangelist accent). Recently I heard someone say, “If you can argue someone into believing in Christ, then an atheist can argue them out of believing in Christ.” It is hard to dispute that statement.
So, where exactly does that leave apologetics? Isn’t apologetics about arguing a point so hard that unbelievers are forced to raise the white flag and surrender their Christ-resisting worldview? Well, actually no, that isn’t the case at all. Apologetics is about making a case for the evidence that supports belief in God. It is about showing that faith in God is reasonable. It consists of sharing who Jesus was and why His truth claims are valid.
I Peter 3:15 is the staple verse on what apologetics entails, “But honor the Messiah as Lord in your hearts. Always be ready to give a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you.” Apologetics consist of knowing what you believe, why you believe, and the evidence to support it. It is a call to engage the mind, but it also consists of answering questions with intellectual clarity when non-believers want to inquire about our faith.
Some people have intellectual or emotional barriers to belief in God, and the use of reason and personal testimony can do much to traverse these barriers. Some people, however, do not want to consider belief in God as an option. No matter how much evidence is presented their mind will not be changed and their resolve will not be budged. Some simply are at cross purposes with who God is and want nothing to do with Him. Those who have no desire to submit to God’s authority will not be budged by any amount of evidence. John Milton, in Paradise Lost, said speaking for Satan, “It is better to rule in Hell, than serve in Heaven.” Sometimes people willingly choose to remain rebels until the end and hide behind their intellectual facade.
Jesus gave some advice for dealing with people who want nothing to do with Christianity. “If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, shake the dust off your feet when you leave that home or town.” In other words, don’t consume your energy trying to argue people into believing in God. Instead, be prepared to give a reason or defense for the hope that is in you. Some people are willing to listen. Some just need more information or evidence to overcome objections. Some are willing to follow the truth wherever it leads. This is where apologetics is of great import.
There are thousands of false ideas and philosophies that compete in the marketplace of ideas. It is the Christian apologist’s job to fight for truth and dispel false teaching because many are looking for answers. Some are desperately hungry for the truth and it is the job of the Christian to make sure they receive it.
It is also extremely important to remember that the apologist’s motivation is always love. Generally, I find that those who “argue for Jeeezus (again with the televangelist voice, sorry)” are more concerned about being right than they are about sharing the love of Christ. Sharing the reason for the hope that is within us should always be done with “gentleness and respect” (I Peter3:16) or we are wasting our time. We may have all the answers and be brilliant philosophers, but if we don’t have love for others we are just making noise like an old, out of tune piano.
We should never give up on people that are resistant or adamantly opposed to Christianity, but we must keep in mind that we cannot argue people into belief. We can only provide evidence and give reasons for what we believe and we can reflect the love of God.
He who has ears to hear, let him hear! -Matthew 11:15
Walk good. Live wise. Be blessed.