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.
Josh

18 Comments

  • efchristi says:

    A soft response turns away wrath.

    Walk daily with God at your side.

    Ed

  • chrisgagner says:

    A friend and I were just discussing this the other day. Much like the two men who saw Jesus after his resurrection but didn’t recognize him, we won’t recognize Christ for who he is until God opens our eyes (Luke 24). I’ve found that when two people debate, the come out at the other end agreeing with their own opinion more. We need to pray that God will open their eyes to the truth, and share the truth with them in love.

    • Josh Fults says:

      I absolutely agree. People must be willing to receive what God has to say before God can work in their lives. “We need to pray that God will open their eyes to the truth, and share the truth with them in love.” That is the heart of sharing the Gospel.

      I do think debate in the traditional sense has it’s place. In Acts 17, Paul debates the Greek Philosophers at Mars Hill pretty vigorously, but as you said, his motivation was love. Debate can be functional when done with “gentleness and respect.” When two people that disagree can discuss their differences without becoming abrasive in serves to enlighten and can reveal holes in our thinking that need to be adjusted. We can give an argument without arguing and a defense without being defensive.

      Thanks so much for reading and sharing your thoughts. You are right on friend.

  • Faithrises says:

    I really enjoy your blog and I’ve nominated you for the Versatile Blogger Award! Please visit @faithrises.com for more information. Blessings to you!!

  • “No one ever converted to Christianity
    because they lost the argument.”
    – Phillip Yancey

  • I’m going to repost this on my blog because you’ve said exactly what I’ve gotten the impression of about debates and apologetics. I’m definitely all for knowing why we believe and explaining it, but there’s no point trying to prove what God has left in the realm of faith during this life.

    • Josh Fults says:

      Yea, I think it is a fine line. I think we, as Christians, need to show that faith is reasonable and an intellectually tenable position. I also think debates are healthy because it shows the public that Christianity has relevance in the marketplace of ideas. So giving a reason, showing that Christians are not kool-aid drinking simpletons, and giving rational debate are all positive. The problem comes when Christians become attack dogs and try to argue other people out of their worldview. I say, let’s present the facts, love the world, serve others, and let God work!

      Thanks so much for your comment and for taking the time to read. Feel free to repost anytime!

  • I love the way you spoke on the whole thing, and that you used what Jesus said about brushing the dust off your feet when they don’t want to hear. It never does any good to keep arguing the point, for your own soul especially, because you end up giving Satan a foothold through anger and frustration. Speaking in love and understanding is always the way Jesus reached out to others and we should be imitators of Christ in this.

  • Robert says:

    I have come to look at apologetics a different way. It is most certainly a good tool for answering the arguments brought by unbelievers. But, the fruit of that is not usually to convert the skeptic but to strengthen the faith of the believer. It builds a Christian’s knowledge of God, growing it ever deeper as questions are raised, investigated, and (usually) answered.

    • Josh Fults says:

      I whole-hardheartedly agree with you. I think it does a great deal to strengthen the faith of believers. It has been crucial in my own life. I have turned to apologetics repeatedly to help me through certain questions and struggles.

      I also believe that apologetics and evangelism go hand in hand. As admonished in I Peter 3:15 we should always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks us for a reason for the hope that we have.

      I believe both of these reasons are of extreme importance. Believers must continue to demolish strongholds on the mind that hinder people from the truth of God’s word, both within Christianity and without.

      Today’s guest post has more to say on this topic. http://joshfults.com/2012/04/25/why-apologetics/

      Thank you so much for stopping by and sharing your thoughts with us!

  • I visited this site for the first time today, 4-25-13. Funny I followed a link to this post because one of the weaknesses of the mainline church in America today is the near absence of effective apologetics. I began a sermon series on this topic at my church in March (2013) which is till going. I invite you to see my post, “Why we should apologize for Christian faith.”

    • Josh Fults says:

      You are right my friend. Right now, I see a resurgence in Apologetics and it greatly excites me!! I would also encourage you to check out my friend Greg’s page, http://www.thepoachedegg.net Thanks for visiting. I checked out your blog too! Keep writing and serving! Blessings friend!

  • Edmund says:

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  • […] This was written by my friend Josh Fults at Walk Good […]

  • Jeff Miller says:

    There is a time and a place for apologetics. We have to be able to discern who, what, when and where it is appropriate. There are plenty of Proverbs about speaking to fools (God’s words, not mine) and there’s the passage in the Gospels about casting pearls before swine (Jesus’ words, not mine).

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