How should we attempt to reason with unbelievers? How many points of connection should we hope to make with the unregenerate? I know we need to be ready to give an answer for the reason of the hope that is within us, but does that mean we must justify it on the grounds that unbelievers set forth?
I am all for giving reasons why we believe what we believe, but think we must guard against exalting logic above that of God’s revelation of Himself. When we begin to use logic, in the stead of dependence upon The Holy Spirit, to convert the unbeliever we commit a error – two of which are.
1. We deny what Scripture teaches about the depravity of man, and insist that man is capable of reaching the conclusion that the claims of Scripture are true if he is just given enough intellectual impetus to stop fighting the truth. When we do this, we are actually appealing to a higher standard than Scripture. If the veracity of Scripture is not accepted unless another source verifies it then that other source takes precedence over Scripture. The other sources are useful, and it shows that Scripture is accurate in it’s records – it is not that I am saying we should not employ archeology, history, and the like at all – but outside sources are not to be the determiner of whether we believe Scripture or not. The Word of God is believed to be such by Christians because they hear the voice of The Shepherd in it. The Holy Spirit grants a conviction that it is what it claims to be. Thus when presenting the truth of Scripture to the unregenerate we must proclaim the truths of God as they are – authoritative. To appeal to any outside source to try to convince them to accept the truth we are actually diminishing the truth we are attempting to proclaim.
2. We deny the Holy Spirit’s power to regenerate the unregenerate. This lack of faith has led to inflated stories, or just plain fabrications, in order to sway a person to accept what is being said. We think that unless we can give the unregenerate something he can identify with somehow then he will not believe. Sometimes this desire to identify is so great that we even leave out bits of truth thinking that if we can get them to accept some of the truth we can work in the rest; or we just don’t want to scare them off, so we don’t give them the whole truth.
This can lead to personal issues within the thinking of the believer as well. For once an outside source is set as authoritative over Scripture then all of Scripture must be in a constant state of scrutiny. This is different than our approaching Scripture always with an understanding that our preconceived notions of what it teaches may need to be changed. This scrutiny is of the Bible itself. It is a constant wondering if it is correct seeing as “science” seems to contradict it or at least give seemingly believable explanations for things. Or if we appeal to archeology then there is always not quite enough evidence to “exactly” prove the veracity of Scripture. This leads the Christian on a search to prove what doesn’t need proving. Eventually faith will dissipates and we want explanations for everything and begin to hold Scripture in suspicion unless we can prove to the unbeliever’s satisfaction that it is true.
Extra biblical sources are good, but they are never effective in converting an individual. They may provide hurdles for an unregenerate man to jump over, but he will jump over them. Extra biblical sources provide data that can be interpreted by one’s presupposition. For example – we see order in the universe and patterns in nature. The Biblicists says it evidences it’s Creator, the unregenerate will claim it is a process of billions of years of evolutionary sequences. We see a consistent morality in every human as evidence of God’s law written on their heart, the unregenerate may give evolution as an answer to that, or just social traditions passed down as the reason for morality. We must give them God’s truth as the primary authority.
We are to employ apologetics; we are to reason with men (for our faith is reasonable – contrary to the popular opinion of unbelievers), but we are to reason from the Scriptures. We reason with the Scriptures as our foundation, rather than reason being our starting point in trying to prove the Scriptures true.
The reformers called it “Sola Scriptura”. The Holy Spirit inspired Luke to pen it this way in Acts 17:2: “And according to Paul’s custom, he went to them, and for three Sabbaths reasoned with them from the Scriptures,”
In a group discussion a couple days ago, a statement was made that we should not think we have to give reasoned arguments for why we hold something to be true. It was submitted that we should just unashamedly proclaim the truth and not worry as to arguing the veracity of our claims. I believe this to be faulty thinking. As a Calvinist, I firmly believe that those whom God has chosen to save will most certainly be saved in His time – that these believers will NEVER fall away as they are kept by the power of God.
I do not believe that this negates the importance of apologetics (giving a defense or proof or reason of a held position).
Let me substantiate my claim – in other words; permit me to employ apologetics in defending the need for apologetics. (No! This isn’t circular reasoning, rather serves as an illustration in itself.)
– God The Father used apologetics. God’s mode of operation was to give signs for His prophets to perform in the midst of the people they were sent to so as to validate that what they were saying was legitimately “Thus saith The LORD!” Even in Isaiah 40-41 God gives reasons why He is not to be doubted. In chapter 41:21 God then demands of the false gods a defense to substantiate their claim – “’Present your case,’ the LORD says. ‘Bring forward your strong arguments,’”
– Jesus Christ employed apologetics. In John 10:25 He said, “Jesus answered them, “I told you, and you do not believe; the works that I do in My Father’s name, these testify of Me.” Jesus did not just come on the scene and make unsubstantiated claims to Deity. He backed up His words with substantial evidence. Now granted, men must be regenerated before they will believe the truth of Jesus (another topic for another day), and Jesus is fully aware of this; yet He still doesn’t fail to give proof of His claims.
– The apostles employed apologetics. Peter – 2 Peter 1:16, The author of Hebrews – Hebrews 2:4, Paul – 2 Corinthians 12:11-12, Luke cites proof God gave to confirm His message through His apostles – Acts 17:2, John – 1 John 1:1-3. Each of these men gives evidence to support the veracity of what they claim. They don’t expect their audience to believe them just because they say to believe it.
– We are commanded in Scripture to employ apologetics. 1 Peter 3:15 commands us to be prepared to give a defense of the hope that is in us. When people ask us for a reason of belief then we are expected to explain the grounds of our belief. This will increase as we grow in the knowledge of our LORD, but it is something that is expected of us. We are not commanded to convince them by our grounds of belief, but we are commanded to be able to give a defense for them.
– God requires of us that we use our minds. Matthew 22:37 There are two ditches on the intillectual path. One is to rely on nothing save the mind… not a good idea! The other is to so devalue the mind that for one to ask basic questions to learn he is labeled an unbeliever or heretic. How are we to love Him with all our minds when refuse to employ them?
– Christianity is naturally suited for it, as it is founded upon a historical event. Paul makes this very clear in 1 Corinthians 15. If Jesus is not literally resurrected from the dead then we Christians have nothing, but a hollow belief that we will live forever, but nothing substantial to base that on. We are miserably wrong if it isn’t fact; but Paul goes on to assure us that Jesus’ resurrection is a fact
– Intellectual dishonesty is a breach of the 9th commandment. “Thou shalt not bear false witness”. Paul tells the Thessalonians that when an individual said they had a word from God to”examine everything carefully; hold fast to that which is good;” (I Thess. 5:21) It seems that many today are fearful to permit their faith to be examined. A faith that can’t be tested can’t be trusted. God is the creator of all things, so we need not be afraid to engage in scientific research. God is truth, so we need not fear that history, or archeology will ever contradict the Almighty potentate. He is LORD of history. To blindly hold to something without any evidence to support your belief is not spiritual, it’s delusional! To refuse to examine your belief system in light of truth and still claim for it to be true is intellectually dishonest – what you believe may in fact be true regardless, but refusing to hold it to the light out of fear of it not being substantiated and still claim it as such is a lie.
– Faith without evidence is stupidity. 2 Peter 1:16, if I may call on this text again, reminds us that what was being proclaimed to the people was done so upon sound fact. Evidence was cited to encourage the people being addressed that they were not being duped into a lie. Now I’m not advocating that one is not to believe a thing unless absolute certainty is obtained. This negates faith, as well as is self defeating for we never have absolute certainty about anything (apart from faith I might add). We trust the brakes in our vehicle. We know they have not failed us to this point and so we go careening down the interstate at 70 MPH (okay, sometimes more than that) and have faith that our brakes will stop us when we need to do so. Now we don’t actually have 100% certainty that they will work this time. They could fail. Although they haven’t yet, this one time could be the straw that broke the camel’s back. Although we don’t absolutely KNOW they will work when the time comes, we believe that they will. If one were to treat his breaks like skeptics expect all people to treat Christianity then we would never drive anywhere. So it is, with faith. Faith is only as beneficial as the object in which it is placed. And one can tell whether faith is misplaced by evidence. What am I trying to say? It’s a bad idea to trust a liar, and it’s not a good idea to distrust a man who is known for his honesty. Don’t be stupid. But hear me out – I’m not saying that before one can trust in the finished work of Jesus he must be an expert in textual criticism. At regeneration the evidence that convinces one of the veracity of the gospel is the work of The Holy Spirit (His working is also what convinces men to accept other arguments for the truthfulness of Scripture). I’m saying that faith begins like a child believing his father about a matter. The Holy convinces us of it, and although we can’t answer all the critics right off, we do know in our hearts that what God says of us is true and what He says of Christ is true. We believe Him. The working of the Holy Spirit is subjective proof as we can’t manifest that to someone else, yet we know deep down what we have experienced. The external proofs are simply confirmation that encourage us that we are interpreting our internal experience properly.
– Faith is to increase. This can only happen in proportion to the knowledge of the object of one’s faith. Paul cites the stalwart of his faith is Jesus (2 Timothy 1:12). Faith is not this positive feeling we try to cling to that everything will be alright, we just have to stick it out – and when asked how we know this the answer pretty much amounts to an “it has to pan out in the end”. When I speak of faith increasing, I do not mean that fuzzy feeling that day has to break eventually increases. True faith is as firm as the understanding of the object or person that faith is in. For our faith to increase our knowledge of God and His works among the children of men must increase. This is a benefit to studying world history, science, etc. Our faith in God’s Word is increased as we see even more archeological discoveries, and historical documents that verify its recordings. It’s like my child believing God is real and the Bible is God’s Word because I say so. His faith in God, at this stage in his life, is based on his faith in me. He trusts me, that I would not lie to him. If his faith is to grow, he must learn more of the God he believes in, instead. Now it’s not that he didn’t really believe as a child that what I told him was true, it’s that as he becomes older he has to make it more of his own. I suppose it is possible for, “Because my daddy said so” to be the only thing his faith is anchored in, but if there is nothing more for him to cling to then he will be stunted DRASTICALLY; and chances are that if his faith isn’t rooted in substance then he will wilt and die – proving that his faith was spurious to begin with! (Something we see in Jesus’ parable about the varying soils.) I think the apostasy rate in our churches is due, to a large degree, of the fact that we are not teaching people as God would have us do. “Take care, brethren, that there not be in any one of you an evil, unbelieving heart that falls away from the living God. But encourage one another day after day, as long as it is still called “Today,” so that none of you will be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. For we have become partakers of Christ, if we hold fast the beginning of our assurance firm until the end, ” Hebrews 3:12-14 We are never told that a true believer will never doubt, rather we are told that he will persevere. Apologetics is part of that perseverance.
The God that ordains the ends ordains the means to that ends. If a carpenter wishes a nail to be driven into a board, he must use a hammer (or some other tool) to nail it in. If God intends to bring a person to faith then that person must come in contact with the gospel. And if God will not let one of His children fall away, then there is a means by which He keeps them as well. Just as the reason we give the gospel. They must hear before they can respond to it. Apologetics will not argue a man from enmity to reconciliation, but it does serve as a warning sign that if they persist it is due to their own unbelieving heart, not to any lack of evidence on God’s part. The problem isn’t that we don’t have enough light, rather we hate the light. At any rate, we need never cease shining the light – apologetics is a way to do just that.
Also, apologetics has served to strengthen my faith. As I study God’s Word, and see it’s claims not only attested by The Holy Spirit, but also in history, archeology, and the like, my faith is deepened all the more. The more I look at His Word, the more I am assured that my faith is not in vain!
For the reasons given here, I am un-apologetically apologetic.