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,”