When we’re starting off in apologetics, we learn fascinating facts about the early dating of the gospels, the cosmological argument, ontological argument, or how information contained in DNA likely points to an intelligent designer.

We get excited and we want to share what we learned, thinking that our new information will finally bring that one friend, family member, or co-worker to Christ. Yet oftentimes, many become frustrated or disappointed when our apologia falls on deaf ears.

Is our aggravation due to the validity or invalidity of the arguments or information? Or are we, in our own way, trying to take credit for something that only God can do: change people.

Focus On What You Can Do

This weekend my church went over 2 Kings Ch 5 where Naaman was healed by God through Elisha. He pointed out that Elisha didn’t accept Naaman’s gifts because he didn’t want to take credit for what only God could do: bring healing.

My pastor connected Naaman’s story to Christians who try to do things that only God can do: namely, change hearts and minds. So, in trying to do something, or change someone, we usually just end up frustrating ourselves and becoming discouraged.

It is only by Christ, through the work of the Holy Spirit, that a person can be drawn to the Father (John 6:44). And, according to Paul, it is only because of Him that we are saved (“But by His doing you are in Christ Jesus…” 1 Corinthians 1:30).

As Christians, we are only responsible for our intentions, speaking the truth in love, proclaiming the Gospel, and giving reasons for our blessed hope. How people respond to that is up to God.

Tips To Remember

The first thing to remember (and what I personally often forget) is that not everyone deserves an answer. It sounds harsh, but as our very own Nate Sala states in his piece, “We need to discern who is willing to hear the truth and who is not before we fully engage.” 

The late R.C. Sproul also reminded readers in his book, “Classical Apologetics” that the unbeliever has a stake in rejecting God and some even search for reasons to reject Him because God (especially the God of the Bible) is a direct threat to their autonomy. Moreover, Sproul points out that, “Though people are not always persuaded by sound and sufficient evidence, it does not follow that the evidence is therefore insufficient…” 

Secondly, Christians should regularly revisit 1 Corinthians Chapter 1, as a good rule of thumb. In it, Paul lays down why the Gospel will be seen as either a “stumbling block” or “foolishness” to unbelievers: it was God’s intention that the means to come to God is not through human wisdom. It pleases Him that salvation comes to the world through what the world calls foolishness. (1 Corinthians 1:21)

Why?

In order so that none can boast before Him. God has chosen to save the world in the opposite way the world would expect so that none can be prideful before Him. (1 Corinthians 1:27-30)

Don’t Give Up

So what do we do then? Should we just “give up” and turn our backs on apologetics?

Absolutely not! In 1 Peter 3:15 we’re told that we are to be ready to give an answer for the hope within us. Apologetics serves a vital purpose in tearing down roadblocks.

But what I am saying is that we don’t need to put onto ourselves the added burden of trying to do only what God can do: change people.

All we are responsible for is our intentions, speaking the truth in love, proclaiming the Gospel, and giving reasons for our blessed hope. How our audience receives that information is not up to us. It’s up to God…and that’s very freeing.

So take heart and refocus. Have faith that the Holy Spirit will take your efforts and use it to His ends. Don’t let negative responses cower you into not talking about God or giving up apologetics.

Remember:

“For the word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing; but to us who are being saved, it is the power of God.” (I Cor 1:18 NASB).

5 COMMENTS

  1. Great point you’re making here, Misty! It strikes me (as well) that the 1 Corinthians passage reveals something else just as vitally important. The passage says, “For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom…” I recently reread that and wondered: Why did it please God that the world would not know Him through wisdom? I mean, wisdom certainly makes sense as a prerequisite for spiritual enlightenment!

    But then it hit me: Perhaps, if it were the case that salvation came through wisdom then it would only be available to the enlightened elites, i.e. those who had the ability and the training to reach the pinnacle of spiritual knowledge.

    But love is the basis for a true relationship with God. And you don’t have to be the smartest person or go to the best schools in order to know what love is — everyone, from all backgrounds and experiences, knows what love is. Praise God that’s how He reaches out to us! That truly is divine wisdom. 🙂

  2. The primary problem with just presenting facts/data/science is that these are always viewed through the person’s world view. Unless that view is first changed (by the Holy Spirit) they will still see facts as supporting their world view.
    It’s not an issue of Facts vs Faith it’s Faith vs Faith; the facts are the exact same facts for both persons. The interpretations of those facts are filtered either through the faith in a Creator God who made the world and all in it in 6 days and this is why everything appears to have purpose and design with intent vs the faith that there is no God and randomness over billions of years produced what only appears to be designed but could not have any purpose or intent as randomness has none by definition.

    • Very good points and I’m really starting to see what you’re talking about. I was reading a book called “Reasoning with the Unreasonable” by Matt Smith and he was talking about how the presuppositions of modern-day folks are very skeptical and their epistemology is coming from a place completely different to our own. It’s because of that, it’s why a believer and a non-believer can look at the same piece of evidence and come to two separate conclusions. In the book, he argues that our real issue engaging with non-believers is about epistemology. HA! I think you just gave me an idea for another article! Thanks so much for reading and commenting! Hope to interact with you more in the future!

  3. Love your encouragement and correction here, Misty! This is something I have to remind myself of far too often. It’s not up to me, it’s God’s work, and I’m just privileged to have a small part in it.

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