Have you ever asked yourself why you bother?
Have you ever wondered why the apologetic arguments you bring aren’t more effective?
Have you ever become tired of repeating the same arguments until, eventoyou, they become less compelling and you wonder if there might be a better way, a more effective way?
Of course, you still believe fervently but, after all, if these “proofs” are so compelling, why don’t more people respond in faith? Are there, perhaps, better arguments, better proofs, for the truths of God?
We are often asked for a key text to use in witnessing. When we point out it isn’t as simple as that, people readily acknowledge that we are right, of course – but they still want that “killer” text that would stop a non-believer in their tracks and bring them to God.
There is nothing wrong with the proofs we faithfully bring. The problem lies with the people to whom we bring our proofs. Take the classic atheist. You can run through a gamut of proofs for the existence of God and seem not to have chipped the surface of their scepticism. You can argue that since everything changes, and that change is always effected by a prior cause, there must be, therefore, an unchanging first cause – God.
You can argue that the universe displays evidence of design. Since the evidence is overwhelmingly on the side of design, there must be a designer – God. You can argue from intelligence, from the fact that, while, nature is not self-knowing, yet man, knows himself and knows nature. The intelligence by which we can “know” is itself the product of a higher intelligence – God. You can share all these things and more, but, to no effect because of the nature of the atheist.
You see, the atheist has a vested interest in the non-existence of God. It suits him to live in a universe where God does not exist and he, the atheist, is top of the tree. The Bible says of such:
“They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshipped and served created things rather than the Creator” (Ro.1:25).
If the created order is the greatest expression of glory, and man is at the top of that order, man is glorified. But Paul goes on to write that it is the Creator “who is forever praised”. The atheist cannot have this.
The Jehovah’s Witness
Or take the typical Jehovah’s Witness. You can point out that Rev.3:14 plainly means that Jesus is the Architect, or Origin, of creation and not the first to be created.
You can point out that in John 20:28 Jesus is clearly glad that Thomas called Him “My Lord, and My God”.
You can discuss the fact that in John 5:16-23 Jesus is “making Himself equal with God”, claims to be our Judge, and demands equal honour with the Father.
You can share all these things but apparently have no effect because of the nature of the Jehovah’s Witness. Paul warned the Colossian believers:
“See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ.” (Col.2:8)
You see, the typical cult panders to the pride of man by replacing the truth of Christ with human tradition and philosophy which man can master. This in turn gives man control over man, as it seems, with special knowledge, exclusive right of way to truth, and censure over all who do not obediently follow. Paul goes on to write that,
“You have been given fullness in Christ, who is the Head over every power and authority” (Col.2:10).
All we need is supplied in Christ but the cultist cannot give up control and submit to Christ.
Or take the average Mormon. You can point out from Ro.3:21-27 that,
“a man is justified by faith apart from observing the law”
and all their attempts to be “saved by obedience” (Mormon 3rd Article of Faith) are fruitless.
You can point out that when Christ died on the Cross,
“the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom” (Matt.27:51),
“through Him we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand” (Ro.5:2),
and their temple programme is rebuilding what Christ fulfilled and replaced. You can argue that God Himself has declared:
“before Me no god was formed, nor will there be one after me…You are my witnesses. Is there any God besides Me? No, there is no other Rock; I know not one” (Isaiah 43:10;44:8),
and that their notion that “As man is God once was, as God is man may become” is folly. You can point out these things and yet not shake the faith of a Mormon.
As with the Jehovah’s Witness, the Mormon religion replaces Christ’s truth with man’s philosophy, and for the same reasons. Man’s pride convinces him that he can at least contribute to his own salvation.
Man’s predilection for mysteries, secrets and control make the temples of Mormonism and their initiatory nature very attractive. Furthermore, Mormonism is only a recent incarnation of the oldest heresy in the world:
“You will not surely die…For God knows that when you eat of it (partake of this knowledge, submit to this way and participate in this initiation) your eyes will be opened and you will be like God, knowing good and evil” (Genesis 3:4-5).
Man is in open rebellion against God and, whether it is the open denial of the atheist, or the religious deception of the counterfeit, it is all the same to God.
Then why DO we bother?
We have said before that you cannot reason someone into becoming a Christian and that:
“Our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms” (Eph.6:10).
However, apologetics is an essential teaching tool.
First, it helps us remove some of the obstacles to faith. How often have we heard that each witnessing event sees a seed planted, and who knows how many apologists reasoned from the scriptures and from life before someone was ready to hear? When people are ready to hear the gospel they, like the Ethiopian eunuch in Acts 8, will be full of questions and expectantly looking for answers.
Who knows what God will use to affirm his truth in the heart of another? And when someone comes to faith we can help them understand the “reason to believe” we all share. The Christian walk always leads us on to fresh questions, from the cry of the jailer in Acts 16,
“What must I do to be saved?”
to the question of the eunuch,
“Why shouldn’t I be baptised?”
to the questions of Jesus’ disciples – What does this
parable mean? What sort of man is this that even the winds and the waves obey him?
Conviction and conversion are gifts from God, not simply logical positions we arrive at by reason. Therefore, we need to pray in the Spirit on all occasions. They are miracles, and they need to be to overcome man’s fallen, rebellious nature.
However, God’s creation and purposes are reasoned and intelligent, even if not intelligible to those who deny him. God’s ways are perfect and He has made them known. They are marvellous, not magical; miraculous, not incredible; intelligent, not implausible.
Those of us who are privileged to have had them revealed are responsible for making them known. One solidly Biblical way of doing this is by a reasoned defence of the truth. Press on.