Is Apologetics Enough?

Is apologetics enough?  As you can probably imagine, I hold the study of apologetics in high regards.  So much so that I started my own blog, website and podcast.  I spend a good portion of my free time offering evidence for the Christian worldview.  

But as I’ve traveled down this path of learning and teaching apologetics, I’ve become aware that apologetics isn’t always enough to convince people of the truth of Christianity.  Many people claim that their opposition to Christianity is intellectual.  They will sound off with all sorts of objections to God’s existence, His moral character or the unreliability of the Bible. 

Making The Case

I can offer up reasonable answers to all of the above objection.  And people much smarter than I have also answered objections to Christianity.  We’ve put forward a good case.  And I think there are significant and irreconcilable problems with a purely naturalistic explanation of the universe, the origin of life and the existence of objective moral standards.  

What Jury Duty Can Show Us

On our podcast I recently told the story of my jury duty experience last year.  You can listen to the podcast at this link.  In the episode, I recount how even though there was overwhelming evidence to convict the defendant in our case, the jury had a rough time coming to a decision.  One person refused to commit to a verdict.  

The lone holdout didn’t want to come to a decision.  They had emotional reasons why they didn’t want to convict the defendant in our case.  And the emotional reasons made them hold out even in the case of overwhelming evidence of the defendant’s guilt. I see a similar situation when we make the case for Christianity. 

When Reasoning Doesn’t Work

As apologists, we can sometimes believe that all we need to do is give the perfect answer.  We overload the people with information.  We quote statistics, logical arguments and textual criticism.  But what we often fail to understand, and I’m guilty of this as well, is that sometimes lack of information isn’t the problem. Sometimes, just like the person serving with me on jury duty, there are emotional reasons at work.

I’m getting better at spotting these people.  I can usually tell pretty early in the conversation whether or not the thing keeping the person from accepting Jesus is evidential or emotional reasoning. This has caused me to change my approach in how I interact with people.

I’m not saying that I won’t interact with someone in that second category. I think that often if we can clear away intellectual objections, we can get to the emotional reasons for rejecting God.  The key is to recognize when this is the case, and adjust your strategy accordingly.  So, what are the warning signs you are interacting with someone with an emotional objection to Christianity? 

Here are a few things to look for that might help you identify someone with an emotional rejection of Christianity:

Overreacting To Basic Arguments

If you make a simple argument for the existence of God and it elicits a response that is out of proportion to the conversation, this can be a warning sign.  I’ve made many seemingly innocuous statements that have elicited sever over reactions.  If I offer up a piece of archeological evidence, and my conversation partner explodes about how intolerant Christians are, it sets off alarm bells in my head.  I’m going to change my approach. 

Assigning Motives

When I’m making an argument, and am accused of having an ulterior motive, I take it as a warning sign.  I of course do have a motive, and that is to reach people with the Gospel.  But some of the motives that are assigned to me simply don’t apply and don’t make any sense.  I don’t make money off of this website or podcast.  I don’t have a deep desire to brain wash people, and I don’t hope that all women die because I oppose abortion.  

Refusal To Engage

There are some people that simply won’t engage with you in a conversation about religion.  Perhaps they’ve been hurt in the past by a Christian or a church member.  They may have had a bad experience with conversations in the past.  There may be a behavior they engage in that they think disqualifies them from Christianity.  Whatever the reason, you just can’t get them to interact with you on the most basic of questions.  

If you run across any of the above situations, you’re going to have to use some discernment on whether or not to continue the conversation.  in the case of anger or hostility, it’s probably best to back off.  Continue in prayer for the person, and look for opportunities at a later date.

In the case of people that won’t engage with you, just continue being their friend.  This should be a genuine friendship, and not one with the only goal of winning someone to the Kingdom.  If you are not genuinely interested in someone, it will be easy to spot.  People will know where you stand.  You’d be surprised how often they seek an answer from you without being prompted! 

A Final Thought

The key in all of this is to keep your composure and maintain control of your emotions.  It’s easy to get mad when you’re attacked or assigned motives you don’t have. Resist the temptation to lash out.  It almost never works.  You will only drive the wedge in deeper, and probably walk away with a bad feeling about how you handled the situation.  Use discernment on where you are spending your time and offer sincere prayers for those who may be struggling with emotional resistance to the Gospel.   

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