What Apologetics Cannot Accomplish

What value is there in learning Christian apologetics? What help is there in learning to defend the existence of God or the reliability of Scripture? I think there is comfort and encouragement for Christians in these things. I think that a Christian might find that such defenses can help us to gain a hearing from a skeptic who thinks we have all blindly followed something that makes no sense. So I do not assume that evidential apologetics are without value.

But, I also know that evidential apologetics are not going to bring a person to faith. In fact, if we rely too heavily on them, evidential apologetics can falsely shape our discussion with others so as to be as much of a hinderance as they could be a help.

What does God tell us about the minds of those who oppose him?

1 Corinthians 2:14 – The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned.

The natural person, this is the person not yet saved, is unable to understand the things of god. The natural person will not accept the truths of God. Why? The things that we need for salvation are truths that are spiritually discerned. It requires a true move of the Holy Spirit for a person to understand the truth of Christianity in a convincing way.

We might use apologetics well to show that there are gaps in the reasoning of those who say that they have arguments against the faith. Perhaps our arguments can get them to reconsider their opposition to the things of God. But, in truth, we must grasp that for a person to come to saving faith, it requires a work of the Spirit of God to open spiritually blinded eyes to the truth and beauty of the gospel.

At the end of the day, it is possible for two people to look at a single truth, understand it intellectually, and come to completely opposite views. One can look at the gospel, see their need, see the grace and beauty of Christ, turn from sin, cry out to god, and be saved. Another will hear the exact same gospel and find every bit of it repulsive. What is the difference? The difference is not logic or argument. The difference is the Spirit of God. To one the gospel is glory. To the other, the spiritual truth of the gospel is folly.

May we be people who engage others with conversation. May we use intelligent arguments to bring others to open their ears enough to listen to the gospel presentation. But, let us also understand that the difference between belief and rejection of the gospel, between thinking it beautiful and thinking it foolish, is the difference in having the gift of the Spirit of God making us alive or having the God of the universe leave us in our beloved autonomy.