In my previous post, I said that since God’s truth is true, we can and should defend it against those who would call it a lie. We should argue against those opinions that people hold up as obstacles to believing.

But having said that, we have to understand that we will never argue someone into believing. I have yet to hear of a single person that converted to Christianity because he lost a debate. People just don’t work that way.

Many people today will say that their objection to the faith is intellectual. “I’m not going to turn off my brain in order to put my faith in something that I know isn’t true.” Or, “It defies all logic to believe in something supernatural.” When we encounter intellectual objections to Christianity, I believe that we have a responsibility to demonstrate that Christianity is not false or illogical (see my previous post). But most people use the “intellectual suicide” thing as an excuse.

In reality, following Jesus requires everything. It requires laying down your life, sacrificing your best laid plans, recognizing that Another is the center of everything. So even if we can convince someone that Christianity is not illogical—even if we convince her that the biblical worldview is the best explanation for our world as we experience it—she still has to make the choice to lay down her life, take up her cross, and follow Jesus. You can’t argue someone into that.

And then there’s the whole matter of regeneration. People don’t need more information, they need the Spirit of God to come inside of them and make them alive. Salvation is not about being intellectually persuaded, it’s about God taking a dead heart and giving it life:

“‘It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is no help at all. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life. But there are some of you who do not believe.’ (For Jesus knew from the beginning who those were who did not believe, and who it was who would betray him.) And he said, ‘This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by the Father.’” (John 6:63-65)

We must never forget that we are not the savior of anyone. What God calls us to is faithfulness. We can and should be faithful witnesses to who God is and what he is doing in and around us. And God can and often does use such faithful witness to show people who he is. But you are the witness, not the savior. You can point someone to Jesus, but only Jesus can save him.

So argue away (when it’s appropriate and in a gentle manner), but understand that you are entirely dependent on God when it comes to that person’s salvation. We don’t know what God will use to change a person’s heart. (I heard that R. C. Sproul converted after reading Ecclesiastes 11:3, “if a tree falls to the south or to the north, in the place where the tree falls, there it will lie.”) Our responsibility is to live faithful, godly lives and allow God to use us when and how he wants to.

For tomorrow: apologetics requires compassion.

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Mark Beuving

Mark Beuving currently serves as Associate Pastor at Creekside Church in Rocklin, CA. Prior to going back into pastoral ministry, Mark spent ten years on staff at Eternity Bible College as a Campus Pastor, Dean of Students, and then Associate Professor. Mark now teaches online adjunct for Eternity. He is passionate about building up the body of Christ, training future leaders for the Church, and writing. Though he is interested in many areas of theology and philosophy, Mark is most fascinated with practical theology and exploring the many ways in which the Bible can speak to and transform our world. He is the author of “Resonate: Enjoying God’s Gift of Music” and the co-author with Francis Chan of “Multiply: Disciples Making Disciples.” Mark lives in Rocklin with his wife and two daughters.