I am not convinced that our apology, as well stated as it might be, can convert anyone. But I like what Gteg Kokl says. Don’t try to convert anyone. Just leave a stone in their shoe. . .
I think Koukl puts it well in Tactics. He agrees that apologetics, on their own, cannot convert someone. But then he argues:
If you are tempted to think this way, let me say something that may shock you: You cannot love someone into the kingdom. It can’t be done. In fact, the simple gospel itself is not even adequate to do that job.
How do I know? Because many people who were treated with sacrificial love and kindness by Christians never surrendered to the Savior. Many who have heard a clear explanation of God’s gift in Christ never put their trust in him.
In each case something was missing that, when present, always results in conversion. What’s missing is that special work of the Father that Jesus referred to, drawing a lost soul into his arms. Of this work Jesus also said, “Of all that He has given Me I lose nothing, but raise it up on the last day” (John 6:39).
According to Jesus, then, two things are true. First, there is a particular work of God that is necessary to bring someone into the kingdom. Second, when present, this work cannot fail to accomplish its goal. Without the work of the Spirit, no argument — no matter how persuasive — will be effective. But neither will any act of love nor any simple presentation of the gospel. Add the Spirit, though, and the equation changes dramatically.
Here’s the key principle: Without God’s work, nothing else works; but with God’s work, many things work. Under the influence of the Holy Spirit, love persuades. By the power of God, the gospel transforms. And with Jesus at work, arguments convince. God is happy to use each of these methods (p. 36).
I think there’s a brilliant clarity to Koukl’s argument. In American churches, I have heard many, many Christians argue (ironically) that arguments cannot convert someone - only the Holy Spirit can. But then they ignore this same logic when they argue that we should ‘just’ preach the gospel or love people. Why preach the gospel or love people if those works cannot convert someone? After all, only the Holy Spirit can do this!
What Koukl is encouraging us to do is to be consistent. In all that we do as Christians, we depend on God’s work. Yet, as disciples of Christ who are humbly relying upon God’s help, we are also to wholeheartedly and energetically obey God’s commands. And one of the commands he has given us is to love him with all of our minds. Out of this greatest of all commands flows more particular applications: for instance, to share good evidence and arguments with those who lack belief in Christ, that they might be persuaded to believe in Christ.
Do you find this convincing? What are some ways you seek to ‘put a stone in the shoe’ of your friends?
By sharing my Jesus story and allowing the stone to be the hope I experienced. It cannot be denied when the story is true and I am alive to testify to its veracity. This can be the stone in the shoe of my friends because they cannot come up with a way to say it didn’t happen the way I am telling it. My whole family and everyone who knows me can testify to the truth of how Jesus saved me.
I would give them the Columbo treatment. Listen attentively, and give them compliments, but, drat, I really don’t understand this part . . . Maybe you could enlighten me? But of course, they can’t, because they’ve never really thought it through.
And no, you can’t love someone into the Kingdom. I tried that, and failed miserably.
I think we cannot argue or love someone into believing in God but we can remove obstacles blocking people going to God. He draws them and we are within that process to work with God.
Paul as recorded in Acts 17 reasoned about Christ’s resurrection for 3 sabaaths.
This was debating, reasoning, discussing, convincing, proving and so on. To anyone who has the interest, I think we can be used by God to do this.
I like Koukle’s books and Fool’s Talk by Os Guiness as well.
In any case it builds our own faith as well as those of other believers around us.
If apologetics is used with the right motivation, it still seems worthwhile depending on the situation.
How to pray for the lost? What role does prayer play?
Romans 10:17- So then faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God.
I think Koukl is right in the sense that without God’s intervention through His Spirit no efforts from our part can save souls.(Psalm 49:7)
But it can also be misleading to put the gospel in the same category as apologetic or love. In the Scripture we see that the Holy Spirit works through the medium of the Word of God(Rom10:17) and also that God uses people as vessels and instruments for His great work.(Rom 10:14). God has left no stones unturned in being definite, objective and articulate in the revellation of Himself, His righteousness, Holiness and Love first through His prophets and then through His son Jesus Christ and His written Word.(Hebrews 1:1). For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ.(1 Corinthians 4:6)
And when it comes to apologetics, Yes, Apologetics cannot win souls. But it is a tool or a means by which we can bring God’s word to the people in a relevant way, and praise God, has it been helpful. It provides a platform to engage our culture with the word of God. Like Ravi used to say- “Apologetic is the seasoning, the gospel is the main course. You do not want too much of the seasoning or it will be the course insipid.”
The same also applies to Love. It has its own rightful place. Through our genuine love for one another people will know that we are Jesus’ disciples(John 13:35); that our treasure is not in this world; that we have the fountain of eternal life in us(John 7:38). It is to be our driving force in everything that we do.(1 Corinthians 13:2) I often think, Jesus matched the degree of truth that He claimed with the same degree of love. C.S. Lewis would say, “A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic, the Devil or the Lord.” And He backed all His truths, of loving God more than parents, even our own life, with the greatest act of love- giving His own life on the cross. "There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for his friends(John 15:13). One of the reasons why I came to faith in Christ was because of His death for me; it’s very easy to say that we love someone, but very different when we would give up our very life for the person.
And I think love and Apologetics(undergirded with God’s word) are great ways to ‘leave stones in someone’s shoes.’ And what a great privilege God has given us to be a carrier of this treasure of the gospel in our feeble jars of clay. To God be all the glory!
Great question. Maybe try and think of one single question that will make them think about their own presumptions which in turn gives them space to process your question and then start to ask questions of themselves.
If someone says ‘Oh there is no God’, ask ‘Do you believe in a self creating universe?’. Don’t give answers, ask questions… Try and take aim at the base of their worldview in a very gentle caring way. Try to reach the questioner behind the question.
Remember the 4 great worldview questions in the intro course.
Origin, Meaning, Morality, Destiny.
Try and angle your questions so their train of thinking leads directly back to one of these big 4 questions? Also, if a person rejects the Bible outright, you can still use it’s wisdom in your conversations. God’s existence is written in each of our hearts through our conscience, and the world around us.
One of the testimonies of one of the RZIM speakers (i forget who), said he grew up in a Christian home, and he could see it was good. But then he need to know if it’s true.
Is a person asking from a ‘is it good’ perspective (they are personally involved), or are they asking from a ‘is it true’ (they are intellectually asking). Probably most questions seek to answer both areas at once too I guess.
Maybe the most powerful testimony is the ‘weapon’ is gentleness (one of the many fruits of the Spirit), so people think ‘hang on what’s this about it’s so very different to the world’s view of power by dominance’.
As Jesus says, we are to love the Lord God with our heart, soul, mind and strength. Both the intellect and the emotions need answers.
Hope that’s helpful?