I was reading an argument by an atheist claiming that Christian apologetics is actually targeted not at unbelievers, but at believers who feel the need to have rational arguments to support their beliefs. He supported his view with his own conversion story: he used to be a devout Christian until he met rational, kind people who disagreed with him and they found his apologetic arguments unconvincing. He concluded that apologetics is not intended for real unbelievers and that his faith was false.
If given the opportunity, what would your response be to this individual?
One response I thought of might go something like this:
I agree that one role of apologetics is to strengthen the faith of believers. That fact should not be surprising. Imagine a British man trying to explain to a Frenchman why Britain is the best place in the world to live. Some of his arguments may be perfectly valid, but the Frenchman is simply not interested in hearing them unless he is considering immigrating to Britain.
Following Jesus is all about changing citizenship from the kingdom of the world to God’s Kingdom. But someone who is quite happy in the world will have little interest - no matter how kind or intelligent they may happen to be - in hearing about this other Kingdom, just like the Frenchman is not actually listening to his British companion but only imagining how nice it will be to have a conversation with some rational person who understands why he loves France - its food and people and countryside and cities - so much.
You are misunderstanding the entire nature of belief. Beliefs are not purely rational but are also rooted in our emotions, our desires and the beliefs of our peers. A person who has no emotional or social investment in Jesus is not going to be the least bit convinced by merely rational arguments unless they’ve experienced something of Christ. Imagine the Frenchman goes on a visit to London and falls in love with the city - the museums and coffee shops and university atmosphere - then he will be primed and ready to hear every argument the British man has to offer. But it was the heart that opened the doors to his mind - not the other way around.
I would not include these verses in my response necessarily, but I thought they supported the idea of a prior commitment to the world or to God - to one’s own country, so to speak.
I John 2:15 - Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in them.
John 15:19 - If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you.