Can someone come to saving faith by philosophical, logical, and rational argumentation? Can you give such amazing arguments for God that someone gives up and then concedes to your arguments of God; does that save? Or is there something more and deeper than philosophical, logical, and rational argumentation that must occur? Does something supernatural still need to occur outside of rational thought? In this article we will discuss the necessity of apologetics, what leads to salvation, and priorities in apologetics.
Is Apologetics necessary in Christian living?
The simple answer is, yes. Paul debated and gave logical proofs for why the greeks should only believe in the God of the Jewish culture and explained why it relates to them personally. Scripture itself commands us to be ready and give a defense for the hope that is in us (1 Peter 3:15). Even in Paul’s own conversion; he needed, what he had experienced, to be explained to him with the eye witnesses of the resurrected Jesus. Paul even states to “demolish arguments” and “take captive every thought to obey Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5). More broadly, Christians are expected to test and discern truth. Apologetics is necessary since day one and defending the gospel is part of what it is to be Christian (Philippians 1:7). Church leadership is commanded to teach sound doctrine and rebuke those who contradict it (Titus 1:9).
Jesus was the chief apologist! He validated his words with proofs (John 2:23; 10:25; 10:38; 14:29). The Bible itself points to supernatural evidences as proofs of its divine claims (Exodus 4:1-8; 1 Kings 18:36-39; Acts 2:22-43; Hebrews 2:3-4; 2 Corinthians 12:12).
Is Apologetics Necessary for Salvation?
This is the million dollar question. How can it not be necessary for Salvation if it is a necessary component of Christian living? To better understand this question we need to look at Holy Scripture about the source of Salvation.
In John 6:44, Jesus makes it absolutely clear that NO MAN can come to The Father unless God first draws him. Jesus actually states this in different ways in the same chapter. Making it absolutely clear that God first grants the relationship. John 1:12-13 then states that those who do receive Jesus in faith, do NOT do it by their will, by family name, cultural traditions, or by the will of anyone else; except of God. This poses the biggest dilemma for those who think their perfect apologetic arguments save people. Romans 9:16 makes the statement “it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy” and Paul makes the perfect illustration of the Potter and his clay. We are God’s clay. Does the clay mold the clay or even put the other clay on the pallet to be molded? No. Only the Potter does. Finally what puts this in full perspective is Ephesians 2:8-9 where it is stated “For you are saved by grace through faith, and this is not from yourselves; it is God’s gift. not from works, so that no one can boast“. What does all of this mean for apologetics?
The drawing of The Father is by His Will in His Grace. A grace that is unmerited unearned undeserved. It is literally a gift from God. The Apologist’s will, in their desire to convince that hearer of his arguments, does not save. The Hearer’s admission and agreement of the soundness of the Apologist’s arguments does not save. Salvation does not come from the will, works, or efforts of man. Salvation is of God alone.
But this leads us back to our second question: Is Apologetics Necessary for Salvation? This is a yes and no and may vary for each individual.
Yes, if it is GOD that chooses to use apologetics for the salvation of the hearer. No, if God does not choose to use it (but something else) for the salvation of the hearer. Regardless the source of Salvation is of God; not logical proofs. In a more board and technical sense, apologetics is used through scripture by the Apostles to bring about salvation. John made it clear that they were eye witnesses of the actual events. Paul pointed to poofs like naming people who were still living (at that time) who saw the resurrected Christ. But the major element that is always included in these apologetic poofs is the gospel message.
Is Accepting “God’s Existence” enough?
Convincing people that a God exist does not save. That is the same as convincing anyone that a unspecific monotheistic deity exists. There are other religions that believe in a monotheistic deity that are not saved. Even some people who claim to be Christian, make themselves into a monotheistic deity in how they live their life- despite their claims.
This is where the Gospel of Jesus Christ MUST also accompany Apologetics, or Apologists are doing nothing more than converting atheists to Jehovah’s Witnesses or to Islam. Because both religions are lies, those who believe in the one god of Islam or Jehovah’s Witnesses are still atheists to God; rendering apologetics without the gospel done in vain. When Paul addressed the Greek Areopagus, he tied in the person of Jesus with his argument for the one true God (Acts 17:22-34).
In some cases it may take time and done in phases. This can be true for those hearers who are truly drawn by God. For those who aren’t; but accept Apologetic arguments piece by piece then accept that it makes the most sense this guy name Jesus that lived 2000 plus years ago said he was the Son of God and rose from the dead. But even still, that is not salvation. Anyone can make that claim because it is seems most rational to them. But “most rational” decisions are not the same as ““ the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.“. For those who just chose the most logical position are faced with this frightening verse:
21 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ 23 And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’ (Matthew 7:21-23)
Salvation is still greater than just choosing the most logical position because of compelling apologetic arguments and acting religious to maintain the chosen position. Salvation is greater because it is of God and not of the mind and will of man through argumentation and logical proofs. And without the Gospel proclaimed in Apologetics, the argument for a monotheistic deity goes to support false religions as well. It is the Gospel Message the is the deciding factor of Salvation.
1 Corinthians 15:1-3
“Now, brothers and sisters, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand. 2 By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain.
3 For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance…”
Here Paul begins with why believing with your heart, trusting, taking your stand, and holding firm to the Gospel Message is of the utmost importance. Then he explained the Gospel and gave proofs of why it is rational to believe.
Heart AND Mind
We are commanded to love God with our Heart, Soul, and Mind (Matthew 22:36-40). Paul makes it clear there are only two mindsets, on the flesh, and on the spirit (Ps 26:2; Romans 8:5-6) but the source of the mind change (Romans 12:2) from flesh to spirit comes from the heart change first (Matthew 15:18-20). Because of our heart change for the Lord, we are then enabled to keep our mind on the Lord and love him through it (Ps 18:22). Even the mind change and understandings of truth comes from God (Ps 86:11; Luke 24:45; 1 Corinthians 2:9) and in some cases minds are blinded by sin or other spiritual forces (2 Corinthians 4:4; Romans 1:28). With all that said, if winning apologetic arguments changes minds but not hearts; there is still no saving faith. Although man can not change hearts, only God can, the church is still responsible for testifying and giving witness and a sound defense for faith. BUT this still means that winning apologetic debates does not automatically bring about salvation to those who newly agree to the apologist’s arguments. The Holy Spirit must still change the heart of the individual for them to truly desire God and not just desire to feel comfortable in their new philosophical position. This also shows that Salvation comes from God alone and that apologetics is a tool that can be used by God for His will to be done.
The Pride of Winning
It is very easy for us to pat ourselves on our back every apologetic argument we feel we won. We can make ourselves feel even better when we get others to admit their position was wrong and they openly accept ours. We may look at our arguments as so well thought, out, extremely articulate, and perfectly crafted by our minds, that we lose sight of its ultimate purpose; we forget where the glory is actually due. Sometimes, in debates, our arrogance and condescending attitudes even betray our truthful arguments. We must always remember that we are only allowed to participate in God’s plan of Salvation but it is HE that grants it, draws people, and saves them; not us or our compelling arguments. He may use our debates and arguments to draw people, but he does not need it. If God so chose to, our worst argument expressed in the worst way, may lead someone to investigate and come to faith. Also, if God so chose it, our best argument expressed in the most perfect way, may NOT lead someone to faith. Whats the point? We are called to be witnesses of God’s Grace and to proclaim his truths and The Gospel Message to the world. The results of that witnessing and proclamations is left to God and His will. We glorify God and remain lovingly obedient to him when we point he world to His Son, Jesus Christ. That is what we take pride in; the person and work of Jesus. Not our works, efforts, or compelling arguments.
Apologetics of the Life, Death, and Resurrection of Jesus are of the greatest importance. Next is the defense of the Messianic prophecies in the Old Testament and Christology. The third most important area of apologetics is the defense of Holy Scripture. Because all of these will inevitably lead to proofs of the divine and supernatural but also validate the most important elements for saving faith. Without evidence for the resurrection of Christ as the Messiah and Son of God as recorded in Scripture… apologetics is no different than providing defense for Islam or any other false monotheistic religion.
Apologetics is necessary for Christian living. Through it we worship and love God with our minds and the world around us by offering a logical and rational defense and explanation for the hope that is only found in Jesus Christ. BUT the results of our logical and rational defense is totally up to God. Salvation and faith in the Gospel Message comes from God alone. People can accept the
logical and rational defense and explanation of faith but can still not be saved. They may accept with their mind, but not in their heart. They may love the idea of God because it wins arguments and gives them a meaning of their own but they do not actually know God and live for him. The most important part of Apologetics is incorporating The Gospel Message. Without the Gospel Message, the
logical and rational defense and explanation for a distant deity are no different than supporting other false religions. This is why, in all aspects of life, even apologetics, the Gospel Message is of most importance.
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