We have but briefly touched upon a small sample of arguments against the existence of the God of Scripture, yet have presented a basis for understanding the nature of all such arguments, providing a framework for effectively responding to those who would undermine our faith in Christ. And like all biblical principles, proper application takes study, reflection, experience, and time.
Also, no “formula” exists that must be applied exclusively to produce predictable results, for salvation is by the Spirit of God and the Word of God only.1 A proper apologetic method neither guarantees the unbeliever will acknowledge the unreasonableness of unbelief, nor respond in saving faith. The sinner is hostile to the God of Scripture and is neither “neutral” nor “objective” in viewing arguments for faith in Christ and against unbelief. The power of God alone can change the sinful heart.
And whatever approach one takes in defending and proclaiming the gospel to unbelievers, the method and message must supremely honor Christ as creator, redeemer, and Lord, and be true to what Scripture has revealed to us about the nature of God, mankind, all of created reality, and Scripture itself. Apologetic methods that compromise the authority and historical accuracy of Scripture or attempt to make Scripture compatible with the unbelieving worldview dishonor God and harm the faith of believers, while affirming the faith assumptions of unbelief.
The call to faith in Christ is a call to repent of misplaced faith in the idols of our own making, for such was central to Christ’s preaching ministry: “repent and believe in the gospel” (Mark 1:15). Repentance is from sin, and what greater sin than idolatry, and what greater idol than our own explanation of God and reality, a god of our own making?2 Such was at the heart of Adam’s sin in the garden when he assumed his own interpretation as authoritative in choosing between obeying or disobeying the word of God. Such presumed independence from the authority of God is at the heart of every sin. We are warned that “he who trusts in his own heart is a fool” (Proverbs 28:26). This apologetic method says exactly that.
In exposing the unbelievers’ unwarranted and unreasonable faith in their own opinion, we expose their faith in a false “god” of their making, of which they must repent to embrace Christ. We proclaim the Gospel in our defense of it, and we do so in faithfulness to Christ with grace and love toward the unbeliever.
Of course, God and Scripture need no defense, but neither does God need us to bring His Gospel message. He is infinitely capable of accomplishing His perfect will apart from our efforts. Yet He has called us to the honor of participating in His eternal purposes, and has ordained the defense and proclamation of the Gospel message to that end.
Thus, a primary goal of apologetics is bringing people to the life saving message of salvation through faith in the perfect person and saving work of Christ alone. As Scripture is God’s appointed and sufficient means to convict unbelievers of sin and bring them to repentance and salvation, so the ultimate purpose of any apologetic encounter is to bring the unbeliever face-to-face with the Gospel of Christ in Scripture, including what Scripture says about unbelief.
And as we learn to apply biblical apologetic principles in our contact with unbelievers, by God’s grace, our faith and ability to respond to irrational unbelieving arguments with love and grace will be improved. When our starting point in all things is the nature of our glorious Triune God who created, ordered, and upholds all things, whose glory is displayed in all of creation, we are better equipped to live within His world and interact with those who would deny the obvious. Hopefully, we will be more attentive in our conversations with unbelievers from a genuine concern for their well-being, as we graciously ask them how they know what they claim to know. And in all this, we need not be unsettled by the “learned” arguments opposing faith in Christ. May application of the principles presented here be a means to a more gracious and patient sharing of Christ as we face challenges to our faith in Him.
Finally, if you are an atheist or agnostic reading this, the intent of this booklet is to bolster the faith of those who may have been shaken by attacks against their hope and joy. We wish you no ill and would welcome the joy of embracing you as a brother or sister in Christ, to spend eternity with you in joyful fellowship with your Creator and Redeemer. Nonetheless, the words of Christ stand as a sober caution: “whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to stumble, it is better for him that a heavy millstone be hung around his neck, and that he be drowned in the depth of the sea” (Matthew 18:6 NAS). Our desire is that you not suffer the fate of those who cause the faith of God’s “little ones” to stumble.
We have all sinned and fall short of the perfect love, honor, and obedience we owe to God. We have all mocked and insulted the One who created and sustains us with good things. Yet, as our substitute, acting in our place, Christ fully satisfied the perfect righteousness required for eternal life and paid the infinite penalty demanded by our rebellion and insults against God. Through faith in Christ alone, in the acknowledgement of our sin and trust in His saving life and death alone, Christ’s perfect righteousness is credited to us. United to Christ by faith, the righteousness earned by Christ’s perfect life and payment of the infinite penalty for sin becomes the possession of the believer. “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom 6:23 NAS).
For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life. For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world should be saved through Him. He who believes in Him is not judged; he who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God (John 3:16-18 NAS).
Christ paid an infinite price to satisfy an infinite debt, to purchase infinite glory and happiness for the infinitely unworthy. Yet, for this He is mocked, despised, and traded for that which can neither satisfy our soul nor deliver us from the penalty for sin. His warning is stark:
For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world, and forfeit his soul? For what shall a man give in exchange for his soul? For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will also be ashamed of him when He comes in the glory of His Father with the holy angels (Mark 8:36-38 NAS).
Christ bids you, “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28 NAS). From a heart of infinite love He offers you an infinite gift of grace.
We wish you the greatest blessings of God as found through faith in Christ alone, in whom is infinite merit and forgiveness for the worst of sinners. Our hope and prayer is that we may stand together with you in God’s presence, blameless and with great joy.3
© Craig Biehl, 2011
1 I personally have seen the most fruit in my dialogues with unbelievers when I have said little and merely pointed to passages of Scripture for the unbeliever to read.
2 See Psalm 135:15-18; Isaiah 42:17; 44:9-20.
3 See Jude 24.