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‘Why doesn’t my argument work?’

iStockphoto arm-wrestling

When we provide solid evidence and arguments for the Bible, even in the most gracious and careful way possible, skeptics often refuse point blank to consider our reasoning. This can be very frustrating, and even discouraging. If we’re not careful, it can even lead to doubt—people can start to think ‘perhaps their refusal reflects the weakness of Christianity’. In today’s feedback, CMI’s Shaun Doyle explores how a proper understanding of our limits, and the limits of what arguments can achieve, can ease our burden as we testify to the truth of Christ and the Bible. Leighton W. from New Zealand comments:

To whom this May concern,

I am very frustrated with evolutionists and their one sided mind. I try to explain that evolution is a farce however they won’t listen. I tell them that evolution requires a god anyway because the universe then by the Big Bang has to start with a miracle, and without a god there cannot be a miracle. Then I try and help them understand the mathematics and logistics of creation and evolution. I tell them that evolution IF we take only the change of evolution then the chance of it being successful for one body type is around about 1 in 1 billion Trillion, and even in the time given in the secular graph of time of the earth cannot reach that 1 in 1 billion trillionth chance. Then I try to explain the giraffe’s neck to them, and still their ears deafen to the teaching of creation. My question is: how do I not be so frustrated by the ignorance of the mind of the worldly.

CMI’s Shaun Doyle responds:

It’s easy to feel frustrated when people refuse to acknowledge what we see so clearly about God, creation, and the Bible. But we need to remember that apart from God’s grace we wouldn’t be able to see it either. Even though God is plain to everyone, we close our eyes to it because we don’t want to acknowledge God (Romans 1:18–23). Remembering that ‘but for the grace of God, there go I’ can help ease some of the frustration we might get.

And when we confront unwillingness to accept the truth, it’s not our job to convict people of sin, righteousness, and judgment. That’s the Holy Spirit’s job. We witness to the truth, but we have no access to people’s hearts like the Holy Spirit does. The best we can do is present our case and commend it to people to consider (and of course pray that God would work on people’s hearts to help them accept the truth). Knowing that can relieve us of the burden to persuade people about the faith, since there’s only so much our words can do.

And what exactly does a good argument do? It doesn’t change people’s hearts, and it doesn’t make a person accept the conclusion. The best it can do is show a person the intellectual cost of rejecting the conclusion, and even that isn’t guaranteed. And even if the person sees the intellectual cost of rejecting the conclusion, they may still be willing to pay that cost.

A brilliant example is how most Muslims reject the fact that Jesus was killed by crucifixion because the Koran says He wasn’t (Surah 4:157). The historical and medical evidence for Jesus’ death by crucifixion is impeccable, but the Muslim commitment to the Koran stops most of them from accepting the evidence. It rarely matters what anyone says; mere words will almost inevitably not convince them that Jesus died by crucifixion.

People are not logic-chopping robots. They also have emotions and presuppositions that can cloud their better judgment, and they have wills that are naturally turned against God. This is why there is usually so much more to evangelism than just a one-off presentation of a good argument for God and the gospel, and there is so much more to making a Christian than we are capable of doing. Remembering the limitations of what we can do won’t necessarily make all our frustrations go away, but it can help ease them by putting our frustrations in perspective.

And, of course, there’s the usual stuff—talk about your frustrations with people who can help; pray about your frustrations (Philippians 4:6–7); and distance yourself from the situation and occupy yourself with other helpful things when you get frustrated.

Published: 26 March 2016

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