“New life,” biblically speaking, is eternal life in Christ, not a flowery promise of life improvement here on earth. The gospel is glorious. It directs our gaze off of us and onto God, who humbled Himself, demonstrated His great love by suffering a cruel death on a cross to save us, adopts into His family those who believe, and transforms us.
April 4, 2019
I got a text from a friend the other day and then another text from another friend, each of them telling me that a good friend of mine had passed away, two different friends told to me by two different people. One was probably about in his 80’s. The other was in his late 80’s, maybe early 90’s. Don’t know if either of them really knew the Lord. It was questionable that one of them may have gone to be with Jesus on his deathbed. But it just gets me thinking, and I’m sure it does with you, too, when you hear news like that, right? Death is just a…it felt in my gut like you just want to scream. I mean, those of you who have someone close to you that’s passed away, there’s something wrong about death. You just know it. It feels to me like reversing the law of gravity. It’s just unnatural. It’s wrong. It’s a screeching-nails-on-the-chalkboard kind of a feeling in my gut when someone dies, and they can never come back here.
You can’t talk to them. They can’t walk here anymore. And to think of passing through that door is just a violent, disturbing, unnatural, and very sobering event. But we’ve all got an appointment with it. And that’s really what ultimately broke me out of my atheism and brought me into a right relationship with God. Of course, God was affecting all of this in my heart and in my mind. I didn’t know it, because I didn’t understand the gospel, but this issue of dying is on everyone’s mind, and it’s something that we ought to use when we’re sharing the gospel with people
“There’s something wrong about death. You just know it. It feels to me like reversing the law of gravity.”
Let me give you a quick summary of how I came to Christ. I’m a recovering atheist. There was a time when I lost my blind faith in what other people told me in the science classroom or what my friends told me, and I didn’t have enough faith to hold on to this belief that there was no God, and I finally had to cave in and give in to the massive amount of evidence all around me and within me. I was 17 years old, and I was flying high. I was flying around the world as a celebrity on a show called Growing Pains, making lots of money, doing everything I wanted to do. I didn’t have a care in the world.
But at about 17 years old I started asking questions like, “Is this all there is? I mean, I’ve made more money than my father has made in his whole lifetime as a schoolteacher, and here I am making it within a year or two of just having fun being a goof-off on television. What else is there to look forward to?” And I started asking questions like, “What happens when you die? Do we just vanish and turn into nothing, or go back to being a bacteria in the dirt? Or could there be something else? How did this universe get here?” And I loved science, and I wanted to know how life began and all these things.
The answers I got to those questions weren’t very satisfying, and then I met a girl who was an actress on Growing Pains. She did not later turn out to be my wife. That was another actress on Growing who did, named Chelsea, but this girl invited me to go to church with her one weekend, and I was interested in getting to know her, so I thought I ought to go to church, or else I’d probably never meet her again, never see her. And so I went to church, sat in the back row with my arms folded as a proud self-righteous atheist who knew better than to believe this silly man standing up in a pulpit with an old book in his hand that talked about an invisible being hiding behind a cloud watching our every move.
And I sat there, and he began to speak so intelligently. He captured my intellect. He spoke so eloquently, and he pricked my conscience with questions that he would ask. And he explained the gospel. He talked about an amazing omnipotent holy God. He explained that there is a Heaven, and there is a Hell. He talked about the standard by which God would judge us one day when we died, and that all of us would be guilty because of sin. And he laid out the whole story of our need of God’s forgiveness, and then he explained Christ who came and suffered, died, and rose again from the grave and our need to repent and put our trust in Him alone.
Examining the Evidence
And I left the church that day with a lot of questions. I was first just stunned that someone could stand up like the pastor at this church and actually believe in God and the Bible and still be a well-educated and articulate, rational-thinking man. And I just started doing some research. I found out that Einstein believed in God. There are many scientists who believe in God. Fathers of medicine and science believe in the existence of God. And this sort of just threw me, because no one had ever told me that before. And I asked this girl’s father some questions. He gave me a book by Josh McDowell called More Than a Carpenter.
I began studying that along with The Evidence That Demands a Verdict and came to the conclusion that I’ve got to open the door intellectually to there being a God, because so many smart people actually do believe, and there’s so many good answers to all of my questions, that I found myself sitting in my sports car on Van Nuys Boulevard in Van Nuys, California, after dropping this girl off at an acting class and asking myself, “If I find out one day that there is a God and a Heaven, and if I die, where would I go?” And I knew in an instant that I would not be going to Heaven, because I mocked God. I laughed at people who believed in Him. And I knew that because of the way I had lived my life and my attitude toward Him, I do not deserve a place of eternal paradise.
And I realized that if I lost everything that day, I would go down in history as a guy who played the part of a fool. That’s how I’d be remembered by those in Heaven: “What a fool. He was given everything. He was everything everyone would dream of on this earth, but he forfeited his soul, because he thought he knew everything.” And so I just closed my eyes, and I prayed a very clumsy prayer. I just said, “God, if You’re there,” I knew there was a God, but I said, “If You’re there, would You please show me? Would You reveal Yourself to me and get through to me? There’s so many religions out there. How do I know where to go and what to believe and what to read? And would You forgive me and make me the man that You created me to be?”
And I didn’t have all my theology together. I couldn’t articulate the gospel or explain the trinity. I didn’t even understand half of the things that you understand, but I knew something had changed in my heart. Looking back now, I feel that it was a similar attitude of the penitent sinner who said, “Be merciful, O God, to me, a sinner.” And I opened my eyes that day, and it wasn’t like I saw Jesus on the windshield. I didn’t feel the Holy Spirit rushing through the air conditioning vents and blow my hair back and give me a televangelist comb over. I didn’t hear bells and smell incense. I didn’t have any great experience like that, but there was something that had stirred in my heart, and I knew that things were different in my attitude and my approach to God.
A Life Changed
And I went home, I got more books. I started reading. Somebody gave me a Bible. I started going to a Bible-teaching church. I began seeking after God. He began changing me on the inside through His Word, and as I continued to understand more and more, I began putting my trust in the One He sent to save me from my sin and to rescue me from the wrath I deserved because of my sin. And I grew in faith and in knowledge, and that was the beginning of my journey of becoming a disciple of Jesus Christ. And in the beginning, all I wanted to do was share with everybody else. “I gotta tell you about this Jesus. I gotta tell you how you can be forgiven of your sin.” And I’d start saying this to the people on Growing Pains on the set and everyone I could find, my family.
And I don’t know if you remember what that was like, but for me it was, “Uh oh. He’s gone off the deep end. What’s he getting into? What’s he getting wrapped up with? Who’s talking in his ear?” And people began to get very, very protective and try to shut all this down. Some people would say, “Hey, I’m glad you found something that works for you. That’s great, but I don’t need it. Don’t push it on me. I’ve got my own beliefs.” And I’d try to answer all of their questions, and I’d try to be the perfect apologist to shut down any argument and to argue them into the kingdom and leave them with no option but to get on their knees and bow to Christ as Lord and Savior. I was trying to be the Bible Answer Man on steroids. I thought, “If I just study Ravi Zacharias and Greg Koukl and Hank Hanegraaff and…” actually, he wasn’t even the Bible Answer Man at that time.
It was Walter Martin and some of these others. I thought, “I’m gonna just shut everything down, and everyone’s gonna become Christian who talks to me.” And when that didn’t happen, and I found myself stumbling and stuttering for answers and feeling like an idiot sometimes and seeing relationships go south and get hurt because of my beliefs, I began to clam up and stop sharing my faith. Then somebody gave me a CD, a little CD called Hell’s Best Kept Secret, a sermon preached by a funny little New Zealander with a mustache and an accent, and that message just grabbed my attention. I listened to it twice, so that I could understand what he was saying with that accent and that quick pace that he preaches at.
And when I understood it, it changed everything in the way that I share the gospel. It was so powerful, because using the Law in evangelism works on an entirely different plane and system than the intellect. It activates the conscience with tremendous results, and I found that being able to properly use apologetics and present the gospel biblically is a knockout one-two punch for those the Lord is drawing to Himself. And I want to talk with you about this, because it’s easy to make a mistake by majoring on one or the other or using them inappropriately by not understanding what they are and what they do. So let’s talk about balancing apologetics and the gospel.
Apologetics and Evangelism
That was a long introduction, I know. Forgive me. All right. Let me ask you a question. What is the goal of the witnessing encounter? We’re here to learn how to witness, how to be an evangelist, and when. What is the goal of our witnessing encounter? To make disciples. We know what we’re trying to do. We want people to be saved. I just read an interesting article by one pastor and very important author, and he said, “It’s interesting. Jesus famously said, “Come after Me, and I will make you fishers of men.” He didn’t say, “I’ll make you fishers of fallacies.” And those of you who are steeped in apologetics, I want you to get the point. In other words, Jesus is calling us to save people, to be fishers of men, not just fishers of fallacies in order to win arguments.
“Jesus is calling us to save people, to be fishers of men, not just fishers of fallacies in order to win arguments.”
Not just to score points, but to save sinners. And it’s easy to get this out of perspective, because apologetics can be so powerful. Apologetics appeals to truth and argumentation, and it’s hard, and it’s unforgiving, and it’s like a granite rock that can be wielded around, and people can get clobbered with it, and it can do lots of damage, if it’s used carelessly. We know that without Christ people are going to Hell. We want to save them. We want them to come to Christ. And that brings honor and glory to Jesus, who sacrificed Himself for them. That brings honor and glory to God. And it advances His kingdom.
All right. Let’s define some terms. What is the gospel? It is the good news that the curse is being reversed. The first Adam in the garden in unbroken fellowship with God in paradise with him being told to take dominion over all the earth for the glory of God and for His kingdom, and that goes south because Adam sins and rebels against God, and God sends the last Adam, Jesus Christ, the Messiah, in fulfillment of the promise that He gives back in the garden and throughout the Scriptures and the prophets who comes, and He fixes where Adam failed. He reverses the curse and is restoring the world and reconciling the world to Himself. That’s great news, and He does it through His life, through His death on the cross, His resurrection. This is good news.
All right. What is an apologetic? A reasoned defense of your belief. 1 Peter 3:15, we read here, “Always be ready to give a reason, a defense, for the hope that is within you.” That’s the verse we often look at, and it’s talking about being able to explain humbly, thoughtfully, gently, clearly, and biblically why you hope in Jesus, why you hope in Jesus. Let me ask you a question. Can you do that? Can you explain why you have a hope in Jesus Christ? Do you know why you have a hope in Jesus Christ? You could explain that to me. Even if you don’t think you’re a great apologist, you could explain that to me, I think. If you can, you’re well on your way to being able to use apologetics effectively.
The Purpose of Apologetics
Now, the basis for this command to give a reason, or a defense, assumes that you have a reason, that you can say, “I’m totally convinced and persuaded of what I believe, and I know why. I’ve answered my questions. I drug the skeletons out of my own closet, and I’ve gone to someone, and I’ve asked these questions, or I’ve come before the Lord, and I’ve been convinced where I once was doubtful.” And now you know, and you can explain that to somebody. If you’re not sure and confident why you believe, you’re not gonna be very effective trying to convince others. One of the things that apologetics does is it builds up the believers. Apologetics built me up in a huge way.
Doesn’t it build you up when you watch debates and see skilled apologists just tear down arguments that exalt themselves over Christ or attempt to? I mean, it encourages me. It builds me up. It shows me that where I haven’t had an answer, there is an answer, and it encourages me. It’s a tremendous help for the Christian to resolve his own doubts and fears. It rids you of the paralyzing fear that there’s no intelligent basis for what you believe, that you just have blind faith. No. It shows you that that’s not the case at all. I’ve often had a personal struggle with doubt, and it’s been discouraging, and in the Pilgrim’s Progress there’s Doubting Castle and Giant Despair that devours people if you stay there in that castle too long. And I just have an analytical mind, and I want to have the answer to every question.
Apologetics Destroy Doubt
My tendency as a young Christian was to just hit the panic button every time I couldn’t answer a question. “Oh no. Oh no. Is this the one that’s gonna unravel everything that I believe?” And finding the answers to those questions one-by-one gave me great confidence that my faith was well-placed. It exposed the errors of false attacks and false religions and brought me to this settled place where I could rest in God and in His Word. In one of the epistles it speaks of Apollos, this great orator who had decimated the arguments of those that were opposing him, and it brought encouragement to those who were brought to belief by grace.
So Apollos’ apologetics were bringing comfort to believers over here, who had been brought to belief in the gospel by grace. So apologetics encourages believers. And apologetics corrects those who have false arguments and false attacks. Spurgeon even doubted. The great Prince of Preachers, he said that he had doubts so severely that he sunk into depression and “went to the very verge of the dreary realms of unbelief.” He said he swam to the bottom of the sea of infidelity and no longer moored himself to the coast of revelation but allowed his ship to drift before the wind. He said to reason, “You be my captain,” to his own brain, “You be my rudder.” He said it was sweet at first, but bitter afterwards. It was fun at first, but shocking how quickly he passed by the old landmarks of his faith and said in the end it was dark.
“Don’t be worried about doubts. Just drag them out into the middle of the street and expose them to the light. They’ll go away, because the truth will dissolve them.”
It led him down a path that was demonic and horrifying to him, tearing all meaning and purpose and beauty from life and left him terrified that life was meaningless, because that is the end result of false worldviews. He doubted everything. He doubted God, he doubted Jesus, and then was forced to doubt his own existence. But then to be consistent, he then had to doubt his doubts. And he said, “Can my doubts be true?” And he said, “Here is where the Devil foiled himself.” The extravagance of doubt proved its own absurdity, and he woke from the death dream. He doubted his doubts, which exposed the error of them and trusted in God who proved Himself to be true.
Don’t be worried about doubts. Just drag them out into the middle of the street and expose them to the light. They’ll go away, because the truth will dissolve them. Let me ask you another question. This is hard work, witnessing. It takes a lot of courage. It takes a lot of studying to know answers to questions and to correct people and encourage the body. Why do we even bother? I know people are going to Hell, but give me another reason. Because we care. We care, and we love God, right?
The Proper Motivation
Because God made us, and we love people, and we love God, because we’re Christians. That’s why. It’s not some game that we want to have notches on an evangelistic belt and get people saved. I wasn’t being facetious earlier. There are wrong motives for sharing the gospel. Evangelistic notches on your belt, a sense of pride at what you’ve accomplished for the sake of the kingdom. There’s another motive, there’s another motive that we can have with apologetics that I’ve experienced, and that is fear. I have been motivated by fear to answer people’s questions, because I’m afraid that if I didn’t, I would look stupid. Or I was afraid that this person might be right, and that I need to shut him up before he confirms my worst nightmare. Have you ever felt that way?
And it’s closed you up about sharing your faith. What I want to suggest to you is that the proper motivation is that we care. It’s compassion. It’s love. It’s love for God, and it’s love for people, and if you don’t know an answer to a question, don’t let fear shut you down. Learn the answers. There’s a plethora of material out there on the internet and in books to learn how to properly argue against false worldviews. Some people like to sort of pit the two against each other and say, “Well, one is about faith, and the other is about reason. It’s sort of a faith vs. reason thing, and I’m kind of a scientific person, so I need arguments. That’s how I’m going to decide what I believe and other people, they’re just faith people.”
Faith and Reason Are Friends
The truth is, faith and reason are friends. I remember one time Ray and I debated a couple of atheists who were pretending that God did not exist on national television. And at the end of our pre-debate talk I said to this one young man, “Hey, listen. We’re going on national television. We’re gonna be in front of about 10 million people on ABC, and I’ve been doing this for 20 years getting in front of big crowds of people, and I’m even nervous. So I just want to tell you, if you’re nervous, that’s okay. Just know I’ll be praying for you.” And he said, “Oh, that’s great. You pray for me, and I’ll think for you.”
Being able to use apologetics skillfully also gives the sinner faith in you, that you’re not just a crackpot who puts his blind faith into any old fairytale. It gives him faith that you’re a thinking person, that you’ve thought through these issues, you’ve asked these questions, and that you have searched out good answers. Apologetics do that very nicely. All right. Let’s step into a real situation. Have you ever been hit with a polemic? Not a wemic, but a polemic. Do you know what a polemic is? A polemic is a strong verbal attack. You ever been dealt one of those?
“How could a loving God allow so much suffering in the world? You say there’s one way to Heaven? You are so intolerant. Hell? I would rather go to Hell than spend eternity with your megalomaniacal tyrant in the Bible.” You ever heard things like this? “The Bible’s full of mistakes. Christians are hypocrites.” These are polemics, and I’ll just tell you right now, most of this is trash talk. They’re empty words. There’s not much behind them. Just a lot of emotion. But some can be genuine sincere questions and objections, and you have to learn how to distinguish between the two. And here’s some ways that we can respond to harsh arguments like that. I’ve learned a lot of these from Ray, from Mark Spence. I’ve learned these from Greg Koukl and other guys who are so skilled at apologetics.
And one of the things that they understand is that, again, Jesus called us to win people, not arguments. This author also said in his article, “We are called to be focused, not on winning, but on being winsome and drawing people to the Savior,” and we need to do that even with our argumentation. And so here’s something you could say. You could say, “Hey listen. You say there’s no God. If I took you through my house, and I just showed you my newly built edition, and I said, ‘Look how beautiful it is,’ and I showed you all of the construction and the wiring and the plumbing and all of the aesthetics and everything that’s just so perfectly designed for this place to be inhabited, and you turned to me and said, ‘You know what? I don’t believe that this thing even had a builder.’
“Jesus called us to win people, not arguments.”
“I’d look at you and say, ‘What? What are you talking about?’ And you say, ‘I don’t believe this thing had a builder at all. There was no designer, no decorator, no plumber, no electrician. This all just happened by itself.’ I’d look at you and say, ‘What happened to you? Did you have a lobotomy? Did you hit your head on the open beam that I have over the bathroom? I mean, what are you talking about? And when you look at this world or let’s just take the human body, and you look at the plumbing and you look at the electrical wiring, and you look at the audio equipment and the video equipment, and you look at the systems of circulation and reproduction, and it’s just phenomenally complex. The world is aesthetically beautiful, and it’s clearly designed with function in mind. Why do you have such a double standard when it comes to these kinds of things?’”
Ask Them Questions
Get someone to think. Sometimes I’ve said to people who keep firing questions at me, “Listen, let me ask you a question, because you’ve got a lot of good questions, and I’d like to answer them for you if I can. But I have one for you. If I could answer your top 10 questions rationally, logically, and consistently, and satisfy those answers intellectually in your mind, does that mean that you will then bow your knee, get down on your face, repent of your sins, and call out to Jesus Christ to save you?” What do you think he’s gonna say?
“No.” Why not? I just answered his questions beautifully. I’m gonna say, “Well then, if you won’t, then the issue is not intellectual evidence, is it? There is another agenda that is driving your unbelief, and it’s your unwillingness to come to God.” You could ask someone, “If you don’t believe in God, well, where did the space for the universe come from? Where did the laws of the universe come from? Gravity? Inertia? How about laws of logic that are universal, transcendent, and immaterial? How do those things come into existence in a purely random materialistic world or universe? How about biogenesis? Help me understand by what specific processes did life come from non-living matter?”
Or you could even ask the question like this, and I did ask a cardiologist this on an airplane one time. We were sitting next to each other, and I said, “Do you believe in God?” He goes, “Uh, I’m not sure.” And he said, “No one can be sure. No one can be certain of anything.” Of course, he set it up on a tee for me. I had to say, “Are you certain about that?” And get him to see the futility of his own reasoning. And I said, “I got a question.” I said, “You’re a heart doctor.” I said, “I believe that God created us, and the reason why I can’t believe that we evolved by minute changes over millions and millions of years is because I can’t answer this question. Maybe you can.”
I said, “What evolved first? The heart, the blood, or our blood vessels?” I said, “Because, if the heart evolves first, you’ve got the pump, but if you don’t have the circulation tubes that take it somewhere, and you don’t have the blood that’s ready to nourish the cells yet, the body’s gonna die, and if you have the blood, but you don’t have the pump or the tubes, there’s nothing to pump. Or if you’ve got the blood and heart that maybe come first, but the circulation and the veins aren’t there yet, where’s it gonna go? So which one evolved first?” He said, “I’ve never thought about that. I don’t know.” “And you gotta think, then you’ve gotta add lungs to that little trio, because you need oxygen to oxygenate the blood for the whole system to work. Then you need electrical impulses to cause the heart to beat and the lungs to expand. And so you’ve got a brain now coming in. What evolved first?”
Answering the Biggies
These are questions that ultimately science has no explanation for. They can posit imaginary explanations, but ultimately these are not things that can be demonstrated by science at all. All right. Let’s answer some of the biggies here. Why does God allow evil? If there’s a good God, why does He allow evil? Let’s give an answer to that difficult question that I’ve heard top apologists on both sides of the argument debate, and it’s the granddaddy of arguments. There’s others like it, but this is a huge one. How do you give an answer that will correct a false answer and encourage the rest of us as believers?
“Thank God He has not eradicated evil and the source of evil from this planet yet. He’s given us time to repent and turn to Him for forgiveness for our sin and come to the Savior and know Him.”
“Wait a minute, sir. If God were to just eliminate evil in the world, if He were just to eradicate evil before it even comes to other people and just stamp out the source of evil, that means He’d get rid of murderers, He’d get rid of rapists and pedophiles and everything that causes evil. He would also have to get rid of liars and thieves and adulterers, people who abuse their wives and their children and idolaters and blasphemers.
“Where would that leave you and me? We would go up in a puff of smoke, just like that. Thank God He has not eradicated evil and the source of evil from this planet yet. He’s given us time to repent and turn to Him for forgiveness for our sin and come to the Savior and know Him. And one day God will eradicate sin. He will destroy sin and right every wrong on the Day of Judgment, and on that day, I want to be found forgiven in Christ, and that’s why I’m bringing you the gospel, sir.”
Another great answer is, “What do you mean by evil?” What’s the wickedest evil you can think of? What’s one wicked evil? Murder. How about murdering babies? Or innocent children, rape, wickedness like this. You have to ask the question, “Wait a minute. What makes murder and rape evil? I mean, if we’re just evolved animals, then this is just how protoplasm reacts at these temperatures at this time in history, and when lions do that to zebras and murder and rape occurs within the animal world, why don’t we say that’s wrong? Why are you imposing your moral standard of evil upon me and asking me to answer that kind of a question? You really have no basis for a real evil within your belief system, do you? It’s just your opinion. You don’t like murder, but that doesn’t make it evil.”
So the only way we really get a standard of evil that has any real meaning across the board at the end of the day is with the divine standard, and God has said, “Thou shalt not murder. Thou shall not commit adultery,” and that’s why we know there’s such a thing as evil. But you can’t get there. There’s no avenue to get you there within your atheistic worldview.
Jesus Can’t Be the Only Way
How about another question. How about, “Jesus can’t be the only way. There’s 6 billion people.” How many people do we have now? 7 billion? What are we up to? 6, 7 billion people in the world, and they’re not all Christians. Jesus can’t be the only way to Heaven.
Well, here’s one way that you could answer that. “Listen, I didn’t make this up. This is something that Jesus Himself said. And so because I’m a Christian, to say that there are any other ways would be bearing false testimony, calling Jesus a liar, and I would be a hypocrite.” This is usually the counterpart to that: “He can’t be the only way, because there’s all these people who have never heard of Him. And so if someone doesn’t hear about Jesus, there’s no way that they could go to Hell just for not hearing about Jesus.” Well, I’ve heard Ray say this, and it’s a beautiful answer. He says, “Don’t worry. No one’s going to Hell because of something they haven’t heard. No one goes to Hell because they haven’t heard of Jesus. The heathen will go to Hell for murder, rape, adultery, lust, theft, lying. Sin is not failing to hear the gospel; sin is transgression of the Law.”
“Apologetics can only do so much. They can correct those in opposition, and they will encourage the body of Christ, but apologetics does not save anyone.”
And so if they’ve never sinned against God and done all those wicked things, they’ll be fine on the Day of Judgment. But if they have done these things, then they need God’s forgiveness. And if you really care about the guy out on the island who’s never heard about Jesus, then you get yourself right with God and then go take the gospel to him. So there’s ways to answer these things correcting false thinking, encouraging believers around us, and leading people to the cross. Now, there’s many more, but for the sake of time, I’m gonna give you some final pointers, and that is, stay focused on the gospel, because apologetics can only do so much. They can correct those in opposition, and they will encourage the body of Christ, but apologetics does not save anyone. Apologetics is not the power of God to salvation. What is?
The Gospel is Primary
The gospel, and we must learn how to share the gospel biblically. Don’t get so sidetracked answering lame questions that are often a smoke screen to avoid the real issue, which is people’s unwillingness to come to God. As a former atheist, I can say this. What we as atheists never wanted to tell you as Christians is that we have a dirty little secret, and that dirty little secret is, it’s not that there’s no evidence for God…it’s that we love our sin so much we don’t want there to be a God. Because once there’s a God, now I’m accountable for what I do, and that changes what I do with that person this weekend, and I don’t want anyone telling me what to do. That’s the dirty little secret of an atheist, and we suppress the truth in our unrighteousness, because we love our sin.
“Apologetics is a forklift that will move intellectual barriers out of the way for the man who is seeking truth, but it can’t move pride.”
Don’t confuse apologetics with the gospel. Apologetics is a forklift that will move intellectual barriers out of the way for the man who is seeking truth, but it can’t move pride. In fact, if you’re not careful, apologetics can puff you up with pride. And you’re like this intellectual gladiator, and then you’re just ready to just start throwing elbows and knocking people out. Apologetics must be used skillfully and carefully, and they’re powerful. But the gospel alone deals with the sinner’s main problem: pride. The gospel is not dead knowledge in the head, but living truth in the heart, and it is affected by the Holy Spirit, and that’s what saves someone. It’s the silver bullet. It’s what God promises to deliver with power and much assurance.
So use apologetics to clear the way for the gospel. Move barriers out of his way, show him that he’s just hiding behind a bush. He’s got no real arguments here, but do it respectfully, gently, in the hopes that God would use this to bring this man to repentance. What he needs at the end of the day is not more evidence. What he needs is repentance. Use the gospel this way, but always keep one eye on the cross. And in this conversation, that’s where you’re headed. You’re headed there to the cross where you can then explain the gospel by using the Law to prick the conscience. Show him the mirror by which he can examine his own heart, see his need for God’s forgiveness, and find cleansing and new life through repentance and faith in the Savior.