How Do We Know When Someone’s Objections to Christianity are Not Intellectual?

The task of apologetics can become bogged down in intellectual argumentation and philosophical reflection, even to the point the very task becomes burdensome. It is often the case that an over emphasis on the intellect can get in the way of the heart of the apologetical task. This is not to undermine the necessity of an engaged intellect; indeed, an engaged intellect is necessary to every facet of the Christian faith. As Christians, we do not make the arbitrary distinction between “heart” and “mind”; heart being popularly understood as emotion, and mind being popularly understood as the intellect. It is necessary that our mind and emotion are engaged when living out and defending the faith once and for all delivered. For even the love we express towards our neighbor must be rationally grounded in the God whose image we were created. However, we need to recognize as Christian apologists when we should move from argumentation to ministering to the person’s heart so to speak.1

It does nothing to present an argument for God’s existence when the existence of God is no longer the issue in question. If the person opens up and discloses to you that they believe in God, but they are struggling with how God can allow them to go through a certain difficulty, then our focus must shift from argumentation (to demonstrate a point), to ministering and encouraging. At this point, it may prove helpful to quote scripture which reinforces the fact that God is always with us; or that God is sovereign over our situations. We must not underestimate the power of the Word of God. we must remember that while our interaction with others must be rationally and biblically grounded, the biblical grounded aspect includes the work of the Holy Spirit. We must never think that success in these situations are based upon our intellectual abilities to clearly explain our point. If the Spirit of God is not working, then our words will fall on rocky soil. Hence, whether we are making an intellectual argument, or just ministering to someone, we must always pray that God uses our words and that they take root in the person’s heart.

All this to say is that we must be sensitive to the fact that our apologetic presentations must be brought to a halt when the focus in our discussion is no longer an apologetic issue. We must not become so enamored with intellectual arguments that they hinder our ability to speak to a person’s situation, some of which do not necessitate apologetic argumentation. Remember that a good apologetic has as its goal, not a demonstration of intellectual superiority, but a setting apart Christ as Lord, moving as quickly as possible to the fact that Jesus provides the answers.

1. The “heart” and the “mind” are often equated with one another. When we minister to the heart, we are also ministering to the mind; since everything we do, must be rational lest we not reflect the rationality of the one in whose image we were created. Whether we are “arguing” to demonstrate the truth of a proposition, or we are speaking into someon’s difficult situation, both must be grounded in rationality.

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