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Realizing the presence, promise, and power of the Kingdom of God.

The Limits of Reasons

We need fewer reasons and better reasoning.

I have long argued that, in seeking to defend the faith of Christ and to persuade others to believe, we do not make the best use of our opportunities by heaping up arguments and reasons which we find convincing as to why people ought to embrace belief in God. Many insist that we do so in the belief that if we can convince someone to admit that God possibly or likely exists, then it's just a short step from there to proving that Jesus is God.

While it can be helpful for Christians to understand the many good reasons supporting belief in God - everything from order in the universe to the ethical nature of life and the existence of a sense of beauty - we need to understand that, while such ideas are persuasive to us, they will not be to many of the people we are seeking to persuade.

Helen De Cruz now offers a convincing report in support of the idea that reasons given for believing in God are not likely to impress or persuade anyone who does not already believe in Him. She shows that, with respect to all the best-known reasons often put forth to persuade people to believe in God, only true believers find them convincing. Atheists and agnostics are not impressed.

But if reasons for believing can have only limited benefit, why are we commanded to always ready to give a "reason" for the hope that is within us (1 Pet. 3.15)? Is there no place for reason in the work of evangelism and apologetics? Then why did Paul seem to make such consistent use of reason throughout the book of Acts? And why does God invite rebellious sinners to "reason" with Him (Is. 1.18)?

I do not say that the classic reasons for believing are of no value. They are of very limited value, however; thus, we should explore better ways of using our reason to address lost friends concerning the Good News of Jesus Christ. The Scriptures recommend an approach to witness-bearing which pursues three avenues, all at the same time, and all using the tool of reason, but not necessarily reasons.

The first and consistent avenue is the proclamation of the Gospel of the Kingdom. Before we can know where people stand in relation to the Gospel, we need to get it out there and hear their response. Then we can, over the course of our conversation - or many such conversations - address different aspects of the Gospel as these seem to present particular difficulties to the person with whom we are conversing.

The second avenue of approach is along the lines of personal testimony, as we see Paul doing in Acts and his epistles. Testimony is not just our "story" about being saved and how that has affected us. Testimony also includes a credible lifestyle to support our explanations, one that our conversation partner will experience as gentle, patient, reverent, winsome, loving, and sure.

Finally, we must use the tool of reason to demonstrate to our conversation partner that any worldview other than the Gospel - including his worldview - simply cannot make sense of the world on its own terms. We shall have to ask some questions here and listen carefully. We will want our conversation partner to account for his claims, to acknowleged the sources of his views, and to consider any areas of contradiction, inconsistency, and incongruence we may be able to discover. By taking away the convincing power with which his own worldview keeps him in thrall, we are more likely to open a fissure for the light of truth to penetrate his soul.

Reason has an important role to play in the progress of God's Kingdom. But the "reasons" we typically study, learn, and throw out on the table in an effort to convince our unbelieving friends to believe in God, are not likely to get us very far.

In our witness-bearing we need fewer reasons and better reasoning - rightly employed in the service of truth.

Related texts: Proverbs 26.4, 5; Matthew 4.17; 2 Timothy 2.24-26; 1 Peter 3.15

A conversation starter: "Have you ever considered that the Gospel of Jesus Christ might make more sense than the way of life you are presently pursuing?"

T. M. Moore, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

T.M. Moore

T. M. Moore is principal of The Fellowship of Ailbe, a spiritual fellowship in the Celtic Christian tradition. He and his wife, Susie, make their home in the Champlain Valley of Vermont.
Books by T. M. Moore

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