A man who thought he was dead started seeing a psychiatrist. The psychiatrist tried everything to convince this man that he was indeed not dead. But the man was not convinced. Finally the psychiatrist asked the man if dead men bleed. The man thought for a moment before saying “no” because a dead person’s heart stops and thus no bleeding. The psychiatrist grabbed the man’s finger and poked it with a needle. As you’d expect, a little bubble of blood formed on the tip of his finger. “There,” said the psychiatrist,” you’re not dead.” To which the man replied, “Wow, I guess dead men really do bleed.”
“You cannot argue someone into Heaven.” As a Christian apologist, I hear this all the time from well meaning Christians. I know it would be rude but every time I hear that phrase I want to make the reply, “If that’s true, you cannot love them into the Heaven either.”
Of course, unbelievers cannot be saved by an argument. People’s worldviews run deeper than a mere argument. In fact, they have been building their worldview their entire life. They pick up a little here and a little there. They’ll watch a movie, listen to a song, read a book. Something seems true and they like the idea so they adopt it.
People are complicated. We have an intellectual side, an emotional side and a volitional side all at work.
We are intelligent people but Ken Boa, a respected apologist, once said, “The heart cannot rejoice [for very long] in that which the mind rejects.” Just try loving something that is completely silly or repugnant to you. I added, “for very long,” because we sometimes think something makes sense and we like it but ultimately it is illogical. We are hard pressed to give up on those beliefs so we try to hold on to them in spite of how silly they are.
We are also emotional, but emotions are a very unstable thing. We can be very happy in one moment and exceedingly sad the next. As J.P Moreland once said “Feelings are wonderful servants but terrible masters.”
We also have desire (volition), but mere will-power cannot do it. The Apostle John is pretty clear that the mere will of man is also insufficient. “But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become Children of God, who were born, not of blood nor the will of the flesh nor the will of man, but of God.”
The Holy Spirit
So none of these will save us. I think Greg Koukl addresses the missing point best when he said, “Without God’s work, nothing else works; but with God’s work, many things work. Under the influence of the Holy Spirit, love persuades. By the power of God, the gospel transforms. And with Jesus at work, arguments convince. God is happy to use each of these methods.”
Just like the man who thought he was dead, the psychiatrist’s “argument” didn’t work but he did his best. We need to do our best to address the whole person when reaching people with the gospel; intellectual, emotional, and volitional. But more than these we need to rely on the powerful work of the Holy Spirit to bring people to life so that they can hear the truth of Jesus Christ and believe!
Your Friendly Neighborhood Apologist
Question: Have you ever given someone an argument so strong but people did not believe it?