Dealing with apparent failure in apologetics


The apparent failure

It is my guess that just about everyone who is interested in Christian apologetics is aware of 1 Peter 3:15 in which Peter encourages believers to be ready to make a defense (apology) to everyone who asks about our hope. Yet, when we make that defense, not everyone responds to the claims of the Gospel.

Admittedly, sometimes the lack of response is because of a poor presentation on our part. When this is the case, it should spur us on to further prayer, study and reflection so that we are better prepared the next time.

But, there are other times when the lack of response is not due to inadequate answers or a defective presentation. How then should we respond?

Don’t be surprised

Watering CanIn the first place, it should not be a surprise, nor should the lack of response be a source of inordinate frustration. I read this morning in John:

“Though he had done so many signs before them, they still did not believe in him,” (John 12:37, ESV)

The lesson that I learn from this verse is that in some cases, a rejection of the Gospel is not due to lack of evidence or understanding. I am reminded of the little ditty, “a man convinced against his will is of the same opinion still.”

If some could witness the miracles of Jesus and remain unconvinced and unconverted, we would be foolish to think that everyone will respond to our presentation and defense of the Gospel. The will overrides the intellect when dealing with matters of faith and world view. If the lack of response is an indication of failure, it is a failure that Jesus also experienced.

Leave the result in God’s hands

Secondly, we are not called to produce a result, we are called to provide the defense to the best of our ability. God is the only one who can change hearts and the only one who takes the responsibility for the result. As Paul reminded the Corinthians, it is God who produces the growth:

“I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth.” (1 Corinthians 3:6, ESV)

We are complicated beings who operate within the overlap of the sovereignty of God and the free will of men. While God remains in control of the process, we each make choices along the way. Some of those choices move us away from God, yet God can use even those choices to bring us back to him.

As indicated above, even Paul acknowledged that the best he could do was plant seeds. If the man who wrote a large part of our New Testament could not guarantee the growth of the seeds, we would be foolish for us to expect to do better.

Make a defense, plant a seed wherever you can and let the result in God’s hands.