Sometimes believers will throw up their hands in frustration with non-Christian people they know. “I have said everything I know to say to her about the gospel,” one might say. “She already knows it all and doesn’t believe.”
Often what we seek is another argument, a hidden angle that our interlocutor hasn’t thought through before. But that’s rarely how the gospel is heard and received. Think about it in your own case. Did you believe the gospel the first time you ever heard it? Perhaps you did, but if so, you’re quite unusual. Most of us heard the gospel over and over and over again until one day it hit us in a very different way.
And what was different about it? Was it a new argument? Did you say to yourself, “Wait, you mean there’s archaeological evidence proving the historical existence of the Hittites?” or “Hold on, there were five hundred witnesses to the resurrection? Well, what must I do to be saved?”
No, in most cases what we heard was the same old gospel — Christ crucified for us, buried, raised from the dead — and suddenly there was light (2 Corinthians 4:6). Suddenly what had seemed boring or irrelevant to us now seemed quite personal. We heard a man’s voice in that gospel, and we wanted to follow that voice (John 10:3, 16). We saw a light of glory that overwhelmed us (2 Corinthians 4:6). The same is true with the as-of-yet unbelieving world around us or the as-of-yet unbelieving relatives we have waiting for us at the Thanksgiving dinner table.
You need not be intimidated by unbelievers, as though what you need is a more nuanced “worldview” to protect the kingdom of God from their threats. Yes, we engage in apologetic arguments, but those aren’t at the hub of our mission. By talking with unbelievers about arguments against the existence of God or scientific evidence for blind natural selection or whatever, all we’re doing is listening to the defense mechanisms of those who are, as we were, scared of the sound of God’s presence in the garden. We should talk about those things lovingly, but not so we can defend the faith. We engage others only so we can get to the only announcement that assaults the blinding power of the god of this age (2 Corinthians 4:4).
The gospel is big enough to fight for itself.
Tempted and Tried: Temptation and the Triumph of Christ, 110–111, paragraphing added.
(HT: Jonathan Parnell)