For those of you that are into Christian apologetics and wonder why so few are convinced when our arguments are so good and the evidence so convincing, the main problems today seem to be three:
1st, though anyone can repeat learned arguments, Christians are generally very poor at living out their faith in practice, and so even when skilled argumentation is presented, the test behind the test that the hearer is weighing is the test of character and practical believability. Remember, however true something might seem according to reason, if it is counter-intuitive according to common sense and human experience, people will not believe it.
It’s the same as when the materialists say we are reducible to the accidental relationships of molecules in motion, or that the universe just burst into being one day from nothing and for no reason; even if it were more probable than not according to the available scientific information, most folks aren’t buying, not because the arguments are bad but because it’s irreconcilable with common reason.
When professing Christians live and speak and do politics in ways irreconcilable with the life and walk of Jesus, people see through that. The level of crime, anger, unloving dispositions, gossip, rumor, innuendo, divorce, adultery, fornication, theft, fraud, pride, lust for power, greed, etc. in the churches speaks for itself, and so we always need to speak back.
Plainly, one should not engage in apologetics if one is not both willing and able to live a life worthy of the gospel? One might be the most skilled debater and arguer in the world, have great gifts and intellect, and even the passion to engage, but should remain silent when it comes to publicly representing Christ and his church, because people will see what you do more than hear what you say.
One failure in ethics will speak more loudly than a thousand words of philosophy, however true or reasonable. One’s entire ministerial life will stand or fall by the ability to stand in the face of temptations, especially to pride, because apologists are always smart, which makes being smart of little consequence. Being smart or even super smart once one passes graduate level education is so common as to make it a gift of minor significance when compared with the more rare gifts of compassion, fidelity and sacred honor.
2nd, the apologist thinks that convincing argumentation is sufficient cause for regeneration and faith.
The mastery of apologetic methodology is not a replacement for the gospel, and can often convince the unregenerate, simply because truth is available to common reason. If anything, apologetics is a field preparatory to evangelism, or posterior to evangelism in the support and defense of the faith, but not identical.
It is pretty common for intelligent, passionate souls to be converted to the magnetic power of the apologetic enterprise but not to the Christian faith itself; apologetics appeals to the highest interests of man but also many of the most carnal appetites. As sad as it is, these kinds of people will eventually make some of the most effective atheists and anti-christians once their wandering through the church has reached its resolution. They’ve read the Bible, learned your arguments, studied the philosophy and theology, heard the sermons ad infinitum, but failed to combine that mere knowledge with faith. Even if there was a temporary psychological state of self deception of “faith” (they said and even thought they believed), a true faith is more than just accepting true facts about matters of religion. Eventually the absence of the intimate communion with the Spirit of God in the soul becomes a doubt, and then an irritation, and then a conscious conflict in their own mind, and then an outward battle that consumes them wholly.
Do you remember Saul? How he was found among the Prophets? And how powerfully he resisted God when he found that for all of his attempts to secure God’s favor, he had been rejected on the basis of his own infidelity. The anger that former Christians have for the God that they say does not exists is challenged only by the that of those that stay in the church for the purpose of destabilizing the faith of the faithful, especially pastors and teachers of religion that have long since lost their first love, but not their profession.
The background problem, is that the churches are too large and evangelism, generally being oriented toward the mere accumulation of warm bodies, has been too successful. What I mean by that is that the church, instead of being successful at gathering in sincere believers has often adopted ways and means from advertising methodology and corporate systematization (business leadership modeling) and this can result in very organized and successful managerial growth programming that fills churches with practically skilled, morally motivated, but unregenerate persons.
3rd, the abandonment of a Christian psychology and anthropology.
Previous generations of apologists like Carl Henry, Francis Schaeffer, Gresham Machen, Gordon Clark, Charles Hodge, B.B. Warfield, J. O. Buswell, Jonathan Edwards, Cornelius Van Til, Greg Bahnsen, and of course Augustine and Aquinas, were incredibly interested in having a Christian analysis of the condition of fallen man and how his mind works as the prerequisite to evangelism and apologetics.
If, as all of them seemed to agree, man does have an innate and conscious knowledge of God, and his problems in belief are moral as much as intellectual, and he has not only an intellectual impediment but an internal disposition against belief (bias), then how and what we do will be more complicated than the simple throwing of arguments against a blank slate in search of knowledge, and a healthy skepticism about the distance between a lack of knowledge and a lack of desire, will be taken into account.