Now, the field of Christian apologetics has experienced somewhat of a resurgence over the past decade. Even so, there remains a great chasm between the world of apologetics and the average church pastor and congregation. Many mega church pastors and Christian lifestyle speakers/writers are raking in money hand over fist these days, but the average apologist is still working another full time job (like me). This is due, in many cases, to the concern that my friend articulated. It is most commonly phrased as follows: "No one gets saved by apologetics."
As you can imagine, a lot of apologists get seriously bent out of shape when they hear someone say that. And there are many good responses. But I want to suggest that the best thing to do when we hear someone say "no one gets saved by apologetics" is to agree with them. Have I lost my mind? No. Here is how I try to handle the conversation when it arises (and it does...A LOT).
No one gets saved by apologetics.
I agree. But no one gets saved by evangelism either.
What do you mean?
There is only one way that anyone has ever been saved, and that is by the power of the Holy Spirit and the finished work of Jesus Christ. The Holy Spirit works through evangelism and He also works through apologetics.
I know that, but you can't simply argue people into believing. Even the best argument can't save a soul. It isn't about head knowledge, it's about heart change.
I agree. But you also can't simply motivate people into believing. Even the most passionate preacher can't save a soul--only the Holy Spirit can. Also, you can't believe something in your heart that you are convinced is false in your head and vice versa. We shouldn't act like the two are mutually exclusive.
I would actually go a step further and say that I think evangelism and apologetics go hand in hand. If you aren't evangelizing in some way when you are engaged in apologetics, you are probably not doing it right.* Likewise, if you aren't giving reasons for the truth of Christianity in some way when you are evangelizing, you are probably not doing that right either. I don't believe that anyone will be saved by apologetics, but I am absolutely convinced that the Holy Spirit uses apologetics to bring people to salvation. If you want a biblical example, take a look at the pattern Paul followed in Acts chapter 17-19 as he went from town to town. At one point it says "he entered the synagogue and continued speaking out boldly for three months, reasoning and persuading them about the kingdom of God" (Acts 19:8). For three whole months! And what was the result? Many of the people hardened their hearts, started talking bad about Christianity (which was then simply called The Way) and Paul had to leave town. That sounds sort of anti-climatic--almost futile. It would have been easy for someone to say, "see Paul, no one gets saved by apologetics." But just a verse later we read that he went right on to another place and kept doing the same thing, not for 3 months, but for two years! What was the result this time? We read that, "All who lived in Asia heard the word of the Lord, both Jews and Greeks" (Acts 19:10).
*Someone might point out that apologetics is often done within groups where everyone is already a believer. In such cases, it would seem like evangelism would not be involved. However, I would stand by my statement, and here is my reason why. We often conflate the idea of evangelizing (preaching the good news) with proselytizing (seeking to convert people). While our Christian friends certainly do not need to be proselytized, they absolutely need to be evangelized. When I engage in apologetics in the fellowship of other believers, my hope is to be a tool in the hands of the Holy Spirit to shine a floodlight on the truth of the Gospel. And that is the primary thing He (the Holy Spirit) does. As Jesus is our advocate before the Father, the Holy Spirit is the advocate before our hearts, convincing us of the glorious good news of Christ. So, I would stand by my claim that evangelism and apologetics work hand in hand--even in the company of other believers.