You love to argue.
It’s OK. Most of us who are interested in Apologetics do. In fact, it is probably your love for a hearty debate that attracted you to Apologetics in the first place.
It seems to be a common personality trait of those of us who valiantly refer to ourselves as “Defenders of the Faith.” Even when you are not discussing Christianity, you are debating sports…. or politics… or recipes… or whatever you can sink your logical teeth into. It was only natural that you should take this hobby and apply it to your call to evangelism. It is for you (and myself) that I offer this word of advice: Be graciously persuasive.
This comes from a series of verses in the book of Proverbs that can (and should) be wonderfully applied to the life and practice of the Christian Apologist. In Proverbs 16:20-24, we find a series of five verses that seem -in no particular order- to speak directly to the naturally argumentative mind.
Verse 20 – Whoever gives thought to the word will discover good, and blessed is he who trusts in the Lord.
Verse 21 – The wise of heart is called discerning, and sweetness of speech increases persuasiveness.
Verse 22 – Good sense is a fountain of life to him who has it, but the instruction of fools is folly.
Verse 23 – The heart of the wise makes his speech judicious and adds persuasiveness to his lips.
Verse 24 – Gracious words are like a honeycomb, sweetness to the soul and health to the body.
The Apologist will naturally gravitate toward verse 22. ‘Good sense’ versus ‘fools’ is just the right kind of language that appeals to those who love to debate. However, the verses that surround it are the ones that are important.
We must think about our words when we engage with someone who considers themselves a skeptic. We cannot afford to forget that our trust must remain in the Lord at all times. How often do we puff up and rely on our own ability to reason when we are in the middle of an argument? The quickest way to become careless & ineffective is to leave God on the bench.
“Sweetness of speech increases persuasiveness” is profoundly true. Delivery is so very important when talking to someone who doesn’t know Christ. Remember, the goal of Christian Apologetics is ultimately evangelism. It does us no good to persuade someone of the Truth if we burn the bridge to Christ with a sarcastic delivery, condescending tone, and/or cocky demeanor.
Wisdom is certainly a thing to be desired. In fact, Scripture even tells us that if we are lacking in wisdom, we should pray to ask God to give it to us! Why? Because a wise person’s heart is different! How easy it is for us to fall into the trap of placing more emphasis on “knowledge” than on “wisdom” in our pursuit of convincing arguments to use in defense of Christianity. We see in this verse that the heart of the wise person will make our speech judicious and persuasive.
Gracious speech is disarming. It is one of the greatest tools we have at our disposal to persuade a skeptical world to lower their intellectual defenses and give Faith a chance. Don’t forget, it is by Faith alone that we are saved!
In summary, we are to be gracious so that we can be persuasive.