One more post about doubt from William Lane Craig’s Reasonable Faith. As he began to explain in the passage form the previous post, doubt and unbelief, are not really intellectual problems. Rather, “unbelief is at root a spiritual, not an intellectual, problem.”
This is a great insight. And how does it apply to situations where the doubt in question is not our doubt, but the doubt of someone we’re trying to share the gospel with? What about a non-believer’s doubts about the message of Christ? Dr. Craig explains:
Sometimes an unbeliever will throw up an intellectual smoke screen so that he can avoid personal, existential involvement with the gospel. In such a case, further argumentation may be futile and counter-productive, and we need to be sensitive to moments when apologetics is and is not appropriate. If we sense the unbeliever’s arguments and questions are not sincere, we may do better to simply break off the discussion and ask him, “If I answered that objection, would you then really be ready to become a Christian?” Tell him lovingly and forthrightly that you think he’s throwing up an intellectual smoke screen to keep from confronting the real issue; his sin before God. Apologetics is thus most appropriate and effective when the unbeliever is spiritually open and sincerely seeking to know the truth.
This is a helpful strategy. Instead of answering the hundredth question, why not try to get to the heart of the issue? Dr. Craig offers one more piece of insight about these situations:
Now there is also a danger in all this. There is the danger that in evangelism we may focus our attention on the argument instead of on the unbeliever. In doing evangelism we must never let apologetics distract us from our primary aim of communicating the gospel. Indeed, I’d say that with most people there’s no need to use apologetics at all. Only use rational argumentation after sharing the gospel and when the unbeliever still has questions. If you tell him, “God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life,” and he says he doesn’t believe in God, don’t get bogged down at that point in trying to prove the existence of God to him. Tell him, “Well, at this point I’m not trying to convince you that what the Bible says is true; I’m just trying to share with you what the Bible says. After I’ve done that, then perhaps we can come back to whether there are good reasons to believe that what it says is true.” Remember our primary aim in evangelism is to present Christ.
Isn’t this solid? And I agree. In our day, when many people we meet are ignorant of the message of Christ, while at the same time being indoctrinated into hostility towards Christianity, one of the best things we can do is just to tell people about Jesus–tell people what he did, and what he said. Tell them the little stories from the gospel accounts about Jesus’ miracles. Tell them about his parables. Tell them about his teachings. Tell them how he treated people. Tell them about his death and resurrection. Just get the message out there. We can trust God to do his work, with his word.
In other words, we can sow seed, and trust God to grow fruit.