Winning Arguments and Losing People

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“I know there are plenty of books on apologetics and worldview that help Christians defend their faith. But we can’t learn these answers just to win arguments. That is the way everybody else in the world talks about religion. Christianity has never made converts primarily by winning arguments but rather by capturing hearts.” (Jared C. Wilson Unparalleled: How Christianity’s Uniqueness Makes It Compelling, [Baker Books, 2016], 18).

In times where the culture seems to oppose Christianity, our job as Christians is to show why Christianity is not only true and good but also beautiful and attractive. To win arguments is one thing, but to show the attraction of the gospel message is quite another. In fact, with a little bit of study and a touch of stubbornness, you could “win” most arguments. But at the end of the day, is that all we really want?

There have been many classic Christian writers from Augustine to C. S. Lewis who, for all their concern with Christianity’s reasonableness, sought to do more than win arguments. Their goal was always to attract people to Christianity, even as they demonstrated that Christianity was reasonable to believe. Jared C. Wilson takes up this same challenge. He wants to show that Christianity is good and beautiful.

In his book, Unparalleled: How Christianity’s Uniqueness Makes It Compelling, Wilson seeks to show that Christianity—at the very point where it is most unique—is actually where it is most compelling. What makes Christianity unique at its heart is the gospel of Jesus Christ. Targeting the indifference of those who claim to be “spiritual but not religious,” Wilson argues that Christianity is often assumed to be a message about how to be a good person.

This is a mistake Christians make when they lose sight of the gospel, because they get caught up in a culture war. This is the mistake the “spiritual but not religious” crowd makes when they imagine that Christianity is a religion of rule-keeping and ladder-climbing. This is not what Christianity is actually about.

Instead, Christianity is a message about bad people receiving mercy. It’s about Jesus living, dying, and rising. It’s about God seeking sinners. It’s about the Holy Spirit working in the hearts of the broken to receive salvation as a free gift. It’s about a marvelous exchange: our sins for Christ’s righteousness. It’s about God looking upon people like you and me and receiving us into his presence because of his great love displayed in the crucifixion of Christ—God punishing our sins through his own Son and declaring us righteous as his own Son is. This message itself is compelling to draw sinners to God.

Wilson has written a unique apologetic book. It relies on a clear proposition: Christianity is not the sort of religion human beings would create. Christianity is unique among the world’s faith traditions, significantly different even from those closest to it—Judaism and Islam.

Rather than engage in the typical apologetic arguments about God’s existence, Wilson wants to show that the message itself is powerful enough to elicit faith. Christianity is not the sort of religion that needs defending at every turn to establish itself as credible.

Don’t feel like you have to have all the answers. Realize that the message itself has an inherent reasonableness to it, that it is utterly unique in its message of grace and mercy, and that this message of grace and mercy has an ability to draw people to Jesus.

 

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