The Three Barriers to Belief: Tactics in Apologetic Engagement

by Eric Chabot

Apologetics is the branch of Christian theology that offers reasons for believing Christianity is true. We see that throughout the Book of Acts that Luke uses words such as reason, persuade, eyewitness, witness, or defense. We also see that on many occasions that Paul reasoned with his audience on  (Acts17:2, 17; 18:4, 19; 19:8, 9), seeking to persuade them  of the truthfulness of Jesus as the Messiah (18:4; 19:8; 26:28; 28:23).

Anyone who does apologetics needs to be aware of the three barriers to belief

#1 Emotional Barriers: Many people have emotional issues with Christianity. Perhaps they have been hurt or  their present circumstances have caused barriers to being able to trust that there really is a loving Creator. The apologist needs to be sensitive to these issues.

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#2  Intellectual barriers: There are always skeptical barriers. What kind of evidence to do have for God? What about science? Miracles are not possible! There are many more intellectual objections. They have been around for a long time.

#3 Volitional barriers: In this case, the will is in the way. We trust the Spirit of God to work in this area. In his book Evangelism And The Sovereignty of God, J.I Packer says, “Can you or I give life to the spiritually dead? No. Can we hope to convince sinners of the truth of the gospel by patient explanation? No. Can we hope to move men to obey the gospel by any words of entreaty that we may utter? No. Our approach to evangelism is not realistic till we have faced this shattering fact, and let it make its proper impact on us.”  In some ways I  agree with Packer in that we can’t give life to the spiritually dead. But I do agree that He can use our words to remove barriers.

Also,  perhaps Paul Moser is right on target in what he calls “kardiatheology” – a theology that is aimed at one’s motivational heart (including one’s will) rather than just at one’s mind or one’s emotions. In other words, God is very interested in moral transformation…


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