Theology of Persuasion

Christian Worldview Discipleship

Therefore, knowing the fear of the Lord, we persuade others

–2 Corinthians 5:11

The worldview based on God’s revelation and the worldview based on unbelief are completely opposed and at base have no point of agreement. Regarding knowledge (epistemology), Christians and non-Christians have nothing in common. In principle, their systems are completely at odds. One interprets all of reality according to God’s revelation, the other denies that revelation and interprets autonomously. The unbeliever’s reason is not neutral. Man’s reason, just like the rest of him, is fallen. Man is totally depraved, meaning there is no part of him that is not sinful. All aspects are fallen and dead in sin. Not just his affections, but also his intellect. Man’s reason is sinful. Everything is interpreted through the grid of unbelief. Man’s rational faculties are fine. The instruments work. The airplane is in good working condition, but it’s flying in the wrong direction. Every piece of data given in support of the Christian worldview is easily grist for the unbelieving mill. God’s clear revelation of himself in creation is already being held down with both hands by the unbeliever. And all the evidence and arguments given in addition are also suppressed.

That’s a grim situation.

Man’s reason is depraved so that evidence will not be “read” correctly. Apologetics has for so long focused on proving Christianity. But how can that be done if no amount of evidence (i.e. all of creation) can compel belief? And we don’t merely want to show Christianity as valid, but as the only sound position.

In his book, Covenantal Apologetics, K. Scott Oliphint addresses a matter that has received “scant attention” even though it is directly related to this apologetic approach. He maintains that persuasion has a crucial place in covenantal apologetics.

The reason why we must prefer persuasion in apologetics over strict, demonstrative proofs is deeply theological; it is a direct implication of . . .  “God’s covenantal revelation is authoritative by virtue of what it is, and any covenantal, Christian apologetic will necessarily stand on and utilize that authority in order to defend Christianity.”

—K. Scott Oliphint, Covenantal Apologetics pg. 127

Oliphint is not using “persuasion” as a synonym for “convince.” We don’t have the power to cause someone to believe. Only the Holy Spirit compels one to believe. But what we can do is pry up their fingers (to use James White’s illustration) as they’re holding down the truth…

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Theology of Persuasion | Christian Worldview Discipleship