Persuasion versus Argument in Apologetics

by Mark Farnham

Persuasion versus Argument

The good news when it comes to evangelism and apologetics is that Jesus does not call us to argue with people in a contentious manner, but rather to seek to persuade. The good news of Jesus was never spread through quarreling, but through persuasion. Persuasion can be defined as the art of speaking to people who are indifferent or resistant to what we have to say, and moving them closer to our position.[1] Returning to 1 Peter 3:15-16 we note several principles regarding persuasion in apologetics:[2]

  1. Apologetics is not about starting arrogant arguments with unbelievers. We are not trying to prove them wrong, humiliate them, or make ourselves feel smarter. Rather, our goal is to present a reasonable defense of the truths of the Christian faith. As Kevin DeYoung says, “We don’t want people to think that we are always right, but we want them to know that the Bible is never wrong.” We show how Christianity is built on rational truth that does not contradict itself, as well as on verifiable historical events. In doing this we aim to continue the conversation until it can be focused on Jesus.

We also need to discern between arguing and being argumentative. Argument is a natural part of life, and simply denotes the way we seek to logically present ideas. Being argumentative, on the other hand, is an attitude of opposing ideas just for the sake of it, or for the love of conflict. This is the equivalent of being contentious or quarrelsome. As G. K. Chesterton quipped, “A quarrel can end a good argument. Most people today quarrel because they cannot argue.”

Because apologetics involves the give and take of conversation, arguing your point is a natural means of persuasion. Just as Paul argued and reasoned with those to whom he shared the gospel…


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