What is the effectiveness of apologetics? The Holy Scriptures tell us that God has revealed himself to mankind but that humanity as a whole does not want God (Romans 1:18-20). This leads people to create crafty ways in which to avoid God. Jesus also revealed the inner depths of the human psyche in this exchange of God’s wooing and the human response to that truth in the Parable of the Sower (Matthew 13:3-23, Mark 4:2-20, Luke 8:4-18). In this parable, the sower (one who relays God’s truth) scatters seeds (the truth of God) and the seeds fall on four different kinds of ground (types of human dispositions).
There are very persuasive reasons to believe that Jesus is God incarnate (this is how I was convinced), and if that’s true, then what Jesus has to say about the condition of the human heart and our reaction to God’s wooing cuts at the very heart of why some, given the same external evidence, do not believe in Him, while others do.
It is extremely important to consider the role of the human heart in its response to the evidence presented. A man’s reception of God’s Word is determined by the condition of his heart and not necessarily by the strength or weakness of the evidence presented. This is why, when Christian apologists relay the reasons for the existence of God, they should not be surprised to have unbelievers reject the evidence and erect counter arguments, and even to launch personal attacks. Above all else human beings desire autonomy, and conceding to the will of another, even their maker, can prove to be too much for the will of some. The lengths to which people will go to avoid or reject the evidence reveals where their heart is, and the Parable of the Sower can help us determine this to better inform how the apologist may deal with each individual. Our apologetics approach can be informed by Jesus Himself. Given the various states of the human heart in response to the Gospel, we can draw up analogous characteristics in response to Christian apologetics for God’s existence.
There is one very important thing to keep in mind here – we don’t know beforehand in which category each person will be. Jesus relayed how the different kinds of human hearts respond to the gospel. He can know beforehand who will and will not accept Him. He knows right now. However, people presenting the evidence for God are not in a position to know how anyone may respond. As such, we should not be making hasty assumptions about how people may or may not react to the evidence. Presenting an apologetic at least once is important. The response of the people to whom we present the evidence should help guide our understanding about which category each person falls into. Time is a finite resource. We must spread the seed, but if someone demonstrates the characteristics of the hard soil, they are likely not in any frame of mind to entertain the truth. It would be far wiser to save our time and effort to spread the seeds in places where the land looks fertile.
Those who are completely against God and any evidence anyone presents to try to demonstrate the truth of God, will likely never be phased by anything presented. They are less likely to need our presentation of the evidence and more in need of our prayers because unless God intervenes to soften the soil, the seed will never germinate.
Arthur is an author, a former agnostic, and current ambassador of Jesus of Nazareth who loves to share the best of reasons for God's ultimate reality. His love and passion are helping skeptics and Christians grow in their faith and knowledge of God through accessible materials.