I love apologetics. I started witnessing a couple of months after I became a Christian at the age of seventeen. The first group I went to was the local Muslim student association. I remember they gave me a tract alleging that Christians believe in three gods. “We do?” I said. From that moment on, I became invested in apologetics (or what used to be called “Christian Evidences”). The more I witnessed, the more challenges I received to my faith. And that forced me to investigate the best reasons for believing in Jesus.
Yet, sometimes doing apologetics is not the best use of your time. Sometimes, you shouldn’t be doing it at all.
The big question for me is: “Are they open?” If someone is seeking the truth and genuinely wants to know why Christians believe what they do, then apologetics can help remove intellectual barriers to faith.
But what if someone is not open? What if an atheist just wants to argue? What should you do then?
The seventeen-year-old me would say you should pursue him. Keep arguing. Get upset about it. Continue through the night if you have to. Don’t let go until you badger him into belief. Alas, the seventeen-year-old me had lots of time on his hands.
The forty-one-year-old me would give a different answer. Since entering ministry full-time, pastoring part-time, and raising a family, I realize I have only so many hours in the day. Now I ask, what’s the best investment of my time?
If you struggle with the same question, here’s a memorable piece of advice from Martin Luther:
“Now if someone wants to say that God is not God, just let him go. For we have nothing to do with the man who believes nothing at all and denies everything one says of God and God’s Word…he who dares deny what nature teaches everyone and what is granted by the reason and intellect of all men should not be disputed with but should be referred to a physician who should clean out his brain for him” (What Luther Says, p. 538, #1630, emphasis added.)
Letting go is hard to do. But it’s necessary. And Biblical (cf. Matt 10:14).
Just remember, sometimes you have to let go of one person to grab hold of another.