The “You Can’t Argue Someone Into the Kingdom of God” Myth

arguingI have heard it said that you can’t argue someone into the kingdom of God.  I always found that as an interesting argument (hopefully you can see in the irony in that statement).  Why can’t you argue someone into the kingdom of God?  1 Peter 3:15 states “always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect.”  The word “defend” in that passage is where the word “apologetics” comes from.  It is the Greek world apologia which we get our word “apologetics”, which means to give a defense or vindication. Apologetics is providing evidence, reasons, and justification for ones position.  It appears eight times in the New Testament (Acts 22:1; 25:16; 1 Cor 9:3; 2 Cor 7:11; Phil 1:7, 16; 2 Tim 4:16; and 1 Pet 3:15).  In fact, Plato’s dialogue in the Apology is not Socrates apologizing for his gadfly antics in ancient Athens, but a defense of his position in the Athenian court.  In short, we are commanded to give an argument for our faith.

Don’t confuse the word “argument” with “argumentative.”  We are not to be argumentative as in to bicker or quarrel.  The later portion of 1 Peter 3:15 says to give a reason with gentleness and respect.  That is not quarreling or fighting.  We are to give a justification for the truth claims of Christianity. 

But, the idea that you can’t argue someone with reasons and evidence into believing that Christianity is true that leads to a conversion is still prominently accepted.  Let me ask the following question: why can’t good reasons, arguments, evidence, and a clear justification of Christianity lead someone to the Kingdom of God?  Is your God too small and unable to use evidence and arguments?  Why put God in a box.  If he wants to use arguments, evidence, and reason (which he command us to do in 1 Peter) then that is God’s prerogative.

Below are several examples of people who were “argued” into the Kingdom of God:

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“Five Atheists Who Lost Faith in Atheism”

You can include the following as well:

Josh McDowell – The famous apologist was challenged to examine the evidence for Christianity when he was an atheist.  Upon examination, he converted, and the rest is history: More Than a Carpenter and Evidence That Demands a Verdict

Lee Strobel – Strobel was convinced his newly converted wife was brainwashed and used his investigative journalism skills to debunk Christianity.  The Case for Christ and The Case for Faith was the result.  Also here.

Philip Vander Elst – A freelance writer and lecturer who has spent nearly 30 years in politics and journalism describes his journey from atheism to Christianity via the apologetics works of C.S. Lewis.

Rosaria Butterfield – Former lesbian militant feminist describes her dramatic conversion in The Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert.

Guillaume Bignon – French atheist becomes a Christian theologian.

Peter Byrom – Former atheist talks about how reason brought him back to Christ.

Jordan Monge – A Harvard University student explains how evidence changed her mind about God.

Nabeel Qureshi – Former Muslim who interacted with the apologetist David Wood in college.  Nabeel tells his story in his book Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus

 So go ahead.  Argue someone into the Kingdom of God.  Do it with gentleness and respect.
The following are some great books of Christian philosophers and scholars in which reason and evidence played a role in the spiritual journey to faith:
Philosopher’s Who Believe ed. Kelly James Clark
God and the Philosophers ed. Thomas Morris
Professors Who Believe ed. by Paul M. Anderson
In this following video William Lane Craig quotes J. P. Moreland saying “that you can argue someone into the Christian faith, I’ve done it.”  The whole video is worth watching but the relevant clip is from 6:27 to the end of the video.

By J. Steve Lee

J. Steve Lee has taught Apologetics for over a decade at Prestonwood Christian Academy. He also has taught World Religions and Philosophy at Mountain View College in Dallas. With a degree in history and education from the UNT, Steve continued his formal studies at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary w/ an M.A. in philosophy of religion and has pursued doctoral studies at the UT-Dallas. He is finishing his dissertation at South African Theological Seminary. He has published several articles for the Apologetics Study Bible for Students (B&H Publishing, 2010) as well as articles & reviews in various periodicals including Philosophia Christi, Hope’s Reason: A Journal of Apologetics, and the Areopagus Journal.