An Approach to Christian Apologetics


Dennis McCallum



  1. Apologetics and the Noetic Effects of Sin

    Before we can develop a comprehensive approach to apologetics, we should determine how we will respond to the biblical teaching on the noetic effects of sin. To what extent can fallen man use his reason to understand the things of the Spirit? Should we use an approach that employs reason, or simply rely on a declaration of the truth, in the belief that God will quicken those who are "appointed unto eternal life"?1 Indeed, perhaps there is no place for apologetics at all!

    There is definitely a problem here, as evidenced in numerous passages which indicate that the non-Chrisian cannot receive the things of the spirit.2 I think we need to give full weight to this teaching, but we need to consider other teachings as well that throw a different light on the issue.

    Christ declared that no one could come to Him unless the Father draws him.3 This corresponds with Paul's point in Romans 3. However, Christ also declared that when He was lifted up, he would, "...draw all men to Himself".4 I understand this to mean that although man cannot, and will not, arrive at a knowledge of God through autonomous reason, he can still be reasoned with, because God will grant him the blessing of a spiritual "drawing" action. This ministry enables him to understand at least the basic gospel of Christ.

    This idea is confirmed in Jn. 16:8-11. The Spirit "will convict the world" -- a reference to God's work with non-Christians. No doubt this convicting ministry will enable the non-Christian to understand the basic issues of "sin, righteousness, and judgment".

    This would explain why Paul did not attempt to speak to the Corinthians in terms of the full wisdom of God, but did feel that they would understand "Christ and Him crucified."5

    I would further understand that rational persuasion is an appropriate vehicle for communicating this message. Paul says, ". . .knowing the fear of the Lord, we persuade men."6 Luke also says that ". . .according to Paul's custom, he went to them and for three Sabbaths reasoned with them from the Scriptures,explaining and giving evidence that the Christ had to suffer. . ."7Again we read that at Corinth itself Paul was, ". . .reasoning in the synagogue. . .and trying to persuade Jews and Greeks." Even if some of these people were Old Testament style believers, certainly some of them were not regenerate.8

    While reason and persuasion will work in apologetics, we would be mistaken if we assumed that the non-Christian is not impaired in his/her ability to apprehend advanced theological truth. We need to remember that Paul would speak wisdom only among those who were "mature" or who were "spiritual men" (pneumatikoi).9 We should center our conversation around the great themes of the grace of God, heaven and hell, and personal indwelling of the Holy Spirit, with accompanying changed life.  Any other thing that is introduced should be supportive of those themes, and not apt to distract from them.

    Thus, based on the drawing ministry of the Holy Spirit extended to all mankind, and the clear example of Paul, we can be confident that there is a role for rational persuasion in the proper practice of apologetics.

  2. Burden of Proof in Apologetics

    The next question that must be settled in the mind of the apologist is that of burden of proof. The Christian communicator must decide what the goal of apologetics is. As already stated in an earlier paper,10 I think that Geisler errs when he asserts that the Christian (or any other) world view must have an "adequate truth test" in the sense that it is an undeniable (or inescapable) proof. The actual situation, in my view, is that no world view can really offer such a proof.

    If we feel that we must offer an undeniable test for the truth claims of Christianity, we are accepting the full burden of proof for our view, even though no other view can offer such proof either.

    If this position is accepted, it may lead, I think, to misdirection in our communication, as well as a combative type of apologetic approach. Misdirection, because we will offer confusing and unpersuasive arguments, and combative, because we will be intent on proving our point instead of simply presenting Christianity as a world view that is worthy of serious consideration.

    Thus, I find myself fully in agreement with the position taken in class, that we have only to make Christianity plausible. There is a clear theological basis for such a stand in the biblical teaching regarding God's role in apologetics mentioned earlier.

  3. Communication Considerations

    • Decision Making and Communication 

      It is best if relationship precedes persuasion in apologetics. This is based on the decision making process usually involved in major decisions. We need to carefully set up a situation where there is the greatest ease in moving from one position to another.

      The time element should also be stressed. It is rare that someone will be willing to decide to change the course of their life on the spur of the moment. Even if they were willing, the decision might be ill-informed, and superficial.

      The Christian communicator should learn to "read" the listener's progress in understanding and responding to the Christian message. The rule of thumb that should be followed is this: When response is seen, offer more truth. When unresponsiveness is seen, back away in the area of truth. However, we should not back away personally. It is essential that we remain available and interested in the listener even if unresponsiveness is seen. Of course, eventually we may reach a limit to this commitment, but we should be very slow to do so.11 We should return later to such a person, and see if the receptiveness has changed.

      Increased dissonance and doubt will usually be the result of hasty conversions. Even though this is not always the case,12 I think we should plan our apologetic with the norm in mind, and maintain flexibility in the use of it.

    • Dealing With Non-Christian Preconceptions 

      A second communication consideration that should be borne in mind is that of the likely preconceptions of the listener. Greatest among these will often be the notion that Christians are self-righteous, mean, judgmental, ignorant and/or boring.

      These conceptions are usually firmly based on previous experience on the part of the listener. There are definite images of witnessing Christians that we will have to separate ourselves from if we are to be effective at communicating with secular people today.

      The pre-conceptions in the area of self-righteousness, meanness, and judgementaslism are best dealt with in the context of our relationship with the listener. It is best (if possible) to know for sure that the listener knows we are clear in these areas before trying to introduce the Gospel. If the listener experiences accepting love from the believer for a period of time, it will be hard for the listener to change his/her mind about us just because of something we believe.

      If it is not possible or expedient to establish such a relationship beforehand, we can still demonstrate innocence in this area by the reaction that we have once the gospel has been given-- especially if it is not accepted.

      The preconception that Christians are ignorant is found among well educated people who have been exposed to TV preaching or superstitious believers in real life. A lack of ignorance is best demonstrated in a non-religious area prior to introducing the gospel if possible. We are not trying to show off how much we know at this point, but to demonstrate that we think in a reasonable and non-gullible way.

      We should avoid showing that we are educated in the area of theology because this might intimidate the listener, causing him/her to feel embarrassed at his/her own ignorance of Christianity. People will sometimes be reluctant to converse in areas where they feel too ignorant.

      The final area of preconception is that Christians are boring. This thought often stems from experiences that the listener had in the institutional church during youth. It is not an exaggeration to say that many people carry a deep seated revulsion to Christianity because of the forced boredom they experienced as children in the church. There is also the added fact that many of the activities which the listener considers fun are believed to be against the rules of Christianity. In some cases, this impression is accurate. In others, it is not. In all cases, however, Christianity is not boring.

      The Christian apologist should try to dispel the fear of boredom by demonstrating a lack of boringness, again before introducing the gospel if possible.13 If this is not convenient, such a demonstration should follow the gospel. The best way to do this is to join the hearer doing things that are not boring (that is, not boring in the mind of the listener) and to enjoy doing those things.

      It may also be necessary to disassociate ourselves from some abberant form of Christianity that the listener is identifying us with. There are often doctrinal assumptions that are being made by the listener-- perhaps doctrines that we do not believe in.

      Since it takes time to make a decision to commit one's life to Christ, we have ample time to undo all of the pre-conceptions that may be present. The apologist should exercise patience and diligence in accomplishing this goal.

    • Thesis-Antithesis Communication 

      A final consideration in the area of communication is the problem of effectively communicating abstract truths. An abstract truth cannot be communicated effectively simply by stating it. Key ideas such as grace, love, justice, meaning and value do not necessarily mean the same thing to the listener as they do to the speaker.

      There are several ways to concretize abstractions. We can make use of illustration and analogy, as I will advocate later. We can also use the practice of always stating the antithesis of each thesis. When we explain what an idea's antithesis is, the listener will understand the thesis.

      Allow me to concretize this abstraction with an illustration. Very many non-Christians do not understand the crucial biblical concept of grace. Grace is, after all, not very common in the temporal world we live in. How can we explain such an idea? One way would be to offer imperfect analogies like the unconditional love of a parent for his/her child.14 Another method of communicating the meaning of grace is to compare it to law.15

      It is my belief that Christian communication is sometimes too bland because we are reluctant to step on anyone's toes. It is possible to forcefully argue against a position while arguing for a different position, and still not seem judgmental. This is because the impression (and the fact) of judgementalism has to do with an attitude of rejection toward people, not with disagreement with a position per se. Care should be exerted to make this distinction.

  4. Apologetical Content

    • Pre-Evangelistic Content 

      Once the point is reached in a communication situation where an explanation of my (Christian) world view is appropriate, my approach to apologetics would differ in a couple of minor ways from the method suggested in class.

      While not rejecting the validity of personal experience as a message, I would add, and even prefer, a metaphysical argument in favor of investigating Christ to begin with. The reason for beginning with the metaphysical approach is that it has universal appeal, it is true, it is biblical, and it is not subject to some of the problems that other arguments are.

      The issue of meaning in life has universal application. Even though people do not usually thing in these terms, they usually have thought about it at some point in their lives. We can, I think, cause meaning to become a conscious  issue in anyone's mind if we approach it properly.

      The claim that Christ gives meaning and purpose to our lives is true, and can be argued unquestioningly. However, because many people rarely think about meaning in their lives, they may find it hard to understand some of the concepts involved. We need a way to bring the average person face to face with the issue of meaning in life, and to do so in a way that compels immediate favorable consideration of Christianity.

      Arguing from analogy and parable can make the issue of meaning understandable, and pressing. Jesus used this kind of argument as can be seen, for instance, in the parable of the rich fool. When Christ confronts the imaginary rich fool He says,

      "You fool! This very night your soul is required of you; and now who will own what you have prepared?" 16

      And to the others He explained the metaphysical import of the story by saying,

      "So is the man who lays up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God."17

      Christ is arguing here that no pursuit or identity that is temporal can have any ultimate meaningfulness. Any temporary importance such goals seem to have is lost at the moment of death. Purpose in life is not to be found in materialism, but in a relationship with God that will last forever.

      This same approach can be seen in the parable of Lazarus and Dives,18 and the unrighteous steward.19 His teaching at the raising of Lazarus20 focused on the issue of eternal life as it affects our life now. One of His clearest teachings on the subject is the question that He put more than once, "What is a man profited if he gains the whole world, and loses or forfeits himself?"21

      A suitable way for us to argue from an analogy might be like this:

      Imagine yourself being ushered into a large gymnasium where a party is going on. There are numerous booths around the walls. Each booth offers a different activity or product. You see that there are thousands of people, all busily going from one booth to another engaging in various pursuits.

      Some are in a booth that offers sexual experience. Some are in another booth that offers drug experiences. Still others are in a very large booth going through various procedures which, when completed, will entitle them to be rich. For those who want it, there are art and music lessons. You can even go into a laboratory and do research.

      The men leading you into the gymnasium explain that you can do anything you want to at the party. However, the party is only three hours long. After three hours, you will be taken out and shot to death.

      Can you enjoy the party?

      As you go to several of the booths, looking for something fulfilling to do, you witness several people being dragged screaming out of the door. This is followed by the sound of gunfire.

      As you realize the tragic nature of the situation that you and everyone else, are in, you also realize that you don't want to engage in some flippant activity. Therefore, you go to the laboratory and after two hours of intensive work, you discover a medication that will enable everyone to live for three hours and five minutes. Yet you find yourself wondering whether you have really done anything worthwhile.

      As you try to consider what to do next, you find yourself wondering whether or not to simply walk out to the firing squad immediately, and have done with it.

      At this point in the parable, we have hopefully drawn our friend into an understanding of what metaphysical need is. It may be necessary to customize the elements in the story to fit the listener. We may have to remind him/her that there is no real difference between three hours and seventy years. There is still a complete absence of ultimate meaning if life is temporal.

      Our object in this type of communication is not to defend Christianity, but to create a sense of need. Thus, it is pre-evangelistic in scope.

      If we are dealing with someone who has successfully anesthetized themselves from the pain of lostness, this step may be a necessary pre-requisite for the Gospel, or for sharing our own experience. There are even those who would admit that Christianity is possible, but they do not see why it is important to them. Here again, we need to develop a way to wake such a one up to reality.

      The illustration that I have suggested is merely reducing a dilemma that is confusing to some, to a size that is comprehensible to all.

      At this point it may be good to continue with the analogy.

      As you stand in the party wondering what to do next, you hear someone trying to get your attention. Looking over, you see a man standing by the corner of a booth near the wall, gesturing for you to come over. You walk over and ask him what he wants. He says, "We've found a doorway back here that they don't even know about! You can walk out of here and go where you please!"

      Obviously, such a claim would be suspicious. It might be a trick. It certainly seems too good to be true. Yet, while caution would be reasonable, you certainly are going to go over and see what he has! If you were really in such a situation, one option that would be unthinkable would be to walk away without even investigating.22

      We have now created a sense of need for a metaphysical answer. We can begin to argue that we are the one who has found an exit. We can argue that Christianity is that answer.23

      By starting with a metaphysical approach, we have possibly avoided some pitfalls common to other starting points. For instance, what if my Christian experience is not very great at this time? What about the foul experience of other Christians? What exact experience am I going to be able to honestly promise the non-Christian?

      We might avoid another problem with starting out with an argument from experience-- namely that such an argument might tend to have more effect for those who happen to be in a position of felt need at the moment.24 The one who feels that he "has it all together" may not understand why he would want to trade in his own experience (which he is happy with) for one that I am happy with.

      It is sometimes possible to incorporate personal experience into an approach of the sort mentioned. We can simply preface it by sharing that, "I was bothered by this need for meaning in my life, which led me to consider Christianity."25

    • Evangelistic Content 

      Once we are sure that we are communicating with an interested person who is willing to listen, we are ready to explain and defend the good news about Christ.

      Before explaining anything else, I think we should do what Paul did, namely to know "nothing but Christ and Him crucified." I take this to mean that we explain grace. I can usually assume that the listener thinks that Christianity is law.26 Therefore, I will seek to prove that, no matter what he/she has heard before, Christianity is actually, "faith apart from works."27

      After explaining the grace-law dichotomy, I will try to explain a second dichotomy-- namely that of "religion verses relationship". This dichotomy is explaining the difference between a formal and a personal relationship. I am going to assume that the listener may not think of Christianity as a personal relationship with God at all. The listener may think of a relationship with God in the same way he/she thinks of a relationship with the Internal Revenue Service. There is a relationship there, but it is not a personal one. There is simply the desire to stay out of trouble by meeting the minimal requirements. Such a relationship could hardly be considered a love relationship.

      I would want to detail each of these dichotomies from the Scripture in the belief that the Holy Spirit will work through the Word of God to a greater extent than He would otherwise.28 I would assume that as I share these truths with enthusiasm and warmth, such a declaration of the truth will have an impact far beyond what would be expected normally.

      We have to be able to explain the difference between mental assent and personal faith. Here, perhaps no area of content is as useful as our own experience. The sharing of our personal experience in the context of the understanding already mentioned should be highly effective, especially if the Christian has a high level of credibility in the eyes of the listener.

  5. Encountering Problems in Apologetics

    The types of arguments that are usually considered to be the bulk of apologetics would be, in my approach, best used when problems are encountered. I think that the order is important here.

    I feel that I must first explain the two dichotomies mentioned under evangelistic content, before I am willing to defend any aspect of Christianity at all.29 Otherwise, I may be actually defending, not the true biblical Christianity that I believe in, but the jaded idea of Christianity that the listener may have. There have been many times when an inexperienced Christian has defended special creation, the existence of God, various Christian ethics, or other areas, but left the discussion without ever explaining the grace of God!

    In my view, this would be an unqualified waste of time. We would be giving reasons for belief in something, but we forgot to say what! Thus, I would change the subject simply and directly before defending any aspect of Christianity by saying, "First of all, when I say Christianity, I mean. . . and I don't mean. . .."30

    If I am sure that we are both talking about the same thing, I can now enter into a discussion with the listener about problems that he/she may have with Christianity, or that I may have with his/her world view.

    There are two types of responses that are typically encountered at this point. The first is the person who indicates curiosity or interest, but also requires more evidence in the positive sense before he/she will believe. This person is demonstrating a neutral or positive attitude toward the message, while still unwilling to make a decision.

    The second type of person indicates that there are particular objections that must be answered before further consideration will be given. This person is demonstrating a more skeptical posture.

  • The Neutral Posture 

    For the person who is basically open to the gospel, though still cautious, we need to offer evidence that will increase the likelihood of Christianity. Here I think that some of the material used by evidentialists can be used to effect.

    There is particularly one area of of the evidentialist approach that offers promise. That is the area of already fulfilled prophecy concerning  Christ. This area of evidence is affirmed in the Bible, and was used by both Christ and Paul frequently  as corroborative evidence.31 There are some predictions that are not of very much evidential value today because of the reasons cited in class.32 On the other hand, there are some that carry weight, even if they are not conclusive.33

    Another area of evidence that should be brought to bear (although this is not a part of the evidentialist approach) is the evidence that can be seen in the presence of a walking Christian community. Christ said that the unity of believers or the love that they have for each other would demonstrate to the world that Jesus is the authentic savior of mankind.34

    If the Christian communicator has access to a victorious local church, it would no doubt be wise to try to introduce the non-Christian to a casual assembly of that body. This could be a social gathering, although it would be better if it were a meeting where the Bible is taught. Experience repeatedly shows that those who had questionable responsiveness before a visit to a warm and contentful fellowship become responsive very quickly after such a visit.

    One of the drawbacks to this area of evidence is that it is not available to everyone. In many cases, a visit to one of our churches will be more of a detriment than an advantage. At the same time, it is not really necessary to have this evidence at hand. We can still win people with other apologetical approaches.

    There is a particularly effective argument in the area of comparative religion that will help a neutral questioner in many cases. This argument begins with the speculation that God may have spoken to man at some point in history. Such a notion is very plausible if we realize that there would be every reason to expect that a creator God who has created personal beings might have wanted to get in touch with them at some point.

    If there has been such contact, we might reasonably expect to see evidence of that contact in that some substantial group of people have a "revelation" that is authentic. (If there is no evidence of such contact, or if some small splinter group is the only one that has such revelation, then we will probably not establish contact with God, and the whole discussion is pointless.)

    We are arguing here that if we hypothesize the existence of God, and the existence of a revelation that He has given, a reasonable starting place to look would be the options available (the world's religions) and find which one is most likely to be that revelation.

    When we do this, we are confronted with a multitude of conflicting claims and world views, yet all similar in one respect. They all call for the believer to perform works in order to gain the favor of the deity(s), or to become deity. In addition, there is one major religion that claims that the one doing the work is not the worshiper, but God.

    Seen in this light, the religions of the world are all the same at the center of their teaching. Only one is really fundamentally different in approach.35 It should further be noticed that the nature of this difference is that in most of world religion, the one who is "good" and thus causing salvation to occur is man. In the one that is different, it is God who is good, and who causes salvation to occur.

    This leads to the question, "Which religious systems were probably made up by men, and which is likely to have been revealed by God?" Would not the one that places God as the good and sacrificial one, and sees no saving virtue in man, less likely to be the product of human creativity? Further, Would it not be the one that is fundamentally different from the others that deserves the first place in our consideration?

    Regardless of the type of evidence that is used, it is clear that for this type of person, we are only trying to give some reasons for further investigation and consideration. If the person demonstrates further response, we should advise him/her to take any further searching directly to God. We should suggest that the person ask God to intervene personally and reveal the reality and the knowability of Himself in actual experience.36

  • Skeptical Hearers 

    For the skeptical hearer, I believe that we have to be prepared to give real answers to real questions. This means that in the case of those who pose questions that are not real, in that there is no sense of satisfaction in the hearer when they are answered, or that they are non-sensical, we have to determine whether to provide answers at all. There are times when we would be correct to imitate Christ, and refuse to answer questions that are clearly intended to provoke argumentation, rather than to receive answers. We can see several examples of this in the Bible. One of the clearest examples would be Christ's answer to the priests, scribes and elders in the encounter recorded in Mark 11:27-33.37His reply,". . .neither will I tell you. . ." was the direct result of the cynical duplicity that they were demonstrating in their false questioning of Him.

    If we discern that the hearer does not want to discuss the issues honestly, we may do better by declining further discussion, and returning to a demonstration of love in our dealings with him/her.

    If, on the other hand, there is reason to believe that the issues being raised are, or might be, authentic stumbling blocks, we should try to provide satisfying answers. It is quite out of the question to provide the actual answers that I would provide in every area in a paper such as this. However, I have indicated the general direction of my preferred answers to the major types of questions usually raised in Appendix A.


I have described an approach to apologetics that begins with the knowledge that God is working with me in persuading the hearer through the work of the Holy Spirit and His Word.

I have advocated establishing a friendship and credibility if possible, before trying to stimulate a sense of metaphysical need. Then, I have argued that we should declare the gospel of Christ focusing carefully on the issues of grace, and a personal relationship.

Finally, I have held that the way is open to give evidence and/or answers that will tend to make Christianity plausible enough to provoke a personal faith encounter between the hearer and God Himself.

This method and message ia in harmony with the biblical pattern of apologetics, and has been tested in the the laboratory that really matters-- the hearts and minds of lost men and women-- with good results.

Appendix A

Typical Question Areas and Response Directions

The following subjects are those that commonly arise in the course of apologetical communication.  Following each is an indication of the direction and extent that I think is best.

  1. Atheism 

    Limit the answer to demonstrating that there is no airtight argument in favor of atheism.  Speak to the problem of evil using a free will explanation.  It should be possible to return to the subject of atonement from this latter discussion.

    • Arguments For the Existence of God 

      The teleological argument can be defeated as an inescapable argument, but does still, I think, lend likelihood to the existence of God.  So too does an argument from personality and morality.

  2. Deism and/or Agnosticism 

    Agnosticism can be defeated if it is of the strict (or arrogant) type, because it is self defeating.  Humble agnosticism does not need to be defeated, because it is holding exactly what we hope to see in our hearers--openness to the possibility of theism.  
    Deism is one of the most difficult world views to argue against.  We should limit our answer to demonstrating that the theistic answer is just as good and even better than deism.  This is especially true in the area of the problem of evil.

    1. For the Existence of Revelation 

      We can simply demonstrate that it is plausible that a personal God would communicate with personal creatures that He has made, and it is possible that He did.  The question of whether He has in fact done so should be tied to an investigation of the Bible, and a personal conversion experience.

    2. For the Deity of Christ 

      Predictive prophecy can be used to establish a good likelihood that Christ was the authentic (and therefore reliable) Messiah.  Christ's own claims to deity should therefore be believed.  The theological necessity of Christ's deity based on the unlimited atonement is also helpful to explain, and provides the opportunity to return to a discussion of the cross.

  3. Comparative Religion 

    In general, we must demonstrate that all religions cannot be true.

    1. Monism 

      demonstrate key problems in the areas of reincarnation, the eastern view of the afterlife, the lack of a satisfactory answer to the problem of evil, the caste system, the eastern view of women, their view of the nature of man, and the tendency toward fatalistic passivity.  Draw the identification between pantheisms and nature religions.

    2. False Theisms 

      The best response here depends on the type of theism being dealt with.  It is good to point out that every major monotheistic religion in history has its roots in the Bible.

      1. Islam 

        The first priority is to show that Islam is legalistic, while Christianity is based on grace.  Specific refutation is possible on scores of points, but may not be expedient.

      2. Judaism 

        Same as Islam.  In addition, the Old Testament Scripture can be debated as to interpretation.

      3. Cults 

        Response is different for each.  Develop a working definition of a cult.

    3. Christian Legalism 

      This is a doctrinal matter within Christianity which often comes up with non-Christians.  We should be able to quickly and effectively refute this doctrine from the Bible.

    4. Liberal and Neo-orthodox Theology 

      Usually comes up from church members or clergy that are nominally or actually Christian.  Must be refuted from the Bible.

    5. Universalism 

      Show the lack of human responsibility clearly suggests that God is responsible.  Thus the effort to imagine a "good" god, actually ends with an evil one.

  4. Embarrassment Due to Church History 

    We must disassociate ourselves from the historical church.  Any attempt to defend the church in history is a step in the wrong direction.  Christ warned that we should beware of false prophets, and that, "you shall know them by their fruits." (Mt. 7:15,16) By adding to the critique of the historical church, we can sometimes surprise and disarm the hearer by showing that we are co-beligerents with him/her.  There is no obligation for the Christian to defend the actions of the church if those actions were unscriptural.  The authenticity of Christ is not affected, unless we affirm that everyone who says that they are Christian actually are.  Yet Christ denied this (Mt. 7:21).

Return to Top


Arndt, William F., and Gingrich, F. Wilbur, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament (The University of Chicago Press, Chicago Ill. 1957)

The New American Standard Bible, (Lockman Foundation, 1963)

Nicoll, W. Robertson The Expositors Greek Testament Vol. II (Eerdmans Publishing Company, Grand Rapids, Michigan, 1979)

Geisler, Norman L., Christian Apologetics, (Baker Book House Company, Grand Rapids, Michigan, 1976)

McCallum, Dennis H., "Biblical Inerrancy" Unpublished paper 1985


1. Acts 13:48b ". . .and as many as had been appointed to eternal life believed."All quotations from The New American Standard Bible, (Lockman Foundation, 1963)

I think it would be better to understand the expression in the middle sense as in I Cor. 16:15, thus reading, "as many as were inclined to eternal life. . ." see Knowling, R. J. "The Acts of the Apostles" in The Expositors Greek Testament Vol. II Edited by Nicoll, W. Robertson (Eerdmans Publishing Company, Grand Rapids, Michigan, 1979) p.300

2. I Cor.2:14, and Rom.3:8-10 are typical examples.

3. Jn.6:44 see also vs. 65

4. Jn. 12:32. The verb "draw" used here (elkuso) is the same as the one used by Christ in chapter 6.

5. I Cor.2:2 in the context of vs. 14

6. II Corinthians 5:11a "peitho"= to persuade or to convince, may carry the added meaning of appealing. Arndt, William F., and Gingrich, F. Wilbur, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament (The University of Chicago Press, Chicago Ill. 1957) pp.644,645

7. Acts 17:2,3 referring to the Thessolonican ministry. Note too that ". . .some of them were persuaded. . ." vs.4

8. Acts 18:4 The fact that Paul considered persuasion and reasoning appropriate for unregenerate people is proved by the context of the passage in II Cor. cited in note #6 above, as seen in II Cor. 5:20 ". . .we beg you. . .be reconciled to God." This is part of the same discussion of which vs. 11 is a part. Also see Acts 28:23.

9. I Cor. 2:6 and 3:1

10. McCallum, Dennis H., "Biblical Inerrancy" 1985 Unpublished.

11. The need in the world is too pressing to justify endlessly focusing on those who are unresponsive. Mt.10:14; Lk. 10:11;9:5; show that Christ taught this, and Acts 13:51 and parallels show that Paul and others practiced it.

12. The Philippian Jailer (Acts 16:30-34) is the  classic case. However, see that vs 32 and 33 leave open the question of how long they talked to him before he believed. The Ethiopian Eunuch is another case of apparently instant responsiveness, although he had already been reading the book of Isiaih before Philip found him (Acts 8:26-40). It is always possible that another has planted or watered, so we must be prepared in those cases where response is great, to take the person directly to the Lord.

13. Although the Gospel itself has not been shared, we may (and probably should) have stated that we are a Christian.

14. Paul and Christ both frequently used this kind of comparison to explain grace. See Luke 15:11-32 and Rom. 8:15 Yet, sometimes earthly parents are quite disanalagous to the grace of God.

15. This approach is also evident in Scripture. See Gal. 2:16; Rom. 4:4,5; Eph.2:8,9

16. Luke 12:20

17. Luke 12:21

18. Luke 16:19-31

19. Luke 16:1-13

20. John 11, especially see vss. 23,25,26

21. Luke 9:24 This searching question, in slightly differing versions, was asked by Christ on several occasions. See also Mt.10:39;16:26;Jn.12:25;Lk.17:33. All of these uses are apparently at different times, thus suggesting that this was a recurrent theme in His teaching.

22. If we are dealing with someone who objects to the idea of evangelism, this story would be useful in removing that barrier, and explaining why we are involved in sharing our faith.

23. Like all analogies, there are discontinuities in this story. It creates an impression that Christianity is oriented toward escape from the dilemma, rather than providing a way to make a difference within the gym. This impression should be corrected-- perhaps imagining that we can stay in the party even though we now know the way out, just like the man that showed us the exit.

24. Perhaps all approaches work better on those with felt need, but we also want to be able to stimulate the feeling of need in those who are successfully evading that feeling even though their need is equal to that of others.

25. Unless, of course, we never worried a day in our lives about meaning in life!

26. Experience confirms that most people in the modern west think this.

27. Rom. 3:28

28. Rom.10:17 "So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ," and numerous parallels. This seems to be true even in cases where the hearer does not believe in the Bible. If nothing else, it demonstrates that there is an authoritative basis for our assertions, rather than pure opinion.

29. The pre-evangelistic material can be left out if appropriate, but the evangelistic can not.

30. I am not arguing here that I have to give the gospel out any and every time I talk to someone. I am saying that if I am going to talk about Christianity, I must insist on explaining my definition of it first.

31. See Lk.24:44 where Jesus points to the Old Testament, as well as to his own words. Acts 17:2,3 shows that Paul customarily reasoned from the scriptures, citing predictive prophecy of Christ. The examples of this kind of appeal run into the dozens in the New Testament.

32. ie. unverifiability concerning the events in Christ's life, or problems with the interpretation of the Old Testament.

33. Examples that are useful are some of the servant songs in Isaiah, and the seventy weeks prophecy of Daniel 9.

34. Jn. 13:34,35; Jn. 17:21. Paul also seems to contemplate the "ungifted or unbeliever" entering a Christian meeting and drawing a conclusion about God based on what he/she sees there. I Cor. 14:23

35. We have to be able to prove this claim to some extent, although it is not necessary to know the teachings of every world religion in order to make this point-- only the major ones, and/or the major types (animism, polytheisms, pantheisms, other monotheisms etc.)

36. This tactic is justified by the promise make by Christ in John 7:17, "If any is willing to do His will, he shall know of the teaching, whether it is of God, or whether I speak from Myself." We should stress the correct attitude that is necessary when praying this prayer. Unless we are prepared to accept the truth in advance, God will not reveal it at all. It is my opinion that the hearer should be advised to speak this prayer to God when he/she is alone at home. Later, I will ask whether he/she did it.

37. See also Mt. 7:6;13:10-17; Amos 8:11,12