When dealing with apologetics, you can have rational and logical arguments and you can have emotional arguments. Let’s talk a bit about the emotional arguments.
To defend the Christian faith, one starts out with three critical foundations.
Use the Bible
The resurrection of Jesus Christ
Second law of thermodynamics
The first foundation: the Bible
The final authority is always the word of God. Always treat it as such. Use the Bible in every one of your arguments. You would be surprised how many existential or philosophical conversations you won’t have to cover if you use verses from the Bible. Usually, people will argue against the verse, not against the credibility of the Bible. Always start with the statement that the Bible is the final authority on all matters of faith.
The second foundation: the resurrection of Jesus Christ
When someone starts to attack the authority of the Bible, you can begin to defend it. To do so, use the resurrection of Jesus Christ. This is a powerful argument as there are infallible proofs of the resurrection. The only ways you can get around the resurrection is to say that:
- Jesus did not really die
- The resurrection was a hoax, or
- The people were hallucinating when they saw Him appear.
All arguments that people use against the resurrection fall somewhere into these three categories. Yet, all three of these explanations have been debunked and proven not to be valid arguments against the resurrection.
If the resurrection is true, then it establishes the authority of the Bible. The people who wrote about the resurrection that is supposed to be impossible have been proven correct. Therefore, we can trust the rest of their writings to be true. Any author who writes a book and is proven true in an impossible case should be trusted. Since Jesus rose from the dead, we can trust that He was God and can trust in His words and the words of the Bible, which He upheld and reinforced as truth.
The thing that can be attacked here is to say that the people who witnessed the resurrection were not the same people who wrote the Bible. However, the fact that they were the same people is proven by the tons of manuscript evidence that exists to show that the Bible is consistent and that all the stories line up with one another.
The third foundation: science determines that the universe could not have created itself
If the person struggles with the concept of the supernatural, you’ll have to visit the third argument of science. They must acknowledge the supernatural, and once they do, they’ll more easily believe the resurrection. The scientific argument demands that there has to be something supernatural.
Within this argument, it comes down to two things. Firstly, you can use the first and second laws of thermodynamics. These irrefutably show that the universe could not have created itself. Secondly, you can attack their evolution proofs. You have to demand evidence for evolution.
- If they argue for natural selection through mutation, you can argue that mutations are always negative, not healthy, or beneficial.
- If they argue for fossil evidence, you can say that the fossils found could be of unique species.
- If they argue from geology, you can talk about how the geological column is not straight.
- If they bring up dating methods, they only prove age, not evolution.
Similarities, which are almost the basis for evolution, don’t prove common ancestry. Instead, they prove a common designer. These arguments that people use for evolution fall apart quite easily with a little bit of knowledge.
These are all rational arguments, but we need to talk now about the emotional arguments. We can talk a lot about thinking, reason, and logic, but oftentimes, more people go by the heart. They think it’s a getaway card to get away from the truth! So, when someone brings up an emotional argument, here is what you need to remember. Let’s take an example of someone saying, “I cannot believe in a God who allows millions of babies to die every year. How could a loving God do that?” Statements such as these do not debunk the rational arguments you’ve already laid out. These statements do not disprove the existence of God. Rather, they only point out that in their argument, God must be cruel. If they really want to go down that route, then they must acknowledge that they are pointing out that God exists! If God is supposedly cruel, He must exist, right? For emotional arguments to work, they have to acknowledge that He exists.
You must notice that their emotional arguments have nothing to do with disproving God. Always think about that. Tell them that it has nothing to do with disproving the Bible or the resurrection. No matter what the emotional argument is, it cannot refute your argument for truth.
To sum this up,
- Sticking to your rational arguments when emotional arguments are brought up is the first step to dealing with emotional arguments correctly and effectively. Your foundations are foolproof. Please don’t leave them!
- Recognize the difference between your rational argument and the other person’s emotional argument. When they attempt to pull you to the emotional field, you have to reject that and bring them back to the rational field.
- You also want to point out to them that they are pulling the discussion to an emotional field. You want them to realize that they are pulling the conversation to the emotional field and straying away from the rational. Ask them why they brought up the emotional argument instead of addressing the rational arguments. You want to reach to their heart and ask why they are pulling the conversation to an emotional side. Most atheists become atheists because they’ve had a bitter and negative experience with God. You want to make sure the conversation focuses on the facts and the logical existence of God.
However, you not only want to focus on their head, but also on their heart, where that bitterness lies. You don’t want to use your brain to answer emotional arguments. You want your brain to stick to itself and to rationalize and then use that rationale to read the other person’s heart. When you read someone’s heart and figure out why they are using the arguments they are using, you’ve caught someone’s heart and the conversation becomes extremely powerful. How can we learn to read hearts? You have to be part of a biblical church and part of a Christian community so that you can interact with others and learn to see what happens in the heart through different situations and scenarios. When you do that, you can become a heart reader. You learn to discern people’s hearts and personalities which helps immensely in soul winning.
So, when a person brings up an emotional argument, you can read their heart and begin to get to the root of why they are bringing up that argument. Ask them why they brought up that argument and they will show you more of their heart through their response. Eventually, they may even open up about a bitter experience that they had in their life. When that happens and you hear them out with an understanding heart, they soften, and the arguing diminishes. You start to get to the ultimate root of their unbelief. Ask them why they believe what they believe, and they’ll tell you. Suddenly, the conversation moves to an understanding discussion, and they see you are sympathetic rather than argumentative.
The last resort
The last resort in this situation is to use your rational arguments to answer the emotional arguments. This becomes dangerous as you can get easily sucked into the emotions. It’s better to go through the first three steps first. In this fourth option, you can easily start talking in circles with the person. Start with the basics and the foundations first. In order to become an advanced debater or apologist, you have to start from the basics first.
#1 Why is there suffering?
Let’s look at some of the most common emotional arguments that you will face. One of those is, “If an all-loving god exists, then why is there suffering?” The interesting part about this is that you’ve already caught them once they’ve said this! If you go back to the basics, this argument has nothing to do with disproving the existence of God. Their word “all-loving” is important to their argument because it defines the kind of God they are talking about. If you got rid of that word and just said, “If God exists, why do bad things happen,” then you can say, “God just allowed bad things to happen.” It doesn’t disprove His existence. Then you can instantly go back to the basics and point out that they are only questioning whether God is good or bad, not whether He exists.
#2 Why do babies die? Because of sin
Advanced arguments could go to the state of mankind and pointing out that mankind chose sin instead of God and there were sad and negative consequences that resulted from that. It is a matter-of-fact truth that sin is never fair. Why do babies die? Because of sin! Sin doesn’t care about people or feelings. Babies die because people are sinful and greedy. Truthfully, these emotional issues that people have with God can all be traced back to sin. Too many people blame God for these things instead of sin, the true culprit.
It is not God’s fault that man chose to sin and its consequences. Often, someone will then say, “Well, Adam and Eve chose to sin, not me.” To that, you can ask if they would have never sinned in their position. If they’re honest, yes, they would have! In reality, Adam and Eve were proof that if they sinned, we would too! History always repeats itself. There is no one that person would never have sinned in that scenario. That’s why these bad things happen in the world.
#3 Why can’t God make us in a way where we can’t choose sin? Free will
Then they’ll probably say that the only reason we all sin is that we aren’t in a perfect state. They’ll say something like, “Couldn’t God have just made us in a way that we couldn’t choose sin?” Then you can take the conversation to the topic of free will. Ask them if they would like to forfeit their freedom. Our ability to sin is actually a gift of free will. We have the choice to sin or not to sin. Ask them if they would be happy if God took away their free choice. If someone truly argues that they would like their free will to be taken away, you can talk about love. If God took away free will, we would not have the free choice to love Him in return. The key underlying argument to all of these is thinking about things in God’s shoes. Think about if you were in God’s position. It then becomes understandable why God would want to punish sinful people, why He would punish all of mankind for Adam and Eve’s choice, why He would give us free will, and why He would want us to love Him in return freely.
#4 Why doesn’t God intervene?
The next argument that often comes up is miracles and why God doesn’t provide miracles in instances like the Holocaust. They are demanding God’s intervention in events of their choice. The point here is that if God miraculously intervened in someone’s life, then it has to be not only a specific intervention but an intervention for all because it’s not going to stop there. Suddenly you’ll want Him to intervene in everything in your life. You’ll start using God as a magic wand and suddenly there is no consequence for sin. Sin has to have a consequence. Sin is extremely brutal and unfair. It has to be paid for and it always has a price because God is perfect and holy.
Along those lines, people will argue that sin isn’t that much of a big deal. They’ll say that God’s wrath is overkill for sin. Again, you have to take the conversation to God’s perspective. God is holy and cannot let sin slide. In fact, the consequences for sin prove God and His holiness and that He doesn’t let sin slide.
The bottom line to all of these arguments is to retrace them to the fact that Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection were unfair. God understood that there is no way you could be perfect, and He understood sin had a heavy price, so He made salvation extremely easy for you. All you have to do is trust in what He did on the cross and all your other issues with God will be solved. He’s going to bring a paradise back to earth one day and you’ll get to enjoy the glory of Him forever. Yes, God punishes hard, yet He paid that price for us and now offers a free gift!
They’ll argue that the burden of sin is heavy to bear, yet they don’t want the free resolution of that burden. You have proven to them that deep down, they just want to stick to their own bias.
#5 The immorality in Old Testament?
Another moral argument they will use is concerning morality. They’ll bring up slavery in the Old Testament, polygamy, etc. They want to prove that God is questionable in His morality. This is very easy to answer. When you look up in the Bible about these people who followed these laws and moral rules, the reason why God allowed some of those things is that some of those things were part of their culture, and they were normal at the time. God understands the hardness of man’s heart, and He let some of those things go due to the norm of the time. This is key to understanding how those things still lined up with God.
God knows how fickle people are in their culture and preferences, so He simply laid down the law of love in the New Testament, and through the Holy Spirit now guiding your heart, we know what’s right and wrong. It doesn’t matter how much you sin; His grace will overtake it and take you to heaven.
One thing to note is that God did not establish laws concerning morality until He planted them. In Romans 2, He provided conscience and in the Old Testament, He gave them through the law of Moses. He defined right and wrong, not us. Morals only exist because God exists. It doesn’t matter what we want. It only matters what God wants. Yet that’s what atheists and unbelievers hate.
When God sets up rules, they don’t like them. They’ll have to admit that their unbelief is based on their rebellion.
God wants people who realize His terms of salvation and of doing things. After all, God is the one who planted the conscience and morals in the first place. These things deal with the emotional arguments that people will bring up in arguments about faith and beliefs.