Jesus was not only a master teacher, he was a master debater. We see it here, when once again he confronts the Pharisees with the “legality” of healing someone on the Sabbath.
The thing that strikes me here is the Pharisees’ response. When Jesus questioned them about whether it was lawful to heal on the Sabbath, Luke tells us,
They remained silent. (4)
Jesus then healed the man, after which, he looked at them and asked,
If one of you has a son or an ox that falls into a well on the Sabbath day, will you not immediately pull him out? (5)
They had nothing to say. (6)
Which just proves the old adage, “Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak and to remove all doubt.” 🙂
But I think it proves something else.
After all their confrontations with Jesus, he had argued them into silence. There was not one thing they could say to argue with him. He had won the argument. Does that mean they then changed their minds about the matter and about Jesus. Not at all. Rather, they continued to seek to kill him.
The point is that you cannot argue people into believing. You can lay out all the logical arguments about why a person should believe in Jesus, or why the Bible is true, or why Christianity is true, and you might even win the argument. As with Jesus, you might leave them completely without defense. But there are some people who simply won’t believe, regardless the arguments, and regardless the proof.
I heard a story once about a debate that occurred on NBC radio between a Christian and some non-believers. And the non-believer said, “The problem with you Christians is that you’re always quoting the Bible to prove the Bible. That’s circular reasoning. You can’t do that.”
The Christian replied, “Who told you it’s one book? Actually it’s 66 different books, written by about 40 different authors, over a period of over 1000 years. So if I use one author of the Bible to prove what another author said, this is not circular reasoning. This is using independent sources to prove my point.”
The non-Christian said, “No…no…no.”
The Christian replied, “Are you saying no because you actually have proof to back up what you’re saying, or because you don’t believe it.”
The non-Christian said, “I don’t believe it!”
The non-Christian had no argument he could give against what the Christian had said. He was left silent. But I have no doubt that he went on to use that very same argument with the next Christian he met, hoping that the Christian didn’t have an answer for it.
Am I saying that we shouldn’t debate with unbelievers or answer their questions or challenges? Absolutely not. Peter wrote,
Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. (I Peter 3:15)
There are some true seekers out there with legitimate questions. And presented the answers, they may come to belief in Christ. But let us never deceive ourselves into thinking we can argue people into the kingdom of God.
Only by the Holy Spirit will their hearts be opened. So don’t just stop at giving answers to people’s questions. Pray for them. Because ultimately, it is the Spirit that will change people’s hearts and save their souls, not our arguments.