We often think of an argument as an angry disagreement, but in logic “argument” refers simply to presenting statements or reasons to support a conclusion. Some say arguments have little place in gospel ministry. They insist that we merely need to present the gospel,1 and then we should rejoice over those who accept it and depart from those who reject it. But gracious arguments have a place in advancing the Kingdom of God.2 Every dedicated Christian should practice skillful argumentation for two reasons.
The first reason is that those who contend that arguments have no place in ministry essentially refute themselves. Whoever says that arguments do not represent Christ’s gospel are actually using an argument to persuade others how to represent Christ’s gospel. We use arguments all the time—that’s largely how our brains work as we solve problems and communicate ideas. The gospel itself argues that men must receive God by grace, since no man or woman can ever be good enough to earn His acceptance.3
Examples from the Bible supply the second reason. Jesus often argued. One time He relied on the present tense of a verb in Exodus 3:6 to argue in favor of resurrection. He told unbelieving religious men, “But concerning the resurrection of the dead, have you not read what was spoken to you by God, saying, ‘I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? God is not the God of the dead, but of the living.”4
Paul also used many arguments. In Ephesus, “he went into the synagogue and spoke boldly for three months, reasoning and persuading concerning the things of the kingdom of God.”5 It appears he did not simply pop in, present the gospel, and then just leave. He stayed to discuss and persuade. Not long after, Paul was “reasoning daily in the school of Tyrannus. And this continued for two years.”6 Did Paul’s approach work?
He talked the talk, but he also walked the walk and “worked unusual miracles.”7 Eventually, “the word of the Lord grew mightily and prevailed.”8 A leading idol maker even complained, “Not only at Ephesus, but throughout almost all Asia, this Paul has persuaded and turned away many people.”9 Arguments clearly played a major role in advancing the Kingdom of God in ancient Asia Minor.
No Christian can argue an unbeliever into God’s Kingdom. Sinners must repent of sin and unbelief, and God must give new life. But these personal miracles do not render reasoning useless. God often uses our arguments to help remove objections to the Good News. For example, does someone object to Jesus being the last Adam10 because she thinks science disproved the first Adam?
Ministries like ICR exist to equip believers with science that confirms Adam was real.11 By removing the objection that Adam—and thus Jesus’ payment for his sin—was mythical,12 God uses a Christian’s arguments to shine His gospel more brightly on dark hearts.
Believers should follow Paul’s profound example, who “explained and solemnly testified of the kingdom of God, persuading them concerning Jesus from both the Law of Moses and the Prophets.”13 Arguments can be effective tools as long as we explain and persuade “with all lowliness and gentleness”14 and speak the truth in love.15
- The gospel teaches that everyone needs to repent of sins and trust Jesus in order to restore a right relationship with God. See Romans 10:9-10.
- Biblically, the Kingdom of God has a near and a far aspect. Those who trust Christ join God’s Kingdom now—during “the darkness of this age” (Ephesians 6:12). Someday, when the Father’s “will be done on earth as it is in heaven” (Matthew 6:10), God will establish His Kingdom, including the King and His adoring subjects, on a new earth forever (Revelation 21:1-3). The word “argue” need not indicate anger. Christians should argue with respect and civility.
- Ephesians 2:8-9.
- Matthew 22:31-32.
- Acts 19:8.
- Acts 19:9-10.
- Acts 19:11.
- Acts 19:20.
- Acts 19:26.
- 1 Corinthians 15:45.
- Thomas, B. 2015. Was Adam a Real Person? Acts & Facts. 44 (12): 20.
- Romans 5:12, 15.
- Acts 28:23.
- Ephesians 4:2.
- Ephesians 4:15.
* Mr. Thomas is Science Writer at the Institute for Creation Research.