By C.L. Bolt
The answer to the enslavement of the unbeliever to anti-Christian presuppositions is not to throw up one’s hands and walk away. It is true, very true, that the Holy Spirit must regenerate the unbeliever in order to give her new presuppositions. None but the Holy Spirit can persuade. As they say, no apologetic argument has ever converted anyone, and this much is true.
But there is a very real sense in which apologetic argument has served to convert people. We might want to think of this whole touchy matter in terms of reason and cause. There are many reasons for conversion including the Gospel as an objective message and all of its intellectual challenges. There are certainly what we might call intellectual challenges of the Gospel; it comes to the unbeliever and demands the unbeliever’s all including the intellect. That which was foolish is proclaimed as wise and that which was wise becomes foolish in light of the Gospel. There is, apart from a clear and succinct presentation of the Gospel, a great deal of objective evidence, argumentation, and work to be offered and done concerning unbelievers. There is, indeed, even such work to be done amongst believers. Here is where an apologetic comes into play. An apologetic is a defense of the Christian faith. The defense will quite often take the form of argument pertaining to the intellect no less than the Gospel pertains to the intellect as propositional truth. There is room, in other words, for an apologetic.
No one denies then that the Holy Spirit must persuade. The Holy Spirit brings no new evidence, argument, or Gospel to the table. Rather, the Holy Spirit persuades the unbeliever and gives him or her new life and hence a new set of presuppositions. The Gospel and apologetic argument might very well be designated as reasons for conversion, whereas the work of the Father in drawing an individual, the active nature of the Word of God itself, and the work of the Holy Spirit are the cause of conversion. We work hard with the unbeliever to help him or her see the Gospel and the Christian worldview it entails as truly and as clearly as we can and we pray that God would bless our efforts and bring this person to repentance and faith. The challenge we set forth to the unbeliever is certainly an intellectual challenge and a call to conversion. The challenge brought to the unbeliever must be presuppositional in nature.