Do Christians Have to “Be Right?”

Rick Mattson Apologetics, Evangelism 8 Comments

I saw a quote recently from a Christian author who was disavowing the ministry of evangelism because it meant Christians had to “be right” about everything. And if you’re certain you’re right, then everyone else must be wrong, and it’s your job to convert them to your viewpoint, lest they wind up in hell.

If that was biblical evangelism I’d agree with the author and toss it out.

But surely this is not the way of the gospel. In my view the gospel is about conviction, not necessarily “certainty.” If an attitude of certainty can come off as a bit arrogant, conviction is humble, and points beyond itself to a greater reality.

The Zealot

A few years ago at a college in the Midwest, I met up with a zealous young Christian who was gifted as an apologist (defender of the faith). Since I aspire to this calling myself and am much older, I was able to provide him with a training session in the art of apologetic dialogue.

A day later in the Student Union I was eager to observe the apologist in action. A professor came to his table for a friendly chat, but things went south quickly as the student went into attack mode. Every observation or protest from the professor about religion was met with a sledgehammer argument. As the dispute escalated, heads turned at surrounding tables, appalled at the spectacle.

Myself, I felt sorry for the professor and was embarrassed for the cause of the gospel.

A word, then, about certainty: Among philosophers, the idea of certainty is handled cautiously. One could be psychologically certain of something, such as a spouse’s faithfulness, but be totally wrong. Or one could be right about something, with much supporting evidence, but still have doubts.

Many combinations are possible. When it comes to religious belief, I’m not convinced the word certainty is the way to go. Certainty is usually too strong a claim for fallible sinners, saved only by grace.

I’d rather be known as a man of conviction. Conviction is a visceral, “heart-mind-soul” response to Jesus. It marches forth not in triumph but in prayer and humility. It cannot remain silent about the gospel but must, absolutely must, share it with the world.

Otherwise, the stones will cry out.

Image by sarajuggernaut from Pixabay

Comments 8

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  1. You’ve got me pondering:
    I am thinking about Truth (isn’t that non-negotiable?), vs “being right.”
    The Truth of the Gospel is the heart of our message. If it’s not true, we, of all people, are most to be pitied (or something like that Paul said, about the resurrection message).
    We don’t have to PROVE ourselves “right”, but we do have to present the truth.
    Are we presenting our self or the gospel?? Is this ego service or messenger service?
    Conviction is essential, yes, but the message has to be True/accurate, or it is worthless. Can we insist? I dunno. Our insistence doesn’t change anyone’s opinion. Arguments do not win souls! God’s KINDNESS is what leads us to repentance. We can never be arrogant about our position anyway. That almost disqualifies all our arguments, however accurate they are. If we are cocky we are not representing Christ very well.
    How can we insist on Truth and not insist we are “right”? That’s what I’m pondering in this whole exchange.
    All this ^ is intended as dialogue, not dogma… What do you think? JU

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      James, Thanks for commenting. I think we’re on the same track: truth without arrogance. The distinction I’m hoping to make is between the objective truth of God (ontology) and our fallible comprehension of it (epistemology). A fallen mind in a fallen world should be humble about what it knows with certainty. Hence, we can possess a “deep conviction” about knowing Christ as Savior and yet recognize our own limitations as finite, fallen creatures. This posture should open up dialogue with neighboring/opposing views, where we are intent listener/learners AND caring, convincing presenters of the gospel.

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  2. I’m also reminded of 1 Cor 2:4-5

    My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, so that your faith might not rest on human wisdom, but on God’s power

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      Good call, Kelli. As an apologist I think constantly about presenting arguments for the faith “inside” the power of the Spirit. The arguments themselves are not what bring change.

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