Christians Cannot Argue Successfully with Secular Thinkers

640px-ArmwrestleSome readers may find my post title annoying. Of course Christians can argue with secularists, and they can prove that secularists are wrong, too. Isn’t that success? The answer is that when two people do not speak a common language, they really cannot have a meaningful discussion. They may argue heatedly, but nobody can prevail until they start speaking the same language on both sides of the conversation.

This is the situation in which Christians find themselves when arguing with secular thinkers.

One of the most contentious points of difference between Christians and secularists at the moment is the topic of what LGBT activists call “gay marriage.” I put this term in quotation marks, because I contend that a union of people classified as “gay” is not a marriage. Many Christians would agree. The semantic issue is part of the problem that makes it so difficult to discuss the issue with secularists. Because many Christians reject a definition of marriage that includes a union of two men or two women, they don’t start the conversation on this subject by reviewing the reasons that “gay marriage” should be viewed as normal and given legal standing. On the other side of the issue, LGBT activists start with the assumption that the definition of marriage has already been addressed by saying that it is whatever people want it to be. The conversation falls apart before it begins, because the two parties do not speak the same language. People who disagree on such a fundamental element of the discussion as the definition of the word marriage must start with that definition. Activists prefer to leap over the definition and assume nobody could possibly disagree that two men can be married if they can get a marriage license. They much prefer to argue about the license rather than about the definition.

This sort of difference is at the root of almost all the differences between Christianity and secularism. There are many differences, on which the difference between the two points of view includes very wide separation on the spectrum of possibilities, and the problem may have no foundation for discussion, because the two viewpoints have no common language. Christians base their principles on the revelation of God in the Bible, truth that is considered to be absolute and unchanging. Secularists base their principles on what they discover by self-examination and the sense that some particular view makes them happy. A part of that process includes their freedom to redefine terms that already have established definitions.

Christians and secular thinkers can talk with each other. A Christian may be very skilled in respectful argumentation and Christian apologetics, yet all these skills and knowledge may very well fail to convince a secular thinker to consider Christ. The secular thinker may ask why he should be expected to give up his freedom in this life in order to get a prize in the next? Why should he even believe that there is a next life? Why should he even believe that there is a God?

The truth is that Christ does not call Christians to convince secularists of anything. Christ’s call to Christians is to make disciples by giving faithful testimony to Christ. Even though a Christian engages in a discussion of differences with a secular thinker, the Christian must not rely on his skills or abilities or personal charm. The Christian must invoke and be obedient to the presence of the Holy Spirit. The Christian is called to speak and live a testimony to the blessing of Christ in his life. It is the presence and power of the Holy Spirit that will do the work that prepares the heart of a secular thinker to be open to receive the blessing of salvation.

Christians are wise to prepare themselves for such conversations by training their minds in order to be ready to be used of the Holy Spirit for the ultimate blessing of all with whom they speak. However Christians must simultaneously mature in their relationship with Christ by faithfully engaging in prayer and Bible study. Christians cannot expect to argue successfully with secular thinkers, but they can be ready to work in service to Christ through the power of the Holy Spirit.

By Katherine Harms, author of Oceans of Love available for Kindle at

Image: Arm Wrestling
Courtesy of Bombadil77
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