Apologetics,  Scripture

Should Christians Quote the Bible to Unbelievers?

Is there any benefit in quoting the Bible to someone who doesn’t believe the Bible? On the surface, it seems counter-intuitive. Why would we appeal to the Bible as authority if someone does not recognize that authority? For many Christians, if someone does not recognize the Bible as being from God they will try to argue for God in other ways. But I would propose that Christians not only can quote the Bible to unbelievers, but they should quote the Bible to unbelievers.

An example of a hesitancy to quote the Bible comes form Matt Walsh, conservative blogger and devout Catholic, entitled, “When Christians Shouldn’t Quote the Bible.” In his article, he made a fairly bold statement:

I contend that Christians should not appeal to the Bible when arguing with unbelievers about political and cultural topics. There is no need to quote Scripture when trying to explain, for example, why it’s wrong to kill babies. You don’t need to pull out Genesis to convince someone that a man in a dress isn’t a woman. It’s not necessary to mine the Epistles in order to advocate for free speech rights. And if your interlocutor doesn’t believe in the Bible, then this appeal to authority is not only unnecessary but counterproductive. You have now turned a conversation about logic, reason, or science, into a theological debate with a person who rejects the entire premise of your theology (emphasis added).

Walsh goes on to argue that the above should be an obvious point because if someone does not recognize a particular authority, then appealing to it is futile and will not convince them of anything. However, there are at least two problems with Walsh’s thought process.

A Faulty Assumption of Human Ability

Being a Catholic, Walsh holds to a semi-pelagian view of human depravity. Essentially this means that mankind is affected by Adam’s fall, but keeps their ability to choose good and seek after God. This motivates Walsh (and others who hold this view) to avoid using the Bible out of the gate because they believe if they can neutrally interact with someone, they can convince this individual to follow Christ. But the problem is that humans are not neutral.

According to the Bible humanity is broken and predisposed against God. Scripture says there is no one who seeks God or does good (Rom 3:10-12). Furthermore, those who are in the flesh are incapable of pleasing God (Rom 8:7-8). Most evangelicals rightfully emphasize the doctrine of the total depravity of man, which teaches that the will of sinful man is enslaved to sin and will NOT choose the ways of God unless the Spirit of God intervenes.

Walsh believes that if we jettison the Bible, we will find more intellectual footing with those who reject Scripture. Yet, if we believe Scripture on this issue, intellectual argumentation is not a neutral playing field. Mankind is not neutral—all men are by nature enemies of God (Rom 5:10) and they suppress the truth of God (Rom 1:18). Thus, not using the Bible is not going to change human depravity. Only God can open the eyes of the blind.

A Misunderstanding of the Role of Presuppositional Ultimate Authority

The second major problem is that Walsh seems to misunderstand the role of presuppositional, ultimate authorities. In the discussion of ultimate authority (those authorities which ultimately determine truth and are the basis for understanding) there is no reason to reject an authority, if it is truly an authority. For example, if I am trying to learn to play a game for the first time and learn the rules, someone might introduce me to the rule book which the game-maker has composed. Well, I can reject what the game-maker says or even choose to believe that the game-maker is a made-up concoction by my friend—but that reflects my stupidity, not a problem with the way someone is showing me the rules for the game. The simple point is that just because someone does not recognize a real authority doesn’t make it less authoritative.

Further, this principle is even more important in the issue of ultimate authority. As I have pointed out before, when you are talking about ultimate authorities, they cannot be judged by another authority or else they are not ultimate. In light of this fact, it is not intellectually inferior to utilize an argument from an ultimate authority, even if someone does not believe it. To back down and not use Scripture is to remove the very foundation for understanding truth and morality. Thus, the Christian should be motivated to use the Bible and to explain how the world is incoherent without the truths contained therein.

A Concluding Note

I’m not against using arguments other than the Bible. I do so often. But, to say we should NOT use Scripture in certain situations is foolish. Scripture alone is completely and ultimately authoritative as an argument. The Bible is not merely human words or reasoning, it is infallible direction from the incorruptible God. When someone needs to know how to think about an issue, that is where we turn.
Furthermore, we cannot discount the fact that the words of Scripture are actually the words of God! They are powerful and can break through to even the hardest heart. Charles Spurgeon, the prince of preachers, once described the word of God like this:

“The Word of God is like a lion. You don’t have to defend a lion. All you have to do is let the lion loose, and the lion will defend itself.”

Let the lion loose!

Photo by Ben White on Unsplash

Peter serves at Shepherd's Theological Seminary in Cary, NC as the professor of Old Testament and Biblical Languages. He loves studying the Bible and helping others understand it. He also runs The Bible Sojourner podcast and Youtube channel.

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