Adapted from an article written by Hannah Ploegstra (gotherefor.com).
As a disciple of Christ, the Bible is more and more becoming my source for life, encouragement, perspective, and even logic. But when we’re arguing issues with unbelievers, we need to keep in mind that the Bible isn’t their source, however much it ought to be, and that unbelievers’ minds aren’t (yet) the product of its enlightening power.
We can’t settle very many arguments with them simply by saying, “the Bible says so”. They need to change their thinking about the Bible before they will be able to really see the Bible as a reason to change their thinking.
It’s a circular problem, and it’s not hard to understand why many Christians have stopped using the Bible in their conversations with the unsaved.
On the other hand, the Bible is the very instrument God uses to defeat darkness and lies (Eph 6:17; Heb 4:12; 1 Pet 1:23). It is the seed of all truth, faith, and life, whether they know it or not. The Bible is the light unbelievers need in order to see themselves for who they really are, and to see Christ as the one they need. It’s the word that reveals the Word.
So how do we use the Bible to reason with unbelievers when, on the one hand, they don’t recognize it as a valid source, while, on the other hand, it actually is the source, whether they recognize it or not? Let’s see how the apostles approached this conundrum as the gospel went out to people who knew less and less about the Scriptures.
1. Start with verses they already appreciate
Philip noticed a man in a chariot headed back to Ethiopia who was poring over Isaiah 53, having no idea what it meant. The fact that the passage didn’t use the words ‘Jesus’, ‘cross’ or ‘gospel’ didn’t deter Philip from springing off that passage and telling the man the good news (Acts 8:26-35).
The world quotes (and misquotes) Bible verses all over the place. Novels and movies make frequent use of Jesus’ statement that “the truth will set you free” (John 8:32). Many unbelievers feel comforted hanging the Lord’s Prayer on the wall in hospitals and other places where people die, and they get warm fuzzies seeing “The Lord is my shepherd” on gold-plated plaques (Ps 23:1). And some are quite ready to throw “God is love” or “Judge not, that you be not judged” back our faces when they think we’re being disagreeable (1 John 4:16; Matt 7:1).
Since these unbelievers have some prior exposure to the Bible, why not start with what’s already in their heads? In God’s world, all roads leads to the gospel and to Jesus Christ; when talking to an unbeliever about your faith, see what Bible seeds are already planted and try to cultivate those first.