How much effort should be spent in discussions with seekers (or nonseekers) who ask questions that seem irrelevant to their immediate need of salvation?
To the practicing Christian:
Recently, I've had a few thoughts pertaining to apologetics and the limits to which we should spend our moments of conversation on apologetics topics. What I mean is this: Suppose a person comes to you and asks, "If God is just, as you say He is, how can He send people to hell who never heard about Jesus? -- What about the Native Americans before Christianity came to America?" Questions such as this one are typical of those faced by apologists. But (disturbingly to me), I often find Christians getting tired of the debates, and saying, "Well, it isn't an issue for you personally right now. If you can ask the question, it doesn't apply to you. What is important right now is for you to evaluate what you know of Jesus and the Gospel and make your decision based on that."
I see a problem here. This Christian response is, of course, true. But it neglects an important issue: I believe (strange as it may seem) that most people who ask these questions really are looking for an answer, and not just trying to play mind games. But instead of making easy-out responses like the one above, I think their questions deserve a thoughtful answer, based on our best interpretation and discernment of the Scriptures. What I believe they are saying is this (for the question above, as an example): "The Gospel you're showing me says that God is just, and loving, and wants everyone to be saved. I'm trying to relate that to my life, but I have a hard time believing it because of this intellectual issue....can you help me out?"
Now, that more basic question definitely deserves an answer, I believe. They are not just playing with hypothetical or irrelevant issues; they are dealing with the attributes of God. In order to believe what we're telling them, it's important to have their observations and experiences fit into this new teaching that they're hearing. In a sense we are attempting to vindicate God, to intercept the issues raised by the Gospel or the Bible in general, and deal with them in a sensible manner so that God's attributes are still believable and reliable. And yes, in some cases there are no good answers, and the Gospel must simply be accepted on faith; in some cases it may not be our place to try and vindicate God -- maybe that's the Holy Spirit's job (I am opening myself to correction here.) But it seems to me that avoiding the seemingly irrelevant issues and questions may actually be counterproductive in winning the intellectually-inclined masses for Christ.
What do you think? Let me know!! :-)