The Three Barriers to Belief: Tactics in Apologetic Engagement

Editor’s note: This post originally appeared on Think Apologetics. Tabernacle of David considers this resource trustworthy and Biblically sound.


Apologetics is the branch of Christian theology that offers reasons for believing Christianity is true. We see that throughout the Book of Acts that Luke uses words such as reason, persuade, eyewitness, witness, or defense. We also see that on many occasions that Paul reasoned with his audience on  (Acts 17:2, 17; 18:4, 19; 19:8, 9), seeking to persuade them  of the truthfulness of Jesus as the Messiah (18:4; 19:8; 26:28; 28:23).

Anyone who does apologetics needs to be aware of the three barriers to belief:

#1 Emotional Barriers: Many people have emotional issues with Christianity. Perhaps they have been hurt or  their present circumstances have hindered them from being able to trust that there really is a loving Creator. The apologist needs to be sensitive to these issues.

#2  Intellectual barriers: There are always skeptical barriers. What kind of evidence to do have for God? What about science? Miracles are not possible! There are many more intellectual objections. They have been around for a long time.

#3 Volitional barriers: In this case, the will is in the way. We  we can’t give life to the spiritually dead.  In many cases people use intellectual barriers as a smokescreen for volitional barriers.

Also,  perhaps Paul Moser is right on target in what he calls “kardiatheology” – a theology that is aimed at one’s motivational heart (including one’s will) rather than just at one’s mind or one’s emotions. In other words, God is very interested in moral transformation.

Three Components of Faith

Interestingly enough, In their book Handbook of Christian Apologetics, Peter Kreeft and Ronald K. Tacelli give a summary of faith.

Kreeft and Tacelli say we must distinguish between the act of faith from the object of faith- believing from what is believed. The object of faith means all things believed. For the Christian, this means everything God has revealed in the Bible. This faith (the object, not the act) is expressed in propositions. Propositions are many, but the ultimate object of faith is one. The ultimate object of faith is not words, but God’s Words (singular), indeed-Himself.

Without a relationship with the living God, propositions are pointless, for their point is to point beyond themselves to God. But without propositions, we cannot know or tell others what God we believe in and what we believe about God.  They mention a few aspects of faith here:

1. Emotional faith: is feeling assurance or trust or confidence in a person. This includes hope (which is much stronger than a wish and peace (which is much stronger then mere calm.).

2. Intellectual faith: is belief. It is this aspect of faith that is formulated in propositions and summarized in creeds.

3. Volitional faith: is an act of the will, a commitment to obey God’s will. This faith is faithfulness, or fidelity. It manifests itself in behavior, that is, in good works.

So just as we must examine the barriers in each person, we need to explain to them the three components of faith. Both of these issues play a huge role in apologetic dicussions.

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