Most people don’t feel the need to struggle with Descartes over how they can be sure that they exist. And most don’t doubt the existence of the sun. These things are self-evident and self-authenticating when one sees them.
And so is Jesus Christ. He is the supreme I am (John 8:58). He is the “sunrise from on high” (Luke 1:78). He is the most self-authenticating Reality that exists. When people really see him, they know who he is.
The Greatest Apologetic Device
I thank God profusely for apologists like C.S. Lewis, Ravi Zacharias, William Lane Craig, and many others like them. God gives them to the church to “destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God” (2 Corinthians 10:5) and he uses them to encourage and establish Christians in the faith and to help non-Christians see Jesus for who he really is and become Christians.
But you don’t have to be brilliant to show people who Jesus really is. Most people don’t come to Christ through the sophisticated arguments of top-tier philosophers or theologians, but through the faithful pointing by an ordinary person to the extraordinary brilliance of Jesus as he reveals himself in Scripture.
The Bible itself is the greatest apologetic device that exists in the world. More people come to know and love Jesus Christ simply by reading the Bible than anything else.
The Heart Was Made for the Glory the Bible Reveals
And that’s because, as John Piper says,
There is a template in the human heart created by God ready to receive with self-authenticating certainty [Jesus’s] divine glory. We were made to know and enjoy this person, Jesus Christ, the lowly incarnation of the all-glorious God. We may sense it in our weariness or in our worldwide dreams. But we know. It is written in our hearts. (A Peculiar Glory, 224)
What happens when people read the Bible and are radically transformed into followers of Jesus is that they see him. They see him with true eyes, for which the eyes in our heads are but copies and shadows. Paul calls our true eyes the “eyes of [the] heart” (Ephesians 1:18) or the eyes of the mind (2 Corinthians 4:4). These are the eyes designed to see reality, what we call truth. And they either see truth or, if the god of this world has his way, they instead see a counterfeit posing as the truth:
And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. (2 Corinthians 4:3–4)
Jesus is the truth (John 14:6), which is also why he is called the Word (John 1:1) and the light of the world (John 1:5). But seeing Jesus with true eyes only happens when people behold him in (or through) the truth he speaks — “the light of the gospel.”
That’s why the most effective apologetic approach that most of us can employ is some form of what Philip used to counter Nathaniel’s skepticism: “Come and see” (John 1:46). More than anything, we want to invite people to the self-authenticating revelation of Jesus Christ in the Bible. We want to help them look at the Book. And that’s because,
[T]he heart of God’s glory, as he reveals it in the Scriptures, is the way his majesty is expressed through his meekness. I called this God’s paradoxical juxtaposition of seemingly opposite traits. Jonathan Edwards called it “an admirable conjuction of diverse excellencies.” This pattern of God’s self-revelation in lion-like majesty and strength together with lamb-like meekness and service runs through the whole Bible and comes to its most beautiful climax in the person and work of Jesus Christ in dying and rising for sinners. (A Peculiar Glory, pp. 225–226)
The glory of God’s supremely majestic strength and his supremely humble meekness matches the God-designed template of the human heart. And when people look at the Book, if the Lord grants their heart-eyes sight, that’s what they will see revealed there. They will discover the One they were designed to know and love more than any other.
Help Them Look at the Book
None of this devalues the work of brilliant Christian apologists and scholars. God raises them up to “contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints” (Jude 3) and certainly uses them to equip and encourage the saints.
Rather, this is simply an encouragement to us not to undervalue the power of the Bible. For us ordinary mortals it can be tempting to think that we need to attend more seminars, classes, or conferences, or we need to read more apologetic or evangelism books before we’re ready to share our faith. These can be helpful, but the power to help people really see Jesus isn’t resident in techniques or cultural knowledge or historical or logical defense arguments. It’s in the Bible.
What we really need is confidence in the Bible. It is the only Spirit-inspired, Spirit-crafted, Spirit-preserved, self-authenticating revelation of God in Jesus Christ. It is the most influential Book of all time, the most powerful apologetic device in the world, and most of the Christians in the world have seen the glory of Jesus in it because some faithful, ordinary person pointed them to it.
And God likes it that way. He loves to demonstrate his power by choosing weak and foolish people like you and me to point others to him (1 Corinthians 1:26–29). So go ahead and take that hesitant step of faith. Point someone to where all the beauty comes from. Help them look at the extraordinary Book.
More at Desiring God
A Peculiar Glory | If you need a fresh dose of encouragement and confidence in the Scriptures, read this excellent book by Pastor John (a free PDF version as well as others are available at this link).
The Divine Majesty of the Word | John Piper delivers a wonderful biographical message on the life of John Calvin, with a particular emphasis on Calvin’s experience (and ours!) of God’s self-authenticating revelation of himself in the Scriptures.
What Does It Mean to Say that Christ Is Self-Authenticating? | In this excerpt, John Piper explains how Christ is self-evidently glorious.