Apologetics and Scholarship With Love
Few things are more infuriating to me than people passing themselves off as an expert in a field, that obviously lack the knowledge of the topic at hand, or the professional willingness to debate their assertions. Unfortunately, and as we all know, social media is full of such folk. Sniping responses with an adamant opinion of your error or inaccuracies, yet offering no evidence of such, and a yellow spine when it comes time to a willingness to defend their own comments. What typically follows in such cases, if any response whatsoever is given, is name calling, blame shifting, misdirection, straw arguments and a continued attitude of superiority.
When it comes to defending God’s Word, inerrancy of scripture, and the categorically accepted standards of historical Christian dogma, I sometimes come off too strong to many. Truth, and God’s word we are told are a double edged sword. Hebrews 4:112 declares:
12 For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.
I freely admit that I am too often quick to go for the secular opponents jugular, to split their argument from the joints and marrow of the lies that it is build on. Frequently, this is too easy, and I have little time for such discussions that bring about no positive result, knowing that the doctrinal or world-view opponent will not be won over (Titus 3:9-11, etc.). However, this does not mean that I am not always open to a lively debate.
I am frequently told (although ‘remind’ is the more frequently the term used) that God does not need our defending. Nothing can be more true. His truth, existence, His righteousness, His omnipotence, omnipresence, omniscience, mercy, grace – and all that make up his character, do not need defending. Their existence is truth enough and self-revelatory (Romans 8). However, MY actions, MY choices, MY decisions in character building, and my submission to God as willing slave, DO deserve defending with reason. Knowing how you feel or act is typically not enough to answer questions of seekers or debating secularists. Knowing WHY you feel or act the way you do – does. Or at least stands the chance to make a difference.
On equal footing with with God Himself not needing to be defended by man, the fact that I follow Christ in and of itself, also needs no defense. Eternally, God IS my defense. Defending this fact alone will make no difference to the soul of the non-believer that you are trying to reach. The fact that you do something that any person might disagree with is quite insignificant to any argument. What matters is WHY you make those choices, and here is where the non-believer CAN be reached. I grant you, that some people cannot be reasoned with. But the intellectual spirit that so frequently inhabits the deniers of Christ, can act as the means to which we can crack the venire of their shell. Logic, in its purest sense does make sense to many people. And while they might fully reject your argument from some other angle, the logic of the truth of your argument is the root by which the Holy Spirit can grow a heart towards Christ.
On the other hand, God can more than hold His own. His defense is written in scripture for those who choose to see it and choose (i.e. Calvinism is a detestable lie) to believe. For those who reject this truth, God is willing (although not happy) to allow each person to chose to reject Him, just as Romans 1 tells us. It is completely true that He needs no defending. Just as it is true that parents do not need to defend the choices of their mature, understanding adult children.
No parent is ever held to account for the decision of an adult child of say age 25, who makes a conscious decision to rob a liquor store. That adult, in spite of them being someone’s son, is responsible for their own choices. We do not debate this. In the same manner, God cannot be held to account for the choices of His adult creation. Logic makes this clear, regardless of tour take on biblical accuracy or authority. Yet, mankind tends to blame God for all sorts of decisions that fallen adult human beings make, who should clearly know better. Secular double standards.
All this is shared to make the round about point, that while some arguments will work in defending your choices, or explaining our world view, or defending the choices you make as a Christian, not matter what arguments work, and which arguments do not, that argument you chose to make – needs to be one made in love.
Why do we practice apologetics and biblical scholarship? We do we hone our understanding of biblical apologetics? We are not after all going to impress God with what we know about Him or His word, and how well we can defend it are we? Of course not. A sinful fallen man cannot impress or surprise the omniscient God. It comes down to this; We strive to achieve scholarly works and a level of apologetic knowledge not so we can prove someone wrong (or at least we shouldn’t). The ultimate goal is to bring that person to Christ, or in some way, further the Kingdom. Making them feel like fools, idiots and going out of your way to point out their ignorance (in spite of it quite possibly being glaring), is not going to open the eyes of any lost person to the justice, righteousness and truth of God.
How can we express to the lost that God loves them, if we do not show them how God loves us, and then love them ourselves?
As Kostenberger says,
“the key to lasting significance is for the scholar to use research, writing and teaching to further the Kingdom. Nothing else matters.”
It is a good thing that we seek to be pastors and teachers (I Timothy 3:1), to raise to a level; where what has become our second nature in being able to express Christian truth under all circumstances and against all those who would seek to destroy truth and the work that you may have already accomplished.