Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Arguments, Apologetics and Rhetoric: Respect, Honor, and Charity in Christian Discourse


I have come to believe that there is a crisis in field of Christian apologetics. The defense of the Christian faith has become a confused battleground of pure chaos. Far too many apologists are woefully lacking in theological acumen, untrained in biblical exegesis, and employ and rely on pagan philosophy in their respective apologetic methods. But it is worse than that. Many of these apologists have come to Christ supposedly, and are convinced that others can come through by way of rational examination. In other words, they have not a faith that is produced by the power of the Holy Spirit working in their hearts. The Holy Spirit has not imparted God’s wonderful gift of saving faith. Many modern apologists have come to Christ in exactly the same way that many people have come to believe in Islam or Roman Catholicism or whatever other man-made religion that may come to mind. But there is another issue in modern, Christ apologetics that few seem to want to address.

In His famous philosophical treatise, The Proslogion, Anselm of Canterbury wrote,

Be it mine to look up to thy light, even from afar, even from the depths. Teach me to seek thee, and reveal thyself to me, when I seek thee, for I cannot seek thee, except thou teach me, nor find thee, except thou reveal thyself. Let me seek thee in longing, let me long for thee in seeking; let me find thee in love, and love thee in finding. Lord, I acknowledge and I thank thee that thou hast created me in this thine image, in order that I may be mindful of thee, may conceive of thee, and love thee; but that image has been so consumed and wasted away by vices, and obscured by the smoke of wrong-doing, that it cannot achieve that for which it was made, except thou renew it, and create it anew. I do not endeavor, O Lord, to penetrate thy sublimity, for in no wise do I compare my understanding with that; but I long to understand in some degree thy truth, which my heart believes and loves. For I do not seek to understand that I may believe, but I believe in order to understand. For this also I believe,—that unless I believed, I should not understand.

It is not difficult to see that this genus of humility and understanding is dreadfully lacking in modern Christian apologetics. Young modern apologists are overconfident about the rightness of their positions, inflexible about their convictions, do not for a moment entertain the possibility that their position could stand some fine-tuning or perhaps should even be abandoned.

The great apologetics periscope is often quoted at its front-end, while the backside is very often neglected and frequently ignored: but sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence; 16 and keep a good conscience so that in the thing in which you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ will be put to shame. Name-calling, oversimplifying, and emotionally manipulating the conversation constitute some of the ways of not taking others seriously and creating a shallow substitute for their real positions and the reasons they might have for them. [The Little Logic Book]

I have experienced just as rude of behavior and poor treatment in discussions with Christian apologists as I have with atheists. In fact, I have had to block people from conversations after several attempts and requests were made to get them to change their approach.

It is just as important that we follow Peter’s imperative to be gentle and respectful, engaging in good behavior in our interactions as it is to defend Christian truth. Some apologists seem to stop at the comma in 1 Peter 3:15. And this is unfortunate. Christian apologetics is in a crisis because modern evangelicalism is in a crisis. We have spent a few decades now making false converts, preaching a lawless Christ and a lawless Christianity. We have convinced ourselves that the gospel can be made attractive to the ungodly through programs and strategies and friendships, and in this case, the strength of our arguments and the amount of our impressive evidence. But evangelicals have been on the wrong side of the biblical gospel. As a result, the churches have been filled with unbelievers who have come to Christ in the very same fashion that someone comes to Islam or to Buddhism, or joins a country club. These false converts, in many cases, are now running around in seminaries, or having graduated from seminaries are traveling the country and the world, claiming to defend the true Christ of Scripture when the truth is, they are defending a Christianity that is the product of Western minds enamored with pagan philosophy. There is a real crisis in modern Christian apologetics and the question is, “what will you and I do about it?”


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