I love apologetics. I love the study of why, in fact, Christianity is true. I love piling up historical evidence after historical evidence. Of understanding Textual Criticism.
My faith was preserved in my youth, when I deeply desired to apostate, by the writings of C.S. Lewis and Francis Schaeffer. The wounds my college teachers inflicted on my faith were salved by the balm of Peter Kreeft and James Patrick Holding. And to this day, I think Irenaeus’s Against Heresies is hilarious.
I think every Christian child should be armed with an understanding that our Myth is the True Myth. That they should not be going out in the world unprepared for the attacks that will come their way.
So why am I coming out against Apologetics?
I am not. But I would that my brothers would put it in it’s proper place.
Every apologetics ministry cites as its theme verse 1st Peter 3:15. But let’s look at it in context. It’s a long bit. But please, please, read it all. We’re going to start partway through 2, and go into 4. But if you want to do even better, read the whole letter. I triple-dog dare you.
Therefore subject yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake: whether to the king, as supreme; or to governors, as sent by him for vengeance on evildoers and for praise to those who do well. For this is the will of God, that by well-doing you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish men: as free, and not using your freedom for a cloak of wickedness, but as bondservants of God. Honor all men. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the king.
Servants, be in subjection to your masters with all fear; not only to the good and gentle, but also to the wicked. For it is commendable if someone endures pain, suffering unjustly, because of conscience toward God. For what glory is it if, when you sin, you patiently endure beating? But if, when you do well, you patiently endure suffering, this is commendable with God.
For to this you were called, because Christ also suffered for us, leaving you an example, that you should follow his steps, who did not sin, “neither was deceit found in his mouth.” Who, when he was cursed, didn’t curse back. When he suffered, didn’t threaten, but committed himself to him who judges righteously; who his own self bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we, having died to sins, might live to righteousness; by whose stripes you were healed. For you were going astray like sheep; but now have returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.
In the same way, wives, be in subjection to your own husbands; so that, even if any don’t obey the Word, they may be won by the behavior of their wives without a word; seeing your pure behavior in fear. Let your beauty be not just the outward adorning of braiding the hair, and of wearing jewels of gold, or of putting on fine clothing; but in the hidden person of the heart, in the incorruptible adornment of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is in the sight of God very precious. For this is how the holy women before, who hoped in God also adorned themselves, being in subjection to their own husbands: as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord, whose children you now are, if you do well, and are not put in fear by any terror.
You husbands, in the same way, live with your wives according to knowledge, giving honor to the woman, as to the weaker vessel, as being also joint heirs of the grace of life; that your prayers may not be hindered.
Finally, be all like-minded, compassionate, loving as brothers, tenderhearted, courteous, not rendering evil for evil, or insult for insult; but instead blessing; knowing that to this were you called, that you may inherit a blessing.
For, “He who would love life, and see good days, let him keep his tongue from evil, and his lips from speaking deceit.
Let him turn away from evil, and do good. Let him seek peace, and pursue it.
For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and his ears open to their prayer; but the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.”
Now who is he who will harm you, if you become imitators of that which is good?
But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you are blessed. “Don’t fear what they fear, neither be troubled.” But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts; and always be ready to give an answer to everyone who asks you a reason concerning the hope that is in you, with humility and fear: having a good conscience; that, while you are spoken against as evildoers, they may be disappointed who curse your good way of life in Christ. For it is better, if it is God’s will, that you suffer for doing well than for doing evil. Because Christ also suffered for sins once, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring you to God; being put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit; in which he also went and preached to the spirits in prison, who before were disobedient, when God waited patiently in the days of Noah, while the ship was being built. In it, few, that is, eight souls, were saved through water. This is a symbol of baptism, which now saves you—not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, who is at the right hand of God, having gone into heaven, angels and authorities and powers being made subject to him.
Forasmuch then as Christ suffered for us in the flesh, arm yourselves also with the same mind; for he who has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin; that you no longer should live the rest of your time in the flesh for the lusts of men, but for the will of God. For we have spent enough of our past time doing the desire of the Gentiles, and having walked in lewdness, lusts, drunken binges, orgies, carousings, and abominable idolatries. They think it is strange that you don’t run with them into the same excess of riot, blaspheming: who will give account to him who is ready to judge the living and the dead. 6For to this end the Good News was preached even to the dead, that they might be judged indeed as men in the flesh, but live as to God in the spirit.Emphasis mine, verse in question in red.
In the context of submitting to authorities, and wives submitting to husbands, with the example of Christ suffering under the authorities, Peter tells us if we suffer for doing good, to count ourselves blessed, and be ready to answer anyone who asks why we put up with evil masters.
Namely: because Christ suffered for our evil.
This is not a verse that urges us to defend the faith against all comers. It is a verse that urges us to proclaim the faith when people ask why we’re acting weird.
There are passages that, I think, would make good theme verses for an apologist.
Now I Paul, myself, entreat you by the humility and gentleness of Christ; I who in your presence am lowly among you, but being absent am bold toward you. Yes, I beg you that I may not, when present, show courage with the confidence with which I intend to be bold against some, who consider us to be walking according to the flesh. For though we walk in the flesh, we don’t wage war according to the flesh; for the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but mighty before God to the throwing down of strongholds, throwing down imaginations and every high thing that is exalted against the knowledge of God, and bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ; and being in readiness to avenge all disobedience, when your obedience will be made full.2nd Corinthians 10: 1-6
Spiritual warfare is the war of ideas, and we fight with ideas taken captive to Christ.
Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Me. Therefore, as you go make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to keep all that I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”Matthew 28:18
The mission of the church is to baptize and teach as we go.
Therefore take up the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you will be able to stand your ground, and having done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness arrayed, and with your feet fitted with the readiness of the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. And take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.Ephesians 6:13-17
The Scriptures are our sword. The gospel our sandals. The truth our belt.
But should we always give a defense to every bad argument we see on Twitter?
The Nuance of God’s Wisdom
A whip is for the horse, a bridle for the donkey, and a rod for the back of fools!
Don’t answer a fool according to his folly, lest you also be like him.
Answer a fool according to his folly, lest he be wise in his own eyes.
One who sends a message by the hand of a fool is cutting off feet and drinking violence.Proverbs 26:3-6
Solomon endorses the old adage that when you fight with a pig, you both get muddy, but only one of you enjoys it. Nevertheless, he goes both ways. When you answer a fool, you are in a lose-lose situation; choose how you want to lose.
Don’t judge, so that you won’t be judged. For with whatever judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with whatever measure you measure, it will be measured to you. Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but don’t consider the beam that is in your own eye? Or how will you tell your brother, ‘Let me remove the speck from your eye;’ and behold, the beam is in your own eye? You hypocrite! First remove the beam out of your own eye, and then you can see clearly to remove the speck out of your brother’s eye.
“Don’t give that which is holy to the dogs, neither throw your pearls before the pigs, lest perhaps they trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you to pieces.
“Ask, and it will be given you. Seek, and you will find. Knock, and it will be opened for you. For everyone who asks receives. He who seeks finds. To him who knocks it will be opened. Or who is there among you, who, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, who will give him a serpent? If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!Matthew 7:1-12: Emphasis mine
I referenced this verse when debating this point and received the reply, “I take ‘pearls’ to be the deep truths of the Kingdom, not explication of the fundamental propositional truths of scripture. Whether a man is an honest truth seeker is frequently only revealed with time.”
Interesting, that this comes right after “Do not judge” and right before “Seek and you will find.” I acknowledge that this supports the idea that when deciding whether someone is swine, to not cast pearls before, you reserve judgement rather than guilty until proven innocent. A point to the man who occasioned this post.
However, I dispute the idea that when you are pondering whether to set Holy things before dogs, the fundamental propositional truths of Scripture are not Holy! The Scriptures do indicate that some teachings are milk, and some teachings are meat, but all Scripture is God-Breathed and how could the Breath of God be anything but Holy?!
It happened on one of those days, as he was teaching the people in the temple and preaching the Good News, that the priests and scribes came to him with the elders. They asked him, “Tell us: by what authority do you do these things? Or who is giving you this authority?” He answered them, “I also will ask you one question. Tell me: 4the baptism of John, was it from heaven, or from men?” They reasoned with themselves, saying, “If we say, ‘From heaven,’ he will say, ‘Why didn’t you believe him?’ But if we say, ‘From men,’ all the people will stone us, for they are persuaded that John was a prophet.” They answered that they didn’t know where it was from. Jesus said to them, “Neither will I tell you by what authority I do these things.”Luke 20:1-8
I am not the Son of God, except in as much as He has made me. Nor, then, do I subscribe wholesale to “WWJD,” for Jesus has authority to do things He has not, in turn, given me. Nevertheless, Our Lord exercises discernment in deciding what to answer and what not to answer. Discernment He Himself commends in the passage I cited previously! So in addition to His example, we also have His command.
The fool has said in his heart, “There is no God.” They are corrupt. They have done abominable works. There is none who does good.
Yahweh looked down from heaven on the children of men, to see if there were any who did understand, who did seek after God.
They have all gone aside. They have together become corrupt. There is none who does good, no, not one.
Have all the workers of iniquity no knowledge, who eat up my people as they eat bread, and don’t call on Yahweh?
There they were in great fear, for God is in the generation of the righteous.
You frustrate the plan of the poor, because Yahweh is his refuge.
Oh that the salvation of Israel would come out of Zion! When Yahweh restores the fortunes of his people, then Jacob shall rejoice, and Israel shall be glad.Psalm 14
When the decision comes as to whether to answer a challenge to the faith, remember: those who deny God are all fools, so you are in square in Solomon’s dilemma! To be sure, we should take pity on fools and bring them the Scripture. But we are permitted to exercise discernment when answering fools!
The reality is, the Scriptures do advocate teaching, and advocate contending for the faith. But there is no command to always answer any challenge you see anywhere. In fact, there are proverbs and commands that caution us against doing so.
And, in fact, such Scriptures as I know that talk about contending for the faith don’t primarily talk about defending the truth of Scripture in public.
They talk about defending yourself against false teachers.
And they talk about proclaiming the truth into the world.
I believe (but will not exegete here) that the role of Apologetics is self-defense.
And that those verses that even I use to support Apologetics aren’t meant to support the defense of the faith. They are meant to support the offense of the faith. We are not meant to be on the back foot, we are meant to be storming the gates of Hell.
Okay, Then Why Did You Make a Big Deal of This?
Tell me, you that desire to be under the law, don’t you listen to the law? For it is written that Abraham had two sons, one by the handmaid, and one by the free woman. However, the son by the handmaid was born according to the flesh, but the son by the free woman was born through promise. These things contain an allegory, for these are two covenants. One is from Mount Sinai, bearing children to bondage, which is Hagar. For this Hagar is Mount Sinai in Arabia, and answers to the Jerusalem that exists now, for she is in bondage with her children. But the Jerusalem that is above is free, which is the mother of us all.
For it is written, “Rejoice, you barren who don’t bear. Break forth and shout, you that don’t travail. For more are the children of the desolate than of her who has a husband.”
Now we, brothers, as Isaac was, are children of promise. But as then, he who was born according to the flesh persecuted him who was born according to the Spirit, so also it is now.
However what does the Scripture say? “Throw out the handmaid and her son, for the son of the handmaid will not inherit with the son of the free woman.”
So then, brothers, we are not children of a handmaid, but of the free woman.Galations 4:21-31
Jesus did not commend the Pharisees for piling law upon law upon their brethren. Nor did Paul commend the Galatians for adopting circumcision.
The way of men, of Christian men, throughout all history, is to see God’s requirements — which we do not even keep! — and say, “that can’t be enough. There needs to be more rules.” And when Christ pays with His life for the sins we committed — the sins against His law, not the sins against our made up laws — we get antsy. “Can’t tell people about Grace. They might get the idea it’s okay to start sinning.”
That’s not how this works. That’s not how any of this works.
Do you like that you don’t tell your neighbor about Jesus? Do you like that you are shamed into silence when God’s word says unpopular things like “Wive’s submit to your husbands”?
If you’re a Christian, it eats at you. If it doesn’t, your faith is fading. (Stay tuned: I can tell you what to do about it.) You want to be good. Even though you aren’t doing good things, you want to do good things.
The solution is not to make up new laws, to go beyond the words of Scripture, and make a laudable act, such as defending the faith, into a requirement. By taking Scripture out of context, no less!
When you try to be holier than God, you fail. Period.
The solution is easy, and yet in this demonic age, oh-so-hard.
I am the true vine, and my Father is the farmer. Every branch in me that doesn’t bear fruit, he takes away. Every branch that bears fruit, he prunes, that it may bear more fruit. You are already pruned clean because of the word which I have spoken to you. Remain in me, and I in you. As the branch can’t bear fruit by itself, unless it remains in the vine, so neither can you, unless you remain in me. I am the vine. You are the branches. He who remains in me, and I in him, the same bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. If a man doesn’t remain in me, he is thrown out as a branch, and is withered; and they gather them, throw them into the fire, and they are burned. If you remain in me, and my words remain in you, you will ask whatever you desire, and it will be done for you. “In this is my Father glorified, that you bear much fruit; and so you will be my disciples.John 15:1-8, emphasis mine
When you make up a new law to try and keep God’s Word better, you add the leaven of the Pharisees.
When you look at your life, and realize that you are not doing what is good, and you flee to Christ’s sacrifice, and to His Word, you abide in Him. Eat the Bread. Drink the Wine. Hear the Scriptures. Pray the Scriptures.
Do not elaborate on the Law. Meditate on the Law. Your pride, your cowardice, whatever mountain is standing between you and the good you would do? You will not move that mountain with your own cussedness, let alone with verses taken out of context to create laws that do not exist.
Mountains are moved with faith. And faith doesn’t come from trying. Faith comes from asking, and from hearing the Word of God.
But seriously, every Christian teen should read Mere Christianity and The Case for Christ at minimum. The night is dark. Don’t walk out without some decent armor.
This is wisdom; not a commandment.