Hip and Thigh: Smiting Theological Philistines with a Great Slaughter. Judges 15:8

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Apologetic Evangelism methodology 101 (pt 6)

Developing a Strategic Offensive

I have been attempting to provide a simple, layman's overview of apologetics and evangelism. What would be the basic elements Christians need to consider when offering an apologia, a defense of the faith with the gospel message, before a hostile world opposed to Christ.

The last entry in this series considered our foundational defensive measures we should use. With this article, I wish to orient the Christian's focus on an offensive strategy.

A firm offense is also important, because there will come a time during the course of any apologetic encounter when the Christian must challenge the faith commitments and overall world view of the non-Christian by calling the person to repentance and submission to Christ as his or her Lord.

I believe is vital for all Christians to keep in minds that they are confronting a person's entire belief system when they present the gospel. Often times they mistakenly approach evangelism with the notion they are addressing individual sin issues in a non-Christian's life, and they make the gospel presentations no more significant to an unbeliever than choosing between flavors of ice-cream.

Evangelism, for instance, may be viewed as an attempt to get a person to pray a quick prayer so as to add his "confession" to a growing record. What would essentially be another "notch" in the belt, or golden soul-winning star added to a collection. Others may see evangelism as a means to get a non-Christian to give up certain moral vices like hard-rock music, smoking, and partying on the weekends. This is not what apologetics and evangelism is about.

When the Christian stands in a laundry mat speaking to a non-Christian about his life, the Christian is doing more than persuading the person to relinquish his moral vices and convincing him to come to church on Sundays. That Christian is challenging the entire way a non-Christian thinks, lives, behaves, and believes. the non-Christian is living in rebellion against God, according to his own self-interests with no genuine thought to how God would desire him to live his life. Thus, when a Christian tells a non-Christian he needs to repent from his sin and place his trust in Christ alone for his salvation, the Christian is saying several fundamental truths about the non-Christian's faith commitments.

1) The person faith commitments are misplaced, trusting himself rather than God.

2) He is believing wrong about spiritual things, and in turn, about reality and the way he thinks and lives.

3) He is living a life in rebellion against God.

4) The manner in which he behaves himself dishonors God.

5) God has a right to justly punish his sinful treason.

6) Nothing else can save him from his condemnation, only Christ alone.

These are areas of a person's life that have eternal consequences and a Christian would be sinfully amiss if he or she only presented the gospel in such a manner the non-Christian is left with the impression the gospel is banana chunky fudge as opposed to chocolate vanilla swirl. This is why having a tactical apologetic offensive with the non-Christian is vital.

Now, turning our attention to the scripture...

The Bible often uses the picture of warfare to illustrate the confrontation a Christian has with the unbelieving world. For instance, in Ephesians 6:10-20, Paul describes the Christian's confrontation with the world like unto a soldier preparing for battle. Yet the warfare he has in mind is not one that is tangible and involves physical shoot outs and sword fights, but one that is spiritual, wrestling against the spiritual forces in high places.

This raises another problem area with Christians. Many of them mistakenly believe our spiritual battle is directly with demonic entities. In other words, the very hosts of the demonic world. Our spiritual battle, then, involves us praying up hedges of protection against the intrusion of demons into our daily lives, "binding" them with the use of "Christian" incantations, or naming them directly, like a "demon of lust" or "anger," in order to prevent them from having influence upon a person.

I remember back during my first year of college (actually before I was a genuine Christian), someone loaned me a copy of Frank Peretti's This Present Darkness and told me with a straight face and an earnest tone in the voice that after reading this book my entire perspective of reality will change. That was an ominous challenge for me, so I immediately picked up the book and began to read.

The story is about the ill happenings taking place in a small town surrounding a beleaguered pastor and his wife, as well as some other characters who figure in to his circumstances as the story moves along. What made this book popular, however, is how the author, Peretti, opens up the spiritual realm to reveal how there is a conflict between demonic, fallen angels and the good, holy angels of heaven.

The demons are described as ugly, hideous troll like creatures with bat wings, where as the good angels are tall, majestic, and muscle bound, with long flowing hair. Basically, an American Gladiator, or perhaps Fabio with eagle wings.

At any rate, we learn from the story that as long as the Christians are praying and "walking" in the spirit, the good angels have the strength to defeat the demons. If Christians don't do anything, the angels are helpless to act against the powers of evil. We are also told there are demonic hierarchies with powerful demons in charge over a state, lesser powerful demons in charge of a city, and still a lesser powerful demon in charge over a town or neighborhood block. Near the end the story, the Christians have a revival of sorts and pray together to cast out the biggest and baddest demon (next to Satan of course) who had come into town to set up shop. Their united prayers empower the leading angel in the book to lay a WWF style smackdown on the head demon.

Even though his book made for some riveting fiction, the scenarios involving the demonic hordes and angelic hosts was absolutely unbiblical and presented a sci-fi view of spiritual warfare. I can recall how many misguided Christians, taking a cue from the book, began to organize conferences where Christians would pray together to strengthen the angels in large American cities to cast out the powerful demons controlling those cities. I remember how the person who loaned me the book put together a prayer team that spent all day one Saturday marching around my college campus in the same manner Joshua led the Children of Israel to march around Jericho so as to capture it for the Lord. This type of misleading spirituality only feeds a superstitious mind set that sees a devil behind every ill wind and misplaces a person's confidence in trusting the sovereign providence of God.

The scriptures never describe spiritual warfare in this manner. Note how Paul writes in Ephesians 6:11 that our attention is directed toward combating the "schemes" of the devil. We are not fighting the devil directly, but the schemes he has put into place to hold men's minds captive.

Paul expands on this picture of spiritual warfare in 2 Corinthian 10:3-5

For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ.

There are three areas of warfare we as Christians need to take heed to insure we will have an impactful offensive with the gospel.

1) The Battle Ground

Just like in Ephesians 6, Paul tells the Corinthian believers that we are waging war not against fleshly individuals, but against spiritual realities. But note that our warfare is not like playing a game of Halo or Warcraft. We are not fighting personal demonic entities, like a demon of lust or demon of greed, but we fight against arguments, lofty opinions raised against the knowledge of God, and thoughts.

Put simply, true spiritual warfare engages a person's mind.

We do engage the devil, but it is his methods we grapple with, not him personally. The devil's most effective method of making war is by spreading false doctrine, erroneous philosophies, false religions, and alternate, anti-God world views.

Our battleground is set upon those ideas, false doctrines and philosophies. Satan is desirous to keep men from knowing God. Granted, our rebellious sin nature does a good job, but Satan helps keep men in bondage with his schemes. Thus, our battle is waged on the ground controlling the hearts and minds of men.

2) Our Weapons

Paul speaks of our weapons of warfare. The word weapon is a generic description of anything used as a weapon like a sword, or spear, or club. There are two descriptions of these particular weapons at our disposal.

First, our weapons are not fleshly or man-made. Obviously that is because our warfare is not against physical entities. It is rather pointless to utilize a sword against a philosophy or false doctrine. Paul may have in mind the notion of human wisdom. What would be man-made techniques of persuasion. Perhaps a modern-day example would be the various seeker-sensitive approaches to evangelism that attempt to win non-Christians to the gospel by meeting "felt needs" or manufacturing a comfortable and delightful church attending experience that doesn't rub the wrong way.

Our weapons are mighty. The word "mighty" has the idea of powerful. The root word is dunamas and it presents the picture of having ability or capability. The weapons we command are capable of achieving the goal in which they are used. That is because they are spiritually energized by the Lord. We are not dependent upon weapons that cannot defend us nor hurt the enemy, but in our arsenal we have the one weapon that is able to do what we use it to accomplish.

What then is our main weapon? The knowledge of God in Christ.

We know the Lord, we are able to discern the truth, we have possession of His revelation, and we are to proclaim it as our main weapon against the schemes of the devil in which we do battle. As we proclaim the knowledge of God, particularly encapsulated in the gospel of Jesus Christ, any effectiveness is granted by God. He is the one who empowers our endeavors.

3) Our Strategy

It is quite simple: destroying strongholds, arguments, lofty opinions and taking every though captive.

The word destroy comes from the word katastrophe from where we derive our modern English word catastrophe. It means to over throw or cast down in destruction. We destroy strongholds or what would be a firmly built fortresses of unbelieving minds. These strongholds manifest themselves in clever argumentation opposed to God's truth, creative imaginations, evil reasoning, intentional purposes designed to fight against God, and any other mental devices men use to dream up ways to suppress the truth of God in unrighteousness. These arguments deny the truth, or ignore the truth, or make the truth into a lie. All of them are sinful, high-handed rebellious reasoning against the Lord.

Our offensive strategy, then, is to employ the spiritual "weapon" of the knowledge of God in Christ to the hearts and minds of sinful men so as to take their minds captive to the obedience of Christ. We are to persuade them with the truth against the many sophisticated lies they have invented to fuel their rebellion against the Lord.

That is not only an honorable calling for Christians, but also a difficult one. However, the Lord has promised the empowering work of His Spirit to aide our endeavors. The result of our apologetic does not rest in our persuasive abilities as a debater, but in the work of God drawing men's hearts to Himself. We just have the glorious honor of being the "weapon" in the Redeemer's hand.

But, does that mean we only throw out a bunch of Bible verses? Are we not to convince the non-Christian of his errors? And how exactly do Christians engage those sophisticate lies the non-Christian has invented? That will be the subject of my next post.



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