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

Friday, August 10, 2012

True Persuasion: Contrasting Apologetic Methodologies

I wanted to comment on this statement I found at an apologetic site called The Poached Egg.

It's a quote from Ratio Christi president, Rick Schenker,

People will only become Christians when they are persuaded that Christianity is true. People only stay Christians if they believe Christianity is true. The job of the apologist is to prove that Christianity is true. Salvation is a supernatural work, but who ever heard of someone being a Christian that didn’t first believe it was true. Somehow they became convinced that eternal life is a free gift from God that can only be obtained by trusting in Jesus Christ. Rick Schenker (President of Ratio Christi)

I have to admit that I appreciated what he had to say.

The reason being is I believe his statement concisely articulates the key difference between the anthropocentric, humanistic apologetic methodology advocated by classical, evidentialist apologists, from a theocentric, doxological approach presented by biblical presuppositionalism. It further illustrates how our biblical exegesis, or in this case, a lack thereof, impacts the manner in which we engage the world with the Gospel.

Perhaps I am just naive, but I think as Christians we would want to derive our apologetic methodology from the exegesis of Scripture. Seeing that the Bible is God's Word, I’d think beginning with what God has clearly said about things is a grand idea. I mean, it is the primary document setting forth what truly is God's plan of salvation. As Christians, we should endeavor to know what God's Word teaches first about the particulars of the Christian faith and then build our methodology upon what's been revealed.

What I do happen to know is true about Christianity is that it is a monergistic faith. In other words, God is both the author and finisher of our faith. Salvation is entirely a work of God alone to redeemed and reconcile condemned, God-hating sinners from the just wrath they deserve by the death of Christ on the cross and His Resurrection from the dead. That is the good news. The Gospel.

Let me dissect this statement and evaluate these two apologetic strategy according to Scripture.

People will only become Christians when they are persuaded that Christianity is true.

This is not what the Bible teaches. People will only become Christians if, and only if, the Holy Spirit first does a regenerating work in the heart of the person so that he will believe the Gospel in faith.

The primary passage on faith, Ephesians 2:8,9, clearly teaches this,

8 For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God,
9 not of works, lest anyone should boast.

Adding to that is 1 Corinthians 1:22-25 and 2 Timothy 2:25, 26.

Classic apologists insist that men must first be persuaded that Christianity is worthy of an unbeliever's commitment and trust AND THEN, after they are convinced "Christianity is true," the apologist can steer them to considering the claims of the Gospel.

The Bible, however, says that it is only by the means of preaching and divinely granted faith that people are "persuaded" of the truth of Christianity, So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God(Romans 10:17).

People only stay Christians if they believe Christianity is true.

If an apologist believes his persuasive abilities with presenting facts and making airtight arguments is what brings people to see Christianity as being true in the first place, it would only be reasonable to conclude that their continued commitment is maintained in the same way. In other words, what persuaded the people to Christianity is what keeps them Christian.

But what happens if the people meet a counter-apologist with better persuasive abilities and his arguments are superior to the ones that initially persuaded them to the Christian faith? Seriously?

Rather than the certainty of one's conversion and continued commitment to Christ resting upon human "abilities" the Bible tells us it rests upon God alone. A person's faith is divinely initiated by the LORD, so too his ongoing sanctification. See for example Romans 8:29-39 and 1 Thessalonians 1:4-9.

The job of the apologist is to prove that Christianity is true.

The problem I have with this comment is that it present the idea of a separate "office" in the Christian church called "The Apologist." An individual who has a "job." There's the laity, or regular folks; the clergy, or the pastors; and then a third group, "the apologists."

I see this idea of a specialized "apologist" defending the faith promoted everywhere among what I consider the "popular" apologetic radio and internet programs. These "apologists" specialize in specific fields of study and develop presentations on such subjects like the reliability of the Gospels, the historicity of Jesus, the proof of the Resurrection, the proofs of God's existence, intelligent design vs. evolution, answering the "new" atheists, and interacting with cultural issues like same-sex marriage and abortion.

But the Bible states that apologetics should not be the job of a specialized group of people (especially young 20-something folks just graduated from a particular, so-called Christian school in La Mirada, CA), but it is the duty of all people who name Jesus Christ as Lord. And that duty is not just to "prove" Christianity is true, but to preach the Gospel and confront the false, demonic philosophies sinners have built for themselves and assault those spiritual fortresses with truth (1 Corinthians 10:3-5).

Is it helpful to be knowledgeable of certain arguments? Yes, it can be. However, having the most knowledgeable and persuasive proofs for faith is not what saves people. It's the power of God preached in the Gospel alone. A much more persuasive line of evidence is a person’s godly life lived out in front of the sinner coupled with the consistent preaching of Scripture. That is where apologists should specialize.

Salvation is a supernatural work, but who ever heard of someone being a Christian that didn’t first believe it was true. Somehow they became convinced that eternal life is a free gift from God that can only be obtained by trusting in Jesus Christ.

The Bible clearly tells us that sinners aren't too keen on believing this Gospel. In fact, they are outright hostile to it. Paul, writing to the Christians in Corinth, states that the Gospel message is a stumbling block to Jews, and gentiles think it is utter foolish nonsense (1 Cor. 1:23). The only thing that will modify their "opinion" is if a supernatural change takes place. Hence, this notion that people can be "persuaded" by compelling evidence or with the use of logic-chopping arguments toward the truth of Christianity is not only misguided, it is both exegetically untenable and theologically unsound.

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2 Comments:

Blogger Pastor Howard Brown said...

nicely dissected. The natural man cannot (not merely 'does not')understand, 1 Cor. 2: 14 Jesus said, "No one can (again, not 'does not") come to me unless the Father who sent Me draws him." The primary confidence of an evangelist who uses apologetic arguments as a tool must be the dawing, illumining ,regenerating and preservation of the Holy Spirit not human wisdom or reasoning. Be prepared, reason well, but the success does not depend on the debating skills of the evangelist.

8:29 AM, August 11, 2012  
Blogger Burrito34 said...

I enjoyed and agree with this post, having recently completed reading Biblical Apologetics by Cliff McManis. My suggestion is a little off-topic though; it would be nice if you had something like RefTagger for Scripture verses you refer to. While I did go look up the verses you indicated, I think it would help with the flow of reading if a verse popped up whenever my mouse hovers over a Bible reference.

2:02 AM, August 24, 2012  

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