The Folly of Modern Apologetics

 

COPYRIGHT ©2017 - James M. Frye

 

All scripture quotations are taken from the Authorized King James Bible. Any deviations are not intentional. All underlines, bold and words within brackets are the author's.

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Over the past 20 years or so, I have noticed a dramatic increase in what is referred to as "apologetics". Apologetics is the name given to that field of study which seeks to intellectually defend the Christian faith against its detractors. When I search the scriptures, however, I find three serious problems with much of what is called apologetics in our day.

 

1. The faulty idea that Christianity and the Bible are to be made intellectually acceptable.

 

Scripture says that the things of God will always be considered "foolishness" by the world.

1 Corinthians 1:18 For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God.

1 Corinthians 1:21 For after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe.

We should not expect then that Christianity or the Bible would ever be received as intellectually acceptable by the unbelieving world. Scripture tells us the exact opposite. Unbelievers have always seen true Christianity as foolish and they always will. It seems, however, that some in the "Scholarly Community" do not care to be thought of as "ignorant fundamentalists". For them apologetics provides a way to be more favorably looked upon by the world. They can be highly esteemed among men and avoid bearing reproach for Christ.

John 15:18-20 If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you. If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you. Remember the word that I said unto you, The servant is not greater than his lord. If they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you; if they have kept my saying, they will keep yours also.

Hebrews 13:13 Let us go forth therefore unto him without the camp, bearing his reproach.

1 Peter 4:14 If ye be reproached for the name of Christ, happy are ye; for the spirit of glory and of God resteth upon you: on their part he is evil spoken of, but on your part he is glorified.

There is a second problem I see with much of today’s "apologetic ministry".

 

2. The false assumption that a person may be won to Christ by pure intellectual reasoning.

 

The goal of much of apologetics in our day seems to be that we can convince someone intellectually and in doing so, bring them to the faith in Christ. I have no doubt that some may be brought to "believe" that there was in fact a Jesus, and that He died on a cross. But bringing them to saving faith is another matter entirely. Coming to saving faith in Christ is not just an intellectual exercise. It is a miracle from God. We need to be careful that we are not just making a bunch of "intellectual converts". Scripture makes it clear that there is a type of "belief" that people may possess that is little more than an intellectual accent to a set of facts. This sort of "faith" is portrayed in Scripture as not being true saving faith.

According to the Bible, an unregenerate (unsaved) person cannot understand the things of God unless God first opens their heart in regeneration. Then and only then will they truly believe. In their natural state, prior to regeneration, the things of God are foolishness to them.

1 Corinthians 2:14 But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.

Acts 16:14 And a certain woman named Lydia, a seller of purple, of the city of Thyatira, which worshipped God, heard us: whose heart the Lord opened, that she attended unto the things which were spoken of Paul.

Ezekiel 36:26-27 A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh. And I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments, and do them.

Now, don't get me wrong. I am not saying that we should not seek to help to clear up confusing issues for the honest seeker of the truth. But to think that we can win people to Christ by debating Atheism -vs- Theism and other such things is to be sorely mistaken. Scripture never tells us to continue giving spiritual truth to those who mock and attack it. It tells us to do the exact opposite.

Matthew 7:6 Give not that which is holy unto the dogs, neither cast ye your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn again and rend you.

There is yet a third problem with apologetics.

 

3. The main Bible verse which is said to teach modern day apologetics teaches nothing of the sort.

 

1 Peter 3:15 But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear:

This is the verse that supposedly calls Christians to modern day "apologetics". But if we take a look at it in context, we find that it teaches nothing of the sort. Granted the phrase "to give an answer" does in fact translate two Greek words one of which is "apologia". But the kind of answer we are to give, and the circumstances under which we are to give it has nothing to do with what is called "apologetics" in our day.

Let's begin by taking a look at the context of the passage. First, the verses which come immediately before the text:

1 Peter 3:13-14 And who is he that will harm you, if ye be followers of that which is good? But and if ye suffer for righteousness' sake, happy are ye: and be not afraid of their terror, neither be troubled;

Now the verses which come immediately after the text:

1 Peter 3:16-18 Having a good conscience; that, whereas they speak evil of you, as of evildoers, they may be ashamed that falsely accuse your good conversation in Christ. For it is better, if the will of God be so, that ye suffer for well doing, than for evil doing. For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust...

The context of the passage has to do with suffering (being persecuted) as a Christian even though we have done nothing wrong. We are to take it patiently and do good to those who do evil to us. We must not forget that chapter 3 logically follows what has gone before in chapter 2. As a matter of fact it builds upon the foundation and understanding that was laid there.

1 Peter 2:19-21 For this is thankworthy, if a man for conscience toward God endure grief, suffering wrongfully. For what glory is it, if, when ye be buffeted for your faults, ye shall take it patiently? but if, when ye do well, and suffer for it, ye take it patiently, this is acceptable with God. For even hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps:

The entire context surrounding the verse and leading up to it has to do with a Christian suffering persecution wrongfully and taking it patiently. So in that context we read:

1 Peter 3:15 But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear:

Now that we have seen the context, let's take a look at the text in that context. First, let us notice what it does not say:

A. The text says nothing about banging heads with atheists and other unbelievers who reject the truth of Scripture.

B. It says nothing about trying to debate creation -vs- evolution and trying to prove that creation is correct.

C. Nor does it say anything about trying to prove to people that the Bible is in fact the word of God.

D. It does not tell us to try and refute the illogical reasoning of those who would attack our faith.

etc. etc. etc.

I have heard all of these things (along with quite a few others) put forth as examples of what this text is supposedly teaching us to do. Hundreds of seminaries now offer degrees in apologetics based upon the assumption that this is exactly what this text teaches. But take a look the text. What does it actually say? It says that we as Christians will often be mistreated and suffer wrongfully in this world. But we are to follow the example of Christ and do well and speak well to those who do us wrong and speak evil to us that we may be a witness unto them. When they see us living this way, our witness will shine like a light into their hearts, and they will come to us and ask us about the hope that is within us (our faith).

The primary witness we are to give in 1 Peter 3 is not the word of God at all. It is our life. Consider this verse (also taken from the context).

1 Peter 3:1 Likewise, ye wives, be in subjection to your own husbands; that, if any obey not the word [are not believers], they also may without the word be won by the conversation (manner of living) of the wives;

This passage is not talking about us going out and trying to force our faith down the throats of others. We are only to give an answer. An answer is a response to question another has asked us. And notice what the question is. It is not an attack on our faith at all. We are responding to people who are asking us about the reason for our hope". It is a question that comes from one who has seen the incredibly righteous way in which we live, and is being drawn toward the faith because of it. They are asking us about our faith, not to attack it, but because they sincerely want to know more. What is called apologetics in our day does not come from 1 peter 3:15.