In the context of discussing beliefs, is it not widely assumed that to boldly represent your belief as the truth is arrogance? Is not having confidence in your beliefs interpreted as being disrespectful , since you are unwilling to accept all points of view as valid? Is it not unloving and hateful to tell others that what they believe is wrong, and that what you believe is right?
Sadly, those assumptions are the very air we breathe, today. What’s even more tragic is that it’s easy for Christians to uncritically absorb them into their thinking and live by them. However, Scripture does not see these things as opposites. The Apostle Peter tells us to be faithful to Christ as we give a defense, yet with gentleness and respect
but honor the Messiah as Lord in your hearts. Always be ready to give a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you. However, do this with gentleness and respect . . .
-1 Peter 3:15-16
Clearly then, those two are possible at the same time. In fact, we are commanded by God’s Word to do both: stand firm under Christ’s Lordship, and be gentle and respectful towards those we answer.
What about boldness? Isn’t that contrary to a loving manner? Christians are supposed to be “loving,” after all. Shouldn’t that mean we hold off on being bold when we engage with other people?
Pray also for me, that the message may be given to me when I open my mouth to make known with boldness the mystery of the gospel.
proclaiming the kingdom of God and teaching the things concerning the Lord Jesus Christ with full boldness and without hindrance.
Tsk tsk, Paul. That’s not very nice. You shouldn’t be bold in advancing your views on other people. You should be considerate of what they believe, and be tolerant and accepting of other views. And be “loving.” If you’re bold, someone might get offended.
growing into a mature man with a stature measured by Christ’s fullness. Then we will no longer be little children, tossed by the waves and blown around by every wind of teaching, by human cunning with cleverness in the techniques of deceit. But speaking the truth in love, let us grow in every way into Him who is the head—Christ.
Your speech should always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you should answer each person.
Impossible! To be bold must be unloving.
However, Paul himself has written about speaking the truth in love. The same Paul that boldly proclaimed the truth, also says to be gracious when you speak. Notice as well, speaking the truth in love is part of growing into Christ’s likeness, maturing. Look at what else is included: no longer being little children, “tossed by the waves and blown around by every wind of teaching.” So much for being accepting of all views. On the contrary, Paul is agreeing with Peter. Speaking the truth in love, with gentleness and respect, is not inconsistent with being bold and standing firm.
If this sounds like it cannot be, that we cannot be both at the same time, then I would say that we haven’t taken all of our thoughts captive to Christ. We are assuming a criteria, something that makes what these texts teach seem impossible or unlikely. Indeed, outside of Scripture the prevailing notion is that you are either firm or loving, either certain and arrogant or humble and open to everything. So the question becomes, what is your authority? According to what standard are you basing your manner when you discuss and engage with people? Who is determining the rules of engagement?
Let no one deceive you with empty arguments, for God’s wrath is coming on the disobedient because of these things. Therefore, do not become their partners. For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light—for the fruit of the light results in all goodness, righteousness, and truth—discerning what is pleasing to the Lord.
Uh oh, he’s doing it again. Looks like the Apostle Paul is exhorting Christians to hold tightly to their convictions: he says don’t allow yourself to be deceived by empty arguments! Why? God’s wrath is coming down on the disobedient. Who sets the rules of engagement? Notice what else Paul said: “discerning what is pleasing to the Lord.” He is the one that we are accountable to. Indeed, this is God’s Word. Infallible, authoritative. God is one not only allowing the possibility for bold confidence and gentleness and respect to hold hands together, but is in fact commanding that we be that way. It should be a natural consequence of setting apart Christ as Lord in our hearts. He is Lord even over our conversations and debates. The Lord Jesus is the judge. We are not ultimately accountable to the people we talk to. They do not lay down the rules. They do not determine how we should think, speak, reason, and behave in the apologetic encounter. Rather, it is God himself. God speaking in Scripture is the authority. And it is he who says do it with gentleness and respect. We can deduce why: every human being is created in God’s image. And what is the matter of our conversation, of our defense? God’s Word. The Scriptures. The Truth. We have revelation from the Creator who knows everything. That the Word is God’s Word is why we not only can have confidence and certainty, but why we must. If we did not demonstrate confidence in what the Bible teaches, treating it as one among many optional views, then we would be misrepresenting the authoritative and self-attesting Word. And because we know that God’s Word is powerful, and that it is he by his Spirit that makes it effective, we must be bold as we engage. The assumed necessary connection between boldness and pride is a frank misunderstanding of the source. Indeed, it would be sinful if my source of confidence was myself. But that is not the believer’s source of confidence. Our confidence is in the Triune God speaking through Scripture, who has told us what his Word does.
since the weapons of our warfare are not worldly, but are powerful through God for the demolition of strongholds. We demolish arguments and every high-minded thing that is raised up against the knowledge of God, taking every thought captive to obey Christ.
-2 Corinthians 10:4-5
To understate the matter: confidence in God’s Word is well placed. Here again is a fundamental principle: theology drives methodology. What God has said, what we are to believe, will determine our manner in apologetics.
We have the rules of engagement, regardless of any competing authorities that disagree. They may say you are arrogant for being certain of the truth. They certainly will accuse you as unloving and hateful for proclaiming the truth boldly, and identifying what is false. Those would be serious accusations, and would warrant us changing how we do things, if God had not already spoken on the matter. “I found it necessary to write and exhort you to contend for the faith that was delivered to the saints once for all” (Jude 3b). We contend, we speak the truth, we demolish arguments, we refuse to be swept to and fro, all under the Lordship of Christ. We are accountable to the Lord Jesus. He has laid down the ethics. In reality, revealed to us by divine revelation, there is no dichotomy or contradiction between holding fast and boldly speaking the truth, and being gentle, respectful, and gracious. Scripture is the principle that underlies how we argue.
May we all strive to first believe what God’s Word says about this, submitting how we think about these things to what he says about them, and then strive to obey it, trusting in the promise that God’s Spirit enables us. May we always acknowledge Scripture as the only foundation, interpreting everything through the lens of Scripture, and remaining conscious of Christ’s Lordship over apologetics. Since we are accountable to the Lord Jesus, let us constantly be “discerning what is pleasing to the Lord.”