Objections to Apologetics: Mysticism

The series continues.

Voddie Baucham says in “Doing Apologetics in an Anti-Apologetics Age” that there are two reasons why apologetics has fallen out of favor, today: sentimentalism and mysticism. I’ve addressed sentimentalism. Now we look at the second: mysticism.

Mysticism.

Voddie Baucham says the second reason for this anti-apologetic atmosphere is mysticism,  and consequently anti-intellectualism. He begins this at 7:00 in “Doing Apologetics in an Anti-Apologetics Age.”

Mysticism obviously has broader effect beyond apologetics. Being confessional, having structure around our faith is thought of as a bad thing and as counter productive to the Christian life. Dr. Baucham is addressing seminary students, and he knows full well that they have been warned! Seminary (where such things as systematic theology happen) is seen as a danger.

Voddie Baucham mentions a college fund motto: “The mind is a terrible thing to waste.” He then says that American Christianity has a different opinion:

we just believe a mind is a terrible thing. We talk about “head knowledge” as though it’s a disease that needs to be cured. Right?

He is right. I’ve seen it. By the way some evangelical churches are, you think it would be spiritually healthier to have a lobotomy. It’s as if we live as Christians in spite of having minds, like the mind is a handicap. In the Garden, everything was perfect. Then the Fall happened, sin entered the world, and we have minds now. Resisting the devil and the flesh is synonymous with resisting rational thought, critical thinking, logic, etc. Knowledge is a hindrance. Forget about the noetic effects of sin (effects of sin on the mind). It’s all bad.

“Head knowledge.” Shoot, I heard that all the time. It’s an inherently derogatory and negative expression. You might as well leave out the “head”, because what everyone’s hearing is “knowledge is bad.” I’m having flashbacks, right now. Honestly, I want to kick something every time I hear that phrase, “head knowledge.” I rarely hear it anymore, thank God, because I’m no longer in an anti-intellectual community. I still cringe every time I hear that expression, though.

On a side note, I object to any use of the phrase “head knowledge” (except the above use, calling it out as wrong). I think it plays in to the already present false dichotomy between “head” and “heart” that many believers assume, which is not biblical. So using “head knowledge” affirms that dichotomy, for people. I think there are more clear and less laden ways to communicate your point without using such a loaded phrase. Anyway . . .

Because everybody knows if you really wanna love God you gotta be ignorant!

—Voddie Baucham

Don’t ask questions, just believe. We have faith, we don’t need reasons or evidence. You can’t prove Christianity, you just know it’s true. You have an internal witness (ironically, like Mormonism teaches).

We’re more like Mormons, to be honest. “I bear you witness because of my burning in the bosom. These things are true because of my internal witness to these things.”

—Voddie Baucham

Oneness Pentecostals believe the same thing, as well. “The Holy Spirit revealed it to me, and he’ll reveal it to you, too.” Unfortunately (and unbiblically), many Christians believe this. That’s where their trust is placed. As Michael Horton is fond of repeating, “You ask me how I know he [Jesus] lives, he lives within my heart.” This comes out especially in “evangelism” by sharing their personal testimony.

You feel it. “I had a personal experience, so I don’t need reasons to believe.” It’s about “faith” not reason. The intellectual is not “spiritual.” Logic is contrary to the Bible, because “God’s thoughts are higher than ours.” It’s not about being rational. Christian faith is all about my experience, not knowledge. The more you know, the less faith you have. The less spiritual you are.

He goes on to say that, in this context of mysticism, we don’t gauge the rightness or wrongness of things by the facts presented, but based on the emotions we experience when they are presented. A perfect example is how you react to “worship” at church. What makes a wonderful worship service, for you? How those “worship” songs or the sermon made you feel? Are you even able to tell false doctrine when you hear it? Are you even looking at the facts? Or are you there for the experience?

“That was powerful. That was awesome.”

Well, did you recognize that it was heretical? (the audience laughs)

“You’re so judgmental.” (more laughing).

—Voddie Baucham

Heard variations of that conversation, too.

So in an evangelical culture where we evaluate and judge things, not based on the categories of Scripture (what’s true, what’s right), but based on our emotions, how do we expect apologetics to fit? It just isn’t going to click with people. Apologetics does not comport with mysticism.

Gauging rightness and wrongness of things based on facts is a large part of apologetics. If Christians aren’t used to doing that then apologetics isn’t even going to seem Christian. Because the whole Christian life is about emotionsexperience, what you know internally, not evaluating based on facts and what Scripture says. In a culture where what’s heretical flies around undetected because of how it makes us feel, apologetics itself needs an apologetic.

It’s in that context that apologetics just doesn’t make sense, because we’re not thinking according to biblical categories, and apologetics fits within the Christian worldview. We’re thinking like the culture around us, so apologetics just doesn’t even fit into our “Christianity”, because our Christianity is so polluted. We can’t make sense of apologetics, because our worldview has anti-Christian beliefs involved.

Meaning, as I have learned, that we’ve got to do some demolition and construction before we can get to training in apologetics. The mysticism has to go, biblical categories have to be set up, then apologetics makes sense. Basically, some worldview work needs to happen. Which, ironically, is apologetics in action.

So in this evangelical Christian culture, this mixture of sentimentalism and mysticism, apologetics is objectionable.

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Objections to Apologetics: It’s not nice.

You thought this series was over, didn’t you? Me too. Then I rewatched Voddie Baucham’s first apologetics talk at DTS. Silly me.

Voddie Baucham says in “Doing Apologetics in an Anti-Apologetics Age” that there are two reasons why apologetics has fallen out of favor, today: sentimentalism and mysticism. I’ll talk about the first and leave the second to another day.

Sentimentalism

We don’t like apologetics because it’s not nice. It’s confrontational.

There is an eleventh commandment: “Thou Shalt Be Nice.” And we don’t believe the other ten.

—Voddie Baucham

He defines “nice” with terms like soft, weak, afraid, cowardly. I agree.

He says a bit more about the Eleventh Commandment in his book,

Perhaps you’re unfamiliar with the eleventh commandment, “Thou Shalt Be Nice.” Interestingly, this is the only commandment that receives universal acceptance in our culture. Moreover, it is the only commandment whose application most people are willing to insist upon. . . . speak up on behalf of the eleventh, and you are a true paragon of virtue!

. . . the specific application of the eleventh commandment tends to apply to religious debate. The idea is that we should not confront people about their religious beliefs . . . unless, of course, those beliefs are traditional, Protestant, biblical beliefs. Then they’re fair game, since those beliefs are inherent violations of the eleventh commandment.

Expository Apologetics: Answering Objections with the Power of the Word by Voddie Baucham Jr. Kindle loc. 2339-52

We don’t dare say someone is wrong.

The idea of confrontation, of saying “I’m right, you’re wrong” is unacceptable to us, today. The very height of arrogance is thinking you are right and other people are wrong. I run into that idea often.

. . . we don’t like to do it. Let’s be honest. We simply do not like to confront people. In fact, some of us would rather be slapped in the face than have to tell people their worldview is wrong. Nor is this necessarily a sign of weakness on the part of the Christian.

—Ibid., loc. 2352

Confrontation may be uncomfortable, but it is necessary. To avoid confrontation at all costs is wrong. That would be capitulating to the culture, instead of submitting to God’s authority.

But we don’t want to offend anyone. Too often, we care about the good opinion of others more than with God’s offense.

We also fundamentally misunderstand the apologetic situation. We forget the nature of the unbeliever, the nature of the problem. We think we can “nice” someone into the kingdom (which is how I think “love them into the kingdom” actually plays out). If we could get our approach just right, if we were nicer, then we wouldn’t offend the lost and they would accept what we are saying.

That’s not how God sees it. God has diagnosed the problem: the unbeliever is utterly opposed to the things of God, his understanding darkened and his heart hard. It’s not about our approach. It’s not a problem that being nice can fix (niceness is not a biblical answer to anything, actually). The problem is they love rebellion and hate God, and hate us, consequently. Niceness isn’t what they need. Confrontation by the powerful, self-attesting Word is what they need. They need the Gospel. They need that heart of stone replaced with a heart of flesh.

. . . remember that God has informed us of the likely response of our hearers. I am often amused as people ask me for ways to do apologetics that are least likely to offend lost people. . . .

We need to be aware that “the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil” (John 3:19). We need to be reminded of some of the most poignant words Jesus ever spoke:

If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. (John 15:18–19)

Attempting to be loved by the world often leads to compromise. As apologists, we do not wish to be more offensive than necessary. However, we know that there will be offense. We might as well offend with the gospel.

—Ibid., loc. 787-800

Let not sentimentalism be an obstacle to obeying the Lord Jesus. Let not the demand for niceness lead you to compromise. Instead, show real love by proclaiming the truth with gentleness and respect. Engage in apologetics.

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Objections to Apologetics: ultimately fail

Unfortunately, there are many more objections to apologetics that I have not covered in this short series. What’s unfortunate is that there are more objections. Some assert that apologetics is simply irrelevant, others say arguments aren’t persuasive anymore, and the rest say they haven’t seen any “fruit” come of apologetics.

However, any objection to the use of apologetics, indeed, the necessity of apologetics for every Christian, ultimately fails.

How can this be? By what argument are all objections shown faulty? Or is there an overwhelming pragmatic justification for apologetics? Actually, our ultimate authority commands it. The Triune God speaking through Scripture says all Christians are to always be ready to answer anyone.

but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect

-1 Peter 3:15 (ESV)

Case closed. There is no way around it. Any objection to the need for Christians to know and practice apologetics cannot even get off the ground. Since Scripture is the Christian’s ultimate authority, no other may even be allowed to contradict it. Therefore, no pragmatic reasoning, no bias, no experience based argument can be employed to object to the apologetic enterprise. Scripture mandates apologetics for all believers. The discussion about whether to do it or not is over before it begins.

This, I would hope is understood, does not mean we may not disagree over how to engage in apologetics. Indeed, I myself disagree with the majority (at least the vocal majority) when it comes to apologetic method. What method Scripture demands is an important discussion to be had.

Feel free to debate about how to go about apologetics. At least then you are in the realm of obedience. But try to dismiss apologetics? Not an option. There’s no getting around it or away from it. Apologetics is a matter of obedience to the Lord Jesus.

There is no sound objection to apologetics. The Triune God speaking through Scripture has commanded us to be always ready to give a defense to anyone. So, it really doesn’t matter what reasons we have for excusing ourselves from apologetic endeavor. None are valid. They are all irrelevant.

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

Dear friends, although I was eager to write you about the salvation we share, I found it necessary to write and exhort you to contend for the faith that was delivered to the saints once for all.

-Jude 3

God has chosen to work through believers. It’s not legalism, it’s God-ordained responsibility. So get equipped, so you will be ever ready to defend the Christian worldview against any unbelieving worldview.

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Objections to Apologetics: just evangelize

Some see a sharp divide between apologetics and evangelism. Here, I’m using evangelism to mean people “gossiping the Gospel,” sharing the good news. Abraham Kuyper referred to it as “witnessing.” Why do apologetics? It’s the Gospel that saves, isn’t it? Just share the simple good news. That’s all we need to do. Why get caught up in all these other questions about Christianity? Just stick to telling them about Jesus. That’s what the unbeliever needs, not all these other issues.

The Christian, perhaps thinking that his argument with the non-Christian is simply over a fact such as Christ’s resurrection from the dead, may set out to prove from history that this even occurred, but he soon realizes (if he is at all thoughtful) that the two of them also disagree over the proper character of historical research, reasoning, and evaluation.

—Greg Bahnsen, Van Til’s Apologetic pg. 101

First, there’s the likely misunderstanding of apologetics, as if it is categorically different from evangelism. Both evangelism and apologetics are applications of the Word of God. Both are done under the authority of Christ, and proceed from the same revelational epistemology. Both flow from the standpoint of belief, being “in Christ.” Bahnsen offers helpful advice here: “The key will be to recognize differences of degree between these activities and not escalate them into categorical differences of kind” (Ibid., pg. 43). In apologetics and evangelism, we are applying the Word of God to people’s hearts.

This objection also fails to understand what’s going on in an evangelistic encounter, the total situation. No one hears the Gospel (or anything else) in isolation. Human beings are interpreters. Everything is interpreted, correctly or not, according to a person’s most fundamental beliefs. The Gospel may be “simple” (in a certain sense) but that does not mean the unbeliever hears the Gospel while ignoring everything else he believes about himself and the world around him.

One of the distinctive insights that Van Til has given to presuppositional apologetics is that every line of reasoning that is exalted against the knowledge of God, and every kind of objection or challenge to the faith that is raised by unbelievers, arises from an attitude of the heart and within the intellectual context of a world-and-life view.

—Ibid., pg. 30

I think this objection to apologetics, and insisting that all we need to do is “share the Gospel” with unbelievers, assumes neutrality. There’s an assumption that the unbeliever is actually open to the Gospel. That the unbeliever is not antagonistic towards God. Indeed, that he has no knowledge of God to suppress in the first place! However, God’s diagnoses is different. Unbelievers are at enmity with God. They know God, and suppress that truth in unrighteousness. They raise up reasonings and vain philosophy according to themselves, and not according to Christ. Their foolish hearts are darkened. Therefore, all knowledge they have and all their mental abilities are employed against the knowledge of God. The unbeliever is not neutral. To dismiss apologetics, and assert that we only need to tell the Gospel, assumes that all this is not true of the unbeliever. We, if we are faithful to Scripture, must “demolish arguments and every high-minded thing that is raised up against the knowledge of God, taking every thought captive to obey Christ.” And that’s apologetics: the defense of the Christian worldview against all opposition.

When we turn to the relationship between apologetics and evangelism (or “witnessing,” as Kuyper termed it), we must again disagree with those who suppose that the unbeliever can intelligibly study and interpret experience while at the same time denying the truth of the Christian worldview.

—Ibid., pg. 52

The interdependence of evangelism and apologetics should be obvious, by now. We are sharing news, an announcement from God himself, to someone who is dead in sin, and is continually, every waking moment, suppressing his knowledge of God. We are giving a defense for the hope that is in us to someone who is living in rebellion against God, and who will reason and argue based on that heart attitude. The unbeliever, living in God’s world, has all the evidence, knows the true God, and can even see God in the Bible, and all of it only makes sense in light of the Gospel. Currently, his worldview cannot stand. It reduces to absurdity, it’s arbitrary, he’s resting on unargued bias, and he cannot live consistently with what he claims to believe. His worldview isn’t merely incomplete, lacking a supernatural knowledge, it’s completely bankrupt. His house is built on the sand. The unbeliever cannot interpret anything correctly. When we witness, we are not merely giving an additional bit of information the otherwise “okay” unbeliever needs. No, we are in fact confronting the unbeliever with a whole new worldview, one that is antithetical to the one he has now as a result of his unbelief. That is the context within which evangelism happens, and apologetics makes these connections. We defend the truth as we appeal to people to be changed by the truth.

Apologetics works to develop a method of gospel presentation that is consistent with the full teaching of Scripture and anticipates the personal needs of the unbeliever.

—Ibid., pg. 54

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Objections to Apologetics: too hard

Christianity requires effort. If you are in fact a Christian, all of you belongs to the Lord Jesus. There’s no excuse for laziness.

Granted, this objection likely is a symptom of a deeper assumption. Many evangelicals can be closet “quietists.” Spiritual things are assumed to be effortless. Truth is supposed to be absorbed. Sanctification happens passively, requiring no effort on our part, only surrender. If that’s a foundation stone of your theology, then naturally you are going to have a problem with any Christian enterprise that requires effort. And apologetics is definitely one of those.

However, some apologists make the enterprise more complicated than it is. Some methods require the memorizing of countless facts and arguments. This need not be. We don’t need to have the whole playbook memorized.

Doing apologetics correctly takes effort. Unfortunately, many people let this get in the way of learning. Once they’ve got it in their head that this will be challenging, that’s all they see. Even if the method is actually simple, they will still insist that this is beyond them, and shy away from making the effort to learn.

Many things in life require effort. It takes effort to grasp biblical ethics, and apply them in your specific context, developing wisdom. It takes effort to pray. It takes effort to get up and go out to sit under the preaching of the Word and examine yourself in light of it. It takes effort to love your family. The point is, few people are consistent in their opposition to difficult, hard things.

So, should we expect Christian stuff to be hard? Yes, especially in the beginning. What happens at conversion is the replacing of one paradigm with a completely new one. It will take effort to intentionally think differently about everything. It takes effort to learn the Bible, to internalize it in order to do what it says and live consistently. It doesn’t happen passively. God works in us both to will and to do.

Also, laziness is something condemned in the Bible. Read the book of Proverbs. It doesn’t get much clearer than that.

On top of all this, it is irrelevant whether apologetics is hard or not. God commands us to be prepared, for anyone. We are morally responsible.

What makes apologetics hard? And by that, I mean legitimately hard, not hard because it’s being done wrong, like memorize a million facts because we think facts alone can change people. What makes apologetics a bit difficult is its basis: theology. Theology is what drives methodology. So knowing biblical truth is the prerequisite for doing apologetics. And the Bible has much to teach. Time alone would make this a challenge, because the Bible is not a small book. However, the fact that we are still sinful throws an additional wrench in the works. Sin is the spoiler of understanding God’s Word. God’s revelation is antithetical to sinful man. We have to study and continue to encounter the Word, and the Holy Spirit testifies to its truth, and our minds are progressively renewed. This takes intentionality.

Then there’s the overwhelming amount of resources to help in learning how to carry out the apologetic task. Digging and sifting to find the good stuff is one thing that will make life harder. We have a recommended reading page to help eliminate that extra hurdle. Getting your hands on a solid resource is key to making the whole endeavor easier. Allow them to teach you. Next, is actually doing it in real life with real people. There’s no shortage of people, however, unless you isolate yourself to a Christian ghetto.

The good news is, however, that apologetics, properly done, is not overly difficult. That is one of the beautiful things about presuppositional apologetics. Since God commands that every believer be ready to answer, regardless of whether they’re a fisherman or scribe, it must be simple enough for any believer to master. Simple, but not simplistic. There is a difference. So, apologetics probably will be difficult at first, especially for those who are not used to giving effort to thinking deeply about the Bible. But, apologetics is something anyone can do, and do well.

“It’s too hard” is not a legitimate objection to apologetics. This would be obvious if applied consistently to other areas of life. And I would argue back, that apologetics really is not that hard. It may look hard. Your preconceptions may be the reason you think it too difficult. Perhaps your only witness of apologetics was of a complicated exchange that sounded way beyond your abilities. Perhaps you have a phobia of big words. Regardless of the reason, apologetics takes effort, but any Christian can, and indeed is commanded, to do it. Remember, we are not alone in this endeavor. There is divine help, without which, apologetics would be impossible.

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Objections to Apologetics: just have faith

Why do all the details matter, as long as you have “faith”? Well, faith has an object. Faith is not opposed to knowledge. Christianity is not irrational or illogical. Belief, biblically defined, is not blind.

The assumption at work behind this objection to apologetics is the “faith versus reason” false dichotomy. We can call this the fideistic objection to apologetics. Since reason, demonstration, logic, knowledge, evidence, have no place in Christian faith, apologetics as a legitimate enterprise goes out the window. Arguing for the Christian faith is completely useless. Christianity is not thought to be a rational, coherent system. It’s indifferent to evidence at best, and hostile at worst. The best that can be done is to share your subjective religious experience. Personal testimony is the best you have. Christianity is intellectually indefensible, according to this view. A characteristic phrase is, “I believe because it’s absurd.” The fideist is allergic to proof.

Somebody call up Luke, because he went about writing his Gospel all wrong:

It also seemed good to me, since I have carefully investigated everything from the very first, to write to you in an orderly sequence, most honorable Theophilus, so that you may know the certainty of the things about which you have been instructed.

-Luke 1:3-4

And Paul shouldn’t have been concerned with the historical event of Christ’s resurrection:

For I passed on to you as most important what I also received:

that Christ died for our sins
according to the Scriptures,
that He was buried,
that He was raised on the third day
according to the Scriptures,
and that He appeared to Cephas,
then to the Twelve.
Then He appeared to over 500 brothers at one time;
most of them are still alive,
but some have fallen asleep.
Then He appeared to James,
then to all the apostles.
Last of all, as to one abnormally born,
He also appeared to me. . .

Now if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, how can some of you say, “There is no resurrection of the dead”? But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ has not been raised; and if Christ has not been raised, then our proclamation is without foundation, and so is your faith. In addition, we are found to be false witnesses about God, because we have testified about God that He raised up Christ—whom He did not raise up if in fact the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, Christ has not been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is worthless; you are still in your sins. Therefore, those who have fallen asleep in Christ have also perished. If we have put our hope in Christ for this life only, we should be pitied more than anyone.

-1 Corinthians 15:3-8, 12-19

A reaction to this fideistic mentality could lead to the opposite error. Reason or evidence could become the foundation on which you stand. God’s Word suddenly has to measure up to a rational or evidential standard. Bottom line: you become the ultimate authority. It is according to your evaluation that you deem Christ worthy of your trust. This opposite view is not the biblical alternative to the “just believe” objection to apologetics. Christ is Lord, and he’s on the judge’s seat. Properly, then, God’s Word is the foundation. And it is only within the system found in the Bible that “evidence” makes sense at all.

Paul didn’t present facts as if they are “brute” facts. He presents them within the context of God’s revelation. Note how Paul uses the fact of the resurrection, as he gives an argument for Christianity,

“Therefore, having overlooked the times of ignorance, God now commands all people everywhere to repent, because He has set a day when He is going to judge the world in righteousness by the Man He has appointed. He has provided proof of this to everyone by raising Him from the dead.”

-Acts 17:30-31

Paul presents proof (!) that Christ will judge the world: his resurrection in space and time. This one example is sufficient to show that the Christian faith is not indifferent or hostile to evidence, proof, or defense. We indeed have a great deal more than our personal religious experience to share with people. Christianity, in fact, is the only rational view. No other worldview can even account for proof.

Greg Bahnsen concludes:

Christians cannot be satisfied with intellectually lazy and ultimately subjective beliefs.

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Objections to Apologetics: it’s arguing and debating

You are arguing. Right now. By objecting to apologetics.

A very common objection to apologetics is based on a more basic objection to argument and debate. And half of the time, their understanding of arguing and debating are based on bad examples of those. However, as with everything, we should not develop our convictions based on experience, but on the Bible.

You have probably heard this line too: “we should be about winning people, not arguments.” The obvious implication is that those two things are completely opposed. I am wondering why everyone assumes you cannot do both. People, created in the image of God as rational beings, think and therefore have arguments. And because we are fallen in sin, our hearts opposed to God by default, suppressing the knowledge of God we know, and therefore unbelievers form arguments against Christianity! This is why Jesus, Paul, Apollos, and Peter advanced arguments and engaged in debates.

The idea that arguing and debating are not Christian usually comes with proof texts. It really is an argument against arguing.

Proof texting:

Remind them of these things, charging them before God not to fight about words; this is in no way profitable and leads to the ruin of the hearers. . . But avoid irreverent, empty speech, for this will produce an even greater measure of godlessness.

-2 Timothy 2:14, 16

Flee from youthful passions, and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace, along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart. But reject foolish and ignorant disputes, knowing that they breed quarrels. The Lord’s slave must not quarrel, but must be gentle to everyone, able to teach, and patient,

-2 Timothy 2:22-24

But avoid foolish debates, genealogies, quarrels, and disputes about the law, for they are unprofitable and worthless.

-Titus 3:8

Paul’s exhortations to not get into silly debates, or to be quarrelsome are cited by those who use this objection. Indeed, it is for this very reason that I myself resolved years ago to not substitute the word “argue” for “quarrel.” When I am talking about a verbal fight, I use the word “quarrel.” I never use the word argue. I try very hard not to perpetuate the misunderstanding that all arguing is fighting and therefore an un-Christian, unloving thing to do.

Indeed, many Christians should compare their sentimental idea of being “loving” with Jesus’ way of talking to some people (e.g. “you are of your father the devil” in John 8:44). Current ideals of niceness aren’t our authority for behavior. God’s Word is.

Have some people engaged in apologetics in a quarrelsome and unloving way? Sure. But news flash: the abuse of a thing does not negate its proper use. Many preachers have preached in a very unloving and condemning way. That doesn’t mean no one should preach anymore. Bad examples don’t mean it can’t be done right or shouldn’t be done at all. As a matter of fact, if we really took to heart what God says about our depravity, we would see that everything we do is polluted by sin.

Arguing and debating are not wrong in themselves. There is nothing sinful about giving reasons for the hope that is in us (1 Peter 3:15). There is nothing sinful with vigorously refuting people in public (Acts 18:28). Jesus debated (Mark 12:28). Paul reasoned with people (Acts 17:2, 17). Surprise, these are Christian activities, to be done with the proper attitude according to the ethics laid down in Scripture. Giving reasons for the hope that is in you? That’s an argument. Responding to objections to Christianity? Welcome to the debate. Indeed, believers are obligated to argue and debate.

Paul makes that clear,

So, rebuke them sharply, that they may be sound in the faith and may not pay attention to Jewish myths and the commands of men who reject the truth.

-Titus 1:13-14

If anyone teaches other doctrine and does not agree with the sound teaching of our Lord Jesus Christ and with the teaching that promotes godliness, he is conceited, understanding nothing, but has a sick interest in disputes and arguments over words. From these come envy, quarreling, slander, evil suspicions, and constant disagreement among people whose minds are depraved and deprived of the truth, who imagine that godliness is a way to material gain.

-1 Timothy 6:3-5

Remind them of these things, charging them before God not to fight about words; this is in no way profitable and leads to the ruin of the hearers. Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who doesn’t need to be ashamed, correctly teaching the word of truth. But avoid irreverent, empty speech, for this will produce an even greater measure of godlessness. And their word will spread like gangrene; Hymenaeus and Philetus are among them. They have deviated from the truth, saying that the resurrection has already taken place, and are overturning the faith of some.

-2 Timothy 2:14-18

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