Every year I make what I call reading plans for the young adult group I oversee through my local church. The group is primarily college students, thus, I make 2 plans a year during the major breaks from classes (winter and summer).
The purpose is to keep everyone accountable to reading the word while on vacation.
This winter we have been reading through 2nd Corinthians. This book is amazing. It has blessed me.
I have wanted to write many blogs on the each section I have read, but this particular one was too good to pass up.
2 Corinthians 10: 1-6,
“1 I, Paul, myself entreat you, by the meekness and gentleness of Christ—I who am humble when face to face with you, but bold toward you when I am away!— 2 I beg of you that when I am present I may not have to show boldness with such confidence as I count on showing against some who suspect us of walking according to the flesh. 3 For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. 4 For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. 5 We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ, 6 being ready to punish every disobedience, when your obedience is complete.”
The emphasis is my own. Those are the primary verses I wanted to reflect on, but the context is very important.
What I wanted to talk about is the nature of the apostolic apologetic. This is one of my favorite verses that relates to apologetics in all of Scripture.
The context certainly teaches that the Apostle Paul is referring specifically to the apostolic apologetic. Contextually, Paul is defending the apostolic ministry first and foremost. There were clearly people slandering the apostles (10: 2, 10-12).
The reason I started in verse 1 is because it is important in viewing the apologetic landscape the Scriptures paint for us.
In a debate on homosexuality, when accused by an audience member about inconsistent approaches in tone and attitude toward the subject, Pastor Douglas Wilson responded by saying, “While I drive 60 mph on the highway, I don’t drive that way on a sidewalk…I don’t believe in a one size fits all approach to life.”
Given the awkward silence that trailed the remark, it was clear his analogy went directly over every furrowed brow in the auditorium.
His point was that consistency is not to be synonymous with unvarying. Paul himself defends both of these notions in verses 1-2 and 10-11. Paul always practiced what he preached. But his practice sometimes wore different outfits. His manner, tone, and emotions varied, while his ethics, message, and love never changed.
The end all be all of this is to say that I believe modern evangelicalism, in a noble pursuit to emphasize our required standard to love the world, has flattened the word “love”, and in so doing, has flattened the Christian life as a whole. We have emptied it of its artistic expression, and placed limits on our lives that the Scriptures do not place.
Paul himself admitted that he was a “different kind of Paul” in writing than in person. Some venues call for different approaches. Thus, too often, Christians who behave differently in an apologetic debate than they would consoling a heart-broken friend are accused of hypocrisy and being unloving. However, their accusers resemble Paul’s enemies, and were Paul around, they would receive the kind of “boldness” he expressed he did not want to have to show.
Apologetics is a two-fold practice. Content and presentation make up our apologetics, and it is possible to err in both, or in one or the other.
In our apologetic presentation, it is permissible for our
|Elijah mocked the prophets of Baal,
suggested that Baal’s impotence was due to “relieving himself”,
and then he killed them.
manner and method to vary. Some people might need more aggression, more mockery, more insult than others. This is demonstrated not by Paul and the apostles alone, but by the the prophets and by the Lord Jesus Himself.
This is to say, in short, do not be so quick to judge the more aggressive apologists. It is true they can be sinning, for Paul’s behavior which we are to emulate needs to be checked and harmonized with Peter’s command to do this with “gentleness” and “respect”, or even with Paul’s own command to Timothy to answer his opponents with “gentleness”. However, it is to say that just because a Christian seems to be mean in his dealings with unbelievers, does not mean he is. Do not rush to judge your brother, but examine his method biblically, remembering there is a time and place for aggression.
Why do I use the word aggression? Well, Paul uses aggressive terminology in the text above to describe the apostolic apologetic. In fact, I have determined the initial text reveals 2 characteristics of the Apostolic apologetic.
1) The apostolic apologetic was aggressive.
This particular point is very much related to the introduction. Look at the language Paul uses to describe his apologetic: weapons, warfare, power, destroy strongholds, destroy arguments, take thoughts captive, punish disobedience.
Paul makes a beautiful analogy by comparing apologetics to war. Apologetics is not to be taken lightly. Apologetics is not a game; it is a battle. Paul describes his approach using violent terminology. His apologetics was violent.
In fact, in verse 5 Paul describes the unbelievers thoughts, as the ESV puts it, as being “lofty”. I do not know enough about the Greek to make a definitive claim here, but the Greek word implies something that is “high” or “tall”, and is likely used here to mock their thoughts. Their thoughts attempt to place themselves above the Lord. Paul is likely not giving them a legitimate seat of being sophisticated thoughts, but is instead making it clear that these thoughts against the Lord Jesus are blasphemous, and tout themselves as being arrogantly high.
Christian apologetics is like bird hunting. These unbeliever’s arguments are sitting high up on a tree branch. They have flown way up, and seated themselves on high. There they sit with their chests puffed and proud, and our job is to shoot them down, to bring them low, to subdue them.
Now, to take this so far as to advocate for actual violence or sinful rudeness is to miss the point where Paul clearly establishes his language as metaphorical in verse 4, “For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power…”
We are not to be violent physically, and we are never permitted to sin, but our apologetics is serious and aggressive enough that only violent, warfare terminology will do when trying to metaphorically describe it.
2) The apostolic apologetic was presuppositional.
This is the most elaborate and intriguing element to me. That is why I am going to break this one point down into sub-points explaining Paul’s presuppositional approach.
a) The apostolic apologetic presupposes the unbeliever’s knowledge of God.
Paul says that unbelievers arguments are against the knowledge of God. Paul uses the definite article the, he does not say our. This is not his personal knowledge of God, but the clear and revealed knowledge of God revealed to all people at all times as he spoke of in the first chapter of Romans, verses 18-21,
“For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. 19 For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. 20 For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. 21 For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened.”
b) The apostolic apologetic was Christ-centered.
Paul does not say we make every self-exalted thought captive to theism, but to obey Christ, “We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ.” The Kalam Cosmological argument does not do this. It seeks to prove what they already know, which only enslaves them to some generic form of theism.
Most of the evidential arguments do this when used outside of a presuppositional framework. Most evidences are used to prove a generic theistic power; they do not seek to take arguments and enslave them to obey Jesus.
Often time this is defended with the sentiment that we need to take apologetics one step at a time. We need to first convince them there is a god, then prove that God is Jesus.
The problem is Paul does not present that order of events in his apologetic itinerary. He cuts out the middle man, and takes people directly to Jesus. Jesus is his starting point as well as the place Paul ends.
c) The apostolic apologetic was absolute and certain.
Paul is clearly convinced of his worldview. He has absolute certainty. Not only that, but the violent warfare language he uses suggests the goal of apologetics is not at all what I hear from men like William Lane Craig. Dr. Craig is known for admitting he is not certain that God exists, he does not believe that atheism is illogical or impossible, and he only asserts the Christian worldview is the most likely true position after the preponderance of the evidence is seen. This is clearly not Paul’s position.
When the Christian faith stands upon the evidence, rather than stands on God’s clear revelation, then we are left to conclude what Dr. Craig has concluded. We know evidence and how it is interpreted changes. Thus, the evidence may not yield Christianity is true in the future! Thus, we can only say, as of now, in light of the evidence, it is the best theory to buy into.
Paul does not believe there is any room for non-Christian worldviews to be left standing at all. Paul does not say they have their strongholds, but ours seems to be stronger. Paul believes in utterly destroying their strongholds, total obliteration.
Paul demonstrates no level of agnosticism toward his own worldview, and offers not any glimmer of hope for his opponent’s.
And that mentality is much more consistent with Dr. Greg Bahnsen’s famous quotation, “The Christian worldview is proved by the impossibility of the contrary.”
Greg Bahnsen stated it is not even possible Christianity is wrong. And I think it is clear Paul and his companions would readily agree.