What’s apologetics got to do with sharing your faith?
A lot. As a former missionary, I’ve seen the role apologetics plays on the mission field first-hand. But even if you’ve never been overseas, you’ve probably seen it while talking to your skeptical friends right here at home. Nowadays, most Christians feel like if they get an immediate response while sharing their faith, it’s often full of challenges and tough questions.
This semester, I’m teaching a class on practicing apologetics and evangelism at Western Seminary. And I’m taking a cue from the Apostle Paul by setting the task of proclaiming and defending the faith within the context of spiritual warfare.
In this post, you’ll see how apologetics isn’t just stuffy academics. It’s a very spiritual thing that’s part of our strategic offensive as Christians in a spiritual battle. Take a look at Paul’s words:
For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ (2 Cor. 10:3-5 NIV).
► Just as an aside: In the early 90s, I memorized the King James Version of this passage while listening to the Weapons of our Warfare CD by a metal band called Deliverance!
What You Didn’t Hear at Bible Study
Maybe you’ve talked about this one during a Bible study on spiritual warfare. After all, it’s a really famous spiritual warfare passage. But many people tend to miss something here. I’ll admit that the first time I ever read this, I thought, “Weapons? Oh, yeah. That’s prayer.” Of course, prayer is a very important part of spiritual warfare. No doubt about it.
But even though Paul was into immersing everything in prayer, he’s not directly talking about prayer in this passage. He’s saying that we don’t fight spiritual battles with swords or machine guns or nuclear bombs.
The original Greek goes like this: “We have weaponry that has power through God for the destruction of fortresses.” Wow! Sounds like some powerful stuff. What’s this really all about?
Know Your Weapon
During my graduate studies in the Christian Apologetics program at Biola University, Dr. Craig Hazen explained that:
The interpretation of this passage really has to do with the fortresses that are being destroyed. Because it’s from that that we learn what the weaponry is.
So what are these weapons? We can find out by asking what these metaphorical fortresses are. What’s he actually tearing down? Paul said, “We demolish arguments.” That’s right—arguments! So doing battle against the forces of darkness means to defeat arguments, expose their lies and remove whatever gets in the way of people getting to know God. Turns out, apologetics isn’t just a bunch of stuffy academics. This is very a spiritual thing.
Apologetics, Missions and Evangelism
For Paul, apologetics was a very important part of missions and evangelism. You’d find him out there in the town square, making a historical case for the truth of Christianity. He boldly shared his first-hand experience of the risen Jesus out in public where people could debate him and engage with him intellectually.
So God’s given us an arsenal that can obliterate false ideas that keep people from submitting to God. But here’s the thing. We can’t just whip out these weapons and go crazy. No wild, gunslinger stuff. We need to use these powerful weapons with love, with gentleness and with respect for people. Remember, faithful Christian apologists blow away invalid arguments—not other people!
Friends Don’t Let Friends…
“Friends don’t let friends drive drunk,” right? Well, imagine your friend’s addicted to alcohol and just got a DUI. You’re trying to get her to quit drinking before it kills her.
As you try to talk some sense into her, you know this isn’t a challenge you’ve taken up as a hobby. It’s not an academic game or a battle of wits to make you look all smart. We’re talking about someone you care about. We’re talking about someone you love.
This is the same kind of attitude we’ve got to have as we talk with our skeptical friends and use the weapons God’s given us. For more on this, see my post on what I learned directly from Dr. William Lane Craig about speaking the truth in love.
License to Carry
So you’re packing some heat, spiritually speaking. But how well can you use these weapons in everyday life? Can you maneuver skillfully in conversations about the faith? Can you spot faulty thinking and pinpoint error like an expert marksman? Or do you end up shooting yourself in the foot?
The IVP New Testament Commentary on this passage says:
We live at a time when the mind is deemphasized and the needs of the individual elevated–so much so that our generation has been dubbed “the me generation.” By contrast, Paul affirms that the mind matters. Indeed, it is so crucial that he focuses all his efforts on taking every thought captive and making it obey Christ.
If we’re reading Paul right, we can’t pretend like apologetics isn’t important to missions or evangelism. Being a defender of the faith is a serious spiritual calling and we’d do well to learn how to use our weapons and train for a variety of situations.