“I know when I am gone, savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock. Some even from your own group will come distorting the truth in order to entice the disciples to follow them. Therefore, be alert…” Acts 20:29-31a
Be alert….the world needs more lerts!
Apologetic – one who defends or attempts to justify a doctrine or belief. (Webster’s New World Dictionary & Thesaurus, 2002)
For most of my life I have not seen the necessity for apologetics. It has never seemed reasonable to me that defending the “faith” based on arguing, debating, or philosophizing has ever really gained much. I’m not certain even if winning a debate the agnostic, atheist, or unbeliever, would convert based on their losing the argument. Perhaps I’m missing something, but I’ve never seen the need to defend or justify the gospel.
That does not mean that we should not be able to recognize heresy when we encounter it, or sloppy doctrine, or poor teaching. We should, indeed. That does not mean we should not be able to stand our ground when the Jehovah Witness ring our bell (doorbell that is) or the Mormons stop by our home, or we get accosted by some other loosely defined religious group somewhere in our journey. It just means how much time should we invest in that arena?
I remember as a new Christian, my little band of groupies and I went down to Arrowhead, CA to the Campus Crusade for Christ headquarters. We were there to get prepped for a witnessing campaign during the Rose Bowl parade. We were pumped and psyched! As luck would have it, my first “target” was a grad student in Philosophy from UC Berkeley. To put it candidly, he ate my lunch! I did not talk to another person the rest of the day, but I did enjoy the parade!
Since that experience, it seems to me that issues surrounding apologetics always boil down to “my point” against “your point”. Sometime neither person can substantiate their points based on fact, often it’s just “belief” or supposition. If there are facts, usually the other side has similar, but different facts on their side. It’s like Moses causing the Nile to turn to blood only to have Pharaoh’s sorcerers do the same thing. Neither party gained anything that day except a red Nile that stunk up the place.
Paul is warning the elders from the church at Ephesus that there are going to be some power mongers and some folks who are going to be distorting the truth. Some will even be in their own “congregation”. Their intent will be to gain a following for themselves – to “entice the disciples.” Since Paul cannot be there he exhorts them to refresh themselves on the current philosophers of the day; brush up on the latest readings regarding creation vs. evolution; and ingest some archeological journals so that they’ll be prepared for this onslaught.
No……..He commends them to “God and the message of his grace.”
Now it’s not quite that simple, but pretty much. Sound orthodoxy will deflate over extended hypotheses almost every time. Love wrapped in God’s grace will dissolve most doubters. If not, if the Holy Spirit speaks to their heart and they shut themselves off or out, no amount of defending our faith or anyone else’s will matter at that point.
Having said all that, I think I’ll go ahead and register for the upcoming conference on Apologetics being held here in the Charlotte area in November. It should be fun! Then again….
1 Peter 3:15-16a