Faithful Apologetics Is All about Truth, Love, and Foundations

The proper goal of every apologist is not to win arguments or build a reputation, but to glorify God through the faithful defense (ἀπολογία) of Christ. Our Lord doesn’t need anyone to defend him, but he gives us that privilege (1 Pet. 3:15). Apologists must seize that great privilege in a manner that glorifies the one whom they defend.

Christian apologists share the truth of Jesus Christ with an unbelieving world in the hope that they will call upon the name of the Lord and be saved. This is how apologetics and evangelism are linked, and neither the apologist nor the evangelist should misunderstand their duty. Not every person will be saved. Faith is a gift of God and rests in the sovereign will of the Lord. It’s liberating to know this, because it means that neither the apologist nor the evangelist have the power to regenerate. Their burden is to be faithful.

This is why apologetic method matters. Christians may sometimes become preoccupied with the content of the message and not consider how it is delivered or the foundation upon which it is laid. Both matter significantly. Not only does it matter what you say but also how you say it.

It undercuts the apologists defense if she speaks out of anger. No matter how cogent the defense, it will be rejected. Christians are called to speak the truth in love (Eph. 4:15). Van Til was fond of saying that we should be suaviter in modo, fortiter in re—roughly translated, “smooth in method, strong in the thing.” Don’t compromise the truth for the sake of palatability. But also don’t beat people over the head in order to “win” an argument. Love them with the truth.

Sacrificing love will kill an apologetic but so will basing the “content” of the defense upon a poor foundation. This error is much more subtle. Many apologists appeal to the so-called neutral facts of science and history, presenting the truth of the resurrection to ostensibly neutral judges. They may also enlist the help of credentialed historians or scientists to add esteem to their case. But Christ not only lays claim to the facts of Jesus’s resurrection, for example, but also to the idea of a fact itself. Christians are to take every thought captive to the obedience of Christ (2 Cor. 10:5), and therefore, the faithful apologist cannot deliver Christian building blocks hoping his conversation partner will build with them properly. He must give the building blocks and show how and where to build according to God’s blueprint.

The world does not define the rules of engagement; Christ does. Don’t fall prey to its terms. If the world gives you faulty categories, reject them in favor of Christ and his kingdom. The wise man built his house on the rock (Matt. 7:24–27). Let us make sure that we’re building upon the only true foundation that has been laid, which is Christ himself (1 Cor. 3:10ff).

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Steve Prost

7 months ago

Curious as to why the debate is kind of left just hanging there on Aquinas/Dolezal/Muller (e.g. Reformation21blog) v. Frame/Oliphant as promoted at Reformed Forum esp. in the past year. Your policy not to comment on ongoing prominent Reformed debates? Awaiting a known imminent rejoinder by Frame/Oliphant, just not wanting to wade in?… The lack of response seems a bit odd. While there are tendencies to be too quick to throw “close to heresy!” flags in blogosphere, equally poor form is overcorrecting for sake of “peace” (?) when “purity”/semper reformada call for continued respectful dialogue and clarity on an issue those such as ReformedForum/Oliphant/Frame have deemed so critical.

Camden Bucey

7 months ago

Thanks for your comment, Steve. I’ve written a short response at https://reformedforum.org/dolezal-muller-oliphint-and-public-theological-discourse/

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