Where’s the Apologetics?

I’ve been recently re-thinking some of my basic ideas about apologetics, and this post is not about that.  HA!  That will come soon enough as I’m struggling through some questions regarding the biblical commission to defend the faith (i.e. who’s supposed to and in what contexts).

But, I’ve noticed recently that there’s a fair amount of silly defense of the faith regarding “in house” issues in reformed circles.  I know and respect several apologetics organizations and individuals who defend the faith against attacks from Islam, atheism, the Jehovah’s Witnesses, the Latter Day Saints, the Neo-Pagans, etc.  Also, there’s more than a few people and organizations who defend the faith against attacks from the secular accademy in the forms of Evolution, Higher Criticism, Psychology & Psychiatry, etc.  I’ve found myself actually attracted to defending Christianity against the widespread and sundry attacks coming from alternative medicine and the estern spirituality associated with that spectrum of thought (though I admittedly haven’t done much positive work on that field).  I know more than a few Christians who have very questionable ideas sneaking into their minds and hearts from that back door, and I see few people adressing the attacks from those areas well.

But, I’ve also seen more people “defending the faith” against critics of their apologetic metholody, or the oft-ignored threat of Dispensationalism and their unbiblical hermeneutics, to name a few.

I’m wondering if arguing with evidentialists is really defending the faith?

I’m wondering if arguing with dispensationalists is really defending the faith?

Just thoughts.

Until Next Time,

Lyndon “The Armchair Evidentialist Covenant Theologian Whiner” Unger

(Don’t get worried Jimmy!  I’m neither of those!  That was a joke!)

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7 thoughts on “Where’s the Apologetics?

  1. It would be more effective if this wasn’t the same “can’t we all get along” argument we hear espoused by the unitarians, the Papists, or the inclusionists. Not to suggest that you are equated to any of the above, but on matters or doctrine, I really don’t stop at a certain “bare bones” articulation to defend, and am sure to articulate precisely the faith once and for all given to the saints that I defend. While it may feel better to say “where are the apologetics”, I’d encourage you to look over the half a decade of just that recorded on my site, if that’s really the question you’re asking, not making a rhetorical point.

    No, defending “bare theism” is not defending Christianity. No, defending Rome’s false gospel is not defending Christianity – so both will receive attention. Dispensationalism is less errant, but still not what I’m defending. For the same reason I critique an unbeliever in errors large and small, to be consistent, I do the same with errant conceptions of Christian doctrine. We had an in-house debate concerning paedo-credo baptism the night before last at choosing hats, for instance. Last night, Chris debated an atheist – the second debate was the one he prepared for most, of course, but the first was also important, if secondary. Dispensationalism is in the same category. Evidentialism is of first importance because it does not defend Christian doctrine, but “bare theism”. It does even that unbiblically.

    In any case, while I believe your question is well-meaning, it has a fatal flaw.

  2. I must be inarticulate Razor.

    I’m not suggesting that you don’t need to hold your beliefs on covenant theology, credo-baptism, or whatever. I also understand your willingness and desire to explain those beliefs, since I’m guessing that you feel compelled by scripture to those positions.

    I’m questioning the wisdom of arguing about those things in the public sphere of a Christian apologetics ministry, which is usually associated with defending the faith against enemies of the faith.

    I know full well that many older individuals I know and respect don’t do that…and they don’t do that because, as far as I understand it, they have “bigger fish to fry” and they don’t want to make fellow believers feel like enemies by “officially” rebutting them from their “platform”.

    Remember MacArthur’s 2007 Shepherds conference message on Calvinism and Premillenialism? I’m sure that made you furious. I actually wasn’t happy about it either, and I can say is that people at Grace Community were divided on it. The amillenial folks that I read sure did NOT like that they were misrepresented in public, or that their views were paralleled with enemies of the faith (i.e. atheism).

    I’ve tried to learn from watching that mess up close and I make efforts to not misrepresent and attack brothers in a public forum when we have disagreements on secondary issues.

    That’s not a desperate plea for unity. I’d suggest that it’s an attempt to obey scriptures like 1 Peter 4:8 and Eph. 4:29-32.

  3. It didn’t make me furious. It made me respect him for being consistent. I think he’s wrong, but at least he was willing to have the guts to say it.

    I said what I said about dispensationalism, because it *doesn’t have the proper foundation to offer a completely Biblical apologetic*. That is the only post I’ve ever made on the subject.

    I argue against evidentialism as an enemy of the faith, because it *is*. It’s not advancing the faith of Scripture – and flat-out says it’s not. I don’t think it’s consistent to advance a certain position and not address contrary positions who purport to be advancing the same thing – when they aren’t. I may not do it often, but I do so.

    I never said anything about you suggesting that I shouldn’t hold my beliefs, so I have no idea where that came from. You asked the question: Is this defending the faith? If our assertion is that this is the only properly Biblical approach for doing so – and other disagree – yes, we are defending the faith by doing so. It’s against smaller errors, not large, but it is indeed doing so. Since you’ve implied that there was a “misrepresentation”, I’ll let the readers decide that, since you linked to the post in question. My intent was very far from “attacking” brothers, as well. I tried very hard to address the position, not the person. Also, the post of mine you linked to was not responding to a critique of presup, but a charge of inconsistency. Since presup, he asserted, was “new”, dispensationalism shouldn’t be “condemned” on the same grounds. He wasn’t critiquing presup.

    Anyway, hope that answered the questions. Yes, I think it’s defending the faith – just on lesser issues, although still important ones. A full-orbed doctrine of Sola Scriptura requires it to be so.

  4. “I’m questioning the wisdom of arguing about those things in the public sphere of a Christian apologetics ministry, which is usually associated with defending the faith against enemies of the faith.”

    It may be worth noting that your questioning has not stopped you from arguing such things here. My justification for arguing against some system of thought is often included within my argument against it. Typically I do so because the system in question is unbiblical and/or otherwise fatally flawed. I am a little surprised that someone who is familiar with presuppositional apologetics (and analogously – nouthetic counseling) would question the wisdom of being concerned with methodology in these areas. Methodology is necessarily entailed by the teaching of any given subject and apologetics is no exception.

  5. Short response – Razor –

    You said “Dispensationalism has no Scriptural basis. It claims to be taken from Scripture, but it is not. I would challenge a dispensationalist to go through 1) Scripture and 2) The history of the church and find his interpretive system therein.”

    and “I’m Covenantal because Scripture is. Scripture speaks of God’s covenant of grace, and we are taught to consider His promises within that covenant.”

    Those statements makes me search for tylenol.

    – I arrived at dispensationalism through the study of scripture, long before I knew what it was called.
    – I’ve read plenty of articles that have mapped every independent component of Dispensationalism throughout Church History.
    – You’re Covenantal because Scripture is? Holy Theological Blinders Batman! I also can read english and know that the Bible contains several “covenants”. That doesn’t establish covenant theology anymore than learning to ski backwards.

    I get the feeling that you’ve learned most of what you know about dispensationalism from 50+ year old sources and other covenant theologians. I have Mike Horton’s “Intro to Covenant Theology” sitting in my bathroom, all marked up, and I’m currently re-reading it. I’m wondering if you have any books on dispensationalism from this millenia that you have read and interacted with?

    To Chris and Razor both:

    I understand and agree that presentation and analysis of methodology is (most likely) a necessary part of the presentation, on the whole.

    I will also fully admit that this is an issue of personal preference and conviction; I cannot make a clear exegetical case for my position and must therefore declare that up front.

    I do not think that “defending the method” is not the same as “using the method” (i.e. defending the faith). Discussions on methodology are the preamble to the actual utilization of the method for the presenting of an apologia. They’re the appetizer, not the main course.

    The thing is, what I look at some folks, I wonder if debating and discussing method is, at least with some, a distraction from actually defending the faith from the scripture. Being an outsider to some of the reformed apologetics circles, I’ve noticed off and on that some people are occasionally just as willing to get into a philosophical debate over method as they are willing to proclaim the gospel.

    When it comes to method, I think that debating with an evidentialist on philosophical grounds (i.e. talking about autonomous moral reasoning, issues of ultimate authority, etc.) betrays a practical misunderstanding of the efficaciousness of the word of God. Evidentialists need biblical conviction, and philosophical arguments don’t produce that. Sadly, I see many of the debates over method taking place in the forms of rational argumentation, not textual exegesis.

    That’s all.

  6. I don’t wonder; I am sure that debating and discussing method sometimes distracts from defending the faith. That is a rather general and uninteresting observation though. There are many good things that distract us from defending the faith.

    “some people are occasionally just as willing to get into a philosophical debate over method as they are willing to proclaim the gospel.”

    Again, you are doing this very thing here, but note that I see no problem with this due to the context.

    “When it comes to method, I think that debating with an evidentialist on philosophical grounds (i.e. talking about autonomous moral reasoning, issues of ultimate authority, etc.) betrays a practical misunderstanding of the efficaciousness of the word of God.”

    Are you suggesting that autonomous moral reasoning and issues of ultimate authority are strictly philosophical issues? I’m really unsure of what to make of your thinking here. It looks like you are trying to dismiss philosophy altogether, but I think you know better than to try that. So you may need to clarify for me.

    “Evidentialists need biblical conviction, and philosophical arguments don’t produce that.”

    You are writing on such a general level here that I cannot know whether I agree or disagree, but there is an underlying false dilemma between Scripture and philosophy. There are arguments which are both biblical and philosophical in nature.

    “Sadly, I see many of the debates over method taking place in the forms of rational argumentation, not textual exegesis.”

    Again if this is so sad then why are you engaging in it here? 🙂 There is a place for rational argumentation just as much as there is a place for textual exegesis.

  7. “Don’t have anything to do with foolish and stupid arguments, because you know they produce quarrels. And the Lord’s servant must not quarrel; instead, he must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful.” – 2 Tim 2:23-24

    “But avoid foolish controversies and genealogies and arguments and quarrels about the law, because these are unprofitable and useless. Warn a divisive person once, and then warn him a second time. After that, have nothing to do with him. You may be sure that such a man is warped and sinful; he is self-condemned.” – Titus 3:9-11

    “Dear friends, I urge you, as aliens and strangers in the world, to abstain from sinful desires, which war against your soul. Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us.” – 1 Peter 2:11-12

    Writing generally and ambiguously was a weak effort to do these things.

    Looking back and examining my heart, I’d say that most of my original motivation was from personal insult by Razor and Jamin Hubner with what I consider blanket accusations about dispensationalism which show an alarming lack of care regarding either facts or people. Their comments attacked my own biblical study and indirectly attacked my theological mentors by suggesting that the people I respect and have learned from (who claimed to have established it from scripture) are either hacks (or “inconsistent”, as we politely say in presup circles) or liars.

    I purposefully try not to say anything on my blog about covenant theology knowing that many of my Christian friends would be lured into a moronic battle that is basically worthless and would produce FAR more heat than light, and if I did address the issue I certainly would try to extend as much grace as possible. I’d certainly never suggest that covenant theology cannot be found in scripture. The same idea goes for amillennialism, paedo baptism, evidentialism, arminianism, contemporary worship and a few other theological issues.

    As for the philosophical issues, I’ll just chalk that up to unclear thinking on my part and general frustrations from perceptions about people I don’t know enough to actually make those judgments.

    How’s that?

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