Yesterday Phil said something that made the proximity detectors in my Borg implants fire up, (that's a Star Trek reference people, but the people to whom I am talking here also have just found this post via google because they are afraid that TeamPyro is now quoting Marcus Borg) and it caused me to write this post, so if you want to blame somebody, Phil is ready to accept your wrath. As usual.
In an attempt to reduce the whole world down to a simplistic paradigm by which we can then pass judgment and retain our credibility as mean Calvinists, I want to suggest something for the readers of this blog -- there are only three kinds of Christians: ante-apologetics, inter-apologetics, and post-apologetics.
Let's be honest before we start kicking up dust here: we need the people in the middle group. We need them -- that is, we need the good ones who have a real love for Christ because of who Christ is, and are gifted with wisdom, charity, clarity, and a God-born love for people which makes them affable and (as far as really smart people can be anyway) charismatic. That is, they have to be able to speak the truth in love, and they have to be able to give an account for the hope that lies within us in both gentleness and reverence.
We need them. We live in a post-Christian society, and in that context people object to Christianity from a jaded position of "been there, done that" and experientially reject what they think is the faith delivered once to the saints -- whether that's the faith or not. So those who are good apologists are the ones who can separate the truth from the lies without separating people's heads from their necks.
And seriously: often, I am not one of the "good" apologists. Real reform starts at home, and if I'm going to start heaping hot coals on anybody, it's one for you, two for me. I'm good in a fight, so to speak, but often I am more interested in getting the heads off the zombies in order to stop them from eating any more brains than I am with doing whatever it is you do to cure a zombie and lead him back to the land of the living. It turns out that I'm a D-C type personality for you Marston DISC fans; we tend to be a little bit like a wrecking ball when we think things are important, and it turns out that Jesus and the Gospel are just such a thing.
Now, while I have a few thousand words for the ante-apologetics group, and a few hundred-thousand for the post-apologetics group, I'd like to talk about the people who are here with me in the "inter-apologetics group" for the balance of this post.
People: lighten up. The question is not "is this important work". This is important work for the church and for the sake of the Gospel. But problematically, most of us who are bad apologists are doing these things absent from the context of church. Here's what I mean: many of you don't actually go to church. You believe you're part of the church invisible, and God in His sovereignty has saved you, but somehow you can't actually fellowship with other believers -- ostensibly because all the churches near you are full of half-hearted hypocrites and hair-brained heretics. So you're the last outpost of Christian thought in your neck of the woods (or so you say; apparently you honestly believe it), and that's the biggest reason you need to be an apologist: Jesus is helpless up here.
The problem is that you are simply not accountable to anyone -- and it shows. You treat people like objects and not image-bearers. You treat pastors -- and listen: they are pastors, not you -- like they owe you something, and they don't. You're not an elder in their local church, and it's not primarily because you're not qualified (be honest: you're prolly not) but because you don't go to church anywhere.
So to those of you who think that apologetics is not a team sport but something akin to chess or marathon running, let me tell you that you need to re-examine the Scriptures you hold so dear to see how many people who were defending the church from error there were not part of the actual, visible church and accountable to somebody -- preferably a plurality of elders -- before they started waving the Bible at someone who probably does need a decent teacher or apologist but not one like the teacher portrayed in Pink Floyd's the Wall.
Because let's face it: the goal of apologetics ought to be not just giving an account for the hope which is within us, but it also should include something akin to making myself a servant to all, that I might win more of them, and becoming all things to all people, that by all means I might save some, all for the sake of the gospel, that I may share with them in its blessings. We should be about being a blessing to people, and not just about being the kind of blessing everyone needs but nobody wants to have over for dinner for fear of being berated.
Then there are the bad apologists who do actually belong to churches, but I'll save that for another day. I am sure this post will generate more than enough vigor here at TeamPyro today.