11 April 2007

You should apologize

by Frank Turk

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.










46 comments:

ajlin said...

The best thing about centuri0n's blogposts: His consistent admonition to be a humble, contributing part of a rightly assembled, local, visible body of believers.

The post today reminds me of how James White (himself an apologist and also an elder of his local church) responded when his ministry to the Mormons was disrupted by self-styled KJV only apologists. Dr. White asked one of them, "Who are your elders?" (Presumably he wanted to have the KJV protestor disciplined due to his gross misbehavior.) The protestor responded, "Jesus is my elder!" To which Dr. White said, "That's great, but how do you obey Hebrews 13:17?" To which the protestor had no response, apparently because he was out there doing his own thing apart from anything resembling a true church.

My point here is just to re-emphasize what centuri0n's already said and to add that if we are actually doing the work of an apologist- concerned to see men and women united with the body of Christ, which union, biblically, is primarily seen through membership in a local church, then we must ourselves obey Hebrews 13:17, a command given in the context of the church,

"Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they keep watch over your souls as those who will give an account, so that they can do this with joy and not with grief, for that would be unprofitable for you" (HCSB).

David said...

That was one seriously strong post.

donsands said...

Nice post. Church goverment is essential for growth. We need to be in a good local church, submitted to the leadership, and committed to thet local church, and to the Church as a whole, worldwide.

Seems the church is taking on the culture of the world in some circles. It's looking more like democracy, then a family,; brothers and sisters in Christ, being overseen by pastors and elders.

JSB said...

Great point, Cent. Seems that one can make apologetics into an academic exercise, a brain game. Or one can see it as a God given means to reach the lost (understanding, of course, that it is a means effective only through the agency of the Holy Spirit).

I think that’s where Schaeffer comes out. He seems not strictly evidentialist, nor strictly presuppositional – some have labeled his approach "verificationist" (perhaps with a nod to Edward Carnell).

But his approach was always as an evangelist, and his chief operating principle was love. (A new book examining the apologetics of Schaeffer is “Truth With Love” by Bryan Follis).

I like the way you put it. We must always be prepared to give an answer, but let’s also be welcome dinner guests.

centuri0n said...

The caption for the fly graphic, byw, should read "pre-rapture, pre-mil, 7 dispensational, literalist, 8-point, anti-federalist, Regulative, monergistic, theonomistic reformed confessional gadfly".

All that won't fit in an img tag caption. If I forgot one, let me know.

DJP said...

Two things:

1. This is classic Turk. Love it.

2. My, you raise an appalling thought: the spectacle of folks here lecturing, admonishing, and scolding others while shaking their fist in God's face at the fundamental command to love our neighbors and yield to His authority in the context of a local church. Sickening.

Nauvoo Pastor said...

What a great post. I truly appreciate the stance that you take on this issue. It is important to me in two areas.

First, I am a pastor of a small church in a town dominated by Mormonism. So apologetics is a high priority for us.

Second, as an individual, I am held accountable by the lone elder, my wife, and a dear Christian brother for ALL that I do in my personal ministry.

For me it is very important that I have these blessed people who come alongside of me and help me to focus on the Gospel and its message and not my personal agenda. Even if I was not a pastor, whatever I do reflects on the local body of believers that I am a part of. Some may say that they are part of the "universal" church, but they are more likely to drift into the sea of life without any help in making sure that the compass reading they are following is the right direction. This idea only serves to splinter the Christian faith, both from the world's point of view and the church's.

If these people would do a study of the church in Acts through Revelation they would find that the teaching refers to local assemblies of believers more often than not. Yes there is the body of Christ that consist of all those who have accepted the message found in 1 Cor. 15:1-4; yet Paul is addressing a local church in a real town of confused believers. Sounds like home to me, but that is just a view from where I live.

centuri0n said...

Dan:

I am sure that nobody who reads this blog is guilty of that.

I'm sure.

janelle said...

"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."

Love it. Thanks, I needed that today.

TheBlueRaja said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
TheBlueRaja said...

The problem is that you are simply not accountable to anyone -- and it shows. You treat people like objects and not image-bearers.

As much as I might wish that you were a figment of my imagination, a figment probably wouldn't have written that. Great post.

The Doulos said...

Thanks, Cent, for expressing some of what I was feeling reading yesterday's meta. All the philosophical deconstruction of various apologetic methods and approaches and the like really seemed...well, like vain babblings. It was like a group arguing about how to best take a car apart and explain the pieces to someone else, while all the time fogetting what the purpose of the car is - to drive. I'm all for intellectual discourse, but not when it takes us away from the purpose of the things we are discoursing about. Thanks for bringing some balance.

lawrence said...

Not to mention that by not being an active, involved member of a church it makes it harder to be in accountability with other Christians.

Very good post.

Pastor Steve said...

“Of the 110 times that word (ekklesia) is translated ‘church,’ only 17 clearly speak of the universal church, while 90 undoubtedly denote the local church.”

I believe this quote to be possibly from "Life in the Father's House" by Wayne Mack.

Rhology said...

It sounds like you're saying I should join a local church.
But that could just be my interpretation of what you said. (...he deadpanned.)

SolaMeanie said...

Frank, you know you're just asking for someone to begin a debate over house churches in this meta, don't you?

And did you have to bring up KJV protestors? I didn't need a headache this early in the morning. Although James' response to them was a good anodyne.

philness said...

Wow. The atmosphere is much more pleasant now. Thanks Cent. But I know more storms are eminent.

Its too bad all that time was wasted on posturing when our neighbors right next door to us on both sides and across the street need to know Christ, all the while the hovies and mormon evil workers are diligently spreading a false gospel.

Morris Brooks said...

Cent,

The last part of your post was for me the most telling. How many of us ask the Lord to make us a blessing to others, especially those in the body? Should not that be part of our daily prayer, and would not that be a part of the servant/minister heart we are to have to perform the work of service to the body of Christ? And if that was our true heart would we not then be able to speak the truth in love? And, having said all of this, would that not be carrying out the command of Christ to love one another as He has loved us?

dnstat said...

This is off-topic and probably is better suited for a separate post, but here goes.

I absolutely agree with the admonition to be part of a local body of believers. Do you have some advice on how to decide on which local body of believers?

Note: I am *not* asking about leaving a current church in order to find a "better" one. (Besides, Centuri0n already addressed that quite well over on his blog.) We recently moved from AZ to FL and are looking for a church. We have been attending a local church here for three months, but we have some disagreements (a few on secondary doctrines, quite a bit on practice/style/methodology). At what point do we dive in and commit so as to avoid becoming serial shoppers?

Thanks.

Yet another David

Kevin Rhyne said...

That's a good post, Frank.

I noticed that you focused apologetics on the presentation of the gospel to the lost and not on others within the local church who may disagree with secondary theological issues.

There's a place for that within the Body, but not at the expense of moving our apologetic out into the world. It's very tempting to direct an apologetics bent in a safe place, but where it is never truly profitable for the kingdom.

Pastor Rod said...

Frank,

Great post. I can't find anything to disagree with--yet :-)

We need to remember that the most powerful apologetic is a Christlike attitude and spirit. Brains are a nice asset, but they are no substitute for love, joy, peace, patience, etc.

"May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give [us] a spirit of unity among [ourselves] as [we] follow Christ Jesus, so that with one heart and mouth [we] may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ" (Romans 15:5-6).

Rod

centuri0n said...

Rod:

Attitude is not the most powerful apologetic. Jesus Christ, crucified and resurercted, is the most powerful apologetic. In fact, it is the only apologetic.

However, you can serve that up in a wine glass, or you can serve it up in a smelly set of gym socks. If you do the latter, you're not a very interested apologist. You think that people will accept a message that is being treated like it is worthless as useful, and that's ridiculous.

centuri0n said...

Kevin:

this is post #1 in a series of unplanned length. Stick with me.

Jonathan Moorhead said...

Frank, your last two paragraphs were golden. The rest was just ok.

donsands said...

"Attitude is not the most powerful apologetic. Jesus Christ, crucified and resurercted, is the most powerful apologetic. In fact, it is the only apologetic."

I had to Amen that. The Truth is the truth, and the truth is the Truth.

Kent Brandenburg said...

All the justified in the NT were church members. 1 John 2:19 says that they went out from us because they were not of us. They went out of local churches practically because they were not justified positionally. People not in churches are generally categorized as unsaved. Someone loosed was to be treated as a publican and sinner (Mt. 18:15-17, 16:18,19).

So why is it that people are fine with not being in churches? They're in the "true church," the invisible one. This two church doctrine, I believe, is the culprit. I'm an optimist, Frank, but I don't think the non-church member thing will be solved as long as people see themselves as members of the Big One, the Invisible One, and, therefore, some kind of free-floating free agent. Interestingly enough, some of these same armchair apologists have an invisible conversion experience because they are one of the elect.

centuri0n said...

Dr. Moorehead:

That's because your standards are so high. Maybe if I translated them into Russian I could get higher marks.

Pastor Rod said...

Frank,

I knew we'd find something to disagree about eventually.

I think we have a "semantic" disconnect here. In my view, "Jesus Christ and him crucified and resurrected" is the content of the Gospel. An apologetic is a defense of or an argument for the truth claims of the Gospel.

Surely this is what 1 Peter 3:15 is talking about.

Rod

centuri0n said...

Rod:

1Pet 3 is fine. The question is this: what has God used to makes fools of wise men? Is it a method or an argument -- or is it something else?

Paul's apologetic to the Corinthians (he says) was Jesus Christ, and him crucified.

centuri0n said...

I don't want to agree with Kent publicly, but ...

Pastor Rod said...

Frank,

The content of the Gospel is foolishness to those who are wise in their own eyes, those who have rejected the truth about God (Romans 1:21).

Paul says that the content of his message was "Jesus Christ and him crucified." His apologetic was "a demonstration of the Spirit's power."

Paul's "non-method" was a method. It was a strategy (1 Corinthians 2:5). In the same way, Socrates' "non-method" was a well-planned method. In both cases they seem to be battling the Sophists who used persuasive speech to convince people of whatever position they wanted.

There can be no such thing as method-free proclamation of the Gospel. There can be no such thing as strategy-free evangelism. A "non-method" is a method. A "non-strategy" is a strategy.

Rod

Kevin Rhyne said...

However, you can serve that up in a wine glass, or you can serve it up in a smelly set of gym socks. If you do the latter, you're not a very interested apologist. You think that people will accept a message that is being treated like it is worthless as useful, and that's ridiculous.

If you do the former, can you still call yourself a Southern Baptist? ;)

I figured this was the beginning of a series, Frank...it has all the makin's.

centuri0n said...

Meta poll:

Is it worth chasing down Rod's points here, or should I let him have the last word?

Silence will be taken as non-interest and I will simply let the man alone.

ajlin said...

["silence..."]

John W. Lostus said...

[crickets churping]

farmboy said...

"Sounds of Silence" - Simon and Garfunkel

DJP said...

Silence will be taken as non-interest...

So, when people break the silence to tell you they're not interested... does that mean they are interested?

Brian @ voiceofthesheep said...

Amen to the post, Cent!

Perhaps we have those such as Barna to thank for the growing number of people professing to be disciples of Christ but who also think they can go it alone, forsaking the assembling together with the visible body of Christ...buying into the self-serving assumption that the church is no longer relevant.

Without sounding too harsh, I don't see how a true believer can even survive outside the visible body of Christ (let alone actually WANTING to be a loner)...though I know it is possible in extreme circumstances (I know there are probably situations where true believers are not able to be a part of a visible body).

My guess would be that, though they may not be able to be joined with others, their desire and longing is to be with other saints. Those who claim to be a Christian but have no desire to be with other Christians...well...that sounds like an impossible hypothetical to me.

centuri0n said...

Brian:

I think I have heard somebody say exactly that someplace before ...

Brian @ voiceofthesheep said...

Oh well, so much for my original thoughts!

Great post you linked to, by the way.

Pastor Steve said...

I can't remember ever reading a book that upset me more than Barna's "Revolution." I really hope people read that book with discernment and didn't just follow after it because of the author's notoriety.

I would refer to it the same way Luther referred to Erasmus' work.

Doug said...

[Schmeradactyls schmeraling]

danny2 said...

are you suggesting people can't love Jesus but hate the church? ;-)

joey said...

excellent post

April said...

danny2: "I love you, honey, it's your body I hate." Doesn't work for me, doesn't work for Jesus.(John 13:35)

Kevin Rhyne said...

danny2: "I love you, honey, it's your body I hate." Doesn't work for me, doesn't work for Jesus.(John 13:35)

Ok...I'm a little late to read this, but, April, that's really funny...and well stated.