18 April 2007

Offering Apologies

by Frank Turk

Yeah, OK. Where was I? I was talking about how to read the Bible, then I started talking about bad Christian apologists, and some of you are thinking that I simply stopped talking about the Bible topic because I was out of stuff or out of my depths. Unfortunately for you, I am not finished with the first topic and am using this second topic as an excursus about what it means to have read the Bible and then implement it in some way.

Last time, we talked about the problem of people who are too doctrinally sound to belong to a church, and much to my surprise there weren’t a lot of objections to my comments. But that said, we closed with the thought that there are people who belong to churches and are still bad apologists – that somehow belonging to a local church doesn’t solve the problem of having more bite and bark than, um, something else.

I want to be especially careful in talking about this because, as I said last time, we need the good apologists 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. If I had to say there’s one guy at the top of this game, I’d point to Dr. R. Albert Mohler who most people don't call “an apologist”; the other person I’d recommend with no qualifications is R. C. Sproul. That’s not to cross anyone else off the list, but these are guys who really set the standard for public, active, Christ-centered, church-minded, soul-saving apologetics.

But it’s their example which really shines a bright light on this topic. For example, if we think about the Good Samaritan as an example of “who is my neighbor” and “what does it mean to love your neighbor as yourself”, this is how these guys operate, and I think there’s an apologetic lesson to be learned there.

Let’s start someplace else that is important: what is apologetics? You know: you can’t find that word in the Bible, and when Paul is rattling off the list of spiritual gifts in 1Cor 13, somehow he misses “apologists” (though we can admit he does say “teachers”, which is an important way of putting an arch over this topic). That’s not to say that being an apologist is not a spiritual pursuit, but we have to know what that is before we can go ahead and say here’s how you do that.

m-w.com says this about apologetics: a branch of theology devoted to the defense of the divine origin and authority of Christianity. What I like about this definition is that it’s simple and direct; what I don't like about it is that somehow it has left off one of the necessary indirect objects. Sure: it’s a branch of theology. Yes: “devoted” is the right verb. Its devotion is “to” the defense “of” Christianity, in terms of Christianity’s divine origin and divine authority.

But what is missing is “defense against who or what”? See: that’s the rub – because on the one hand, Protestant apologetics earns its keep by shining a bright light of Reformational principles on the divide between the evangelical faith and Roman Catholicism, and to a large extent from Eastern Orthodoxy. So one important aspect of apologetics is a defense of the faith from internal or derivative errors. That is to say, the Protestant apologist is working to underscore the fundamental truths of the Gospel and compare and contrast those truths to errors that make the divide between Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy unable to be crossed.

I think that aspect of apologetics confuses a lot of people – especially people on the outside. It confuses them because they don’t understand the arguments or why they are useful let alone important – and to see a guy like Mitch Pacwa debating a guy like James White about anything – the mass, purgatory, the canon of Scripture, whatever – seems to them like Christians don't know what they are talking about.

That will be a larger post on its own in the future, but let’s try to stay focused for a second. So one aspect of apologetics is the exposition and correction of derivative errors – errors in which people have some of the facts or words which are “Christian” but they line them up in ways which nullify the Gospel. Another aspect of apologetics is the defense against external or inductive errors – like against atheist misrepresentations, or against Muslim arguments or denunciations, or what have you. In that situation, the apologist is not just addressing mistakes, but is also involved in a task of setting up the basis of evangelism – and he may actually engage in evangelism in the process of addressing the non-believer’s objections to the faith. It is an essential clash of worldviews, and often goes to the philosophically-basic issues of where things come from (ontology) and how we can know anything (epistemology).

There is also a third class of apologetics which sort of hangs between these two categories, and it is counter-cult apologetics. Some would argue that counter-cult apologetics is really a form of the first kind of apologetics, and would support that by noting that Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses think that they are Christians – or worse, think they are the only Christians. The problem is that their definition of Christ, and God, and all the theological categories of the Bible are so different than what the Protestant apologist would accept that the issues turn out to be far more like the foundational work one has to do in second-type apologetics. It’s hard not to draw the conclusion that one is doing world-view (also called “presuppositional”) apologetics with the cultists.

Phew! Now: what does this have to do with lousy apologists who belong to churches?

It has this to do with that: many of these lousy apologists cannot identify these categories, and therefore they are constantly in the wrong mode of approaching people with their apologies for the faith. And most often, it’s not that they are erring on the side of being too philosophical for people: it’s that they are usually wielding a very big hammer to drive in a finishing nail, and sadly when they do get the nail in, they often have set the molding crooked, or upside down.

I could give examples of this, but I don’t think anyone would argue with me that these people exist. But why is it important to notice this problem in these church-going apologists? And what should be happening to these guys if this is a problem?

I think the first issue is that, even though these people belong to churches, they are not accountable to their churches. Seriously: such a one as these I once was – until my pastor started reading my blog. That changed me. I had (and have) a lot of internet friends who read my blog, but how accountable to them was I really? As long as I wasn’t dismantling the Trinity or denying the T in TULIP, I was (and am) entertaining to read -- and how are they going to discipline me? But today I have a pastor who reads my blog and keeps me face-to-face accountable.

My contention is that most “apologists” don’t have someone like that, but that’s actually the second problem: their pastors or elders don't really care about apologetics. In many ways, that’s why a lot of these people get into apologetics in the first place: they are intellectually-curious people who like to read, and some of them are smart enough to understand what they read, and suddenly they know more about the principles of the Reformation than most third-year seminary students, let alone Bible-college graduates. So they learned on their own about the theology and philosophy of the faith, but they didn’t really get any pastoral guidance about how we now shall live.

Yes: you’re very smart for clawing your way through the major Protestant catechisms, and through the Institutes, and Bondage of the Will, and City of God, and the other fat books on your shelf, but have you looked at the pastoral lives of the men who wrote that stuff? I agree with you that you had to learn the big stuff on your own, but maybe you should have looked at how the Fathers of the Church – Early and Magisterial – lived out this stuff you read which they wrote. They were great defenders of the faith not because they lived in a monastery and built an intellectual fortress, pouring hot oil on all who approached murmuring “sibboleth” instead of “shibboleth”: they were great because they had these astounding insights which they applied pastorally and used to made disciples of men.

If you don't have a pastor or elders who are able to give you a well-rounded view of the great minds of the faith, then you should spend more time reading the pastoral letters of Paul, or maybe you should spend a year reading I Corinthians and get the notion that while the Gospel is central and essential and propositional, it has necessary results, most of which do not involve raised voices except to sing hymns or praise God.

And if you’re a pastor or elder who doesn’t think the regular Joe should be interested in apologetics, re-read Titus 1 and think about the fact that you ought to be doing what Paul instructed Titus to do.

The third (and final) problem I want to uncover today is the problem of objectives. Without the pastoral edge – without the pastoral concern and temperament – we lose sight of the real goal of apologetics: to deliver the Gospel, and tell people that God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world but to save it. Ultimately, our arguments may (as Paul says) have the smell of death to those who are perishing, but we shouldn’t set out on the task intending to stink to high heaven. The idea that men suffer and are sinful but that God Himself has done the work which saves us is a brilliant, beautiful idea, and we ought to present it as the best end – the option in which one can taste and see the goodness of the Lord.

Because that’s supposed to be the point, right? I do it all for the sake of the gospel, that I may share with them – those filthy sinners who need saving, just like me -- in its blessings.

So the worst apologists are those who are too smart to belong to churches, and the ones who are only a little better are “in” church but not actually “of” church in that they think they are above a little pastoral seasoning, or they have a pastor who has an empty seasoning shaker.

There’s more to this, and it gets back to how we read the Bible, but I’m on page 4 here single-spaced, and you have to get back to work. Also, Phil had a phone conversation he's dying to talk about, and I made him not post on "my day" so I could get this out for the three of you who were dying to hear my opinion. More later.


Daniel said...

Ultimately, our arguments may (as Paul says) have the smell of death to those who are perishing, but we shouldn’t set out on the task intending to stink to high heaven.

I would say ultimately they -will- have the smell of death, as opposed to may - but that's just gnat straining on my part.

I think that most of the offenders in this area don't actually set out to purposely generate the 'stink' of death, but rather that they have confused "academic excellence" with spiritual maturity - concluding (in error) that they are made mature believers through the purity of their apology rather than through the consistency of their surrender to Christ.

When being right about a thing becomes the reason the person crosses the street to debate another's faith or practice - they have stopped pursuing Christ, and are pursuing personal glory in their apologetic purity. It is the work of the flesh, but dressed up as something spiritual because the subject matter being discussed has spiritual significance.

We offend in many ways, and being a skillful apologist is no defense against the works of the flesh - truth needs to be defended, but it is best defended in concert with a life that is lived in and through it. <sigh>

Unknown said...

Thanks, this was GREAT.

DJP said...

1. Classic Frank: witty, incisive, suprising — with a taunting tease of "next week [day?] on Pyromaniaces."

2. You mind me of this: "Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account" (Hebrews 13:7a).

From a pastoral perspective: pastors normally don't have easy access to the lives of their sheep. They see them at church, and church may/may not be a good indicator of their normal thinking and interaction.

But in blogs, pastors have access to a whole new arena of their folks' thinking and interaction. It is somewhat (but only somewhat) like having access to their correspondence. An attentive pastor can have whole new chapters open up to him, can't he?

Good points, as usual. Thanks for making them.

FX Turk said...

I suffered over one part of this post before I posted it, and I didn't do a very good job of making it plain, so let me cite it here and make a clarification:

I think that aspect of apologetics confuses a lot of people – especially people on the outside. It confuses them because they don’t understand the arguments or why they are useful let alone important – and to see a guy like Mitch Pacwa debating a guy like James White about anything – the mass, purgatory, the canon of Scripture, whatever – seems to them like Christians don't know what they are talking about.

Let me say clearly that there's not one thing wrong with what James White has done in debating Mitch Pacwa or any of the less-classy Catholic apologists -- but because this is really a highly-technical form and method of apologetics, outsiders can and do see it as extremely esoteric.

That was my point -- not something else which places James in the wrong company. If you ot confused or offended by that paragraph, I apologize.

donsands said...

This was quite a brain full to ponder.
A lot of deep thoughts and clear thoughts mixed together.

"truth needs to be defended, but it is best defended in concert with a life that is lived in and through it" -Daniel

That's the ticket!

"Obey your leaders and submit to them"

That's so foreign to the American church, which seems to me as a democracy, more than the Body of Christ.

Scotty said...

Frank that was a great post. I would add Ravi Zacharias to your list - especially in light of his constant commitment to missions and evangelism through apologetics.

philness said...

Frank, I like what your saying here about a divide in Catholicism and the Gospel that is uncrossable. Apologists such as James White are indeed chipping away at the foundations that Rome was built on and showing the Catholic apologist that their foundation is built on something other than that of Christs solid rock (oh great now that song will be playing in my head all day). And the two foundations are directly opposed to one another.

But what we “church going apologists” are seeing in our pastors is a softness when it comes to Rome. In my process of a church home when we moved I asked 4 pastors where they stood on Catholicism and was amazed at the answers I got. I had to settle on one of the four and just endure and submit the best I could. When asked of my current pastor if he believes we should witness to Catholics just like one would witness to the lost he said that basicly they have enough gospel information to be saved. Period. That was his answer. I asked him then if a Catholic person is saved and a part of Romes system would not the Holy Spirit eventually get that person out of that system. He said not necessarily. I asked him considering the fact that vatican 1, vatican 11 and trent are opposed to the doctrine of justification by faith might you consider it a necessity to witness to them. And he said, that may be but don’t expect people around here to agree with you. So now I’m considered a trouble maker. A “church going apologist trouble maker”.

FX Turk said...


Maybe you're too doctrinally-sound to belong to a church.

[j/n] as they say in the nether-depths.

Listen: I wouldn't make a "willingness to evangelize Catholics" a go/no-go attribute of a church as I was considering it for my family -- because let's face it, most people don't really know what the difference is between Dave Hunt and Dave Armstrong (since they are far more alike than different), let alone the differences between John Paul II and John Piper.

Factually, I recently had an e-mail exchange with a very high-profile Christian evangelist (which I initiated, and promised not to blog this person) in which this person said that there's not really anything to evangelize over since all the baptisms are legitimate. Rome may have "problems" but they are plainly a church because they have valid baptisms.

Think about that: we have reduced the Gospel to baptism alone, and not even believer's baptism alone, but "paedo or credo, Father, Son and Spirit, and you're good".

When this kind of thinking is going around, you can't expect the average pastor who has a lot on his plate because he's only one of two paid staff people to have his head buried in the books over the degrees of heresy evident in various groups. He is probably a lot more concerned with whether he has any kind of discipleship going on at all rather than to what extremes he can send an army of evangelists to save the lost.

I have sympathy for that, but isn't the solution (or part of it) to stand by a man who is tasked with preaching God's word and help him get people into the beauty and rich equipment of God's word? I wouldn't be half as concerned about to whom he would send evangelists if he could as I would be whether he has enough help discipling those he has right now.

And there are probably 1,000 other qualifications that ought to go in here, but I have to go take my wife to lunch.

Talk amongst yourselves.

~Mark said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
~Mark said...

Ouch, and thank you for a challenging post. I've been confronting my lack of boldness in taking opportunities to present the Gospel. God has been faithful to remind me that life here is short and only supplies so many chances to share.

More time training and more time sharing wisely. :)

Colin Maxwell said...

The word "apologist" might not be in our English Bible, but it is the Greek NT. "But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to *give an answer* [apologia]to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear:" (1 Peter 3:15) A good post. As for evangelising Catholics...go get them. Rome has nothing to offer them.

Coram Deo said...

After reviewing the second installment of this apologetics discourse I'm still scratching my head and thinking there's a whole lot missing from this discussion. The false assumption - in my view - that's been made in both installments thus far centers upon the advancement of a fallacious reasoning which assumes that - generally speaking - professing churches and their pastors are genuinely good for true "invisible church" Christians.

Considering the indisputable and heart wrenching overabundance of seeker sensitive, church growth, emergent, mainline liberal, apostate leadership within the professing church I sincerely wonder if it's wise to simply jump up and down and wave our hands and demand that these folks (apologists, et al) simply "join a church" and "get accountable" and then walk away patting ourselves on the back. I think not.

I blogged on the first installment of this series and today's subject expansion still doesn't quite address what I perceive as the core problem, which is namely the preponderance of bad churches and bad leadership which are bad for their local flock.

Maybe the actual argument being advanced here is that the unchurched autodidactic folks (apologists, et al) need to join themselves with faithful churches under the spiritual authority of godly and able church leadership, in which case the argument bears at least some merit. Yet even the most faithful brick and mortar churches and the most able leadership is currently shoehorned within the unscriptural Nicolaitane construct of the modern professing church which is structurally a virtual clone of Rome - minus those evil Bishops and the Vicar of Christ of course!

Methinks the cart has come before the horse on this issue. The professing church is toxic. You can have the cleanest fish tank in the the world. You can have the most interesting plants and coral, the finest gravel and filtration, and feed the fish the finest food pellets, but if the water is toxic you're going to have toxic fish. Simply dropping more fish into the tank isn't going to purify the toxic water. The "tank" of the professing church is toxic.

I know these are strident comments, but there is a quiet revival currently underway and God's own are being separated from the last days Laodicean church. May it continue to the glory of the Lord.

Jesus saith unto them, Did ye never read in the scriptures, The stone which the builders rejected, the same is become the head of the corner: this is the Lord's doing, and it is marvellous in our eyes?Matthew 21:42

For the time is come that judgment must begin at the house of God: and if it first begin at us, what shall the end be of them that obey not the gospel of God
(1 Peter 4:17)

And I heard another voice from heaven, saying, Come out of her, my people, that ye be not partakers of her sins, and that ye receive not of her plagues. (Revelation 18:4)

Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen, and repent, and do the first works; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will remove thy candlestick out of his place, except thou repent.
(Revelation 2:5)

philness said...


I am in agreement with what you are telling me. I am glad you agree that discipling folks is of high importance as it should be less us dumb sheep wonder back into the world and add to those who are of the “carnal christian” flock of which I was chief.

I do think that evangelizing is commanded of every believer as is discipleship and we should not have to wait for the pastor to choose who the evangelizers are to be in the church before we going out. We should all already be out there, having been rejuvenated and edified by our local church to do so (which I think is what the local church’s duty is primarily). As for as disciplers are concern, yea I think the pastor must take on a qualifying role and have a discipleship curriculum in place ongoing, non-stop. And lets not forget about the bus ministry. Just kidding.

I’m saying it scares me when I see pastors soft on Rome. I think probing the pastor on Rome is a good litmus test to see where a particular church is theologically. I can be a good little sheep and submit myself to a pastor real good, but if he is soft on the basics I am only going to submit myself right back out into the world.

I could say more but I have a nice sandwich to build. And besides, the hovies should be knocking once again any minute to discuss “hell”. They are going to take me to Ecclesiastes 9:5 Can you guess where I'm going to take them? I know where the Lord is going to take them if they dont repent.

FX Turk said...


There are some who will have read my response to you and said, "huh -- so does cent think that we shouldn;t even bother with evangelizing Catholics? It's not on his first 5 questions to ask the pastor of a church ..."

Those people have tunnel vision.

It is necessary, proper, and critical to evangelize anyone who is (as coram deo has spelled out for us) in a church which is forfeiting the Gospel.

But look: if you have a local church which is in the state which CD spells out here, which is the top priority: rolling up your spiritual sleeves and joining with a guy who, at least superficially, is called and placed in that church for the sake of what Paul told Titus to do -- put what remained into order, and appoint elders in every town as I directed you; or being somehow disaffected with that same guy because he's not evangelizing Catholics when his own church is spritually stagnant because all the people who have some spiritual chops are disaffected with him for not evangelizing Catholics?

It seems to me that evangelism and apologetics start at home.

And with that said, I have a nice piece of hickory I'm about to take over to Coram Deo's house ...

FX Turk said...


You may blog as you see fit and write off the call to stay faithful to a local church as you see fit.

Problematically, the local church will never improve -- has no chance of ever improving -- if someplace faith does not get engaged in all the ways, and in the correct priority of ways, the Bible guides us to.

Let's assume for a second that I agree with you that the biggest problem, really, is that 98% of all churches (my statistic, not yours) are really not even substandard -- they are, as it is said, "not even wrong".

Great. So the solution to that, if I read you correctly, is to go out and do what? Certainly not join these pathetically-broken institutions, right? We should then likely start our own without any regard for a plethora of things, including the admonition to be joined with fellow believers and solve our disputes among ourselves (cf. 1 Cor 1-6), yes?

So we start with a broken, anabaptist (or worse) view of being part of the church, and then what do we do? We start up the apologetics first, yes? Because the people we will attract don't have any meat on the bone, they don't have any theological rigor. So what we start with is the Bible someplace -- maybe the book of John, where all great apologetics really takes root, followed by the book of Romans. To do them justice, it takes us 4 years meeting twice weekly to read just those books.

In the meantime, we have started our apologetics ministry for Catholicism -- because that is high on our list of reasons to join a church. Nevermind, for example, that the only Catholic church within 50 miles of our church is a small congregation of about 200 with a nun as the full-time staff member and a priest who travels in for one saturday night service and one sunday morning service (early, so he can get back to his home parish for the 11 AM service). We have to start condemning the blasphemy of the mass right now -- today. We can't have people doing penance if we are going to call ourselves ambassadors of Christ!

We find out that sending under-discipled baby Christians into a Catholic parish results in parity, meaning that for every person we can convince of the reformational case, we have one fall away because, well, Rome looks pretty good to some people who have only read the books of Romans and John -- and those incompletely.

Should I go on?

Listen: your stultified view of what happens today is itself part of the problem you claim to believe is apparent. It's the view of knuckleheads like George Barna -- you can read his book Revolution if you think I'm overstating this case. What has to happen is that first, we must understand the theology of church -- the ecclesiology of the Bible. Then we must conform ourselves to that.

Let me suggest something: if every church in America had one faithful family in it that was active in service, faithful to a 1 Cor 9:19-23 view of delivering the truth of God's word, adamant about honoring their pastor who is tasked with rightly handling God's word ("tasked" doesn't mean "he's got no gaps"), praying for their church and their elder(s), and then give their own "apologia" with gentleness and reverence, I'd be willing to wager that the local church would pretty quickly have more than one faithful family in it -- and it would cause Godly changes in that local church.

The half-American Standard Version reading of NT ecclesiology you provide in your proof texts has far more to do with the real causes of problems in American Evangelicalism than it does with providing a corrective to the problems evident. It is far more common for mutterers like yourself to splinter local churches over less than nothing than it is for local churches to really wander into apostasy and heresy as if it was nothing.

You have taken a Campingite view of dealing with weak doctrine and weak eldership, and I find it far more objectionable than pastors who simply have been driven by their denominations and the Christian media to be weak-tongued, weak-hearted, weak-faithed cheerleaders. At least these men are trying to minister to the people they have -- your view, and your approach, doesn't even provide first aid to the injured.

However, I will offer you an olive branch: if you can demonstrate to me that a doctrinally-perfect church ever existed on this earth, or that a church with a completely-godly set of ruling elders who never err'd ever existed, I'll concede the whole discussion. Your demands are cultic and unbiblical, and you have my clear objections to them.

Anonymous said...

Re: the evanglization of Catholics - I think you have to take into account the context each local church is operating in. For example, I live in a small city that is overwhelmingly RC, with no less than four large Catholic churches in town, each with their own school, etc. The culture of the entire area is strongly and historically Catholic. Therefore, a major point of our church's outreach (both corporately and individually) is to Catholics. You can't walk across the street without running into one.

In contrast, I previously lived in another city that had almost no RC presence - but a very large contingent of totally unchurched people. So the focus of our church's outreach and mission - our apologetic if you wish - was not dealing with catholics, but with rank pagans.

And coram deo - adopting your view would in essence abandon all but the "perfect" (read: non-existent) churches to tares.

FX Turk said...


Well said. I think I agree.

Coram Deo said...

I thought my examples of worldly professing churches in this thread were fairly self-explanatory, but perhaps Mr. Turk and Mr. Doulous didn't read my blog post which spoke to the matter in a bit more detail. If there is a "perfect church" I'm unaware of its existence at any time in human history.

My point is that we've inherited the corrupted harlot half-sister of Rome from our Reformation forbears and all of the vain traditions of men accoutrements that accompany it. This isn't an unsubstantiated indictment, rather it's just the way it is.

As I mentioned over at my place, while I lament the condition of the current professing church, it's what we've got and we should be obedient to the scriptural admonitions regarding our participation therein. This being said, there is certainly occasion and scriptural support for true believers to abandon those churches who espouse false doctrine and are led by wolves in sheep's clothing. Surely it's not being suggested here, for example, that congregants of Joyce Meyer stay put, roll up their sleeves, and just try to make a difference in her church! If this were the case then there's no little room for a reasonable argument for saved Catholics to abandon their diocese! They should just stay put in within the false Romish system of works and idolatry and try to make a difference. The argument is absurd on its face.

Furthermore it's a laughable assertion to claim that I'm suggesting anything cultish, or that by taking a strict Biblical view of the church I'm somehow a schismatic, though these charges are eerily similar to the rhetoric employed by Rome. I'd say this is no coincidence. I for one am certainly glad the Reformers didn't put a temporal ecclesiastic false unity and submission to Papal authority above their love and obedience to God Almighty and His Word.

It's no surprise that much of the leadership - so called - bred by this system (the "denominational pipeline" if you will) work vigorously to defend their corrupted system. Whether this is what I've just witnessed in Mr. Turk's stern reply I don't care to guess.

Friends, the American evangelical church is very sick and I don't think it's a stretch to claim the patient is dying. The believer's admonition isn't to blindly follow the leaders of the blind, but to reprove the deeds of darkness and have no fellowship with them. When a system is worldly and of the world we (Christians) are to be separate from it. This isn't merely an inference, it's a basic command of scripture. But this task is difficult - if not impossible - without spiritual discernment which is probably the most desperately needed gift in the church today.

In closing I didn't come here today to pick a fight, but the truth of the matter is plain for those with eyes to see and ears to hear, and simply stamping our feet and screaming "It ain't so!" is unimpressive, unhelpful, and untrue.

So feel free to denigrate my proof texts, assign to me diabolical motivations, and engage in ad hominem to your heart's content, because it doesn't change the facts in the least. And the fact is that far too many are leaving churches each Sunday singing of a heaven that they're never going to see and the responsibility for this tragedy lies directly at the feet of the weak-kneed, effeminate, impotent men-in-skirts that pass for leadership in the modern professing church.

Someday - hopefully soon - the Ancient of Days will vomit this wretched construct from His mouth. Until then let us faithfully and obediently serve the King.

Then Peter and the other apostles answered and said, We ought to obey God rather than men. (Acts 5:29)

Cindy said...

You know what I have noticed lately through the years is that many evangelicals (popular leaders, that is) have no problem speaking out against Mormons and Jehova Witnesses and Muslims but some how they just can't muster the courage to speak out against Rome. I wonder is it because it is not popular to do so especially in light of the fact of ECT? I also wonder, are they not speaking against Rome because they don't want to offend their "friends" and "partners" in ministry (whatever that means)? And I also wonder, are they benefiting financially from Rome and have they fallen prey to bribery (Psalm 15)?

I know Chuck Colson received the prestigious Templeton award for "religious tolerance" in the very lucrative sum of 1 million dollars. And these are the men that most evangelicals are following. Whatever happened to commitment to the Living and all powerful God who delivers, not vain horses or in this case Rome? Are we that greedy that we have to have 1 million dollars for "our" ministries forgetting that the Living God will provide? Are we looking to our own devices to meet our needs like Sarah and Abraham did?

Just too much compromise.........making allies with the world and forgetting how powerful our God is! To me it's one thing to sin.....we all do because of our deceitful flesh, but it's entirely something else to compromise the gospel and think nothing of it. To me that is betrayal and treason.

FX Turk said...

My favorite reply from someone espousing bad ideas is, "we obey God and not men." It's my favorite because it is, in essence, the determination that the conversation is over.

No sense arguing with you, CD. You follow God and not men. I guess we should follow you.


the real irony here is that I haven't yet said they we ought not to defend the faith in the Protestant/Catholic aspect of apologetics. In fact, my post here said it's the first measure of apologetics.

The question is if having a counter-Catholic apologetics ministry ought to be the primary objective of every Protestant church -- that is, should it be the first line of evangelism every pastor should be concerned with?

Philness said it's one of his initial questions to any pastor he's discussing membership with. That seems like it's not really putting first things first to me -- because discipleship, reconciliatory discipline, and teaching the word seem like far more broad and necessary categories to me.

Think about guys like Bunyan and Tindale for a minute -- arguably, they were strongly against the monarchical episcopate and all its corollaries. But was they fist effort anti-Roman apologetics -- or was it fidelity to God's word and God's people by word and by example?

Listen -- there's no question there's a softness toward "Rome" such as it is today, even though it is arguably worse in is core teachings than it was at Trent. There's no question that's troubling. But the trouble with the church is not external: it is first internal. And we cannot fix the internal issues by jumping out a window to scare off the pidgeons that are trying to paint the outside of the building.

Catholic apologetics is important -- it is simply not the most important issue for every local church in the world today.

David A. Carlson said...

Frank says:

"...it is simply not the most important issue for every local church in the world today. "

*cue music - dun dun dun*

And THE most important issue is?

philness said...


Allow me to clarify. I was not suggesting that the church's main focus should be Roman Catholic apologetics. I was simply saying that as a process of my determining where my family and I were to serve in a local church I wanted to take a theological temperature of the church's position on matters that are most important to me. And what matters most to me is justification by faith. So in so trying to determine were a pastor stood on this issue I asked some simple questions pertaining to an opposing view of justification by faith of which we would all agree here that is Rome. And throughout this process I recieved a wide variety of answers from 4 different churches in my area. The answer I got from the church I settled on, which is where I serve today, is stated above in my first comment. Incidentally, a friend of mine who is a former Roman Catholic whom I have been witnessing to for a long time will be visiting my church and attending Sunday School with me this Sunday.

FX Turk said...

Jacob --

The most important issue facing the church today -- the #1 "gotta go get THAT" for any church -- is the reclamation of the sound and rightful role the local church ought to perform as the God-glorifiying, Christ-exalting, disciple-making and -keeping, elder-lead assembly of believers.

Philness --

It's a fair enough objective to seek the church which is most God-glorifying in its position on sola fide. That is, in and of itself, a good objective.

Let me suggest, rather than continue to broaden this discussion, that finding out the pastor's position on RC evangelism isn't the best way to gage that. Here's why: I think many good pastors -- Godly men who in the upper 50th percentile of sola fide advocates -- are confused by people like Chuck Colson and William Lane Craig into thinking that the differences are secondary or minimal.

I also think that there are perfectly good Presbyterians who have walked away from the implications of the WCF's branding of the Pope as antichrist (small "a") for the sake of a paedobaptistic theology that places all the baptized inside the consequential boundaries of the New Covenant (which is the Church). In that, they think the guys in Rome have made some devastating errors, but they are still a church, so their "apologetic" takes a very different tone and have very different objectives.

Your general objective seems good to me; your method of achieving it seems to major in the minors. IMO, OK? No anathemas stated or intended.

donsands said...

"The most important issue facing the church today -- the #1 "gotta go get THAT" for any church -- is the reclamation of the sound and rightful role the local church ought to perform as the God-glorifiying, Christ-exalting, disciple-making and -keeping, elder-lead assembly of believers."

That's nailin' it down. Amen. (For that would include sound doctrine within those thoughts methinks.)

philness said...


Funny you mentioned Chuck Colson and William Lane Craig. Both the pastor and the teacher pastor at my church have both elevated them at various times. In fact the teacher pastor who I enjoy for his apologetic heart is of the same camp as William Lane Craig which is molinism, the "middle earth" position, which I'm trying to figure out just exactly what that is. And so far my assessment of it is somewhat that of a deep LSD trip down a long and winding tributary of cause and effect probabilities.

A. Berean said...

Wouldn't the gift of "discerning of spirits" cover the area of apologetics? At least cult-apologetics. 1 John 4:1. Tells us to test the Spirits to see whether they are from God for many false prophets have gone out into the world.

Cindy said...


Thankyou for your gracious response. I was afraid someone might get ticked off by what I wrote, even though it's true. I have read your posts and I find you to be especially gracious in your responses to people.

However, I will say I still disagree with you that this compromise with Rome and ecumenical bridge building is not the most important problem in the church. I believe it is. I simply will not walk down that road. Because I live in a predominately Catholic community and see the Catholic priest come around to the residents in the nursing home that I work at to take communion.........I can clearly see how deceitful these workers of inquity are......they promise the people heaven if they continue taking the wafer (which to them is the actual Lamb of God that takes away the sins of the world). They walk around with their religious garments on and their own righteousness and have failed to submit themselves totally to the righteousness of Christ. It makes me sick to see this nonsense and these lies that are reinforced over and over. And then to think that our evangelical leaders fellowship in ministry with these catholic "scholars" and have absolutely no conviction that it is wrong......it's just inconceivable to me. To me this is where the "leven" starts.

But I suppose God has given each of us a particular ministry and whatever burden God has given us, we are to us it for His glory......whether it be refuting emergents, seeker-sensitive or new-evangelicals who are into ecumenical relationships.