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Does Defending the Faith Offend the Holy Spirit? Aren’t We Just Supposed to Preach the Gospel?
by Matt Rawlings
Every week I receive great questions via social media or in person. I choose one to try to answer and this week I received several along the lines of, “Does defending the faith (i.e., apologetics) offend the Holy Spirit? Aren’t we just supposed to preach the Gospel?” This is a great question and one I get frequently these days, especially from my fellow members of the Reformed camp.
I posted last week that we live in a fairly unique time, one in which we have become so thoroughly pagan that we must engage in apologetics just to win a hearing or even so that people can even possibly understand the Gospel. I won’t repeat those arguments here but I will try to build upon them.
First of all, if you are a Calvinist, understand that there is a long, grand tradition of apologetics within the Reformed camp. The esteemed theologian and philosopher Cornelius Van Til pioneered what is known as presuppositional apologetics. Van Til had a very high view of the work of the Spirit in conversion but believed it was often necessary to show skeptics how their worldview doesn’t work but Christianity is consistent. He has been followed by theologian/apologists like John Frame and K. Scot Oliphint.
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Second, the Bible is clear that apologetics is often necessary to prepare the way for the Gospel. For example, when Paul arrives in Athens, Luke tells us: “6 Now while Paul was waiting for them at Athens, his spirit was provoked within him as he saw that the city was full of idols. 17 So he reasoned in the synagogue with the Jews and the devout persons, and in the marketplace every day with those who happened to be there. 18 Some of the Epicurean and Stoic philosophers also conversed with him. And some said, “What does this babbler wish to say?” Others said, “He seems to be a preacher of foreign divinities”—because he was preaching Jesus and the resurrection. 19 And they took him and brought him to the Areopagus, saying, “May we know what this new teaching is that you are presenting? 20 For you bring some strange things to our ears. We wish to know therefore what these things mean.” 21 Now all the Athenians and the foreigners who lived there would spend their time in nothing except telling or hearing something new.”
Notice when Paul saw how pagan the society was he spent his time “reasoning” with Jews, Gentile seekers and the common Athenians among the philosophers in the marketplace…