Dealing with Opposition to Apologetics

by Randy Everist

OppositionOne of the more frustrating times for any Christian apologist is when he encounters opposition from within his own camp. Many well-meaning Christians discourage defense of the faith as unnecessary and even potentially wrong! Here are the most common objections to apologetics I’ve encountered.

1. You can never argue anyone into the kingdom.

By this people mean that one’s clever arguments are not going to cause people to throw themselves at your feet and exclaim “what must I do to be saved!?” Thus, since the goal of apologetics is evangelism, apologetics is an ineffective tool.

However, this assumes that no one is ever saved while hearing apologetic arguments. True, no one is saved because of the arguments (that’s the grace of God and the conviction of the Holy Spirit generating a response on the part of the hearer). True, the number of those saved after hearing the arguments is low. But they do exist. There are people who have just a few intellectual barriers who would otherwise believe in Christ. These people are typically highly influential and many go on to be apologists in their own right. Why punish these people by not using an evangelistic method that would work for them? If we judge evangelistic methods based on an “effectiveness percentage,” I’m afraid we’d consider most methods a failure (as they all come in under 50%!).

2. Doesn’t the Bible say to stay away from philosophy?

Not quite. In that case, it would be the Bible’s philosophy that we should stay away from philosophy, which is obviously self-refuting. Since it is unacceptable that the Bible should be mired in self-contradiction, we must look to understand the meaning of the passage.

The passage in question is Colossians 2:8: “Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ.” In this same verse the context is revealed: the philosophy we may be spoiled through is the one that is not after Christ! So philosophical apologetics, dealing and answering objections to Christ and God cannot in and of itself be contra Christ.

Further, the context of the passage is revealed through surrounding verses. Verse 4 is Paul’s encouragement to avoid “enticing words,” which would bring them away from walking in faith (v. 6). There should be no doubt Paul was not condemning the use of apologetics and philosophy (cf. Acts 17:16-34).

3. We should do apologetics from the Word of God only.

This is an objection which states “faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God,” (Rom. 10:17) thus anything else is superfluous at best, and unbiblical at worst.

This, when applied consistently, would yield absurd results. In preaching, for instance, one would never comment on the text or use illustrations, since such are unnecessary! While it is true it is the Word of God which is necessary for salvation (that is, the hearing of it is necessary), there’s no problem with explaining the text. In many respects that is what apologetics is doing…

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