Is Apologetics Elitist?

by J. P. Holding

Of late, an accusation has been raised in response to one of my projects that appeal to the expertise of scholars is somehow “elitist” — as though it means that God left some things not understandable to the common man. I’ve had that accusation also thrown at me as an apologist. I’ll illustrate that with a personal example.

There was a trying time not long ago for my beloved and I when one of her relatives — a professing but insincere Christian — justified some outrageous behavior of his with a particular Bible passage. I corrected him, appealing in the process to sound contextual scholarship, but he dismissed me and my explanation on the grounds that I was being prideful.

A commentator named Stan Telchin offers an outside example, as he raised the specter of pride against messianic Jews, in an equally clumsy and unjustified way. He remarks upon one woman who said she would “feel as though” she was being “discriminated against” by Messianic Jews, and was stunned when one man said, “If you don’t read the Old Testament in Hebrew, you really cannot understand what is being said.”

Stunned? Why? It’s a given that every language has nuances lost in translation; thus, the man’s statement, if intended (as is most likely the case, as hyperbole) is nothing to be “stunned” about and is not in any sense elitist. You do either need to read the Hebrew, or the works of someone who does, to get the bigger picture; all else is filtered through what is called “bilingual interference” and while not entirely incoherent, will at least be lacking in potentially important contextual parameters.

At the heart of all this is a matter that may pain some modern ears: The Bible teaches equality and elitism in the Body of Christ…

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