The Humanism of Evangelistic Apologetics: Part 13.5

Review and Critque:

"What is the Role of Apologetics in Evangelism?"
Matt Slick
https://carm.org/role-apologetics-evangelism

[Key: direct quotes from author.]

Mr. Slick begins this short article with a phrase, the likes of which I’ve seen many times on the CARM site:

Apologetics is the branch of Christian theology that deals with the defense and the establishment of the Christian faith.  It often involves answering difficult questions, teaching biblical theology, examining other religions, exposing error, etc.  This can naturally be confrontational, so we are commanded in Scripture to do this with respect and gentleness (1 Pet. 3:15).  Evangelism, on the other hand, is the act of presenting the saving gospel (1 Cor. 15:1-4; Rom. 1:16) of Jesus Christ to the lost.  It is part of the Great Commission where he told us to "make disciples of every nation" (Matthew 28:18-20).

Nevertheless, apologetics and evangelism are related.  When needed, apologetics is a means by which the way is both prepared and protected so that the message of the gospel can properly be presented.  Apologetics is like the soldier who battles to protect the messenger who has the gospel to deliver.”

[Mr. Slick's generous reference to their brand of apologetics as a "breanch of Christian theology" is tantamount to refering to the middle school playground as the Super Bowl.]

So, according to CARM, the purpose of the apologist is to protect whoever or whatever actually brings the word of the gospel to the lost. So, to what text(s), Mr. Slick, do you appeal for biblical support for this astonishing—and very arrogant—claim?

The Lord Christ, in the first recorded sermon, in Mat 4.17 says simply:

Mat 4.17
From that time Jesus began to preach and say, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”

I guess that the Lord Christ didn’t know of your rule and simply decided to improvise. The same must be said for Paul the Apostle (someone, I’d be willing to wager, knows a great deal more about everything Bible and evangelism than you!):

1 Cor 15.1-4
Now I make known to you, brethren, the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received, in which also you stand, by which also you are saved, if you hold fast the word which I preached to you, unless you believed in vain. For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures,

No prep work there, either. In fact, Paul considered this simple, unprepared, raw message of truth “of first importance”.

Since you use an illustration in the soldier/military genre, let me appeal to the canonical example as well:

Eph 6.13-17
Therefore, take up the full armor of God, so that you will be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm. Stand firm therefore, having girded your loins with truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace; in addition to all, taking up the shield of faith with which you will be able to extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.

Your statement above, that apologetics "[protects]" the way to the gospel, implies that the armor given to the Christian witness by the Almighty is lacking. Is that really what you want to convey? Are you that self-sufficient and arrogant? [Sadly, the answer to those questions, as represented by the CARM articles I've reviewed, is an unequivocal "yes".]

It is well known that within the full armor the Lord provides the Christian soldier, all pieces of gear are defensive, save one: “the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God”.

Your short article suggests that we should correct Paul’s illustration to:

“And take the helmet of salvation, the sword of the Spirit (which is the word of God) and the word of the apologist who 'prepares and protects' the way so that the Word of God can actually reach its mark.

What may, to the biblically careless, seem like a reasonable illustration shows itself to be nothing less than full-blown humanism when actually compared with Scripture.

Have you forgotten—or perhaps never obeyed—this wonderful text:

Heb 4.12
For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.

Is your “preparing and protection” as an apologist this powerful? Do you know “the thoughts and intentions of the heart”, Mr. Slick?

But, you continue in your unrelenting and destructive distortions:

There is a saying, that the heart will not accept what the mind rejects. Though the preaching of the gospel is indeed powerful (Romans 1:16), the truth is that sometimes answering difficult questions and exposing the errors of antagonists can provide a means to more effectively presenting the gospel.  The practice of apologetics...

  • adds credibility to the speaker.
  • helps provide the right to speak the gospel to the crowd. In other words, it helps the listeners better receive what the evangelist is saying because their minds aren't turned away by the speaker's perceived incompetence.
  • quiets the objectors.”

Let’s tackle these astonishing—astonishingly arrogant—claims one by one:

Regarding “There is a saying …”: Having no biblical support, Mr. Slick appeals to anecdotes; attendant with this is the ever present “intellectual” element. Of course, there is no mention of the utter inability of the lost to understand spiritual truth (1 Cor 2.14) or of their spiritual deadness (Eph 2.1,5; Col 2.13).

Try to imagine the oxymoronic quality of the following scene, clearly implied by Mr. Slick's words:

Scene: the Judgment Seat of Christ.

The Lord says to me, “Dave, why did you side-step my gospel with your attempts at ‘pre-evangelism’ and the notion of ‘preparing and protecting’ the message of the gospel, something which I never commanded, condoned nor required? Was My simple Word not clear enough for you? Did you think that My Word alone could not do its work in the heart of the lost?”

My response: “Lord. Mr. Matt Slick of CARM.org taught me that ’There is a saying, that the heart will not accept what the mind rejects.’ Well, that sounded reasonable in the context of our intellectual culture and our need to “defend” Your truth intellectually, so that’s what I did. I’m sure you’ll understand—but if you have any concerns, please ask Mr. Matt Slick. I'm sure that he'll be willing to answer for me.”

Yeah, right…

 

Regarding “… more effectively presenting the gospel.”: Well now, the evangelistic apologist, who by definition views his work as “pre-evangelism” and “preparing and protecting” the message of the gospel would think “more highly of himself than he ought to think” (Rom 12.3), wouldn’t he? “Of course”, he boldly claims, “my methods achieve a more effective presentation of the gospel.” Of course, I could not find any mention of repentance in any CARM article on apologetics, so exactly what "gospel" do they present?

 

Regarding “adds credibility to the speaker”: My credibility to give a witness of the gospel message to the lost increases when I preface my activity with a demonstration of my apologetic “pre-evangelism” skill?

Really? Mr. Slick, where is you biblical support for this extraordinary and singularly arrogant and ignorant notion?

Mr. Slick, have you never read:

1 Cor 2.1-2
And when I came to you, brethren, I did not come with superiority of speech or of wisdom, proclaiming to you the testimony of God. For I determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified.

Paul never presumed nor desired to have “credibility” in the opinion of his hearers; he continually depended on the fact that the unadorned message of truth in the gospel was all that was needed—ever.

 

Regarding “… helps provide the right to speak the gospel …”: I guess the Lord’s command

Mat 28.19-20
Go therefore
and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”

just wasn’t adequate authority! Mr. Slick claims that the message commanded by the Lord Christ isn’t authoritative “enough” until I’ve added the cleverness of the evangelistic apologist’s approach and methodology.

 

Regarding “… helps the listeners better receive …”: I suppose that Mr. Slick has never bothered to consider the utter inability of the lost to grasp spiritual truth (1 Cor 2.14) and their spiritual deadness (Eph 2.1,5; Col 2.13).

 

Regarding “quiets the objectors.”: That’s fantastic! If I implement apologetics à la CARM, I won’t face the trouble that early disciples experienced, beginning with threats and ending with prison and death:

Act 4.21: “When they had threatened them further …”
Act 4.29: “And now, Lord, take note of their threats …”
Act 5.18: “They laid hands on the apostles and put them in a public jail.”
Act 5.33: “But when they heard this, they were cut to the quick and intended to kill them.”
Act 5.40: “They took his advice; and after calling the apostles in, they flogged them and ordered them not to speak in the name of Jesus, and then released them.”
Act 7.59: “They went on stoning Stephen as he called on the Lord and said, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit!””
Act 8.1: “ … And on that day a great persecution began against the church in Jerusalem …”
Act 9.1: “Now Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord …”
Act 12.1-2: “Now about that time Herod the king laid hands on some who belonged to the church in order to mistreat them. 2 And he had James the brother of John put to death with a sword.”
Act 12.3,5: “When he saw that it pleased the Jews, he proceeded to arrest Peter also. Now it was during the days of Unleavened Bread. … So Peter was kept in the prison, but prayer for him was being made fervently by the church to God.”
Act 14.5: “And when an attempt was made by both the Gentiles and the Jews with their rulers, to mistreat and to stone them …”
Act 14.19: “But Jews came from Antioch and Iconium, and having won over the crowds, they stoned Paul …”
Act 16.22-23: “The crowd rose up together against them, and the chief magistrates tore their robes off them and proceeded to order them to be beaten with rods. 23 When they had struck them with many blows, they threw them into prison …”
Act 17.5: “But the Jews, becoming jealous and taking along some wicked men from the market place, formed a mob and set the city in an uproar; and attacking the house of Jason …”

There are many others, of course, in both the Old and New Testaments that demonstrate the author's assertion to be bizarre and irresponsible in the extreme.

Remember 2 Cor 11 and the experiences of Paul the Apostle!

Mr. Slick: it is impossible for me to fathom how you could make such an arrogant and reckless claim! Would you really have me believe that if the early disciples (who knew much more of the Lord Christ than you demonstrate in your article!) implemented your/CARM’s recommendations that none of the above would have occurred?

Really!?!? Have you never read:

Phi 1.29-30
For to you it has been granted for Christ’s sake, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake, experiencing the same conflict which you saw in me, and now hear to be in me.

Heb 12.4
You have not yet resisted to the point of shedding blood in your striving against sin;

There is a wonderful experience Luke records that reflected the attitude of those early disciples and their exposure to trial:

Act 5.41-42
So they went on their way from the presence of the Council, rejoicing that they had been considered worthy to suffer shame for His name. And every day, in the temple and from house to house, they kept right on teaching and preaching Jesus as the Christ.

In your vision of an evangelistic, apologetic economy, Mr. Slick, you would have deprived them of a divinely appointed blessing as they were put to shame for actually preaching the gospel of repentance and the risen Lord.

I won’t waste any more time with your second illustration (second to last paragraph); it’s essentially the same tripe as the first.

I will comment on your summary paragraph, though.

“Finally, the role of apologetics is to be subservient to the preaching of the gospel.  In other words, it is the practice of preparing the listener to be more able to receive the truth of God's word in the presentation of the saving gospel of Christ.  Apologetics is not the power of God to salvation; the gospel is (Rom. 1:16).  In fact, apologetics without presenting the gospel has less value, because if you silence a person God may be vindicated and even glorified, but it doesn't mean the person is saved.  The gospel is what saves, and apologetics is the servant of the gospel message.”

Mr. Slick, why did you add this to your article? If this is the only thing that I had ever seen on your site, I would be inclined to heartily agree with you. However, given the unbounded humanism I have reviewed on your site, it’s a case of “too little too late”.

Simply stated: I don’t believe you because of your stunning hypocrisy.

How can apologetics be “subservient to the preaching of the gospel” when it must logically precede (“preparing the listener”) the gospel? You have it backwards: in your system, the gospel must be subservient to that which prepares the listener for it!

Did you write that paragraph because you felt guilty because of everything else you’ve written, espousing intellectualism to the practical exclusion of the gospel? But even there, you appear to have been unable to truly step away from the intellectualism and humanism you espouse with your "preparing ..." comment.

Your summary paragraph is nothing more or less than mere lip service to the devalued notion of a "Christian article".

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