The Humanism of Evangelistic Apologetics: Part 13.1

Review and Critique:

"An Introduction to Apologetics"
Matt Slick, June 19, 2009
https://carm.org/introduction-apologetics

[Key: direct quotes from author.]

[The Christian Apologetics & Research Ministry (CARM.org) posted the following series on apologetics on its website. Those included in my series on the rebuttal of modern evangelistic apologetics are bolded, along with one that isn’t in that outline.

The reason I chose to review and critique these individually is simple: the only fair way to critique an author is to compare what the Scripture says in full context of the reviewed author’s words. In my prior articles I presented my generalizations (which I identified as such in many places) with the promise that these generalizations would be demonstrated in context within their respective source articles.

https://carm.org/apologetics

Introduction

  • An Introduction to Apologetics
  • How to do Apologetics, an Outline
  • What is Apologetics? An Outline
  • An Illustration of what Apologetics really is
  • Are you an apologist?
  • Apologetics and the Family
  • Logical Fallacies or Fallacies in Argumentation
  • What is hate speech?

Regarding Apologetics

  • Eight reasons why we need apologetics
  • Logic in Apologetics
  • Prayer in Apologetics
  • Are there guidelines for doing apologetics?
  • Classical Apologetics
  • Presuppositional Apologetics
  • Evidential Apologetics
  • Verses to memorize
  • Apologetics Bibliography
  • Love for the Brethren: The Forgotten Apologetic

Other

  • Did Paul quote pagan philosophers?
  • What are some of the dangers of apologetics?

Arguments for God's Existence

  • The Cosmological Argument
  • Another look at the Cosmological Argument
  • The Teleological Argument
  • The Moral Argument
  • The Ontological Argument

]

After starting with the frequently misused reference to 1 Pet 3.15, Mr. Slick presents this definition and intro:

"Apologetics is the work of convincing people to change their views."

Therefore, Christian apologetics is that branch of Christianity that deals with answering any and all critics who oppose or question the revelation of God in Christ and the Bible. It can include studying such subjects as biblical manuscript transmission, philosophy, biology, mathematics, evolution, and logic. But it can also consist of simply giving an answer to a question about Jesus or a Bible passage. The latter case is by far the most common and you don’t have to read a ton of books to do that.

Apologetics can be defensive and offensive.  Phil. 1:7 gives us instruction on the defensive side, "For it is only right for me to feel this way about you all, because I have you in my heart, since both in my imprisonment and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel, you all are partakers of grace with me."  2 Cor. 10:5 gives us instruction on the offensive side: "We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ."  The apologist can and should defend his reasons for believing (1 Peter 3:15). But he can also go on the attack. He can seek out those who oppose Christianity (2 Corinthians 10:5). Of course, he should be prepared to do this beforehand, and all apologetics is to be done with gentleness.

Apologetics is the work of convincing people to change their views.  In this, it is similar to preaching because its goal is ultimately the defense and presentation of the validity and necessity of the gospel. It is an attempt to persuade the listener to change his beliefs and life to conform to biblical truth and to come to a saving relationship in Christ.

 

"Apologetics is the work …”
The lost (natural) man is spiritually dead and unable to come to any spiritual understanding ( Eph 2.1,5; Col 2.13; 1 Cor 2.14); therefore, any overt attempt to “convince people …” is futile. The Lord’s command is simply to preach the gospel; if He is pleased to work, He will and the lost person will be turned to repentance and faith through the word of the simple gospel. The reception of the gospel by the lost is not a matter of human intellect or understanding, and certainly not a matter of the attempts by the Christian to somehow “reason” the lost into the kingdom; it is a result of the birth from above.

 

Christian apologetics is that branch …”
This could be taken as a general definition of any branch of any discipline of apologetics, secular or sacred. But, within the context of evangelism (which is the context established here by Mr. Slick), this definition becomes unbiblical. His cited text, 1 Pet 3.15, says absolutely nothing of “biblical manuscript transmission, philosophy, biology, mathematics, evolution, and logic”. The context of 1 Pet 3.15 is to defend “the hope that is in [the Christian]” experiencing trials for their faith. So, if Mr. Slick wants to define evangelistic apologetics as he does, he does so without the Bible’s support; in fact, it is an unmitigated distortion of the Scripture.

 

“… he can also go on the attack. He can seek out …”
Mr. Slick’s use of 2 Cor 10.5 is completely out of context. He would have us believe that this verse gives the Christian license to “seek out” and “go on the attack” of those who “oppose Christianity”. However, as I showed here, that is not what Paul said. The issue at Corinth was that false apostles had infected the assembly; their distorting and destructive influence demanded that Paul deal with them before they essentially destroyed the assembly. The context says nothing of the general use of the “attack” strategy in an evangelistic context with the lost generally (as Mr. Slick teaches). Mr. Slick needs to review 2 Cor 10 through the end of the book to learn its true context. His use of 2 Cor 10.5 is as irresponsible and wrong in the context of evangelism.

 

“… all apologetics is to be done with gentleness …”
Hmmm… a “gentle attack”? This sounds to me like an oxymoron. After his immediately preceding statements [“go on the attack”], this appears to be a rather hollow caution. As I showed here, the response Peter commands in 1 Pet 3 is reactive, submissive and humble, but that is as far as the similarity of language goes.

 

“… the defense and presentation of the validity and necessity of the gospel …”
I take no issue with Mr. Slick about his (general) description of the gospel as being necessary; as I pointed out here, the Lord Christ and the Apostle Paul considered it absolutely premier in the believer’s approach to the lost.

I take strong issue, however, with his phrase of “validity of the gospel”.

“Valid” in the eyes of whom? The unbeliever!?!?

Given that the lost is completely beyond even the possibility of any natural understanding of spiritual truth, he/she will always view the gospel as lacking, invalid, powerless and useless. It is their lost nature to do so and can’t be otherwise. And, that same lost nature will ensure that their understanding remains blind to spiritual truth until the Holy Spirit gifts them the “birth from above”. Any attempt to side-step this truth is futile and becomes essentially the promulgation of another gospel that presumes to be able to reach the lost through their intellect.

 

“… come to a saving relationship in Christ …”
If by this phrase, Mr. Slick means “repentance”, then I agree that this should be the goal. However, I am unable to grant this “benefit of the doubt” since the words “repent” or “repentance” don’t occur in this (first in a series) article. I believe that it is significant that when the Lord Christ began His ministry, the first sermon (recorded in Mat 4.17) was very simple: Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”

[I have observed nearly universally this simple message of repentance lacking in articles by modern evangelistic apologists.]

In that simple statement of “Repent …”, where is the mention—or even an inference—that the Lord first established either the necessity or validity of the gospel before He began to preach?

[The same may also be said of the sermon Paul preached to the Athenians in Act 17 and of the other examples in the earlier chapters of Acts. If ever the "validity" of the gospel should have been established before the actual preaching of the gospel, it would have been with the polytheists at Athens.]

In the next section of his intro article, Mr. Slick introduces the concepts of “evidential (classical)” and “presuppositional” approaches to apologetics. This is all well and good—if one accepts the basic premise that there really is a biblically-defensible discipline of “evangelistic apologetics” in the first place. As I’ve shown in this series, these distinctions become moot given that his definition is, in fact, useless because it is biblically unsupported.

Mr. Slick continues with a series of "provocative" (?) questions:

Some areas of debate within Christian apologetics deal with the use of evidence, reason, philosophy, etc. Should the apologist use only those criteria acceptable to unbelievers? Are we allowed to use the Bible as a defense of our position, or must we prove Christianity without it? Is reason alone sufficient to prove God's existence or Christianity’s truth? How much should reason and evidence be used in light of the Scriptures' teaching that it is God who opens the mind to understand? What part does prayer, using the Bible, and the sinful nature of the unbeliever play in witnessing? How do these factors interrelate to bring an unbeliever to faith? The questions are easy. The answers are not.

The following questions (in summary form) are completely invalid and serve double duty as Bible-distorting and useless:

  • Should the apologist use only those criteria acceptable to unbelievers?
  • Are we allowed to use the Bible as a defense of our position, or must we prove Christianity without it?
  • Is reason alone sufficient to prove God's existence or Christianity’s truth?
  • How much should reason and evidence be used in light of the Scriptures' teaching that it is God who opens the mind to understand?
  • What part does prayer, using the Bible, and the sinful nature of the unbeliever play in witnessing?

The implicit context of most of this reasoning is that somehow the gospel and everything related to it (its purpose, its message, its call to repentance, its source, etc.) must be rationally acceptable to the mind of the lost person to whom that gospel is to be preached!

What type of standard is Mr. Slick attempting to set here?

Did the Lord Christ really call the evangelist to accommodate his/her approach to only that which is palatable and intellectually acceptable to the lost? Where, in the entire Bible, is there even a hint that we are to “prove Christianity”? Or “God’s existence”? Or “Christianity’s truth”? Or to justify in any way our responsibility to preach the gospel?

These “questions” are nothing more than nonsense “writ large” in a form intended to be thought-provoking; in reality, they are a sham, verbal sewage, not worth the time to read.

[And, unfortunately, can't be "unread" in an attempt to purge one's mind of this hellish logic.]

When Mr. Slick gets to “in light of …”, it becomes apparent that either he has never read or understood these amazing verses:

Eph 2.8-9
For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.

“Reason”, or the ability of the lost to accept or even understand the truth in the first place, is not found in this majestic declaration! The work of salvation is the Lord's who alone sovereignly works faith in the lost! If a so-called evangelistic does not accept the sovereign work of God “by grace … through faith”, then all he/she has left is the humanism of evangelistic apologetics (which is neither evangelism nor apologetics).

Using the same principle as the Lord reveals here ...

Mat 11.20-22
Then He began to denounce the cities in which most of His miracles were done, because they did not repent. “Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the miracles had occurred in Tyre and Sidon which occurred in you, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. Nevertheless I say to you, it will be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon in the day of judgment than for you."

... it would be much better in The Day if that evangelist never spoke to another person regarding salvation if this humanistic drivel is all he/she has to present.

[Stated another way: the humanistic approach of the evangelistic apologist clearly tells us that this "evangelist" does not accept the sovereign grace of the Lord in the heart of the lost.]

It is interesting that Mr. Slick mentions the “sinful nature” of the lost, but I confess that it seems like an afterthought. Permit me just a bit of sarcasm to paraphrase the above:

“Well, let’s see: I’ve told the lost person all he/she needs to know of Bible manuscripts, philosophy, etc., being careful to cast everything into a form agreeable to him/her. So, am I overlooking anything here? I wonder if I need to consider or compensate for the fact that the person to whom I’m speaking is sinful and utterly unable, naturally, to understand the spiritual truth I share? Does this or should this really make a difference? Oh, and what about prayer? Lots of good questions, but I’ll leave the answers for another time and simply proceed with my distorted view of apologetics and evangelism. After all, my rationalistic approach is what I’m supposed to use, right?”

I think that Mr. Slick’s attempt to make thought-provoking statements is an epic fail.

“The questions are easy. The answers are not.”

Yes, the questions are easy—easy, useless, empty, insipid, vapid, idiotic, meaningless ...

Need I go on?

The answers are difficult only if you have an unbiblical framework to defend (namely, evangelistic apologetics) in spite of the overwhelming biblical evidence against it and no biblical support for it.

Assuming that he made the case that study in and of apologetic material has been shown to be necessary to be ready to address the lost (which he most assuredly has not!), Mr. Slick then asks this question to introduce the last three paragraphs of this article:

“What do you study?”

I want to focus on the last two paragraphs:

“Another way to find out what God wants you to study is through circumstances. Let’s say that a Jehovah’s Witness comes to your door and debates the deity of Christ with you, and you find you don’t know how to defend it biblically.  In that case, you know you need to study biblical verses that teach Jesus is God in flesh. Or maybe a coworker asks you how you know the Bible is true? If you don’t have an answer, pray, and start researching.  Go to a Christian bookstore and get some books on the subject. Talk to your pastor. You’ll learn.

Sometimes God will make a verse or subject in the Bible "come alive" to you, and it might strike you as odd or interesting.  You could get a commentary and read up on it. You could ask others about it.  In so doing, you are preparing yourself through learning to be ready to answer questions and point people to the truth.  You'd be surprised how many details God can use to help you in your witness even through those apparently odd times when verses suddenly "come alive."”

I actually agree with Mr. Slick in these concluding remarks. Absolutely the Christian should learn more of the Bible to be as effective as possible in his/her witness to the lost. This need is amplified when dealing with persons deceived by the cults and established "mega-religions" (think Roman Catholicism here). Mr. Slick’s advice for the Christian attempting a witness with a cult member to learn what the Bible says on that topic/doctrine/etc. is good to the extent to which he directs that Christian to a greater study of the Word.

However, these recommendations simply are inconsistent with the rest of the article and as a result are hollow since he contradicts himself quite capably!

Where is the application to “biblical manuscript transmission, philosophy, biology, mathematics, evolution, and logic” he espoused at the opening of his introduction article? Was Mr. Slick's summary a "Freudian slip" or the pangs of a guilty conscience?

The Christian will never go wrong learning the Word deeply, consistently, thoroughly, humbly.

Conversely, he/she will be frustrated in any attempt that recommends and/or implements a primarily humanistic approach (e.g., using extra-biblical information) to witness to the lost. In short, humanistic apologist, you deserve the ultimate failure you will experience.

But, beware, in your careless disobedience you also consign the lost to eternal judgment by your powerless and deceptive message of intellectualism. You may be sure that the Lord will not overlook that in The Day.

2 Tim 4.2
preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction.

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