The Humanism of Evangelistic Apologetics: Part 13.8

Review and Critique:

"What is the Relationship Between Apologetics and Evangelism?"
Author not listed

[Key: direct quotes from author.]

This is a very short article consisting of 5 bullets points and their associated details, and is presented in the context of evangelism. Since the total article is so short, I reproduce each point below with my review.

Difference 1: Evangelism is telling others the gospel. Apologetics is defending the truth of the Christian faith.”

Difference 2: Apologetics addresses everything from the existence of God to the reliability of the Old and New Testaments. In contrast, evangelism is telling one specific message: the good news about what Jesus Christ has done in order to save sinners.”

Difference 3: Another difference between apologetics and evangelism is that apologetics usually requires some level of intellectual sophistication. Apologetics can involve logical arguments, historical debates, philosophical discussions, interpretive disputes, and more. On the other hand, evangelism is simply telling others the message about Jesus Christ. That’s something every Christian—even a brand new Christian—should be able to do.”

 “The link: However, the two can be closely linked. Apologetic conversations can lead to good opportunities to share the gospel. And evangelistic conversations will often lead to apologetics when non-Christians respond with questions or criticisms that require a reasoned response.”

Let’s handle the first four points together.

What’s lacking here is the biblical justification for apologetics (defined here as “defending the truth of the Christian faith”) in the first place, in close proximity with sharing the gospel. As I’ve shown clearly in this series, there is no NT example of this definition of apologetics anywhere in the NT.

As the link immediately above shows, the only biblical, legitimate definition of apologetics is the defense of the faith against false teachers within the assembly (specifically) or the Christian community (generally). I challenge 9 Marks to show me even a single example of the Lord Christ, Paul, Peter, John, etc., actually defending the “reliability of the Old Testament”, “historical debates”, “philosophical discussions” and the like.

No, the early disciples focused on one message, and one message alone: the gospel of the electing grace of God that leads lost people to repentance and faith. The Lord’s commission to his disciples in Matthew 28 did not include the charge to “defend the faith”; it was to “go and make disciples”!

The issue here is not that there are no venues in which the types of conversations proposed here may take place; there are.

[The Institute for Creation Research is a very good example of just such work.]

The issue is that, far too frequently, the “evangelist” attempts to lay the “groundwork” (a concept that appears in pretty much every article on apologetics I’ve seen) by means of his/her apologetics, with the hope that it will lead to a good opportunity to present the gospel.

This is the definition of foolishness!

In my early attempts at sharing the gospel (during and fresh out of Bible college), I was frustrated by this approach. Each time I tried it, there was no traction to get on the path to the truth. The lost person to whom I spoke left the conversation just as lost as when I began speaking with them, even after I had shared my “brilliant” proofs of the existence of God, the reliability of the Bible, etc. They continued to resist, even though to do so was intellectually unreasonable on their part.

The fact is, those attempts then, and all attempts made by the modern evangelistic apologist now, are essentially doomed to fail. Why? Because Christians were never commissioned to “defend the faith” to the lost—we were commanded by the Lord Christ Himself to bring the gospel to a lost world.

And this is the real issue, isn’t it? Especially in our modern, intellectual culture my observation is that Christians are (probably secretly?) afraid that the simple message of the gospel won’t be enough, that they’ll be ridiculed and regarded as a second-rate intelligence, a people unworthy of any real credibility—mere primates that are useful only as objects of intellectual pity by an "advanced culture".

That certainly was not the disposition of the Apostle Paul:

1 Cor 15.3-4
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

Paul had one message: the gospel of Christ, and to him it was preeminent, outshining anything else he could present.

Evangelist! Do you not long for this real experience:

1 Cor 2.1-5
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. I was with you in weakness and in fear and in much trembling, and my message and my preaching were not in persuasive words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith would not rest on the wisdom of men, but on the power of God.

Evangelist! Have you obtained this kind of power and persuasion with your feeble and humanistic “logic, reason, historical and philosophical debate and discussion, Bible manuscript review”, and all other such decaying tripe? Of course not! And you never will, as long as you hold anything else of higher value—or even as an essentially equivalent tool—for winning the lost. The Lord never promised to bless your intellectual attempts to “persuade the lost”; He has promised to bless His word alone, which is effectual and powerful:

Isa 55.11
So will My word be which goes forth from My mouth; it will not return to Me empty, without accomplishing what I desire, and without succeeding in the matter for which I sent it.

In those cases in which “Apologetic conversations can lead to good opportunities to share the gospel.”, be assured that the Lord worked in spite of your feeble attempts rather than because of them.

Have you forgotten this majestic statement:

Isa 48.11
For My own sake, for My own sake, I will act; for how can My name be profaned? And My glory I will not give to another.

The Lord is properly glorified when He leads sinners to Himself through the message faithfully brought to the lost by His people as He commanded.

Apologist! Do you think that you can “reason” someone into the Kingdom? Have you forgotten that the lost person with whom you are sharing all your “proofs of the faith” is spiritually dead (Eph 2.1,5; Col 2.13) and utterly unable to understand in any manner any and all spiritual truth (1 Cor 2.14). Why, then, do you labor in the “intellectual field” with a dead person? How is that dead, lost person even able to understand the smallest Bible truth, then—magically and suddenly—become spiritually alive and agree to and accept the truth of the gospel?

It won’t and can’t happen that way!

Only when that lost person has been gifted with the birth from above will he/she actually be able to respond—and by the Lord’s own design, that response will be to the gospel alone!

The battle for the mind and spirit of the lost person is not an intellectual one!

The effectual and majestic work of the truth of the gospel begins only when that lost person becomes alive through the electing grace of God and the power of the Spirit of God. And, yes, part of the electing grace is the fact that you, the faithful servant, were sent to the lost and faithfully and humbly shared the message of the gospel with the lost. You are the messenger of the truth, not the genesis of a carefully reasoned, spiritual “aha!” experience engendered within the lost.

Have your forgotten this text, written by someone who knows a lot more than you do about preaching to the lost:

1 Cor 3.5-7
What then is Apollos? And what is Paul? Servants through whom you believed, even as the Lord gave opportunity to each one. I planted, Apollos watered, but God was causing the growth. So then neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but God who causes the growth.

The author’s last point starts in the right direction, but is still self-serving:

Bottom line: So, while Christians shouldn’t let apologetics distract us from sharing the gospel, we should also work to be ready to give an answer to anyone who asks us about the hope that is in us (1 Pet. 3:15).”

Yes, while I heartily agree that apologetics should not be allowed to “distract” us from our real work, the clear inference in this statement is that apologetics is nevertheless valid as long as it doesn’t "distract" us. I reject that premise in this series; apologetics has no place in evangelism and all-to-frequently devolves into “another gospel”!

At least this author didn’t misquote 1 Pet 3.15: Peter’s command really is to defend the hope that is within us” rather than defend the “basis of the faith” that we have. (So far, this is the only time I’ve seen a modern author actually quote this text accurately.) The caveat is that the reader is still left with the inference that apologetics, rightly applied (whatever that may mean by this author) still has a place in evangelism.

It does not and never will.

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