The Humanism of Evangelistic Apologetics: Part 13.9b

Review and Critique:

"Why use Apologetics for Evangelism?"
Responses by Dr. Jonathan Sarfati

Part 2 of 2

[Key: direct quotes from author.]

In part 1, I critiqued the exchanges between K.R. and Dr. Sarfati through the first six. As I ended part 1, I was so stunned by the irresponsibility and the truly grotesque and devilish reasoning proffered by Dr. Sarfati (to another questioner) that I felt the necessity of dealing with it here separately in depth.


Exchange 7:

Dr. Sarfati
Here is an answer to another anti-apologetics fideist.

Questioner [the link to whoever this questioner was is no longer active]
Paul makes this clear in 1 Corinthians 2:1–2, ‘And I, brethren, when I came to you, came not with excellency of speech or of wisdom, declaring unto you the testimony of God. For I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified.’ Paul recognized that only the Gospel, not his wisdom of general revelation or anything else, is necessary for salvation and the only thing necessary to preach.

Dr. Sarfati
This is a fallacious low-context view of this passage.
However, the Bible was written in a high-context society. That is, its members ‘presume a broadly shared, well-understood, or “high” knowledge of the context of anything referred to in conversation or in writing’. The authors wrote to intended readers with a certain background and expected them to be able to ‘fill in the gap’. There was no need to explain things in depth if they all had a shared, background knowledge. Conversely, we in the modern West are a ‘low-context’ society, and expect the context to be spelt out to us: ‘The obvious problem this creates for reading the biblical writings today is that low-context readers in the United States frequently mistake the biblical writings for low-context documents. They erroneously assume that the author has provided all of the contextual information needed to understand it.’ We must read the Bible according to the author’s intention and not impose 21st-century thought forms on this.

In this case, you are reading the passage as a modern low-context letter and failing to recognize Paul’s intentional rhetorical brevity in a high-context setting. Paul did not simply ring the doorbell at Corinth and stand there mumbling, ‘Jesus Christ and him crucified’ over and over again, like a magical Hindu mantra! Rather, he had already preached to them much earlier (1 Cor. 15) and laid down the groundwork, especially about who this Jesus Christ is. This would certainly have included the groundwork of the type he explained on Mars Hill (Acts 17), where he explained that God is creator, man is a sinner, and can be saved only through Jesus who rose from the dead. In fact, Jesus Christ and Him crucified was just an abbreviated way of saying what Paul explained in more detail in ch. 15, which explicitly talks about the first Adam and the death he brought.

As I’ve presented in this series, the unknown Questioner was spot on with his point that applies the principle of 1 Cor 2.1-2.

Dr. Sarfati’s reply is as destructively creative as it is unbiblical!

“High-context”“low context”really!?!?

The quality and legitimacy of this reasoning can be found only under the rocks in Hades, along with all other anti-biblical slime and refuse!

Dr. Sarfati, your argumentation is appalling!

Dr. Sarfati, you dodged the question because you clearly avoided the K.R.’s point with a language designed to appear erudite (maybe-kinda-sorta-in-a-parallel-reality-Twilight-Zone-alternate-universe-wrong-headed-sort-of-way). I must say, this passage came to mind when I observed of your treatment of the Word:

1 Tim 1.5-7
But the goal of our instruction is love from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith. 6 For some men, straying from these things, have turned aside to fruitless discussion, wanting to be teachers of the Law, even though they do not understand either what they are saying or the matters about which they make confident assertions.

I’ll deal with the inconsistency of your reply in the context of Paul’s sermon on Mars Hill (which is where the next exchange takes us), but for now let’s examine these extraordinary (extraordinarily irresponsible and biblically-destructive!) claims made by Dr. Sarfati.

In the first paragraph of his reply, Dr. Sarfati makes the very valid point that all Bible content has its proper context; with this general principle I heartily agree. However, when Dr. Sarfati makes the leap into his “high-context/low-context” claims, he obviously and conveniently forgot what he just wrote as he wandered into the weeds of nonsense.

So, what is the context of 1 Cor 2.1-2?

Well, this would be a pretty good start:

1 Cor 1.26-31
For consider your calling, brethren, that there were not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble; but God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the things which are strong, and the base things of the world and the despised God has chosen, the things that are not, so that He may nullify the things that are, so that no man may boast before God. But by His doing you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification, and redemption, so that, just as it is written, “Let him who boasts, boast in the Lord.”

The Holy Spirit, speaking through the Apostle, clearly teaches us that the Lord called the Corinthians by His grace (“by His doing …”), not because of their intelligence, position in life, wealth, or any other human quality. Any boast that could be made would be made in the Lord alone.

Also, Dr. Sarfati, did you not notice those first few words quoted by the Questioner:

“And when I came to you, brethren,”

“When I came to you …”!

My question, Dr. Sarfati, is exactly how were these Gentiles made into a “high-context” culture at the time Paul first approached them with the gospel (“When I came to you …”)? Your claim is not only laughable, it is monumentally incomprehensible and stupid! Your approach at sarcasm

“Paul did not simply ring the doorbell at Corinth and stand there mumbling, ‘Jesus Christ and him crucified’ over and over again …”

only betrays the notion that you had no biblical answer!

Of course that isn’t what he did!

Nevertheless, the Holy Spirit’s characterization (through Paul) of the message was simple and direct: “Jesus Christ, and Him crucified …”. You, for all intents and purposes, ridicule the simplicity of that message by daring to suggest that the Corinthians already had a full-blown biblical context available to them:

“The authors wrote to intended readers with a certain background and expected them to be able to ‘fill in the gap’”

How would it be possible for me to regard your ridicule of the questioner as showing anything other than an unfiltered and unmitigated disdain for the true gospel of grace—and anyone bold enough to disagree with you? You mock the Spirit of God by your sarcasm, and don't fear? What type of "Christian" does that make you?

I think that you should spend some time in the light of this verse:

Isa 5.20
Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil;
Who substitute darkness for light and light for darkness;
Who substitute bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter!

Is this really the message that you, and by association,, want to present to the world?

Did the questioner invade your "safe space" with those pesky questions from the Bible?


Exchanges 8 & 9:

[It appears that this exchange is now back to K.R. rather than the unnamed questioner.]

Yet [your ministry] often touts Paul’s Mars Hill sermon as ‘presuppositional apologetics,’ but in reality Paul delivered a message completely devoid of apologetics.

Not at all. He connected with a point in their culture, the unknown God, and even reasoned from one of their own poet’s sayings.

He simply told them the truth from Scripture: God is the one true god and creator, not pagan Gods, and His son rose from the dead.
This is a far cry from delving into complex aspects of general revelation, which, as you already mentioned, only makes sense if you interpret them through a presupposition that results only from understanding special revelation—the Bible!

But this is exactly what Paul did! There was a clear difference between Paul’s preaching in Acts 17 to the Gentiles and Peter’s preaching to the Jews in Acts 2. Indeed, our society is often even further from the truth than the Greeks on Mars Hill. That is, the Greeks were prepared to hear Paul out, in contrast with liberal universities, evolutionary journals and activist courts trying to shut Christianity out of public life.

I was very pleased to see K.R. appeal to the example of Paul’s sermon in Athens to the Greeks (it was, after all, a very logical next step in the reasoning and discussion between them). If ever there was a society of listeners devoid of any biblical foundation (“low-context”), it would have been the Gentiles in Athens. Paul was in the very center of the humanism and intellectualism of his day.

K.R. is absolutely correct in maintaining that “Paul delivered a message completely devoid of apologetics”, as I’ve shown here. He also pointed out your illogic and inconsistency when he reminded you of your presuppositions of a prior Bible knowledge (which you referred to earlier as “high-context”).

Dr. Sarfati’s response was pretty standard (and worn out, even) for the evangelistic apologist:

In the first place, neither of these could be considered by any stretch an apologetic. How is either a “defense of the faith” (a phrase that you have used in this article) if a mention of “the faith” was not even made by the secularist Greeks of your example? Is it even possible—does it even make sense—that any secular, polytheistic reasoning could ever become an apologetic?

This is a spectacular example of careless illogic leading to an equally spectacular non-sequitur.

Again, K.R. is spot on: “He simply told them the truth from Scripture …”. Of course, if you rejected K.R.’s argument, I suspect you’ll reject mine as well; but here it is anyway (I’m quoting myself):

“But, there is a much more important observation to make, since Mr. Turner appears to have “missed the forest for the trees”: the sheer scope of the Bible to which Paul appeals to these “pagans”. If you had actually studied the sermon, you’d have found that Paul either quotes or paraphrases at least 50 different texts! Paul preached a gospel message—nothing more, nothing less!”

In view of this biblical fact, Dr. Sarfati, your argument

“There was a clear difference between Paul’s preaching in Acts 17 to the Gentiles and Peter’s preaching to the Jews in Acts 2.”

falls flat. Both were filled with Scripture; both presented the gospel of grace, both were blessed by the Lord and led to the salvation of the lost.

To what difference were you appealing?

And, even conceding that Paul preached to Gentiles and Peter to Jews, so what!?!? You have missed this principle (in a context of preaching):

Phi 1.18
What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed; and in this I rejoice.

Dr. Sarfati: how could you go so far astray from solid Bible?

The only reason that I can surmise—from your own words—is that you are so fully vested in an agenda, your narrative of apologetics, that you simply must reject anything that contradicts or challenges your position. And this, sadly, applies even if doing so means distorting Scripture!

I would have expected better from