Rod Dreher’s new book, Live Not By Lies: A Manual for Christian Dissidents, includes many stories of Christians who survived life under the communist regime of the Soviet Union. One of those families, the Bendas, who lived in the Czech half of the communist Czechoslovakia, modeled Christian resistance through family unity, radical hospitality, and by placing a higher value on faithfulness than their own political freedom.
One of the things the mother, Kamila Benda, did, in addition to her role of teaching at a nearby university, was to read to her six children several hours every day (yes, several hours!). One of their favorite books was J. R. R. Tolkien’s trilogy, The Lord of the Rings, because, as she recounts, “we knew Mordor was real. We felt that their story”—that of the hobbits and others resisting the evil Sauron—“was our story too. Tolkien’s dragons are more realistic than a lot of things we have in this world.”
For those who are not familiar with the storyline of the Lord of the Rings, Mordor is the land of Sauron, the embodiment of evil trying to take over and dominate Middle Earth. Tolkien drew from the evil and destruction of communism and fascism to imagine a force that sought to bring everything into subjection to its control. In the novels, therefore, Mordor represents the enemy of dignity, freedom, and life.
Live Not By Lies is a warning to the West and a call to Christians. It warns that many of the social and political trends in the West that increasingly curtail freedoms also happened under communism in the Soviet Union. Dreher interviews many older Eastern Europeans who are genuinely alarmed at the changes in America and Europe. More importantly, the book is a call to Christians to understand that individualism, big-box churches, and “my house is my castle” lifestyle will not sustain believers under totalitarianism.
We have much to learn from our brothers and sisters who suffered under genuine oppression and persecution in the Soviet system, something I began to learn more than twenty years ago during my first teaching trip to Ukraine. To survive the persecution coming from increased surveillance, the LGBT+ lobby, intolerance, and secularism, we will have to change our way of life. We will need communities of Christians to share life together, strengthen one another, and perpetuate our faith to the next generation, as we stand in opposition to the ideology forced upon us.
The church can and will survive under any amount of pressure, but only if believers faithfully teach and live courageously. Live Not By Lies may very well become the manual for Christian dissidents within the next decade.
This post is not going to go the way you think it will, so please read to the end.
If I am guilty of something merely because I am white, there is no redemption for me. I cannot stop being white.
Now, I know that those who use the phrase “white guilt” often mean not just (or not primarily) the color of my skin, but the privilege that goes with it (something to be addressed in a future post). But the heart of white guilt is the idea that if I am white, then I must have sinned in some way connected to my skin color, most likely (say some) in a racist way against a black person. And while technically my guilt arises out of privilege, many people are getting the less nuanced message that it arises out if skin color.
This fits well the narrative promoted by those who subscribe to Critical Race Theory and intersectionality (also to be addressed in a future post). It does not, however, fit the Christian narrative. I will say this many times over subsequent posts: This present national crisis is going to reveal how many professing Christians have either drifted into a Marxist worldview on the left or Individualistic worldview on the right. And it should challenge us to seek out a distinctly Christian worldview as a third way between the other two.
I’m riddled with shame. White shame. This isn’t helpful to me or to anyone, especially people of color. I feel like there is no “me” outside of my white/upper middle class/cisgender identity. I feel like my literal existence hurts people, like I’m always taking up space that should belong to someone else…I’m curled up in a ball of shame.
Their answer to this tormented soul? “Every white person should be ashamed of that injustice [the privilege whiteness afforded]. Which is different than being ashamed of being white.” The solutions given are various works of penance: becoming an ally, expressing anguish, relinquishing privilege. In other words, law.
This is what we might call ontological guilt, culpability and shame for your very nature. It is distinctly not a Christian view of guilt. God declared his creation of man and woman to be ‘very good’ because they were made in his image. The image of God is what gives us our inherent dignity. Ontological guilt, then, is not Christian. There is no redemption for ontological guilt. There is no good news.
In the Bible guilt is always connected to thoughts, words, or actions. This is what we call moral guilt. I am guilty when I do something I should not do or fail to do something I should do. Guilt is primarily in relation to God, and only secondarily in relation to others (Psa. 51:4). I become guilty when I break God’s law or erect idols in my heart. The gospel is the good news that because of Christ’s atoning work on the cross. By repentance my moral transgressions can be forgiven, and I can be made clean.
So, if I am not guilty because of my whiteness, am I still automatically guilty of racism because I am white? Automatically? No, but I should not dismiss the notion that I have committed an act or thought of racism just because none comes to mind in a quick review of my sins. David asked God to search his heart to see if there was any wickedness in him (Psa. 139:23-4) because sins can remain hidden (Psa. 19:12).
Perhaps every white Christian should ask God to search his heart for hidden preference, favor, hatred, or injustice toward people based on ethnic differences. So should every black, Asian, Latino, and other believer regardless of his ethnicity. We should also do this based on economic status (James 2:1-13), class, education, or any other difference. No discrimination is acceptable to God. He hates unjust treatment of others (Prov. 20:23). We should ask ourselves hard questions like:
Am I friendlier to people of certain ethnicities than to others when I encounter them?
Am I more willing to help people of certain ethnicities than others?
Do I care about the injustices experienced by people of certain ethnicities more than others?
Do I pray for and work to minister to people in need regardless of their ethnicity?
Do I care about the well-being of people of other ethnicities as much as I do those who look like me?
These are just a few of the many questions we can ask God to search our hearts. We may find after doing this that God reveals some prejudices. If so, we should experience shame and grief for our sin that leads us to repentance. And if we have sinned against another person as a result of these heart attitudes we should seek out their forgiveness.
It would be awful to be guilty simply because of my skin color. It would be anguish to know that there is nothing I could do to escape condemnation simply for who I am and not for anything I have done.
This is exactly the position in which many black people find themselves. It is hard for me to understand that until I listen to their stories. Because many white people are insulated from close relationships with black people they may not be aware of this. I presently live in the whitest place I have ever lived. I have never known what it is like to be pulled over by a policeman for no apparent reason. I don’t know what it is like to be called names for my melanin. I have never been afraid to walk through a nice neighborhood because I am white.
A black friend from the West Coast told me yesterday that he was harassed for his ethnicity this week. One of his sons is a mechanical engineer in his 20’s and has been pulled over a dozen times in the last year on his way home from work. Many other compelling and heartbreaking stories have been told. Are we listening?
I am well aware as a theologian that the root problem is sin in the heart. You cannot legislate or educate hatred out of the heart. Most African American spokespeople do not assume we can. This raises the issue to be addressed later of what can be done, not just in human hearts, but in police training, the justice system, and other realms.
But before we go there, I ask myself and my white friends, are we willing to listen to the stories of those who have been harassed and mistreated merely for who they are? Will we weep with those who weep and resist evil when we see it?
The last few weeks have been a time of national agony. Agony for all who saw the video of the last eight minutes of George Floyd’s life and found themselves short of breath in sympathetic response. Agony for African Americans in seeing another brother needlessly killed. Agony for whites who have been told they bear guilt for being who they are. I have heard all three expressed.
The challenge of this national agony is that ideological groups are parasitically attaching themselves to a genuine act of injustice. This partially explains the angst that many feel about the situation. Protests were overshadowed by rioting in the first week after the incident. Genuine efforts at righting injustice were hijacked by Antifa and other radical organizations pushing a more sinister agenda. Constructive attempts to change problematic structures and institutions were drowned out by unrealistic and extreme solutions more fit for a full-scale revolution.
Left and Right are quickly drawing up lines and digging in. For Christians, however, this ought to be a time where a distinctly Christian third way is proclaimed. We dare not fall into uncritical acceptance of political or ideological answers from either side.
The error from the right will be a refusal to acknowledge any racial disparities in encounters with police and how those disparities shape a community’s despairing attitudes toward law enforcement. If we aren’t guarding ourselves from errors on the right, we might gaslight some of our brothers and sisters and not be able to commiserate with them like the Bible commands, “weep with those who weep” (Rom. 12:15). They will not feel like we are hearing them, which will in turn lead to alienation from them. It will also keep us blind to injustices that the Bible says we ought to expose: “And do not participate in the unfruitful deeds of darkness, but instead even expose them” (Eph. 5:11).
The error from the left includes ideologies like Critical Race Theory and intersectionality that are at odds with the gospel and that frame many people’s thinking about these events. These ideologies reflect materialistic worldviews that view all of life through the prism of racial identity and power relations. They tend to produce blanket condemnations of law enforcement that are not fair to the vast majority of officers that are serving our communities well and that abhor police misconduct as much as we do. Some people use such ideologies to justify the rioting and looting that have undermined the aims of peaceful protestors around the country.
In the coming days I hope to untangle the issue of injustice from the barnacle-like parasites that have attached themselves to this critical issue and present a Christian third way that gleans the wisdom from left and right while avoiding their errors.
Next up tomorrow: If I Am Guilty for Who I Am, the Gospel Is of No Benefit.
The hardest part of a gospel conversation for me is the transition from small talk or general conversation to spiritual matters. Once the conversation gets spiritual, I feel comfortable. I have known people with the opposite skills. Some make the transition seem easy, but then stumble and fumble when the objections to Christianity come.
As I have been going through my battle with cancer over the last six months, I have felt burdened about the doctors, nurses, physician assistants, nurse practitioners, and patient assistants that I have encountered. I have felt moments of defeat when I could not think of any way to naturally turn conversations to spiritual matters. I have also experienced opened doors through a few simple questions that encouraged surprising conversations. You can read more about the power of questions in my book, Every Believer Confident: Apologetics for the Ordinary Christian.
#1 Ask, “How Has Suffering Affected Your Beliefs?”
If you are talking to a Health Care Provider (HCP) who sees suffering up close, you can ask a question like, “Has your experience caring for suffering people moved you toward a belief in God or away from belief in God?” Now, not all HCP see suffering up close. Others, however, see it every day. My daughter is an ICU nurse and sees intense suffering every shift. I have found, however, that even those HCP who do not see suffering up close can be challenged with this question. I asked a top oncologist at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania this question, and he admitted he had never really thought about it. However, the question sparked a fruitful conversation about spiritual matters for ten minutes.
#2 Ask, “How Can I Pray for You?”
You can ask, “How can I pray for you while I am laying here in this hospital bed?” My mother-in-law suggested this one and I have found it is a good, non-threatening way to bring up spiritual issues when you don’t know what else to say. Some surprising conversations can arise from this simple question.
#3 Bring a Book with an Interesting Title
Bring a book with you that has a provocative title. Most HCP are used to seeing patients glued to their phones, so I have found many will ask me what I am reading if I carry a book. Some of the books I have brought with me were The Devil’s Delusion: Atheism and Its Scientific Pretensions, Walking with God through Pain and Suffering, Replacement Parts: The Ethics of Procuring and Replacing Organs in Humans, and Gospel Wakefulness. When people ask me what I am reading I try to explain in enough detail with an eye to making them curious. This indirect method allows you to talk about the book and not yourself. The title of a book I was reading sparked a great conversation with three nurses at once during one of my chemotherapy infusions.
#4 Bring Something to Give Away
Bring a little Gospel of John to give away. Another oncologist I see is from a foreign country, so asked her if she was atheist or Orthodox (the two major religions in her home country). She surprised me by telling me that she was Catholic, and that opened the door for more discussion on what she believed. Just then her assistant came to ask her a question about the next patient. So, I quickly pulled a small Gospel of John from my pocket and asked her if she would be willing to read it. She seemed very happy and promised to read it. I also leave them in waiting rooms.
Conclusion: Confidence in the Gospel
You may have additional ideas of how to share the gospel with HCP. I would love to hear them. One thing we must keep in mind: we cannot know until we broach the subject how a HCP will respond to our attempts. Satan loves when we prejudge that someone will respond negatively if we start a gospel conversation. We must have confidence in the gospel and its power, regardless of how we think someone may respond.
One of the most surprising experiences I have had with these attempts was with a Physician Assistant that initially showed no interest in spiritual matters. I moved back into conversation about my health, but before the appointment was over, I asked her why she didn’t have much interest in spiritual matters. Was it her studies in science and medicine or her exposure to so much suffering that moved her away from any specific belief in God? She suddenly opened up and the conversation became friendly and fruitful.
You may be the best person to reach your HCP. Don’t let their education or expertise intimidate you. The gospel is the power of God for salvation to all who believe!
Many Christians labor under the illusion that the way to share their faith is to argue that Christianity is better than other religions, belief systems or worldviews. They generally do this in one of two ways. Some argue from a therapeutic approach—that the Christian God gives better benefits than other deities, such as peace, hope, joy, happiness, or meaning. Jesus can make you happy, healthy, and (maybe) wealthy. He will fix all your problems and make your life better. Others utilize a cultural approach—that a Judeo-Christian foundation establishes better cultures than do non-Christian foundations. We can have a stronger nation and keep our liberties only if we are generally Christian. While some of these things may be true, this is not the way to present the gospel.
Consistent with New Testament practice we ought to argue that Christianity is true and that all other religions, belief systems, or worldviews are false.Why should we take such an approach?
First, the gospel is a historical claim, and historical claims are either true or false. Contrary to the pontifications of many skeptics and atheists, history is squarely on the side of the central claims of Christianity—that Jesus taught that he was God in the flesh, performed public miracles that validated his claim, that he died on the cross under the authority of Pontius Pilate, and that three days later his tomb was empty because he rose again. The Apostle Paul himself argued that the validity of the Christian faith depended on the historicity of these events. Paul presented a falsifiability test for Christianity, the highest form of epistemic reliability (historical testability). If Jesus didn’t rise from the dead, then Christianity is not true (1 Cor. 15). No other falsifiability tests are offered in any other religion.
Second, to argue that the Christian faith is better is to argue for an aesthetic preference. The unbeliever hears this claim as your preference or opinion. She hears your claim as no different than, “Chocolate is better than vanilla.” Inner experiences cannot be validated as true or false. The postmodern philosopher, Richard Rorty, argued that religious claims cannot be used as arguments for a proposition’s truth because there is no way to verify them. In response, theologian Michael Horton asked Rorty if the same would go for a case for Christianity based on historical facts. Rorty replied, “That would be a whole different thing. I have never heard Christianity presented in that way.” How sad.
How many people that we try to reach would have to wrestle more with the claims of the Christian gospel if we presented it this way? Certainly, there are many benefits and blessings that come from being united with Christ in salvation. But the unbelieving heart often lives with the illusion that it already possesses joy, hope, and peace. And the danger of the therapeutic approach is that an unbeliever can “pray a prayer” or intellectually assent to the facts of Christ, without truly repenting and believing, just to obtain the benefits. As we know, that is not a genuine conversion. The core of our gospel message cannot be therapeutic.
Further, the danger of the cultural approach is that it “better” is still an opinion. Increasingly, people around the world do not believe that a Judeo-Christian foundation to a culture is better. If a person rejects the gospel because she doesn’t believe in traditional morality, she has rejected it for the wrong reasons. And if we “share our faith” this way, we depart from the New Testament model and find ourselves guilty of spreading a false gospel.
When we present the life and work of Christ as the core of the gospel message, however, the unbeliever is faced with either believing in Jesus or not. He either accepts that he is a sinner or not. He either accepts that the crucified and risen Christ is the only way to be reconciled to God, or he doesn’t. If he does not, we can continue to argue for the gospel on biblical and historical grounds. One thing the historical approach does not often result in is a false profession simply to get the benefits. Rather, the unbeliever responds to the gospel based on its central claims about Jesus.
Jesus is not better than other gods; He is the only true God. Grace is not better than works; it is the only way to be reconciled to God. Christianity is not better than other religions; it is the only true religion.
Can We Trust the Gospels? The Historical Basis for the Christian Faith
Many Christians are unaware of the unique nature of the Christian faith. Since most world religions are not based on historical events, and their beginnings cannot be anchored in any verifiable history, Christianity is unusual. And among those few religions that are based in historical events, the character of the founder, the manner in which the events supposedly happened, and the lack of verified supernatural signs makes Christianity completely unique.
When someone asks why you are a Christian, your answer shouldn’t be merely because of an experience or a perceived benefit, such as joy, peace or hope. Many adherents of other religions testify of experiences and benefits. No, your answer should be something along the lines of, “I believe that Jesus lived, died, and rose again, proving that he is the Son of God as the Bible reports.” That is, our faith should rest entirely in a verifiable historical event, because that is how Paul explained it in 1 Corinthians 15. If the resurrection didn’t happen then Christianity is not true. If it did, nothing can stand against it.
The historical reliability of the Bible matters. But how does the average Christian learn the historical facts about the Bible, especially the Gospels without having to wade through highly academic works?
A new book by Cambridge University professor, Peter Williams, provides a handy reference for the multitude of verifiable historical facts in the Gospels. Can We Trust the Gospels?(Crossway, 2018) is the distillation of many years of research in New Testament studies by one of the foremost scholars in the world. This little volume of 160 pages will amaze the reader with details he has never noticed before in the New Testament. In addition to explaining the testimony about Jesus from non-Christian sources, Williams displays the many ways in which the Gospels demonstrate that they could not have been written later than the first century in another part of the Roman Empire.
Although we live in an age when we have easy access to advance information about anywhere we go, we still tend to be surprised by aspects of geography and culture whenever we travel. Now imagine if someone asked you to write a story about events in a distant place you had never visited, and you were not allowed to use the Internet for research. Even with the wonderful libraries we have today, you would struggle to get all the information together to write a detailed story that fit what a local person would know. This is because of the many aspects of your destination you would have to get right, and getting only most of them right would not make a story sound authentic. You would have to investigate its architecture, culture, economics, geography, language, law, politics, religion, social stratification, weather, and much more. You would even need to ensure that the characters in your tale were given names that were plausible for the historical and geographical setting of your narrative. All this requires effort and is not easily done.
Right down to details of architecture, culture, economics, geography, language, law, politics, religion, social stratification, weather, and more, the Gospels do not shy away from a full-orbed, comprehensive description of life in first century Palestine surrounding the events on which they are focused. Even the mention of names in the Gospels reveals that only someone who lived in that society at that time would have known the common names of the day. Williams reminds us that there was no internet to look up details of the world of Jesus. Many of the details are never mentioned anywhere else in ancient literature, so knowledge of them would have had to have been from firsthand experience.
Knowledge of the location of tax collectors, local botany, unusual customs, local languages, the personalities of characters in the Gospel accounts, and many other particulars are shown to be still further evidence of the reliability of the NT. Williams presents a kind of cumulative case apologetic to show that criticism of the historical reliability of the Gospels is laughable. It is simply too far-fetched to argue that they were written later and in another place.
This little book will be a tremendous help to the average Christian who wants to strengthen her own faith in the Scriptures and a valuable resource to put in the hands of someone searching for answers. I highly recommend it!
This post concludes the three-part series on Strategies for effective apologetic encounters. To see the first two posts in this series click here and here.
The sixth way to effectively engage unbelievers with the gospel is to identify assertions when arguments are called for. Another common mistake we make when arguing a point is that we don’t actually argue a point! To argue for something is to make logical inferences from two or more truths (as we discuss in the next chapter). Quite often, however, we make assertions rather than present arguments. To assert something is simply to state it without any supporting justification. For example, to say “Christians believe the Bible because they can’t cope with the reality of life and need a crutch on which to rest” is only an assertion if no supporting statements are given that prove that it is true.
Sometimes when we are defending the Christian faith our opponent will make a statement such as the one above. If we don’t recognize it for what it is—a mere assertion—we will often feel helpless to respond. The reason is that an assertion made without any supporting arguments feels like an unimpeachable truth. That is, it comes across with the force of a universally accepted law. But it is not. Until a statement is supported by arguments it is actually nothing more than a wisp of smoke to be waved away.
Here are some examples of assertions that need to be challenged:
Science has disproved the Bible
All religions are the same
There is no proof whatsoever for God
Christianity is bad for the world
We don’t know what the original manuscripts of the New Testament said
As you can see, these statements seem very intimidating, because they are stated in such a decisive fashion. But they are nothing more than unsupported assertions. We should apply our questions from chapter five whenever anyone tries to get away with such statements.
Seventh, pursue wisely those who wish to avoid conversation on spiritual issues. Sometimes in your efforts to engage people with the gospel, you encounter disinterest or resistance to conversation about spiritual topics. But even if someone tells you directly, “I don’t like to talk about religion” doesn’t mean that the conversation is automatically over. I usually try at least one more strategy if this happens. I will ask, “Oh really? Why?” in the most winsome way possible. That is, sometimes people attempt to shut down the conversation to avoid admitting the reason they don’t want to talk about spiritual issues.
By asking why, you may find that the answer relates to previous bad experiences with Christians, or alternately, a loss that has caused them to question the goodness of God in a broken world. By pressing the issue just a bit you may uncover an openness to further conversation. If the person declines to answer, however, I don’t continue to pursue the conversation. I don’t want to come across as pushy or aggressive. I will simply pray for her and hope to meet again.
Hopefully these strategies provide more clarity and give more tools for effective conversations. Much of it is intuitive. That is, if I keep in mind the command to give an answer with gentleness and respect (1 Pet. 3:15), I will strive to clear objections, so I can talk about Jesus without being annoying. I will listen to what the unbeliever is saying and how she is answering my questions. I will look for ways to incorporate these strategies in order to get to the root of her objections. I will seek to reveal the inconsistencies and irrationality of her worldview and the foundation on which it rests.
Remember, as you are employing these strategies you are tearing down the intellectual and emotional strongholds that the unbeliever has built up over time. These strategies give you various ways to challenge the objections, assumptions, and mistaken notions accumulated over time. Effective engagement requires patience and the insight of the Holy Spirit. Because the Spirit dwells inside us and because we have the divinely revealed Word of God, we can be used by God for the planting and watering of gospel seeds in the lives of those who don’t know Christ.
In the last post we looked at specific ways to take a conversation with an unbeliever to a place of effective engagement about the gospel. In this post we continue to examine those strategies.
The third strategy is to look for implicit bias. Implicit bias is another way of describing subconscious assumptions or unexamined presuppositions. That is, everyone assumes certain things to be true, obvious, and unable to be challenged. Yet, many of these biases cannot be shown to be true, and in fact, can be shown to be false. For example, some people have a reactive bias that makes them want to do the opposite of what someone else is trying to get them to do, or alternately believe the opposite of what someone is telling them. This bias springs from many sources, but one obvious is the dislike of being proven wrong. This is one of the reasons the waywe engage people is so important. If they sense we enjoy proving them to be wrong rather than helping them find truth, we might inflame the reactive bias unnecessarily. The apostle John mentions that Jesus was “full of grace and truth.” What a great reminder that our manner is as important as our message.
Another bias that influences our thinking is known as “sunk cost fallacy.” If a friend has invested time, money, or reputation in a particular belief, he is less likely to admit the belief is wrong. To do so would be to lose all he has invested in that belief. For example, if someone establishes their reputation as a skeptic, becomes known for his skepticism, and has written a book on it, to admit that he is wrong comes at a high price, and his investment in skepticism has to be considered a waste. This is one of the reasons why the Holy Spirit’s conviction is necessary in conversion. Without the Spirit reassuring a person’s heart that loss for the sake of Christ is good, no one would ever be willing to do as Paul did—counting everything but the knowledge of Christ as loss.
Fourth, look for positions that would be embarrassing to maintain. Every worldview besides the Christian faith results in logical conclusions that are an embarrassment in a civilized society. For example, an agnostic acquaintance of mine is an avid participant in state politics. He frequently spends time in the state capitol trying to forbid reference to any religious basis in legislation. In other words, he does not want religion to play a part in any laws that are passed. He is a typical example of a secular humanist.
When I bring up the explicitly Christian foundation of Martin Luther King’s legacy in the Civil Rights movement or William Wilberforce’s battle to end the slave trade in England, however, he becomes uncomfortable. He knows that if he is to be consistent with his principle, he would have to condemn the Christian foundations for these movements. But to do so would be to say that it would have been better to wait for secular activists to resist slavery. This is a claim no one wants to make, because it smacks of racism—a racism that is condemned in Scripture, but not consistently so from a secular humanist standpoint.
Fifth, capitalize on universally held values (justice, opposition to trafficking, abuse, etc.). Many people today who deny the existence of objective morality feel very passionately about certain moral and social issues without realizing the contradiction. They may believe that any sexual choice is perfectly acceptable (as long as there is consent), but become animated about issues of justice, equality, racism, human trafficking, and more (as they should!).
Whenever someone criticizes Christianity for its call to sexual purity, I often ask questions that get to the heart of their morality. The conversation will develop something like this:
Mark: So, you believe that everyone should be able to enjoy whatever sexual practices that make them happy?
Unbeliever: Yes, every person should be able to have their own morality and do as they please.
M: Is that because there is no absolute morality?
U: Yes, that is correct. Morality is relative to each person’s conscience.
M: So, if someone wants to traffic people as sex slaves, they have the right to do that?
U: No! Of course not!
M: But why not? Didn’t you say morality is relative?
U: Yes, but human trafficking is obviously wrong. No one gets to make that choice.
M: But how do you exclude that activity from your rule?
U: Because an act that involves others must be by consent.
M: But where do you get consent? It seems you have pulled that moral rule out of thin air. You have provided no basis for requiring that people consent to what involves them. That makes sense in a Christian worldview where each person is made in the image of God and is afforded dignity as a result. But how do you argue for that in your worldview? And besides, don’t those who traffic other human beings often beat, bully, and threaten them into consent? Don’t they get their slaves to say they are choosing this life when they are questioned by authorities? If we reduce consent to merely verbally-affirmed non-resistance, we have no way to resist someone who is exploiting another person.
You can see in this fictional exchange that there are certain topics related to justice and human dignity that not many people want to oppose publicly because of the near-universal agreement that such things are wrong. It is rather easy to show that these issues only make sense in a Christian worldview.
[Jeff graduated from Lancaster Bible College in 2014 with a B.A. in Biblical Studies, as well as an M.A. in Counseling. He currently works as the Event Coordinator for the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals in Lancaster, PA. His wife, Joe’l, and he worship at Grace Baptist Church of Millersville in Millersville, PA where they both serve as members. He enjoys studying several different disciplines including Biblical Studies, Systematic Theology, Apologetics, Church History, and Practical Theology, while having a keen and passionate love for Apologetics and Systematic Theology in particular.]
“Doing apologetics within the Church” – this statement may sound strange at first, particularly to the reader who says, “I thought apologetics was done with unbelievers or those of differing religions?” While that is certainly true that we are called to practice apologetics to those of differing religions and unbelievers, there is another setting in which apologetics is to take place and that is within the Church. That’s right; apologetics is also to be done in the body of Christ. What do I mean by this? Read on, it’s in here.
To help us understand this topic, perhaps it is best to give a Biblical example of defending the faith within the Church, but before I do so, allow me to briefly define what apologetics is. Biblical apologetics is at its most basic level a defense of the Christian faith, giving a reason for the hope that is within us, just as Peter instructed in 1 Peter 3:15. This in its most basic form is what apologetics is. Now, let us consider the book of Jude, in which we see an example of defending the faith within the Church. Jude 1:3 states, “Beloved, although I was very eager to write to you about our common salvation, I found it necessary to write appealing to you to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints.”
This is one of the classic passages on practicing apologetics. Jude is directly commanding the Church to do apologetics, but to whom are we to contend for the faith in this passage? The very next verse Jude addresses the reason why we are to contend for the faith. Verse 4 states, “For certain people have crept in unnoticed who long ago were designated for this condemnation, ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into sensuality and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.” It is interesting to note, then, that the purpose and intent of this book is an encouragement to do apologetics. Scott Oliphant makes an astute observation on this point when he writes, “Jude writes to a church, or group of churches, to help them defend themselves against a specific attack on the gospel, an attack that is taking place within the church itself.” 
While these people are not exactly identified, Jude does give us many useful descriptions of these people, saying that they have “crept in unnoticed.” This is something we should take seriously today and must recognize the deceptiveness of sin, we should be on high alert for those who are amongst us but nevertheless pervert the grace of God. Jude also describes these people as those who “pervert the grace of our God” and “deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.” These people are false teachers to the core. This is why we must defend the faith within the Church, to protect the body of Christ from false teachers who would pervert the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Jude’s exhortations to defend the faith against those inside the Church who would attempt to pervert the Gospel is an exhortation to believers everywhere to stand firm and to fight the good fight for the faith once for all delivered to us. With this exhortation, we are to wage a battle, to practice apologetics not only to unbelievers outside of the Church, but also to those inside the Church. In the process we seek to apply biblical truth to unbelief, including the unbelief within our own hearts. An example of this is found in Titus 1:9 where Titus outlines one of the duties of an elder. Titus writes, “9 He must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sounddoctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it.”
To rebuke those who contradict sound doctrine is to engage in apologetics, the defending of the faith against those who would seek to undermine it. Elders must be ready to engage in apologetics and to lead others in the defending of their faith as well, and by so doing, they will protect those in the congregation against others who would seek to teach what does not accord with sound doctrine.
May we as the Church be strengthened daily, may we continue to preach the Gospel to ourselves every day, and may we engage in battle against unbelief while doing so with gentleness and respect. And finally, may our prayer continue to be “Lord, I believe, help my unbelief” (Mark 9:24).
1. Oliphint, K.S., The Battle Belongs to the Lord: The Power of Scripture for Defending Our Faith. 2003: Presbyterian & Reformed Publishing Company
I wonder if “apologetics” which does not lead people to Christ as Savior, and then on to their living under the Lordship of Christ in the whole of life, really is Christian apologetics. There certainly is a place for an academic study of a subject called “apologetics,” as the defense and the credibility of Christianity, but if it does not lead the students to use that material to lead people to Christ as Savior, one can ask its value.
Francis Schaeffer, The God Who Is There (The Complete Works of Francis A. Schaeffer; Crossway, 1982), 1:186-7.