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James White on Apologetics

Apologetics is an underappreciated art. Or is it science? Whatever it is, people do not appreciate it as they ought. I suppose it is because apologists seem always to be on the attack, though the reality is generally that they are on the defensive, defending the faith against the inroads of the evil one. A little while back I wrote an article entitled Apologetics 101 where I began with these words: “In recent days I have had a few people take the time to challenge me about their perception that this Web site, and the content of it, are largely negative in tone. As one might expect, I take offense to such comments and would largely disagree with them. I do certainly broach topics that are controversial and may generate difficult discussions, but I do not do so from a desire to be negative or simply go have a good argument.” Yesterday James White, one of the foremost Reformed apologists, wrote about this topic as well. You can read the article here…but I am going to quote it in whole:

The widening influence of a sub-biblical world-view within Christian circles manifests itself in many ways: the diminishing emphasis upon the reality of God’s Word as the certain touchstone of truth; the lack of passion for its study and application; the odd and strange appearance of those who lay claim to the name “Christian” and even “Reformed” and yet who do not mind redefining almost every single aspect of what it has always meant to be Christian or Reformed.

I was recently referred to these words:

I did my time as an “apologist”. The more I move away from it, the more I feel I’m finding a balance and a peace I never knew, and never would have known, had I continued being a War-Monger for The Truth.

Now, it is always best to acknowledge any possible truth in a statement, and surely I know of some who call themselves apologists and who are disagreeable just for the sake of being disagreeable. But since this same writer has applied the phrase “War-Monger” to me, particularly, in the past, I have to wonder: was Jude being a “war-monger” when he exhorted us to agonize for the faith once for all delivered to the saints? Was John being a “war-monger” when he wrote 1 John and took specific aim at the proto-gnostic docetists who were troubling the Christian congregation? And surely the Apostle Paul lacked all balance and peace when writing Galatians, let alone Colossians!

You see, there are two motivations for doing apologetics, one wrong, one good. You can do apologetics because you are afraid of challenges, and feel that your defense of your faith somehow insulates you from those challenges and bolsters your faith. That leads to bad, unbalanced apologetics. Or, you can do apologetics because you honor and value the Word of God and the truth of God and hence seek to honor Him through the offering of a defense of His truth, knowing this brings God glory, and is the necessary action of one who believes what you believe. That’s why I do apologetics. What kind of peace, I wonder, does one find when the battle continues to wage around us? It is the peace of surrender, the peace of compromise. It is the peace of defining the enemy as my friend, the peace that no longer stands firm but instead “goes with the flow.” It is a peace I pray God will never let me seek.

My only disagreement is that I believe there are three reasons to do apologetics. The third, which he does not mention, is because a person just likes to argue. That, of course, is not a good reason to do it!

When I write articles that are apologetic in nature, I can do so for any of the reasons he outlined. Sometimes I do them just because I’ve written so much about a topic that one more article about it is easy to write and takes little brain-power on a Saturday afternoon. But with White, I do hope and pray that all I do, write and defend brings glory to God. I know I sometimes take some mis-steps and begin to see Rick Warren evil in everything. But again, to quote White, I “do apologetics because I honor and value the Word of God and the truth of God and hence seek to honor Him through the offering of a defense of His truth, knowing this brings God glory, and is the necessary action of one who believes what I believe.”

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