Douglas Groothuis on the Six Enemies of Apologetic Engagement

I found a link to this article by Doug Groothuis on the importance of Christian apologetics over at Truthbomb Apologetics. He doesn’t necessarily endorse my snarkiness in this post, though.

Doug’s article is call-to-arms for Christians who do not view the defense of the faith as an integral part of their Christian life. In this post on why men are fleeing the feminized church I argued that apologetics is a necessary part of a healthy two-way relationship with God and that it also engages the men to express their masculinity in a Christian way.

Groothuis starts by recommending 3 books on the lack intellectual rigor in the evangelical church, and he then goes on to lay out 6 “enemies” to the task of apologetics.

First, the 3 books:

Mark Noll’s “The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind” (Eerdmans, 1994) explores the historical roots of evangelical anti-intellectualism. Os Guinness’ “Fit Bodies, Fat Minds” (Baker Books, 1994), discusses some of the historical problems and also outlines what a Christian mind should look like. J.P. Moreland’s “Love Your God with all of Your Mind” (Navpress, 1997) explains why Christians don’t think, develops a biblical theology of the mind, and offers helpful apologetic arguments and strategies to empower the church intellectually.

I’ve read all of them and LYGWYM is by far the best. J.P. Moreland is a warrior. Videos and audio of his university campus lectures are here.

Enemy #1: We don’t really love God or our neighbors

If we really cared about God like we say we do, then we would care enough to defend his reputation in public. If we really loved our neighbor and believed that they need to follow Jesus in order to be reconciled with God, we would tell them that. But we don’t really care enough about God when his reputation is slammed in public. We don’t care that our neighbor has false beliefs, such as a belief in the eternal universe.

Groothuis writes:

Too many Christians don’t seem to care that Christianity is routinely ridiculed as outdated, irrational, and narrow-minded in our culture. They may complain that this “offends” them (just as everyone else is complaining that one thing or another “offends” them), but they do little to counteract the charges by offering a defense of the Christian world view in a variety of settings. Yet Scripture commands all Christians to have a reason for the hope that is within them and to present this with gentleness and respect to unbelievers (1 Peter 3:15).

Our attitude should be that of the Apostle Paul who was “greatly distressed” when he beheld the idolatry of sophisticated Athens. This zeal for the truth of God led him into a fruitful apologetic encounter with the thinkers gathered to debate new ideas (see Acts 17). It should for us as well. Just as God “so loved the world” that he sent Jesus to set us right with God (John 3:16), Jesus’ disciples should so love the world that they endeavor to reach the lost by presenting the Gospel and answering objections to the Christian faith (John 17:18).

Enemy #2: We distort Christian teachings in order to avoid disputes with other religions

As a result of the feminization of the church, we have altered our theology in order to “get along” with other religions that conflict with ours. Instead of wrestling with the competing truth claims of other religions, we just change the nature of our religion from objective knowledge to personal preference. If the Bible claims that Jesus rose from the dead, we reinterpret that historically testable claim as a preference claim. If the Bible says that the universe began to exist, we reinterpret that scientifically testable claim as a preference claim.

And it goes double for moral judgments and soteriological claims. The easiest way to make peace with people in these other religions is by dropping everything that offends our neighbors in other religions, like moral judgments and exclusive salvation. We simply decided that if Christianity claimed X and some other religion claimed not-X, that both could somehow be right. But this irrationality divorced Christianity from reason and made it into a personal preference instead of objective knowledge. It’s now just another option in the self-help buffet.

Groothuis says:

For some Christians, faith means belief in the absence of evidence and argument. Worse yet, for some faith means belief in spite of evidence to the contrary. The more irrational our beliefs, the better–the more “spiritual” they are… When Christians opt for irrationalism, they become just another “religious option,” and are classified along with Heaven’s Gate, the Flat Earth Society, and other intellectually impaired groups.

Enemy #3: We refuse to learn the evidences that support Christianity

We spend almost no time reading the kinds of non-fiction books that would inform us so that we are prepared to defend our beliefs. Instead, we put our best effort, our money and our thinking into school, work and other secular pursuits. We give Christianity a piece of our lives, and only allow it to serve us. We never serve it. We read fiction, watch TV and movies, pursue romantic relationships and play video games. But we have no time for preparing a defense based on actual facts and arguments.

Groothuis says:

Many Christians are not aware of the tremendous intellectual resources available to defend “the faith that was once for all entrusted to the saints” (Jude 3). This is largely because many major churches and parachurch organizations virtually ignore apologetics… Few evangelical sermons ever address the evidence for the existence of God, the resurrection of Jesus, the justice of hell, the supremacy of Christ, or the logical problems with nonChristian worldviews. Christian bestsellers, with rare exceptions, indulge in groundless apocalyptic speculations, exalt Christian celebrities (whose characters often do not fit their notoriety), and revel in how-to methods.

Enemy #4: We refuse to defend God if it means being unpopular

Somehow, we have gotten the idea that the purpose of Christianity is for us to be happy. Being popular and accepted by non-Christians makes us happy. Therefore, we want to be popular. To be popular, we avoid being divisive with non-Christians. Moral judgments are divisive. Exclusive salvation is divisive. Christianity teaches moral rules and exclusive salvation. Therefore, we don’t talk about Christianity in order to avoid being divisive so that we can be popular and have the happy feelings that God wants us to have. But this is nowhere in the Bible.

Groothuis says:

In our pluralistic culture, a “live and let live” attitude is the norm, and a capitulation to social pressure haunts evangelicalism and drains its convictions. Too many evangelicals are more concerned about being “nice” and “tolerant” than being biblical or faithful to the exclusive Gospel found in their Bibles. Not enough evangelicals are willing to present and defend their faith in challenging situations, whether at school, at work, or in other public settings. The temptation is to privatize faith, to insulate and isolate it from public life entirely. Yes, we are Christians (in our hearts), but we have difficulty engaging anyone with what we believe and why we believe it. This is nothing less than cowardice and a betrayal of what we say we believe.

He goes on to exegete Colossians 4:2-6, Matthew 5:11-12, 1 Peter 4:14, Romans 1:16 and Matthew 28:18-20. The Bible just doesn’t support this anti-apologetics stance that seems to be so popular in the feminized church.

I’m out of space: …I’d like to say something about the other 2 enemies, but I am out of space. But that will just encourage you to click on the link and read the rest of the article, right?

16 thoughts on “Douglas Groothuis on the Six Enemies of Apologetic Engagement”

  1. #1 I really don’t think God needs to have his reputation protected. If he exists, he’s big enough to take some insults from Liliputians.

    But yes, if you do think that people are going to eternal hell if they don’t believe in God, and you love them as yourself, you would try to convince them to believe in the “correct” way.

    #2 Sticking to literalism and tradition unbendingly may seem correct, but if you don’t bend, there is a greater risk of breaking if people don’t find literalism and tradition credible.

    #3 I think a realistic assessment of all the evidence shows that Christianity is false. That’s a good reason for people who want to believe not to dig too deeply.

    #4 I don’t think unpopular people make many converts.

    1. It’s not so much about protecting God’s “reputation” as it is about giving people the truth. God doesn’t need protecting, but He wants them to know what is real.

      I would encourage you to look further into the proofs of Christianity, as it is the most reasonable faith I have ever come across.

  2. #1: The problem isn’t so much that we don’t love our neighbors enough to show them their beliefs are wrong but that we don’t love them enough to show them there is only one true happiness and that is through Jesus Christ. If we ourselves are happy, this will be easy enough for non-believers to see and when they ask why we are happy, why we can love, we can simply say because we are loved by the one who made us. Not to defend God’s reputation which doesn’t need defending, but to share him with those who do not know him.

    #2: Again you blame something called the “feminization” of the church which you hold to be self-evident. The rest of us would call this cowardice, which has been around even since the beginning of the Church (the disciples fled and Peter denied Christ 3 times).

    #3: If you have a relationship with Jesus Christ then you have the basics for apologetics covered. If you do not have a relationship with Jesus Christ all the books in the world aren’t going to help you.

    #4: See my response to #2 and stop projecting your issues onto women.

    1. Thanks for your comment. I am kind of frightened to disagree with you because I want to be nice.

      My question though is: is happiness a good test for truth? I mean, if people in other religions are happy, is that a good way for undecided people to test whether their religion is true? Suppose there is a religion of people who believed something false, but they were extremely happy anyway. I’m not trying to be mean, but I am not sure if this is the best test for truth.

      My concern is that the example of the Bible leans more towards persuasion using an articulated defense than by demonstrating happiness. (1 Pet 3:15, Acts 17, etc.) I could be wrong, but Groothuis had some good verses in there that seemed to promote that view. Thanks again for commenting.

  3. I think you pose an excellent question; one that is not mean at all. I am not sure how to answer that except to say that as long as one yearns for the things of this world, one has yet to experience the happiness that comes through Christ’s peace.

    I would say the Acts of the Apostles is a good place to start to learn apologetics and evangelization. Reading and debating are also good sources of education. Don’t get me wrong, informing oneself is good and necessary.

    But the underpinning of all this knowledge is love. Even in Acts it says that when non-believers saw the love of the community of believers they were convinced of their arguments.

    The happiness question is a good one and I would love to know what people suggest to answer it.

    1. Thank you. And let me make a concession to you. I believe that being winsome, engaging and loving towards your neighbor is a full 50% of evangelism. I put a heavy emphasis on tactics and intentionally loving my neighbor as part of my efforts.

  4. I agree to a few of those mentioned here but am afraid I’ll have to disagree with the rest. Or rather just the one about not willing to learn evidences in support of Christianity. I just believe, I don’t need to see to believe.

    But about points 2 and 4, they are on the spot. Been there, done that. How many times have I heard fellow Christians chant “All Gods are one” and “lets go to a Hindu temple and pray”. My reply has always been “Why don’t you go check out the first commandment before you make such pathetic statements?”. That and a lot more. Constantly at logger heads with my Hindu and Muslim friends. They say they are disappointed with me. But hey, I’d rather be in Christ’s good books than in that of men. And actually that didn’t make me unpopular though. Or may be I just don’t care about the opinion of men at all to notice!

    1. Stay tuned for my 4 PM post, I hope it won’t be too mean. I am having another blogger look it over to remove all the meanness. I’m trying to win you and other Christians like you over.

      What do you make of 1 Peter 3:15 and 2 Corinthians 10:5? See any requirement in there to prepare a defense and to be casting down speculations that are set against the knowledge of God? How about Romans 12:1-2? And Jesus urging people to love their God with all their minds in Matthew?

      Maybe you don’t need to see to believe, but I think it might help your neighbor to believe, if they could see… some evidence. I do not see how it would hurt to know the scientific, philosophical and historical arguments to supply evidence for Christian theism. I think it would help. And I think that Jesus also did this by performing miracles in order to prove what he was saying.

      Would you consider reading some C.S. Lewis or some Lee Strobel? Well see why you should at 4 PM. (You might have to check tomorrow because you’ll be asleep in your time zone!)

  5. “Maybe you don’t need to see to believe, but I think it might help your neighbor to believe, if they could see… some evidence.”

    To this, I totally agree. I must have mentioned this in my comment. But I don’t think we’ll completely see eye-to-eye on this issue. And I perfectly know what the Bible quotes you’ve mentioned say.

    But Wintery, has it ever occurred to you don’t have a need ‘win over’ Christians who are already quite truthful to their God and faith? That we are already won over by God Himself? I am sorry if that sounded mean, but couldn’t resist.

    1. Yes, it has occurred to me, you big meany! Mean! :D

      But William Lane Craig makes a distinction between knowing your faith is true and showing your faith is true. You might know your faith is true by some non-evidential means which I disapprove of, but what does that do for your neighbor? We need to worry about the crazy things your neighbor believes.

  6. I’m late to the party (by a couple of years), as I’ve only recently discovered Wintery Knight. I’d like to comment regardless.

    I believe the point WK is trying to make is, not that believers need to be “won over,” but that believers should be equipped to answer the valid questions nonbelievers may ask. If we brush aside or try to gloss over the issues that nonbelievers struggle with, they’ll simply shrug and continue to equate belief in God with belief in the flying spaghetti monster. Read Romans 1 for a good illustration of what happens over time to people who refuse to acknowledge God. He gives them over to it and their hearts become hardened. This becomes passed onto the generations to follow. Atheists are not complacent or compliant. They prosyletize every day in most classrooms (especially at the university level). And not to allow the unwashed masses to escape undecided, they spend their own money to take out large advertisements proclaiming their beliefs. Today’s generation doesn’t consider God, because they don’t believe there is anything whatsoever to consider! Therefore, if a Christian happens to be questioned by a curious acquaintance as to why he believes there is such a thing as God (much as an adult might tongue-in-cheek question a child about their belief in Santa), and responds with the pat answer of faith, love, feelings, etc. they will likely be met with a look & nod of “knowing” amusement such as an adult would give to a tooth/fairy-believing child.

    This is not to say in any way that discussing personal experiences and Christian faith is not a valid approach. I have shared mine and people have come to know Christ as a result. However, we need to know and understand our audience, so to speak. It is our duty and obligation to find out where the person with whom we are speaking is coming from. We are not cookie cutter images of one another and we do not serve a cookie-cutter god. You will notice that Jesus did not heal everyone in the same manner. He used a different approach with each person, depending on their needs. So must we vary in our approaches to meet the varying needs of those around us. (As Paul said, become all things to all people in order that some might be saved.)

    My husband and I both came from Christian backgrounds and were raised in the “you just believe because it’s true” environment. I walked away because of the hypocrisy I saw. My husband walked away because he had tough questions that were shrugged off with that pat little answer. We both lived hedonistic, unfulfilled lives for a time, but by the time we met, had come to the realization that there had to be something more. So we began to search. Mine was a struggle with certain philosophical issues. I had to come to grips with the realization that I couldn’t look at man to find the measure of what a Christian should be. I had to look at Christ. Also God had to deal with me re: the concept of grace. I had never wavered in my belief in His existence, however, so I didn’t need to go the apologetics route.

    For my husband, it was a different story. He agreed to come to church, and acknowledged there was a void that he believed only God could fill. But as a person who naturally studied, meticulously examined, questioned, marveled at most everything in creation from the time he was tiny, he needed more evidence to back up his belief than personal experience. He is a natural-born scientist. It’s the way God made him. So when he discovered his nephew’s treasure trove of apologetics books one summer vacation, I went swimming. He sat on the beach devouring one book after the other, while continuously referring to his Bible to test what was being said. By the time he and his photographic memory were finished, he was and is able to take on any university grad, professor, born & indoctrinated from birth atheist, etc. and speak to the challenges they throw his way.

    As for me, I’m studying, as I can see for myself how vital it is for some to have answers to some of these created arguments. It is not my direct calling, as it is for my husband. I have been gifted in speaking to peoples philosophic objections (which is a part of apologetics, but one I’ve never needed to study as I’ve been blessed with that type of mind). However, I believe it is important to be ready, just in case God gives me the opportunity to speak to someone with struggles of that nature. I believe that anything less is simply laziness on my part. It’s far to easy to dismiss the intellectual needs of others by writing them off as “inspiritual” while really meaning that you’re just not “into” apologetics. I find aspects rather dry myself, and can always guarantee a cure for my insomnia by reading a book on apologetics. It’s a flimsy and shabby excuse for taking on what is my duty to Christ, however. So, I’m taking up the challenge, as it just might lead to someone who is like my husband or our sons becoming open to hearing more.

    When I’m speaking to Christians, if I make a statement, I back it up from Scripture. But when I’m speaking to a nonbeliever, I will share what God’s word says, then explain to them from a basis they can understand (their world view) why it makes reasonable sense. How else will they understand? When we BELIEVE we receive the Holy Spirit who guides and instructs. Without the Holy Spirit, God uses the revelation of the world He created! Again, read Romans 1.

    What many Christians seem unwilling to accept, is that society has slipped so far into the realm of post-modern relativistic materialism, that there is hardly a crack in the armor through which the Holy Spirit can maneuver.

    1. Wooohooo!

      “My husband and I both came from Christian backgrounds and were raised in the “you just believe because it’s true” environment. I walked away because of the hypocrisy I saw. My husband walked away because he had tough questions that were shrugged off with that pat little answer.”

      “He sat on the beach devouring one book after the other, while continuously referring to his Bible to test what was being said. By the time he and his photographic memory were finished, he was and is able to take on any university grad, professor, born & indoctrinated from birth atheist, etc. and speak to the challenges they throw his way.”

      “When I’m speaking to Christians, if I make a statement, I back it up from Scripture. But when I’m speaking to a nonbeliever, I will share what God’s word says, then explain to them from a basis they can understand (their world view) why it makes reasonable sense. How else will they understand?”

      Love it! What a great comment! I wish you and your husband the best.

      1. Thank you. My husband checks in on your site on a regular basis. I may have popped in once before, I don’t remember. However, now that I’ve taken on the “apologetics challenge” I’m sure this site will prove invaluable. The presentation of ideas and the discussions which follow are a sure way to sharpen the iron.

        As an aside, my husband emailed our son the link to your post on men avoiding church. Our son is nearly twenty and currently alone – for the most part – on a remote ranch. In other words, he has little in the way of distractions, and much in the way of time to think. We were delighted to receive an email back from him this morning, illustrating just how much he had been thinking on these same issues. I believe it’s the most he’s had to say on any subject since…?

        So thank you for your commitment to fostering a thinking environment within today’s Christian culture (and I stress *today’s* because, as you well know, it wasn’t always like this!)

        1. OK, I really like your comments. I feel that I should pre-emptively apologize for anything that you might read that is a bit critical of women. I apologize in advance! Because you seem really good.

          My intention is to engage men and to equip them to be discerning about women, so I am sometimes a bit critical of women – I had these bad experiences with lots of peopel like that pastor’s wife growing up. In fact, I came to the position that ALL Christian women were exactly like her – because all the ones I knew were. It wasn’t until I started blogging that I found anyone who was different from her.

          1. Ah… So much to say & such a challenge to be concise. 

            Firstly, no need to apologize. We have two sons (no daughters) and I share many of your concerns. I’ve pulled each of them from school, twice, and taught them at home, because I didn’t like how their female teachers were treating them. Neither did we approve of how the educational system seemed bent upon creating spoonfed, mindless automatons, where competition is discouraged and everything must be evened out and “fair”. This is an accurate representation of life? I think not. 

            We chose instead, to let our boys behave like boys, and taught them to question everything (as the Bible says, to test all things). 

            The school system was set up to funnel kids through two channels: the factory worker channel (complete with mind-numbingly boring work & bells to signal start/break times, etc), and the university channel. To succeed at either, all you have to do is memorize what teacher &/or textbook says & regurgitate ad nauseum. You don’t actually need to THINK. 

            Our boys are both highly gifted (the Alternative School tested them), have been taught to think for themselves, enjoy challenge and competition, and, of course, are both male. Therefore they both failed miserably in the regular school system. This has never particularly bothered me. :)

            My point is, as most of us have been thrown into the public school meat processor and squeezed out the other end as uniform little sausages, it’s not a wonder that the inability to reason, to engage in critical thinking, has permeated even the church. (Have you ever read Neil Postman’s book, “Amused to Death” btw? I highly recommend it. He discusses the other half of the problem: the media.) Any steps we, as individuals, can take to improve upon our capacities to think and reason, are vital to preventing the further disintegration of society. As Christians, we have an obligation to this. To shrug and bury our talent in the ground rather than invest and multiply it, will result in some serious consequences on judgement day (Matt 25:14-30). To say, as one of your responders did, that that pastor & wife you were speaking to & others like them are simply unintelligent and that this is “okay”, is to excuse Christians of their responsibility to improve and risk God’s wrath. We have access to God’s own wisdom and resources if we but only ASK!!!! 1 John 2:27, Jas 1:5-8, John 16:13-15 (And work at it. 2Tim 2:15)

            Regarding women: I believe that, historically, women were justified in wanting and expecting to be allowed to choose to further their education, choose a vocation, participate in politics, own property & to not be regarded as property; to expect to receive protection from harm and adequate justice when wronged. I am grateful to those brave women for their sacrifices. Because of them, I can write here, today, and you might even pause to read and consider my words. 

            The problem came when they had to *fight* for those basic freedoms, because men were, overall, reluctant to grant these freely. The attitude that we must unite & fight has been passed down, generation to generation in one form or another, conveyed subtly or otherwise, and still lurks today. 

            Compound this with the prevailing liberal mindset of today, the absence of critical thinking, the overall absence of the need to struggle to achieve, the desire to be spoonfed, the desire to be constantly entertained, and the fact that, by our nature, we women have a propensity to flow, like water, into what appears to be a void, and you’ve got the recipe for the perfect storm. (Is 3:12)

            It drives me absolutely CRAZY when people refuse to acknowledge that there is an obvious flaw in the system and a need for a complete paradigm shift. To arrogantly (and ignorantly) state that there is no problem and that men simply need to “man up” seems as logical as if I said, “Oh, would you stop complaining about your broken leg? Get up and finish your marathon. What a ‘lame’ excuse!” after I’d hit you with my car. If something is broken, steps must be taken to remedy the problem. 

            Some people choose to believe no problem exists, because they happen to not be on the receiving end. To state that men are looking for excuses is nothing but a weak excuse for not looking into probable causes and possible solutions. 

            As I see it, men don’t need excuses for not going to church. If they don’t want to go, they simply don’t. The fact that men are pondering the possible reasons *why* they don’t want to go, rather than simply saying, “Screw this, I’m sleeping in & watching sports,” is greatly encouraging!! 

            As for those who judge from the outside, as we all tend to do, even though we are told not to, I say they do not understand the definition of Christianity as prescribed by Jesus Christ Himself, and perhaps need to question their own spiritual condition. Those who publicly acknowledge Him on earth, He will acknowledge before the Father. Also Romans 10:9, 1John 2:23. 

            Naturally I am concerned, as we are admonished not to forsake meeting together (note it doesn’t say “going to church” ;) as well as “a coal removed from the fire…” Which is precisely the reason this issue MUST be addressed! And it SHOULD begin in the church, as all great societal reforms have before. 

            However, if we are to move in a new direction (and we will. God won’t let us stagnate. He loves us too much for that) balance is key and must prevail. God created man and woman, together, in His image. We work best when we work as a complimentary team, with, of course, an attitude of mutual respect and servitude, not lording it over one another, or needing to be right all the time or comparing one to another. In other words, if we’d simply put into practice what God’s word teaches, there would be no problem. 1John is such a wonderful book as it both challenges us to use our brains to think and discern, while at the same time loving one another and our Lord. 

            Oh, there is much to discuss and so much more to learn. I am so grateful that God created us with the capacity to grow in knowledge and has the expectancy that we should do so.

            Please keep up your great work. A small spark will start a fire. We are called to speak the truth in love.

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