This passionate, challenging lecture has been getting shared a lot on Facebook, so I thought that I would do a summary of it.
First, you can grab the MP3 file here.
Note that this talk is given by a very conservative evangelical Christian who is speaking to Christians. So this is not intended for a non-Christian audience. However, non-Christians are free to tune in if you want to hear a really passionate, fire-breathing conservative evangelical go non-linear over the superficial turn that the evangelical church has taken. If you are familiar with J.P. Moreland’s view that spiritual warfare is really about disputing speculations and falsehoods using logic and evidence, then you’ll know the meaning of the term “spiritual warfare” he has in mind. When he says spiritual warfare, he means apologetics: knowledge and preparation.
I would really caution you not to listen to this if you are not passionate about defending God’s honor. It will overwhelm and upset you. Having said that, this lecture reflects my convictions about the churches need to drop anti-intellectualism and take up apologetics. And not pre-suppositional apologetics, which I think is ineffective, but evidential apologetics. Evidential apologetics is effective, which is why everyone in the Bible used it.
Simon Brace is the Director of Evangelism of Southern Evangelical Seminary. Simon was born in Zimbabwe and grew up in South Africa. Simon has a construction background and has lived in a number of countries and travelled extensively. He has a MA in Apologetics and BA in Religious Studies and is currently working on an MA in Philosophy at SES. Simon leads TEAM which is the missions program of SES on local, national, and international trips. In addition, Simon has worked with Ratio Christi at SES, and has an extensive knowledge of Ratio Christi’s history and operation. Simon currently resides in North Carolina with his wife Nel and children, Eva and Olivia.
I liked the second part of the lecture more than the first part, so there is less summarizing of the first part.
- What does the New Testament say about spiritual warfare in Ephesians?
- Christian slogans about spiritual warfare sound pious, but they are mistaken
- Today, Christianity is focused on piety and zeal, not on study and knowledge
- The result is that Christianity in the West is in a state of erosion and decline
- What we are doing about spiritual warfare is not working to stop the decline
- Preaching, publishing, programs, retreats, etc. are not very useful for spiritual warfare
- Enthusiasm and passion without knowledge are not very useful for spiritual warfare
- The Church has a theoretical understanding of spiritual warfare, but no real capability
- Doesn’t work: trying to make Christianity seem popular and cool
- Doesn’t work: making Christian music and art that non-Christians will like
- Doesn’t work: pastors trying to be relevant by having cool clothes and cool haircuts
- Doesn’t work: fundamentalists getting angry about peripheral issues
- Doesn’t work: not read things apart from the Bible and sound foolish when speaking in the public square
- Doesn’t work: church leaders think that careful exegesis and expository preaching is a good answer to skeptics
- What works: we need to train people who are prepared and willing to defend the truth of the Christian faith
- Evangelicalism has a deep suspicion of reading things outside the Bible, so they are unable to refute anything
- Evangelicals are hyper-spiritualized and hysterical, focusing on demons, prophecy and end-times, etc.
- Evangelicals have a pagan view of using their minds to alter reality, which is irrational and superstitious
- Evangelicals like conservative celebrity preachers who do nothing to correct anti-intellectualism in the church
- Evangelicals are focused on their personal relationships with Jesus instead of their whole worldview
- Evangelicals focus too much on homeschooling and not enough on how to impact the secular universities
- Church programs for youth are about “strumming guitars and eating pizza once a week”, not apologetics
- Evangelicals have an over-inflated view of the effectiveness of their (non-intellectual) evangelism methods
- The primary focus and primary responsibility in spiritual warfare is not dealing with supernatural evil
- The real focus and responsibility in spiritual warfare is specified in 2 Cor 10:3-5
- What we ought to be doing is defeating speculations (false ideas), using logical arguments and evidence
- Defending the faith is not memorizing Bible verses and throwing them out randomly
- Defending the faith is not just preaching the gospel
- Demolishing an argument requires understanding arguments: premises, conclusions, the laws of logic
- We should exchange our pious Bible memorizing skills and the like for a class in critical thinking
- The New Testament requires that elders be capable of refuting those who oppose sound doctrine (Titus 1:9)
- It is not enough to preach a good sermon, elders have to be able to defend the Christian faith as well
- People who run conservative seminaries do not mandate that M.Div graduates study apologetics
- Famous pastors like Driscoll, Begg, etc. need to teach other pastors to emphasize apologetics in church
- People in church won’t engage the culture unless they have reasons and evidence to believe Christianity is true
- We need a balance of both piety and intellectual engagement
- We need to make our evangelism rooted in the intellect in order to have an influence at the university
- Mission organizations also have a responsibility to defend the faith and not merely preach (1 Peter 3:15)
And here is his closing quote from C.S. Lewis:
To be ignorant and simple now not to be able to meet the enemies on their own ground would be to throw down our weapons and to betray our uneducated brethren who have, under God, no defense but us against the intellectual attacks of the heathen. Good philosophy must exist, if for no other reason, because bad philosophy needs to be answered.
I was really humbled by this, because I sort of knew that the church was anti-intellectual, but I didn’t really reflect on how everyone else in society thinks that we are anti-intellectual. It’s troubling. The quickest way to make Biblical Christianity respectable again is to hit the books and defeat all comers in intellectual disputations. Are we ready to make the sacrifices to do that?
UPDATE: A friend of mine who blogs at Think Apologetics has written a post on this same issue of anti-intellectualism in the church.