- Sunday, March 01, 2009
This same attitude is to blame for the overwhelming absence of a consciously Christian life and worldview within the church, without which the Christian lacks the necessary theological framework for analyzing, understanding, and addressing every aspect of life, society, and culture from a coherent biblical philosophy. I will address this in greater detail later.
Nonetheless, this anti-intellectual attitude simply flies in the face of what the Bible teaches. We are commanded to "always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you" (1 Peter 3:15, NKJV) or to "demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God . . . [taking] captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ" (2 Corinthians 10:5). This passage in 2 Corinthians is critical and is one we often either misunderstand or misapply. The apostle Paul is urging Christians to engage in intellectual discourse and persuasive debate whenever they find themselves confronted by false ideas that contradict the biblical understanding of life and reality. This passage is not to be understood in purely individualistic or private terms related to taking our own thoughts captive; we need to understand the ideas and thoughts of others that keep them from the knowledge of the truth. Practically speaking, this means we are to be actively engaged in pressing God's truth into every aspect of life and the world. N. T. Wright was helpful in further explaining the Christian's proper relationship to the world in which he or she lives:
The new life of the Spirit, to which Christians are called in the present age, is not a matter of sitting back and enjoying the spiritual comforts in a private, relaxed, easygoing spirituality, but consists rather of the unending struggle in the mystery of prayer, the struggle to bring God's wise, healing order into the world now, in implementation of the victory of the cross and anticipation of the final redemption.3 (emphasis added)
Rather than living and thinking consistent with the way God intends the world to be, modern Christians seem to be more comfortable with the way the world presently is. Thus, they remain uninterested in engaging in the hard task of reasoning, thinking, and earnestly contending for the faith that has been delivered once and for all to the saints!
Overcoming Empty-Headed Evangelicalism
So what is to be done? Is there a way out of this destructive malaise of "empty-headed" evangelicalism? I believe the proper remedy is the repudiation of all types of anti-intellectualism that dumb down Christian theology, impoverish the witness of Christianity, and give Christians excuses not to ask and answer the hard questions.
The study of historic Christian apologetics is essential for any person who professes to be a follower of Christ. However, I want to make a distinction between historic Christian apologetics and cultural apologetics. Without venturing into the debate over classical, presuppositional, and evidential apologetics, let me just say that I believe that elements of each are helpful and not necessarily mutually exclusive. So when I use the term historic Christian apologetics, I am referring to those three schools of thought collectively. For the sake of understanding, classical apologetics "stresses rational arguments for the existence of God and historical evidences supporting the truth of Christianity."4 Presuppositional apologetics differs in that it "defends Christianity from the departure point of certain basic presuppositions"5 — namely, that all persons presuppose or assume certain explanations about reality that arise from their worldview. In presuppositionalism, the Christian apologist presents the truth of Christianity by exposing the fallacy of alternative worldviews, which the skeptic ultimately knows serve only to suppress the truth that in his heart he knows to be true. Finally, evidential apologetics stresses the need to first logically establish the existence of God before arguing for the truth of Christianity. Suffice it to say, these, to one degree or another, are all vital for the Christian to apprehend and be able to communicate.
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