Monday, February 10, 2014

Apologetics Is Practically a Fifth Wheel, Right?

Consider the Great Commission, with its recursive or perpetual command to future generations of disciples:

Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. 17 And when they saw him they worshiped him, but some doubted. 18 And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matthew 23.16-20, ESV)

Without going as far as to insist that the word “if” (as used below) either expresses or implicates the proposition that something will occur only if such-and-such occurs (we’ve mentioned both Gricean nonconventional implicature and the lesson of John 21.20-24 in the past), think about how likely or unlikely it is that one can be a disciple of Christ without abiding in Christ’s word:

So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed in him, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, 32 and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” (John 8.31-32, ESV)

Also think about whether certain groups that are nominally Christian at the very least are some who abide in the teaching of Christ—as if JWs or polytheistic Mormons, for example, abide in the teaching of Christ:

Everyone who goes on ahead and does not abide in the teaching of Christ, does not have God. Whoever abides in the teaching has both the Father and the Son. (2 John 1.9, ESV)*

How does one fulfill the Great Commission apart from the education, tutoring or mentoring of new converts to Christianity? What are some possible means through which it is ensured that disciples of Christ remain in the teaching and word of Christ? Is it possible that Trinitarian apologetics has ever been used either of God or of man to keep someone from straying into Arianism or Oneness theology? Is it possible that counter-cultural or counter-cult apologetics have at some moment had the effect of some person’s remaining true to things such as monotheism, the deity of Christ, inconvenient truths about capital punishment or sexual ethics, the reality of hell, and the belief of and trust in what God has said through his prophets and through the apostles of Christ?

These are some things one should think about if he or she as a Christian is ready to put any or all forms of Christian apologetics on the back burner or out to the curb.  Think about it further and you may discover that the various and numerous types of Christian apologetics are comparable to the preaching of the Law and Gospel in the degree to which they are important and have a place in the life of each and every Christian, each person already having his or her own strengths, interests and social connections which in many instances may call for one’s specializing in one of those types of apologetics.
* Note: practically everyone has “gone ahead” if one will use the phrase in the idiosyncratic manner in which some guy once used the following verse to declare to me that he knew all along, as it were, that I am not a Christian.  After all, and for example, everyone has a naive belief about what biblical personalities looked like: some think that Christ was Black, others thinking he looked like “people from the Middle East,” others having thought of Christ as being White, et cetera: only one group of people here can posses a veridical belief on the matter since it is impossible in any serious sense to speak of someone as being phenotypically both Black and White, for example.

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