When entering a battle, you had better be equipped with the most effective weapons, a winning strategy, a commitment to prevail, and the assurance of victory. This is no less true for a spiritual battle where eternal destinies are at stake. The Bible describes the conflict between the Christian worldview and all opposing worldviews by using the metaphors of war (2 Cor. 10:3–6). Some might not like the warfare analogy, thinking that it’s not “spiritual” to describe the Christian’s walk with such “worldly” terms.
Larry Gene Ashbrook walked into the sanctuary of Wedgwood Baptist Church in Fort Worth, Texas, and opened fire, killing five. The gunman was intent on killing Christians. ((David Van Biema, “Terror in the Sanctuary,” Time (September 27, 1999), 42–43.)) A similar attack took place on November 5, 2017, when Devin Patrick Kelley of New Braunfels, Texas, fatally shot 26 people and wounded 20 others at the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas.
Most recently a man shot and killed two people during a church service in White Settlement, Texas, on Sunday morning on December 29, 2019 before two members of the church security team shot and killed him.
Ideas have consequences. Some ideas have tragic consequences. Consider the 1999 tragedy at Columbine High in Littleton, Colorado, and the murder of Cassie Bernall by Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold. “A girl was asked by one of the gunmen if she believed in God, knowing full well the safe answer. ‘There is a God,’ she said quietly, ‘and you need to follow along God’s path.’ The shooter looked down at her. ‘There is no God,’ he said, and he shot her in the head.” Cassie’s mother relates that “Most of the kids they killed—if not all of them—were Christian kids…. It was spiritual warfare. It’s still happening…. [T]here was a young man walking in the mall wearing a black trench coat with a T-shirt that said, ‘We’re still ahead 13 to 2.'”
Of course, Christians are not told to take up arms to defend or advance the Christian faith. We are engaged in a war of ideas, ideas with consequences. The biblical image of war is designed to remind us that defending the faith is serious business (Acts 7:54–60; 12:2). We should not shy away from the war analogy since it is used by numerous groups to describe what is at stake in ideological battles:
In all of this, the language of confrontation, battle, even war, then, is not merely a literary device but an apt tool to describe the way in which the many issues contested in American public culture are being settled. It is no surprise that many of the contenders on all sides of the cultural divide use the very same language to understand their own involvement. The national Organization for Women, for example, has a “War Room” in its national headquarters in Washington, D.C., a windowless room with charts, maps, a conference table, and a dozen or so telephones. Both sides of the new cultural divide could agree with the editor of Publisher’s Weekly who declared that the controversy over the arts and publishing was a “war”—“a war that must be won.” So, too activists on both sides of the cultural divide could agree with James Dobson of Focus on the Family, who announced, “We are in a civil war of values and the prize to the victor is the next generation—our children and grandchildren.” Another activist observed that this “is a war of ideology, it’s a war of ideas, it’s a war about our way of life. And it has to be fought with the same intensity, I think, and dedication as you would fight a shooting war.” ((James Davison Hunter, Culture Wars: The Struggle to Define America (New York: Basic Books, 1991), 64.))
While “the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh” (2 Cor. 10:4), battle weapons are used to characterize the reality of spiritual war: armor, shield, breastplate, helmet, and sword (Eph. 6:10–17). The Bible shows Jesus at His coming with “a sharp sword” coming from His mouth “so that with it He might smite the nations” (Rev. 19:15). In addition, God’s Word is described as “sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart” (Heb. 4:12). These descriptive metaphors are designed to remind us that defending the faith is serious business.
Maybe you were taught that Christians should not answer the critics. You just “believe.” Well, that doesn’t work for long. It gets to you in time. The Bible tells us as Christians that we are responsible to defend the faith. Defending the faith—giving an answer to those who ask what our hope is—is part of what it means to be a Christian. It’s not an option.
The best way to handle attacks by skeptics is to have worked out an apologetic methodology. It’s been said that the best defense is a good offense. Keep in mind that the Bible is the power to destroy all speculations raised up against the knowledge of God. Yet many Christians either don’t know how to use the Bible as a spiritual weapon or don’t believe that it is effective in confronting “philosophy and empty deception” based on the “tradition of men, according to the elementary principles of the world” (Col. 2:8). A cogently presented, comprehensive, and consistent Christian worldview can stand up to and answer any hostile belief system. But it takes work to understand how skeptics think, believe, and behave. Your job is not finished until you are always “ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give a reason for the hope that is in you” (1 Peter 3:15). This is what apologetics is all about.
It’s not just about answering objections to the Christian faith. It is that, but it’s about making a case for a full-orbed Christian worldview that deals with everything from personal faith to the way civil government operates and everything in between. Pastor Pierre OuIt spent the last 40 years of his life serving his church and community in northern Burkina Faso. Then this happened:
But shortly after the service, an ordinary Sunday suddenly turned deadly when a dozen men on motorcycles stormed the church yard. They demanded the pastor and the five other congregants with him convert to Islam. When all of them refused, they were executed for their faith.
Many Christians might say that this is the Christian’s lot in life. It’s all about suffering and martyrdom. For centuries Christians worked to establish laws to stop such atrocities. Why? Because they believed the Bible applied to all of life.
Among the many things that Christianity changed according to Tom Holland in his book Dominion: How the Christian Revolution Remade the World were:
- The concept that being weak and lowly did not make you less of a person (in fact maybe made you more of a person) than being rich and powerful.
- The formation of universal human rights.
- The ending of slavery.
- The concept of caring for the poor as a primary responsibility of those in power.
- Ending widespread infanticide.
- Ending human sacrifice.
- Building the first universities.
- Seeing the world as one that progresses (rather than being in unending cycles).
“So profound has been the impact of Christianity on the development of Western civilisation,” Holland writes, “that it has come to be hidden from view.” Why is this? Because Christians tirelessly wove the operating assumptions of Christian worldview into the warp and woof of societies everywhere the gospel had been taken. For numerous reasons, many in what was once described as Christendom have given up on the idea and capitulated to secularism. Our apologetic is narrow and adopts the operating assumptions of neutrality.