“Do not give your opponent any reason to reject your position other than the position itself” — Gary DeMar
In the waning years of Israel’s Old Covenant system that was in the process of passing away (Heb. 8:13), Christians were being attacked on all sides. Some of the opposition was coming from the Roman government but most of it was brought on by “wolves” who had entered the flock of the New Covenant Ekklesia “not sparing the flock” in an attempt to “draw away the disciples after them” (Acts 20:29–30). John wrote something similar:
Children, it is the last hour; and just as you heard that antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have appeared; from this we know that it is the last hour. They went out from us, but they were not really of us; for if they had been of us, they would have remained with us; but they went out, so that it would be shown that they all are not of us (1 John 2:18–19).
In those troubling times, Paul offered sound counsel to Timothy in “the last days” of the Old Covenant that would soon be dismantled with the temple’s destruction and the judgment upon Jerusalem (Matt. 23:36–24:34). The enemy in its death throes would strike in one last attempt to subvert the message of Jesus Christ and the transformation of the world:
But realize this, that in the last days difficult times will come. For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, arrogant, slanderers, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy, unloving, irreconcilable, malicious gossips, without self-control, brutal, haters of good, treacherous, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, holding to a form of godliness although they have denied its power; avoid such men as these (2 Tim. 3:1–5).
We can add to what Paul wrote to Timothy and later Titus:
● The Lord’s bond-servant must not be quarrelsome, but be kind to all, skillful in teaching, patient when wronged, with gentleness correcting those who are in opposition, if perhaps God may grant them repentance leading to the knowledge of the truth, and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, having been held captive by him to do his will (2 Tim. 2:24–26).
● Reject a divisive person after a first and second warning, knowing that such a person has deviated from what is right and is sinning, being self-condemned (Titus 3:10–11)
While Paul was giving instructions to Timothy in his day on how to live with difficult people, Paul’s warning is instructive for our day as is all of Scripture. The battles are different, but the principles are the same.
Against All Opposition
An apologetic methodology that claims Christians should be ‘open,’ ‘objective,’ and ‘tolerant’ of all opinions is like a person who plans to stop a man from committing suicide by taking the hundred-story plunge with him, hoping to convince the lost soul on the way down. No one in his right mind would make such a concession to foolishness. But Christians do it all the time when they adopt the operating presuppositions of unbelievers. There are no ‘neutral’ assumptions about reality.Buy Now
Paul’s admonition came home to me after a back-and-forth encounter with someone on Facebook over the popular and controversial Critical Race Theory. After a series of comments of mine challenging some of his assertions, this professing Christian wrote the following about me, first, that “all that was left” of me was being “a political hack.” It only got worse:
● You have stooped so disgustingly low any CRT author right now is much more honest and closer to the Kingdom of God than you are.
● You are officially more wicked than the NEA. That’s pretty low.
● You are becoming a disgrace for the church.
● You are as ignorant as a pile of rocks, and you keep parroting false propaganda.
● You are no better than the Communist propagandists of the 1970s and 80s.
I’m not the only person who he has treated this way. It’s a shame because he has a good mind, and in the past, has offered helpful counsel on important topics. But at this point, he is a walking example of some of the descriptive words that Paul uses to warn Timothy: “boastful, arrogant … unloving, irreconcilable … without self-control, brutal … reckless, conceited.”
These negative character traits have no place in the Christian world or the debate world. Such attacks commit one of the basic principles of debate: do not abuse the person.
The above comments made about me are from a Christian who would claim to follow the apologetic methodology of the late Greg L. Bahnsen (1948–1995). It’s very disappointing to see a Christian use such abusive rhetoric.
The other day I came across something that David Bahnsen wrote 20 years after his father’s death that sheds important light on how it’s not always about what we say but how we say it that matters:
My dad was in a world that had a lot of “fringe” components to it, but he wasn’t a “fringe” kind of guy, if you follow me. He was so respected as a theologian, and found himself in such an odd world at times, that people loved to come to him for support on their various tax protest or underground currency movements. They literally just could not believe his response when he shot them down with utter conviction and sobriety.
I spent years reading every single letter, every piece of paper, every file, in my dad’s vast personal correspondence library. His patient but cool and uncompromised rejection of this kind of stuff was utterly inspiring. I really do not know how he had the patience for a lot of this — he was perhaps more patient than people give him credit for — but he didn’t suffer a fool easily. He had theological beliefs; he had friends; he had family; but he did not have a “movement” personality. It wasn’t his schtick, thank God.
Greg Bahnsen was a person who had very, very few enemies in the unsaved world. The correspondence between dad and Gordon Stein may have been an exception, but the treatment he received from scores and scores of ideological opponents on the OTHER side of the antithesis was nearly always filled with respect, collegiality, and poise. Frankly, the vast majority of correspondence I read with non-Reformed Christians was often the same — even if the subject of the correspondence was disagreement over a matter of ideology — respect, collegiality, warmth.
The ugly stuff was always from those who were closer and closer to his various distinctives. I couldn’t explain this to you if I tried because no one has ever explained it to me. But when I talk about the way Dallas Willard, Richard Mouw, Father Neuhaus, and others interacted with him, not to mention dozens of unsaved intellectuals, it was like a different world when you start reading the correspondence with people in his own “camp.” I take that at the very least as a testimony to his scholarly caliber and his own respectful demeanor.
There’s a lesson here for all of us who encounter abusive people, especially those who claim to be Christians. “Avoid such men as these.”
Apologetics 101: Defending the Christian Faith
Apologetics 101 is an in-depth study of defending the Christian faith. The Greek word apologia simply means ‘defense,’ and apologetics is the art and act of giving a defense. Christian Apologetics then is the art and act of defending the Christian faith, not a proof of God in general. The Christian apologist must be ready to answer truth claims about the Bible, not claims about Hinduism, Islam, or any other false religion. The Bible makes the bold claim that Jesus is the ONLY way, and the Christian apologist must set his sights on the Bible alone, not on a defense of arbitrary theism.Buy Now