Apologetics 5: Conviction, Candid, and Willing to Engage

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Friday, September 3, 2021 0 comments

by Charlie Wolcott

"To be an effective warrior in the battle for truth today, several old fashioned, Christlike virtues are absolutely essential: biblical discernment, wisdom, fortitude, determination, endurance, skill in handling Scripture, strong convictions, the ability to speak candidly without waffling, and a willingness to enter a conflict."
~John MacArthur: The Truth War, page 146

This is the last post on this quote from John MacArthur from his book The Truth War, but I’m not done with dealing with apologetics after this. I will hit three subjects today: having strong convictions, speaking candidly, and being willing to engage in combat. I’ll start by saying we have a great model for these three virtues in the Apostle Paul. He was so adamant, so strong, so candid, and so zealous that when the Gospel began moving through him, cities would gather to riot to try to stop him. So, let’s dig in.

We must have strong convictions. There is one question that puts this virtue to the test: “Could you be wrong?” You have to be careful with this because this is a trap question. It doesn’t matter how you answer it, and you are in trouble. If you answer yes, then you lost the sting of your message and you have surrendered any prospect for why anyone should listen to you. If you answer no, then you are perceived as being a close-minded bigot who isn’t open to “other options.” Well, just in case you haven’t picked up on it, truth is exclusive. It’s not open to “other ideas.” Any “other idea” is a lie. Anything other than the truth is a lie. It’s not hard to see this, unless you’ve bought into the lie of relativism, which is a very strong aspect of our post-modern society. We must have strong convictions. Our message is that Jesus is the only way. He is the ONLY option. The world hates that message because it means they can’t do it their way. We have to be so convinced that Jesus is the only option that the mere thought of any other way is absurdity at best. Understand this: most of your “debate” opponents KNOW this is what our claim is. They want to see if you actually believe it or not.

There is a great appeal to showcase false humility in our culture today, both socially and religiously. The false humility I am taking about is what reduces our convictions to mere opinions. This is the approach of many of the “Emergent Church / Progressive Christian” teachers and many other intellectual skeptics/scoffers. They will appear humble. They will be nice and seem genuine, yet everything that comes out of their mouth is “Did God really say?” Let me also make this clear: they believe they are right. They will pretend to be humble and say, “We really don’t know…” but they actually are coming from a position of knowledge that what God said isn’t true. They, too, are dogmatic and close-minded to “other ideas,” especially ideas that are true. Paul Washer said this in the “Unpopular” documentary: “All the religions of the world believe they’re the only way, or they’re not really teaching anything.” Why does anyone believe anything they claim? It’s simple: they believe they are right. If they are allowed to believe they are right, why can’t we do that about our own beliefs? We must have strong convictions if we are going to go out an proclaim it. The Apostle Paul was convinced – so convinced he went above and beyond, crawling across glass so that some might be saved. He would not budge, and that conviction was needed for his mission.

We must be candid about what we believe. This follows the paragraph above. We have to be upfront and real about what we believe. If we believe Jesus is the only way, we can’t go about saying “that’s just my opinion.” If we really believe Jesus is the only way, and we believe what the Bible says about what happens to those who don’t submit to Christ, then our zeal for evangelism will be ever so heightened. One of the reasons so few evangelize is because the reality of Hell is far from our minds. When that happens, we aren’t being honest with our own beliefs.

We have to be upfront, candid, and frank about what we believe when we defend our position. We also have to call out opposing ideas for what they are. We can’t sugarcoat anything. The Bible doesn’t let us share “our opinions.” We must share God’s message, or we are being false witnesses if we say we are proclaiming Christianity. Christianity FOLLOWS Jesus; it’s not opinions about Him. And we must declare Him as He is, not as we’d like Him to be. The Apostle Paul refused to sugarcoat anything. He told the elite Athenian philosophers in front of everyone that they did what they did in ignorance and were wrong in their doing. Paul had to be candid about his faith because if he waivered even in the slightest, it would be a result of pleasing men, not God.

Finally, we have to be willing to enter conflict. We have to be wiling to stand up to false teachings and those who bring them, even if they come from other believers. Paul stood up to Peter to his face for separating Jew and Gentile based on audiences and who was present. When Paul went to Athens, it was after escaping riots in Thessalonica and Berea that tried to shut him down. Yet even in Athens, his spirit was provoked and when he was supposed to be resting and escaping trouble, and he went right back into the heat of the battle and proclaimed Christ. Paul was stoned outside the city gates of Lystra and popped back to life and went right back into the city. While he loved peace and sought peace, he was not afraid of an argument or making a stand against false teachings.

Today, we have to be willing to enter a conflict. Peace often cannot be had unless we pass through a war. There is no pacifism in Christianity. We are to be “peace-makers,” not “peace-lovers.” The former goes out and makes peace happen, often by striking down wolves. The latter refuses to make a stand and at the slightest hint of trouble, they raise the white flag. The people of Jabesh-Gilead surrendered when Nahash came to take them, submitting to terms of having their right eyes gouged out. King Saul got word of it and by the Spirit’s leading, he mustered the troops and rescued the town. Peace followed on the other side of the war. But as long as our enemy is out and about, there will be no peace until he is driven back. As long as lies and false teachings are being taught within the church, there cannot be peace. We MUST be willing to stand up to those false teachings and those who bring them.

Next week, I’ll move on from this quote, but I’ll add on something that I’ve been struggling with and that I know God wants to work into me: to defend the faith in such a way that we lead the other person to repentance from their errors.

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