Monday, March 5, 2012

Oliphint on offensive and defensive apologetics

Scott Oliphint, apologist and professor at Westminster Theological Seminary, discusses a passage from 2 Corinthians 10:3-5 which reads "For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ, (2 Corinthians 10:3-5 ESV)." In the pursuant excerpt from his book entitled The Battle Belongs to the Lord, Oliphint delineates the dual nature of apologetics and differentiates offensive apologetics from a more defensive approach.

We demolish arguments. That is one of the things that characterizes the ministry of the apostle Paul ... it is one of the things that must characterize our own lives and ministries as well. We all know that there is, and always will be, hostility to the Christian faith. We also know that anything that opposes Christianity is, by that very fact, false. We know this, not because we are smarter than others, but because of what God's grace has done in our lives.
We should not in this passage the strong offensive language that Paul uses. It is one thing to defend the faith against attacks. If we use the analogy of a sporting contest, the team on defense is trying to stop the other teram from advancing. That is a significant and crucial part of apologetics. We pray and work as God uses us to stop the advance of the enemy, Satan himself. But we must also be offensive. We must also take up our weapons and march against the enemy. Of course, in being offensive we are also being defensive. But the offensive "team" is more active than the defensive team. The offensive team is determined to advance.
One example of this might help to illustrate it. Christians are often told that the problem of evil shows that their faith is not rational. It is often argued, in other words, that the existence of a good, all-knowing, all-powerful God is simply inconsistent with the abundance of evil we have in the world. We are told, then, that we should give up on our belief in such a God.
Answers to this challenge can either be more offensive or more defensive. A more defensive answer would try to show that the argument itself carries little weight. It would set the argument out in such a way that it would appear itself to have serious problems. In that way, it would stop the advance of the argument. A more offensive approach, however, would respond to the problem, not just the argument, to help the challenger begin to think about the problem in a different, Christian way. Offensive apologetics, then, offers the Christian way of thinking and doing as part of its approach.

(Oliphint, K. Scott. The Battle Belongs to the Lord: The Power of Scripture for Defending Our Faith. Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R, 2003. Print. 78-9)

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