I’m sure all of you who have taken a stand against the tide of neo-heretics, false prophets, wolves in sheep’s clothing and the likes have been accused of being a “heresy hunter” at some point and in some form. In case you didn’t know it, that’s a deragatory term. But if they only knew. So we’ll attempt to bring some light to this misunderstanding.
Those who eschew our passion (and perhaps even methods) to combat false doctrine, believe prayer is the panacea for all of the church’s challenges. As one writer argued, “praying is the only thing we can do”. Not only that, but some of our critics believe we are just being mean spirited, hateful, callous, and cruel to call into question and biblically examine the words and activities of these people. That, they believe, is not being “loving”.
Some have even went so far as to call these heretics, wolves and false prophets our “brothers and sisters in Christ”. The more we expose these man-made idols, celebrity hirelings and spiritual thieves, the more their silent but adulant fan(antics) will come out of the woodwork to defend them.
Considering that, the church is in dire need of both apologetics and polemics to assist the Body of Christ in resisting error and apostasy. While apologetics, via sites like CARM and Apologetics Press are well established, we are lacking in the polemics area.
Since its inception, GCM Watch has employed the polemic approach to aggresively confront the gay christian movement and expose the spiritual thievery and doctrinal error so dangerous to the historic Christian faith. But is that “excessive force”?
Polemics, according to The New Schaff-Herzog Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge, is a theological approach “which is concerned with the history of controversies maintained within or by the Christian Church, and with the conducting of such controversies in defense of doctrines held to be essential to Christian truth or in support of distinctive denominational tenets. ”
While both are necessary, they do differ. Apologetics defends historic Christian faith from external attacks, while polemics defends the faith against internal attacks. Polemics is a proactive resistance to doctrinal error rather than a reactionary response to it. It has been noted that theoretically there is no distinct department of theological polemics; but practically there is a very real need of an independent branch of this nature.
In his masterful exposition on the subject entitled “The church’s need for polemics in a postmodern world”, D. Massimo Lorenzini explains that “The current culture has experienced a paradigm shift from modernism to postmodernism. Truth is dead and intellectual anarchy reigns.”
The attempted assasination of truth is an ongoing struggle within the church. Millions are being duped by false movements led by charismatic sounding charlatans who appeal to the carnal man’s desire to live good without God’s moral restrictions.
Lorenzini’s attack on postmoderism’s influence on the church is right on. And that was a decade ago. Now, things are decidedly worse in this quagmire where right is wrong and far too many Christians are so passive and biblically illiterate, the false prophets are having a field day. The answer? A radical return to sound doctrine. He further notes:
Postmodernism has brought society from an age of reason to an age of relativism. The only thing postmodernists cannot tolerate is intolerance. The only absolute truth they believe is that there is no absolute truth. People create their own “truth” and all “truths” are equally valid. The result of all these equally valid “truths” is known as pluralism.
The influence of postmodernism can be seen in the church in various areas and to varying degrees. One area is theology. Theology has classically been made up of three major branches: dogmatics, ethics, and apologetics/polemics. The fact that the average Christian, and minister, does not know what these words mean illustrates the point all the more. Dogmatics is the study of Christian doctrine or theology. Dogma is that which is considered absolute truth. The postmodern attitude toward dogma is seen in the bumper sticker that reads, “My karma ran over my dogma.” Dogmatics, or doctrine, is not popular because truth is not popular anymore. While 88 percent of those in evangelical churches say the Bible is the infallible Word of God, 53 percent also say there is no such thing as absolute truth!2 Ethics is the study of moral values and practices. It is the application of dogmatics. Apologetics is defending Christian truth before unbelievers. If Christians do not believe in absolute truth, then it is no wonder that they do not engage in apologetics. Polemics is defending Christian truth within the professing church.
Under the broad heading of postmoderism are several false movements. The gay christian movement is one of those whose Christian flavored doctrine is more like a deadly viral infection for the church. Lorenzini says there is a much larger consequence resulting from the absence of polemics in the church:
If the church does not engage in polemics to define the truth within its own ranks, then it will lose the current window of opportunity to bring the gospel to the lost. Failure to recover the authority of Scripture will result in the culture’s increased confusion, despair, and disintegration. Society will long for order more than truth and may turn to any source of authority to bring order. This situation could very well be setting the stage for the end-times scenario taught in the Bible. This scenario includes a world ruler (the antichrist) who will lead the world into a global government, economy, and religion.
The conclusion? Polemics must be revived and employed in the church. False prophets are already outgunning the average Christian with a toxic mix of misinterpreted scripture and self centered philosophy. But even with the need to confront biblical error within the church, attention must be given to intent. My friend Independent Conservative profoundly addressed this aspect in his post Exposing False Teachers is to be Done to the Glory of Almighty God. Help the Sheep! Please read it, so that your motives are pure and your actions will bring glory to God and save souls.