Christian Apologetics and Polemics: desparately needed!

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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.

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12 thoughts on “Christian Apologetics and Polemics: desparately needed!

  1. DL,
    What a great post and quite timely pesonally for myself.

    We should all pray on the words John the Baptist uses to answer to those who asked him how shall they be saved in Luke 3:10-14. (Remember these are the exact kind of folks we have today!) We are still “citizens” in this world although temporary. Maintain integrity and high character in our practical matters of our day to day life.

    God uses ‘ungodly’ men and women all the time towards His purpose. The book of Ruth comes to mind, and the story of Joseph. God is always working behind the scenes and there are no ‘amazing circumstances’.

    When we have loved ones say they want nothing more to do with us becuase we have the utter audacity to claim an absolute truth, so be it. The truth we claim must be rooted in absolutes, and absolutes come only from the word of God. Jesus astonished the great teachers at the age of 12 because he was sinless. Both fully human and God in his nature. How much less should we be ‘christ like’?

    We sin filled rags are only enabled to ‘astonish’ the lost by standing firm in the authority, clarity, and truthfulness of God’s word. Yes we have help, and we always will by the holy spirit. That will indeed offend many people and I don’t care what worldly crown they wear.

    You want goats, chaff, and fruitless branches? Keep them away from the absolute authority and clarity of God’s word. Simply dimishish the shed blood of Christ, praise our own self worth, and seek to be a god and not be his slave. That my brother, is how one cloaked in the anti-christ robes will lay hold of all those goats in the name of god, christ, and holy spirit .

    If the truth does not pain you inside and out, you just heard a lie, and God never lies! Remove the wicked men from among you! How we do it, will be God’s will by those bathed in His word and washed in the blood of Christ. We have nothing to boast about, we have everything in Christ! The sword of God’s word cuts both ways (those that proclaim it and those who hear it) and always for a holy purpose.
    God bless!

  2. DL,

    Great post! I would be considered one of those “Heresy Hunters” As a regular on PP.org I have seen all the defenders of the most heinous Pimps imaginable. I can only think that the people who follow these people are either greatly decieved babes in Christ or outright unsaved people who “play” Christian.

    Kyle

  3. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on the issue, Brah. They were really insightful.

    Regarding Apolegetics/Polemics, I honestly never knew the distinction between the two (As far as what the actual term “polemics” meant). However, I’ve always realized that there is a need for both.

    If you get a chance, have you ever considered investigating the book “The Truth War” by John Macarther? It deals with the very issue (especially on the EMERGENT CHURCH, which is heavily immersed in error due to the attempt of trying to be RELEVANT to the Post-Modern Culture & in the process becoming just like it)…….& the analogy he gives of the situation really strikes out to me.

    In a war, it’s not just a matter of EXTERNAL ENEMIES from other countries that’s a danger……but of people who are spies, double or TRIPLE AGENTS, shadow operations combatants, and terrorists that are involved as well since they serve to undermine the organization from within, whether through corrupting good officials in the organization, sending false information, or sabatoging things………and that is the role that heresy/false teachers have always played…and is perhaps an even GREATER THREAT.

    If I’m not mistaken, it’s funny that the Apostles seemed to always be more on guard against that than those coming against the church from outside….for persecution has always streghtened the church. It was COMPROMISE, however, that always weakened it….

    On the FLIP SIDE, there’s always the danger that in fighting a war against terrorists you end up becoming a DANGER YOURSELF, whether it be through doing your own thing and becoming a “rouge agent” who submits to no one or who gets involved in “friendly fire” against one’s allies/develops a “the ends justify the means” mentality because there is good coming out of their actions despite how some of it may go against the other instructions they were given…..

    and that’s something that many discernement ministries have fallen into: COMBATTING ERROR but doing so at the expense of loving others, working with those who fight error because they don’t theologically believe the same as they do 100% or doing so for the WRONG REASONS……

    I did a post on the issue if interested:

    http://emissary7.wordpress.com/2007/12/19/the-new-phariseeical-movement-in-the-club-or-not/#comment-225

    Either way, there’s always going to be WAR IN THE HOUSE OF GOD…..and as your post makes clear, there’s not just EXTERNAL WAR TO TAKE PLACE, but CIVIL WAR WITHIN THE RANKS AS WELL.

  4. With the war analogy, makes it seem even more relevant as to why we’re called to be SOLDIERS in the Word of God:

    2 Timothy 2:2-8

    2And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable men who will also be qualified to teach others. 3Endure hardship with us like a good soldier of Christ Jesus. 4No one serving as a soldier gets involved in civilian affairs—he wants to please his commanding officer. 5Similarly, if anyone competes as an athlete, he does not receive the victor’s crown unless he competes according to the rules. 6The hardworking farmer should be the first to receive a share of the crops. 7Reflect on what I am saying, for the Lord will give you insight into all this.

    8Remember Jesus Christ, raised from the dead, descended from David. This is my gospel,

  5. This is a great post, DL! I must confess, I really didn’t know the exact meaning of “polemics” until I read your post.

    Now I see the clear distinction between “apologetics” and “polemics.” You are correct. We desperately need more polemics Christian “warriors.” You would not believe how many of my Christian friends and relatives have no idea what is happening with the gay christian movement. I think that the main reason is because of their desire to avoid the subject, altogether. Many are uncomfortable discussing anything having to do with homosexuality. They don’t want to be labeled negatively about it.

    But isn’t this what we are called to do?

    “The Truth War” book that is recommended by commenter “Emissary” soulnds like one that I would love to read. When all is said and done, all of these heretical movements are set up as “wars” against the truth!

    Hope you don’t mind if I share a comment from this blogpost over here. I think that it could be considered an example of a polemic response. I was responding to a comment written by Matt W.

    Hi again Matt,

    This part in your comment is especially important:

    Matt wrote: “Just take a hard look at the portion quoted above and you will see that it’s not really about an image problem, it’s about turning The Church into “Church Lite.” This author is hurting Christians by furthering the myth that Christians are, as a group, “anithomosexual” when the fact is that we are, as is God, Anithomosexuality, which is NOT the same thing. Have there been issues with hypocracy in the past, sure, are some Christians insensitive, unfortunately, yes. And are some judgemental? Not as many as this guy would have you believe. The fact is that if you take a stand for Christ, and are willing to call sin what it really is, you will be labled judgemental, it’s a buzz word, and excuse to validate an “anything goes” culture, cause if you stand for anything, and especially against anything you are judmental.”

    Yes. God, in His Word IS anti-homosexuality. Yet, in His mercy, He wants ALL to come to repentance from this sin, as well as any other.

    God is anti-murder, anti-lust, anti-adultery, anti-theft, anti-lying, anti-rape, anti-any other sinful behavior you could think of. Yet, when it comes to the sin of homosexuality, people want to be given a “pass” in the repentance department.

    Why is that?

    It is because of pride. It is because of indoctrination. It is because of secular humanism. It is because they are saying, “MY WILL, not yours – God.”

    When Jesus prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane to have the Father “take this cup from me,” he was asking…if it would be possible. God’s answer was silence. Therefore, it wasn’t possible. Jesus’ death on the cross for our sins was the only way to reconciliation with God. He was the propitiation for OUR SINS! If there was any other way, God would have done it.

    Nothing that we could possibly suffer on this earth could ever compare to what Christ endured for us. He gave his all, for our sakes. He shed his blood and gave up his body to redeem us from our sins and escape the eternal damnation that would have awaited all of us. All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. The atonement through Christ is the only way that we can be made acceptable to God the Father. He is our Mediator and Advocate to this reconciliation unto God. Although we are all guilty of sin, Jesus’ sacrifice for sin, being “once for all” is the satisfaction that God required in His Justice, Holiness and Righteousness.

    A Just God does not allow sin to go unpunished. Thus, the punishment we deserve (death) was taken upon Jesus…for our sakes. If Jesus called down legions of angels to “rescue” him from that cross, he would not have accomplished the justice required by Holy and Righteous God, and He (being sinless) would have re-entered heaven alone.

    Instead, he had you in mind, Matt. He had me in mind. He had David Kinnamon in mind. He had Brian McLaren in mind. He had all of us in mind when he went to that cross for our salvation!

    The Bible tells us that “all of our righteousnesses are as ‘filthy rags.'”

    Isa 64:6 But we are all as an unclean [thing], and all our righteousnesses [are] as filthy rags; and we all do fade as a leaf; and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away.

    Isn’t that a sobering thing to realize? That Isaiah verse explains why Jesus became the propitiation for our sins. Our sin causes death. (…we all fade as a leaf). Our sins take us away from the presence of Holy and Righteous God (…our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away).

    There is NOTHING that we can do within our own power to ‘clean ourselves up.’ Without Christ, we would all die in our sins…ALL OF US!

    Knowing this, then, makes what the unChristian authors and Brian McLaren preach as necessary “Christian acts” far less meaningful and important…doesn’t it? As you stated, Matt:

    “I would ask this of Brian McLaren, what benefit is it if the “emerging Church” gain the whole world, but lose all the Souls???”

    That is a great point! It shows that such a movement is bent towards creating a “utopia on earth” rather than point lost souls towards salvation and eternity in heaven. It’s almost like they want to create a false reality that we can have “heaven on earth.”

    All that the emerging church would do, (besides bringing lost souls to repentance, which results in God applying His mercy upon us and His grace for salvation), is but “filthy rags” compared to what Jesus told us was most important. The Great Commission is most important.

    Utilizing physical comfort, extending help, and loving each other are ways to help achieve this end; and yes, we are called to help our brothers and sisters in need. However, doing those three things (and more of the physical efforts we give here on this earth) are not nearly as important as planting the seed of the Gospel in the hearts of every human being on this earth.

    The harvest belongs to God, of course. He does the saving. But we are called to “go into all nations,” to share the Gospel as Jesus told us:

    Mat 28:19 Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost:

    Mat 28:20 Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, [even] unto the end of the world. Amen.

  6. Christine and EasyG,

    You are right. Another problem or misconception about polemics is that you are attacking a brother or sister. They are right we dont attack fellow brothers and sisters who have made a mistake. We lovingly correct them by showing them what the Word of God says about their issue. And if they are truly brothers and sistes in Christ, they will be convicted and repent.

    However heretics, wolves in sheeps clothing, and false prophets have no intention on repenting. They are double agents and they can only operate within the body portraying themselves as “fellow believers” so as to escape correction under the guise of love.

    Bishop Yvette Flunder’s infamous line (which is a glaring example of this) is “we need to have a non-punitive discussion on sexuality”. The BIBLE is a punitive book against ALL sin as you noted Christine. There is no way for us to make something that is an abomination, not an abomination. To do so would delete the reality of sin and thus the need for repentance.

    This same thread of thinking is in most of these postmodernist influenced Christian movements.

  7. The world will say ‘give me Jesus!’ a thousand times for a thousand years, but don’t give me the Jesus that makes me change my ways! Any one who wants to make me anything, is a shot in the heart, the very place Jesus aimed His sword of truth.

    The GCM is nothing more than a quasi-christian medieval spirituality. Questioning God’s word has been done since the garden. Those who stand for sola scriptura do so without a simple set of beliefs, but a knowledge rooted in God’s word. You can’t pick up the Bible and say …”ok, this is where I call it the word of God, but over here, this is not”. That’s the difference my friends. That kind of thinking is a direct assault on God’s very nature and truthfulness.

    1 Timothy 6:20-21 (NASB)

    20 Timothy, guard what has been entrusted to you, avoiding worldly and empty chatter and the opposing arguments of what is falsely called “knowledge”–

    21which some have professed and thus gone astray from the faith Grace be with you.

    and yes, a literal six days! 🙂

  8. Mark I am definitely feeling you on that 1 Timothy 6:20-21!

    I cant name them all but the “emergent church movement” and the gcm are clearly described in scripture. And it tells us what to do about it.

    As G2G said we are in a war but the pacifists want to proclaim peace and blessings. This is a false prophecy and not from God. We are under sustained attack and there can be no real peace until we earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints.

  9. Forgot to post the Scriptutes on the subject….

    For an excellent article on the subject of the Truth Battle, I’d encourage everyone to investigate this:

    And to add, WANTEd TO add these Scriptutres as well, (seeing that many times those in discernment ministries try to approch the adressing/correcting of error from a physical standpoint….words, speeches, arguments, etc…..and completely forget that the war we’re in is SPIRITUAL PRIMARILY, Ephesians 6, WHICH is why we need to have the wisdom/power of God in front of us…and why we need to be PRAYERFUL AT ALL TIMES)

    2 Corinthians 10:3-5
    2 Timothy 2:15-26

    Jude 1:17-23 A call to persevere

    17But, dear friends, remember what the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ foretold. 18They said to you, “In the last times there will be scoffers who will follow their own ungodly desires.” 19These are the men who divide you, who follow mere natural instincts and do not have the Spirit.
    20But you, dear friends, BUILD YOURSELVES UP IN YOUR MOST HOLY FAITH AND PRAY IN THE HOLY SPIRIT.. 21Keep yourselves in God’s love as you wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to bring you to eternal life.
    22Be merciful to those who doubt; 23snatch others from the fire and save them; to others show mercy, mixed with fear—hating even the clothing stained by corrupted flesh.

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