Posted by: Ken Brown | August 26, 2009

A Little Less Talk…

This hits pretty darn close to home (HT Between Two Worlds):

I recall when I was in seminary (Westminster Seminary California, 1992-96) that many of the young men used to sit around and debate the fine points of Van Tillian presuppositional apologetics for hours. They would be incredibly critical of any other form of apologetics, even other Reformed apologists like Francis Schaeffer or R. C. Sproul. The interesting thing was that it was a debate about the theory of apologetics. But the time and effort spent on getting the theory right was not matched by an equal zeal to actually use the theory in evangelizing unbelievers. Why? Because they were more interested (and I am guilty of this myself) of being right than in seeing sinners come to Christ. In other words, theological perfectionism had become an idol, whether it was the baser idol of wanting to look smart in the eyes of other seminary students, or the more refined idol of craving philosophical certainty about Christianity rather than having child-like trust in Christ.

The whole thing is worth reading.

Honestly, I’ve become less and less comfortable with apologetics in any form, so it might be easy to look down my nose at those who would agonize over the “proper” sort to “use,” but I have to ask whether I have thrown the baby out with the bathwater. It’s all well and good to believe (as I do) that real faith develops in and through relationships, not arguments, but unless I truly am investing myself in loving the people around me (Christian and non-Christian alike), that’s just an excuse not to evangelize at all.


  1. i have that discomfort as well. i think my discomfort came with my theological maturity. kierkegaard helped. i came to understand that my theology will always be absurd before god. when i claimed that, it liberated me to let go and let god… which is kind of what jesus calls us to do anyway.

  2. Exactly! But as I have become less concerned about being “right,” have I also become less concerned about sharing “the truth as best I know it”?

    Sure, I blog about my thoughts, and that sometimes leads to worthwhile conversations, but if faith really is all about relationship, blogging isn’t much of a substitute for face to face interaction, yet I often let it be!

  3. I agree with you, Ken, and am guilty as charged. I need to spend less time in these faceless pursuits and start getting my hands dirty a lot more often.

  4. Your post brings to mind a quote from Marilynne Robinson’s Gilead: “Nothing true can be said about God from the posture of defense.” This resonates with me on a whole bunch of levels. I have found that times when I am most concerned to “defend” God are usually also times when I am not terribly concerned about the real needs (spiritual or otherwise) of others. It’s good to have these reminders that people always trump ideas. Maybe Robinson’s quote could be extended to include the idea that nothing true can be shown about God from the posture of defense either…

    • Oh, that’s good! Gilead is another on my (much too long) list of books I need to read.

  5. How would you characterize Francis Schaeffer’s apologetic method? He seems to say Christianity is right because other points of views can lead to immorality, and that Christianity was the solution to the problems that people in the 60’s-70’s were identifying. Is that a presuppositionalist approach?

    • I’m not really the one to ask, as the only book of his I’ve read is Escape from Reason, and that was a long time ago. As I skim back through it now, all I see are lots of little charts and attempts to categorize worldviews and historical periods; it strikes me as very modern even as it tries to criticize modernity. But like I said, that’s only one book, and only a cursory impression.

      For what it’s worth, here’s Wikipedia’s summary, which has him charting a middle path between evidentialism and presuppositionalism.

  6. Thanks for the link, Ken. I’ve been reading his son’s autobiography, so the question has been somewhat on my mind.

    • What do you think of the autobiography?

  7. I’m loving it so far. I’m dreading having to finish it. Many Schaeffer supporters have criticized it for airing the family’s dirty laundry, and perhaps rightfully so, but I like learning about people’s strengths and weaknesses. For example, I’m also a Reagan fan, but give me a good book or documentary that goes into the good and the bad aspects of him, rather than a phony conservative hagiography!

  8. I don’t read many biographies (or much modern history at all, really). That’s probably something I ought to rectify someday, but at this stage I’ve got quite enough to read as it is!

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