Professional Apologists

A few months back, I was in a conversation which was started by someone quoting Do not give what is holy to dogs or throw your pearls before pigs; otherwise they will trample them under their feet and turn around and tear you to pieces (Matthew 7:6). The question was asked what bearing this verse might have concerning the “apologist mill” or the professional apologist and his choice of how he does his work.

My first response is a working through of the imagery: At the risk of overactive typology, dogs were animals which were unclean. Gentiles were called dogs, even by Jesus (Matthew 15:26). Pigs were animals which were clean on the outside (cloven hoofs) but unclean on the inside (do not chew cud) so more represent the outwardly religious. Their actions were not just ignorance of the value of pearls, but after trampling them they turn and attack the one who offered the pearls to them. In either instance, we have the example of Jesus who still gave bread – bread which the children rejected – to the dog (Matthew 15:27). Plus, we have his constant interaction with the Pharisees who trampled his offer and attacked him.

As for the “Apologetics mills”, it really makes you think about what it is you are trying to accomplish. As one participant said, part of the reason to argue is for the benefit of the observers who may be open to the message. Neither dogs nor pigs appreciate what is holy. Jesus’ image is that they despise what is holy. We are to be ready to “give an answer” (1 Peter 3:15), but that is in the context of every Christian living their life in hope. I’m not sure it justifies a special class of apologetic-mongers.

Interactions went on over the (I think exaggerated) thought that so few Christians are “ready to give an answer” and that the wish is that all Christians be apologists. I added: Rethinking the “professional Apologist” issue. We know that the Spirit gives differing gifts for the building up of the Body (Ephesians 4:12) and I think there may be in that context a “gift” and ability – one which not everybody has – to gather and to present apologia for the faith. So those who do not have this should not look down on those who do and neither should those who do look down on those who don’t (1 Corinthians 12). We are all one Body.

The concern I have is really that those who do not think they have “The Gift” decide what they have is irrelevant and they must rely, and/or defer, and/or find one who does have “The Gift”. An example I have used before is a church I went to which on Sunday morning the pastor was preaching through a then popular Christian Living book, the Sunday school was going through a video series, the Sunday evening was another video series and Wednesday was another Christian Living book. They are good and all, but was there no one in that church with a teaching gift? Was there no one with a Word? The reliance on the “professionals” – no matter how profound their teaching gift may be – cripples the local church. When Jesus builds his church, he does so even on the local level distributing gifts as he sees fit (1 Corinthians 12:11).

Everybody be ready. God in wisdom has placed you where you are and makes you sufficient as a minister of the New Covenant (2 Corinthians 3:5,6)

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2 Responses to Professional Apologists

  1. Mike says:

    You raise a couple of issues here but, since I came for the apologetics, I stick with the apologetics.

    Frankly, I’m not sure I get the specialization-izing – I’m making up words here – of apologetics. Every believer should, as Peter admonished, be able to give an answer or defense of the hope that is in them. But now we have the elevation of apologetics to a level approaching that of exegesis or textual criticism: one must have special training in order to “really” be able to give a worthy answer. After all, if you can’t refute postmodernism and/or evolution, do you really think you can defend the faith?

    I’ve never known anyone who came to Christ because of apologetics. Maybe apologetics provided a forum and created an environment in which the Holy Spirit could work, but if it only takes intellectual assent to believe, then I’ve been wrong about the gospel for a long time.

    Maybe this isn’t exactly what you were saying, but it is what I’m saying. But unless I’ve misread you, I think we’re not far apart on this.

    Good post. Thanks.

  2. xulonjam says:

    Thanks Mike,
    Ultimately, I think this post is an appeal for the priesthood of every believer and the recognition that gifts differ. Some people have special ability I think, to defend the faith. It seems to me that Mere Christianity has been effective in at least solidifying faith if not actual conversion. Some people have gushed about Evidence That Demands a Verdict (I made it through maybe a dozen pages of that one. There may also be a gift of reading).
    I really did not address the “professional” part so much except for the tendency to overly depend on the professionals to the point that no one is using their gifts and, as you pointed out, ignoring the plain teaching of Scripture. It is very common that in answer to a question about our faith, we say “I’ll bring in eight books”.

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