A Ready Defense
Shane ScottBUT SANCTIFY CHRIST AS LORD in you hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an answer for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence (1 Peter 3:15).
The defense of Christianity is called "apologetics." This word comes from the Greek word apologia, the word Peter used when he exhorted his readers to be "ready to make a defense." Peter did not leave the practice of apologetics to an elite corps of technically trained scholars. Rather, it is the obligation of every Christian whose hope is so manifest that it evokes inquiries from those who have no hope. I want to share an experience that I had that hopefully will encourage you in the pursuit of defending the faith.
Last fall, the trustees of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary announced that belief in biblical inerrancy was essential for the professors there to retain tenure or to be hired in the future. This sparked a firestorm of protest from "moderate" Baptists, including a professor of philosophy at Eastern Kentucky University, Dr. James Robert Miller.
Dr. Miller authored a guest editorial in the Lexington Herald-Leader which castigated the trustees for practicing "bibliolatry" (worshiping the Bible rather than God) and asserted that the belief in inerrancy was out of the mainstream of historic Christianity. This article was more than I could stomach, and I wrote a letter to the editor in which I pointed out that inerrancy was the historic position of Christendom and that Jesus taught that the Scriptures were perfect (John 10:35; 17:17). To my surprise, the letter was published.
The next Thursday morning, I received a call from the host of a local TV show who explained that he had invited Dr. Miller to be on the show to discuss the inerrancy controversy, and he wanted me to represent the conservative view! I begged out, telling the host I was too young (23 at the time), too uneducated (I was still working on my M.A. degree, and too unprepared (the show was to be taped that night) to do it. He told me that no one else had agreed to do it, and that if I did not appear, Miller would appear unopposed. After some of the most intense prayer of my life, I decided to do the show.
I spent all afternoon studying for the show, and later that evening I arrived at the studio and the taping began. I was so nervous I expected to pass out, but glanced over at Miller's hands and noticed that he was shaking, too. I did not feel so bad after that. Anyway, the show went so well that at one commercial break the host suggested that we tape a second show, and we agreed. In the course of the next two weeks, I was amazed at how many people had seen the show ( my bank teller, a former teacher, and a co-worker of my Mom's, to name a few). All of them were impressed with the rationality of the conservative viewpoint.
From this experience I learned several valuable lessons:
1. Diligent preparation is essential to defending the faith. Several of my teachers at Florida College spent valuable class time on biblical inspiration. This preparation was a key factor in my ability to defend the faith. Of course, we do not have to attend a college to defend the faith, but we must attend to the study of God's word. And whether we study on our own or with the guidance of others, the important thing is that we saturate ourselves with Scripture ( 1 Tim 4:6,13-16).
2. Critics of the Bible are intellectually lazy. I say this because the criticisms of the Bible which I have read or heard (including Dr. Miller's) are basically the same criticisms leveled at the Bible centuries ago, and which Bible-believers have sufficiently answered decade after decade. This laziness stems from the arrogance of critics who assume that nothing Bible-believers say should be taken seriously, including their answers to criticisms of Scripture.
3. Finally, we must rely on God's help to defend the faith. In 1 Peter 3:15, apologetics begins by setting Christ apart in our hearts, by reverencing Him. I was scared to death to be on TV, but through prayer and study I knew that my fear and trembling would be eased by God who would work through me (Philip 2:12-13).
Our age is becoming increasingly anti-Christian. The issues of the twenty-first century will not mainly be baptism, once-saved-always-saved, or instrumental music. The new issues will be the inspiration of Scripture, the historicity of the resurrection, and the unique claims of Christianity. Let us be prepared to "contend earnestly for the faith" (Jude 3).