Mean Apologist Disease (MAD)-the condition of showing a generally condescending, angry, and spiteful attitude of an apologist caused by forgetting his primary purpose. Symptoms may include: angry outbursts, finger pointing, ad hom attacks, name calling, poor word crafting, combative language, use of the word debunked, seek and destroy blog missions, rash, dizziness, insomnia, gas, and vomiting.
(well, probably not the gas)
In a conversation with a friend of mine today, I was reminded of what a complete butt I can be at times. He was explaining to me a controversy he had experienced with a group of people he knew, over one word. The word used was combative in nature. It was as if there was a statement being made about attacking certain people rather than reasoning with them. The moment he pointed this out to me, I was immediately convicted about my own poor word choices. I was then reminded of another conversation I had had with another friend when he had reminded me of my purpose as I give a defense for the hope that is in me. He replied to my complaining of a local atheist, “What is your goal” here? I was reminded that I am not supposed to be an attacker. I am a defender.
Apologetics can get that way can’t it? In all of the effort to make a reasonable and clear defense of the faith, market it in such a way so people actually see it, and win, it’s easy to loose sight of the goal. Let’s be honest. The more you confront atheism, the more you are challenged by bad ideas, the more you are attacked personally, the easier it is to go on the offense. I don’t mean offense in a strategical sense, as if you shouldn’t make plans and pursuit their implementation or aggressively strive to defeat bad worldviews and the strategies of those who are opposed to Christianity. I mean offense in the sense of attacking to destroy people, not ideas. That should not be our goal.
I wouldn’t write about this other than the fact that if I need reminded now and then that I should watch my tongue, my word crafting, and my general attitude toward those I debate, there are probably others who need the same. This is just my experience and maybe it is yours as well.
So, just as a practice of self-discipline, lets take a quick look at that apologists go to passage again. The mirror of God’s Word will shine the truth on our motives.
3:13 For who is going to harm you if you are devoted to what is good? 3:14 But in fact, if you happen to suffer for doing what is right, you are blessed. But do not be terrified of them or be shaken. 3:15 But set Christ apart as Lord in your hearts and always be ready to give an answer to anyone who asks about the hope you possess. 3:16 Yet do it with courtesy and respect, keeping a good conscience, so that those who slander your good conduct in Christ may be put to shame when they accuse you. 3:17 For it is better to suffer for doing good, if God wills it, than for doing evil.
Biblical Studies Press. (2006). The NET Bible First Edition; Bible. English. NET Bible.; The NET Bible (1 Pe 3:13–17). Biblical Studies Press.
In a book meant to speak to the persecuted church, we find Peter’s call to all apologists. Be ready to give an answer! But wait, there’s more…
This book is about how to deal with persecution, and what Peter writes here is no exception. All of this should speak to apologists, not just verse 15.
Verses 13 and 14 say, do not fear people. If you are harmed (attacked), but are devoted to doing what is right or good, you are blessed. How’s that for a contradiction Mr. Apologist? How can someone be harmed and blessed at the same time? Well, any good apologist will tell you that this is not a case of a=b=non a. One may be harmed but yet be blessed. In fact, the harm could turn out to be the blessing. Regardless, because the harm is temporal and the blessing is eternal, Peter says, “do not fear”. Give a Congressional Metal of Honor to me man!
Verse 15 though is our baby. It’s our go to proof text for why we believe people should become apologists. We are to be ready to give a defense. There is that part about setting Christ apart as Lord though. We memorized that part but sort of say it real fast to get to the be ready part. The problem is, the first part says something unique about this passage and we understand that because of the last part of the verse, which we say real fast too (the hope you possess). The Christ being Lord in my heart is the hope I possess. That is what I am defending. Now, if Christ is truly Lord in my heart and he is the hope I possess, then what does that say about how I am to give my defense? Should I constantly be in attack mode?
Verse 16 explains how. Give a defense with courtesy and respect, keeping a good conscience. That says it all. We are not to attack simply to win. That’s not to say that we never attack or that we never win. Christ attacked often and he always won. He won himself a cross and several hours of beating and mocking. He won himself six hours of humiliation. He won the grand prize of death. So what should we expect, an Emmy?
Peter restates this principle of pain in verse 17. It is better to suffer for doing good, if God wills it, than for doing evil. If God wills it is in play here, but not for long. Why? That’s easy. Of course God wills doing good. He always does, so there should be no if to qualify God’s will if it is referring to doing good. It is the suffering that may be God’s will. God may let you obey him, give your best defense, then will it that you lose, or even worse are humiliated or attacked. That would be better than not doing good, and it would be a blessing according to verse 14. Pulitzer prize anyone?
The question is this. Why do we believe we deserve anything else? Why is it that we think we should be praised for our logic or patted on the back for winning a debate with an unbeliever? I’ll tell you why. It’s the same reason that I wrote about in I’m a Chronic Thief. I am a glory stealer. I regularly pilfer praise from the only one that deserves it and I whine and complain when I don’t get it. In my mind, I don’t deserve to be ridiculed. I have done the study. I know the material. I am not ignorant or close-minded. Don’t you know who I am?
That’s why I attack those who oppose me. That’s why I need to stop.
Apologetics is not about winning arguments by tearing down people. It’s about winning people by tearing down their bad arguments. Likewise, it’s not about building myself up in the sight of others so that others can see my love for Christ. It’s about getting out of the way so people who are blind can have a clear sight to Christ when he opens their eyes to his love for them.
“If you are drawn into controversy, use very hard arguments and very soft words. Frequently you cannot convince a man by tugging at his reason, but you can persuade him by winning his affections.” –Charles Spurgeon, Lectures to My Students, p. 173