Offense or defense? Both.

Many evangelistic endeavors seek to bring people out of false religions and cults.  Those are very important and have accomplished great things. 

But their value isn’t just in getting people out of bad things, it is in keeping people from entering them to begin with.

You may be able to count how many people  a group converted from Mormonism, for example, and it may seem like a small number.  But keep in mind that good teaching may have prevented many more people from entering Mormonism to begin with.  It is just that the defensive numbers don’t lend themselves to tracking as well as the offensive ones do.  But both are important.

In the same way, apologetics may seem focused on getting people out of cults and other religions and converting them from atheism.  But it can help keep people from leaving the church (many of whom are unsaved).  I’m not disputing the “once saved, always saved” teaching that I hold to.  I’m just saying that you can’t just assume people are saved because they show up at church wearing nice clothes (I know that of which I speak, as I used to be one of those nicely dressed pagans sitting in the pew). 

So my strategy is to spread sound teachings far and wide and play both offense and defense.

0 thoughts on “Offense or defense? Both.”

  1. And a good strategy it is.

    If you don’t mind, could you expound a bit on the concept of “once saved, always saved”? I’ve had this debate with our friends Alan and ER and believe otherwise. That is, I think being saved is always a conscious decision on our parts. Though some may be swept away by the Spirit and are forever pious and firmly on the path, others need to check their steps and can even, for a number of reasons, willfully leave the path and die before they can correct themselves. Out and out rebellion and then, BAM! hit by a bus. What say you?

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  2. Oh, I meant to add that some like to cite the verse that says nothing can separate us from the love of God. I say that means nothing but ourselves, as once we give ourselves to Him, we’re cool, but we each can also decide to change our minds. We don’t become automatons just because we say we believe, or just because we’ve asked Christ into our hearts.

    I say this because I believe both intellectually and from the heart, and likely culturally as well, but constantly wrassle with my sinful self. And I mean CONSTANTLY. I’m sure many people, if not most, could easily come to a point where they might say, “To hell with that Bible stuff. I’m gonna party!”

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  3. Excellent post! I’ve been preaching the same thing for years, but I find it difficult to get others to want to put it into practice. I think it’s important, when teaching doctrine, to give examples of that which is in error. That way people are better equiped to recognized the poison.

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  4. Thanks, Glenn. I like your reference to poison. I’ve heard good teaching on apologetics referred to as innoculations and I think it has some merit. Tell ’em about the basics of the false teachings and the criticisms of Christianity so they don’t hear it for the first time from outside the church.

    Marshall, I sometimes add “really” to that phrase to help explain it, as in “once really saved, always really saved.” By that I mean that if someone is authentically converted then they’ll stay that way. I don’t think they jump in and out of salvation one or more times. I typically refer to 1 John 2:19 (They went out from us, but they did not really belong to us. For if they had belonged to us, they would have remained with us; but their going showed that none of them belonged to us.), though there are plenty of other verses.

    I realize there is a tension in the Bible about persevering and such which makes it sound like you could leave. But if you are really saved I think you’ll persevere. There is a mystery in how God’s grace gives us the ability to trust in Jesus. Hope that helps. Let me know what you think.

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  5. Re. wrestling with sin constantly: I heard something that applies well there. If you weren’t wrestling with it, that would be the bigger problem. Those that give themselves over to sin and stay there aren’t saved. We’ll always have temptations in this life. We shouldn’t seek out sin, of course, but if there is no wrestling (in the sense of fighting sin) then something is wrong.

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  6. I agree with the “really saved” part.

    In my experience, once you let the Holy Spirit in (not necessarily the same as baptism by water or confession of faith), you can ignore it, you can try to keep part of your life separate from it. But the Spirit is unbelievably patient and gently leads you any time you let it until you eventually follow it more and more.

    After many years I have opened my entire being to the Spirit, but I still tend to wander off on my own from time to time. Still when I look back on my life, I can now see where the Spirit was leading me even though I did not know it at the time.

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  7. So true. I started a wiki for apologetics (click on my name, and maybe even add or edit your favourite apologetics topic!) and I’ve been reading a lot about apologetics. The things I am learning when I go to edit an article I’m not sure about are as much a help to me as to anyone else.

    For example, I’ve been reading about a defence of the resurrection from the “minimal facts”. Sure, I am sure it will be useful when talking to others, but it’s also incredibly useful to me to give me real confidence this Easter when I say “Jesus has been raised from the dead”!

    For a Christian living in today’s world this stuff is like gold to know.

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  8. I tend to agree with you Neil. Regarding the struggling with sin, there seems to be 4 levels per sin.
    1. Doesn’t tempt you at all (for instance, gambling may not be a problem with some people)
    2. You struggle with the temptation at times but live in victory.
    3. You struggle and often give into temptation, but it tears you up in side.
    4. You don’t struggle and you live the lifestyle (i.e. gambling your life away, but it doesn’t bother you spiritually).

    It is #4 that I believe is not saved.

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  9. SST — Yep! That’s been my experience.

    Chucky — Thanks for visiting and commenting. Great points about apologetics. It isn’t just about convincing others, it is about strengthening our own faith. Lots of thorough answers are there for lots of tough questions. Good luck with the apologetics wiki – that’s a great idea.

    Chance — good distinctions.

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  10. One of the places that I think we have failed horribly is with our own children. You mentioned “hearing it from outside the church for the first time” in your comment. I see this as key. I first experienced the concept while “studying” with Jehovah’s Witnesses. They had already been told that I would say everything that I in fact did say along with the reasons the Watch Tower considered it in error. It was very easy for them to see me as another deceived individual and the Watch Tower Society to look like real prophets. That’s because the WT had put into practice offense apologetics. Satan, being a counterfeiter, used a method here that I think Jesus used Himself. One example is Jesus telling his disciples that they would be hated because of Him. So when the disciples went out, the hatred that they experienced was not a sign that they needed to mitigate their message, but was a sign that they were preaching correctly and gave them encouragement.

    I heard a statistic that I can’t reference, but which experience seems to bear out, that we in the church loose 80 percent of our young when they become adults. I see this as an indictment on the way we do business and I believe your article addresses the problem. If we can’t disciple our own children living under our own roof, how can we even think about discipling those who are under our roof but a couple of hours a week?

    I think that one of the problems is that we don’t really see a problem. I think the school system plays a much larger role than many give it credit. Instead of parents telling their children that this is what your teacher is going to teach you and this is why its wrong, pagan teachers are telling them that this is what your parents and your narrow minded church is going to teach you and here’s why its wrong. Entertainment also, for the most part, gets in on the act and only serves to solidify an anti-Christian mindset. And this mind set is programed in in such a way as to prevent many from being able to hear the Gospel because everything we say is what they have been told we are going to say. They just want to know one thing: is Jesus the only way, for if we claim he is then we have fallen short of the largest truth that they know, and that is that there is no such truth that can be that exclusive. I believe that the pews in our churches are full of just such young and some older “believers” because we have been so afraid of being offensive that we have not in the end been offensive.

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  11. Excellent points, Dan. Thanks for visiting and commenting. I think one of the problems is that people leave Christian education to the church, but we’re commanded to be the primary teachers: Ephesians 6:4 Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.

    Your blog is terrific. I added it to my blogroll.

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  12. Chance,
    I like your distinctions or levels the temptations of sin, but I think where we as a church drop the ball in this regard is clarifying true sin. In other words, gambling is such a petty sin to begin with, why mention it? I know, some denominations exalt it to the unforgivable sin, etc.

    The point is, when it comes to sin, everyone always come up with such petty lists and examples.

    Why not start with the identification of sin in the first place.
    Thou shalt have no other gods before Me.
    Gambling is only a symptom of the greater reality of idolatry. The gambler’s god is mammon. The adulerer’s god is sex, etc. But the greater sin is against God Himself in that the sinner has exalted these things above God in the belief that these things will bring true happiness.

    When we start with that list of laws to help define sin, and cover commandment one sufficiently, then we really begin to see the true depth our own sin. Lists like yours, while helpful in some respects, go right out the window because we see the sin in our own hearts, the idolatry and failings and it drives us back to Christ.

    Well, I hope that was helpful. I need to get back to my overindulgence in Easter chocolate. 🙂
    Blessings

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  13. “Why not start with the identification of sin in the first place.
    Thou shalt have no other gods before Me.”

    I would say it’s possible to identify almost every activity as a breach of that commandment. Makes you wonder why he bothered with the other nine.

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  14. Jesus agrees with you (sort of 😉 ). It was truly the macro command, after which He gave us more examples and details.

    Matthew 22:34-40 Hearing that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, the Pharisees got together. One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question: “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

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