By Elias Ayala (MDiv & M.A.T.)
A simple hand grenade has nothing on an atomic bomb. Atomic bombs completely decimate everything within its all-encompassing scope and causes its target to completely disintegrate. While apologetic hand grenades can be helpful and useful in keeping the opponent at bay answering their tit-for tat objections, they can never fully defeat the foe since all he need do is regroup, place bandages on his intellectual wounds and plan his next attack. However, if the nature of our apologetic is that of an atomic bomb, there would be no intellectual recovery for the unbeliever since their position, indeed the very foundation upon which they stand will have disintegrated without chance of recovery. The possibility of executing such destruction upon the world of unbelief is not only possible, but it is biblical.
The Apostle Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 10:5 that “We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to the obedience of Christ…”. Paul teaches us that we are not merely responding to arguments against Christ, but we are to DESTROY arguments and EVERY lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God. Indeed, to argue or raise a lofty opinion against the knowledge of God is foolishness. It comes from a “darkened and ignorant mind” (Ephesians 4:8), and is grounded in a “knowledge falsely so called” (1 Timothy 6:20). Having the mind of Christ (1 Corinthians 2:16) we are not to be enamored with the thinking of unbelief since to God such thinking is foolishness. As the God inspired Psalms tell us: “It is the fool who says in his heart, there is no God” (Psalm 14:1). Whether the unbeliever is your average lay-person neighbor, or an award winning PhD professor, foolishness promoted by the unlearned and the learned alike is still foolishness. Does one think such language is harsh? Take it up with God since it is he who has given us the divine commentary on the nature of unbelieving thought.
With the foolishness of unbelief established from the biblical perspective, we are then as apologists, as defenders of the faith to engage with such foolishness and destroy it intellectually speaking. Remember, we are speaking of “arguments and lofty opinions” and not the people who make the arguments and who hold and put forth their lofty opinions. Hence, when we precede to “destroy arguments and every lofty opinion”, we are to do so with “gentleness and respect” (1 Peter 3:15). It might sound funny at first but in essence, we are to completely and utterly destroy every ARGUMENT and LOFTY OPINION with love and respect.
With regards to the mind and thinking of the believer, we are told to “put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness” (Ephesians 4:22-23). The mind of the believer is renewed, for indeed, in light of our being united to God in Christ, “we have the mind of Christ” (1 Corinthians 2:16). And as such we are not to adopt the thinking of the unbeliever. If we keep this in mind, we already have a foundation for employing an atomic bomb sort of apologetic in which the unbeliever has no place to stand.
The result of having our minds renewed by the Holy Spirit and in submission to the Lordship of Jesus Christ is that we have the Word of God positioned in the place of ultimacy within our worldview outlook. Understanding that this is the rightful place of scripture within our outlook, and correctly surveying and bringing out the unbelievers foundation of ultimacy, we are then in a position to completely and utterly destroy “arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and so as to take every thought captive to the obedience of Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5). If we are not bringing all of our thoughts into captivity to the obedience of Christ, we too will be positioning on a foundation of foolishness and futility, since thoughts not brought under the Lordship of Christ have no true foundation. Let me bring this point out by using the biblical model of atomic bomb apologetics taught us in the book of Proverbs.
In Proverbs 26:4-5 we are told to “Answer not a fool according to his folly, lest you be like him yourself. Answer the fool according to his folly, lest he be wise in his own eyes.” Who is the fool in this context and who is the one who is wise? We read elsewhere in Proverbs that the “beginning of knowledge is the fear of the Lord” (Proverbs 1:7). What is the beginning of knowledge, and indeed wisdom itself? It is the fear of the Lord. No man knows truly and has wisdom without first submitting in reverence to the Lord of wisdom and knowledge. The fool is the one “who despises wisdom and instruction” (Proverbs 1:7). Furthermore, the fool is also he “who says in his heart, there is no God” (Psalm 14:1). So the instruction for our engagement with such people is laid out for us in Proverbs 26:4-5 in the “Don’t answer/Answer approach. The Bible is not contradicting itself here but rather laying out the method by which we are to reduce the position of the fool to absurdity.
When we are told to answer not the fool, we are basically being told to not operate under the assumptions and faulty beliefs of the unbeliever. We are not to adopt the tenants of his own unbelieving worldview. We are not to pretend to be neutral in our approach to the existence of God in the sense that we operate under the method which says, “Well, the unbeliever has a hypothesis and I the believer have a hypothesis, let’s see who is right”.1 Remember, that to stand on the authority of God and his Word is not to then engage in a method that would have us for a moment cast the truth of God and his Word to the side so as to build a case and work our way back up to the existence of God. In order to have an atomic bomb apologetic we are not to first throw away our atomic bomb, or the necessary and irrefutable foundation of the God of scripture. From a worldview perspective, the Christian who stands on the truth of God is in a position to answer the tough philosophical questions, but we content that the unbeliever cannot.
When we are then told to answer the fool according to his folly we are basically being told for hypothetical purposes, let us assume the truth of the fool’s position so as to demonstrate where such foolishness leads. On this method, hypothetically granting the truth of the fool’s position is in a sense it’s own refutation. Allow me to illustrate: Suppose we encounter a Buddhist. As we are engaging apologetically with the Buddhist and asking questions so as to learn his position we learn that the Buddhist believes that the reason behind all of the world’s suffering stems from desire. People desire things that they don’t have and as a result some people kill, steal, and engage in war. In essence, all of the world’s troubles stems from this reality is some way, shape, or form. However, the cure for suffering is found in the removal of desire, since it is desire that is the root of the problem. Remove desire and then we by extension remove suffering.
Let us now utilize our Proverbs 26 approach. On the one hand, I as a Christian do not want to agree with the Buddhist’s position concerning suffering since as a bible believing Christian I have a different account of things. I believe in Creation, Fall, Redemption. I believe that people are inherently sinful and that sin lies at the root of the problem and it is for this reason that Jesus came and so on. But for arguments sake, let us assume the Buddhist account of things. Let us assume that the root of suffering is desire. And that in order to remove suffering we must work to remove desire. However, if we grant the hypothetical truth of such a position, self refuting nature of the position is brought out. For in order to remove desire so as to remove suffering, one must first desire to remove desire so as to remove suffering. Yet to desire to remove desire is itself a desire. Indeed, how frustrating must it be to desire to remove desire yet fail to do so. The failure to do so would lead to suffering and so we are right back at the problem. On this conception of Buddhism, one would have to violate its own principle in order to accomplish its end goal and this is self refuting.
Notice that such refutation did not require that one know the ins-and-outs of Buddhist theology in all its forms and details. This simple approach merely involves putting biblical principles into practice. When we apply biblical truth to the area of unbelief, we can see before our very eyes the crumbling of the foundations of unbelief, in what whatever form it may come.
1. This is what Eve did in the Garden of Eden. Instead of trusting God’s Word with regards to not eating of the tree, she set aside the authority of God and decided for herself what would be the right thing to do. In so doing, she positioned herself in the place of God.