By Elias Ayala (MDiv & M.A.T.)
Christian philosopher and apologist Greg Bahnsen once said, “the reason I am not afraid to take on any opponent, is not because I am so smart, but because I have read the back of the book.” Greg Bahnsen was a fearless Christian apologist and a brilliant philosophical mind. He was such a good debater that he developed the nickname: The man that atheists fear the most. Yet, for all his intelligence and debating skills, he consistently taught that as apologists we should trust in the sufficiency of the Lord, and not the self sufficiency of our own minds.
This was reflected in the fact that he was fully committed to the Bible as our ultimate source of wisdom and guidance. It was the Bible, as God’s divinely inspired Word that men were to build upon as their firm intellectual foundation. He took very seriously the words of Jesus, that it is “the fool who builds his house on sand” (Matthew 7:26). Autonomous human reasoning and the elementary principles of worldly thinking are themselves the sand, or the foolish foundations upon which unbelievers build their edifice of so-called knowledge and wisdom.
Dr. Bahnsen’s confidence came in trusting that it is “in Christ that all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge are to be found” (Colossians 2:3). That to always be ready to give an answer was not solely based upon one’s ability to exercise human intelligence, but rather, the work of the Spirit of God to bring to remembrance the wise teachings of our Lord (John 14:26). He firmly believed that our confidence came in trusting the sufficiency of God’s Wisdom, and that the “fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge” (Proverbs 1:7).
The simple truth here, is that the key to being a confident Christian apologist, is to find the foundation of our confidence in the Lord himself. We need to understand that the Lord is not a distant on-looker when we are engaging unbelievers in apologetic dialogue and debate. Rather, he is involved in the process using our words and conduct as the means whereby his truth is declared and defended.
It is the height of pride when the would-be apologist engages in apologetics not acknowledging the importance of the work of the Spirit in the entire process. We need to be very careful since to not acknowledge the Lord in the defending process and the studying process whereby we are engaging the issues through personal study and research, is to actually engage the sacred practice with human pride and confidence.
Such a method and approach works against the very thing we seek to defend. For if on the one hand, we argue that God is the foundation of all things, and gives coherency and intelligibility to human experience, and that the great sin of the unbeliever is that he suppresses the truth about God in his unrighteousness, yet, on the other hand, we engage in our study, prep, and then the engagement itself without grounding our confidence in God, we become walking contradictions. We do not want to do this.
What we want to do is acknowledge God in the entire process understanding that if we have anything to offer the unbeliever, if we have anything to contribute intellectually or in any other way, “what do we have that we did not receive?” (1 Corinthians 4:7). Hence, we must recognize that all that we have is from the Lord. This is both humbling and encouraging. It is humbling because it demonstrates that God is needed before, during, and after the process. It is encouraging because we know that since our confidence is in the Lord and in the wisdom of his Word, we cannot fail in our endeavor to defend, if we truly rely upon him. The great danger in apologetics is that there is a huge temptation to rely on our own wisdom and understanding. Resist this temptation, and God will use you in amazing ways that will abound to his glory.