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Intellectual Pugilism and Christian Apologetics

by | Jul 31, 2019

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Each of us, being sinners by nature, have our sinful proclivities. One person may have a proclivity to be arrogant, another may struggle with sexual lusts, be they adulterous or same-sex attractions. Still, others are stubborn, having a difficult time submitting to anyone, while some seem to be more tempted than others with deceit. We all have our sinful proclivities. The sooner we acknowledge that they are there, admit it, and begin to face them head-on, the better off we will be.

I have numerous sinful proclivities with which I have to deal day in and day out. I have the usual make temptation to look a little longer than I should at the attractive young lady. I am tempted to be impatient when I drive in Charlotte traffic. There are others, but there is one in particular, I want to talk about today that I think has plagued me for years. That is the sin of looking for a good fight. I have a sinful proclivity to go at it. Now, I am not talking about a physical fight. I am talking about an intellectual temptation.

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I have wrestled with the sin of intellectual pugilism for most of my adult life. It has been one of those sinful behaviors that I think at times that I am doing pretty well disciplining only to find out that my relapses come far too often. Still, I believe that grace has moved along in the right direction even if I am still very far from where I need to be. My goal is to continue to remind myself and be aware of that wicked desire in me to engage in constant debate, to fight the fight. Far too often I have used the excuse of the condition of the church to fuel and satisfy my sinful desire to just hit the ground swinging. God forgive me and help me always to search my heart so that my behavior reflects a sincere desire to defend God’s truth rather than my own natural desire to engage in the intellectual battle simply for the sake of engaging in a battle.

As I look around at the modern state of Christian apologetics, so-called anyways, I cannot help but notice the subjects that Christian apologists talk about. For instance, attempting to employ Bayes’ theorem in the defense of the resurrection of Christ is just one example of Christian apologetics run amuck. Exactly who are we trying to impress? Look around at some of these apologetics sites and you see all sorts of arguments being made. There is even one very popular blog on ufology. I have no earthly idea why a Christian blogger would invest time in something as mundane as UFOs. It seems to me that some people think the intellect ought to be free to pursue whatever it fancies. And if you dare challenge them on the problems that come with sheer speculation, you better do so with full-body armor in place. Otherwise, all that Christian love and charity that you had expected to be on display is dismissed faster than a good idea in Washington DC.

The intellectual pugilist is always looking for a good fight. Any hint that there may be an opportunity to flaunt his/her intellectual, ninja-like skills, is seized at a moments notice. The opportunity to pummel one’s opponent is simply irresistible. What is odd is that the intellectual pugilist is typically very well-informed. He reads the Scripture. But he very likely reads philosophy and logic texts far more. He is not nearly as interesting in the dull behavior of exhibiting Christian charity and patience as he is in framing the perfect argument so that all who dare to disagree with him receive the intellectual beat-down they deserve regardless of spiritual damage that it produces. For the intellectual pugilist, the content of Scripture is another opportunity to prove that he is right and his opponent is wrong.

The intellectual pugilist is not at all interested in your spiritual well-being, your spiritual growth, or your sanctification. He is far more likely to humiliate you than he is to pray for you. I have had Christian apologists put up entire web pages devoted entirely to slandering me. One very popular site that I used to visit regularly did not like my point of view and put up a pic of me, calling me a troll. These tactics are not only hurtful; they are downright ungodly.

Peter’s imperative was not just to defend the Christian faith using any strategy or tactic you please. Peter was just as concerned with how we defend the faith. We are to do so with gentleness and respect. Christian apologetics is no place for anyone with an unbridled, undisciplined lust for intellectual pugilism. I hate to say it but many Christian apologists are simply in this field because it satisfies an evil within, not because they are sincerely interested in helping others. Go disagree with them and see how they react to being told that you think they are wrong. Many of them will not hesitate to engage in insults, slander, and will not for a moment consider your spiritual state as they bring all the rational and philosophical tools to bear on you, their opponent, their enemy.

Have you ever noticed how so many Christian apologists even treat other Christians like they are the enemy? The aim is not to open up the discussion for learning, for sharing, for knowledge transfer, or for deeper discovery. Nope! Not at all. The fear of having to admit one is wrong drives most modern apologists to dig in and do whatever they can, even in the name of Christian love, to defend their position.

Paul commanded Timothy not to pay attention to myths or endless genealogies. They produce useless speculations or investigations. What is the goal of our instruction? Put simply, it is love from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith. Paul says that some men, have strayed from these things and as a result, they have turned aside to fruitless discussion. Fruitless discussion is talk that brings with it nothing of any value. If you were to take a poll of most Christian apologists, you would find that for them, the idea that there are subjects and discussions that are completely useless is completely foreign. Nothing is out of bounds and every subject and discussion can be beneficial, no matter what; even ufology.

It is a waste of time for Christian apologists to invest hundreds of hours in the study of philosophy and logic only to walk out into the culture and even with their own community, and begin to beat people over the head with their knowledge and debating skills. Yet, for many, if not most modern Christian apologists, that is precisely the state of affairs that has obtained. Few things are as shockingly ugly than when the intellectually equipped Christian abandons most, if not all civil conduct where Christian ethics is concerned, in an apparent attempt to use their very own brothers and sisters in Christ, to satisfy their own lust for intellectual pugilism. God forbid!

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