TXAB: The Christ Almighty Blog

14 November 2017

Some people don’t wanna argue. And they’re right not to.

Apologetics isn’t about picking fights. Don’t use it that way.

An acquaintance of mine just started an “apologetics ministry.” Currently it consists of his blog, his Twitter account, and a whole bunch of his spare time. You know, exactly like TXAB, except I don’t do apologetics.

Except dude went out and created a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization. Got board members. Accepts donations. He’s seriously hoping to turn it into a full-time job. He got really irritated with me for calling it “getting paid to argue with strangers on the internet in his pajamas.”

But that is what he’s up to. He’s doing it “for Jesus,” but still. He considers it a vital, necessary ministry—that there simply aren’t enough Christians out there, arguing with strangers on the internet, whether in their jammies or not. I’d beg to differ, but he claims they’re not good apologists—not as informed as he is.

If you’re picking up the idea I’m not as jazzed as he is about his burgeoning “ministry,” you’d be so right. Yet he’s hardly the only Christian apologist I’ve met who covets a career in it. And some of ’em actually have made it a career. Because other Christians are convinced there needs to be an army of pajama-clad Christian warriors, armed with the “sword of the Spirit”… and stabbing away at flesh and blood. Ep 6.12-17

Every so often these “ministries” beg me for money. I don’t sign up for their mailing lists; I get put on them ’cause they figure a Christian blogger would be sympathetic to their plights for regular salaries and to keep the lights on. One group, I kid you not, wanted donations ’cause they wanted to open a coffee bar in their office, complete with a commercial espresso machine. Since Google Maps reveals their office is in an out-of-the-way office park, I deduced the only ones partaking of donor-supported coffee would be them, and unsubscribed from their mailing list with extreme prejudice. Entitled first-worlders; I tell ya.

But back to my apologist acquaintance. Exactly who’s his “ministry” ministering to? The people he wants to pick fights with in the YouTube comments? Or him?—’cause if he can get enough financing, he can spend all the live-long day debating strangers on the internet. (Yes, yes, “for Jesus”!) It can become his day job, instead of his nighttime hobby. As is the case of most of the apologists I know, who never bother to set up a whole nonprofit corporation around themselves.

Why am I so dismissive of the idea? ’Cause argumentativeness is a work of the flesh. Ep 5.20 That’s what he’s really about. Not leading people to Jesus, like an evangelist. Shoving people towards Jesus, like a bully.

And in such people’s hands, the gospel is no longer good news. It’s bad. The fruit of such tactics are people who flinch at the gospel—and if they’re actually successful, more argumentative Christians. More people who think it’s okay to be a dick to all people, that they might by all means save some. Because they’re doing it “for Jesus.” And hey, if they can gather enough donors, it must mean Jesus has blessed their undertaking right? Surely money must mean divine approval.

I’m gonna take a break to throw things, then be right back to rebuke this idea further.

Behavior which alienates. Not draws.

Back when I was a less-than-fruitful Christian, I had much the same mindset. Loved to argue, and had no trouble arguing with people about all sorts of topics. Jesus included. Thing is, I found arguing in favor of Jesus to be really stressful: I imagined if I lost that debate, I might lose a soul. So I had to win. Losing wasn’t an option.

Okay, arguing might’ve been fun to me, because I grew up in a dysfunctional family, went to a dysfunctional church, and was used to dysfunction. It was my “normal.” But I had no idea just how many people absolutely hate getting mixed up in arguments. Don’t let all the YouTube commenters fool you: Most people hate to argue. Hate hate hate. Hate like cats hate baths.

To them, any argument, even a “friendly debate,” feels awful. Some even get nauseous. They’d rather find compromises, or agree to disagree. When it’s something they don’t feel strongly about, they’ll immediately shrug and concede. Anything to avoid the unpleasantness. (Something I catch myself doing from time to time—not to avoid unpleasantness, but just because I really don’t think it’s a debate worth my time.)

The argumentative sort will interpret this concession as a victory. And rejoice!… and be wholly unaware they haven’t actually won anything. Their opponent’s just going along so they can get along. Pretty good chance you’ll find this out later, when you catch the opponent expressing the very same opinion they supposedly gave up.

I’ve pointed this out to apologists. The very idea sometimes actually enrages them. How can people care so little, they’ll just pretend to concede?

It’s not that they care so little. It’s that they wanna avoid a fight that much. Because that’s what an argument, a debate, is to them: A fight. They don’t wanna fight! They’ll say anything to get out of a fight. Fighting is torture, and you know how torture victims will say anything to stop the torture. So they’ll lie. They figure peace is easily worth a lie.

This is why every apologist has a “success story” they can share with us. Lots of “victories,” which were really concessions… which were really people desperate to get out of an awful situation. But the apologist doesn’t know this. All they know is, “Apologetics works!” Worked really quickly, too; the Holy Spirit must’ve really prepped that person to be receptive to their arguments. And it fires ’em up to argue yet more people into God’s kingdom!

I remember in particular a college friend of mine, who cornered a drunk and tried to share the gospel. The drunk was clearly incapable of forming complete sentences, much less making a decision for Christ. But finally the drunk mumbled out something like “I believe,” mumbled along to my friend’s version of the sinner’s prayer, and my friend finally let the guy go, happy he “won a soul for Christ.”

“Won nothing,” was my response. “He’d say anything to get you to go away.”

My friend refused to believe this. Some seed got planted, he insisted. Pearls to pigs, I figured. God’s word might never return void, but in context that means if he declares it, not if we try to mug a drunk with it. And when people aren’t receptive to our apologetic arguments, either because they don’t agree or just want us to go away, our arguments have zero effect either way.

Avoid debates.

There is a proper place for Christian apologetics: It’s when fellow Christians wanna know, “Is there some solid ground beneath my faith?” and we can provide ’em some. Apologetics are for believers. Not to convince people who are biased against Christianity anyway. Not for nontheists and antichrists—despite how badly apologists really wanna debate ’em.

Nope; if we find ourselves in an argumentative environment of any sort, we need to shut it down. Because we’re gonna be tempted to win at all costs, using fruitless or sinful tactics. In many cases that’s why we’re in the argumentative environment in the first place: The devil, or the person who wants to debate us (who’s kinda acting in the devil’s place at that time) wants to see us slip up, and do something fruitless or evil. Thus they can say, “You claim Christians oughta behave in such a way; you don’t, so you’re a hypocrite and Christianity is hypocrisy.” Doesn’t matter if that’s not what “hypocrisy” means and a logical fallacy: They still consider it a win.

If a person’s not interested in what we have to say, end the conversation immediately. Change the subject. Jesus is too important to reduce to a debate topic which they can mock or blaspheme for fun. Neither should we want them to say something they might later regret.

But if they are interested—if they’re truly curious about Jesus, or they have serious questions—that’s when we bust out the apologetics. Fill ’em in on the soundness of what they believe. Share facts and stats and testimonies. Save that stuff for a receptive audience.

For a hostile audience, Jesus has only one instruction: Shake the dust off your feet as you leave. Mt 10.14