Several weeks ago, I attended the Women in Apologetics (WIA) Conference at Biola University in Southern California. I was excited to learn about conversational apologetics, Critical Race Theory, worldviews, and more! To my surprise, however, it wasn’t a session that impacted me most, but people— two, to be exact. It wasn't a session that impacted me most... it was two people. #womeninapologetics #apologetics Click To Tweet
Apologetics has long been my heart’s passion, and it’s only deepened as society grows increasingly hostile to the gospel and biblical truth. Being the mom of two teens, I can assure you that we are living in a post-Christian culture. Still, defending our faith to an unbelieving world is one thing—spotting the enemy at work in blatant anti-Christian sentiment isn’t difficult. The greater difficulty, however, is spotting the enemy at work from within our own Christian walls (and in our own hearts). Here were some of my biggest takeaways from WIA 2020.
1) The difference between essential and secondary issues of faith
During the Q&A session on Saturday afternoon, which you can still access through the LiveStream here, someone asked, “As apologists how do you handle the differences you share which may not be the main and plain things but certainly come about as you work together from different denominations and backgrounds?” I was already prepared for part of the answer because of the Mama Bear Apologetics podcast featuring Simon Brace about the need for apologetics in spiritual warfare. In it, Hillary and Amy discussed essential versus secondary issues of faith and different ways the enemy distracts and divides in order to cause as much confusion and carnage as possible among believers. One way he accomplishes this is through secondary issues, which cause believers to attack one another with “friendly-fire” rather than focusing on the real threats.
To avoid engaging in friendly-fire with fellow believers, we need to first understand the difference between what Scripture calls “matters of first importance” (1 Corinthians 15:3-8) and non-essential opinions or preferences (Romans 14). Essential issues are core beliefs Christians have historically held to be true and which directly affect a person’s salvation: the nature of God, the atonement; the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus, and Jesus being the only way to salvation. (See MBA podcast here.) I was glad to hear the Q&A panel reemphasize this issue at the conference because we have enough coming at us from the world. We need to be careful about what we choose to divide us as Christians. (And yes, there are things worth dividing over. But not as many as people think.) To avoid engaging in friendly-fire with fellow believers, we need to understand the difference between what Scripture calls 'matters of first importance.' - @rldevotions Click To Tweet
2) The enemy often operates in subtle ways to create division
Sometimes the root of conflict between believers isn’t so obvious. In fact, the enemy often operates in subtle ways to create divisions we may not even be aware of—like in our prejudices. You may have immediately thought of racial and social prejudices, and rightly so. They’ve been a stain on America since her founding and are one reason I was so interested in the session on Critical Race Theory (CRT) by Krista Bontrager (Theology Mom) and Monique Duson, co-hosts of the All The Things show on Youtube. If you don’t know what CRT is, I highly recommend going to Theology Mom’s website, where she gives a detailed explanation.
As I listened to Monique’s incredible testimony about her journey out of Critical Race Theory and into a more biblical view of social and racial differences, I realized there’s an even more subtle and perhaps, therefore, a more dangerous prejudice Christians, including myself, need to recognize: we can be unfairly prejudiced against believers whom we deem less spiritually mature. We are all growing in our faith, and I’m fairly certain we’ll all stand in Heaven one day realizing how little we actually knew. For now, we wrestle against our flesh and as our spiritual maturity grows, so can, ironically, the sin of pride.
Apologetics can play an especially dangerous part in this hidden sin because as our knowledge increases, so can our egos. We must strive to see how God is working in and through a person’s life, growing them toward spiritual maturity. Hearing how the Lord had taken Monique on her journey was wonderful, and it was so humbling to think that, had I met her while she was still on her journey, I might have judged her for where she was at. Little would I have known how the Lord was carefully crafting her story to make a difference in the future. Apologetics can play an especially dangerous part in this hidden sin because as our knowledge increases, so can our egos. We must strive to see how God is working in and through a person’s life, growing them towards spiritual… Click To Tweet
3) I was prepared to learn how to better defend my faith. I didn’t realize I needed to cleanse my own heart first.
Throughout this conference and before, God had been teaching me about essentials and secondary issues, as well as my sometimes judgemental attitude toward believers who were still in the maturation process. While I thought I wholeheartedly agreed that division over secondary issues was bad, I had completely missed that I had been doing just that. It was the old-earth versus young-earth issue which hit me like a brick wall. During the live Q&A, the last question of the night was posed to Dr. AJ Roberts, a molecular biologist and research scholar at Reasons to Believe:
Q: “How can we balance the question of young-earth creationists and old-earth creationists?”
The panel and audience broke into nervous laughter at the loaded and oftentimes divisive question. I was pierced with conviction as I listened to how Dr. Roberts began her answer (after first breaking the ice by singing a few lines of Jesus Loves Me).
A: “You know… it is so important how we love one another.”
Boom. I was undone. For the next several minutes, I listened to a sister in Christ speak through tears of her deep love for Jesus. She also described her deep love for science and how her interpretation of the creation account in Genesis through the lens of a scientist has given her an even greater appreciation and love for God. As I listened, I realized the enemy had in many ways taken a secondary issue and made it a wall in my heart against those God tells me are my brothers and sisters. I’m thankful for the Lord’s grace when He teaches and corrects!
So my main, overall takeaway from WIA 2020…
4) In our quest to be defenders of the faith, let us first learn how to love one another well.
We are not all hands or feet. Neither do any of us have every answer to every question. Before we beat ourselves up too much, let’s remember that the enemy has forged these same divisions between believers since the beginning—even among the greatest names in Scripture.
The Book of Acts records a “sharp disagreement” between Paul and Barnabas about a young disciple named John Mark—yes, the same Mark who would later author one of the four Gospels. Scripture doesn’t give many details other than Paul being upset by some of Mark’s past behaviors. By all appearances, Mark lacked the spiritual maturity Paul deemed necessary for the work of ministry. The disagreement about whether to let him join their mission caused a division between brothers which lasted many years. (See Acts 15:36-41.)
If you keep reading, however, you’ll find some amazingly humble words written by an older, wiser, and more seasoned Paul to young Timothy, while Paul was imprisoned and nearing the end of his life:
“Luke alone is with me. Get Mark and bring him with you, for he is very useful to me in ministry.” (2 Timothy 4:11; bold emphasis added)
We are works in progress, not yet perfected. We are a Body united by the Spirit of Truth with different abilities, gifts, and callings. We might disagree about non-essentials or temporarily hold divisive views as we grow in spiritual maturity. But so long as we are unified in the essentials of our faith, we must strive together with grace and love — because we are all useful to the ministry of Jesus Christ.
“I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.” (Ephesians 4:1-3)In our quest to be defenders of the faith, let us first learn how to love one another well. - @rldevotions #apologetics #womeninapologetics Click To Tweet
You can read more from Rebecca on her blog at https://rebeccalynndevotions.com/.
You can see AJ Robert’s answer that prompted this blog here:
Guest Author is probably awesome at what she does. She is probably a mom, but possibly not. She definitely has good things to say, otherwise, she wouldn’t have been offered the position of guest author. We like Guest Author. She is our friend.
Very insightful – how subtle are the forces that seek to divide us over the non-essentials – Thank you for the reminder that Christ is building his Church and unites us in himself.
Thank you, Jennifer! Yes, He’s uniting us to Himself. What an incredible and humbling thought!