I was reminded today of how well-meaning Christians waste their time casting pearls before swine by wrangling with heretics. The love of intellectual fighting is a real problem with Christians that engage in apologetics. In our zeal to contend for the faith once for all handed down to the saints or to sinfully enjoy exercising intellectual one-upsmanship over another, we often forget verses like these:
Do not give what is holy to dogs and do not throw your pearls before swine, or they will trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you to pieces. Matthew 7:6
But refuse foolish and ignorant speculations, knowing that they produce quarrels. 2 Timothy 2:23
But avoid foolish controversies and genealogies and strife and disputes about the Law, for they are unprofitable and worthless. Reject a factious man after a first and second warning, knowing that such a man is perverted and is sinning, being self-condemned. Titus 3:9-11
Experience and Scripture have taught me over the last few years that you are casting your pearls before swine and wasting your time when you engage heretics. That time would be better spent ministering to your own family, engaging in some type of equipping ministry in your local church, or doing one-on-one evangelism and/or open-air preaching. There is a place for reasoning with people from the Scriptures like Paul did in the synagogues (Acts 17:17; 18:4, 19) or preaching to the heathen by starting with creation and moving to the gospel from that starting point (Acts 17:18-31). But we need to notice something; in all those instances, Paul didn’t hang around and waste time wrangling with people that weren’t interested. He preached, looked for who was interested, and spent time ministering to them (Acts 17:34). If there were no interested people, he moved on (Acts 13:51; 18:6). Paul carefully looked for those who would raise their heads to listen to the gospel. He tells you why he does this in 2 Timothy 2:10,
For this reason I endure all things for the sake of those who are chosen, so that they also may obtain the salvation which is in Christ Jesus and with it eternal glory.
Acts 16:14 also tells you what happens when God does in His own due time when He brings His elect under gospel preaching,
A woman named Lydia, from the city of Thyatira, a seller of purple fabrics, a worshiper of God, was listening; and the Lord opened her heart to repond to the things spoken by Paul.
I’m not saying we don’t need apologetics, we do. I’m just saying that we need to remember that apologetics can only be useful for two things: (1) building the faith of the saints, and (2) stopping the mouth of the unbeliever. That’s it. Apologetics has no power to convert. It never will because God didn’t ordain it to do that. Before we contend we need to be sure that we are contending for the faith and not a particular philosophical system or to fulfill your own intellectual jollies. In other words, our apologetics needs to ultimately be about preaching the gospel (Romans 1:16), for only it is the power of God unto salvation. It is through the means of the preached word that people are born again (1 Peter 1:23-25). If they don’t listen, move on. Otherwise, you may find yourself doing exactly what the Holy Spirit warned you against in the aforementioned verses.