The task of apologetics is giving a defense of the faith. It is to show to the unbeliever that a true understanding of the world as we know it only makes sense according to the revelation of the God of the Bible. The starting point for the unbeliever, however, is their own reason which holds that there is no God or that God is unknowable. The world can only be known through human reason. As such the arguments they employ are based upon knowledge according to human wisdom.
In Proverbs 26:4-5 an important biblical principle for the Christian is set forth. It is this: 4Do not answer a fool according to his folly, lest you also be like him. 5Answer a fool according to his folly, lest he be wise in his own eyes. The lesson is a simple one flowing from the Christian’s understanding that true wisdom begins and ends with what God has spoken. Everything that seeks to understand truth apart from God is folly. At first, this twist of words seems perplexing since it says not to and yet we are to answer a fool according to his folly or foolishness. What makes it foolish is their denial of God. The fool has said in his heart there is no God (Psalm 14:1, 53:1).
We are to address how the unbeliever interprets the facts of the world to answer their wrong understanding and the false philosophy of life they embrace. That is the content. But verse 5 speaks to our method. We do not employ the method of the unbeliever in making our defense or giving our answer. This is an important point to set forth in the method of apologetics. The Classical model of apologetics arising from the middle ages used as its method that of the philosophers whose arguments were based on an assumption that the natural man is capable of accepting the idea of a god by appeals to his natural reason through the use of rational arguments. That is they used the fool’s method in an attempt to overturn the fortress of unbelief appealing to the content of that unbelief. But here God says that we are not to employ the folly or method of the unbeliever because it concedes the higher ground to him and convinces him of his own wisdom.
So then what method or how is the Christian apologist, which every Christian is to be an apologist at some level, to employ in answering the unbeliever? Paul gives us insight in 2Corinthians 10:3-5 where he said: “3For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh. 4For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, 5casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ.”
Here there seems to be a similar principle to Proverbs in the sense that Paul stated even though we are still in the flesh, we are human beings that must struggle with our fallen nature, nevertheless, we are not to engage our battles in the world using their worldly tools. God has given us greater weapons that are spiritual and as such we do not war according to the flesh. Paul made clear that the Christian is not to use the method of the unbeliever but approach our defense of the faith with the spiritual weapons that God has provided, using the Word of God as our starting point.
Notice that the Christian is given these weapons but must learn to use them like any good soldier. This is not the only time Paul employed the imagery of the soldier engaging in battle with the world. He ended the book of Ephesians with instructions for the believer on how to stand against the wiles of the devil using the weapons God provides. We must see the battle as not wrestling against flesh and blood but against spiritual wickedness (Ephesians 6:10-18).
The apologist’s weapons according to 2Corinthians 10:4-5 are designed to pull down strongholds, casting down arguments, and (exposing every) high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God. Paul has specifically in mind here the content of the unbeliever’s world and life view, his false philosophy. This is critical to the biblical foundation for Cornelius Van Til’s definition of apologetics as the vindication of the Christian philosophy of life against the various forms of the non-Christian philosophy of life. One’s philosophy is their world and life view, how they see the world they live in.
Paul shows that the apologist’s arguments are to be directed against every high thing which seeks to exalt itself against the knowledge of God (v. 5). There is a contrast here demonstrating why the Christian does not work out of the unbeliever’s method. Even the high things of the philosophical wisdom this world has to offer fall far short of the glory and wisdom of God as the Creator. Crucial to our defense is the commitment to the Creator-creature distinction. God speaks in Isaiah 55:8-9 saying, 8“For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways,” says the Lord. 9“For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts. When the unbeliever sets themself up as a judge of what is true they seek to usurp the place of God. However, because all truth originates with God and we only interact with that truth as given by God, we must seek to think God’s thoughts after God.
The task of apologetics is not only to overturn the wrong thinking of the unbeliever and show that they are not the final determiner of what is true but to also bring every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ. While the apologist must argue in the world of the philosopher, he is not to use worldly arguments. His mind is always fixed on that of being an evangelist. The goal is to bring the sinner face to face with God as the Creator and Jesus as the only Redeemer-Savior that they might be won to God.
The apologist lives in the realm of epistemology, the study of knowledge. In 2Corinthians 10:5 Paul targets the thoughts of the unbeliever as that which the apologist seeks to take captive, not their feelings. The church in our generation fails when it caters to the feelings orientation of existentialism that rules the day. Rather, every thought must be constrained and reformed to come into conformity with the doctrine of Christ. The autonomous spirit of the unbeliever must be bound by the Spirit and Word of Christ that not only one’s thoughts may perceive the glory of God but that their whole lives might be transformed by the renewing of their minds (Romans 12:2). That is accomplished when the wisdom of this world is shown to be folly and inferior to the wisdom of God which is true because it originates with the God of all truth.