The fields of polemics and apologetics can bring out the best and the worst in those of us who are most interest in them. I have fallen prey on many occasions over the years to the same kind of behavior. Now, read that last sentence again. What did I do? I used the language of victims. I position sinful behavior as if it is something that happened to me. This makes it no so bad after all. So, let me say it truthfully. I have sinned on many occasions over the years by engaging in the same kind of behavior. The purpose of this short article is to point out that it is possible, desirable, and necessary for Christians who engage in polemics and apologetics to do so in love. And speaking the truth is not ipso facto loving. It can be done in a very hateful manner. If you don’t believe me, just look at Westboro Baptist. What they said about homosexuality being a sin is true enough. But they didn’t, for a moment, show love and concern for the sinner in any way. The Apostle Paul told the ancient Roman church, “Let love be without hypocrisy.” In fact, that pericope is an excellent one to include in this post:
Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in brotherly love; give preference to one another in honor; not lagging behind in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord; rejoicing in hope, persevering in tribulation, devoted to prayer, contributing to the needs of the saints, practicing hospitality. Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep. Be of the same mind toward one another; do not be haughty in mind, but associate with the lowly. Do not be wise in your own estimation. Never pay back evil for evil to anyone. Respect what is right in the sight of all men. If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men. [Romans 12:9-21]
One of the perils I see in people who are intensely focused on “defending the truth” is a significant lack of love in how they (we) go about defending the truth. Paul, in writing to the church at Rome is dealing with two basic groups of people who were having some challenges adjusting to one another: Jews and Gentiles. Their cultures were diametrically opposed to one another. Paul lays down the sort of behavior he expects believers to engage in, not only toward outsiders, but especially towards those in the churches.
For some reason, it is far too easy for some people to pay little to no attention to Paul where these mandates are given. For example, guys like JD Hall will tell us that the churches MUST reject homosexual behavior and not hesitate to call on Paul’s words in Romans 1 and 1 Corinthians 6 where Paul explicitly condemns the practice. What is interesting is that JD will obey Paul in this area and rightly condemn the practice as well as anyone who attempts to dismiss Paul in this area all the while ignoring Paul’s words above in a plethora of ways, in articles, on podcasts, and in personal exchanges. It is odd, disturbing, and sinful for those of us involved in apologetics or polemics to demand people live out their obligations in a certain area while we ignore our own in other areas.
You cannot call fellow brothers and sisters false converts, feckless cowards, turds, and stupid simply because they disagree with you while obeying “be devoted to one another in brotherly love.” It is impossible. In other words, when you use these insulting descriptors in your polemics and apologetics, you actually become guilty of violating the same Scripture in one area that you are accusing others of violating in another. That is the textbook definition of hypocrisy. It should be avoided at all costs.
Even for outsiders, Paul gives commands. We must bless those who persecute us. This runs counter to JD Hall’s recent imprecatory prayer towards me, a believer, a reformed believer in good standing in a local church whose views are clearly orthodox.
Behavior like this simply should not happen when Christians have simple disagreements with one another. But JD, without hesitation does the unthinkable. He engages in an imprecatory prayer not for God’s enemies, but for God’s elect. Why? Because we dare to disagree with him regarding his claims about Romans 13 and his unkind tactics.
Jesus prayed for me this way: 13 “But now I come to You; and these things I speak in the world so that they may have My joy made full in themselves.” John 17:13 As one can see, JD’s prayer was a little different.
Paul prayed for me this way: Now may the God who gives perseverance and encouragement grant you to be of the same mind with one another according to Christ Jesus, so that with one accord you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Romans 15:5-6 Again, this is a little different from how JD prayed for me.
As Christians, we examine all things, behavior and claims, in light of Scripture. Scripture informs us if a behavior is moral or not. Scripture informs us if a claim is true or not. So, let’s look at JD Hall’s comments and ask if the behavior is moral and if the claim is true in light of Scripture.
First example: Bothering non-thinking people with the natural law presumptions of our forefathers – built upon Lockean philosophy and derived from Reformation theology – seems an impossible task.
In other words, those on the other side of the fence are categorized as “non-thinking people.” This poisons the well and is the very same tactic that the homosexual movement employed with the use of terms like homophobia and bigot to describe people who disagreed with their agenda. It is not true and it is immoral because it makes unjustified assumptions about people who disagree with Hall.
Second Example: Eager to squander their birthright written in the blood of their forbears, evangelicals are happily surrendering their inalienable rights for a variety of reasons.
It isn’t the case that those who disagree with Hall’s views on this matter are “eager to squander their birthright. It also isn’t the case that we actually should view out freedom as a birthright. Scripture simply doesn’t support this idea at all. And it is again, an insult and slanderous to describe people in this manner.
Third Example: Weak-willed cowards, who worship Caesar as their Lord and Savior, would like to summarize Romans 13 as, “obey all civil authorities, no matter what,”
First, very, very few people do this. I know of no one who advocates for unqualified obedience to the government. Second, to call people weak-willed cowards is also simply not true. It could be part of their philosophy. There could be a number of factors for why people adopt this position. But JD would rather call people names, poison the well, and engage in polarizing control methods than actually spend some real time working through real reasons why people arrive at the views they do. Why bother. All that seems to matter to JD is that they disagree with him and therefore have earned as much scorn as he can muster. It isn’t true and it is immoral to engage in this behavior. It is prohibited the same way that homosexual behavior is prohibited the same way abortion is prohibited the same way adultery is prohibited.
Fourth Example: The first question to ask when a proverbial turd-dropper leaves the comment “Romans 13” in application to a modern situation is who or what is our authority?
This is one of the most outrageous statements I have read from JD Hall. This is the kind of behavior that should cause people to pull up and consider using other sources for their polemics and apologetics. This is disqualifying behavior in my opinion. No elder should engage in this kind of behavior. It is morally reprehensible on every level. There is simply no room for this kind of behavior in our churches.
Fifth Example: Doggy-dropping “Romans 13” in an online debate about going to church in the pandemic betrays one’s ignorance of who defines goodness and wickedness. The government does not get to define these things. God has already spoken.
This is another perfect example of what it looks like to ignore Paul’s instructions in Romans 12:9-21 and a variety of other places. It does people very little good to listen to JD Hall pontificate about wokeness, James White’s issues with Michael Brown, or abortion, or Al Mohler, Russell Moore or anyone else when he deliberately ignores sections of Scripture himself.
Don’t complain about other people refusing to adhere to the teachings of Scripture on ABC when you are busy ignoring the teachings of Scripture on XYZ. It’s hypocrisy.