A Look at Peter Enns Disapproval of Apologetics

If you aren’t familiar with Peter Enns, he is a scholar who has published quite a bit. I was first introduced to his work when I read the book, Three Views on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament (Counterpoints: Bible and Theology).

Anyway,  Enns has decided to list some of  his reasons as to why he isn’t a fan of Christian apologetics.

Here are some my thoughts on this post: 

1.This isn’t anything new. Enns has decided to give his own apologetic as to why he doesn’t like apologetics. So we see the self-defeating nature of such a post. As Ravi Zacharais says:

“”Apologetics is a subject that ends up defending itself. The one who argues against apologetics ends up using argument to denounce argument. The one who says apologetics is a matter of pride ends up proudly defending one’s own impoverishment. The one who says conversion is a matter of the heart and not the intellect ends up presenting intellectual arguments to convince others of this position. So goes the process of self-contradiction.”-Ravi Zacharias

Once again, we also see the unnecessary false dichotomies here. I saw the same things in the Penner/Craig discussion. I wrote about it here.

2. I am  sure  Enns is aware  that Jesus and the Apostles both engaged in reasons for the claims they made in the public square.  As Peter Williams points out,

” Jesus said: ‘believe on the evidence of the miracles’ (John 14:11)

•  When John the Baptist questioned if Jesus was the Messiah, Jesus likewise appealed to the evidence of his works (cf. Matthew 11:4–6)

•  Paul wrote of ‘defending and confirming the gospel’ (Philippians 1:7)

•  Paul ‘reasoned . . . explaining and proving’ (Acts 17:2–3)

•  ‘Every Sabbath [Paul] reasoned in the synagogue, trying to persuade Jews and Greeks . . . Paul entered the synagogue and spoke boldly there for three months, arguing persuasively about the kingdom of God. But some of them became obstinate; they refused to believe and publicly maligned the Way. So Paul left them. He took the disciples with him and had discussions daily in the lecture hall of Tyrannus’ (Acts 18:4; 19:8–9)

•  Paul urges Christians to ‘stop thinking like children. In regard to evil be infants, but in your thinking be adults’ (1 Corinthians 14:20)

•  Paul advises Christians: ‘Choose your words carefully and be ready to give answers to anyone who asks questions’ (Colossians 4:6 CEV)

•  Peter commands Christians to ‘always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have . . . with gentleness and respect’ (1 Peter 3:15) The Greek translated as ‘give an answer’ in 1 Peter 3:15 is apologia – from which we get the word ‘apologetics.’

Apologetics isn’t apologizing in the sense of saying sorry! An apologia is literally ‘a word back’, but the term means a ‘defense’ or ‘vindication. (See A Faithful Guide To Philosophy by Peter Williams).

3.  Enns says apologetics is only geared towards those that are already in the faith. Really? I have seen testimonies from William Lane Craig, Lee Strobel, Michael Licona  and others who discuss how God used their apologetic works to remove barriers and help the unbeliever come to faith in the Lord. Or, see the long list of people here who came to faith with the help of apologetics.

4. Enns states that apologetics elevates the intellect above everything else. Not true! Good apologetics should be helping people engage God with all their being!

5. For someone like myself who directs a couple of apologetic ministries on college campuses, I find Enns to be ignorant on this topic. While I  respect him as a scholar, I don’t agree with him on this issue.

I have had long discussions with almost everyone of different religious backgrounds. They can be kind and loving. As a matter of fact, Mormons are some of the nicest people I have never met. But there is zero evidence for the Book of Mormon.  So the typical “People will want to be followers of Jesus by looking at our love and how we live” is overly simplistic and doesn’t take into account many factors in people coming to faith. Granted, I am all for being loving and living the faith out in an attractive manner. But there is a lot more that needs to happen in our witness. I discuss the need to be effective case makers here. Sadly, it is because of posts like the one Enns has written here, that the greatest opposition to apologetics will continue  to come from within the Church itself.

6. In the end,  it would be nice if  Enns would have said  the following: “I think the Body of Christ needs apologists, historians, biblical scholars, philosophers, etc. Let us all work at our craft to the glory of God.” Instead, we have a  scholar taking a swipe at a field that he doesn’t care for.

In the end, this article will become a distant memory. We have much work to do.