Friday, 27 June 2014

Does 1 Corinthians 2:4 mean Christians are wrong to use apologetics in their evangelism?

I can imagine a number of Christians have encountered this criticism or something similar. 'Paul said in 1 Corinthians 2:4 that we should focus on God's power not wise and persuasive word's of human wisdom to share the gospel, so apologetics isn't biblical'.

So what does Paul actually say in 1 Corinthians 2:4 ...and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power,...

Some problems with this argument

So on first appearances this does seem like a problem for using apologetics in our evangelism, however, you would have to do a few things to conclude that apologetics should not be used in our evangelism. One, ignore all the places in the New Testament where Paul, who wrote 1 Corinthians seems to ignore his own alleged advice, such as Acts 17:1-4,16-34, 18:4, 20:7, 26:24-29 and 2 Cor 10:3-5. Secondly, you would have to ignore the cultural context of which Paul is writing, in Greek culture trained orators were a spectacle, the equivalent to the popularity of our modern comedians in the West. Thirdly, that Paul was encouraging Christian's to use bad arguments, poor reasoning and logic when they share the gospel. It's generally a good idea never to take one verse out of its surrounding literary and cultural context and build a doctrine upon it, this is a common ploy of the cults who use a number of proof-texts to create false doctrine.

So what did Paul mean?

As I pointed out above, Paul couldn't have been arguing that we should never use persuasive speech, logic and evidence in presenting the gospel and defending it from criticism. Paul was making it clear to his Greek audience that presenting the gospel should not be a rhetorical show as the popular orators presented their ideas and arguments. The gospel doesn't rest on our prowess and rhetorical abilities but the power of the Holy Spirit. That doesn't mean that Christians who are good orators such as William Lane Craig are sinning when they present the gospel, only that their trust should be in the power of God rather than in their ability as an orator.

Paul didn't come to the Corinthians as someone who trusted in his ability as an orator as a means to persuade them in the way popular Greek orators did, using popular rhetorical devices that helped to persuade their audiences of their arguments. For Paul, the presentation of the gospel was no mere show, it wasn't for entertainment but for salvation and God can use anyone to share and present it, regardless of their ability as a speaker or orator.


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