“For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven . . . a time to keep silence, and a time to speak”
Ecclesiastes 3:7 (ESV)

Sunday sermons often press us to “Speak up!” and “Share your faith!” That’s right, we do need to speak up and share the faith, often with well prepared questions, practiced answers, long conversations, and a lifetime of communicating Christian truth. There is a time for that. But there is also a time to “keep silent.” Rough and clumsy words are sharpened to precise wisdom in the patient workshop of silence. That means listening, meditating, and praying, within a posture of receptivity towards God. Wise living is a powerfully persuasive apologetic yet it’s remarkably understated. We live in a noisy world of carhorns, tattling tabloids, advertising jingles, and profane music blaring at us from every direction. We must take care to section off some silence and solitude for ourselves. Apart from that regular quarantine we risk catching the modern malady of noise-addiction. Noisy living is is a tempting contagion. Amidst the noise we aren’t haunted the whispers of our unresolved past. Amidst the noise we can drown out the cries of our conscience. Amidst the noise we find a fast-paced incessant entertainment promising ever more delights while spoiling our appetite for God. But our apologetic is best crafted, in heavy measure, within the invested character found in regular solitude and silence. Our intellectual answers, guided by the Holy Spirit, rarely come together till we stop moving and listen long enough to hear God’s direction.

There is deep faith found in silence; we have to trust that the battle is God’s to win, the work is the Lord’s, and the real power in all of these struggles is really His. We desperately want to do something, say something, and make it all work with our words and actions. But in reality, we are just enjoying the privilege of participating in what He’s already doing. In silence we are ready to listen to Him in prayer and meditation, ready to hear His instructions in Scripture, and ready to let Him lead us. In silence we are not earning an apologetic victory with the weight of our words, or advancing the kingdom with our clever concepts. We engage in a verbal fast where God is training us to follow orders and align with His (already achieved) victory. Among the spiritual disciplines, silence is counterintuitive. God loves to use this tactical patience to remind us that this is His war, fought on His terms. Thoughtful people don’t run from silence, they embrace it. Gifted apologists cherish the silence where the distractions are dropped and God’s wisdom resonates loud and clear. The world is blurry when we’re in a hurry. So slow down. Be quiet. Listen.

“When words are many, transgression is not lacking, but whoever restrains his lips is prudent”
Prov. 10:19, ESV

Apologists and old blades all have this in common: we rarely get to the point. Proverbs cautions us against verbal excess saying: “When words are many, transgression is not lacking, but whoever restrains his lips is prudent” (Prov. 10:19, ESV). This point on pointedness is two fold: (1) don’t waste words, and (2) don’t get lost in other people’s wasted words. Wasting words weakens their force. Have you ever known someone who talks all the time? You know how constant blathering dulls speech. Stated positively, economy of words apportions more weight to those words. Regarding listening (Tip#2 Listen), we should listen searchingly. We are searching for motivations driving this person’s objections, as well as the values he or she holds strongest. If you find that this person values compassion more than justice, you can better phrase your response in terms of compassion so that person will better appreciate what you are saying. When we take too long to get to the point, our words sound pointless, we waste our time and theirs, and we lose the aptitude and wit of a well-turned phrase. After all, “brevity is the soul” or essence “of wit,” (Shakespeare, Hamlet, 2.2.90).

For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.” Ephesians 6:12 (ESV)

This verse neatly explains how the nature of spiritual warfare is not against other people. Those people are still our neighbors (Tip #3 Answer the Questioner), and we are still called to love them (Mark 12:31), even if they get hostile or mean. Often the other person arguing with you, or writing and speaking antagonism against Christ, he doesn’t see the real battle going on. We owe them grace as Jesus showed us grace “while we were yet sinners” (Romans 5:8). They get rocked and jolted, just as you would, as worldviews crash into each other, heavenly forces strive to liberate what Satan has enslaved, and the captors cling tight to their victims as various ranks and levels of authority all compete for earthly outcomes. Also, since this war is different from earthly combat, we can expect it to be fought differently too. Here the artillery is not hot metal, it’s words and ideas. 2 Corinthians 10:5 describes it saying, “We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ” (ESV). The image is of skilled thinking and artful communication combined with a deeply disciplined mental life. The artillery in spiritual warfare is aimed at our minds, changing our minds, setting fires of doubt within our compound, and erecting a foreign flag over our worldview. This battle is odd to our senses, because we would prefer to treat the other person as our enemy. That target is easier to see, and easier to hit. But instead, we should treat them as another errant sinner, spiritual impoverished, enslaved by a cruel master, caught in the crossfires of a war they don’t understand. We do not fight them, they are captives just like we were. We fight for them. They are not our enemy, they are potential friends. Only God knows whether this person might be the next Saul of Tarsus, or more recently, John Newton (1725-1807) the former slave trader, while himself enslaved to sin, who would later come to faith and pen the classic hymn, Amazing Grace.

Apologetics Tip #2: Listen

Posted: March 28, 2015 in Apologetics
Tags: , ,

Apologists are to be held, at least, to the same standard as other Christians regarding our Christian walk. We are not exempt from serving others (1 Pet. 4:10), loving our neighbors (Tip#1; Mk. 12:31), or walking in the spirit (Gal. 5:16). Among these general instructions to the church we find the words of James, “Be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry” (James 1:19, ESV). Our zeal for the Lord should motivate eager listening and patient speaking.These precede the point about anger. Listening well and pacing out can help lengthen your “fuse” next time you are liable to blow up in anger. To this can be added, “To answer before listening– that is folly and shame.” (Prov. 18:13, NIV). Apologists often make their trade in talking, answering, lecturing, speaking, preaching, teaching and all things verbal. We love to be “answer” people yet we often fail to really hear the other person, and even a “good” answer to the question can fall flat if we forget to address the questioner. Listen to understand the person, and secondarily to understand the question. Listen so you decelerate your “answer mode” and actually engage graciously with the person. Listen so you don’t fall in love with your own voice. Listen so you trust better that God’s stirring in their heart is far more powerful than any words from your mouth. Listen.

If you are like me, then you’ve found yourself baffled at the mixed and muted politicking over illegal immigration. In campaign season politicians scream and argue and volley for position immigration policy. Conservatives notoriously caved last month on a budget proposal challenging, among other things, Obama’s executive “amnesty” for hundreds of thousands of illegal immigrants. Yet many of those same republican representatives campaigned on opposing platforms.

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From a cynical and perhaps realistic perspective, there are practical reasons why republicans and democrats would all be friendly towards illegal immigration. For republicans it’s cheap labor, “Undocumented workers.” For democrats it’s votes, “Undocumented Democrats.” Stats show that lower economic classes typically vote democrat and that’s at least where vast numbers of Central and South American immigrants would be when they cast their first vote. Allegedly, current policy has loopholes allowing for this illegal voting. Meanwhile, countless financial backers and lobbyists on the republican side stand to take a heavy loss if their pool of cheap labor were to dry up.

I’m not prepared to defend or clarify that theory. It seems true enough, even if it is simplistic.

A Compassionate Ideal

We do however have some important reasons to take illegal immigration much more seriously than congress and the current administration seem to take it. Besides the burdensome pragmatics and politicking, there is an ideal that should not be forgotten. The overarching ideal undergirding America, the American Dream, is only as real as we make it. Lady Liberty is the “Mother of Exiles,” she speaks directly to the hopeful migrant masses saying:

Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door
–Emma Lazarus, “The New Colossus,” 1883.  

America offers such dangerous and beautiful liberty that anyone could be a rags to riches story if they just work hard, stay on the straight and narrow, and keep their nose clean. Or, if we are not careful, America could sacrifice all that made it great, lost in the void between ideals and reality. With a generous immigration policy, the US has grown into a world power, in large part because of the aspiring masses yearning to breath free American air. But this immigrant anthem does not have to translate into illegal immigration. We can have a generous and realistic immigration policy that is nonetheless asserts a strong border, strict enforcement for employers, and strengthened policing,balanced with a streamlined naturalization process. Perhaps immigrant students from accredited universities and 4-year military service members should receive citizenship papers automatically, or be bumped to the front of the line for naturalization. Our immigration policy can be compassionate even as we seek wise and responsible parameters, otherwise we sacrifice one virtue of Lady Liberty for the sake of others.

Balanced Realism

Keeping that ideal in mind, realism offers a counterweight balancing against the narrative of compassionate ideals. In reality, compassionate ideals can work only if they can endure the gamut of these pressing problems. We cannot afford to ignore or minimize this issues when facing the current tidal wave of illegal immigrants. To come even close to the ideal, the only place to stand and reach is on a firm foundation of reality.

1) General Criminal Activity
The Department of Immigration and Customs Enforcement documented the release of 36,007 illegal immigrants with criminal records. This number is only a partial indicator of criminal activity fostered by an irresponsible immigration policy. Remember that the very act of illegal immigration breaks the law, so the entire phenomenon of illegal immigration is a gargantuan body of illegality. While many boarder-crossers are just looking for work, and some are surviving on overextended student visas, other immigrants can use the open boarders to usurp any number of laws that are difficult to prosecute when individuals are undocumented. Also, being a transient population immigrants can easily flee from the law. Not to mention non-citizens pose a legal challenge even when caught since they are only ambiguously related to civil rights (i.e., rights of citizenship). The legal system is expensive enough when it comes to providing attorneys for those who can’t afford them; it becomes an even larger financial burden when the U.S. is appointing attorneys for non-citizens, or conducting alternative measures such as deportation or extradition.

2 & 3) drug trafficking and gang activity
Two related issues tie into Mexican drug cartels. With only slight exaggeration Mexico can be called a narcostate. For all the good and great things about Mexico, it is heavily influenced by drug cartels buying off the police, terrorizing neighborhoods, commandeering resources and recruiting members. As long as the United States has money and people, it represents a market for sales. Weak and poorly defended boarders leave huge blind spots for gang and drug activity crossing from Mexico, as well as other Central/South American countries. It is just naive to think that hard drugs, illegal drugs, and deadly gangs are not intermixed within the work-starved mass of immigrants.

4 & 5) sex trafficking and wage/contract slavery
Perhaps the greatest human rights violation involved in illegal immigration is that it fosters an underclass of undocumented people who cannot appeal to the police, the local government, the banks, or the normal means of safety and stability when they are endangered. Especially seedy is human trafficking, a.k.a., sex trafficking. This is the practice of kidnapping and coercing people into forced prostitution, typically pre-teen and teenage girls (80-90%) and boys (10-20%). The U.S. is a well-known destination county for sex-trafficking, since there are countless buyers, and lots of money. Estimates vary between 100,000 and 300,000 sex-trafficking victims in the U.S. alone. Besides sex trafficking there is also work place slavery which sometimes may be wage-based (wage slavery) or contract based (contract slavery). These kinds of violations can be rebuked and prosecuted with U.S. citizens working at “above the table” companies. Such employees have full access to the legal system. But illegal immigrants themselves generally don’t report evils and errors in the workplace for fear of be discovered as criminal trespassers. Employers can get away with any number of employee rights violations, human rights violations, and safety violations. Employers can breach contracts, abuse and harass their employees, underpay them, break safety codes, take unwarranted deductions, steal their visas and passports, overwork them, or any of the things our labor unions and human rights heroes campaigned for since the industrial revolution.

6) It Compromises National Security
National Security is a precarious problem, virtually impossible to reduce to a “few easy steps” and even harder to accomplish. What we have is a relative and imperfect state of national security. No fortifications are foolproof but there are definitely some plans that are better than others. And none of the good options include “open borders.” It only takes one terrorist, with a warhead in a briefcase, to trigger WWIII. A well confirmed report says that 4 Turkish terrorists affiliated with PKK (a Marxist-Muslim Group) were caught crossing the border in November 2014. Allegedly, 6 more were caught along with them. More suspicious claimants allege that “thousands” of OTM’s (“other than mexican”) are crossing the border with a “substantial” number of them being “muslim terrorists.” As early as 2005, apparently the “word got out” that our holding facilities for Illegals are full so even when they are captured, they are being promptly released on their own recognizance to appear at a court summons later. Of all captured illegal immigrants 85% or higher never show. There are many nuances to the sophisticated issue of global terror and national security, but whatever the complexities may be, it is safe to say that no responsible plan for national security leaves the southern border wide open or leaves DHS (Department of Homeland Security), ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement), Border Patrol (etc.) radically understaffed, under supported, or diplomatically constrained from doing their job.

7) It Undermines the Rule of Law
The U.S. exercises a rule of law built around several modern and classical ideals and all of it could collapse in a single generation if people were to, en masse, reject the rule of law. Now the laws are not always right, but neither are they altogether evil and foolish either. Our system affords a wide range of ways to challenge laws which may need more polish or precision, or which need to be replaced with higher ideals and smarter pragmatics. Generally speaking, we cannot expect people to uphold and adhere to the rule of law when the law is constantly shirked by governing bodies such as DHS, ICE, or the Federal Government. The laws of the land prove especially weak when the President himself mandates active law-breaking, and directs related departments to ignore the la too.

8) It’s Expensive
Perhaps the most practical issue here is that it will take money and manpower to be able to grow the local school districts, the welfare programs, low income housing, and the healthcare sector to accommodate hundreds of thousands of illegal immigrants. Also, let’s assume that the “anchor baby” phenomenon is at least close to how conservatives characterize it (i.e., illegals who cross the border to have a child so it will be an American citizen). this means that a lot of the immigrants will be too young to work, hence they cannot contribute to society as adults might, but are very much a financial burden on society. Aren’t we all pretty much whiny financial burdens on others till we are old enough to work? This means that an influx of illegal immigration comes at a high cost that is not necessarily offset by the cheap labor offered by parents. Even low-income standards of living in the U.S. are not cheap enough to where illegal immigrants can work unskilled jobs, knowing no English, and be able to pay for all their family needs and childcare. Some estimates suggest each public school students costs us, on average, at least $12,300. And the average household received $31,548 dollars in government benefits. These numbers add up real quickly when there are an estimated 11.5 million illegal immigrants in 2014 alone.

Many more points could be made, but these are some of the objective and self-evident reasons why we need to think-twice about extending a blanketing amnesty or some other variation that is soft on illegal immigration.

Anyone who wants a fight can find one. There are plenty of eager arguers out there. Many of these combatants, no matter how mean-spirited or foolhardy they may be, call themselves “Apologists.” As a result, apologetics gets labeled as negative, critical, or divisive. Now to be fair, even if all apologists were gracious, loving, little doves in their defense of truth we’d probably still have people slandering us as mean and narrow. That’s no excuse, however, for being tactless brutes. People may call us whatever they want, but we owe it to God to defy our own bad press. Instead, any and every aspiring apologist should remember that in that famous apologetics passage, 1 Peter 3:15-16, it introduces the task of apologetics by saying, “But in your heart, set apart Christ as Lord.” And, the first and greatest commandment is, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength” (Mark 12:30). Our apologetics has to be framed within utter devotion to the Lord. This point may seem elementary, but it’s easy to let our apologetics slip from defending Christ to defending ourselves, our status, or our reputation. Be careful to direct your deepest devotion to Christ. Love God first and foremost. Feast on His truths in daily quiet time. Pray like there’s no tomorrow. Engage in regular Christian fellowship and worship at a local church. And invest in a healthy growing relationship with Christ as the fuel, the fire, the foundation for your public apologetics ministry. Put another way, let your love of Christ be so strong that you cannot help but defend Him wherever he may be slandered.

1) Injustice Is No Cure For Injustice
Abortion-choice advocates often point to how women are treated unjustly, having a long history of sexism through the ages where women were marginalized by chauvanistic men and misogynistic society; moreso if they are poor and minority women. Supposedly, abortion offers one means of helping to empower marginalized women who may also be oppressed for their economic status or race. But whatever injustice might be foisted upon women it is no answer to offer up more injustice in its place. Killing tiny human beings is more injustice. The cure for injustice is justice, not more injustice.

2) Abortion Displaces Oppression Without Resolution.
If you take money from your right pocket and put it in your left pocket, you are no richer than before. Likewise, if we take oppression against women and trade it for oppressing children-in-utero, we are no more ethically rich than before. Instead, we have added foolishness to our immorality having accepted a short-term answer (terminate the pregnancy) to a bevy of long-term problems (dehumanization, weaker families, eugenics, etc.).

3) It is No Liberation To Kill One Class of Human Beings For The Benefit of Another.
We cannot have sincere solidarity on human rights if in that sense of “human rights” we are advancing the rights of one class of humanity (women) by destroying the lives of another class of humanity (children-in-utero). In the case of abortion we are dealing with willful, self-interested discrimination. This discrimination is on the basis of size, level of development, environment, and degree of dependence (the SLED argument). But their nature as human beings is beneath dispute, since they are literally homo sapiens. Abortion policy literally excuses aggressive violations of human rights to the point of death over a million times a year in the U.S. or about 1 every 31 seconds.

4) Legalized Abortion Has Made The Safest Place In The World The Most Dangerous Place In The World
The statistics for abortion are mind boggling. Almost 58 million killed in the U.S. since 1973 and that’s not counting illegal and unreported cases. Worldwide the number is over 1.3 billion. In the U.S. the leading causes of death are heart disease and cancer and they are only around 600,000 deaths yearly, but the abortion rate is easily twice that yearly. Meanwhile, the mothers womb is designed to be warm, nurturing, natural and safe. It should be the safest place for a child, but abortion makes it a hostile holding ground before over a million of them of them are killed each year. One child is aborted for every 4 children born.

5) Abortion Trades Old-school Sexism for New-school Sexism
Early feminists (called 1st wave feminists) in the late 19th and early 20th century almost universally detested abortion. Besides the fact that medical technology hadn’t yet advanced to make abortion very safe for the mother, there was a deeper, more socially astute reason. They worried that abortion access would liberate men to use women for casual sex with no concern for romance, relationship, commitment, marriage, and family (for example, see here). They recognized that most women still wanted a faithful husband, healthy marriage, happy home, and mutually reared children. Abortion was another way for men to “cut and run,” ditching responsibility as fathers or (potential) husbands. Women then would be left holding the baby with no income and no hubby. Modern movements have helped women to enter the university, the work force, and most every public sphere of influence. And these are great! But there has been no strong and comparable movement to hold men to a balanced measure of responsibility. Women may have moved into the workforce but men have not moved into the kitchen. Women can now hold the check book, and the car keys, and but they are still left holding the frying pan and the baby. With the preponderance of single-motherhood and divorce, the plight of women has, in many ways worsened. Gains empowering women have been muffled by losses in safety and security. Abortion-choice tries to solve the disparity between men and women not by holding men to the duties of husband and father, or reinforcing family–both of which can lend greater safety and security to women–but instead by “empowering” women to make the same mistake as men: “cut and run.” Women and men alike can now ditch their child as soon as they find out about him or her.

Most all measures for healthy traditional families legitimize the concerns of those 1st wave feminists. In this age of legal abortion, divorce rates, cohabitation (“living together” unmarried) rates, teen pregnancy, pregnancy out of wedlockdomestic abuse rates are all painfully high, each having risen significantly since the 1970’s when abortion was legalized (see here, here, here, and here). These stats suggest that women’s “liberation” has been compromised by the law of unforeseen consequences. And to these can be added the barbaric practice of sex-selective abortion. Sexism is legally fortified in current abortion-choice policy since women can abort their babies in all states in the U.S. for such wicked reasons as it’s gender or its race.