But avoid foolish controversies, genealogies, dissensions, and quarrels about the law,
for they are unprofitable and worthless. (Titus 3:9, ESV)
Time and energy are stewardship resources. We need to plan so that we don’t waste our resources dishonorably before God. That may mean deferring a juicy debate till you have enough time to do it right. It may mean conceding defeat on an internet debate so you can go to bed and be rested for school in the morning. Other times it means you approach an apologetics encounter with greater skill and efficiency because you only have about 15 minutes of lunchtime to make a positive contribution before you need to get back to your desk job.
Efficiency is tactical laziness. Laziness has an upside. Laziness doesn’t have to be a vice when we have limited time and energy to devote to something but we still need to make some progress; in those cases we are justified in conserving our energy through tactically swift and effective actions that “cut to the heart of the problem.”
Dr. Ravi Zacharias tells a story of a man who was going on and on trying to justify his skepticism towards God and how he could not imagine how God could let such evil into the world. Now this topic, the problem of evil, is a heavy historic topic. There’s no simple way to “solve” it. But the Dr. Zacharias assessed the scene, listened to the speaker, weighed the man’s words, and then responded with a simple question, “What will you do about the evil in your own heart?” Ravi’s words wouldn’t suit just any occasion, but it suited this occasion. And we should be on the lookout for similar ways to avoid the many distractions and “symptoms” and cut strait to the heart of the problem. In Dr. Zacharias’s assessment, the man had a moral problem underneath all his objections. He felt safer blaming God for the evil in the world than in facing his own participation in the world’s evils.
We apologists don’t have but one lifetime. And for some encounters, we only have a short elevator ride, or a few minutes before the bus arrives. We need to be able to be brief, poignant, and tactical. On the opposite side of things; when we spend hours and hours bantering about supralapsarianism versus infralapsarianism (see here) we run a great risk of wasting our time and energy. The Apostle Paul warned the church father, Titus, not to get distracted with endless arguments that are fruitless foliage, zombies that will neither die nor give life. Arguments can be valuable. And long-term dialogues/debates can be fruitful. But we need to be vigilant with our resources recognizing when we are being wasteful with God’s property.