Does God Need Our Defense?

Reconsidering the idea that God needs His people to protect His public rating.

Our culture is big on self-defense.

This year, more than six million American children will participate in martial arts—the art of self-defense. At the same time, American adults hotly debate the place that guns occupy in society, largely because of how people feel about their right to defend themselves.

American Christians, too, seem trained from birth to defend themselves, or rather, their faith. It is commonly believed that good Christians should have a firm grasp on their beliefs, and be able to articulate, nay, defend, their faith against inevitable attacks.

To further complicate matters, Christians today are barraged with statistics that paint a dismal future for American Christianity. The statisticians proclaim that an ever-shrinking minority of Christians actually possess a “biblical worldview,” that Christianity is under attack from all sides. It adds up to a frightening scenario that feels as if it is the last few remaining Christians against the world.

American Christians, too, seem trained from birth to defend themselves, or rather, their faith.

And yet, the more defensive Christians get and the louder the arguments become, the more often it all backfires, causing Christians to appear to be socially backwards, culturally inept or just outright hateful.

But what if the answer to Christianity’s problems lies not in increasing our defenses, but giving them up altogether? How do Christians turn from a constant posture of defensiveness to presenting God as He really is?

Here’s four reasons to lay down your defenses.

1) You are Christian first, American second

Today’s American culture seems hypersensitive to any perceived threat against our rights. The First Amendment’s guarantee of free speech is held as sacred as Scripture itself.

Yet, Christians need to remember that they are Christians first and Americans second. The First Amendment is a freedom but not an obligation. Jesus, who we are claiming to defend, was ambivalent about His public approval rating. He often eschewed clear declarative statements about His beliefs by teaching in parables that required thought from His listeners. He demonstrated His greatest strength by offering no defense when His life depended on it.

So are we really being Christ-like in our rush to defend Christianity by declaring what God thinks about any number of thorny social issues? Are we imitating Christ by advertising who we think is going to hell? Are we turning any hearts with our “defense?” If not, then Christians need to lay down their right to publicly speak their minds. Our right to free speech is not in the Bible.

2) God can take care of Himself

Ancient people believed that their gods needed human support in the form of sacrifices–animal or even human—in order to live. God, however makes abundantly clear in the Bible that He is not like that. He does not need our sacrifices. He is self-sufficient.

But it seems that modern Christians often forget this, believing God needs us to speak for Him, to defend His honor, as if He cannot speak for Himself. Charles Spurgeon said it best: “The Gospel is like a caged lion. It does not need to be defended. It just needs to be let out of its cage.”

Turning from a defensive posture often requires rethinking our concept of God. Christians treat God more like a fragile, wounded kitten, needing to be nursed and guarded, far more often than they revere Him as a lion. But when we change our own perspective of God, we will also see that He didn’t need Israelite sacrifices. And He doesn’t need our defense today.

Jesus, who we are claiming to defend, was ambivalent about His public approval rating.

3) God speaks softly

When Elijah went to the mountaintop to search for God, a hurricane force wind came out to meet him. Following it, came an earthquake, and then a forest fire. But the story says simply: But God was not in the wind or the earthquake or the fire (1 Kings 19). He wasn’t in the natural disasters. Elijah had to listen intently because God came to him as a still, small voice.

So often, Christians want to demonstrate God with our version of those natural disasters. We want to shout loudly with irresistible, fiery force. We want Christians to declare to America what God thinks—with thunderclaps and lightening. We want Christians to speak out boldly and lobby the government for our agenda.

All that is accomplished with that approach is destruction. It’s a…well, disaster. The voice of the Holy Spirit is drowned out in the noise. It is when Christians demonstrate God in a still, small voice, in the context of love and friendship that God can actually speak to people.

4) Defending God is often really self-defense

Why do Christians get so defensive about God?

It is the same reason that people get defensive about consumer products. People actually become heated over what brand of computers, smartphones or video games they enjoy. They do this primarily because the products they use say something about them as consumers.

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The reason many Christians defend their faith is the same. They are not defending God. They are defending themselves. It is their own honor at stake, their own pride and security, their reputation—not God’s.

And when our only motivation for defending God is a concern for ourselves, we end up looking ridiculous to outsiders.

What if Christians actually laid down their honor, their pride, their instincts to get defensive? What if we beat our swords into plowshares and answered every attack with love, with a still small voice that never wavered, but never raised?

It would mean that we are finally imitators of Jesus, and every last one of the accusations leveled against us—that we are hateful, hypocrites, selfish, narrow-minded and backward—would no longer be true.

Top Comments

Brian Stroka

1

Brian Stroka commented…

I couldn't agree more with Kye. With the exception of one concept in this article (which I'll address in a moment), I respectfully submit that this article is largely taken out of context - everything from the Biblical events to the Spurgeon quote. The only part of this article I actually agree with (and which can be defended Biblically) is the fact that we must not approach others with whom we disagree in hate.

In addition, I don't believe the author will take down this article, as I am sure he is confident it is Biblically sound. However, I will explain why it is not. First, the account of Elijah in 1 Kings 19 (and the unfortunately common thought that God generally speaks in a still, small voice) is taken completely out of context. In short, God did not simply speak in a still small voice in this account. In fact, He may not have spoken in a still small voice at all! (http://bit.ly/NotaSmallVoice) Notwithstanding, before and after this stillness, a few things happened which show how God actually communicates. First, Elijah was physically touched and verbally spoken to by an angel of the Lord (vv. 5-8). Next, when Elijah arrived at the cave, he was spoken to by the word of the Lord. At this point, Elijah and he had a conversation with Him, and God told him to stand on the mountain in the presence of the Lord (vv. 9-11).

I also disagree with how the storms that follows are presented by the author here; although God was not 'in' the strong wind, the earthquake, or the fire, they were indeed sent by God. What happens next is what is largely taken out of context. Of the commonly circulated modern Bible versions, most do not use the phrase "still, small voice" in verse 12. The ESV uses "the sound of a low whisper", and in the footnote explains it may also mean "a sound, a thin silence". Similarly, the NASB uses "a sound of a gentle blowing", and NIV "a gentle whisper". Following the stillness, or the gentle breeze, the Lord continued his verbal conversation with Elijah.

Furthermore, it can be argued that God does NOT speak quietly. The concept of a still small voice comes from the (not uncommon) improper transliteration of the King James Version. Be that as it may, this is the only time in the KJV when God is said to speak in such a way. Copying from the article linked above, here is how God speaks in the Bible:
1. God’s voice roars and thunders.
Job 37:5 (NASB) – “God thunders with His voice wondrously…”
Job 40:9 (NASB) – “And can you thunder with a voice like His?”
Ezekiel 1:24 (HCSB) – “like the roar of mighty waters, like the voice of the Almighty…”
Ezekiel 43:2 (HCSB) – “His voice sounded like the roar of mighty waters…”
Revelation 1:15 (ESV) – “[H]is voice was like the roar of many waters."
2. God appears in fire.
Exodus 3:2, 4 (NASB) – “The angel of the Lord appeared to him in a blazing fire from the midst of a bush… God called to him from the midst of the bush…”
Exodus 13:21 (NASB) – “The Lord was going before them… in a pillar of fire by night…”
Exodus 19:18 (NASB) – “Now Mount Sinai was all in smoke because the Lord descended upon it in fire…”
3. God appears with wind.
2 Samuel 22:11 (NASB) – “He appeared on the wings of the wind.”
Job 38:1 (ESV) – “Then the Lord answered Job out of the whirlwind…”
Psalm 18:10 (NASB) – “He sped upon the wings of the wind.”
Psalm 104:3 (ESV) – “[H]e rides on the wings of the wind; he makes his messengers winds…”
Nahum 1:3 (HCSB) – “His path is in the whirlwind and storm…”

Considering the context, what may it mean, then, when God sent the silence to Elijah? What did God say to Elijah in that "still, small voice"? Nothing! After Elijah heard the silence, he turned and went to the mouth of the cave. It wasn't until this time that God spoke again. So, what was communicated to Elijah through the silence? Elijah was experiencing grief and loneliness, to the extent that he wanted to die. So what was God doing? He was calming Elijah - He was showing Elijah that with God, there is not chaos - not hurricanes or earthquakes or fires. Instead, God was communicating to Elijah that he could experience serenity with God. God was simply calming Elijah down. I can kind of see some humor in what happens next - after God expresses himself in peace and composure, he essentially said to Elijah "What are you still doing here?! Get back to work!".

Last but not least, the quote by Charles Spurgeon has also been taken out of context here. As Elliot Ritzema explains, Spurgeon used this analogy at least three times (http://bit.ly/SpurgeonLion). Was Spurgeon saying not to defend the Gospel? Absolutely not!!! What he WAS saying was that in his observation, many times when people are Gospel, they are not using the Gospel to defend it. Instead, they are trying to defend the Gospel with their own thoughts. Here is one of the quotes:
"A great many learned men are defending the gospel; no doubt it is a very proper and right thing to do, yet I always notice that, when there are most books of that kind, it is because the gospel itself is not being preached. Suppose a number of persons were to take it into their heads that they had to defend a lion, a full-grown king of beasts! There he is in the cage, and here come all the soldiers of the army to fight for him. Well, I should suggest to them, if they would not object, and feel that it was humbling to them, that they should kindly stand back, and open the door, and let the lion out! I believe that would be the best way of defending him, for he would take care of himself; and the best “apology” for the gospel is to let the gospel out. Never mind about defending Deuteronomy or the whole of the Pentateuch; preach Jesus Christ and him crucified. Let the Lion out, and see who will dare to approach him. The Lion of the tribe of Judah will soon drive away all his adversaries."
As such, it is clear that the author here (Matt) has also taken Charles Spurgeon out of context.

Even if none of what I have shown were true, along with others I must also point out 1 Peter chapter 3, as this passage exclusively negates the argument that Christians should be passive bystanders in spiritual warfare. Although the author is correct we should not approach people in hate or condescension, we are indeed instructed to be able to form a defense for the hope which is in us.

1 Peter 3:8-16 (ESV)

8 Finally, all of you, have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind. 9 Do not repay evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary, bless, for to this you were called, that you may obtain a blessing. 10 For

“Whoever desires to love life
and see good days,
let him keep his tongue from evil
and his lips from speaking deceit;
11 let him turn away from evil and do good;
let him seek peace and pursue it.
12 For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous,
and his ears are open to their prayer.
But the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.”
13 Now who is there to harm you if you are zealous for what is good? 14 But even if you should suffer for righteousness' sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, 15 but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, 16 having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame.

I also must respectfully disagree with Paula Kuzman - the fact that we are sanctified through the blood of Jesus Christ is the hope that is in us. However, we are not told here to be prepared to tell of the hope that is in us. Instead, we are told to be prepared to defend this! How do we defend it? By providing the context of the Gospel, and by having a structured argument for our faith. The Greek word for defense is apologia, which transliterates to 1 - a verbal defense, speech in defense, and 2 - a reasoned statement or argument.

My intent here is not to be argumentative or to split hairs. Rather, I hope that in taking the time to write this, it will help others to have a more thorough understanding of these concepts.

9 Comments

Kaysi

8

Kaysi commented…

ONE THOUSAND AMENS.

Kye James

1

Kye James commented…

As an acting Ratio Christi chapter director and someone with a passion for apologetic evangelism I would say that this is easily one of the worst representations of Biblical truth on the issue of using polemics in reaching unbelievers.

Let me start by saying that your heart is clearly in the right place. It's good to know that there are people who care enough about Christ's name to warn His people about their behavior, but your mind is not set on the Scroptural truth (as is demonstrated by your total neglect of the Bible in your article).

Your exposition of the single Biblical passage that you cited is skewed and biased, and obviously tailored to fit your argument.

Your opinions of Christ's ministry are as well. If you will take your time reading the Gospels you will see that Jesus constantly and consistently opposed the Pharisees and even laymen with vigor and often with what you would apparently call "hatred."

You also seem to be implying that Christians have little to no social responsibility. On this matter, I would recommend you read at least the first chapter of John Stott's book "Issues Facing Christians Today" in which he defines 'politics' and the relationship between evangelism an social action.

I'm requesting that you take this article down until you're able to provide at least a coherent, Biblical defense of your position, rather than a short list of popular, contemporary, seeker-sensitive opinion.

Joe

1

Joe commented…

Today's society is steeped in pride and intellectualism and science and mans wisdom and understanding are among the primary hailed deities. If our God truly is mighty and truly did create man, and the universe, he certainly doesn't need to be defended by those created beings from other created beings especially on the battlefront of the intellect, as it is a work of the spirit that one comes to God, not by being convinced intellectually. People change their minds as frequently as they change their clothes, so why would an eternal God who never changes have to answer to the flippancy of man's confused mind. God does not owe science or anything else an explanation of his mysteries, nor does he need to be defended from his own creatures who worship their own sensory data which is finite. I agree 100% with the above post, it is our defensive posture, and intellectual platform that arouses doubt in the first place, if we want to be imitators of Christ then we need to stop loving in word and tongue and start loving in truth and in action, and if our actions begin to speak louder than our already very loud words, then people may want us to give them an answer for the hope that is in us, rather than just seeing us as argumentative children who are intellectually prideful

Brian Stroka

1

Brian Stroka commented…

I couldn't agree more with Kye. With the exception of one concept in this article (which I'll address in a moment), I respectfully submit that this article is largely taken out of context - everything from the Biblical events to the Spurgeon quote. The only part of this article I actually agree with (and which can be defended Biblically) is the fact that we must not approach others with whom we disagree in hate.

In addition, I don't believe the author will take down this article, as I am sure he is confident it is Biblically sound. However, I will explain why it is not. First, the account of Elijah in 1 Kings 19 (and the unfortunately common thought that God generally speaks in a still, small voice) is taken completely out of context. In short, God did not simply speak in a still small voice in this account. In fact, He may not have spoken in a still small voice at all! (http://bit.ly/NotaSmallVoice) Notwithstanding, before and after this stillness, a few things happened which show how God actually communicates. First, Elijah was physically touched and verbally spoken to by an angel of the Lord (vv. 5-8). Next, when Elijah arrived at the cave, he was spoken to by the word of the Lord. At this point, Elijah and he had a conversation with Him, and God told him to stand on the mountain in the presence of the Lord (vv. 9-11).

I also disagree with how the storms that follows are presented by the author here; although God was not 'in' the strong wind, the earthquake, or the fire, they were indeed sent by God. What happens next is what is largely taken out of context. Of the commonly circulated modern Bible versions, most do not use the phrase "still, small voice" in verse 12. The ESV uses "the sound of a low whisper", and in the footnote explains it may also mean "a sound, a thin silence". Similarly, the NASB uses "a sound of a gentle blowing", and NIV "a gentle whisper". Following the stillness, or the gentle breeze, the Lord continued his verbal conversation with Elijah.

Furthermore, it can be argued that God does NOT speak quietly. The concept of a still small voice comes from the (not uncommon) improper transliteration of the King James Version. Be that as it may, this is the only time in the KJV when God is said to speak in such a way. Copying from the article linked above, here is how God speaks in the Bible:
1. God’s voice roars and thunders.
Job 37:5 (NASB) – “God thunders with His voice wondrously…”
Job 40:9 (NASB) – “And can you thunder with a voice like His?”
Ezekiel 1:24 (HCSB) – “like the roar of mighty waters, like the voice of the Almighty…”
Ezekiel 43:2 (HCSB) – “His voice sounded like the roar of mighty waters…”
Revelation 1:15 (ESV) – “[H]is voice was like the roar of many waters."
2. God appears in fire.
Exodus 3:2, 4 (NASB) – “The angel of the Lord appeared to him in a blazing fire from the midst of a bush… God called to him from the midst of the bush…”
Exodus 13:21 (NASB) – “The Lord was going before them… in a pillar of fire by night…”
Exodus 19:18 (NASB) – “Now Mount Sinai was all in smoke because the Lord descended upon it in fire…”
3. God appears with wind.
2 Samuel 22:11 (NASB) – “He appeared on the wings of the wind.”
Job 38:1 (ESV) – “Then the Lord answered Job out of the whirlwind…”
Psalm 18:10 (NASB) – “He sped upon the wings of the wind.”
Psalm 104:3 (ESV) – “[H]e rides on the wings of the wind; he makes his messengers winds…”
Nahum 1:3 (HCSB) – “His path is in the whirlwind and storm…”

Considering the context, what may it mean, then, when God sent the silence to Elijah? What did God say to Elijah in that "still, small voice"? Nothing! After Elijah heard the silence, he turned and went to the mouth of the cave. It wasn't until this time that God spoke again. So, what was communicated to Elijah through the silence? Elijah was experiencing grief and loneliness, to the extent that he wanted to die. So what was God doing? He was calming Elijah - He was showing Elijah that with God, there is not chaos - not hurricanes or earthquakes or fires. Instead, God was communicating to Elijah that he could experience serenity with God. God was simply calming Elijah down. I can kind of see some humor in what happens next - after God expresses himself in peace and composure, he essentially said to Elijah "What are you still doing here?! Get back to work!".

Last but not least, the quote by Charles Spurgeon has also been taken out of context here. As Elliot Ritzema explains, Spurgeon used this analogy at least three times (http://bit.ly/SpurgeonLion). Was Spurgeon saying not to defend the Gospel? Absolutely not!!! What he WAS saying was that in his observation, many times when people are Gospel, they are not using the Gospel to defend it. Instead, they are trying to defend the Gospel with their own thoughts. Here is one of the quotes:
"A great many learned men are defending the gospel; no doubt it is a very proper and right thing to do, yet I always notice that, when there are most books of that kind, it is because the gospel itself is not being preached. Suppose a number of persons were to take it into their heads that they had to defend a lion, a full-grown king of beasts! There he is in the cage, and here come all the soldiers of the army to fight for him. Well, I should suggest to them, if they would not object, and feel that it was humbling to them, that they should kindly stand back, and open the door, and let the lion out! I believe that would be the best way of defending him, for he would take care of himself; and the best “apology” for the gospel is to let the gospel out. Never mind about defending Deuteronomy or the whole of the Pentateuch; preach Jesus Christ and him crucified. Let the Lion out, and see who will dare to approach him. The Lion of the tribe of Judah will soon drive away all his adversaries."
As such, it is clear that the author here (Matt) has also taken Charles Spurgeon out of context.

Even if none of what I have shown were true, along with others I must also point out 1 Peter chapter 3, as this passage exclusively negates the argument that Christians should be passive bystanders in spiritual warfare. Although the author is correct we should not approach people in hate or condescension, we are indeed instructed to be able to form a defense for the hope which is in us.

1 Peter 3:8-16 (ESV)

8 Finally, all of you, have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind. 9 Do not repay evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary, bless, for to this you were called, that you may obtain a blessing. 10 For

“Whoever desires to love life
and see good days,
let him keep his tongue from evil
and his lips from speaking deceit;
11 let him turn away from evil and do good;
let him seek peace and pursue it.
12 For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous,
and his ears are open to their prayer.
But the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.”
13 Now who is there to harm you if you are zealous for what is good? 14 But even if you should suffer for righteousness' sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, 15 but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, 16 having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame.

I also must respectfully disagree with Paula Kuzman - the fact that we are sanctified through the blood of Jesus Christ is the hope that is in us. However, we are not told here to be prepared to tell of the hope that is in us. Instead, we are told to be prepared to defend this! How do we defend it? By providing the context of the Gospel, and by having a structured argument for our faith. The Greek word for defense is apologia, which transliterates to 1 - a verbal defense, speech in defense, and 2 - a reasoned statement or argument.

My intent here is not to be argumentative or to split hairs. Rather, I hope that in taking the time to write this, it will help others to have a more thorough understanding of these concepts.

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