Wintery Knight

…integrating Christian faith and knowledge in the public square

Simon Brace on the nature of spiritual warfare and a plea to the Church

This passionate, challenging lecture has been getting shared a lot on Facebook, so I thought that I would do a summary of it. (H/T M. Flannagan)

First, you can grab the MP3 file here.

Note that this talk is given by a very conservative evangelical Christian who is speaking to Christians. So this is not intended for a non-Christian audience. However, non-Christians are free to tune in if you want to hear a really passionate, fire-breathing conservative evangelical go non-linear over the superficial turn that the evangelical church has taken. If you are familiar with J.P. Moreland’s view that spiritual warfare is really about disputing speculations and falsehoods using logic and evidence, then you’ll know the meaning of the term “spiritual warfare” he has in mind. When he says spiritual warfare, he means apologetics: knowledge and preparation.

I would really caution you not to listen to this if you are not passionate about defending God’s honor. It will overwhelm and upset you. Having said that, this lecture reflects my convictions about the churches need to drop anti-intellectualism and take up apologetics. And not pre-suppositional apologetics, which I think is ineffective, but evidential apologetics. Evidential apologetics is effective, which is why everyone in the Bible used it.

About the speaker:

Simon Brace is the Director of Evangelism of Southern Evangelical Seminary. Simon was born in Zimbabwe and grew up in South Africa. Simon has a construction background and has lived in a number of countries and travelled extensively. He has a MA in Apologetics and BA in Religious Studies and is currently working on an MA in Philosophy at SES. Simon leads TEAM which is the missions program of SES on local, national, and international trips. In addition, Simon has worked with Ratio Christi at SES, and has an extensive knowledge of Ratio Christi’s history and operation. Simon currently resides in North Carolina with his wife Nel and children, Eva and Olivia.

I liked the second part of the lecture more than the first part, so there is less summarizing of the first part.

Topics:

  • What does the New Testament say about spiritual warfare in Ephesians?
  • Christian slogans about spiritual warfare sound pious, but they are mistaken
  • Today, Christianity is focused on piety and zeal, not on study and knowledge
  • The result is that Christianity in the West is in a state of erosion and decline
  • What we are doing about spiritual warfare is not working to stop the decline
  • Preaching, publishing, programs, retreats, etc. are not very useful for spiritual warfare
  • Enthusiasm and passion without knowledge  are not very useful for spiritual warfare
  • The Church has a theoretical understanding of spiritual warfare, but no real capability
  • Doesn’t work: trying to make Christianity seem popular and cool
  • Doesn’t work: making Christian music and art that non-Christians will like
  • Doesn’t work: pastors trying to be relevant by having cool clothes and cool haircuts
  • Doesn’t work: fundamentalists getting angry about peripheral issues
  • Doesn’t work: not read things apart from the Bible and sound foolish when speaking in the public square
  • Doesn’t work: church leaders think that careful exegesis and expository preaching is a good answer to skeptics
  • What works: we need to train people who are prepared and willing to defend the truth of the Christian faith
  • Evangelicalism has a deep suspicion of reading things outside the Bible, so they are unable to refute anything
  • Evangelicals are hyper-spiritualized and hysterical, focusing on demons, prophecy and end-times, etc.
  • Evangelicals have a pagan view of using their minds to alter reality, which is irrational and superstitious
  • Evangelicals like conservative celebrity preachers who do nothing to correct anti-intellectualism in the church
  • Evangelicals are focused on their personal relationships with Jesus instead of their whole worldview
  • Evangelicals focus too much on homeschooling and not enough on how to impact the secular universities
  • Church programs for youth are about “strumming guitars and eating pizza once a week”, not apologetics
  • Evangelicals have an over-inflated view of the effectiveness of their (non-intellectual) evangelism methods
  • The primary focus and primary responsibility in spiritual warfare is not dealing with supernatural evil
  • The real focus and responsibility in spiritual warfare is specified in 2 Cor 10:3-5
  • What we ought to be doing is defeating speculations (false ideas), using logical arguments and evidence
  • Defending the faith is not memorizing Bible verses and throwing them out randomly
  • Defending the faith is not just preaching the gospel
  • Demolishing an argument requires understanding arguments: premises, conclusions, the laws of logic
  • We should exchange our pious Bible memorizing skills and the like for a class in critical thinking
  • The New Testament requires that elders be capable of refuting those who oppose sound doctrine (Titus 1:9)
  • It is not enough to preach a good sermon, elders have to be able to defend the Christian faith as well
  • People who run conservative seminaries do not mandate that M.Div graduates study apologetics
  • Famous pastors like Driscoll, Begg, etc. need to teach other pastors to emphasize apologetics in church
  • People in church won’t engage the culture unless they have reasons and evidence to believe Christianity is true
  • We need a balance of both piety and intellectual engagement
  • We need to make our evangelism rooted in the intellect in order to have an influence at the university
  • Mission organizations also have a responsibility to defend the faith and not merely preach (1 Peter 3:15)

And here is his closing quote from C.S. Lewis:

To be ignorant and simple now not to be able to meet the enemies on their own ground would be to throw down our weapons and to betray our uneducated brethren who have, under God, no defense but us against the intellectual attacks of the heathen. Good philosophy must exist, if for no other reason, because bad philosophy needs to be answered.

I was really humbled by this, because I sort of knew that the church was anti-intellectual, but I didn’t really reflect on how everyone else in society thinks that we are anti-intellectual. It’s troubling. The quickest way to make Biblical Christianity respectable again is to hit the books and defeat all comers in intellectual disputations. Are we ready to make the sacrifices to do that?

UPDATE: A friend of mine who blogs at Think Apologetics has written a post on this same issue of anti-intellectualism in the church.

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17 Responses

  1. Lion IRC says:

    It wasnt definitely apparent from the audio, but was SImon Brace weeping in a couple of places?

    Thanks for the summary Wintery Knight.

    • I think he stopped talking at one point because he was overcome with emotions (the good kind that WK likes, not the silly kind). You are welcome, and thank you for reading.

  2. Lion IRC says:

    Note to fellow amateur, arm-chair, wannabe apologists;
    Dont listen to this (compelling) lecture if you have thin skin or a big ego, or a denominational axe to grind, or are looking to justify your apologetic “works” as praiseworthy.

    Note to conservative, biblical, evangelical preachers;
    Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Judah Smith, Rick Warren, Ray Comfort, Robert Barron, Karol Wojtyła…
    Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord. (Amen!)
    And the Gospel of Jesus Christ is necessary and sufficient for skeptics, unbelievers and anti-theists
    …once they are WILLING to hear it.

  3. rodthomson says:

    A little frustrating. A couple of times early on he scoffs at Christians who chose to not have books in the house they believe are full of bad ideas or lies, as though, as he puts it, somehow having the book in the house will contaminate us. Somehow? How about by the bad ideas in the books, which have propagandized a generation of people. Well, I’m sorry, but that is a complete straw man argument and ridiculing people who want to keep books they see as lying particularly from their young, impressionable children, would seem like the height of wisdom.

    The problem is not have books with bad ideas in the house but that having the books suggests reading, and absorbing bad ideas. Maybe it was just inartfully stated. Maybe I gave up way too soon. But I get these straw men thrown at me by liberals all the time.

    I completely agree that the church has become too shallow and too emotional and too compromised, unable to defend the faith. I found apologetics a prerequisite to being an overt Christian in secular media newsrooms over the years. And some successful evangelism resulted. But it’s frustrating to have straw men used by people on our side when such tactics just aren’t necessary.

    Forgive me if this is too off point. I’d probably agree with his entire thrust, if I could get by that sort of tactic.

    • I know what you mean, but think of church. When have you ever heard a pastor express – respectfully and in detail – an objection to Christianity, prior to answering it? It’s just not something they do. What you get in church is the pastor resting every assertion on a faith commitment to the Bible. No attempt is made to engage criticisms or objections with reasons and evidence. That’s probably what he was attacking – the close-mindedness. The obliviousness of pastors. Their inability to link any claims to anything other than the Bible and a blind faith commitment to the Bible. Before you can refute lies, you have to be conversant with the lies.

      • Rod says:

        True. Or largely true. I find that compelling when it comes to say science and scientific claims, logic and philosophy. Maybe lessso in say the cults of the world, where knowing what we believe, the Bible, very well pretty much refutes all the other lies without knowing the lies.

        I find it frustrating that not only most pastors, but most Christians period, are unable to defend the faith without quoting Scripture. I love the word of God. It is real food. But when talking to someone who does not believe in God, let alone the Bible, you can’t accomplish anything by quoting it. Might as well be talking Martian. But make the fairly easy and compelling case for the requirement of God (something from nothing and life from inanimate in the philosophical, Cambrian explosion in the paleological, etc,) and then a conversation about more truth becomes possible.

  4. Jen says:

    I won’t be able to listen, but thank you for posting a summary. Some thought-provoking and very true things were said, it seems.

  5. Timothy says:

    Truly inspiring and helpful. I’m always frustrated by the number of pastors I come across who have an anti-intellectual attitude (myself included at times). 2 Cor. 10:2-6 truly puts that falsehood to rest and shows there is no room for anti-intellectualism in the church.

    BTW, how do I download the sermon to my computer or iPhone? When I click the link, it just takes me to the page. I was hoping to send it to some people. Where is it originally posted?

  6. Rachel P. says:

    That reminds me of this song, which I didn’t know about until recently. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5E0yH3CzBEM

    Though a note is that I don’t feel comfortable of her sarcastic use of the lines “He’s been baptized, sanctified, redeemed by the blood
    But his daily devotions are stuck in the mud
    He knows the books of the Bible and John 3:16″ even though it gets the point across, because real sanctification and being washed by the blood is a serious thing. I still like the overall point of her song though.

    I asked my pastor from my hometown why he didn’t put apologetics into his sermons, and he said that the congregation wouldn’t be willing to work through something that difficult because they prefer to be spoon-fed something that is short, simple and easy. I agree that there is anti-intellectualism in the modern church. I’m really glad for people like Greg Koukl and others (I am not as familiar with Simon Brace or J.P Morland through) who are helping to equip Christians with the use of logic in apologetics.

    • It’s good that your pastor *would like* to talk about those things. Maybe he could just ask you to run a small group with a good, basic book like “Is God Just a Human Invention?”.

      • Rachel P. says:

        Thank you for the suggestion, I’ll look into the book idea also. I have already been looking into the options I have for starting a group like that actually.

  7. Rachel P. says:

    The nature of spiritual warfare involves a struggle of the mind and the spirit. Along with the Scripture mentioned, 2 Corinthians 10:3-5, it is helpful to look at Eph. 6:10-20. I agree that we need to prepare ourselves to argue intellectually as it mentions in the Corinthians passage, but we can’t disregard the supernatural element of the battle, which is that Christians have an enemy out to get them. Both realities need to be prepared for and taken into account or ultimately you’ll be left vulnerable to attack.

  8. […] This is a summary of a lecture that my friend Simon Brace gave last year by Wintery Knight. I hope you can listen to it and please also read the summary by Wintery here. […]

  9. […] This is a summary of a lecture that my friend Simon Brace gave last year by Wintery Knight. I hope you can listen to it and please also read the summary by Wintery here. […]

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