The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. 5 We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.
An aspect of apologetics that is sometimes overlooked is its role in spiritual warfare. For some time thinking and discussion about spiritual warfare has been limited to exorcism and praying against the influence of the devil on a person’s life or on particular events. All of that is proper and worthy of careful spiritual consideration. But there is more.
1 Timothy 4:1
The Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons( Peneumasin planois kai didaskaliais daimonion)
Perhaps it is part of our enlightenment mindset, so deeply bred in us all, that we want to appear gracious and loving in our defense of Christianity, and to do so we wish at all times to show respect and honor to those who oppose us. This is proper. However,we must be careful lest we simultaneously be lead to discount the reality that the teaching we are up against is not respectful, but has been viciously constructed for the sole purpose of entrapping people in Satan’s web.
The truly great apologists understood this and taught it. Again I will refer to C.S. Lewis as an example. Spiritual warfare runs through his writings, from works of imagination to the great teaching works.
Lewis’ teaching works are carefully constructed arguments addressed to the skeptic, or at least to the inquiring mind. He, gracious apologist that he was, always assumes that his readers mind is open. However, in Miracles we learn that he believed that reason is in itself a miracle, that reason is not part of nature, but part of supernature. Thus, when the apologist reasons with people, she is addressing that part of the listener which is from beyond this natural world.
In a truly bold stroke Lewis ups the stakes by inserting many of his arguments into his works of imagination as intellectual encounters between a diabolical presence and a soul. In Perelandra Ransom battles with the Un-man for days as Weston carries on a protracted temptation of the Lady. Ransom then realizes that spiritual warfare must, in this case, be more than spiritual, and begins to fight physically. But then, the persona of Weston is allowed to appear, and the dialogue morphs into a moan about the horrors of the afterlife, and ends with Ransom telling him to “Say a child’s prayer if you can’t say a man’s. Repent your sins…”
After almost drowning, Ransom finds that : “Suddenly and irresistibly, like an attack by tanks, that whole view of the universe which Weston (if it were Weston) had so lately preached to him took all but complete possession of his mind. He seemed to see that he had been living all his life in a world of illusion.”
Here Lewis suddenly speaks of that part of apologetics as spiritual warfare that we would rather not discuss, the warfare of Satan for the soul of the apologist. In an essay he once confessed that after presenting the case for Christianity in an open forum, it was not infrequent that he would himself have doubts. But, he knew the source of those doubts. Ransom hears a noise coming up through the hole in the floor of the cave. “He fixed his eyes upon the dark opening from which he had himself just emerged. And then—‘I thought as much,’ said Ransom. And sure enough, out from the hole crawled the Un-man, and the battle, begun already in Ransom’s mind, begins again and continues until Ransom conquers.
I could go on and talk about the encounters in Narnia, especially between the Witch – arguing that what is present is the only reality and that everything else is mere fancy -- and Jill, Scrubb (Eustace), the Prince and the sturdy Puddleglum whose words “had a rousing affect” and brought the children out of their daze. (The Silver Chair)
But the greatest presentation of spiritual warfare is of course The Screwtape Letters. What is tempting (pun intended) about Screwtape is to think of it only as an imaginative portrayal of our inner moral dialogue. But Lewis makes clear in his introduction that he does believe in a real devil. Thus, this moral discourse truly does make us aware of the devil’s devices. And these devices are not only moral, but are aimed to keep the soul from faith.
The point here is Lewis’ conviction that apologetics does not occur in some sort of intellectual vacuum. Theoretically, the on-going dialogue of science should occur in such a vacuum, that is, devoid of prejudice, self-interest, prejudice, or emotion. Apologetics in an enlightenment framework may mistakenly be framed this way, as simply an exchange, carried on by gentle people. In reality however apologetics is anything but, for in every apologetic encounter the eternal destiny of people is at stake, and because of that four parties are present: the apologist, the one with whom the apologist is in dialogue with, the Holy Spirit, and Satan. The arguments that the apologist is seeking to counter are not simply arguments of well intentioned people, they are diabolical arguments, designed for eternal harm.
Thus, for us to do apologetics in this time requires us to again learn the discipline of spiritual warfare. To learn prayer, to learn discernment, and to learn the power of holiness. This is our calling.