Who said I am supposed to convince you?
A little over three weeks ago I published an article addressing 1 Peter 3:15 and how, when it comes to apologetics or defending the biblical world view, we are to set apart Christ as Lord in our hearts when meeting that task (Smart, 2011); that is the very point which the passage begins with, after all.
Today I received a comment on that article by Jeremy Styron of the Our Daily Train blog. No, I do not know who that is either, nor am I familiar with that blog at all. But that is neither relevant nor important vis-a-vis addressing his comment, which was brief so I shall quote it in full here, and then I want to address it (Styron, 2011):
The third paragraph here (beginning with “And we certainly ought to be ready”) is a garbled mess of question begging and wishful thinking. Explaining the “hope” you possess in Christ isn’t good enough, since Muslims aren’t going to convince me of their hope in Allah either. And you admitted it here that Christ is your reason for hope. So you actually should provide a reason for why he’s your reason for hope. And good luck with that. Outside of your own desire for it to be true, there is scant evidence that Christ existed at all, much less that he was anything other than a peasant roaming the countryside. There is not a single contemporary source that confirms his existence. Base your hope on a guy for which there is no evidence outside of the Bible all you want.
There are two essential points here that I wish to address.
First, he suggests that I am guilty of begging the question, a charge he connects to the very existence of Jesus. However, his existence was not the question so this charge is utter nonsense. It is both common and reasonable to assume certain things for the sake of argument; one is guilty of begging the question only if one’s argument assumes the very thing to be proved. The existence of Jesus was not the point at issue or the thing to be proved; the point at issue was the role he plays in the hope we possess, which does not make sense apart from his existence so we obviously assume his existence for the sake of that argument. The question of whether or not Jesus ever existed is an important and relevant but nevertheless separate question. Assuming the existence of Jesus does not per se (by itself) explain the hope we possess, which simply underscores that his mere existence is not the question.
Second, and perhaps more importantly, he said that our explaining the hope we possess in the faithfulness of Jesus Christ is “not good enough.” Good enough for what? For convincing him, apparently: “Muslims are not going to convince me of their hope in Allah, either.” And thus Styron makes the all too common mistake of supposing that the Christian’s task is to convince unbelievers. This, of course, is not the Christian’s task at all, which Styron would know if he bothered to understand the biblical world view he presumes to argue against. It is rather like hearing a young-earth creationist say, “Evolutionists are not going to convince me that we evolved from monkeys.” If one is going to argue against a position, one should properly understand it first. It is not our task as Christian’s to convince Styron; that is the Holy Spirit’s task (see regeneration). Our task is to spread the message of the gospel everywhere, making disciples in all the nations of the earth, baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, teaching them to obey everything Jesus commanded us. As Peter notes, part of that task involves always being ready, with Christ set apart as Lord in our hearts, to give an answer to anyone who asks about the hope we possess. One plants the seed of the word, another waters it, but it is God who makes it grow (Deu 30:6; Eze 11:19; 36:26-27; John 3:27; 6:63-65; 10:25; Act 11:18; 13:48; 16:14; 18:27; 1 Cor 2:4–5; 3:6–7; Eph 2:8-10; Php 1:29; 1 Thes 1:4–6; 2 Tim 2:25-26; Jas 1:18; 1 Pet 1:3; 2 Pet 1:1).
David Smart, “The context is setting apart Christ as Lord,” Aristophrenium [blog] (2011, November 24).
Jeremy Styron, comment on Smart, 2011. (2011, December 23).