A passage I have often quoted to others, and to myself as well, is 1 Corinthians 4:6, “I have applied all these things to myself and Apollos for your benefit, brothers, that you may learn by us not to go beyond what is written, that none of you may be puffed up in favor of one against another.” I have memorized the middle section, “that you may learn by us not to go beyond what is written.”
The application for this principle is almost limitless. Conversations abound with people speaking on behalf of God, Christ, or Christianity. Often, the conversations are fruitful. The speaker is articulate, his presentation clear, his reasoning well thought out.
But sometimes, and once is enough, the conversation is a verbal train wreck. The speaker is both confused and confusing. He mixes up intuition with inspiration and confuses his personal opinion with divine revelation.
In his chapter “Christian Apologetics,” C. S. Lewis makes clear the Christian’s objective,
“We are to defend Christianity itself — the faith preached by the Apostles, attested by the Martyrs, embodied in the Creeds, expounded by the Fathers. This must be clearly distinguished from the whole of what any one of us may think about God and Man. Each of us has his individual emphasis: each holds, in addition to the Faith, many opinions which seemed to him to be consistent with it and true and important. And so perhaps they are. But as apologists it is not our business to defend them. We are defending Christianity; not ‘my religion.’ When we mention our personal opinions we must always make quite clear the difference between them and the Faith itself.”1
Now that we understand the distinction, let’s get on with the task at hand.
“Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, 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, having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame.” – 1 Peter 3:14-17.
- C. S. Lewis, God in the Dock (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdman’s Publishing Company, 1970), 90. Italics in original.