The Art of War is an ancient Chinese document about tactical warfare. It contains many logical observations from field battles. So, how is this relevant to apologetics?
You see, there are many similarities in tactics when approaching battle, business, games, and in this case, a conversation to encourage one to embrace the Gospel.
Jesus is the logos (John 1:1), the epitome of all that is logical, so we should expect works that observe God’s reality to contain useful information. This is always subject to Scripture of course, however, The Art of War can give us a handy framework within which we can examine these concepts.
Paul the apostle used wartime imagery to communicate spiritual truths (2 Corinthians 10:4-6, 2 Timothy 2:3-4, Ephesians 6:10-20). This is because the Christian life is one that is marked by a spiritual conflict. We need to get into the armoury, put on the armour of God, sharpen our swords and be prepared for battle!
So let’s get into it. Here are 5 things we can learn about apologetics from the Art of War:
1. He Will Win Who Knows When To Fight And When Not To Fight
Knowing when to go into battle, when to wait or when to retreat is the difference between life and death.
In apologetics, one must not only learn what to say but when to say it. Paul the apostle said,
“And a servant of the Lord must not quarrel but be gentle to all, able to teach, patient, in humility correcting those who are in opposition, if God perhaps will grant them repentance, so that they may know the truth” 2 Timothy 2:24-25
Notice how Paul said you must be able to teach. There are some who are unwilling to learn. This means you are unable to teach them and such conversations about the Gospel should be avoided as they would result in unproductive quarrelling. Knowing the time to speak will be the difference between fruitful and unfruitful discussions.
2. He Will Win Who Knows How To Handle Both Superior And Inferior Forces
You need to be able to adapt your methods to your audience.
Paul the apostle gave an overview of the history of Israel and springboarded from King David to Jesus when speaking to Jews in Acts 13:16-41.
However, in Acts 17 when in Athens speaking to non-Jews, Paul used the poets of the gentiles to bridge Gospel truths.
This means we must learn how to communicate the Gospel to those who have some Bible knowledge and to those who are completely clueless.
3. He Will Win Whose Army Is Animated By The Same Spirit Throughout All Its Ranks
We must examine our own doctrine and lives in order to determine whether there are any holes or inconsistencies that could leave room for an unnecessary distraction or blatant contradiction and would therefore cause unbelievers to blaspheme or discredit our position.
An example of this would be of a Christian holding to the belief that God used macroevolution to bring about Adam and Eve. This is a massive internal contradiction in one’s theology. For those who know anything about the Bible or even evolution, this would greatly discredit the consistency of the Gospel which is built upon a historic foundation.
Internal consistency also includes personal holiness. It would harm the effectiveness of our message if we were telling people to abandon all and follow Christ if we ourselves love money, or to tell people to stop stealing if we were downloading illegal media, or to not commit adultery if we were watching pornography (Romans 2:21-24).
Paul the apostle stated that if anyone cleanses himself from these things they would be useful in God’s service (2 Timothy 2:19-22).
Your doctrine and lifestyle must be internally consistent.
4. He Will Win Who, Prepared Himself, Waits To Take The Enemy Unprepared
The focus here is for us to understand how to answer someone.
“Do not answer a fool according to his folly, Lest you also be like him. Answer a fool according to his folly, Lest he be wise in his own eyes.” Proverbs 26:4-5
Verse 4 in Proverbs 26 is about not answering someone according to their misguided view. That is to say, do not assume that what they are saying is necessarily true. Do not adopt their presuppositions, but encourage them to examine them.
Verse 5 is stipulating that one should follow the logical conclusion of a misguided view in order to expose the foolishness of the position and thereby allow the individual to humble themselves and repent of their foolish view.
Here is an excellent example of this by the evangelist Sye Ten Brugencatte.
5. He Will Win Who Has Military Capacity And Is Not Interfered With By The Sovereign
Now that you have sharpened your sword, are equipped with the armour of God and are prepared for battle with knowing when and how to engage in combat, you must not let others hold you back.
The job of communicating the Gospel, making disciples and baptising others is the responsibility of every Christian- not the minister, a parachurch ministry or Christian business (Matthew 28:18-20).
You have every right to tell others about Jesus and must recognize the unique position God has you in. You are able to reach people that I am unable to, and likewise, I can reach those that you are unable to reach. We are all in this together and need to support, encourage and rally one another to fight the good fight!
> Cover image from Hero 2002 Ying Xiong