Giving up is never fun, nor is it ever easy. Generally, it’s a sign of weakness. It shoves a sharp blade into the heart of one’s pride. But there is an irony involved here: those with a firmer internal constitution tend to give up sooner than those with a softer internal constitution. What do I mean by that?
I’ll begin by defining my terms. Since this site is centered around apologetics (and consequently, debate and discussion), so will the definitions and examples be.
By “giving up,” I mean to cease or to bring an end to discussion. I don’t mean capitulating to an opponent’s ideology, nor do I mean becoming lazy and merely refusing to put work into answering an opponent humbly and responsibly. I mean that, once you have put ample effort and work into answering as fully and clearly as you are capable, you finally bow out, respectfully.
By “internal constitution,” I am referring to how strongly one holds his beliefs, or how sure he is of what he believes. I’m not referring to his stubbornness or hard-headedness to hear and address his opponent. I mean that at the center of a person is his belief, and his contending for and defending his belief springs forth from this center, this “internal” part of him, so to say.
Since we are Christians, we value truth very highly. We worship the Creator and Author of all truth – we worship Truth Himself. Throughout the history of philosophy (the philosophy that isn’t explicitly Christian, that is), we see many men vying for adoption of their belief, their observation and formulation of reality, by the populace. Whichever idea had the most appeal, and had the best adaptability or maneuverability, so to say, was given its place on stage. What determined this was usually its rhetorical and explanatory power. This can be helpful as far as it goes, but oftentimes the line between personal preference for an idea and general accuracy of the idea in explaining reality is crossed, resulting in an idea that may sound nice, but is nonetheless false.
Christians, however, have infallible access to truth. As we are aware, truth often involves ideas we don’t find appealing, and this is due to sin’s effect on our evaluation of truth. Put simply (and somewhat cliché), truth hurts. Due to this fact, it’s not necessary for us to paint the truth of Christianity in a “favorable” light. If what a fallen human being considers “favorable” is that which casually accords with his sinful nature, then we would be capitulating to sin, essentially, if we were to paint Christianity in that kind of “favorable” light. Furthermore, since the unbeliever generally has a sin-affected standard for “sufficient evidence” for truth, it’s not necessary for us to fulfill all those things either. And we shouldn’t be trying to answer questions about which we know nothing.
To this end, we must keep in mind that we should not feel discouraged when we must admit ignorance concerning particular questions unbelievers have. We need to admit ignorance before we answer ignorantly. Indeed, it is better to give no answer than to give the wrong answer. The integrity of Christianity doesn’t rise or fall on our ability to defend it. We are not omniscient, and we should not claim to be. We should not even claim to be smarter *in general* than the unbeliever when we’re not. At the end of the day, you simply do not know the answer. But also, at the end of the day, the unbeliever is still wrong. As I’m fond of saying, you do not need to know every *wrong* answer to “1 + 1” in order to know that the *right* answer is 2. A Christian who is secure in his belief in God will not be troubled, and will confidently admit ignorance when asked particular questions about which the Scriptures do not speak. Remember, the Bible does also say to “avoid speculations.”
I must be clear here. Ignorance is NOT to be desired over education. Ignorance is, in a sense, a corruption of knowledge due to imperfection. When we know the answer, we should give the answer, and when we don’t know the answer, we should find out what it is. We should be fighting ignorance about as much as we are fighting sin, as time and prior responsibilities allow (we need to be redeeming our time, as well). Unless we fight ignorance with the Saber of Scripture, sin will take over, and we will end up with a “knowledge” falsely so-called. Do not be dishonest.
Now, there are some people who only wish to dispute. They are contrarian for its own sake. You can quickly, I hope, determine those who are interested in finding answers, and those who are merely looking to sow skepticism. One way to determine this is by paying attention to how many times a person brings up something you have already answered for him. He refuses to acknowledge your proposed resolution. If he ever does acknowledge your resolution, he finds he can argue no further. And when he persists in arguing, regardless, you can conclude that he is simply disputing for the sake of dispute. He’ll be answering ignorantly to make up for the deficiency of his belief and his waning confidence in it. Give a clear, full, concise explanation of the Gospel, and move on.
In everything, be true to the Scriptures. Don’t answer ignorantly, and don’t give an overly speculative answer where a simple answer from Scripture will suffice. At times when you’re forced to admit ignorance, recall the fact of your creatureliness, and renew your dependence upon God.
2 Timothy 2:15 “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth.”