Reformed polemics for the believer has been the subject of two previous articles in the Salt Shakers. Now we come to the polemics for the believing youth.
STOP: Do not skip this article. Yes, polemics seems quite far off for youths, doesn’t it? What does it have to do with youths? Perhaps you do not see yourself doing polemics in your life; and, I sense some of you might think that you do not have the intellectual ability for polemics.
Any of us (adults included) may have these thoughts, because we think, to condemn the lie swiftly and decisively, polemics merely involves an elite level of writing, speaking, and intellectual gifts; all of which can only be found in professors, ministers, and a few men in the congregation that will probably be office-bearers.
I beg to differ. Polemics does involve good writing and speaking skills, as well as intellectual ability; but those do not define polemics. What makes polemics, polemics, is love for the truth. When we love the truth, we condemn the lie to preserve the truth.
Therefore, any expression of that love for the truth by going against the lie is a form of polemics. That expression is polemics for the youth; I give three examples of that expression.
Personal Polemics, First
Rev. Langerak wrote about this in the previous article: He must first all be engaged in the battle with sin in his own heart and life…. Daily the believer must put off the old man and put on the new man, a kind of personal polemics.
Why is personal polemics, polemics?
Personal polemics — putting off the old man and putting on the new man — involves the heart. Only a heart that loves the truth will submit to the truth that teaches us to mortify our sins and yield ourselves to God (Rom. 6:13).
As we said earlier, all polemics involves the heart: we will defend the truth and condemn the lie only when we love the truth in our hearts. Notice in both polemics the love for the truth in condemning the lie, which includes the sin of our hearts. Therefore, personal polemics is polemics.
Notice, too, how one cannot be without the other; how attempting to engage in polemics but hardly engaging in mortifying our old man and yielding ourselves to God does not work. Doing one without the other is what Jesus calls noticing that speck of dust in a person’s eye (the lie) when you have the giant beam in your eye (your old man) — hypocrisy, in other words (Matt. 7:3-5).
The call to youths, then, is to be polemical within ourselves. We have already described this polemics as mortifying our sins and yielding ourselves to God. This polemics is also self-examination, something we discussed in last year’s youth camp. Think about the areas we learned to examine ourselves; have you been examining those areas?
Also, our spiritual disciplines — devotions, prayer, reading, and memorization — teach us to discern what is right and wrong. That discernment will help us when we meet Christian classmates who practice an ungodly lifestyle. Do you discern? DV, we will discuss these disciplines in our workshops this year.
Not least among these personal polemics is the instruction of our parents. How many arguments we had with our parents are about our sins in the home? Do we listen to our parents, apologise to them, and change for the better (spiritually)?
Personal polemics is polemics; personal polemics is your polemics as youths.
Polemics in Witnessing
There is polemics in your heart; and there is polemics in your witness.
The very nature of witnessing requires polemics. Witnessing is bringing the gospel to unbelievers. Of course, the gospel brings the good tidings of salvation through Jesus Christ alone. But no one can bring those good tidings without showing the need for it — the need being our unbelief and wickedness. If we do not identify and strike down the unbelief and spiritual corruption of the unbeliever to whom we witness, the heart of the gospel would not be conveyed to the unbeliever. Witnessing involves polemics.
Witnessing is also bringing the Reformed faith to other Christians who hold to a corrupted version of the truth. What would we say if our Christian colleagues and classmates notice in us the Reformed distinctives we hold to and ask, “So you don’t believe in ____?” (Think contemporary music in worship, evolution, pre-millennialism, etc.)? Either we ignore the question, or we say, “No I don’t; I believe these are unbiblical. Let me explain why.” Witnessing involves polemics.
The call to youths is to be polemical in your witness. Of course, that means first of all you must witness. Don’t shrug your shoulders when classmates ask you why you live this or that way or believe in God. Be ready to tell them plainly you believe and live this way because God says this is what we must believe and do. When such conversations begin, be prepared to tell them about what you believe is wrong and why you believe it is wrong. Peter was ready to condemn the Jews for crucifying Jesus (Act. 2:23); so was Stephen (Act. 7:51-53). Are you?
To be ready to give proper polemics in our witness is not easy. The questions asked by unbelievers and other Christians will catch us off-guard: What would you do if your son decides to be homosexual? I was caught off-guard with this question in the army. How would you answer? Are you ready to do polemics in your answer?
Polemics in our Public Confession
Polemics in our hearts; polemics in our witnessing; and now, we find polemics in our public confession of faith.
Have you noticed it in the second question: Have you resolved by the grace of God to adhere to this doctrine; to reject all heresies repugnant thereto; and to lead a new, godly life? In other words, the question is: Will you be polemical?
Notice that the question asks about being polemical doctrinally. Will you study the Word and Reformed faith (this doctrine), so that you know what the lie (heresy) is and be ready to reject it? Notice, too, that the question asks about being polemical practically. When you lead a new, godly life, you destroy that old, ungodly life first. So, really, the question is asking: do you practice personal polemics?
Will you be polemical? Polemics is for the believing youth. As shown, it is required in our daily lives, whether or not you write or speak well, and whether or not you have intellectual gifts likened to ministers.
We said at the beginning that to be polemical starts first with love for the truth. I add to that what the second question says: to be polemical starts with that love, by the grace of God. To be polemical takes the grace of God; it is a resolve by the grace of God, as the question states.
So, be polemical, in these ways and more. Do it by God’s grace, to God’s glory.
Written by: Lim Yang Zhi | Issue 49