Monthly Archives: October 2016

Don’t Be a Snob

Don’t be a snob. Particularly a chronological snob.

Why not? What is a chronological snob? Why is being one bad?

Allow me to explain.

Chronological snobbery is a fallacy of reasoning which argues that whatever is new is best. By this logic, the old is inherently inferior—simply because it is old.

C.S. Lewis coined the term when a friend pointed out that Lewis’s assertion (as an atheist) that “religion is outdated” was flawed. Religion may be old, but that doesn’t make it wrong.

In an introduction he wrote to the book On the Incarnation by the fourth-century church father Athanasius, Lewis argued for why we need the old books and not just the new ones:

We all…need the books that will correct the characteristic mistakes of our own period. And that means the old books…. We may be sure that the characteristic blindness of the twentieth-century—the blindness about which posterity will ask, “But how could they have thought that?”—lies where we have never suspected it…. None of us can fully escapte this blindness…. The only palliative is to keep the clean sea breeze of the centuries blowing through our minds, and this can be done only by reading old books.

(C. S. Lewis, cited from The Quotable Lewis, ed. Jerry Root and Wayne Martindale [Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House, 1989], 509)

For the past three months in seminary, I have been studing the first 1500 years of church history. Names like Papias, Polycarp, Eusebius, and Gregory—formerly meaningless—now have significance to me. Moreover, I have been repeatedly impressed at just how clearly and powerfully many of the church fathers expressed their theology.

To give some examples in honor of Reformation Day (on which Halloween happens to fall), here are three quotes on justification by faith alone from very early in church history:

A man is justified by faith. The works of the law can make no contribution to this.

Origen (third-century bishop of Alexandria)

Wages cannot be considered as a gift, because they are due to work, but God has given free grace to all men by the justification of faith.

Hilary of Poiters (fourth-century French bishop), commentary on Matthew 20:7

So even the act of faith is not self-initiated. It is, he says, “the gift of God” (Eph. 2:8c).

John Chrysostom (fourth-century bishop of Constantinople), homily on Ephesians 2:8


As Apologetics speakers, we often like to quote Packer and Piper and MacArthur and Chandler and Sproul and Strobel and McDowell. But we forget about Athanasius and Chrysostom and Augustine, and Luther and Calvin for that matter!

Our speeches would be richer if we drew upon the deep well of church history.

The good news is that the church fathers did not copyright their works! (Because copyright didn’t exist back in the second century.) So you can find them all for free online.

Better yet, Google “the church fathers on _______.” That will get you quotes from the first few centuries.

Or check out collections of quotes from church history like this.

Don’t be a snob—relish the wonderful history we have as Christians!

I’ll leave you with a quote from a modern guy speaking of a not-quite-so-modern guy:

[C.S. Lewis] has made me wary of chronological snobbery.  That is, he has shown me that “newness” is no virtue and “oldness” is no fault. Truth and beauty and goodness are not determined by when they exist. Nothing is inferior for being old, and nothing is valuable for being modern. This has freed me from the tyranny of novelty.

John Piper, The Pastor as Scholar, 34–35

Apologetics to Make Aristotle Proud

Of the modes of persuasion furnished by the spoken word there are three kinds. The first kind depends on the personal character of the speaker; the second on putting the audience into a certain frame of mind; the third on the proof, or apparent proof, provided by the words of the speech itself.

Thus spake Aristotle in his Rhetoric. He presented to his readers the means they could use to persuade others through the verbal word. In so doing, he laid the foundation for centuries of rhetorical instruction, continuing to this very day.

As part of my swing from abstract philosophy-of-Apologetics articles back to concrete practice-of-Apologetics articlse, I felt it would be fitting to spend some time on Aristotle’s “Modes of Persuasion.” Apologetics may not be the same category as a Persuasive speech; however, persuasion is intimately involved with it. When you say, “The omnipresence of God should be a comfort to the believer,” you wish to persuade your judges to hold the same point of view. Likewise with “Atheism is wrong” or “Paul and James do not contradict each other on justification.” All these are statements which could be doubted, and which you wish to establish. How may you succeed? By means of the modes of persuasion.

A second motivation for writing this article is the widespread need for speeches that are pleasant to hear. Apologetics speeches should not be full of vibrant theological content, and yet be delivered poorly. We must have both.

I couldn’t help myself. 🙂

So in this post and the next we’ll look at the modes of persuasion: ethos, pathos, and logos. While these Greek words do not appear in the English translation of Aristotle, our understanding of them is largely based on his work.


Ethos is most commonly thought of as the credibiliy of the speaker. However, “character” is actually a better understanding of the term. The Greek ethos formed the root of another Greek word meaning “moral,” and is the origin of our word ethics. So ethos has to do with your character, two parts of which are credibility and authority.

Give that understanding, here are the words of Aristotle:

Persuasion is achieved by the speaker’s personal character when the speech is so spoken as to make us think him credible. We believe good men more fully and more readily than others: this is true generally whatever the question is, and absolutely true where exact certainty is impossible and opinions are divided.

This kind of persuasion, like the others, should be achieved by what the speaker says, not by what people think of his character before he begins to speak.

It is not true, as some writers assume in their treatises on rhetoric, that the personal goodness revealed by the speaker contributes nothing to his power of persuasion; on the contrary, his character may almost be called the most effective means of persuasion he possesses. 

Aristole, Rhetoric

I broke the above quote into paragraphs to help with comprehension. Let’s walk through it and see what we can learn.

“Persuasion is achieved by the speaker’s personal character when the speech is so spoken as to make us think him credible. We believe good men more fully and more readily than others: this is true generally whatever the question is, and absolutely true where exact certainty is impossible and opinions are divided.”

Persuasion is inextricably tied to you. Your speech may be passionate and well-reasoned, but without character and credibility all is lost.

Imagine an alleged criminal on trial for theft. If he weepingly pleads to be released and claims he did not commit the crime, will you believe his words? Maybe. But his alleged lack of character makes you doubt.

Or consider a respected molecular biologist who presents a lecture on Saturn’s rings. Even if all his facts are lined up, you will find yourself wondering: “Is he really the right person to be presenting? Why not an astronomer? I’m really not sure I can trust him on this subject.”

In Apologetics, you must demonstrate to the judges that you are a speaker of high moral character who is eminently qualified to give a speech on this topic.

“This kind of persuasion, like the others, should be achieved by what the speaker says, not by what people think of his character before he begins to speak.”

Other Greek rhetoricians argued that the audience’s impression of your character before you begin to speak is a part of ethos. However, Aristotle preferred to limit ethos to the spoken word, since logos (logic) and pathos (passion) were likewise limited.

So your demonstration of character cannot be accomplished by wearing a nice suit, smiling upon entering the room, or having a natural stage presence. These contribute to the overall impression you make, but do not demonstrate ethos.

“It is not true, as some writers assume in their treatises on rhetoric, that the personal goodness revealed by the speaker contributes nothing to his power of persuasion; on the contrary, his character may almost be called the most effective means of persuasion he possesses.”

Aristotle obviously thinks much of ethos. “Almost…the most effective means of persuasion” is a high word of commendation indeed!

In Apologetics, you must manifest personal character and credibility. How? Here are a few practical suggestions:

  • Reference yourself tastefully. You are not the subject of the Apologetics speech, so don’t talk about yourself too much. But you can tastefully use personal examples to demonstrate your character. Maybe you have a friend of another religion at school or work, and you can discuss your friendship during a speech concerning that religion.Don’t assume these have to be self-promoting, either: perhaps the best illustrations are self-deprecating. Talk about sibling rivalry in a speech on love, or your fear of evangelizing in a speech on the gospel. Show the full spectrum of your character. Rapport will be established.
  • Share your studies. As you studied this topic, what stuck out to you? Share those points with the judges, explicitly. The simple words “As I was studying this…” convey a sense of authority and preparedness. Emphasize personally impactful points, and let the judges know you really did put time into preparation.
  • Speak confidently. Experts are not phased by difficult topics. They take them in stride, almost casually. You should strive to be perceived as an expert. (Assuming, of course, that you are an expert—which after hours and hours of study, you probably are!) Ethos is conveyed not only by what you say, but also by how you say it.
  • Use appropriate vocabulary. Every area of study has its own vocabulary. Scientists speak of microbes and molecules, automotive mechanics of carburetors and pistons, Spanish teachers of the subjunctive and the imperfect. Use the vocabulary of Apologetics. Know the basic terms of theology, and be able to employ them proficiently.I recall once hearing an Apologetics speech on the topic of omniscience. The only problem was that the student spoke on omnipresence instead, but kept calling it “omniscience.” You may guess what sort of ranking I gave. This is an extreme example, but hopefully you get the point: command of vocabulary matters.In addition to the jargon of the specific field, you should demonstrate proficiency in basic English. For instance, learn synonyms for the most common English words. In this article I have needed to express the concept of saying something many times. But have I used the word “say” every time? No! You would be very bored if I had. My prose would seem monotonous. Instead I employ words like share, speak, communicate, convey, deliver, present…and employ. You can do the same. Start in your Word processer by right-clicking and selection the “synonyms” option, or go to

Ethos is crucial to any Apologetics speech. Implement these recommendations, follow Aristotle’s advice, and enjoy revealing your true character and credibility to the judges.

How to Arrange Your Apol Box

[Author’s note: Pray my brother Jeremy doesn’t see this photo I took of him about five years ago.]

He who lives in the clouds must eventually fall to the ground.
– A wise man

Okay, I made that quote up. I’ll leave the evaluation of my self-description to you.

Here’s the meaning: the last few posts have been rather abstract. We’ve been up in the clouds of Apologetics theory—valuable, but not immediately actionable.

Now we’re bringing it back to the ground. Let’s be eminently practical. Once you have written all of your cards, how should you put them into your box?

Maybe you’ve never thought of this before. Perhaps you think there’s only one way to do it. But three different approaches are possible, which we’ll introduce and evaluate in turn.

Approach 1. Listed

The simplest way is to add cards to your box in the same order as the official topic list.


  • Easy to set up
  • Predictable
  • Understandable order


  • Hard to remember topic order

Approach 2. Alphabetical

You could also organize your cards alphabetically, by the first significant word of the topic. So “If the Bible was written by men, how could it also be written by God?” would precede “Jesus clearly demonstrated His belief in the authority of Scriptures. Defend this statement with evidence.”

I’ve always dismissed this as a poor option. But considering it now, I realize that it may be the absolute easiest way to find your cards quickly. No memorization is required, apart from your ABC’s. As soon as you see the topic, you know where it is.

This is significant because the single largest time-waster during Apologetics prep is finding cards. It can take up to 20 seconds a card, perhaps more if it’s not where you remembered. And I always looked at my cards for all three topics before deciding which one to speak on, which elongated the total time. Alphabetizing removes all uncertainty as to card location.


  • Easiest way to find cards quickly
  • Predictable and understandable order


  • Not a thematic approach

Approach 3. Thematic

This is my preferred approach. You arrange the cards by theme, instead of alphabetically or by topic order. You can thematically order your entire box with no regard to the five categories; alterantively, you can create themes only within the official categories.

Note that you have to create this organizational structure (as yours truly did). Or purchase it from someone who has already created it (like yours truly now enables you to do). Either way, you’re doing the work of forming and/or committing the categories to memory.

The primary benefit of this approach is that it enables you to see how diverse topics relate to one another. Within any category, a Meaning/Significance (also known as Define/Defend) question may closely connect to a General Question and a Statement Analysis. Neither of the previous two organizational systems reveals this. But when you reorganize topically, you put “like with like.”

While competing in Apologetics, I found this approach personally beneficial. I remember one round where I drew three topics, went to my box, and prompty discovered that I lacked cards for all three. *gasp* What was I to do?

Thankfully, my card was arranged thematically. Right next to an empty spot—where my “atonement” card was not—sat my “lamb of God” card. So I thought to myself, “Hmm. Lambs were used in the Old Testament as sacrifices of atonement, right? And Jesus as the Lamb of God fulfills those types and makes atonement for us, right? Maybe I can speak on atonement through the lens of the Lamb of God!” So I did. And scored quite well, in fact—all due to thematic organization.


  • Reveals connection between topics
  • Can save your hide in-round


  • Hard to create
  • Requires memorization to locate cards in-round


There you go! The three approaches to organizing your Apologetics box. As you gear up for tournament, may your efforts to arrange your box bear much fruit in saved time and diminshed stress.