“Don’t get sidetracked. Stay on track. Don’t get derailed.” These advisory metaphors are colorful reminders of years when railroads and trains were common experiences in long distance travel. In apologetics contexts, this counsel applies to refuting sophistic distractions like “red herrings” and “straw men.”
If a Christian is accused of being narrow-minded about a specific truth, he or she can reply, “I’m like a passenger on a train—to arrive safely, I need to stay on the right track.” It is one thing to be open-minded, but it is quite another to be so uncommitted that you are “tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive” (Ephesians 4:14).
Real World Apologetics Requires Avoiding Distractions
Avoiding distractions applies to the arena of real world apologetics, where truth advocates must “earnestly contend for the faith” (Jude 1:3) with the “sleight of men” who use “cunning craftiness,” in order to avoid being distracted from our commitment to Christ and His gospel (Hebrews 12:1-2; 1 Corinthians 2:2).
For advocates of biblical truth, this requires some proactive practices: 1) recognizing what “track” needs to be followed to best communicate God’s truth; 2) recognizing where a sidetrack (derailment risk) is located that would deflect God’s message (or God’s messenger) away from audiences who need that message; and 3) providing practical helps, including priorities and caveats, for those who might otherwise stumble at distractions.
Consider a few lessons from World War II camouflage tactics, a fishy escape strategy, an old earth “straw man” tactic, and a reminder from Christ’s own example about speaking the truth in biblical love….
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