Discover more from Once A Week
Apologetics for the Abused
I’m excited to introduce a new section of Once a Week!
Thesis 96 is an apologetic project that seeks to defend the sheep like we defend the faith. As an apologetic project, Thesis 96 adapts the tools of apologetics for defending the cause of abuse survivors. My specific focus is spiritual abuse, although every form of abuse has a spiritual impact. This newsletter will have new posts every Monday, and my Friday posts are now under a separate section, Theology & Therapy. The 4th post for Thesis 96 will come out on Reformation Day (October 31), and I’ll explain why in a minute.
First, why “apologetics for the abused”?
Internal corruption to the gospel message creates the need to defend the gospel in two ways. Outsiders to Christianity contest the truths of the gospel on account of corruption within Christianity; and those within the Church struggle with faith because of those same corruptions. Thesis 96 is aimed at the second group, while keeping the first in view as well. The goal of apologetics for the abused is to defend the defenseless, those who are victims of Christianity’s corruptions.
Once A Week is a reader-supported publication. To receive new posts and support my work, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber.
This is of course not how we usually understand and use the word apologetics. The classic apologetics text is 1 Peter 3:15:
“but in your hearts regard Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a[n] apologia to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you.”
Apologetics for the abused will draw from that idea of apologia, but the inspiration for this nuance of apologetics comes from 2 Timothy 4:16:
At my first apologia no one came to stand by me, but all deserted me. May it not be charged against them!
Thesis 96 seeks to equip Christians to stand by and defend (apologia) those who have been or might be hurt by spiritual abuse and deserted by the church. When done well, this internal advocacy also defends the gospel to those outside the Church. For more about what this might look like concretely, stay tuned for my second post!
But what is Thesis 96?
Thesis 96 is the foundational document that grounds this apologetic project. It was kindled in a fireplace room on Gibson Avenue when my wife’s ministerial life and calling were being burned by the church. The light of those flames cast doubting shadows that darkened our faith and dimmed our strength. But we found hope in the witness of history that, though Christians and churches become malformed, Christ can and does reform his church by his Word and Spirit. Thesis 96 is a call for reformation. You can read it at here, and I will be posting some commentary on Substack in the future. Let me explain a little bit of the vision.
Ecclesia reformanda, quia reformata: Because the church has been reformed, she is always in need of being reformed. This is especially the case when the church strays from the truth of the gospel (the Reformation’s material cause), from the authority of Christ’s rule (the Reformation’s formal cause), or both.
The formal issue of abuse of power and authority is undeniable in evangelicalism today. Thesis 96 is a call to continuing reformation inspired by Luther’s 95 Theses. While much of the 95 Theses addressed the doctrinal problem of indulgences, it also addressed the abuses of power perpetrated by the indulgence preachers and the Roman Catholic Church. Churches and preachers might teach a biblical gospel while at the same time corrupting that gospel through the abuse of power and authority. A simple way to describe that corrupt practice is spiritual abuse.
Luther’s 95 Theses called Christians to reformation by addressing corruption and abuse of doctrine and practice. Sheep were being led astray and eaten by wolves pretending to lead them in God’s ways. We need renewal and reformation for the same reasons. Today sheep are fleeing the flock because they are being eaten by wolves in pastors’ clothing. And so we need reformation. We need a 96th thesis. I will explore that idea more fully on October 31. For now, please look out for next week’s post which will delve further into doing apologetics for the abused.
Everything is Free
I consider writing a calling, and devote my time and energy accordingly. If you want high quality resources and inspirational reflections, just click the subscribe button! Currently everything on Once a Week is free. If you benefit from these newsletters, please consider supporting my writing with a paid subscription. You can also select which of the two newsletters (technically called “sections”) you want to receive (see instructions here).