CB064044I’ve cited the writings of the Revd Vincent Cheung before and mentioned him at the end of my Trinity Sunday post for 2015.

He is a Reformed (Calvinist) minister from Boston, Massachusetts, and author of a number of books and commentaries. He also has a keen interest in philosophy and hermeutics — the interpretation of Scripture.

One of his many short posts on Christianity concerns 1 Peter 3:15. In ‘The Great Invasion’, he says that unbelievers enjoy using the verse against believers.

In order to put it into context, I shall cite more verses — 13-17:

13 Now who is there to harm you if you are zealous for what is good? 14 But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, 15 but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, 16 having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame. 17 For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that should be God’s will, than for doing evil.

Cheung writes (emphases mine):

Sometimes non-Christians use 1 Peter 3:15 to manipulate believers. They exploit the Christian’s own false interpretation of the verse to make him answer for his faith, and to do it with gentleness and respect. This answer is usually taken in the defensive sense, so that the Christian is supposed to endlessly provide defensive responses to questions and objections …

In fact, for those who affirm this false interpretation, or who maintain a general misunderstanding of what Scripture requires in terms of the answer that we give and the manner in which we give it, they will make themselves suffer without much effort from the unbelievers. They will offer defensive answers, and refrain from attacking the unbelievers. And all the time they will be doing this with exemplary Buddhist humility and Confucian gentleness. I denounce this pagan rendition of biblical ethics.

He says, that St Peter was, in reality, telling his followers how to respond to persons in authority when asked about their faith.

First, Peter is talking about the way Christians ought to behave under official interrogation, so that the gentleness and respect are shown to authorities for the sake of God, who established all authorities. Second, an “answer” refers to anything that might explain why we affirm the gospel or why we are justified in affirming the gospel. This must include our belief that unbelievers are foolish and wicked, that they are mentally bankrupt and morally depraved, and that all their beliefs are false and irrational. Once we possess this understanding, then we will drop that obnoxious, effeminate, and anti-biblical “humble” apologetics. We will take up the sword of the Spirit and slaughter the non-Christians, totally subduing and humiliating them in argumentation. This shall be our answer.

If they attack the Christian faith, they are not going to walk away from the conflict unscathed

He has strong words for those who disagree with this approach:

You say, “This apologetic frightens me.” You are a fool. Do you not see that this is the Great Commission? Do you not see that the Commission is a manifest for spiritual world invasion? Jesus Christ is Lord over all, and he sends us to every part of the earth, even to every person, to declare his lordship to them, and to teach them to obey everything that he has commanded. Therefore, we have the duty and the right to invade all areas of the earth, to intrude into all lives, and then to challenge and command them to repent, and to tell them what to believe and how to behave. This is the commission and the authority of the Christian.

Cheung firmly believes that if more of us adopted a more matter-of-fact approach that Christianity would triumph in the way our Lord intends, through hearts and minds. As he says:

Nothing less than this can count as Christian ministry.

We don’t need to be unpleasant about it, but we do need to know Scripture, its proper interpretations (not an unbeliever’s) and how to preach the Word with confidence.

This is something most of our clergy have not been taught for decades. We seek unity and appeasement where neither is applicable. Just another reason why our pews are emptying rapidly.

Coming soon: Vincent Cheung on dropping out of church