There are times when the spiritual rules of engagement indicate that we should not engage the enemy. We are commanded to always be prepared to give an answer – but we are also warned not to throw our pearls out before the pigs, because they will trample the pearls and attempt to rend us (Matthew 7:6). Sometimes this passage is considered controversial – cited, it can be discussed in terms of name- calling (you are referring to a person as a pig: an animal that symbolizes indulgence, laziness, etc). However, this is not what the passage is talking about. To those under the law, the pig was an unclean animal, but given the context, there is more to this quotation than even this.
Boars, whether wild or in captivity, are noted for their ill tempers; they have sharp tusks that they can and do use to eviscerate an enemy. Now, the person casting his pearls in front of the boar might well think he is doing something nice or kind for said boar. But, the reality is that all he is accomplishing is to attract the attention of the animal, which will immediately engage in boar-like behavior: it will charge.
A few months ago, an atheist who wrote on Ray Comfort’s facebook page “complimenting” the bravery of Christians who post on atheistic websites — and I cringed. Often, due to the fact that atheists posture themselves as being more intelligent and “enlightened” than believers, many seem to assume that it is easy to engage in a point-counterpoint argument. Actually, in my own experience, that is often not possible, unless the question actually is related to your intelligence; to whether your parents are “close relatives” or whether you are engaged in some kind of illicit behavior.
As I have noted elsewhere (http://thequartermasterstent.wordpress.com/2013/12/05/45/) the lunatic fringe of the atheistic movement, men like Richard Dawkins, have become icons, and their brand of ad hominem argumentation has become the norm. As a result, there are places Christians should not post a defense of the faith.
A few examples of when not to engage (from my own apologetic misadventures):
• When someone begins talking about your motivation, utilizing pseudo-psychological concepts such as homophobia (the Soviet Union used this tactic in dealing with dissidents).
• When your answer to a question is received with a response indicating that you are fabricating, or lying.
• When they continue to prod into points that you have already answered.
• When said answers are basically ignored and simply exchanged for new questions.
• When the general tenor of the site is ad hominem, (for a definition see our comment policy page).
In these kinds of cases, it is best to move on to discussing matters with someone else. So do you have any thoughts on when not to engage?