Christianity and Apologetics: Why They Should Never Meet

May 7, 2020

This might come as a surprise to most Christians, but I don't think Christians should engage in "apologetics". Though I and Hunter run Sentinel Apologetics (because that sounds quite ironic/hypocritical), our goal is the scientific method, and not "gotcha" games. I've seen this on both sides in atheist vs. theist debates, regardless of how informed they are. Basically debates are for the lazy. I am being somewhat loose with that term "scientific". What I mean is that Christians must be critical, must engage peer-review, and if anything is to be learned or evaluated, the so-called "debate" tactic that apologists utilize will only lead to the use of filters and narrow-minded bigotry.

 

You might be thinking about 1 Peter 3:15 and how that urges Christians to make an "apologia" for their faith. I hate to burst your bubble, but that verse technically isn't about what apologists do. The context of that verse is about suffering and persecution, and the "reasons" why a Christian ought to continue in that way of life. The "reason" then is the resurrection, and basically Peter is reiterating what Paul says elsewhere (in the negative sense): "if the Messiah has not been raised, your faith is worthless and you are still imprisoned by your sins." (1 Corinthians 15:17)

 

Don't get me wrong. I agree that Christians should evangelize! But, I find it quite curious that nowhere in the bible is evangelism defined via "apologia". Did Jesus (or anyone else) use "apologia" when it came to preaching the gospel? Did Jesus say: "go into all the world and use apologetics"?

 

Let's take Lee Strobel's work (as something broad-range in typical apologetics). His books do not engage the secondary literature, despite the fact that Strobel interviews critical scholars. It's no different to the type of work you see in Ben Stein's documentary Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed. In other words, Strobel's work is heavily cherry-picked to make a positive case for Christianity.

 

But, if Christianity is true, and if we are to honestly be seekers of truth (after all, the patristics favored the "logos" concept, and pointed out Christ's urgency on how "truth" can set one free), then we shouldn't need to defend it in such a manner. Let the data-points speak for itself, regardless of where it may lead us.

 

In other words, we have filters, and it's unfortunate that Christian denominations for the last 2,000 years have not helped to make a critical "defense" of the faith (I am generalizing here to make an ultimate point). If things become uncomfortable, so what? There are many uncomfortable (and yet fascinating) data-points in the sciences. I could bring up astonishing things that Paul highlights in his ministry (that a woman's hair is a substitute for male testicles in 1 Corinthians 11; and yes there's scholarship for this via Greco-Roman medical texts).

 

To summarize:

1. The bible is not a monolithic book, but a collection of books. It's also an entirely human work. So, how does God fit in that? Well, that's what makes it so impressive (and hair-raising). The providential message embedded in the text (once you go through the details with a fine-tooth comb), is universally applicable. It's as if the human authors had omniscient knowledge about the depths of human anthropology.

 

2. If someone were to ask me "show me evidence for Noah's flood" or "show me evidence for the Exodus", and so on, I will indeed show "evidence". Does this mean it's exhaustive? Not even close. Does this mean I am doing apologetics? Nope. So what am I doing? I am providing the best accumulation of data-points via scholarship at hand.

 

3. Ultimately I don't need "apologetics" if Jesus is continually active in the hearts of people today. Whatever happened to: "Jesus, the Messiah, is the same yesterday and today—and forever!" (Hebrews 13:8)? If Jesus is literally active (as he promised in John 14) as a witness along with the other members of the blessed Trinity, then the faith commitment and explanation you give to someone (and here's the evangelism coming into play) involves the current circumstances. Remember, space-time isn't static. Since it's dynamic, everyday is a new day, and what happened in the past becomes merely a distant memory (this now goes into philosophical notions of a-theory of time in relation to b-theory, but I digress).

 

4. The point is, we can establish what actually happened in the past, whether it was 5 minutes ago (you reading this blog post), or 2,000 years ago (the resurrection), or 4.5 billion years ago (the formation of Earth), or 13.8 billion years ago (the big bang). But how we go about establishing that doesn't involve "apologetics".

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