Christianity and Apologetics: Why They Should Never Meet

May 7, 2020

This might come as a surprise, but I don't think Christians should engage in apologetics. Though Hunter and I run Sentinel Apologetics (and that title sounds ironic/hypocritical), our goal is the scientific method, and not gotcha games. I've seen this on both sides in theist vs. atheist debates, regardless of how informed both sides are. In other words, debates are for the lazy. Also, I am being 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.

 

But, you might immediately react and respond with the use of 1 Peter 3:15, stating that Peter urges Christians to make an "apologia" for their faith. I hate to burst your bubble, but that verse 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. In other words, the "reason" is the resurrection, and Peter is reiterating what Paul says elsewhere (negatively): "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 apologetics. Did Jesus (or anyone else) use apologetics 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 (commonly used in apologetics). Unfortunately, his books do not engage the secondary literature, despite the fact that Strobel interviews critical scholars. In other words, it's no different to the type of work you see in Ben Stein's documentary Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed. Thus, 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 most modern Christians have not helped to make a critical defense of the faith. 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. For example, that a woman's hair is a substitute for male testicles (1 Corinthians 11:14-15). Yes, there's peer-reviewed 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 it? Well, that's what makes it so impressive (and hair-raising). The divine providential message that is 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," I will indeed show evidence. Does this mean it's exhaustive? Not even close. Does this mean I am doing apologetics? No. So, what am I doing? I am providing the best accumulation of data-points via peer-reviewed scholarship at hand.

 

3. 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 involves the philosophical notions of a-theory of time in relation to b-theory of time, 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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