Something in the newspaper the other day got me thinking about apologetics and the tradition of Christian debating. The more I think about it, the more I think that Tertullian was right: “What has Athens to do with Jerusalem?” It seems to me that Christian apologetics is a losing proposition, for several reasons. (Some of which I’ve written about before.)
I don’t tend to go in for apologetics per se because if you’re trying to convince someone of the reasonableness of your position, you’re already on the back foot. It’s basically like trying to convince people that you’re sane - if they don’t think you are, arguments won’t help. But there is another aspect about the way that most proponents today go about apologetics that makes me think that they’re doing it wrong, wrong, wrong. Read more about Apologetics these days
The Simple Pastor links to a FAQ about the difference between Mormonism and what the Gospel Coalition grandly calls “Biblical” Christianity. (This is already a red flag for me; is there any other kind?) It turns out to be the sort of thing that makes me sad for the state of apologetics. The FAQ is a dubious collection of proof-texts with no developed argument and no exegesis. Biblical Christianity is, apparently, a facile and one-dimensional Christianity. Read more about Apologetics should take the Bible seriously
My tutor used to tell me that to be a good evangelist, you need to be a good atheist. You need to have looked into all the arguments and rebuttals and come up with your own re-rebuttals. You need to be able to play Devil's advocate, and for obvious reasons, many within my church tradition aren't very good at that. I rather enjoy it. Not because I am trying to persuade people with my words - I'm not very good at that - but because I see the benefit in having my faith stretched. I think it can take it. The way I see it, if this Christianity thing is demonstrably a load of rubbish, then my life becomes a heck of a lot easier. If not, then dealing honestly with objections to it gives me more personal and intellectual integrity.
I don't tend to like apologetics, and I think last night I realised another reason why not. I think it's because, at bottom, apologetics is an attempt to persuade the other person of the rationality of your position. And this is always a losing proposition, because if they're not convinced of your rationality, then how are they going to be convinced by your reasoning? The starting point is just too far apart. So I don't tend to go in for apologetics, and prefer to let the Holy Spirit get on with His job and I get on with mine. I only tend to do apologetics when something annoys me. Like last night.
My tutor has been on at me again, trying to get me to think about apologetics and, in particular, street evangelism. I have a few doubts about street evangelism - primarily because I would not be doing unto others as I would have them do to me. I hate being accosted on the street. But I'm going to try it - or at least Speaker's Corner or some other non-accostative street work - so that I can crystallise my doubts into real objections. Let's not knock it too much until I've tried it.