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Monday, 28 January 2008

More Thoughts on Apologetics

In my recent Evangelical apologetics post I should have pointed to John Stackhouse’s Humble Apologetics as an example to follow. His guideline to “First, Listen and Understand” needs to be heard by all who desire to engage in Christian apologetics.

Other related thoughts and conversations:

1. Stackhouse is also doing an interesting series on “Do you have to choose between your Brains or your Beliefs?”. See here for the first post.

2. David Heddle has a good post that addresses the oft-heard contention that a scientist cannot be a Christian without compartmentalizing. (He has an interesting challenge for anyone who makes this claim – check it out). And on cognitive dissonance he states:

Sometimes being a scientist and a Christian is described as cognitive dissonance. It is not. Cognitive dissonance is when I simultaneously hold two beliefs that I recognize as being in opposition or in tension. It is not holding to two beliefs that someone else thinks are in tension.

3. Cliff is back blogging at Outside-the-box. In his re-introduction to the blogsphere, he has some pertinent observations on the importance of honest Christian apologetics that do not ignore the findings of modern science. He shares some very personal thoughts on the whole theological enterprise and why it is important, including this:

And I think about how science informs my understandings of the Scriptures when I consider the coming train wreck for the church. When the powerful DNA evidence for common decent finally filters down to be understood by the masses it will not be a pretty sight. I feel desperately the need to alert my friends.

4. Gordon is mulling over a follow-up project to Beyond the Firmament. I’ve reviewed some portions of this – it should be good. Here is what Gordon says on why using anti-evolutionary arguments to back up the Christian gospel is a very, very dangerous thing:

While I struggle to honestly understand the difficult data, a fellow Christian will make a completely uninformed statement like, “don’t worry brother, there is no evidence for evolution; the theory is losing support in the scientific community and will soon be considered one of the stupidest ideas in the history of man.” It takes every ounce of civility within me to not unload. Some say we are in a culture war. If so, then we should fire every officer in our intelligence community. Why? Because while our sworn enemy is building tanks and helicopters, we are led to believe that paintball guns will repel their advance. And so we go about our business with a false sense of security.

And I believe the “If” in the above paragraph is critical. Not only are we fighting with inadequate weapons - we are often fighting the wrong war. Two millennia ago there was an itinerant preacher who also accused the religious leaders of confusing the cultural and spiritual wars.

5. There was an excellent recent discussion on the ASA listserv about how Christians should approach the pseudo-science often found in our community. Loren Haarsma kicked it off with this post. There are some very thoughtful responses, particularly those by Stephen Matheson and David Opderbeck who occasionally comment here on my blog. To follow the conversation, simply follow the “Next Thread” link from the original post. My post from last September entitled Dialogue, Debate, Silence, or Confrontation: How should we approach the topic of evolution? is also related to this discussion.

4 comments:

Steve Ranney said...

My church is probably typical in the way the non-creationists (if there are any besides me) are cowed into silence by those who believe that science=heresy and such. The rise of ID is sad because people now think they have found a respectable refuge.

I really appreciate this blog and others I have run across that are similar, such as Matheson's.

elbogz said...

Apologetics might be defined simplistically as facts and proofs of Christianity. Right off the bat the study might be flawed. It assumes that there is proof of Christianity. Maybe there isn’t? Jesus once said, that the kingdom of God can only be found in one place, and that is within your own heart.

People in search of Noah’s ark don’t want to admit they can’t find proof, so they make up some phony story, that make the science even more hard to believe. The only thing we know about Jesus is that the tomb was empty. The rest of the facts and proofs only exist in your heart

In my wandering around the internet I find some of the most outspoken Atheist were people that grew up in fundamentalist homes or hard core apologetic churches. I think that is the real danger of bad apologetics. I spent a couple of years listening to the apologetic teachings of the Calvary church on their radio network until one day I realized that if I kept listening to it, I would no longer believe in God.

The dangers of apologetic ministries, far outweigh the benefits.

Cliff Martin said...

Elbogz makes a powerful point. It is important that we not oversell our "theistic proofs" either within the household of faith or without. When we oversell to our own, we set up the disastrous results Elbogz mentions. When we oversell to the skeptics, they know better, and they will not take us seriously. I have found that when I am honest about the nature of evidence for a Creator/God, the skeptics are far more likely to engage in serious dialog, and are more apt to openly discuss the vulnerability of their own disbelief.

Steve Martin said...

Hi Eblogz,
I agree that bad apologetics is dangerous, but I wouldn't say that apologetics is not worthwhile. Far from it, I strongly believe we need to share & defend our faith. However, those that look for "proof" are looking in the wrong place.

In Allister McGrath’s “Dawkin’s God”, he has a very good chapter entitled “Proof and Faith: The Place of Evidence in Science and Religion”. In it he says this: “Dawkins slides from ‘this cannot be proved’ to ‘this is false’ with alarming ease, apparently unaware of the lapses in reason along the way”. Kind of like some Christians do with evolution. BUT, the more salient point here is the reverse – just because something can’t be proved doesn’t mean it isn’t true. I submit that the tenants of the Christian faith can not be “proved” deductively. We can talk about “probabilities” and “coherence” but I don’t think we should ever use the word proof. If your faith requires “proof”, you are in big trouble.