There is a lot of secular criticism here of apologetics and apologists. Here is a thoughtful article from a Christian for Christians with some helpful analysis and suggestions as to how we can be more productive in our conversations.
That seems like a pretty good analysis of the problems of apologetics.
J.W. Always does good work. His review of the Theistic Evolution book by the DI folks was good too
All of these are very valid points. Unfortunately probably the people who most need to read them won’t take them to heart.
Possibly… but we can.
To be honest, none of the points mentioned in the article are the source of my
distaste for apologetics. First, the audience of apologetics is believers, not non-believers. It is largely meant to buttress the faith of other believers. Unfortunately, for those outside the particular religious target, much of what apologetics is built on assumes the truth of the propositions or premises. And that leaves it disconnected from non-believers.
@Argon, I get your point about there being a disconnect if you don’t share the same religious framework as the other person, and in that context, how can apologetics be meaningful? And I’m sure you have noticed that even Christians who don’t share the same premises about how to interpret the Bible tend to talk past or talk at each other, also, although they should have more in common than not.
I think Protestant groups have an in-built tendency to schism. Orthodoxy schisms as the cruft of doctrine builds up to intolerable levels over the ages, but the process seems slower.
That would be an interesting investigation in psychology as it pertains to the question of “what changes a person’s mind?” From what I’ve seen, emotive stories probably work better than logic, if you want to consider the statistics.
I do think what we were exposed to as children has a lot to do with even our “rational” choices as adults. I am completely unqualified to speak on psychological matters but it seems so much early in life “wires” us in a certain way about many things, even minor things.
I’ve always been interested in apologetics, but after a while I do feel there is something fundamentally off about the way it’s often been practiced in evangelical circles, and I think part of it is often the way we frame apologetics discussions, or even the term “apologetics” itself. In Protestant evangelical circles, I feel that apologetics discussions tend to have the air of lawyers trying to decide what is the best way to win the “case” for Christianity, instead of calm, scholarly exploration about which arguments work and which don’t. There’s also this sense of “us against the world”, which lead to skepticism and distrust about research work done by non-Christians. In contrast, Catholics seem to be more comfortable in engaging with secular research and seeing how that fits in with Christianity.
Maybe some of this is due to a still lingering anti-intellectual bias in evangelicalism. Another reason could be that in Protestant circles, there is no universally accepted statement of dogma that has to be believed regarding non-essential things such as evolution and the historicity of Adam. There isn’t even always agreement on which things are essential and which are not. Thus, any sort of disagreement could be viewed with suspicion by others as the start of a slippery slope towards doubting the fundamentals of the faith. In other words, you’re not sure who’s trustworthy and who’s not. (An example is William Lane Craig recently being criticized by some more conservative evangelicals for saying that he is only “reasonably certain” instead of absolutely certain that the Virgin Birth occurred. Some people said that he shouldn’t be trusted to teach about Christianity anymore.)
Additionally, Protestants don’t have an agreed-upon overarching framework to defend many of their beliefs. For example, most Catholics defend their morality using natural law arguments partially based on Aristotelian-Thomistic principles. Even if you don’t agree with their arguments, at least you can say that they are consistent. In contrast, Protestants tend to base their morality on textual arguments directly from the Bible, which may give answers, but not the reasoning behind them.