Monday, February 16, 2009

The Problem with Christian Apologetics

dogma, religion, christian, christianity, evangelical, evangelism, evangelist, witness, witnessing, bible, god, jesus, stupid, apologetics
You know what the problem is with Christian apologetics? (Well, other than "christian".) Christian apologetics require some thought and understanding on the part of the proselytizer, which causes two problems: (a) most people just aren't educated enough about their belief system to do more than parrot the apologetic, and (b) religion isn't really something most people can't examine that closely and remain comfortable with it.

(a) allows someone like me to mercilessly pound the proselytizer into submission. Not a good way to get converts.

(b) sows the seeds of your own doubt. I was raised christian. Five years ago, if you had asked me if I believed in God and Jesus and heaven and hell, I would have said yes. I really did believe in those things. Then I actually read the bible cover to cover. My faith was dead before the end of Genesis.

Apparently, there is a new movement afoot in the evangelical community: no apologetics, no explanations, no attempt at rational discourse at all. Since I can't think of any reason to assume that simply telling people you believe a thing might convert them, I can only assume this is to protect believers from the consequences of thinking.

From the Rapture Ready bulletin boards:

Kamatu: God said it, I believe it, that settles it

For the Christian believer, this is the core of their apologetic. Nothing more is needed, except some study if you find a passage hard for you to understand.
if you don't have trouble with large swathes of the bible, it doesn't mean what you think it does. seriously, stop and think about this. the most recent passages were written 2000 years ago, by a people whose culture was entirely unlike our own, in an entirely different language. It was then translated multiple times by many different people. Shakespeare is beyond most people, and he wrote in english, around 500 years ago. As a Christian, any defense of the faith (as required in 1 Peter 3:15* and Jude 3**) does not require some kind of fake "neutral" ground. explaining your religion now qualifies as fake neutral ground? One example I've seen repeatedly is a demand to "not use the Bible", but how can we as Christians give up what is to be the rule and guide of our faith? no, i don't want you to give up your "rule and guide", but trying to convince me of god's existence using a book i find no more special than the dictionary isn't terribly helpful. It is not our job to open the heart of the unbeliever, simply our duty to present the reason for the faith that is within us and contend earnestly. wait, are you presenting reasons or not? "god said it" is not a reason. It is God's prerogative to bring conviction on them that they might be saved.

nothing like a little dogma to start my week.

*But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear:

**Beloved, when I gave all diligence to write unto you of the common salvation, it was needful for me to write unto you, and exhort you that ye should earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints.

I have come to the conclusion that bible verses rarely have anything to do with what the believer says they do.


  1. I really don't understand the motivation of these people. I can't present the reason for the faith inside me. It's faith. It's something so personal that it's almost offensive to shout it from the rooftops. I talk about it, but I don't expect other people to feel about it the way I do. I don't expect to feel the way they do about their faith. I would just as soon expect to feel the same kind of orgasim that they d. For Christ's sake. There is a reason why Jesus asked that real believers not be all "Hey I'm Christian!" Part of it was just good sense, after all it was a hell of a way to get yourself killed, but also because it's unseemly to go around screaming that you yourself talk to the "right" god.

  2. It's so weird to expect that simply saying "I believe x" will inspire others to belief x. If I say "I love nine inch nails" i don't expect you to immediately start singing the chorus from my favorite song.

  3. Oh my god that would be awesome though, wouldn't it? I would totally have people singing some really obscure stuff if that really worked!
    I have to wonder, has this conversion method ever worked? How many people say, "oh if you believe then so do I!"

  4. i think this is supposed to be a peer pressure thing. if you tell people enough "hey, this is the cool new fashion, everyone is wearing Nike's this year with their mini-skirts" eventually everyone is going to be wearing miniskirts and Nikes

    i'd like to say this stops at adulthood, except i still see 50 year old women buying "the new summer fashion!" in January. so i guess it stops whenever the specific individual becomes an actual individual who is not controlled by what others think of him/her. and sadly, that doesn't happen often. sigh.

  5. i think denelian is right- this will work only on people utterly obsessed with what everyone around them thinks of them. in which case, it's not really a conversion, it's a fashion statement.

    i stopped buying "the latest fashion" when i realized that fashion designers must absolutely hate women, because they don't make clothes that look good on real women. and high heels? not with these knees.

  6. God said it, I believe it, that settles it... is the core of their apologetic.

    If they've pretty much rejected the entire concept and definition of "apologetics", can they still claim to be engaged in apologetics?

  7. high heels were originally made for men. to make them look taller.

    i don't know why it seemed so important to spout that trivia. maybe because it further highlights the absolute stupidity of following peer pressure? something like that, anyway.

    and i do know many people who use their religion as at least a social metric, if not an out-and-out fashion statement (although, GIANT crucifixes, however they are spelled, i think, are beyond even fashion statements). do you read Robert Heinlein? in his last novel (To Sail Beyond The Sunset) he follows the life of a woman, who gets married in the 1890s, and she and her husband switch churches to match their social standing (and the woman was essentially an atheist, called going to church "rubbing blue mud in her belly button", because if thats what the natives do... actually, now that i think of it, almost every Heinlein hero/ine is an atheist, and share this attitude of "well, everyone else goes to church so i will go too so i don't stand out" hrm...)

    sorry, i'm babbling. i think i am really sick, i have a fever of 102.7, waiting for Pete to come home so i can ask him to take me to ER. my back is... i think i have a kidney infection. so, babbling. stopping now.

  8. poor denelian- kidney infections suck. hardcore. get better!

    and, those high heel wearing men were also wearing giant wigs and makeup. "normal" is a word with no real meaning.

  9. don't forget the beauty marks!

    i swear, looking at portraits of French Aristocracy in Louis the... 16th? the Sun COurt, whichever that was - is TOTALLY like going to a DragQueen burlesque show.

    really, it is.

    and, iirc, this is the same Louis that, before he would dispense any favors, would have sex with either the woman asking, or the man who was asking's wife/sister/daughter/whatever. really. not to get off, just to mark his property, i think. he would have a couple of minutes of sex and then go to his mistress and finish with her.

    erm. i see i am STILL babbling abour irrelevant historical idiocies. but at least mine are *correct*

    ps. i know there was the email, but i was still not all the way awake and drugged. i am beginning to feel better. but i have a paper due by noon on monday that i have yet to start, and a projext due on thursday i have yet to start. i was going to start them on last monday and last tuesday, respectively (and the paper was SUPPOSED to be due on friday but my professor took pity on me because of the horrid ER) so please, send me whatever good thoughts and anti-procrastination vibes you might have handy. or at least pray to the Flying Spaghetti Monster that i get some inspiration!

  10. what sort of inspiration do you need? i used to make quite a lot of money helping people with their papers. (no, really, helping. i have the soul of an editor. scary thing, that.)


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