Apologetics: What is it and Does it Care About Truth?

Imagine yourself in a courtroom as the lawyer of the defendant, trying your hardest to convince the jury of your client’s innocence based on varied lines of evidence. Your pulse continues to rise with every sentence. Sweat begins to bead on your forehead as you strain to reason with the silent arbiters before you. What are some words that come to mind to describe this scenario? Evidence and arguments? Making a case? What about making an apology?

A Defense

The phrase “apologetics” comes from the word apologia, which essentially means to make a defense for what you believe or to protect yourself from accusations against your conduct.[1] In line with this definition, the discipline of Christian Apologetics aims to defend the Christian faith through various fields such as science, history, and philosophy, in order to present a rational case for the Christian worldview. More broadly, the Christian could be considered to be participating in this discipline whenever they answer the question, “Why do you believe in God?” They might use some transcendental God experiences or point to the dramatic change in their life via Christ’s grace, as ways in which to justify their belief in the God of the Bible. So while these experiences may not be as intellectually rigorous as say, the Fine Tuning Argument, but they still meet the criteria of being an apologetic; these experiences are used to defend the Christian faith, regardless of their rational stability. However, all of this talk of defending the Christian faith may bring a question to the forefront: “Does the discipline of apologetics actually care about truth, or just answers to various objections?”

Mutually Exclusive?

I think if one looks to the heart of the apparent disjunction between apologetics and truth-seeking, they will find it lacking. There is no logical contradiction between seeking truth and defending a theory necessarily. In fact, if one does not answer objections against their view, would not that show a disinterest in truth? I think so. Moreover, answering objections posed against a theory of reality (Christianity or any other) is one of the primary ways that one realizes whether their theory is true or not! If the objections hold, the theory is false, if they do not succeed, then the theory is correct. But if this analysis of the alleged dichotomy is accurate, where do these allegations stem from?

From my own thoughts and reflections on the discipline, I think it comes from confusion about the profession itself. Questions such as, “Do they only care to parry objections with quick, witty soundbites without deep critical thought?” jump to the forefront of one’s mind when reading certain apologetic works that lack depth where depth is needed (to expect academic depth out of a popular apologetics book is unwarranted; it is not intellectually shallow to write according to the knowledge which your audience has). But, to assume that all apologists write and interact in such a manner would be fallacious (guilt by association) and thus shouldn’t even be entertained. For example some apologists such as William Lane Craig, Hugh Ross, Gary Habermas, Mike Licona, Douglas Groothius, and many others write very substantive books and articles that are most definitely not intended to brush off objections, but to engage them in an honest manner. They take these issues seriously, as should we all.

Conclusion

I think there is some merit in being concerned about a profession which seeks to only give soundbite answers to substantive objections, but to confuse such a discipline with Christian Apologetics would be a Straw Man Fallacy at its finest. So, in light of this analysis, we should all strive to represent sound, critical reasoning towards our faith and not seek to superficially answer objections raised against our beliefs, but comprehend them as well as we can.

Notes

[1]https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Apologia

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2 thoughts on “Apologetics: What is it and Does it Care About Truth?

  1. Pingback: Pascal’s Wager: An Antidote to Apatheism? – Thoughts of a Theist

  2. Brett, I really enjoyed reading your post on apologetics. This has been an area of great interest for me over the past year. I believe I now have 18 books on the subject. I love Ken Ham, Ravi Zacharias, Dinesh D’Souza, John Lennox, and Josh McDowell, Lee Strobel, and (blast from the past) Polycarp. Please consider reading my posts on apologetics. Here’s a link to one of them, then you can just browse for the others: https://theaccidentalpoet.net/2017/06/27/apologetics-why-we-believe-what-we-believe/

    I am now following your blog.

    In Christ,

    Steven (a/k/a The Accidental Poet

    Like

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