Apologetics | Am I Missing Something?

TRIGGER WARNING: THIS POST DISCUSSES RELIGION AND RAISES QUESTIONS THAT MAY MAKE SOME READERS UNCOMFORTABLE.

I heard the term “apologetics” last week and it gave me the weirdest vibe. I stumbled across a new Christian-faith blog where the author was introducing himself before his first post. He was launching a blog dedicated to Christian apologetics and discussed the need to equip Christians with responses and rebuttals to common questions and rebukes of the faith. The blog promised to give them the answers they needed to defend Christianity against, mostly atheists, but also against any of the most commonly opposed aspects of the religion. I read a lot of stuff on the internet that gives me weird vibes so I didn’t think much of this beyond, “Why on Earth would anyone want to do this?”

Not being familiar with the term apologetics I had to dig a little deeper and that’s when I learned that this practice of preparing verbal arguments is encouraged and actually taught in some faiths. The thought was totally foreign to me. In my experience, preparing an argument in order to prove someone else wrong is typically discouraged, falling somewhere between unnecessary and plain ol’ bad behavior. From my observation apologetics is encouraging people to argue against others, who may or may not already have their mind made up. In the case of the blog I visited the apologetics mostly were intended to prove atheists wrong. Why anyone would want to put their energy into proving atheists wrong is beyond me. Further digging showed me that there are apologetics bibles, study courses and books for teens “Help Teens Defend Christianity,” one reads. To me, there is a difference between answering questions and defending inquiries.

The subject made me think about parenting advice. Imagine your kid comes home upset that he was verbally picked on at school. How do you advise him to handle it the next day? Do you advise him to ignore nay-sayers and be true to himself or do you advise him to confront the bully with a list of top 5 reasons he is right and the other kids are wrong? To me, apologetics is a sure-fire way to get the proverbial wedgie. It seems so obvious that I must be missing something.

Admittedly, before last week I had never heard the term before. I also learned most of what I know about apologetics from WordPress blogs, which may have a disproportionate amount of zealotry per-capita. Maybe someone can explain it to me in a way that doesn’t creep me out so much. Defensiveness, in this context, is a low-vibration energy (in New Age circles, that means it’s dark or negative. Not bad per say, but not “of the light” or of god.) Christ has such a beautiful and loving energy, why would followers of Christ want to participate in such discourse? Perhaps I’m misreading it entirely.

If you are more familiar with apologetics, please explain it to me. How is it intended to be used? How is it encouraged? Where is it encouraged? I can’t imagine its purpose is to convert atheists or followers of other faiths. That seems like a lot of work for no return. I know this is a tricky subject. Please keep comments respectful. ∞

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11 responses to “Apologetics | Am I Missing Something?

    • Isn’t that a “perhaps you should have asked google” question? Wikipedia answers that:

      “Apologetics (from Greek ἀπολογία, “speaking in defense”) is the discipline of defending a position (often religious) through the systematic use of information. Early Christian writers (c. 120–220) who defended their faith against critics and recommended their faith to outsiders were called apologists.”

      Sorry, but attacking people because of the title of their occupation is even worse than an ad hominem. We have so many better arguments than that. Don’t go to that level.

      Liked by 1 person

  1. Apologetics has a long-standing tradition of being taught at church. C.S. Lewis was basically an apologist, explaining Christianity in a way that people who weren’t used to the Bible could understand it in modern terms; he created the ‘liar, lunatic or lord’ concept that is still used today. Pascal’s wager is another way of explaining about God’s existence.

    Apologetics comes from the Greek word ‘apologia’ meaning ‘a verbal defense (particularly in a court of law)’, even though it shares it’s origin with the English word ‘Apology’ (to say one is sorry) they are used in two very different contexts.

    The Roman Catholic church actually employs a ‘Devil’s Advocate’ to argue every teaching from the opposite perspective, so that they have an answer for every objection someone might raise up against them. It’s meant to help reason out questions like: “If God created everything, did he create evil, too?” or “If the Bible was written over 6,000 years by dozens of authors – how can we be sure it is God’s word?” Ideally, it’s to help people think rationally about matters of faith (usually for older teens and adults of all ages). If it’s being used to get kids on the playground to yell and fight, it’s being done incorrectly.

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      • Yes, for both better understanding and debate. Generally though, debate occurs between two parties that agree to it in an attempt to increase knowledge of their own position to the audience or win their opponent over (such as the Ken Ham vs Bill Nye debate a year ago.) However, in recent years many people do apologetics in the form of books: “The Case for Christ” “The Case for Faith”. So it’s not just debate.
        http://www.bethinking.org/apologetics/an-introduction-to-christian-apologetics
        This site is a pretty good overview of the basics. Apologetics is all about using logic and reason to confirm matters of belief and faith.

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  2. Defence implies doubt. When we have unconscious doubts about what we are told to take on faith, we need some arguments for anxiety management. It helps us protect against the skeptic inside by dealing with the outer ones. Think of Satan’s Hebrew name in Job, the Adversary. This is the context in which defense is needed. Confidence argues on the spot, in the present moment, spontaneously. It doesn’t need apologetics to buttress its “knowing”.

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  3. I listen to and read arguments from Apologists and Counter-apologists. That way I hear both sides of the arguments for philosophical or theological debates. Arguments used need to follow coherent logic and reason to “counter” one’s opponents.

    For my blog, SkepticMeditations, I kinda see some posts as a counter-apologist blog for yoga, meditation, and mindfulness. Some posts I try to offer a voice that might counter the extraordinary claims made by practitioners, yogis, and meditators. Though most yogis and meditators don’t follow a reasoned or logical approach at all. They rely knowledge of the heart, devotion, or intuition. Which is slippery at best.

    What are your thoughts of the apologists arguments, blog you’ve read? Do they make a convincing case for x?

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    • Great comments Scott. Thanks for taking the time to visit my blog.

      I’ve only just been introduced to Apologetics so my opinions are really just some initial thoughts. When I first heard the term (at the time I wrote this blog post) my gut reaction was, “if you have to make a practice out of defending your faith, then it’s probably pretty flawed to begin with.” But I think that initial opinion was formed because my first introduction to it was from someone who was feeling defensive about their faith. Once I dug into it, I understood it more as, “people of one faith all agreeing on an interpretation of X, Y or Z subject.” If you practice a faith based on a REALLY REALLY old book, written in another language, for another time, coming to an agreement is pretty important, especially if failing to interpret that book correctly means eternal damnation. If I believed in eternal damnation, I’d study too.

      But that leads me to my next point. Within an accepted set of parameters, apologetics is useful (e.g. we’re all Christians trying to understand Christianity). It becomes pointless when you try to use it as a conversion technique or to prove another faith wrong. At some point you have to step back from reason and logic and make a decision based on instinct anyway. You can’t convince someone that they are evil by citing some verses. They first have to accept (on faith) that the book you’re citing from is the one true book of God. Unless you can prove that, it doesn’t really matter what you cite.

      I’m really looking forward to reading more of your blog. It’s hard for me to imagine how apologetics applies to yoga, meditation and mindfulness but I’m looking forward to finding out.

      For the rest of my readers, please check out the impressively thought provoking Skeptic Meditation Blog.

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      • @Corvi: Apologists typically aren’t arguing for old texts, nor even for religion per se, but for the existence of a god or deity. They try to use logic and reason to defend their faith in their deity of choice.

        Thanks for your responses. I look forward to reading and interacting with you and others on your blog. Good stuff.

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      • I just learned something new. I had only spoken to a few people about the subject so my understanding hadn’t really gone beyond their explanations. For them it was specifically religious and centered around scripture. Thanks for helping me to better understand.

        Liked by 1 person

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