Normal people are annoyed by Christian apologetics, a fact which in having never been acknowledged by Christian apologetics, more or less proves the point.
I wonder why.
- Is it that Christian apologists don’t realize that saying something differently is not different from saying something twice?
- Is it that Christian apologetics is apparently one of the few fields in which excellence is in no way correlated to competence?
- Is it that Christian apologetics seems entrepreneurial?
- Is it that Christian apologists are soporific on their best days?
- Is it that Christian apologetics seems more about theatrical competitiveness?
- Is it that Christian apologists demonize what they don’t understand?
- Is it that Christian apologetics seems to cavalierly borrow definitions from every important field of scholarship and then redefine them into uselessness?
- Is it that Christian apologists seem transparently unpleasantly solicitous?
- Is it that Christian apologetics seems to attract repugnant human beings with bizarre attitudes towards taxation?
- Or is is that Christian apologists in an effort to make Christianity seem simple make it look simpleminded?
The answer is, of course, yes.
But, I think that the essential frustration that is Christian apologetics is a foolish and impatient insistence on the primacy of belief in the existence of God, the historicity of the Resurrection, and the belief in Biblical literalism, a triptych which only Christian apologists accept wholesale and even most Christians have difficulty swallowing entirely.
I will concede, of course, Christians should ultimately take comfort from the Resurrection, or, at least, a sense that the overcoming of death affords the life everlasting, and Christians should look to the Good Book as the written back bone of the religion and belief that that book is special among other books, although I doubt that that is literalism.
And I can accept that behind most Christian beliefs, God is a necessary prior condition and that belief in God is, in this sense, theologically proper, but “belief,” as most people use it, is different from the charismatic, Earth-shaking, life-altering, problem-solving “belief” that Christian apologists will pity you for not having.
God, the Resurrection, and the Bible form a sort of self-reinforcing argument around the proper Christian, with historical method, extra-Biblical research, and philosophy floating off in the distance, to be tapped if necessary.
With God, the Resurrection, and the Bible firmly believed, a sort of trickle down effect occurs and things like charity and forgiveness come on-line. Church attendance, a prayer life, family life, and vocation follow.
I criticize this because, from everything that I can tell about God and how Christians, as his children, should in themselves be, belief or faith in God is only properly meaningful when adjoined to other otherwise good activities of mind or body and sometimes is even subordinated.
A Christian who cannot argue that love is good without mentioning God cannot argue that love is good.
It is an irony of theology that Jesus, who preferred to teach in the non-literal, would be followed by the literal and unimaginative.
And the Resurrection, I think, reveals its own series of problems of historicity, which, while are lessened by faith, are not alleviated entirely by faith and we are left with something that is as meaningful as an historical fact as it is meaningful as a metaphor.
I propose, therefore, an inversion of the Christian apologetic method, one that reflects the difficulty people have in accepting those three crowns of theology and, I think, even anticipates that while most Christians disagree about the method of Biblical interpretation, for example, few Christians argue over the importance of love.
God, I think, would be happy if we practiced the Fruits of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.
There is no law against them and surely no God would be pleased by a systemic apologetic that includes them as a mere footnote. And the lessons of the Sermon on the Plain are themselves challenges and we need apologists to help us make sense of them and guide us through them and not ignore them.
As I write this, I wonder what God thought when David danced before Him with all his might? Was He pleased by the dance? Or the might?
Thomas Merton said: “The fact that I think that I am following Your will does not mean that I am actually doing so. But I believe that the desire to please You does, in fact, please You.”
And surely even if one does not believe in God, the fact that one desires to pleases God. And, then, even if one doesn’t have that explicit desire, the fact that one desires truth and goodness, must also please God.
God asks for belief without seeing (John 20:29). Surely God is not the lesser when the faithless sing, in their way, hallelujah.