On Being an Ex-Apologist (Hardman, part 1 of 3)

Below is the first of three posts by Randy Hardman on his experiences as an official Christian apologist and why he felt he had to move on from that vocation. (Readers may remember an earlier post with a similar theme.)

Hardman speaks his truth from his experience and has a deep story to tell, some of which we read about in these posts (and I hope to see more of it in time). He holds a B.A. in Philosophy and Religion from Appalachian State University and will graduate this Spring from Asbury Theological Seminary with an M.A. in Biblical Studies and an M.A. in Theological Studies. He blogs at www.thebarainitiative.com–as he puts it–on things that most of the world doesn’t care about but he thinks they should. He also is the father of two wonderful children, a church consultant for a mainline Christian publisher (a job he says he’s way too opinionated for), and a freelance writer.

*****

Disclaimer: Just as it is easy to throw the baby out with the bathwater, these posts are in no way an attempt to say apologetics as a whole is a pointless discipline, nor are they intended to say that by defining myself as an “ex-apologist” I refuse any rational argumentation or apologetic endeavors.

I am an apologist in so far as it is a “tool” in my belt, not a vocation or an identity. These posts are intent on reflecting, through personal testimony, a popular conception of apologetics that I find to be largely one-dimensional and misguided.

Still, I want to acknowledge that there are people, groups, and ministries devoted to doing apologetics within a framework that I find to be both appropriate and helpful (i.e., I would be remiss if I did not mention my work with Summit Ministries in particular stands in exclusion to the nature of what I reference here, for in my experience, while largely traditional as an organization, they encouraged me to think deep and believe even deeper—they share a positive aspect of my entire story).     

I was bred to be an apologist.

I had the classic story that, interestingly, so many others share: one involving an initial teenage salvation, an eighteen year old skepticism that led to agnosticism/atheism, and a re-gained confidence of my faith through reading Josh McDowell’s The New Evidence That Demands A Verdict.

At 18 years old I entered into the world of apologetics, enrolling at a secular school to “defend” the Christian faith against those professors who sought to destroy it and with an intent to save the faith of the 75% who, I heard endlessly from those surrounding me, would walk away from their faith because they didn’t know “why they believed what they believe.”

At the age of nineteen I started an apologetics campus ministry, which quickly found a 501c3 host and went national, placing apologetics clubs at campuses all over the U.S. As a twenty year old college student, I spent my nights arguing for creationism, inerrancy, and God’s existence on internet forums and spent many weekends traveling to speak on why apologetics can save your faith…just like it did mine!

When somebody asked me who I was, I often replied, “I’m an apologist” and I was convinced that this was who I was “meant” to be. “God is calling me to this,” I would say.

The sad part is, while the story is true, it is only true to a certain qualified extent.

While I certainly came across “evidences” that allowed me to shake off some of the intellectual doubts that I had picked up on, I can’t say any longer that apologetics “saved my faith,” which was something I said time and again in front of audiences and in writing.

I knew all the reasons as to why Christianity was true. I could spout off the cosmological argument quicker than you could say Richard Dawkins, and I certainly royally upset enough professors–not to mention fellow students–with my public classroom defense of the faith!

But despite being so immersed in apologetics, my “faith” was as far from God as ever.

I didn’t know Him despite knowing all about Him. Christianity was an orthodoxy to be defended, a set of correct conservative doctrines and dogmas based on philosophical, historical, and scientific arguments, not a personal covenant or a relationship with the redeemer of souls.

I knew “why I believed what I believed” yet I, too, was in that 75%. How ironic! If my private life was exposed–my addiction to porn, my alcohol and pot consumption, my relationship with my girlfriend–I looked like your average college guy, not the model of an upstanding Christian apologist I tried to be in front of others.

Reason did little to strengthen my faith, despite my repeated claim that it “saved it.” It just turned me into a jerk with a lot of ammo–a jerk who merely pretended to have things put together by the overwhelming evidence of Christianity but, in reality, who was more assuredly as confused, carnal, and lost as the person I was insistent to win over to Christ through rigorous argumentation.

I don’t blame anyone but myself for my words or actions, but there was a large extent to where I sincerely confused salvation with knowledge, where my life and actions and personal emptiness failed to really matter in the long run as long as I had my conservative Protestant theology worked out.

And I think whereas I alone bore the need to repent from divorcing my head knowledge from my heart knowledge, there is also a significant fostering of that mindset within apologetics. There is a particular invitation that says, “Got doubt? We got answers” as if intellectual answers can assuage our doubt and our longing for faith.

When we promise someone that they can become an “official apologist” (as some programs and schools do) or when we treat the discipline as if it has the potential to create or save faith in those who doubt, I fear that we end up offering people empty promises, even if they appear to be temporary solutions.

This comes from personal experience and from conversations with some of those who are our most sophisticated thinkers.

The doubts that I dealt with ten years ago are the same doubts that I deal with now, albeit in different ways sometimes and I routinely pray, not read, for faith. Rationalism never quenches the thirst of doubt; it only masquerades it.

Beyond this, I wonder how often simplistic conceptions of apologetics promote the notion that our best expression of our faith is our public defense of it, not the proclamation of it rooted in our life.

I wonder, in fact, how many use the “defense of the Gospel” as an excuse for incredible pride and judgment, a “Christian excuse” to tell others to be quiet and sit down, thus making Christian apologetics a very non-Christian discipline.

Slowly, the dissatisfaction of “having all the answers” started to eat away at me and, with that, my sense of pride.

I remember one day in particular, walking into a classroom on a Sunday morning to teach an apologetics class to some youth. I was coherent, but still slightly drunk from the night before. I am sure I wreaked of smoke but nobody mentioned anything so perhaps Axe Body Spray does work after all.

The shame and the guilt ran circles inside my head as I spoke about the evidence for the resurrection, standing in front of this group pretending to be a leader. Here I was, at a church teaching an apologetics class, giving the “answers as to why Christianity’s true” but without any real conviction of it myself.

Oh, in retrospect how I wished someone would have asked me not about “premise two” but, rather, “how is your soul?” The emptiness and the shame consumed me that day and I realized that despite all my head knowledge and all my intellectual flexing, I was only what John Wesley called an “almost Christian.”

It was the day that I admitted to myself, “Apologetics did not save my faith. It saved my pride.”

Perhaps for many, as in my case, apologetics becomes a means of hiding our faithlessness, not answering it. After all,

  • Why is it that so many apologists are so consumed with the discipline that it seems to be what they eat, drink, and sleep?
  • Why is it that so many insist on “defending the faith” in the classroom, no matter what sort of insult, interruption or shame that brings the professor and class?
  • Why is it that so many are threatened when popular boundaries are brought into question by none other than fellow Christians?
  • Why is it, as I have seen personally, so many apologists turn out to be jerks, little different in rhetoric and spirit than the New Atheists they so fervently wish to counter?

Can the Devil not find his way into the apologetics camp too?

  • mhelbert

    I experienced similar issues. I was a devotee of Walter Martin back in the day. I could counter arguments from the Watchtower, the LDS, atheists…anyone. Except myself. I, too, have struggled with various vices. keeping them under wraps so that my ‘spiritual’ knowledge could not be seen lacking. For me, it took hitting rock bottom personally and spiritually before God’s grace began to soak in. I, too, have found little of personal value listening to the endless theological debates between scholars. I have found that experience is superior to intellect. Experiencing God in prayer and contemplation. Guided by Ignatius, Francis, the Teresas, and others I’ve been finding the life that you wrote about. I’m looking forward to hearing the rest of your story. Thank you!

    • http://jesuswithoutbaggage.wordpress.com/ jesuswithoutbaggage

      Walter Martin was my hero! But not so much anymore.

  • Brian Westley

    Why is it, as I have seen personally, so many apologists turn out to be jerks, little different in rhetoric and spirit than the New Atheists they so fervently wish to counter?

    Why are you a jerk? Calling atheists “jerks” makes you a jerk in my book.

    • Rick

      I don’t think he was referring to all atheists. I think he was specifically referring to the “New Atheists” such as Dawkins and Harris, who are known for their more aggressive style.

      • http://abb3w.livejournal.com/ abb3w

        Hitchens would probably be a fair cop; Dawkins and Harris, less so.

    • Randy Hardman

      I think you misread what I wrote. As @Rick:disqus pointed out, what I was referring to was a certain brand of atheism, namely what is commonly called “the new atheists.” This includes Dawkins, et al. but goes beyond it of course to the whole subculture which has emerged from it (as any momentary time on r/atheism will show). I have great respect for quite a number of atheists/agnostics who prefer civil conversation and debate to heated argumentation and belittling. But no conviction is beyond the legitimate accusation of jerkiness. In any case, that was not my point…my point was that there are too many evangelical apologists that carry the same Dawkins-ish attitude of certainty and narcissism. The whole thing then ceases to be anything redemptive and moves entirely into “I’m right and you’re wrong!”

      • Brian Westley

        I think you misread what I wrote. As rick pointed out, what I was referring to was a certain brand of atheism, namely what is commonly called “the new atheists.”

        Calling all “new atheists” jerks still makes you a jerk.

        The whole thing then ceases to be anything redemptive and moves entirely into “I’m right and you’re wrong!”

        You’re still implying that you’re right and I’m wrong by assuming redemption is true.

        • Brad Hickey

          But yet, the tone and tenacity with which you argue does not seem to be all that kind or gracious either. Before you attack people like the OP, perhaps it might be best to work to exemplify those behaviors and conversational tenors that you are seemingly advocating.

          Plus, whether you like it or not, most New Atheists’ use of pathos, however well-intentioned, is often of a cruel/unkind sort when in dialogue with religious opponents.

          Of course, many of their opponents are often illiterate in their fields so I do understand the New Atheists’ frustration to some degree. But that is another discussion entirely.

          • Brian Westley

            But yet, the tone and tenacity with which you argue does not seem to be all that kind or gracious either.

            Yeah. So?

            Before you attack people like the OP, perhaps it might be best to work to exemplify that which you are seemingly advocating.

            I like the way I argue now.

            Plus, whether you like it or not, most New Atheists’ use of pathos, however well-intentioned, is often of a cruel/unkind sort when in dialogue with religious opponents.

            If the original author had said SOME new atheists are jerks, I wouldn’t have bothered to answer.

          • Brad Hickey

            “Yeah. So?”

            The emperor has no clothes.

          • Brian Westley

            Sorry, I haven’t been condemning an entire group of people as jerks. I’m pretty careful about not insulting groups of people based on a shared characteristic unconnected with whatever behavior I’m complaining about.

          • Randy Hardman

            And yet, you took the liberty to call me one without inquiring as to what I actually met by my qualifier.

            See my note above–but what apparently you see as a much broader qualification (and hence a broad insult) I, and most others, see as more narrow. I don’t distinguish between “Jerk New Atheist” and “New Atheist.” It is exactly the same reason why Michael Ruse (an atheist philosopher I very much like) distances himself from the movement:

            http://www.huffingtonpost.com/michael-ruse/is-new-atheism-a-religion_b_837758.html

            http://www.beliefnet.com/columnists/scienceandthesacred/2009/08/why-i-think-the-new-atheists-are-a-bloody-disaster.html

            And I don’t think he’s a jerk. ;)

          • Brian Westley

            And yet, you took the liberty to call me one without inquiring as to what I actually met by my qualifier.

            What qualifier? “New”?

            I don’t distinguish between “Jerk New Atheist” and “New Atheist.”

            And that’s why I consider you a jerk.

          • Randy Hardman

            Well there we go! Have a great day.

          • Jason

            Glad to see you stop responding Randy. It’s clearly not worth your time.

          • Anthony

            You are clearly determined to believe the author was stereotyping when he has clearly explained that was not his intent.

            So, you’re careful about not insulting entire groups of people, but you’re perfectly comfortable insulting someone who very obviously did not mean what you claim.

            How enlightened.

          • Brian Westley

            Right below, he says he doesn’t distinguish between “Jerk New Atheist” and “New Atheist.”

          • Stuart Blessman

            Wheaton’s Law is now invoked.

          • Brian Westley

            yeah, pointing out prejudice is so “dickish”, it’s much better to say nothing when an entire group of people are designated jerks.

          • OwenW

            Have you ever been misunderstood/misinterpreted by someone your entire life? How would you feel if they kept criticizing you for what was a *misunderstanding*?

          • Brian Westley

            I would explain what they are misunderstanding. Did I misunderstand something you wrote?

          • OwenW

            And what if they continued to criticize you and ignored your explanation?

            And no, it isn’t me you have misunderstood.

          • Brian Westley

            And no, it isn’t me you have misunderstood.

            Well, I haven’t seen a clarification, so you have no point.

        • Randy Hardman

          As I noted above, “new atheist” is a generally agreed upon term used to describe a “tone”, not age nor argument, which is inherently more aggressive (even your sociologists like Stark and Prothero recognize this). There are, indeed, a great number of atheists who distance themselves from the “New Atheist” movement, not because they think they’re wrong about God, but because they think comparing God to spaghetti monsters, Jesus to a zombie, and miracles to magic doesn’t get us very far. Take it as you will, though, if you want to insist that I was saying something that I wasn’t. You suggested I say “some new atheists” but, then, I would question what distinction do you carry between “atheists” and “new atheists.”

          • Brian Westley

            As I noted above, “new atheist” is a generally agreed upon term used to describe a “tone”, not age nor argument, which is inherently more aggressive (even your sociologists like Stark and Prothero recognize this).

            So is “aggressive” the same as being a jerk in your view?

            You suggested I say “some new atheists” but, then, I would question what distinction do you carry between “atheists” and “new atheists.”

            I don’t think there IS much of a difference. If I wanted to rant about people being jerks, I’d talk about “atheist jerks” and “Christian jerks” instead of lumping all “new atheists” or “Christian apologists” as “jerks”.

          • Randy Hardman

            Then your only real complaint is that I adopted a different set of terminology than you, one that countless others–both theist and atheist–have found apt. On that point, then, you are free to read the above sentence with the intention you now know I meant.

            Now, as this post was hardly about the legitimacy of defining the qualifier of “new”, I will resign my part in this conversation. Take care!

          • https://plus.google.com/u/0/112743459266731535020/posts Steve Greene

            Brian, you are clearly barking up the wrong tree. Atheists who are outspoken and who actually stick to their guns in asking for corrections of error are jerks, by definition. It’s the same thing as “militant atheists” – again, by definition, these are any atheists who open their mouths and openly express criticism of arguments made by Christian apologists and who dare to stick to their guns in pointing out details of erroneous and/or fallacious rhetoric being used. Remarks about “tone” are actually irrelevant, because if you hold to a decent standard of responsibility and actually expect people to deal with specific facts or points of fallacy (logical error) that they are ignoring, then your “tone” is automatically one of aggression and antagonism.

            Double standards are beautiful things.

      • R Vogel

        To be fair the ‘Dawkins-ish attitude of certainty and narcissism’ did not originate with Dawkins, or atheists for that matter. If anything they are striking the attitude of the apologists whom they are railing against….

        • http://abb3w.livejournal.com/ abb3w

          You might look into the research of Altemeyer. Altemeyer’s RWA scale tends strongly correlated on religiosity — atheists being astoundingly low. However, the SDO scale developed by Jim Sidanius appears nearly uncorrelated to religiosity — the same fraction of high-SDO types exists among the irreligious as the religious.

          Incidentally, the existence of such high-SDO atheists may help explain the problems with sexism that the skeptical movement has noticed in the last couple years — SDO being significantly correlated to the standard measure of Hostile Sexism.

      • R Vogel

        Instead of making excuses, why not just acknowledge your error. Brian rightly called you out on something and your response is to defend and rationalize it. Just own it. We all make those kind of gross mis-characterizations at times. We all get bruised egos when someone calls us out on it. Your sentence would have been fine ending with ‘jerks’ period, full stop. Balancing it with ‘New Atheists’ is simply a way to shift responsibility: They only become jerks because in their fervor to counter ‘New Atheist’ jerks they get sucked into the same ‘certainty and narcissism’ that they exhibit. That’s bulls%^! They become jerks because they are defending a worldview that they have co-opted as their identity often, as you note, as a bulwark against their failing faith. As George Santayana obeserved: “Fanaticism consists of redoubling your effort when you have forgotten your aim.”

        • Randy Hardman

          @rvogel:disqus, the general characterization of “New Atheist” is one of approach. It’s not about poor argument or poor logic. Rather, it is a tone which is set by many in which Christians are routinely portrayed as ignorant, stupid, magical, etc. Jesus is characterized as a “zombie”, prayer is equated with talking with a “flying spaghetti monster”, etc. There are a whole swath of atheists/agnostics that prefer non-straw man oriented dialogues, prefer to converse rather than make rash characterizations, etc. Many of these are friends of mine and scholars that I respect and no matter how wrong they think I am, we find mutual respect for one another and each others ideas and prefer to dialogue rationally and civilly. The characterization of “new atheists” has nothing to do with substance (though, often poor substance is a side affect of an overly biased worldview) or age–it has to do with tone. So while Brian wants me to apologize for calling “all atheists” jerks, I cannot apologize for calling “all atheists” jerks because I did not. There is a brand of atheism which is, at the end of the day, pretty jerkish…and there is a great swath of atheists which wish to be distanced from it (again, spend time on Reddit–you’ll see both) and my point, as you suggested below, is that this same brand of jerkish atheism (new atheism) has in effect reinforced (and caused or been caused by) a kind of jerkish apologetics.

      • http://abb3w.livejournal.com/ abb3w

        While there certainly are more than a few atheists with plenty of “certainty and narcissism”, including some Dawkins fans (and concentrated in venues like Reddit), it does not seem to be accurate to characterize Dawkins himself that way.

    • http://jesuswithoutbaggage.wordpress.com/ jesuswithoutbaggage

      I don’t care for using pejorative terms for others, but I think most apologist like he was, and as I was, act like ‘jerks’ because of their superior attitude and wish to crush people. They want to WIN!

      They desire confrontation instead of dialog, manipulate ideas, and bluff their way through the issues.

      Some atheist apologists have the same attitudes and use the same methods.

    • http://labreuer.wordpress.com Luke Breuer

      I have personally been abused online by so many atheists that I can understand his statement through and through. By saying what you have said, you merely pile up on him with all the other atheists who claim that he is broken, irrational, wrong, stupid, evil, etc. Now, not all atheists are this way. But many [who make themselves known] are. Do you deny this?

      • Brian Westley

        I have personally been abused online by so many atheists that I can understand his statement through and through

        Yes, when some people in group X act like jerks, that always justifies calling all people in group X jerks.

        • http://labreuer.wordpress.com Luke Breuer

          Where is this “all” quantifier of which you complain?

          • Brian Westley

            The author’s original statement condemned all new atheists, as he didn’t exempt any.

          • http://labreuer.wordpress.com Luke Breuer

            Do you really want to be held to the same high standard, that whenever your quantifiers aren’t precisely used, you get rebuked? I see many, many atheists fail to properly use quantifiers when talking about Christians and Christianity. I don’t know you well enough to know whether this is a log & speck situation, but statistically, it could be.

          • Brian Westley

            Do you really want to be held to the same high standard, that whenever your quantifiers aren’t precisely used, you get rebuked?

            I prefer it when people don’t condemn all members of a group for the actions of a few. That’s typically called prejudice.

            I see many, many atheists fail to properly use quantifiers when talking about Christians and Christianity.

            So you’d prefer it if both atheists and Christians made insulting generalizations? Why?

          • Anthony

            So you’d prefer it if both atheists and Christians made insulting generalizations? Why?

            I don’t think that’s what he said. The question in my mind is this: How many times have you corrected atheists who made insulting generalizations about Christians?

          • http://labreuer.wordpress.com Luke Breuer

            condemn all members of a group

            This seems like a terribly uncharitable reading. Let’s go back:

            Why is it, as I have seen personally, so many apologists turn out to be jerks, little different in rhetoric and spirit than the New Atheists they so fervently wish to counter?

            It seems to me that the author is specifically discussing those New Atheists who said apologists were trying to counter. It’s not clear that the author is talking about “all” New Atheists.

            So you’d prefer it if both atheists and Christians made insulting generalizations? Why?

            Nope, I think many people don’t need explicit quantifiers; they know that not everyone is being indicted, in many situations. It’s called reading people charitably.

          • Brian Westley

            It seems to me that the author is specifically discussing those New Atheists who said apologists were trying to counter.

            I don’t read it that way — and even if I did, that would imply that every “New Atheist” that any apologist tries to counter is a jerk, which would mean an atheist can go from non-jerk to jerk based on whether an apologist tries to counter them, not because of any particular action on the part of the atheist. Hardly an improvement.

          • peteenns

            Brian, I can see by your many comments concerning the word “jerk” that you are considerable offended by it. That is certainly up to you, but can I suggest we move on from that one offending word to discussing the post as a whole?

          • Brian Westley

            I take it from your lack of clarification that you did mean to imply that all New Atheists are jerks?

          • http://labreuer.wordpress.com Luke Breuer

            Do you apply the same rigor to your fellow atheists and skeptics? In my experience they often flub their quantifiers. Indeed, I’m dealing with several atheist/skeptic flubbers at this very moment.

          • Brian Westley

            Do you apply the same rigor to your fellow atheists and skeptics?

            I try to, yes. That’s the only way to have a clear understanding what people mean. But since I typically reply just to people I’m arguing with, that isn’t as often.

            Indeed, I’m dealing with several atheist/skeptic flubbers at this very moment.

            Yet you didn’t take this author to task yourself.

          • http://labreuer.wordpress.com Luke Breuer

            Yet you didn’t take this author to task yourself.

            I attended an elite university, not infrequently ranked #1 in the world, and it was filled with nerds who loved to nit-pick. Now, nit-picking is a neutral tool which can be used usefully, to advance the state of the art (e.g. science), or it can be used uselessly, often to elevate the person doing the nitpicking. The best nerds understand when to nit-pick, and when not to. Now, lest you think I’m bragging, I dropped out of this university not once, but twice—I never graduated. That being said, I have considerable expertise with the useful and progress-inhibiting kinds of nitpicking.

            In this situation, I chose to interpret the author charitably, in line with Pete’s advice. The overall thrust of this blog post is that this guy knew that rational argumentation was not the be-all and end-all of communicating with other human beings and making the world a better place by blessing people, often one at a time. And yet here you are, going back to that rational argumentation, insisting that every point is correct.

            You might be right, but I chose to not engage in the nit-picking affair on this matter. The author seems like he is headed in an excellent direction; he is not perfect, but no person is, and no person can survive being told all of his/her faults, all at once. This is part of the meaning of:

            If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.

            Not all truth needs to be spoken right now. Not all errors must be corrected right now. It is important to look at the overall direction a person is taking, and enhance it. So whether to nitpick on this particular issue was a judgment call. I went one way, you went the other. Ultimately, I believe the only test is to see how your judgment compares to mine, when applied over time: whose is better able to enhance people? I don’t know the answer, and because of what you’ve said here, I’ll probably key into quantifiers more often, trying to detect when an error is worth pointing out and when I can let it slide.

            I try to speak the truth in love; if I cannot, then the truth probably doesn’t need speaking from me.

          • Brian Westley

            Well, you seem to have plenty of time to nitpick with me.

          • http://labreuer.wordpress.com Luke Breuer

            The only way I’ve found to productively deal with nitpickers is to be better at it than they are. There were [informal] competitions at this at the university I attended; I can’t say that I was the best of the best, but I didn’t fare poorly, either. All these details really do matter—some of the time.

          • http://jesuswithoutbaggage.wordpress.com/ jesuswithoutbaggage

            I suggest there is a better way to deal with nitpickers–don’t engage them.

          • http://labreuer.wordpress.com Luke Breuer

            Jesus engaged the Pharisees, and out-smarted them.

          • http://jesuswithoutbaggage.wordpress.com/ jesuswithoutbaggage

            I don’t engage them unless there is some potential benefit in doing so, otherwise they take time from more productive activities.

          • http://labreuer.wordpress.com Luke Breuer

            Good point. As I mentioned earlier in the thread, I have come across quite a few people who have been sloppy with their quantifiers. It is an area of active research for me.

        • Anthony

          Actually, if you read carefully, what he said was “the New Atheists they so fervently wish to counter.” That implies that “the atheists they wish to counter” are a subset of “all atheists.”

    • William McPherson

      I think everyone has been a jerk from time to time, I know I have. I do not think that forms my identity, but I do believe that I have said and done some pretty jerkish things.

      • Brian Westley

        Oh sure, same here, but I object to calling an entire class of people “jerks” as if that’s true of every single member.

  • http://jesuswithoutbaggage.wordpress.com/ jesuswithoutbaggage

    I love your statement: “Apologetics did not save my faith. It saved my pride.” I am a reformed apologist as well, and I look forward to your coming posts.

    • Randy Hardman

      Thanks @jesuswithoutbaggage:disqus!

  • Derek

    Cool. Good series. Thanks Peter and thanks Randy.

  • mtorez

    I found Apologetics crucial, too – back when most of my Christian belief was based on ‘sound doctrine’ and ‘devotion to Scriptural inerrancy.” But then I went through some things, suffered some setbacks and found myself ‘in the Valley.’ Over and over in the Valley, I had encounters with God. They took many different forms – earnest testimonies of others, the memories of those times when God ‘brought me through’, peace brought on by prayer, coincidences that I choose to see as ‘tiny miracles.’ But THESE were the things that kept my faith in the midst of my struggles.

    In retrospect, apologetics bolstered my rational need for Christianity to ‘line up’ and it helped me maintain an intellectual framework for my belief. But it gave me NO spiritual power and did very little to deepen my faith. Going through suffering and emerging on the other side with a testimony did a much better job.

    • Randy Hardman

      @mtorez:disqus, I know what the Valley is like. I’ll talk a bit about it in a future post here, but I don’t think I would be a Christian any longer if it weren’t for ridding myself of a dominant inerrancy driven approach. We need Scripture to meet us in various ways and in various voices like we need God to meet us in various ways and in various voices. I think, like a lover (and perhaps like a lion), God responds to us in ways which are completely outside of what we could ever predict. As Lewis rightly noted, “Of course he isn’t safe. But he is good.”

      As much as we think we might “understand” all about God, a lover, or a lion, it is part of their nature to surprise us in our weakest moments, step outside of what we think we know, and pursue us till they have us.

      • Stuart Blessman

        “I don’t think I would be a Christian any longer if it weren’t for ridding myself of a dominant inerrancy driven approach”

        This is where I’m largely at as well, much to the chagrin of many around me. Apparently it’s become THE issue that drives Christian fellowship, and that’s depressing.

        • Randy Hardman

          I think you’re right, at least to the extent that people are seen as “true” followers of Christ (i.e. not compromising to the world). The point on inerrancy will become a major focus on the next two posts, since it was really only as I abandoned that model did I open myself up to a certain authenticity I never had.

  • http://labreuer.wordpress.com Luke Breuer

    Love your God with all of your:

         (1) heart
         (2) mind
         (3) strength
         (4) soul

    Deut 6:4-6 combines (1) and (2), as the ancient Hebrews did not separate between them. It seems to me that a lot of apologetics doesn’t care at all about (1), even though 1 John says that if we do not love our brother, we do not love our God. I think this applies piecewise: if we do not love our brother with our heart, we do not love God with our heart.

    I can understand ignoring (1) though; our culture has grown to increasingly distrust the heart, except in the matters of sexuality, where it is allowed to run ever freer. How about we take care of the whole heart? Much of the sexuality stuff that you hear about so much from the Religious Right might even be cured in the process; the following is from Dorothy Sayers’ The Other Seven Deadly Sins:

    Thirdly, there are two main reasons for why people fall into the sin of luxuria. It may be through sheer exuberance of animal spirits, in which case a sharp application of the curb may be all that is needed to bring the body into subjection and remind it of its proper place in the scheme of man’s twofold nature. Or—and this commonly happens in periods of disillusionment like our own, when philosophies are bankrupt and life appears without hope—men and women may turn to lust in sheer boredom and discontent, trying to find in it some stimulus that is not provided by the drab discomfort of their mental and physical surroundings. When that is the case, stern rebukes and restrictions are worse than useless. It is as though one were to endeavor to cure anemia by bleeding; it only reduces further an already impoverished vitality. The mournful and medical aspect of twentieth-century pornography and promiscuity strongly suggests that we have reached one of these periods of spiritual depression where people go to bed because they have nothing better to do. In other words, the regrettable moral laxity of which respectable people complain may have its root cause not in luxuria at all, but in some other of the sins of society, and may automatically begin to cure itself when that root cause is removed.”—what about loneliness, disconnectedness?

    We are, without a doubt, in a period of disillusionment. We aren’t guarding our hearts. For more on this matter, I suggest the writings of John Eldredge.

  • http://jessicakelley.com/ Jessica Kelley

    Great start Randy – looking forward to the rest of this series!

  • Johanne Gerede

    Faith and doubt are an existentially essential dichotomy – one of the many polar planes which intersect at a point which forms the human experience as that creature which is the “hearer of the Word.” Protestantism, and 21st Century Christianity in general, would do well to revisit the importance of explaining the functional dynamic of doubt within the human experience and journey of faith, rather than trying to defeat it, relegate it, and thus erode an important aspect of our humanity in so doing.

    • Randy Hardman

      True words. Have you read Boyd’s new book on doubt?

  • peteenns

    Folks, as moderator and supreme overlord of this blog, can I suggest we try to move beyond the offense of a clause in one sentence and try to engage the post as a whole?

  • Stuart Blessman

    “I remember one day in particular, walking into a classroom on a Sunday morning to teach an apologetics class to some youth. I was coherent, but still slightly drunk from the night before. I am sure I wreaked of smoke but nobody mentioned anything so perhaps Axe Body Spray does work after all.”

    Perhaps realizing and moving past the false dichotomy would have helped. That smelling like smoke or being slightly hungover in no way disqualified you from being a teacher or leader, and are not true evidences of a spiritual emptiness or darkness inside. In and of themselves, that is.

    As a church, we really need to shake off this performance based sanctification as evidence for justification head space we’ve fallen into. Ideally, we could be up front with our group that we may have been at the bar last night, praise God, and may have had a bit too much to drink and not enough sleep, praise God, let’s all have a laugh and realize we’ve been there before too, there’s grace a plenty for us sinners, now let’s get to the lesson for the day. Sin so grace may abound? God forbid.

    Here I was, at a church teaching an apologetics class, giving the “answers as to why Christianity’s true” but without any real conviction of it myself.”

    This resonates with me strongly, however. Especially whenever someone wants me to pray for something in a public setting, my initial thought is “but I don’t believe it will have any effect and this is pointless”, thus feelings of hypocrisy. Coming from a background where EVERY LITTLE THING became a matter for public prayer, I’d just as soon not pray at all for all the good it will do.

    Does prayer still work? We’re commanded to pray. That’s the best faith I can muster for it.

    • http://jesuswithoutbaggage.wordpress.com/ jesuswithoutbaggage

      Stuart, this is an interesting point.
      In my circles I was often asked to pray the blessing on meals. I no longer do that for myself because God knows I am grateful that I am able to eat. A few years ago, I began to defer to someone else who was eager to do it.

      When I receive prayer requests I now tell requestors that my thoughts are with them. I do not wish to pretend that God is involved in manipulating the details of our lives.

      • Stuart Blessman

        If prayer has as big of an impact as we think it does, every church service would be a perpetual revival or something. The point is, it’s good to pray, but if it’s true that God answers every prayer, then “no” is his preferred response 99.9% of the time.

        • http://jesuswithoutbaggage.wordpress.com/ jesuswithoutbaggage

          Stuart, I believe it is good to pray but I don’t see that it influences God.

          It seems that prayer helps us by putting things into perspective; it is a way for us to work through issues. It is not a way to get our wishes fulfilled but to gain clarity in making decisions or to unload personal pressures we are dealing with.

          Because prayer is such a helpful practice for many folks, I don’t discourage it–taking away their comfort would be unkind. I openly oppose harmful baggage we have been taught, but prayer is not on my bad list.

          • Cameron

            So, you call it prayer, someone else calls it working things out in your own mind. Isn’t it the same thing? Why do you believe someone is at the other end?

            It seems you serve an impotent God. Or at least you are trying to hold on to this belief but find yourself running out of excuses.

          • http://jesuswithoutbaggage.wordpress.com/ jesuswithoutbaggage

            Cameron, I think you have me mis-pegged.

            God is not impotent and I am not interested in excuses. If I were trying to conserve and defend my old traditional beliefs I certainly would not have changed them as much as I have over the last 45 of my 62 years.

      • EJ

        JWB: you are saying what I have been thinking for so long. My anecdotal information tells me what you’re saying is true. In my experience I really see no efficacy in prayer. But, that takes me to a very scary place: what is the point of God – he is not involved. Prayer makes no difference.

        I feel this is the last nail in my belief in Christianity. What have you done to hold it together?

        • Thomas Henry Larsen

          // In my experience I really see no efficacy in prayer. //

          Could you elaborate a bit on your experience?

          • EJ

            Well, it’s really just a crap shoot – no better than random. For example, if you had ovarian cancer 30 years ago, you were dead. Period. Now, people do beat this terrible disease – due primarily to medical advances. And when they do, we say it is answered prayer.

        • http://jesuswithoutbaggage.wordpress.com/ jesuswithoutbaggage

          EJ, the entire purpose of my blog at is to assist and support those who are working through doubts or concerns about what they have been taught in their church traditions that don’t seem to ring true.

          It is for those who are attracted to Jesus but not the baggage often associated with his message. My two emphases are on understanding Jesus and unloading the baggage that holds us back.

          If you are interested you might want to see the introductory page at http://jesuswithoutbaggage.wordpress.com/. I am also willing to answer any other questions I can that might help.

  • Daniel Merriman

    OFFICIAL Apologist? Was there a church or denomination that so designated you? I’m not trying to bust your chops, but maybe part of your problem was a lack of oversight, or perhaps more importantly, a lack of a loving church body that would nurture your growth in Christ along your life’s journey.

    This is so sad.

    • OwenW

      Knowing Randy personally during seminary together, I can testify that those “maybes” you offer up (and “maybes” are often a veil for a sharp, dismissive barb) are not the case. While I don’t agree with everything he says, my suggestion is not to dismiss what he does say by scenarios imaginatively (and judgmentally?) conjured up to explain away and ignore why he said it.

      • Daniel Merriman

        I asked sincere questions, if they came across as something dismissive to you, I’m sorry. But the questions have not been answered. Or, really, just one question: Where was the Church?

  • OwenW

    To build on what you said, you have struggled your identity and rock in apologetic itself vs. recognizing using apologetic to understand what we already believe. In other words, the goal to be rational vs. trying to understand and explain what you already believe. All forms of the ‘worship’ of rationality, whether it be Christian apologetics or scientific hyper-rationalism, often experiences the same reality: a person who argues for something they do not feel themselves. They are trying to make sense of what they should believe, or similar to John Wesley, who preached faith until he had it and then preached faith because he had it (and it can be said that John Wesley’s “almost Christian” is in many ways a reflection of himself at an earlier time). And I myself could speak of a similar story of rationality to faith, albeit not the rationalist of apologetics. What we both went to in the prior phase wasn’t the fault of apologetics/rationalist itself, but an immature mind/heart that used it like a weapon to attack instead of a scalpel or a bandage to support and heal.

    The problem isn’t apologetics, but it is the human heart that can take a good thing, in its proper place, and turn into something far from its productive function. Instead of facilitating growth and understanding in what we already truth, it can be used to attack others, to puff up our narcissistic egos with how smart we think we are, or simply a cover to deny doubts instead of acknowledge them. But that isn’t apologetics itself; that is the human heart, sinful and distorted.

    Apolegetics is rooted in 1 Peter 3:15 (Albeit that passage isn’t specifically about apologetics), giving an answer for what is in our hearts. But the defense is the for the purpose of those who ask why we have the hope we have NOT a means to convert those who are resistant. We are not to put pearls in front of swine and we are not to put the story of Jesus Christ out for those who care nothing about it. But that is what many have turned it into, however, in a sense of “gung-ho” going to win the world by my own words. OF course, there is an idol of the self there, that conversion of souls is built on the foundation of our rational presentation rather than the God who calls out, from which we have opportunity to *facilitate* the acceptance of call they have heard from God.

    As someone who has known you for a few years, I am excited about your growth Randy, and where God is taking you (even with the struggles). You have taken a next step in growth in faith, but don’t feel too down on apologetics itself as the cause of hte problem but see it for what it is: our own heart that takes what is good and proper and use it for twisted and distorted purposes.

    • http://jesuswithoutbaggage.wordpress.com/ jesuswithoutbaggage

      Owen, you said:

      Apolegetics is rooted in 1 Peter 3:15 (Albeit that passage isn’t specifically about apologetics), giving an answer for what is in our hearts. But the defense is the for the purpose of those who ask why we have the hope we have NOT a means to convert those who are resistant.

      This is my long-standing belief on this passage as well!

      • OwenW

        Amen! And it is a important thing to grasp. The early Jesus followers were not philosophers who went out philosophizing in the streets to people, though, no doubt, many of them could have been familiar with philosophy/ancient rationality (and as early as Justin Martyr we have philosophically inclined teachers). To the crowds, they would preach about Jesus himself (if the pattern of Acts was followed), and to those who expressed a more distinct interest to someone personally, they would likely have given a more entailed answer. Put in sociological terms and theory, the Gospel and the doctrinal defense of it would have traveled down social networks of personal connections more so than the pathway of communication of abstract, rational ideas to the masses.

        The problem has been some of the teachings about evangelism that has told us that we should badger and harass people into the faith (although, some of this has been more unintentional, but some has been more overt). In that zeal for evangelism that was inappropriately directed, apologetics would have been simply another ‘tool’ for the badgering and harassing of people in the name of witnessing for Jesus.

  • Chip

    Somewhere along the way, and I cannot hazard a guess when or how, apologetics became a strictly intellectual thing – if the right logic or argument is used a light will turn on and the person will say, “Oh, I see it now” and repent. I got caught up in apologetics at a secular university and with all the confidence a 19 year old could muster I sat down with a professor and explained the proofs for the resurrection. He listened and when I was done he said, “You know, I believe what you are saying.” Inside, while I was high-fiving my self, he added, “And you know what…maybe I will resurrect from the dead too!” I walked out of his office vowing to never do that again. What I am about to say is going to be the cheesiest thing you will hear this year…but in dealing the a person’s heart the best and really only apologetic is Christian love and kindness. For sure, Paul defended his faith and at times we have to as well. But my neighbor who has not thought about spiritual things in twenty years just isn’t interested in apologetic arguments. And when his wife leaves him for another man he does not need apologetic arguments.

  • JD Walters

    This post cut me to the heart. I have certainly been guilty myself of using apologetics as a rhetorical weapon to help me feel smug and superior, and deeper research into the case for theism has not helped me overcome my besetting sins or deepened my relationship with God.

    That said, I think Randy and other hoppers onto the bandwagon of cautioning of the divorce between head knowledge and heart knowledge (usually an excuse for jettisoning or at least ignoring the former) severely underestimate the intellectual challenges to Christianity brought upon by modernity. You do realize that unless there is a coherent, explicit case for theism, the Resurrection, the Incarnation, etc. all of the nice feelings you got from ‘God’ can be dismissed as nothing more than projection, right? The oft-cited analogy between belief in God and knowing your wife loves you completely misses the mark because we can take for granted that in human relationships both parties exist. You can’t and shouldn’t even begin to cultivate trust in God unless you’re sure He exists and has a character disposed to communicate with human beings.

    The disparaging comments about apologetics on this thread seem to be assuming that it has done its job, the major, crippling challenges to the faith can be answered, so people shouldn’t obsess over it so much, and we can go on to the more important issue of transformation by the Gospel. Sorry, most apologetics doesn’t even come close to dealing with the big challenges. For all the glib assertions of the compatibility of Christianity and evolution, the lack of a historical fall and a historical Adam forces MAJOR rethinking of Christian doctrines, in a way most Christians aren’t prepared to deal with. Most cases for the resurrection, or the reliability of the Gospels, are ludicrously simplistic about anthropology and the psychology of belief. Real challenges to the coherence of the divine attributes and the appropriateness of applying ordinary language to God threaten to make any talk about God, much less professing trust in Him, strictly unintelligible.

    And if you are intellectually honest, your response to these challenges CANNOT be, “Oh, I guess that means I’ll just have to trust, etc.” It must be to delve deeper, not into superficial apologetics, but into real scholarship at the highest levels. It means not primarily quoting other apologists but going to the primary sources. It means studying Aquinas and Schleiermacher instead of Ravi Zacharias or Hugh Ross.

    • Daniel Merriman

      “For all the glib assertions of the compatibility of Christianity and evolution, the lack of a historical fall and a historical Adam forces MAJOR rethinking of Christian doctrines, in a way most Christians aren’t prepared to deal with.”

      A true statement if you insert “evangelical” in front of Christian everywhere you use it. I can recall a time when I believed in Santa Claus, but I’m pretty sure I never believed snakes could talk. No one in my Church told me I had to, though if I had been born a few decades later I might not have been so lucky.

      • JD Walters

        It’s not just an evangelical issue. Roman Catholics, the Orthodox and all denominations who are serious about engaging science have had to do some serious rethinking. And the challenge does not primarily have to do with talking snakes or the other mythological touches: it has to do with the evolutionary narrative not having any before and after in terms of the Fall, how to conceive of the atonement, etc. This paper gives a good overview of the real challenges faced not just by fundamentalists but even the most sophisticated theological traditions:http://bit.ly/1o0zFwG

        • Daniel Merriman

          The creation story is just that- a story that any child can recognize as such. (Prof Enns had an interesting post sometime back about his experience with his own young son). While other traditions may wrestle with how to reconcile various and sundry doctrines and evolution, at least they don’t try to maintain a position that Genesis is literally true. So called evangelical theologians simply can’t escape their fundamentalist roots, at least if they want to stay employed.

          History tells me that eventually theologians came to terms with heliocentrism. That is part of the job description. The same will be true with regard to evolution. The fundiegelical theologians will eventually come around.

    • Randy Hardman

      @jd_walters:disqus, as a reminder I made a disclaimer at the start that I think apologetics–what you’re referring to as ‘theology’–is a “tool” in the belt. One that I think can be used, but should be used appropriately and never to be confused as sufficient. And I targeted the post at a “popular conception” of apologetics which is largely one dimensional. That disclaimer was put at the top for a reason, so that no one would get the impression that I’m “hopping on the bandwagon” of those that want to do away with head knowledge. I get the intellectual challenges to Christianity. I deal with them every day in my own work and thought–indeed, as you see in my second post, those intellectual challenges made me really rethink my views on how Scripture operates and where the foundation of this whole thing really is, but at the same time in doing so I was able to, in a word, “breathe.” The weight of everything hanging on a particular “scientific-like reading” of the Bible fell off. My trust and faith were therefore not dependent on how well my theology was constructed or made certain.

      Now, on your statement “You can’t and shouldn’t even begin to cultivate trust in God unless you’re sure He exists” I think is the very sort of mentality that I do want to challenge…and that is the mentality of a lot of popular level apologetics, wherein doubt is something to exercise out of us. Do I know God exists? No. I could be very wrong on this and maybe Dawkins is right. Am I pretty sure that he does? Yes, I am and on a certain level–getting through some of the intellectual challenges–this has helped me. I noted that too. But what about the days where I wonder (and I think most of us have these days)…what happens when God doesn’t work the way we want him to? What about evil? Suffering is the biggest reason why people walk away from God, because they can no longer “know” he exists based on evidence because…well…the evidence just said that he doesn’t. Nobody looks at a starving child or a tsunami that wipes out an island and says, “There’s good evidence that God exists.” Nobody seaks out a theological understanding of evil after a molestation or being caught in trafficking (there are, btw, 30 million people trapped in that–and that’s 30 million people asking ‘Why’). Rather, many people see these things and see the complete opposite. And that’s where theology, as good as it may be in helping us answer intellectual problems of evil, never gets us anywhere close to actually knowing Him. Apologetics will never give us a good enough reason to believe in God. It just can’t. We *must* not confuse trust and knowledge, for inevitably at some point the latter will crash and burn in the things that this life throws at us, whether personally or intellectually. The devils know God exists (James 2.19), the Jews saw Jesus’ miracles and didn’t believe, the Romans had access to the empty tomb. Yes, I am all for pursuing scholarship and going to the sources–I do that every day. But at the end of the day, they often bring as much questions as they do clarity…and what do you do then? Well, my faith and trust is not based on my certainty or my knowledge. It is based solely on God, how I have seen him move and redeem, how I have felt his words wash over me, and I trust this even if some days I doubt this whole thing. That’s when I have to say, “I doubt, but I trust.”

      • JD Walters

        ” But what about the days where I wonder (and I think most of us have these days)…what happens when God doesn’t work the way we want him to? What about evil? Suffering is the biggest reason why people walk away from God, because they can no longer “know” he exists based on evidence because…well…the evidence just said that he doesn’t. Nobody looks at a starving child or a tsunami that wipes out an island and says, “There’s good evidence that God exists.” Nobody seaks out a theological understanding of evil after a molestation or being caught in trafficking (there are, btw, 30 million people trapped in that–and that’s 30 million people asking ‘Why’). Rather, many people see these things and see the complete opposite. And that’s where theology, as good as it may be in helping us answer intellectual problems of evil, never gets us anywhere close to actually knowing Him.”Actually I would say these issues show the necessity of firm head knowledge. If you are rationally convinced that God exists and that He is good, then in tough times it is that firm knowledge that will allow you to weather storms of adversity and not allow yourself to be swayed by fleeting emotions. If instead you give head knowledge second billing and rely on your feelings of relationship and intimacy with God for security, you will crumble when those feelings fade. Edward Feser puts this nicely: “It is precisely because of the abstractness and coldness of reason that a kind of faith is needed where evil is concerned. Not because faith is emotional. Faith is not emotional; it is rather an act of the will. And again, not because faith contradicts reason, for it doesn’t. Rather, faith in God in the face of evil is nothing less than the will to follow reason’s lead when emotion might incline us to doubt. The intensity of the pain one feels can make him want to shake his fist at God, like Job. Yet reason says that that pain is part of an overall plan which we cannot yet fathom, but one in which God can bring out of that pain a good compared to which it will pale into insignificance. Hence reason tells us: have faith in God.” (The Last Superstition)

    • Denis O. Lamoureux

      Hi,
      I love your statement: “For all the glib assertions of the compatibility of Christianity and
      evolution, the lack of a historical fall and a historical Adam forces
      MAJOR rethinking of Christian doctrines, in a way most Christians aren’t
      prepared to deal with.” Yes, some systematic theology will need to be rewritten.
      Blessings,
      Denis

      • JD Walters

        And I’m fine with that. But what I’m not fine with is the idea that the Christianity/evolution relationship is no big deal, so we should be focusing on more important things, which is the vibe I sometimes get from posts like this.

  • William McPherson

    This is an interesting and very authentic post. Rationalism does not have the power to move on the soul like belief does; belief involves trust that responds in action, reason just involves solving a logical argument in one’s head, whether one believes or not. This is why a lot of the new atheism is very religious in its presentation, the process of evolution being developed into a complete meta-narrative paradigm that defines all of existence. I do not find it attractive to believe in a meaningless and arbitrary universe, but if there is a central purpose, albeit chaotic and random, I can follow, it is something I am more likely to gravitate towards.

    The bests apologists are those who truly believe what they are saying, but not to the point where they will not hear the thoughts and beliefs of others. This does not make other views (or my view) authoritative, but it does allow the legitimacy of fallible, fallen human views to be expressed and considered. I have found that when I am truly willing to listen to others who have different views than mine, I actually become more confident in the journey of faith in Christ that I am on. Are their issues with any of my beliefs? Of course there are! But there are issues with every idea or belief system that has ever been proposed!

    What I have is a genuine faith and developing trust in the risen Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Scripture, that I believe is the grounding of my faith and the confidence of my hope, guides me in who Jesus is and how he has worked, is working, and will work in the future in the world that I live. I believe that Christianity gives the best answers, though albeit, incomplete and sometimes frustrating ones (whether you are modern, post-modern, or pre-modern). I do not interpret Scripture as much as the Spirit uses Scripture to interpret me and then show me how to live is Christ and dies is gain. I am an orthodox Christian, not by necessity, but by choice. I do believe in the historic formulation of the Church in the Apostles Creed. All of these have been instruments to lead me to God. They are not the end, but simply some of the means in my journey of faith.

    I could argue with you all day about different scientific, political, and theological subjects, but at the end of the day we all live by faith. Atheism is not an affirmation of science over faith; atheism is the philosophical denial of the necessity of a personal, intimate Creator. Atheists live by faith in this philosophical assumption, whether they want to admit it or not. Religious individuals (regardless of religion) embrace philosophical and/or theological forms of faith. The best atheists, in my view, are the ones who are entirely committed to their faith, who determine to live out the meaning of their beliefs. It is the same with the best Christians (or any other religion for that matter); what you live out and put into practice is the best indication of what you believe. That should really make us stop and think about our lives: like the author of this post, do I REALLY believe in Christ crucified and raised, or is something I defend without truly coming to grips with the implications? Our lives should tell the story; Jesus said that all men would know if someone was his disciple by that disciple’s love for other disciples; how are we believers doing there?

    It is not about being right; it is about truth. Sometimes truth means a great deal of soul-searching and wrestling, but even though it is incredibly scary and painful…it is worth it. I commend the author of this article for doing so, and I hope that the readers will be willing to take the risk of faith as well. I also hope that many will come to know and embrace the God whose mercy triumphs over judgment, as I have come to know and love him, but of course I know that this will not happen with many. Separation from God in this life, and the next, is horrible price to pay for not believing in and becoming more like Christ. Still, everyone has the right and choice to do so; I hope for your sake that I am mistaken, which might sound heretical, but is entirely possible. We do after all, see all things through a dark, tinted glass; God have mercy on us all.

  • newenglandsun

    it is good that the author has lost the identity but still admits at the same time he has kept it as a tool since all scholars, philosophers, historians, theologians, etc., adhere to some sort of apologetics every now and again–apologetics being a defense of one’s position in this case. hence, the dissertation and thesis are both elements where apologetics comes in handy.

    my issue is that self-identified apologists come out so one-sided that they simply don’t understand what the issue on the other side of the fence is and hence, want to stay on their side of the fence. it does depress me though in the liberal studies when a professor starts thinking that they know exactly the entirety of the answers to questions. one professor i had last semester could be said to be a conservative but you would never guess that based on what he says in class.

  • D Sims

    “I didn’t know Him despite knowing all about Him.” This is a very relevant truth that has taken over the body of Christ like a cancer. It is so subtle and disguises itself in many forms and it takes a real humble heart to back up and take a close look at what we are doing under the name of Christian. We need a mass turning back to just following Jesus.

    • JD Walters

      D Sims, how many Christians do you know who ‘know all about God’? How many Christians have you encountered who could formulate even basic coherent statements about the Trinity, the Incarnation, divine simplicity, etc.? Or even know that the Bible doesn’t include the verse “God helps those who help themselves”? Again, it’s this faulty assumption that apologetics has done its work and we don’t have to worry about head knowledge. No, there is a crisis of head knowledge that still needs to be solved.

      • D Sims

        I agree JD, but I still believe that knowing a lot about God is only half of the equation. I know many who have letters before and after their name and know a considerable amount about God but the problem is, they know it too. They are perfect examples of knowledge that puffs up. Then there are those that think they know about God but as you say, in truth know little.
        Maybe we should say there is a crisis on both sides and as I said in my previous post we need to return to the simplicity of following Jesus, listening to Him and obeying what we receive.

  • gk

    Interesting article and insight. Heartfelt disclosure, for sure.

    I too became an “apologist” of sorts when I found a book on comparative religion my kids were being taught from in one of their junior high classes.

    It was the first time I had ever seen such a thing. It filled a void I felt when my younger sister became a JW. I had heard all the same “sell” for me to join, but it just seemed wrong. Corrupt and appealing to one’s baser senses, I thought.

    The JWs assault you with an appearance of knowledge of things religious. I never had previously sought to methodically expose their error.

    So, yes, I equipped myself for everything. I like it because it forced me to read deeper things in the Bible. It gave me additional “reasons” to believe, however, not that I needed any.

    Yes, there is a temptation to pride in thinking oneself “knowledgeable.” Consider this. The early Christians, what did they have to believe on — complex knowledge, arguments of reason ….. ? No, simple faith in the Gospel. “Christ died for our sins, was buried and rose on the third day.”

    They heard that proclamation and believed. They, in a sense, had to believe. They were born-again and they had “ears to hear.” Faith was implanted in them to hear and believe — faith is a gift from God. Natural man can’t receive things of God, nor does he seek them. They are foolishness to him.

    Given that, what then is an apologist other than just a light in the darkness, Christ living in him. Passive, gentle, speaking the truth in love … an encourager.

    He can do nothing. God does, and already has done, everything.

    It is hard to consume. With all this knowledge, you can’t effect change. You can only just tell the truth. Realizing the extents of the “job description” its easier to enjoy what you do. That is, just to happily serve the Lord.

  • Adam Lloyd Johnson

    Now I don’t know you personally Randy; all I have to go on is your post here. So forgive me if I over-generalize, but it seems to me you’ve moved from one extreme view of apologetics to another. Modernism may have pushed you too far in one direction but don’t let postmodernism push you too far in the other.


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