The Casualty Problem (Hardman, parts 3 of 3)

Today we have the third and final post in Randy Hardman’s 3 part series on his experiences as an official Christian apologist and why he felt he had to move on from that vocation (see part one and part two). (Readers interested in similar posts on this theme can find them beginning herehere and here.)

Hardman 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, is the father of two wonderful children, a church consultant for a mainline Christian publisher, and a freelance writer.

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My last two posts (here and here) dealt with my testimony as a trained apologist and a transformation that took place when I allowed myself to really stop thinking of faith as a science. This post still deals with what I find to be a strange irony in the discipline of apologetics, namely, the insistence on a “rational and well thought out” faith with the insistence on upholding scriptural inerrancy and creationism.

To that end, I have to confess that I am incredibly bothered by the fact that the popular apologetics movement laments the 75% of students who leave the faith (they say, “because they don’t have intellectual answers for what they believe”) and yet they demand that one cannot embrace certain conclusions of their disciplines, no matter how well thought out and evidenced.

It is my conviction that when we insist that young people have to choose between evolution and God or the critical results of scholarship and faith, we are not at all helping students overcome some of the intellectual barriers and questions they might have. Rather, we contribute to the swath of students who find Christianity to be opposed to reason.

A few years ago I had lunch with a friend of mine. Through our friendship, we find ourselves routinely at odds on theological points (strangely, these odds started to only become exposed as I was starting to leave the popular apologetics mold).

As I was currently enrolled in a Biblical Studies program at Asbury Theological Seminary, he posed me a question: “Randy, what do you think? Did Luke and Matthew use Mark as a source?” I don’t really know what answer he expected from me but I just looked at him and said, “Absolutely! That’s pretty near consensus in NT scholarship…I don’t see any reason to doubt it!”

My friends eyes widened as he sat back in his seat, threw his hands up in the air, and said, “No, no, no…They didn’t use Mark as a source. That’s just a theory promoted by the Devil and populated through Bultmannian scholarship.”

I went back to my pizza.

What lay behind my friend’s assertion was a conviction that critical biblical scholarship was necessarily inimical to Christian faith. One could not approach the Bible with the same scrutiny as other historical works for, in doing so, one was threatening faith.

In light of this perceived threat, evangelicals developed the doctrine of inerrancy, set in hand with the tools to deal with any possible contradiction one might dream of!

Likewise, years ago I heard a well respected Ph.D. young earther remark, “One day, as a teenager, I sat with the Bible in one hand and On the Origin of Species in the other and made a decision on which one I would commit my life to.” As a young earther, he obviously chose the Bible (in case you were wondering). Everything for this scientist–a scientist with impeccable credentials I might add–was to be read through his interpretive lens of literalism.

The problem, as you are probably suspecting, is this: When we caricature Christianity by such narrow boundaries, we run the risk of making Christianity anti-intellectual. Even more dangerous, however, is that when we promote views like these in the vein of “apologetics” and “Christian intellectualism” we run the risk of making our intellectual Christianity anti-intellectual.

What happens, for example, when a student told all his life that he must choose “God or Darwin” enrolls in a biology major? Or, as in my case, what happens when we are told that the existence of a contradiction invalidates the Bible? As I noted in my previous post, I was a young earther and an inerrantist for quite some time, and I can tell you personally that struggling with overwhelming evidence on both fronts is something I wish no one need deal with.

How I made it through without reverting to a cold, hard atheism is beyond me. But what I do know is that there are too many casualties who don’t make it through for the same reasons. I have watched too many friends abandon all trust in God because they were told they need to choose between the boundaries set by evangelical apologetics and science.

Is the risk of being wrong about evolution or inerrancy really worth the loss of countless Christians who unnecessarily struggled? Are our casualties really worth it if, after it’s all said and done, we find out that we’ve been fighting for illusionary principles and doctrines after all?

While my own struggle didn’t predominately have to do with “having the right answers,” I can tell you that the mere exhaustion of trying to intellectually reconcile evolution and God and contradictions with Scripture weakened my soul to a point that I was probably more susceptible towards the attractions of this world. Indeed, after reading some of the creative reconciliations designed by inerrantists, who wouldn’t want to just get high and think about nothing?! (sorry–I had to).

The point is this: When popular apologetics builds itself up as the “case for” you name it, it can certainly succeed in portraying itself as more rigorous than it is. But, ultimately, all theories fall into some bit of tension, and if we are so convinced that our rigorous case necessitates rigorous boundaries, we will inevitably contribute to–not reverse–the intellectual (and sometimes, therefore, spiritual) rejection of Christianity.

creating Adam, again and again
Here's something new: Genesis is in "crisis" and if you don't see that you're "syncretistic"
What I think about NOMA (not the ex-Red Sox shortstop but the evolution thing)
Adam’s Fall and Early Christian Notions of Sin
  • Ronald Slyderink

    Thanks for sharing Hardman’s experiences and story. I think there will inevitably be casualties when too much focus is placed on intellectualism in whatever form it takes. My experience as a teacher tells me that the learning model most emphasised is the Greek one with heavy emphasis on the academic or mind or cognitive or conceptual paradigm, reducing the impact of the ‘heart’ and ‘hand’. All three are relevant and required in balanced more holistic learning and teaching because they reflect who we are more accurately. The Hebrew model is better. When we are told to love the Lord with all of our heart, mind and soul or strength it reflects greater authenticity in how we should approach life and learning because that is more in tune with who we really are. When we set out to defend our beliefs or generate conclusions based on reasoning we rely heavily on ideas and words or concepts which at the most are only representations of the ‘truth’.

    No matter how accurate or correct or right they may be they do not in themselves address the heart or our actions which are important aspects of our being. The emphasis on any doctrine including that of inerrancy increases the risk of relying too much on only a part of who we are and how God desires us to respond to him. We should be asking what is important to God in our relationship to him, and one another. When we do that we see that God wants us to reach out to him in faith and trust, even in weakness, not rely on our own wisdom and reasoning ability and holding particular beliefs about him. That requires all of our being, our heart, our mind and hand/strength. He wants us to acknowledge what he has done for us and admit we need his mercy, forgiveness and love shown on the cross by his Son Jesus Christ and that apart from the gift of God’s Spirit we cannot live a victorious life let alone begin to understand the things of God. There will be many casualties and frustrated individuals because there is a void left that needs to be filled. We need more of Jesus in our lives and the holy Spirit.

    • Randy Hardman

      @ronaldslyderink:disqus…I was trying to think of something to say, but there’s nothing left to say. We need more of your perspective and voice in evangelicalism.

      • Louise

        Goodness Ron, do you ever stop?

  • Andrew L

    Thanks for the articles. You’re on quite a journey.

    While it wasn’t apologetics that took me out of Christianity and into atheism, that was quiet reflection, it, apologetics, does in its shrillness and assertiveness sounds more like bravado than truth. I may not have witnessed the ‘crime’ but I know a coverup when I see one.

    As an outside observer now, I think the Church may face the unsolvable problem: the intellectualization of faith, apologetics, doesn’t work, and may in fact be counter productive, and a faith-and-relationship-first approach leads to a belief that is so void of content it could almost be labeled Christian Agnosticism. The current call to double down on education in churches, college clubs, and youth groups seems destined for failure. I’ve met many at atheist clubs and conventions who’ve said I finally lost my faith when reading ‘Case for X’ or some other pop apologetics book. (Which makes it all the funnier when people start giving them to us after we leave the Church).

    • Randy Hardman

      That is an interesting point, especially your last non-parenthetical statement. As I put in the first blog (a point which apparently a great deal ignored), I do think that there is a use of apologetics…but *only* as a tool, and a tool which is appropriated properly. *Way* too much is made out of it as the center point of Christian faith, such that faith is conceived as stemming from right belief. After my first two years of graduate school, I started to become quite uncomfortable thinking that my main task in seminary was to be a theologian or a historian. I love those disciplines and they inform almost every thing that I say or do (including the post here–truly, if one studies the historical foundations of inerrancy, one sees that it never really existed much before the mid 19th century…likewise, I hope I have produced some thoughtful theological questions about inerrancy, reason, faith, doubt, etc.). But as a theologian or historian, I began to realize that there must always be some sort of pastoral element to it. I don’t mean a *preaching* element to it but a personal, caring, relational element to it. Otherwise, theology/history becomes solely an abstract academic exercise, completely devoid of anything personally transformative.

      You point out the two extremes and I think you’re right–both of them are producing problems that in and of themselves are unsolvable. What is needed is a middle of the road (which usually is the case for any problem we face)…And that is something that I think I finally stumbled my way onto, bruised and exhausted though I may be.

      • http://www.infidels.org/library/modern/ed_babinski/babinski-bio.html EdwardTBabinski

        Would love to know what you’ve been reading and studying in particular that has led to your journey out of conservative Evangelicalism and toward a more progressive perspective. A book or article list? Mostly historical study of the Bible, books on evolution, comparative religion/spirituality, agnostic/atheist works?

  • Ross

    Thanks for more of your journey Randy. As usual it is catalysing more thoughts in me and here are some more part formed reflections on what I am thinking.

    Viewing this from the UK I see this article and many others on this site being part of a particularly American situation and dialogue. I recognise myself in much of what Randy says of himself, which I think I would say is rooted in the importance of Francis Schaeffer’s works in my earlier life. Following his writings and approach, I found myself being more inquisitor than inquisitive when discussing life and faith issues with others, whether they be Christians or not. However I was never fully convinced by all that he said, though there is much good in it, and for some time I have rejected a few of his beliefs and conclusions.

    If his approach and work is as influential as some say it is on the current situation, or at least is fairly indicative of the conservative”mainstream”, then I can see the inevitability of the American situation following that of the British one. Since the Second World War, we have gone from being a predominantly Protestant culture to one where to be a Christian of any sort is to be a member of a minority. It also feels like a minority where our faith and views are more and more becoming abhorrent to the culture at large. Though I would be careful about making any statement about whether we are oppressed or just tolerated. Generally most young people growing up in our country today know little if anything of the Christian faith and are fairly unaware of the Christian heritage behind where we are.

    I feel that one of the reasons this is so, is that “the church” over here failed to deal with the issues which Americans are currently wrestling with. This is not because the World out there attacked and won (not that that wasn’t part of the situation), but I think it was because it failed to adapt to the situation which arose. Unfortunately I think it was apologetics that lost the day and an over-reliance in apologetics which was the cause.

    If my memory serves me right and I understood his writings (though I’m willing to concede it may not and I didn’t), Schaeffer was very big on the “big ideas”; Philosophical descriptions of everything and people and developed his own “big idea” and apologetics from that. This I see was a conservative view, hanging onto the “eternal truths of the faith and nature of God and scripture”. At this point I think he was trying to put forward the point that Christianity was true and reasonable in an age where he believed that society was “escaping from reason”. I don’t totally disagree with this as I think there is some truth in it.

    I don’t personally believe these “big ideas” are actually more than speculative models on what may or may not be. There may be some, or a lot of truth in them and they may, as generalisations go, give some, or a lot of insight into the way things are. But at the end of the day they are rational models, often about people and people on the whole aren’t that rational. So if you take your apologetic to real people then you aren’t seeing them, you’re seeing some theoretical pastiche of who they are. I feel we need to approach others, possibly with some ideas (some of them biggish), forming some kind of apologetic, but without as many preconceived firm ideas. We need to listen to what they say and hear it and then maybe we can speak into that situation. In humility we need to say, “I don’t know everything and don’t know all the answers, however this is my view and I feel you may be able to learn from it”.

    Another thing I feel, is that Christian apologetics of the protestant/Evangelical view are generally “behind the curve”, maybe this is due to the inherent conservatism within much of the culture. Schaeffer was at least, trying to get on the curve and maybe see beyond it. He has now been dead 30 years, so if his line of thought is still the same as the predominant view, then we have got further back behind the curve.

    I think I see much of a working out on this site at developing a “thought form” and maybe an apologetic for the now and future. This development is I believe necessary and needs to inform the conservative mind and help transform it. I’m fairly pessimistic about whether that will actually happen. So maybe thoughtful Christians need to go it alone, or develop stronger and stronger links with other Christian traditions. If not maybe you are destined to become more like Britain, which may or may not be disastrous, but maybe at least you’ll learn how to make a nice cup of tea for once!

    • Randy Hardman

      Ross,

      Thank you so much for your “other side of the lake” perspective. This is sorely needed. It is quite difficult for us Americans to really look across the ocean and see a people who are so similar to us and yet recognize that we are really in different religious and political cultures! There’s still something in me that is a bit surprised thinking of Britain as predominately secular (I tend to think ‘But you guys have C.S. Lewis and N.T. Wright–how can you be secular with those two!?). And since most apologists (at least in the self-use of the term) are American, your perspective is extremely important. I may actually, with your permission, quote you on my own blog in the coming week.

      That said, I am also somewhat pessimistic about where our culture is going in relation to Christian faith. While sociologists come out every now and then and claim that “spirituality is on the rise” (a point my apologist friends usually make in reaction to atheism), there is the equal reality that *spirituality* does not mean faith in Christ (apologists have a separate war fighting on that front!). We are currently going through a number of culture shifts and ecclesiastical shifts, both at the same time. I guess I can only say that time will tell as to where we come out at the end. But I am pretty certain, despite what many pop-apologetics movements want you to think, 75% (I don’t know the accuracy of the number–I just know it’s the one that’s used) of our young people are not leaving because they don’t have a faith that’s intellectually robust enough. Yes, of course there are intellectual challenges and on that front there is a need to have informed minds, but that is not even core of the problem…evolution does not convince people to walk away from God. It is when people tell them they have to choose: one or the other. And that is not an intellectual problem. That is the problem of the map that people are given and told to stick to.

      • Ross

        Randy, feel free to quote me, I’m glad my thoughts are helpful.

        I’m not sure of current statistics, but we are still seeing a decline in Church attendance here (though the way they are presented makes me think Christians should surely be in negative numbers by now!) Evangelical churches seem to present a credible finding that they are bucking the trend, but I’m not sure if that is down to allegiances shifting or “new growth”.

        I’ve kept my head down on the whole matter since deciding to never read anything with “a biblical view on…..” in the title, many years ago and am only now returning to a wider interest in what’s going on.

        It may be useful for someone else over here with some insight, to comment where British Evangelicalism stands regarding “Inerrantists” and “Progressives”.

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

    As a former rigid, enthusiastic apologist who made the transition to progressive believer without losing my faith in Jesus, I agree that having to make a decision between the Bible and something else (whatever it is) is traumatic when the ‘whatever it is’ becomes obviously the correct position.

    I had my crisis, but I recovered. Because of the false conflict between the Bible and ‘whatever it is’ promoted by certain conservative Christians, many do not recover but reject Jesus along with the distorted claims about the Bible.

    • HappyJesus

      Read your blog. All well and good, but in reading your blog I get the feeling you created your own religion and call it Christianity. You don’t like inerrancy, so you got rid of it. You don’t like hell, no problem, get rid of it. Divinity? Toss it out. Don’t like what Paul said? Get rid of that too.

      You remind me of a person sampling from a buffet.

      Anyone can do that. It’s called “make up your religion”. I think under scrutiny you found the faith wanting, but don’t have the strength to give it up. So, you made up your own.

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

        Hi HappyJesus,

        You are certainly not the first to suggest that I, and others, pick and choose what we like from the Bible. Both believers and those who are not believers often suggest this.

        I can understand why, but I don’t think it represents my experience. As I came to see the Bible as written by humans I re-evaluated the things I believed about the Bible, but I found the reports about Jesus from the memories of his earliest followers very compelling.

        So I follow Jesus but do not subscribe to the baggage that has become associated with his message.

        • Happy Jesus

          Except you don’t like the reports about Jesus’ many statements on Hell. So even there you kept the reports you like, and discard the ones you don’t. I think this is a made up religion that you can live with.

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

            Happy,

            Jesus did speak of Sheol and Gehenna, but I don’t think he taught an eternal burning punishment.

            You mention that you read some of my blog, but perhaps you missed my series on the various ‘hell’ passages. The series begins with What About Hell? at http://jesuswithoutbaggage.wordpress.com/2013/03/11/what-about-hell/

  • William McPherson

    I have enjoyed reading your blogs and I encourage you to continue to pursue Jesus no matter what conclusions you come to regarding inerrancy. We must not let some of our implied doctrines keep us from experiencing and savoring the salvation available to us here and now through Jesus Christ. Ultimately trusting in and loving the crucified and risen Christ and loving others is what matters.

    • Randy Hardman

      Can I just say…Amen. ;)

  • Anthony Lawson

    This was a great series and I commend Mr. Hardman on his journey. My only mild frustration is when he seems to think that rejection of faith leads to a “cold, hard atheism,” why is that necessarily so? And why if one is having serious doubt would it leave them “susceptible towards the attractions of this world” and one of those attractions is getting “high?” Maybe those were his issues, but this seems to be a false dichotomy of faith versus licentious, hateful atheism. I’m sure that some have done that, but there is a continuum of one’s reactions. Maybe I’m reading too much into Hardman’s words.

    • OwenW

      While there may be other options, I would suggest that the psychological/sociological reality is such that devout believers who become disenchanted by their value system falling apart in their eyes a very likely to go in the entirely opposite direction (this is analagous to disidentification in the psychoanalytic literature). The opposite of Christianity (at least in modern Western culture) is not another religion, but is atheism (we have categorized our society more based upon religiousty and the lack thereof more so than specific religions). The opposite direction of a literalist, authoritative morality is a free-flowing principles behavior that rejections any binding moral authority.

      The dichotomy may be ‘false’ in a technical sense, but atheist and licentiousness do seem to be the most prominent response to *passionate* believers become entirely disenchanted. A continuum might be technically true, but the continuum is more heavily weighted towards the extremes.

      • Patrice

        “…devout believers who become disenchanted by their value system falling apart…likely to go in the entirely opposite direction…”

        The subgroup that finds itself in the opposite extreme of militant atheism are generally made of those whose devout belief was rigid. Taking up the opposite rigidity is to be expected.

        But the disenchanted with more nuanced thinking processes, with clearer understanding of law and the priority of love and accuracy, will become atheists such as beau-quilter above.

        Passion has little to do with it, IMO.

        Also, a crisis of meaning will sometimes result in throwing everything to the winds for the duration. Some people will react that way to depth crises of any sort, others don’t. Whether they do/don’t isn’t of primary important; what’s important is that they get through it more or less intact. There are all kinds of wrongs and on the scale and this sort is middling. I get weary of Christians majoring in the minors.

    • Randy Hardman

      Thanks Anthony! I think you’re right on your last suspicion…All of this was a very personally subjective account. For some, rejecting faith is just that–they become ambivalently agnostic, take up other means of existential purpose, etc. But it’s no secret that a great deal–I would probably guess–that the majority of your more militant atheists come from very conservatively religious backgrounds, making their rejection of one certain form of fundamentalism an endorsement of another kinds.

      Regarding doubt, this was actually something I tried to really suggest in this blog…there is a fear in a lot of evangelical culture that doubt will ultimately open up doors for a lot of worldly temptation (i.e. if we let them doubt too much, we’ll lose them). But the larger point to this whole series was that we must make room for doubt in faith…doubt, as both Enns and Boyd have recently pointed out, is actually very biblical and is a component of faith that should not be squashed as soon as it manifests itself. We must make room for a person to breathe, wrestle, and groan in a journey, for ultimately it is only through that wrestling that we ultimately become stronger.

  • rvs

    Thanks for the insights.

  • Andrew Dowling

    This is an insightful post Randy and I think you’re spot on. As our population gets more educated and both information and the speed of its dissemination (and sadly, mis-information) increase, the anti-intellectualism that conservative fundamentalism embraces is looking at a road to the abyss. I know in a number of communities the forces of this strain are still very strong, but I have a hard time envisioning them not being a fairly marginal group in 20 years.

    The problem is, since they have been the loudest trumpeters of the Christian faith in America since the 1960s; in the interim they are taking the popular image of Christianity down with their ship. And if you were to point this out to them . . they would say Scripture predicted all this .. they are just the few remaining “elect” as the end times near! Every society has its batch of crazies . . .but they are tarnishing Christianity concurrently, and that is a major problem (not to mention, they still represent a formidable voting bloc in our representative democracy and they pretty much support all that is bad in our local, state, and federal government).

  • http://timebottle.weebly.com/ Beau Quilter

    I appreciate your perspective Mr. Hardman, but I did revert to atheism. However, I found this position neither cold nor hard, and I do not consider myself a casualty. Far from leading me to the attractions of this world, atheism has lead me to an appreciation of humanity’s long philosophical traditions of ethical reasoning.

    • Randy Hardman

      Thanks for your comment. As I noted below, that sentence was not intended to say that loss of faith inevitably leads to a “cold, hard atheism.” It means that for *me* I am surprised that it didn’t!

      • http://timebottle.weebly.com/ Beau Quilter

        I understand, but you don’t use the word “casualty” to refer only to yourself; you are concerned about many casualties (and you are referring very specifically to those who “abandon all trust in God”). I hear this perspective quite a bit, and it is not a fair description of the growing numbers of people in our nation who have abandoned religion for a very positive, ethical, and rational approach to life.

        • Randy Hardman

          True, and in that respect this is a perspectival post, aimed largely from one Christian to fellow Christians who are concerned about individuals walking away from Christianity. Certainly if you do see your faith as the truest description of reality on which eternal redemption hangs, than it would only follow that you would lament anyone who felt a need to leave it. Of course, granted, many who walk away feel more liberated in doing so and then I would really want to press the question to my fellow Christians, why is it that so many people (75% of them according to the popular number) need to leave Christian faith to feel liberated, whether that be for ethical or rational reasons? It seems quite odd to me, given that the portrait of God we see in both the OT and NT is the one who brings people into liberation (here, I think liberation theology deserves a greater deal of emphasis than it traditionally has in evangelicalism) and redemption.

          My call in this whole series was to encourage Christian apologists to really examine how and why they are doing what they do and in this post in particular I have wanted to argue that by pressing the issue of inerrancy to such an extent that one must choose inerrancy or give up the whole thing (like the girl I mentioned who, when confronted with a contradiction, asked how she could believe anything in the Bible) they are, indeed, contributing to the problem that they so passionately want to reverse.

        • http://lotharlorraine.wordpress.com/ Lotharson

          I have no doubt that atheism is a far more satisfying perspective than the Conservatism Evangelicalism you most likely grew up with and refer to as “religion” (with a capital R).

          As I pointed out, the Conservative Evangelical worldview turns the whole world into a hopeless farce by teaching that God is going to eternally torture most of His cherished creatures due to sins they could not have possibly avoided.

          I am convinced that many people having become atheists are now far closer to a perfect God than they were as religious fundies viewing Him as a moral monster.

          That said I have some doubts that reductive materialism can provide you with “a very positive, ethical, and rational approach to life”.
          It just seems absurd to say that a moral value such as “rape is always wrong” can be identical to a given bunch of particles with a localization in space and time.

          It might come as a surprise to you, but there are numerous types of atheists all over the world, many of them rejecting the existence of an objective morality OR the deep-seated conviction of most American secularists that wild Capitalism is the best system for allowing our kind to flourish.

          Anyway I love discussing with French and German atheists having grown up with no religious backgrounds at all, I find it always pretty interesting and many of them are quite nice and pleasant people, even when intellectually challenging my worldview.

          However, most American secularists I have interacted with proved as arrogant and narrow-minded as their former fundamentalist selfs, though I sincerely wished I were wrong.

          Cheers from Europe.

          • http://timebottle.weebly.com/ Beau Quilter

            Sorry, but I don’t recognize myself or my position in the caricature you’ve presented here.

            Cheers from the U.S.

          • Ross

            To some extent Lotharson is presenting a “caricature” here, or maybe just a loaded generalisation. But there is I think reasonable grounds for him to be fearful. Over here in Europe there is more than enough evidence to recognise that relatively free and open liberal democracy, can change into despotic totalitarianism.

            The U.S. has been lucky in maintaining a free pluralistic liberal democratic state for some time, although one may see “McCarthyism” as a slide toward repressive totalitarianism and I for one am very wary of the current situation where both in the UK and the U.S. it looks as if long established freedoms may be going, in order to counter the perceived threats of “idealistic terrorism”.

            Most “progressive” Christians I know would be fearful of either a repressive “Christian theocratic” totalitarian state or a repressive “anti-theistic” totalitarian state (or repressive totalitarian states of any colour).

            Generally we have no problem living with people who have different beliefs or views to us and would much rather exist in a society where that is possible. However there are some in the “anti-theistic camp” who don’t appear to have the same view (I would add that there are probably some with similar views in the Christian camp).

            We would like to be able to live with people who can say to us “my atheism is as good or better than your Christianity”, whilst we can say “my Christianity is as good or better than your atheism”. We could then compare ourselves to each other and maybe see if convincing evidence may change our minds. What we can do, is show you that Christianity is reasonable and that in our lives that Christianity works and is good. If we fail to do that you have the right to reject it. If the atheist can show the same we have to take notice. I would prefer this to saying “each system is equal and leave it at that, no proselytising allowed”. Ultimately most of us aren’t relativists and feel everyone should share in the “one good thing”.

            What we do have a problem with is anti-theists who have an avowed aim to state that their system is the “right” one and then take steps to force and coerce people into that system. It seems clear that some people are doing this and they are not a tiny insignificant minority. However it’s unreasonable to taint every “atheist” with the same brush.

            If as atheists and Christians, we can agree to disagree and share the same society, then all is well and good. However we both need to look out for the creeping despots whether from a Christian or atheistic position, who don’t want to tolerate those with a different view point.

          • http://timebottle.weebly.com/ Beau Quilter

            You and Lotharson are both way off topic from the original post (in different ways), which is fine, but not really my interest. My response to Lotharson was only to say: don’t caricature ME.

          • Ross

            Beau, yes you’re right, apologies!

    • Randy Hardman

      FYI, I would prefer an atheist like you any day to the atheist that I am surprised that I didn’t become. ;) I’m sure I would have gotten there–I just know I would have been pretty jaded.

  • Mark Chenoweth

    This just seems like another story about leaving fundamentalism. Apologetics is much broader than that. Can anyone really call N.T. Wright, David Bentley Hart, Alister McGrath, Richard Swinburne fundamentalists? What about C.S. Lewis? These men don’t defend inerrancy, and none of them even believe in inerrancy. All of them believe in evolution. All engage in apologetics in some form or fashion. Three of them have spoken openly about how they don’t believe in an historical Adam.

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

    I call this metaphysical tyranny. It enslaves. God isn’t threatened by the science of evolution. Our ability to connect with him is threatened if we turn the science of evolution not needing more than pure randomness at some basic level, into a philosophy that all is fundamentally pure randomness + physical laws. See the “basic principles” or “elementary spirits” discussed in Colossians.

    The primary function of theology post-Aquinas seems to be to distance us from God, not draw us closer via ever more intricate understanding of who he is and how he interacts with reality, including us. It seems to be sewing back up the curtain between us and the Holy of Holies, the curtain which tore at Jesus’ death. We say that God’s will is a “mystery”, forgetting the entire context, Is 55:6-9, as well as how foolish we have become, per Eph 5:17.

    There is one and only one true reason to distance ourselves from God: we do not want him. C.S. Lewis described Aslan this way:

    “Aslan is a lion- the Lion, the great Lion.” “Ooh” said Susan. “I’d thought he was a man. Is he-quite safe? I shall feel rather nervous about meeting a lion”…”Safe?” said Mr Beaver …”Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you.”

    It seems we would prefer our little churches and parishes, over the power of God which raised Christ from the dead and wants to completely transform this world, bringing heaven down from above.

  • http://lotharlorraine.wordpress.com/ Lotharson

    Dear Randy, I read with a profound interest your whole testimony and am delighted we may now warmly welcome you into the progressive Christian camp :-)

    I view myself as a progressive Christian apologist in many ways.

    On the one hand I don’t believe that Biblical books are necessarily more inspired than books outside the Canon, as explained here.

    And the other hand I am also very critical of militant atheists and their arguments which proved as hollow as those of their former fundamentalist selfs.

    I have just written a kind of response to your wonderful testimony .

    I explain there how I view “faith” as hope in the face of insufficient evidence and would also love to privately interact a bit with you.
    My email is lotharson57@gmail.com

    Lovely greetings in Christ.

  • ratamacue0

    Randy and Peter,

    I’m not yet thoroughly familiar with your work, but I appreciate your approaches and truth-seeking.

    If I may be so bold: I’d appreciate your input on my blog, if you feel you have anything to add, as I search for truth. In particular, this entry:

    http://aspiretofindtruth.wordpress.com/2014/03/12/begin-the-questioning-on-the-historicity-of-the-resurrection-of-jesus/

  • Charlie Payne

    Greg Boyd talks about 2 ways to ‘do’ theology: the House of cards approach and the concentric circle approach. The HC approach has it that our beliefs are all equally important and if you take one away (like inerrancy, Young Earth creation, etc – although for me creation isn’t about inerrancy but hermaneutics) – the whole things collapses. Interestingly, according Boyd, the HC approach is what got Bart Ehrman off the rails. I believe Randy quoated one who said that if Christ died on Thursday, then we can’t trust that he rose on Sunday or that if Genisis is wrong, then you can’t accept what’s in the gospels.

    Randy is simply describing a journey to the second way. The second approach is like an archery target; smallest circle in the middle (dogmas, ie historic church creeds, go here) and working out in importance to the farthest circle (opionions go here); With this approach, if an opinion is shown to be wrong, the other circles remain relatively unaffected. In the case above, if one takes the Gospels at face value, just as historical documents, the tomb is still empty regardless of whether one has Christ dying on Thurs or Friday or there is one angel or two, etc. Those facts are completely unaffected when it’s shown that the Earth revolves around the Sun, instead of the other way round like Eccl 1 has it.

    It’s like the stories of the Titanic sinking. Some have the ship going down intact; others have it splitting up first, then sinking. Either way, it doesn’t alter the bigger fact that the ship still is at the bottom of the ocean.

    Frankly, I hate looking like an intellectual boob, which is why, when I cam back to faith a few years ago, the concentric circle approach was so appealing to me. I’m afraid that ‘fundy’ evangelicalism looks to the outside world like it’s held by a bunch of people who claim to have The Truth (which I affirm – we DO have it) but we hold it in such a way that we are actually afraid of the truth outside of themselves.

    • David Keneally

      Not true of Bart Ehrman. He is explicitly clear in his books that, although he studies biblical contradictions and discrepancies, they are not the reasons for his atheism.

      • Charlie Payne

        I was refering to how he began to lose his faith orinally, not how he maintains his atheism now. In Misquoting Jesus, Ehrmann talks about a discrepancy in Mark; when he asked his prof about it, the prof said Mark simply made a mistake – and, according to Bart, his existential crisis of his faith began.

  • sguilford12

    This resonates with me….every part of it. (I will say this a lonely time in my walk, but by far a walk with the most possibilities).

    • Randy Hardman

      Glad to hear it is was helpful. Hoping that your journey (3 months later now) has been less lonely and more accompanied with those possibilities.


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