From time to find I read things that are just worth sharing. Thank you Rick and Sue Thurston for introducing me to the writings of Peter Enns and for sharing this one piece in particular. It’s an extension of a message of been sharing with all of you these last several months as we study the Gospel of Matthew – live into the Kingdom of God.
A Brief but Deep Thought on Defending the Christian Faith (or not)
by Pete Enns Jul 18, 2017
I’m not a big fan of Christian apologetics. Nothing personal, and I know some smart people who do it. It’s just not for me.
I’m not against the engagement of intellect and faith. Not at all. I do that all the time. But I’ve never seen an argument for why Christianity is true that can’t be met by some alternative argument.
I am not interested in trying to establish whether Christianity is “reasonable”—a lot of things are reasonable and I don’t center my life around them. Nor am I interested in whether Christianity is probable or possible—a lot of things are probable and/or possible but I don’t dwell on them.
The notion of “Christian apologetics” presumes that the intellect—weighing evidence, sifting through pros and cons, rigorous analysis—is the primary arena for engaging the truth of Christianity.
I don’t think it is. At least it hasn’t worked very well. If it works, it works among those already convinced. At its worst, it simply props up the apologist’s insecurities.
A burden of (at least western) Christian apologetics isn’t so much in failing to show the wider world how well Christianity works intellectually, but in presuming that the intellect is how Christianity works. But our arguments are constructed after the fact, after we believe, not in order to believe. Belief is first. Intellect follows. The problem I have with apologetics is that that order is reversed.
The best apologetic isn’t proving we have a better intellectual system. Nor do we persuade others with fear of divine retribution if they don’t agree and the promise of an afterlife if they do. The best apologetic is where there is payoff now. Embodying, “Your kingdom come”—how Christians live positively toward others, showing the difference our faith makes to those near us and our global community, living out the notion that we are here to serve and not to be served. We are the apologetic, and that is much harder than crafting arguments.
Proverbs describes a life before God as a way, and path, a road—not a classroom or think tank.
The best apologetic is one where our words provide the narrative for our path, not where words are left alone to construct that narrative.
. . . sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence. . . (1 Peter 3:15)
Not, “Be ready to out-debate those who disagree with you about the nature of objective reality.”
But, “Give a gentle account for what drives you, for why you do what you do, why you stay in the game”—especially when the chips are down, as was the case with the suffering readers of 1 Peter.
A faith that acts fearlessly well toward the other, regardless of who that other is; following daily the Christian path for all to see; showing that this Jesus stuff works, that there’s payoff, now. That is the best apologetic.
All the rest we can talk about later . . . after we’ve earned the right to.