Friday, February 09, 2007

Why I hate Apologetics

I've always had sort of a general distaste for apologetics, though I've never quite been able to put my finger on why I felt this way. Oddly enough, the answer came to me while I was reading the writings of the Early Church (Ante-Nicene) Fathers for my Historical Theology class. First, a note of clarification: I'm referring here to the style of apologetics that seeks to "prove" our faith by means of modern science. With that being said, I'll explain...

As I have done the reading for my Historical Theology class, I have found the writings of Origen and Irenaeus to be fascinating. While I disagree with much of what I read in Origen, I'm sympathetic to his perspectives. I think that generally his approach was culturally appropriate given his context. I find much more I agree with and some that's way over my head in Irenaeus. These guys were brilliant! So imagine my surprise when I stumble across the passage where Origen tries to bolster his arguments by explaining how the planets and stars must be sentient beings with souls because they move around so much. I also had to do a doubletake when Irenaeus tries to make an argument that there have to be only 4 Gospels because there are 4 winds and the earth is divided into 4 sections. Now understand, I'm pretty sure they were engaging the most current science of their day. Even so, it looks ridiculous to us. They built theological arguments for largely valid points based on faulty science. I don't think the scientists are running out of discoveries. I don't think even they think that they have it all figured out yet. I don't think it's the case that it's impossible to use modern science to bolster our arguments and support our case/faith. I just think its a bad idea. Its not that we can't. It's that I'm not so sure we should. Modern Christians have fallen into the trap of trying to prove to the scientists and secularists that we are smart. I wonder if we should devote more of our energy into making sure that we are being wise.


The Metzes said...

Well put . . . I often struggle with the concept of apologetics. Perhaps if we studied it more from a historical angle, ie: these are some of the ways people have argued their case for faith. I found my apologetics class in college pretty useless.

You bring up an important side issue in the relationship between faith and science. Christians are too quick to jump of religiously charged political issues (think stem cell research, the gay gene, etc.) and oftn paint ourselves into an unnecessary corner.

Also, I'm interested in hearing your perspective on the youth ministry book you're reading. I almost picked it up on Friday, but went with Brueggeman' new one. I'll be interested to see what you think. It looked interesting.

Keith Brenton said...

Ah! That explains why there are dinosaur fossils even though the earth was created only 6,000 years ago!

Now I understand!