Thursday, June 27, 2013

Apologetics and faith

1: the study of religious faith, practice, and experience; especially : the study of God and of God's relation to the world
1: systematic argumentative discourse in defense (as of a doctrine)
2: a branch of theology devoted to the defense of the divine origin and authority of Christianity
For this particular post I thought it would be necessary to define both the words theology and apologetics. This post is about the contradictory nature of apologetics and faith and why I think that the two are incompatible. Now one word that is used often throughout the scriptures is the word faith and it is considered the number one requirement for anyone to obtain any of the benefits that believing in God would bring. So let's start by defining faith according to how your standard dictionary would as it relates to religious beliefs.
a (1) : belief and trust in and loyalty to God (2) : belief in the traditional doctrines of a religion
b (1) : firm belief in something for which there is no proof
(2) : complete trust 

This is the definition given in the Merriam Webster dictionary but before moving on I would like to also compare this definition with what Hebrews 11:1 says about what faith is and how it is defined there. 

1Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.Hebrews 11:1

So basically, without all of the esoterical obfuscation that one gets from Christian theology and apologetics faith is simply trusting in something we cannot yet see or know. Faith is the key and the foundation to any religious belief system that demands you believe in the unseen, impossible, and for the most part the improbable. For instance, normally if you told someone that there was a being who lived in some other realm that cannot be seen with the eyes or detected by any naturalistic means such as the sciences you would be thought to be crazy or delusional. But your claims do not end there. You also claim that this being cares about how you think, act, and what you do every minute of every day, that this being demands worship and your eternal praise. Without conclusive evidence your claims will not be taken seriously by any sane adult. 

The Bible demands that you have faith that it was written by men inspired by this being called God who is supposed to have been the creator of all things and the first cause of every other cause and its subsequent effects in the universe. Because the very existence of this being cannot be known or proven objectively and he or it is outside the realm of testability then you have no choice but to accept the scriptures and all its claims about this being on faith. Often we are told that when committing to anything in life that it is good to always look before you leap. In other words we are being told to research and question anything and everything before making a life changing decision or commitment. Faith is the opposite of reason: it demands that you leap without thought or research. Faith demands that you trust that what you have read and heard is true.

3By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God’s command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible.
6And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him. Hebrews 11: 3;6

In the previous verses I have underlined what I have been saying to this point. The former verse states that what is seen was made out of the unseen. In other words God called these things all into existence creation ex nihilo ( out of nothing). Depending on which Christian sect you belong to this means either that God created everything out of nothing or that he had materials already available. The former belief is ironic because this is one of the theists favorite points of contention with atheists. How could there be something from nothing? Yet the very existence of their God suggests that he had no beginning he or it just always was. 

The second verse emphasizes the necessity of the believer to believe without evidence. It asks you to commit first and get your rewards later. Note that this does not necessarily mean that you will be rewarded here on earth or in this lifetime although that is a possibility, but that you may be rewarded in the next life instead! Faith is the cornerstone of religious belief without faith the Bible asserts that you can't please God. Some people call the resurrection of Christ the cornerstone of Christianity because Paul stated: "And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith." 1 Corinthians 15:14 but as Paul pointed out in the end of that quote your faith in the resurrection is key. Without it then your faith overall is useless. 

Now here is where I have my biggest problem with apologetics. Faith in and of itself does not require evidence, does not want evidence, and does not ask for evidence. Who is an apologists trying to convince? Are they trying to convince the non-believers of themselves that what they believe is true? Jesus supposedly defended his teachings against those of the scribes and pharisees of his day. But he was defending against what he deemed false teachings or wrong interpretations of the law of the Old Testament. This form of apologetics was meant to keep the faithful from straying and falling prey to false prophets and teachers. But when it came to arguing with non-believers apologetics were not as useful because non-believers then and even today demand evidence. I personally need to be convinced that what you believe is true without having to sacrifice my logical and reasoning abilities at the altar of faith. I choose to look before I leap! 

23Don’t have anything to do with foolish and stupid arguments, because you know they produce quarrels. 24And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful. 25Opponents must be gently instructed, in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth, 26and that they will come to their senses and escape from the trap of the devil, who has taken them captive to do his will. 2 Timothy 2:23-26
When it comes to Christians arguing with atheists about the existence of God I think that all theists that engage in apologetics are disobeying the commands in the above cited verses. Many theists get dragged into arguments online in forums and debates which more often than not turn into arguments and eventually degenerate into insults. A Christians job is to carry out the great commission of preaching the gospel to the world. It is not to engage in quarrels with atheists and nonbelievers such as myself. As verse 25 states only God could grant repentance and lead one to the truth once you have made that truth known to them your job is done. 
I have a huge problem with apologetics because it tends to misuse philosophical principles and in its feeble attempts to defend the indefensible it creates a myriad of logical fallacies. In fact, apologetics is nothing more than a biased version of philosophy in favor of theistic beliefs. Critical thinking is twisted and skewed in such a way as to make it fit into a theistic worldview. True philosophical principles seek to objectively examine beliefs in the light of reality and what is possible. Whenever you put forth an argument for God starting with God's existence as a "basic belief" or established fact you have already begun to shoot yourself in the foot. The Bible actually condemns the use of human philosophy as an attempt to gain spiritual enlightenment but that is actually what apologists are doing! 
8See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the elemental spiritual forces of this world rather than on Christ. Colossians 2:8
 The same thing goes for science. Theists want to have their cake and it too! The problem is that by doing so they continually get dragged into arguments and discussions which in my view they just can't win. For instance William Lane Craig is considered one of Christianity's greatest modern day apologists. He has debated some heavy hitting atheist such as Robert Price, Victor Stenger, Bart Ehrman (agnostic), etc. But all of his sophisticated arguments for design or the resurrection of Christ demand that you start with the basic belief that God exists, and Jesus rose from the dead as undeniable facts! But when faced with evidence to the contrary even Craig has no choice but to fall back on faith. I will close this post with a quote from William Lane Craig from his book reasonable faith.

"Should a conflict arise between the witness of the Holy Spirit to the fundamental truth of the Christian faith and beliefs based on argument and evidence, then it is the former which must take precedence over the latter, not vice versa." [William Lane Craig, Reasonable Faith: Christian Truth and Apologetics, (Revised edition, Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 1994), p. 36.]
In other words, if argumentation and evidence disagree with the so called fundamental truths of the Christian faith as believed through the witness of the Holy Spirit, then faith takes precedence over facts. Faith in your conviction that the Holy Spirit exists and that what you believe it conveys to you subjectively is true.  
Note: All word definitions are taken from the Merriam Webster Dictionary online and all biblical citations are taken from the New International Version of the scriptures. 


  1. Reading this post also made me realize how often there is in fighting among Christian denominations. They all believe different things, and all have faith. Makes me wonder how they ever get along as the emphasis is faith and not truth.

    1. Trust me, they don't really get along. They invest a lot of time pointing out to each other and to new converts how this or that sects teachings are false.