Switching Course on Apologetics

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Jason
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Switching Course on Apologetics

Post by Jason » Sat Aug 27, 2016 10:57 am

Hello, family!

For the past couple of years I've been intermittently working on a literary project (tentatively titled: The Book of Christian Doubt) which had been geared toward addressing skeptics with a flavor of apologetics that is more common sense than strictly academic. But lately, I've considered switching direction entirely due to some recent interactions with skeptics. There seem to be two types of skeptic when it comes to Christianity -- 1) those who want nothing to do with it and use arguments (even really bad ones) to justify that preference, and 2) those who really like Jesus but aren't sure any of it's actually true.

I've had little success addressing the first group and I'm sure many of you can relate. Reaching the hardened skeptic is such a fruitless endeavor and even if you gain an inch, you get very bloodied in the process. Perhaps these are the swine Jesus warned us not to share our jewels with. Even when I gain some ground with one of these types, it doesn't seem to justify the effort.

However, those who really dig the teachings of Jesus but doubt whether the gospels are true can be very edifying to converse with. So I'm considering switching course and writing this book for fragile Christians (or those sympathetic to Jesus) who are close to losing their faith entirely. This would involve re-writing a lot of material since the audience would be very different from the one I had planned to address.

Does this seem like a wise move? Writing a book like this is quite labor intensive (as I'm sure Steve can attest) so I want to make sure I'm addressing the right audience. The goal here is to strengthen faith by presenting arguments that I find very persuasive but are not usually addressed in popular apologetics. There are some great academic works out there on apologetics but some of them fry my brain (Richard Bauckham comes to mind). I like the 2+2=4 style of persuasion. :P

Some might suggest writing two books -- one for each audience -- but I simply don't have the time. I work a day job so even turning over one quality work in a lifetime is a tough go.

Cheers!

dwight92070
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Re: Switching Course on Apologetics

Post by dwight92070 » Sun Aug 28, 2016 12:17 am

Yes, sounds like a very good switch to me. I agree that the 1st group are the swine mentioned by Jesus. Also, if you have some fresh ideas for persuasion, that would be very helpful, not only for curious skeptics, but also for believers.

Dwight

steve7150
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Re: Switching Course on Apologetics

Post by steve7150 » Sun Aug 28, 2016 11:26 am

and 2) those who really like Jesus but aren't sure any of it's actually true.









Yes good observation to realize all you can do is plant the seed on soft ground. Seeds on stony ground simply get blown away.

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steve
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Re: Switching Course on Apologetics

Post by steve » Mon Aug 29, 2016 9:47 am

Jason and Everybody,

I have read many excellent books of general apologetics by known scholars—all of them good, but some more lengthy, and possibly more philosophically sophisticated, than that which the average unbeliever would be expected to read.

I recently stumbled upon a little book by a Catholic theologian, Thomas D. Williams, LC, ThD, called "Greater Than You Think." Its title is a response to Christopher Hitchens' book, "God is Not Great." The book is a very succinct, but effective, response to the four atheists whose books appeared in 2006-7, and it was itself published in 2008. Unfortunately, it seems that this book may now be out of print, but I was able to obtain three "like new" copies from Amazon sellers. One copy cost me only 1 cent, plus postage.

Yes, I bought three copies. I really like the book. It covers virtually every argument raised by the new atheists (Dawkins, Hitchens, Dennett and Harris) in brief chapters of non-technical, common-sense conversation. The author does not come off sounding arrogant or preachy. The typical chapter may be three-to-five pages short, and is written in a winsome, intelligent tone. I am a slow reader, and I read through its 160 pages in two sittings. I enjoyed every minute of it, and it seemed like the kind of book that would be good for the kind of reader Jason is planning to write for.

In this book, it seems that Williams hit all the best points in his brief responses to the atheist writers (all of them are quoted to lay out their position before responding). Of its 27 chapters, it seemed to me that only a very few could have been better—but they were important ones:

Chapter 18, "Is the God of the Bible a jealous sadist?" was not bad, but I thought it could have been better—that is, more thorough. What was included was good.

Chapters 19 ("Are the Gospels reliable historical documents") and 20 ("Did the historical Jesus really exist?") needed to include more of the valuable information in defense of these claims. Again, what was included was good—but for topics this central to the Christian message, I thought a fuller treatment was warranted.

Apart from these minor defects, this book struck me as one of the best ones to give to a doubter who may not be "bookish," and desires good, brief answers to the major challenges currently being published against the Christian faith.

There is room for improvement, as I mentioned. Jason's book can do as well, and better, by strengthening those areas where Williams was a little bit weak. Though books of general apologetics are numerous, I believe there is always room for another (atheists always seem to think there is need for yet another of their diatribes in print).

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Jason
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Re: Switching Course on Apologetics

Post by Jason » Mon Aug 29, 2016 1:08 pm

Steve, thanks for the resource. I just bought a used copy at your recommendation. Hopefully, this will allow me to fill in some gaps and be a contribution to the body of Christ. Especially among our more fragile contingent.

Much of what I hear from skeptics these days centers entirely upon "popular" philosophical arguments. Nobody wants to discuss history, manuscripts, or textual criticism anymore. Our collective attention span has vanished. The three most common issues appear to be:

"Christians are arrogant to claim they know the truth and others do not."
"The vast multitude of world religions proves that they are invented by man."
"Christianity is anachronistic, homophobic and against women's rights."

I rarely get to engage anyone nowadays who can even begin a conversation on the more scholarly subjects. Off-the-shelf skeptics (and Christians, to be fair) have lost the ability to reason with any degree of nuance. It's frustrating that we can no longer engage in deep, nuanced, and lengthy discussions with them. I'm afraid that's become a lost art and maybe it's better to adapt than to pine for the old days.

Part of me feels like this is a compromise or a "dumbing down" of apologetics. But I also think we have to meet folks where they are sometimes. If I talk a few weaker Christians down from the ledge, it'll be worth it. But reaching the hardened skeptics no longer interests me. I hope that's not bad.

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Re: Switching Course on Apologetics

Post by john6809 » Wed Aug 31, 2016 12:18 am

Hi Jason. Sounds like a tough decision! I don't have an answer. Just wanted you to know that I'm praying for wisdom for you so that you will know the answer. From your comments so far, it sounds like you have considered the options. Losing interest in reaching hardened atheists may be a good indicator that you're moving in the right direction. Otherwise, wouldn't the desire still be there? For what it's worth, I enjoy reading your posts and if your book is the same, I'll gladly read it, no matter what direction it takes. God bless.


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"My memory is nearly gone; but I remember two things: That I am a great sinner, and that Christ is a great Savior." - John Newton

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Jason
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Re: Switching Course on Apologetics

Post by Jason » Wed Aug 31, 2016 10:50 am

Thank you, John. Gearing my "ministry" toward our doubting brethren seems like the right choice from what I'm hearing. It's truly hard to watch so many believers being persuaded away from the faith by what I'd consider weak and superficial arguments. This happened with Bart Campolo (Tony Campolo's son). I met Tony Campolo once and he gave me this big hug like we'd been friends for years. And now I'm hearing his son and partner in the ministry decided he never believed any of it. That kind of thing is spirit crushing. I'm sure Bart thinks he's made the intellectually honest decision here so there's little hope in reasoning with such a person. Once the clay hardens, it's tough to penetrate.

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morbo3000
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Re: Switching Course on Apologetics

Post by morbo3000 » Sun Sep 04, 2016 3:15 pm

Jason: Have you listened to Bart speak about it? His story is compelling.

The Mockingcast: Grace After God?
https://overcast.fm/+FfO_CRwWU

It's pretty disrespectful to say someone is incapable of reason because you disagree with them. He can just as easily turn around and say the same to you.

I laud your concern for people, like myself, who have left an evangelical understanding of the Bible and faith. But we aren't victims of a lack of understanding. Many of us are explorers who hungered so much for God we plumbed the depths to know him more. And we've come to different conclusions. You should read Rachel Held Evans book Searching for Sunday. She, like me, knows apologetics inside out. Was passionate to convert people to faith. But arrived at a place difficult for evangelicals to understand as "faithful."

Perhaps if you are interested in reaching out to "us" you should understand us a little better, rather than invalidate our journey. It seems you are trying to call us back. Maybe you need to be called forward.


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morbo3000
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Re: Switching Course on Apologetics

Post by morbo3000 » Sun Sep 04, 2016 3:36 pm

For my money, this debate is the best I've seen at arguing on philosophical grounds for the existence of a creator god. I believe Paidon showed it to me. I am utterly convinced. But there is only so far you can go with a philosophical apologetic. https://youtu.be/VBbBenCTTwE


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When you are a Bear of Very Little Brain, and you Think of Things, you find sometimes that a Thing which seemed very Thingish inside you is quite different when it gets out into the open and has other people looking at it.
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Jason
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Re: Switching Course on Apologetics

Post by Jason » Tue Sep 06, 2016 9:21 am

Perhaps if you are interested in reaching out to "us" you should understand us a little better, rather than invalidate our journey. It seems you are trying to call us back. Maybe you need to be called forward.
You might be right, although it seems we are both guilty of pigeonholing. I grew up in a secular, liberal family and never met a conservative Christian until I was 23 years old (at least not one who admitted it). The last church I was actively a part of was emergent (and gay-affirming). I think I've seen both sides of the coin. Actually, I've spent more time among liberal Christians than evangelical and was even threatened in a more conservative church for talking about the 3 views of hell.

Yes, I've heard Bart's testimony and many others in a similar place. But I actually find it difficult to relate to folks who grew up in the church because I was late to the ballgame, so to speak.Whenever I engage in apologetics with people who grew up Christian but abandoned their faith, I am often perplexed at the reasons they give because I simply can't relate.

Morbo, you seem to think my goal is to use apologetics to create conservatives out of liberals. This is about strengthening those who might be prone to walk away from Christ due to thin, flaccid arguments constantly brought forth by the new breed of atheists. This is a hostile (and irrational) bunch and if you haven't encountered them yet, consider yourself lucky. They are not sympathetic to even the most liberal of Christians.

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