I’m preparing an Apologetics course for a local church in southern California. The audience will be made up of high school and college age students. Here is my question/concern:
In teaching Apologetics today (as opposed to say 30 years ago), it seems to me that the epistemological landscape has shifted drastically with the rise of technology and the instantaneous access to information. What I mean is that let’s say you were at a church in 1985 listening to an evening talk on apologetics by J.W. Montgomery or someone comparable. You receive a heavy dose of arguments and evidence for the Christian faith. You feel confident in the rationality of your belief and perhaps even over-confident since you aren’t aware of any challenges to the material that has just been presented to you. You go home, watch the Incredible Hulk on TV and never think much about it again. If you were, by chance, an extremely curious Christian maybe you would try and find some counter-evidence or counter-arguments to the talk you just heard, but to do so you would literally have to go down to the library and start looking for books on atheism, agnosticism or what-not. Perhaps you find Russell’s “Why I am not A Christian” but by that point you’ve probably jumped through to many hoops to really care about reading it. You’re content with what the speaker presented to you at church the night before. You can rest assured that your faith is reasonable beyond a shadow of a doubt.
Flash forward to today. You (or me) are giving a similar presentation in a church (whether in India or the US, it probably wouldn’t matter too much, at least not with regard to the level of access to the Internet and Youtube, etc.) I present a version of the Kalam Cosmological Argument. It goes well, but within seconds some member in the audience has googled the KCA and found Graham Oppy (or someone elses’) response to the KCA. They don’t need to necessarily understand it, they just need to be aware of it to bring it up as a contention to what I have just taught. Now, Graham Oppy is far more intelligent than I am, and I cannot really respond (at least not right away) to his contention. So, my point is this, how can we present evidence and arguments for the Christian faith that 1) does not overstate the case, and 2) that takes into account the reality that our audience will be able to almost instantaneously access counter-arguments and counter-evidence by atheists, agnostics, or other types of skeptics. This is what I mean when I say that I think the epistemological playing ground has shifted dramatically. Counter-evidence to any apologetical position I teach can be produced right away simply by using a smart phone.
Any thoughts on this?
P.S. I have a MA in Apologetics from Biola and an MA in Theology as well, so I am fairly well informed with regards to counter-positions and counter-apologetics, but I am trying to develop a method that will not just present relevant arguments, but that will be more pedagogical for my students. Does that make sense?