How do we ensure we are practicing apologetics with maturity?

Hi Josh,

To get us started, I wanted to quote a section from your article in CT, then ask for some elaboration. You wrote:

Apologetics has too often been practiced in a way that ignores complexity in favor of easy answers, functionally assumes an outdated epistemology, or turns even the smallest disagreements into hostile conflicts.

Could you provide some further insights on the immaturity you see in the practice of apologetics? Are there some good self-diagnostic questions we can ask ourselves to see if we are being mature - or immature - in how we engage in this discipline?

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Thanks, Carson, for having me. First, I need to say that I am addressing a caricature that is certainly not always true. However, I have found it to be the case too often, especially in teaching students both on the undergraduate and graduate level. Many of my students come to me and just want to “prove” Christianity. Or a parent wants my help because their teenager has given up on the faith. They are right to seek answers and to jump into apologetics and theology to deal with doubts and skepticism. However, in response to an unfortunate anti-intellectualism that exists within the church, we have sometimes reacted by instilling an overly cognitive theological anthropology and the impression that the evidence for Christianity is intellectually coercive. In Apologetics at the Cross, we appropriate the work of James KA Smith (who is channeling Augustine) in helping readers to see humans as more than just “thinking beings,” and instead see us as thinking, believing, and desiring beings. If we embrace this more holistic picture, then it will have a dramatic effect on the way we should be seeking to persuade. We should not just walk away, having given our rational arguments, thinking they either work or don’t. Perhaps they don’t work because we have only engaged people in one dimension - rather than in multi-dimensions (for example, C S Lewis’ diverse approach in his different books). In regards to epistemology, evidence is always viewed through a certain lens. So while we give evidence (!), at times we also need to be willing to step back and engage with the deeper plausibility structures (see Peter Berger’s work) that make arguments and evidence more or less plausible. This is where a deep understanding of culture and how it works leads to a more mature approach to apologetics. More to come later in the day…

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