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I’m often conflicted about the whole apologetics thing.

As long as people have honest questions ((as opposed to dishonest questions; the kind that merely serve to insulate people from having to believe)) about belief, then it remains a logically legitimate enterprise, but it can be taken too far easily.

For me, I’m interested in taking away needless barriers to faith ((And I anticipate the charge that I have “faith in faith”…)).  Increasingly for me, it’s been exciting to see just how complimentary an evolutionary understanding of nature is with Christianity.  And as long as there are a) Christians who see evolution as a threat to faith and b) people for whom evolution has been a key point on their departure from faith, I think it’s hugely valuable to show and explore just how harmonious they are.

It occurs to me that believers and unbelievers ((I’m inclined to believe that we all ‘believe’ something, however – which makes ‘unbeliever’ a questionable term.)) both participate in the apologetic endeavour.  At their worst, both belief and unbelief ‘need’ a ‘defense’ ((Gk. ‘apologia’.)) for why they are justified in being what they are.  Insert any usual topic (evolution, abortion, morality, cosmogenesis, abiogenesis, sexual ethics, religious violence, etc.): the believer defends belief, and the unbeliever defends unbelief.

The believer (often) needs to feel justified in their belief – “Belief in God is reasonable and logical!” (or the psychological translation: “I’m a totally reasonable and logical person for maintaining my faith!”)

The unbeliever (often) needs to feel justified in their unbelief – “Belief in God is silly and superstitious!” (or the psychological translation: “I totally made the right decision in giving up my faith!”)

I’m aware of this need to feel justified, so I try (as best I can) to be genuinely open-minded.

I genuinely think various theistic arguments (like the First Cause argument) work.  And that’s really cool for me, because I’m a Christian!  But I also think it’s important to recognise that (as Rob Bell has said) ‘What you look for, you will find.’

I hope believers can evaluate their beliefs and challenge them.  I think faith is of the good kind when it is open to being challenged.  Believers that recoil from questions and insulate themselves from challenges to their belief have a kind of faith that I can’t help but see as (perhaps ironically) ‘faith in faith’ – and not faith in the God of all Truth.  My experience is that my beliefs get sharper the more I expose them to criticism.  I’ve changed my views about several things – and long may that continue.  I’ve also maintained and deepened a lot of my beliefs as well – and long may that continue.

I also hope unbelievers can be sceptical of even their own scepticism.  If belief is sharpened by criticism, then this should be true for unbelief as well?  However, for me, this should logically lead atheists to become more and more agnostic – or even ‘fall’ from unbelief altogether?  Or at least go from being a Richard Dawkins style atheist to a Michael Ruse type one…

At any rate, I’ll probably always ‘do’ (with varying degrees of passion) the apologetics thing, but I’m feeling less and less like it’s something that I need to do for my own justification, but rather something that I simply enjoy doing and find worthwhile.  That’s all for now :)

8 thoughts on “this blog”

  1. Considering that 67% of Americans are either creationists or believe that God directed evolution and only 18% accept evolution as the unguided process seen by biologists (96.5%), you will have a difficult time showing other Americans just how complimentary an evolutionary understanding of nature is with Christianity.And I think you have the issue exactly backwards: how can you make christianity complimentary to the fact of evolution without undermining the authority of scripture?

    As Harris notes, The goal is not to get more Americans to merely accept the truth of evolution (or any other scientific theory); the goal is to get them to value the principles of reasoning and educated discourse that now make a belief in evolution obligatory. Doubt about evolution is merely a symptom of an underlying problem; the problem is faith itself — conviction without sufficient reason, hope mistaken for knowledge, bad ideas protected from good ones, good ideas occluded by bad ones, wishful thinking elevated to a principle of salvation, etc..

    Apologists and accommodationists

  2. My last sentence was snipped, but should read that Apologists and accommodationists and agnostics are not part of the solution to spreading the understanding the truth of evolution but part of the problem of elevating faith unjustifiably to be an equivalent truth. It’s not.

  3. Dale, you have put forward three positions (young earth creationist [YEC], theistic evolutionist [TE], atheistic evolutionist [AE]) and advocated for the middle ground as being the most reasonable. But you and I have both been at the YEC end and at some stage considered that the most reasonable position whilst thinking that the TE position was a compromised slippery slope and that the AE position was just outright rebellion against God. Now you find yourself in the TE position and I find myself in the AE position (after a few years in TE).

    I understand that you would feel that the TE position is the most reasonable and that the other two are extremes. Everyone feels that their position is the most reasonable – who wouldn’t? But you need to understand that from a AE position (which I genuinely believe to be the most reasonable) TE merely looks like YEC but with less of the mistakes. To me, the fundamental errors that led to YEC (i.e. assuming that there is a God in the first place and then assuming that the writings in Bible had God’s stamp of approval) still bolster the TE position. To me, the TE position is merely YEC which has allowed itself to be swayed by evidence external to the Bible. And that you’ll place a special weight on the claims of the Bible unless there is overwhelming evidence to the contrary. Talking donkeys, parted seas, demons and resurrections are still literal because we have nowhere near the evidence against them like we do literal Adams and Eves and creation days.

    To me, this isn’t the most reasonable position. But I realise that I’ve now held at least three contradictory positions all the while genuinely believing all to be reasonable at the time so I have to allow for the fact that I might currently be just as wrong. While I await further evidence the AE position seems by far the most reasonable and I don’t think it is anywhere nearly as extreme as you are trying to make it out to be in this post.

  4. Thanks – clearly people tend to agree with the positions they currently hold ;)

    Damian, where in the post was I making the ‘AE’ position (your term) extreme?

  5. Dale,

    Increasingly for me, it’s been exciting to see just how complimentary an evolutionary understanding of nature is with Christianity [TE]. And as long as there are a) Christians who see evolution as a threat to faith [YEC] and b) people for whom evolution has been a key point on their departure from faith [AE]… (my labels added)

    You then portray the positions to the left and right of yours:

    The believer (often) needs to feel justified in their belief – “Belief in God is reasonable and logical!” (or the psychological translation: “I’m a totally reasonable and logical person for maintaining my faith!”)

    The unbeliever (often) needs to feel justified in their unbelief – “Belief in God is silly and superstitious!” (or the psychological translation: “I totally made the right decision in giving up my faith!”)

    And then attempt to place yourself nicely in the middle as if at the happy and most reasonable medium for which YECs and Dawkins-types should eventually converge:

    I also hope unbelievers can be sceptical of even their own scepticism. If belief is sharpened by criticism, then this should be true for unbelief as well? However, for me, this should logically lead atheists to become more and more agnostic – or even ‘fall’ from unbelief altogether? Or at least go from being a Richard Dawkins style atheist to a Michael Ruse type one…

    The goal of my counter to this is to show that from the view point of this particular AE, your position is not a happy and most reasonable medium. And that I see no reason for you to expect that if we all just gave this issue a little more consideration we’ll all end up converging on the truth you’ve obviously already found. To me, if we all give this more consideration YECs and TEs will eventually come to see the truth that God is imaginary and that assuming the existence of such a being combined with the assumption that he’s approved a particular book simply leads to falsehoods upon falsehoods, fantasies upon fantasies.

  6. I think the picture I have in mind is a bit more complex than the “I’m in the middle where everyone should be” picture (which I can understand you seeing).

    People both lose and find faith – both for emotional and (supposedly) rational reasons. But as well (something that didn’t come through as clearly as perhaps desired) there is movement within both belief and unbelief.

    I’m not sorry (nor do I hear you suggesting I should be) that I think (like all of us do) that my position is the most reasonable. And I won’t pretend otherwise – nor should anyone. The implication I was making was that extremes of both kinds are extreme. And therefore, I also won’t apologise for preferring (say) Alister McGrath to Ken Ham – or Ruse to Dawkins.

  7. Dale, I’m not sure if you fully appreciate the effect that evolution wreaks on Genesis.

    Without question, the theory successfully undermines the literal reading (unless one is willing to embrace YEC wholeheartedly). And if the story(-ies) is (are) to read with a metaphorical interpretation, then the requirement for the literal death and resurrection of Jesus is unnecessary. A metaphorical death and resurrection is all that was ever needed. Somehow, I don’t think you will prescribe to either of these effects but attempt to find some compatible middle ground (is it time to introduce the absurdity of microevolution while resisting macroevolution?). If so, then I think you will find that there is none. There is only incompatibility.

  8. tildeb,
    I think you’re making very particular theological and interpretive moves to say this. I don’t see the direct link between the length of time or instrument used for creation and the literal-ness or otherwise of the resurrection of Jesus.

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