Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Looking for a warm and persuasive apologetic

Comparing 1st and 2nd century apologists. The NT Gospel writers had:
...a warmth, a Christ-centredness, a deep and obvious concern for people marks every page of the Gospels and Acts, with the possible exception of a chapter like Matthew 23; but in the second century this too often gives way to a rather cold, almost arrogant, battering of the opposition.... To launch a full-scale and at times bitter assault on someone's cherished beliefs is not the best way of inducing him to change them. (EITEC, p351) (EITEC, p351)

That's the kind of apologetics I want to have. Positive, contructive, Christ-centred and evidently loving. Yet, it's all too easy to be negative and just throw dirt. It's easier and feels better short-term. Much like this recent campaign poster against Christians in Exeter, in a campaign accusing them of being fascists, a campaign that comes under the banner of "equal opportunities". This excites the choir, and motivated them to vote down the Christians, but not very likely to make a Christian suddenly imagine that they would be better not having Christian leaders in Christian groups.

The recently accused Evangelical students of Exeter could fight back with accusations that suggest that those who differ from them also believe a "disgraceful pile of bile" (as they themselves are accused of believing). Not very compelling. Not likely to win them over.

The Evangelical Christian students at Exeter are basically arguing that the Pope should be a Catholic... i.e. to have evangelicals leading the Evangelical Christian Union. In the independent republic of Exeter University this is however regarded as deeply offensive, exclusive and unacceptable. Living in 21st Century UK I can see how this perception happens. We're conditioned to think that anything that excludes anyone is evil - for very good reasons. Though it's amusing that this issue arises in the (just a little) exclusive club that is a University which necessarily practices institutional exclusivity based on intellect and finances...

There is a need to create plausibility for what we believe. What seemed like basic common sense (before you even think about the Christian side of the issue). We have a need to shape thinking so that Christian thinking is no longer seen as evil and instead as beneficial... shaping thinking so that what seems like common sense to us might also be so for others. To demonstrate through our warm words and lives that the gospel of Jesus is such good news that people would wish it were true - and then might be persuaded that it is.

How we do that is a question I'm wrestling with, but I'm sold on the idea.


  1. I'll stay out of the ECU thing, as it's above my paygrade. Just wanted to say, it's good to hear this:

    "positive, constructive, christ-centred & evidently loving. It's all too easy to be negative and just throw dirt"

    In circles who are just warming up to apologetics, there's a triviality about apologetics:

    1) what's your subject?
    2) here are the worries arising from that area
    3) here are the responses
    4) now get on and be a christian without worrying about your subject.

    what do you think positive apologetics look like?

    By the way, thanks for coming out to say hello last week. That was really cool.

  2. I don't disagree, but if your an artist painting a picture of something, it could sounds like a bit of a ball and chain.

    Why do we have to have 3 principles for REAL apologetics etc..? Isn't there a danger of judgementalism here? For example, my post on Dawkins changing his view, prosecutes his shifting position. Would you think it appropriate for me to offer a supper invitation to him at the end of the post? Of course you wouldn't!

    Look at it this way - if you are a philosopher, defending an argument for God, then you're offering an apologetic, but it might be a bit much to go all Christocentric in your opening statement. You wouldn't get another hearing. That would be a tragedy. Some might say, 'Well that's the cost of gospel work.' I would just think that they're a bit crackers.

    Beyond the obvious - be loving, be winsome etc. Michael Green isn't saying that all apologetics must be from the same cookie cutter, or giving you principles to rule onto each apologetic you see.

    Broaden it out a bit please Bish

  3. Tom:

    "Michael Green isn't saying that all apologetics must be from the same cookie cutter, or giving you principles to rule onto each apologetic you see."

    And honestly,
    I never said he was.

    This post isn't an answer to your post (it was already written before I'd read that, though not published). I'm reading Green's book and found his section on 1st/2nd century apologetics to be very interesting. Hence a blogpost!


    I guess Michael Green is saying that the apologetic of the gospels and Acts is what positive apologetics could like, well reasoned, slow, engaging, about Christ. Arguing that not just the sermons in Acts but Acts itself functions as an apologetic, and likewise the gospels. And he's observing that that got abandoned in the 2nd Century (not permanently) which was a mis-step for the church.

    I'm definitely not saying let's trivialise apologetics. I'm saying let's keep raising the bar. What does it look like? I'm trying to learn.