Christian apologetics is a mixed bag. There are some very brilliant insights contained therein but unfortunately there are also many dubious claims. I have spent much time reading apologetics websites and books and feel I am able to separate the proverbial chaff from the wheat. Many atheists criticize Christian apologetics too harshly and often make logical errors in their assessments. Likewise, many Christians need to be more critical of apologetic information and refrain from swallowing all they read without reserve. Indeed, it is important to note that not all apologetics books and websites are created equal. Some are much more reasonable than others and acknowledge the numerous caveats in such areas as biblical scholarship, for example. Others are watering holes for fundamentalists. So without further ado, here are my findings.
For those of you who are unaware, Christian apologetics deals with many different things: epistemology, metaphysics, logic, biblical scholarship, Christology, etc. These areas, in the mind of the Christian apologist, cannot be separated entirely. They are meant to be taken holistically in an attempt to further the Christian worldview which, in addition to believing that Christ is God and savior, seeks to place man back in the noble position he enjoyed in bygone centuries. Indeed, it is a widely held tenet among apologists to always have a reason for why they believe what they believe: no aspect of the Christian worldview goes undefended.
Here’s where we begin to run into trouble, because much of the theo-philosophical scholarship utilized by Christian apologists does not stand on equal footing. There are wide disparities between, say, epistemology and Christology, and therein rests a large problem. Logic, for example, plays an incredibly important role in apologetics, and I am quite impressed with the level of logical rigor used in apologetic arguments. I have even discovered very high quality logical courses offered, totally for free, to budding apologists. Likewise, Christian apologists have made incredible strides in areas such as philosophy of mind, metaphysics, mathematics, etc. and apologetic websites and books have made ample use of this scholarship. The case is overwhelmingly made that man can know things, that the mind is not a mere epiphenomenon, that we do indeed need metaphysics in philosophical discourse, that God most probably does exist, on and on.
Unfortunately, for all the astute observations and arguments there is also much nonsense. I am thinking particularly of Christology and Trinitarian theology. I found myself very often nodding in agreement with much of what I was reading in one area (i.e. philosophy of mind) only to turn to a post on the historical Jesus and grit my teeth in disbelief. For example, the masterly application of logic across the board seems to stop when it comes to the Trinity: an illogical tenet if there ever was one. Attempts are made to make it seem logical, don’t get me wrong, but this requires much legerdemain on the apologists’ part. This failure to remain consistent bespeaks the Christian ideological motive to convert, convert, convert. Likewise, the haughty dismissal of other religions and the cavalier treatment of problematic areas regarding the similarities between the story of Jesus and ancient myths did nothing to allay my concerns.
One could say broadly that it’s the goal of Christian apologists to, as the Catholic Church puts it, re-enchant the world and rescue it from the deterministic physicalism which has come to hold sway and knock man off his pedestal. I see this as a noble goal, especially in light of the fact that the atheistic worldview, of which determinism and physicalism are concomitant aspects, has been disproven. Likewise I have been quite impressed by the scholarship of many Christian philosophers, many of whom have been important in the evolution of my own thinking. Having said that, there is such gross exaggeration and distortion within aspects of apologetics that it leaves me absolutely flummoxed. I have mixed feelings about contemporary apologetics and feel that one should take them with a grain of salt.