Randy Harman has just published his fascinating testimony about his experiences as a former Conservative Evangelical apologist.
He told us from the very beginning that ” Just as it is easy to throw the baby out with the bathwater, these posts are in no way an attempt to say apologetics as a whole is a pointless discipline, nor are they intended to say that by defining myself as an “ex-apologist” I refuse any rational argumentation or apologetic endeavors.
I am an apologist in so far as it is a “tool” in my belt, not a vocation or an identity.”
In what follows I have copied some of the passages which I find the most profound and insightful.
Reason did little to strengthen my faith, despite my repeated claim that it “saved it.” It just turned me into a jerk with a lot of ammo–a jerk who merely pretended to have things put together by the overwhelming evidence of Christianity but, in reality, who was more assuredly as confused, carnal, and lost as the person I was insistent to win over to Christ through rigorous argumentation.
The doubts that I dealt with ten years ago are the same doubts that I deal with now, albeit in different ways sometimes and I routinely pray, not read, for faith. Rationalism never quenches the thirst of doubt; it only masquerades it.
Apologetics did not save my faith. It saved my pride.”
- Why is it that so many are threatened when popular boundaries are brought into question by none other than fellow Christians?
- Why is it, as I have seen personally, so many apologists turn out to be jerks, little different in rhetoric and spirit than the New Atheists they so fervently wish to counter?
As the late Stan Grenz and John Franke note in their tremendous book Beyond Foundationalism: Shaping Theology in a Postmodern Context, it is somewhat ironic that modernist thinking has extended so far in both the directions of the “godless” and the “godly.” For every atheist that’s incorrigibly committed to the truth of his philosophical naturalism there is an evangelical incorrigibly committed to his theism in such a way that neither one lacks the need to feel absolutely certain.
For these evangelicals, conviction leaves no room for doubt, and so in popular Christian apologetics doubt is something to be assuaged with answers
I find beauty in the multitude of voices, for the truth is sometimes life does seem nihilistic and we need Ecclesiastes to stand beside us or Job to yell at God with us;
I find beauty in reading Scripture primarily to save my soul and teach me how to live like and within Christ, not in teaching me what to believe and how to think about Christ.
My last two posts (here and here) dealt with my testimony as a trained apologist and a transformation that took place when I allowed myself to really stop thinking of faith as a science. This post still deals with what I find to be a strange irony in the discipline of apologetics, namely, the insistence on a “rational and well thought out” faith with the insistence on upholding scriptural inerrancy and creationism.
To that end, I have to confess that I am incredibly bothered by the fact that the popular apologetics movement laments the 75% of students who leave the faith (they say, “because they don’t have intellectual answers for what they believe”) and yet they demand that one cannot embrace certain conclusions of their disciplines, no matter how well thought out and evidenced.
It is my conviction that when we insist that young people have to choose between evolution and God or the critical results of scholarship and faith, we are not at all helping students overcome some of the intellectual barriers and questions they might have. Rather, we contribute to the swath of students who find Christianity to be opposed to reason.
I have watched too many friends abandon all trust in God because they were told they need to choose between the boundaries set by evangelical apologetics and science.
Though he is still more conservative than I am, I agree with most he has written.
I also want to point out that the enlightenment leaves us with a false dichotomy, namely:
1) having no grounds for thinking that Christianity is true, therefore pretending to know what you don’t know
2) having a Christian faith warranted by evidential arguments in the same way our belief in the theory of universal gravitation is warranted.
Unlike the claims of anti-theists, there are many Evangelicals who think that their faith is grounded on reason and evidence, thereby rejecting 2).
But I think that one option has been utterly left out.
3) Faith does not mean pretending to know what you don’t know, but to passionately hope in something even if the evidence is not sufficient.
I certainly believe there are good arguments against materialism and intriguing ones for the existence of a supernatural realm and theism.
Yet I also recognize that all these arguments (as well as those for atheism) depends on some postulates which cannot be proven and whose acceptance might very well strongly hinge on one’s own psychological make up.
Let us also consider the need of intellectually humility emphasized by Einstein:
“What I see in Nature is a magnificent structure that we can comprehend only very imperfectly, and that must fill a thinking person with a feeling of “humility.” that is to say the warranted conclusion that there might very well be many things our minds cannot fathom.
I think we have good grounds for concluding that many of our ideas about ultimate reality are pretty tentative and should never be made absolute.
But there is nothing which prevents us from passionately hoping in their truth.
Actually I know no human being who can practically live without hoping in many things he cannot asses the likelihood of.
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