Apologetics is between a rock and a hard place throughout most of the Christian community. Apologetics is either met with stubborn resistance on the part of those who think that blind faith is the answer, or apologetics is welcomed but morphed into an apparition of itself — something I call pop-Christian-apologetics. It really isn’t that unique of a phenomenon. Whenever something is taken from a specialized field of expertise and made subject to public consumption it is liable to receive mishandling and abuse. That is not to say that popularizing apologetics is a bad thing. It is a very good thing in the sense that everybody should benefit from having strong reasons for their religious belief! It just carries certain dangers that I believe have been realized.
The trouble with pop-Christian-apologetics is that it is obsessed with one thing — waging war against the scientific establishment which claims that the earth is more than seven thousand years old and that all species share a common evolutionary ancestor. Christian students who have any education in Christian apologetics from their youth groups are invariably prepared for war in their science classes. Students march out of their youth groups armed with scientific evidence supposedly capable of turning back the irresistible tide of scientifically established knowledge because it contradicts God’s truth.
A defining trait of pop-Christian-apologetics is that it perpetuates the idea that if God’s truth is refuted in Genesis, we are set on the path to doubt the entire canon of Christian writings and set of Christian doctrines as if we have no means of verifying them without establishing the truth of a literalistically read Genesis. As far as the minds of contemporary Christians who are educated in pop-Christian-apologetics are concerned, we cannot verify the rest of Christianity unless we can prove the earth is young and the theory of evolutionary common descent is false. Apologetics has become synonymous with the defense of a literal Genesis, and defending a literal Genesis has become the crucible in which Christianity’s veracity is tried.
The result is classrooms in which educators coolly and casually relate modern scientific scholarship while the students who have been churned out of Christian scientific “apologetics” crash courses quake in their desks, confronted by a body of beliefs which they have been trained to believe will demolish their Christian faith. These students file out of this relentless scientific bombardment of their Christian worldview only to be greeted by less cordial foes who deride them for rejecting established scientific theories.
Christians facing such circumstances are typically left with two options. They either form a calloused prejudice to the academic establishment, or they fall away from Christianity altogether having succumbed to scientific tenets which they have been indoctrinated to believe are incompatible with their former religion. The church is rife with examples of people in either category. Both results perpetuate a vicious cycle of animosity between the academic establishment and religion. In a way, it all goes back to the Christians who were sent into classrooms as though they had been deployed into a war zone in which they would face the enemy capable of bringing their entire worldview to its knees.
In the name of defending the faith, the church has forced a war in which it has created its own casualties. Countless people like me, young and old, fall away or are kept from Christianity because it has given us an ultimatum between itself and the scientific establishment. The church has become an insecure, manipulative lover whose members cast jealous and unforgiving glances at those who have adulterated against it with “man’s wisdom” by reconciling scientific scholarship with the integrity of Scripture. Those who take Genesis figuratively and believe God to have sovereignly designed life through evolutionary change are held with the same esteem as a married man flirting with an adulteress.
And yet the church has no reason to be intellectually insecure on any level! Whether Genesis ought to be taken literally or figuratively should be of little concern to a Christian’s justification for the ultimate truth of their religion. Why should a Christian be caused to doubt in God’s existence because of common ancestry when there are so many philosophical arguments to prove His existence? Why should a Christian doubt the historical facts which compose Christian doctrine because their science teacher is right about evolution and the age of the earth? The justification for historical facts is found historically rather than through tenuous scientific arguments about Genesis which really have no bearing on Christianity’s historical origins!
If only Christians knew scholars and apologists such as Sir William Paley, Samuel Prideaux Tragelles, and W.M. Ramsay half as well as they know contemporary figures such as Ken Ham, Richard Dawkins, and Bill Nye the Science Guy who dominate conversations in contemporary Christian apologetics. Christians would find the surest satisfaction and ease of mind in insurmountable historical arguments for the integrity of the Christian texts and the historical events they record. If Christian leaders gave their congregations even a basic knowledge of Polycarp, Irenaeus, Tertullian, Clement of Rome, Tacitus, Eusebius, and the Muratorian fragment as mere samples of a vast arsenal of historical evidence, Christians would chuckle rather than tremble at the absurd skeptical claims typically brought against the truth of Christianity or the trustworthiness of its texts. Students would find themselves able to calmly evaluate the science they are taught with the historical justification for their religious belief entirely untouched by science.
But as things are now, such a scenario is only the fantasy of a Christian who fell casualty to the hostile war which the church has forced against the scientific establishment. Having come to the conclusion that Christianity rests on historical questions which require historical evidence which go unscathed by any scientific theory, I find myself back in the faith firmly and happily secured to my Savior, yet fearing for those casualties who have not found the abundant evidence to lead them back to it and are run off by defunct, mislead pop-Christian-apologetics.
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