Tuesday, January 24, 2012

The Case For Repentance

Formal apologetics debates allow "for the audience to make up their own minds about where they think the truth lies."

William Lane Craig simultaneously captures the essence of the apologetic goal, and delegitimates it as a Christian enterprise. When we present Christian truth in this way, we display our ignorance of that important word μετάνοια - Repentance. This is not a call for us to make up our own minds. This is first of all indicative of the reality that we don't possess minds that are worth making up. They are too corrupt. Repentance is a call for a change of mind, a transformation of mind, that causes one's mind to be at home in the noetic of the kingdom.

If Lee Strobel is right about us being on the cusp of a golden era in apologetics -- and I imagine he has a new book coming out arguing that that is precisely the "Case" -- then the Christian church is about to do battle with the very thing that is trying to defend it.

The spirit of Karl Barth must be resurrected as his body turns in its grave!


  1. This is interesting. I find the kind of apologetics people like Strobel produce depressing, and my instinct is that it undermines confidence rather than strengthening it. But it's hard to explain why I feel this way, and it goes against a pretty strong instinctin the other direction in our church culture. I'd be interested in more discussion about why that kind of apologetics is not good for faith

  2. One of our lecturers briefly shared his testimony today. While he acknowledged a role for apologetics (though he didn't specify which kind), his conversion was brought about by the vision of the Jesus that is found in the gospels, made compelling by the illumination of the spirit. The apologetics came after this vision, and gave him "reason" to think this Jesus story that captured his imagination is actually true.

    The problem with the Craig/Strobel kind of apologetics (and perhaps almost all forms of it) is that it reverses the order. It presents dull, emotionless, beautyless truths and proofs as if they are a gateway to faith in God, but in reality they end up undermining that faith, because faith is nothing if it is not passionate, emotional encounter with and trust in the Beautiful.

    This golden era of apologetics is marked by Craig's mission to get people to make up their own minds about what's true given the cold, hard evidence presented to them, but what this kind of apologetics forgets is that truth must come to us as grace and beauty.

    In a way, I guess you've sort of come up with the reason why this kind of apologetics is not good for faith: it is depressing, veiling the dynamic, revolutionary, passionate character of Jesus and instead putting something or someone much less compelling in front of us for our deliberation. This brings to mind a great Brueggemann quote that I posted a while ago:

    "Just as exilic Jews preferred not to tell the truth about Yahweh because it is a truth too subversive, so many of us in the church choose to bear false witness about Jesus, because the managed, reassuring truth of the empire is more compelling. The truth evidenced in Jesus is not an idea, not a concept, not a formulation, not a fact. It is rather a way of being in the world in suffering and hope, so radical and so raw that we can scarcely entertain it."

    As a side note, I think there is an interesting historical/political/theological connection between apologetics and empire, which I'm half-thinking of exploring in my final year dissertation.