I got into a debate (with perhaps a bit of overzealousness on my part) online recently regarding a certain Christian apologist named Lee Strobel. This got me to thinking about Christian (and any religious, for that matter) apologetics.
The thing is, and this particular statement isn't very original on my part: if Christianity was so true, then why would it even need apologetics in the first place? Now, I realize that the word is somewhat misleading, as it sounds like these people are apologizing for their religion, and to be fair, I should have to point out that's not what it means. The word's original Greek origins mean more along the lines of "to defend".
Still, if it's so truthful and obvious, why must they spend so much time coming up with a defense? Could it possibly be because there are so many things about the religion that simply don't make any sense? Now, we're not talking about the kind of defense that one would have to do with something like evolution. In that case, those who defend the teaching of evolution are making an effort to make sure that evolution is being understood in the first place, as those who attack it tend to not even really understand what it even is. Evolution defenders are making an effort to show that all the facts are actually known, and any honest defender would be willing to seriously consider some real evidence that would disprove it. In the case of Christian apologetics, it's all about trying to make sense of the nonsensical.
My personal favorite deals with the simple question of why a loving God would allow for so much suffering in the world. I'm familiar with the defense, as I used to say it myself until I finally admitted to myself that my reasoning was more of an act of trying to rationalize the nonsensical than me having had found a logical explanation. Anyway, the argument goes something along these lines: God wants us to have free will, and as a result of this, we have to pay the consequences. Since we have chosen to turn our backs from God, he allows for bad things to happen.
This still makes crap-all of sense though. I suppose that if you stop your thought process right there and don't allow yourself to keep thinking about it, then it's a perfectly acceptable explanation. The bottom line, however, is that this loving God watches children in third world countries die of diseases like malaria. And why? Because of free will? Where is their free will? They suffer because people like me turn away from God? Where did they even get the chance? What kind of a just system allows for people to suffer because of the actions of others?
Then of course comes the "Well, God's ways are not our ways. We can't understand his plan." Now, why this is a satisfactory answer I'll never understand. Sure, that's possible, I suppose, but why should I even be willing to go there? Isn't the notion that a loving God simply doesn't exist a simpler answer? That makes sense at least. Why should I accept an answer that requires me to be okay with the fact that something doesn't make sense?
Because the bottom line is that this "loving God", if he's omnipotent and omniscient, watches little children die on a daily basis. He hears their cries and he feels their agony. He can do something, but he doesn't want to. Apparently, he's got some kind of a point as to how we all can't live without him. Of course, he can't prove that point any other way, can he? Why can't he just show us all a movie of what would happen without his interference?
So back to this Lee Strobel guy. He's a pair of clown shoes if there ever was one. What I find dispicable about him is that he makes this pretense of doing some kind of genuine investigative journalistic approach to learning about Jesus and finding out whether the Bible is historically accurate or not. I could go on and on about him, but I remember seeing him on a show one time when he said that the thing that made him convert over from atheism was the empty tomb.
You know, the empty tomb. The one that was supposed to have Jesus in it but didn't because it was, like, empty. That's what convinced him. I'll wait until you pick your jaw up off the floor.
Excuse me, but how the hell is this proof of ANYTHING? Isn't that kinda like saying that the Trojan Horse is proof of the historical accuracy of The Odyssey? Isn't it kinda like saying that Obi Want's empty robe is proof of the accuracy of Star Wars? What the hell is wrong with these people? That's just part of a story! There's no proof that there ever was an empty tomb in the first place. And even if there was, why does miraculous resurrection get to be the only possible answer? Ever hear of, oh, I don't know, A FRIKKEN' GRAVE ROBBER???? (And let's never mind the fact that it's highly unlikely that a man like Jesus would have ever been buried in the first place. Part of the punishment of crucifixion included that your body wasn't give a proper funeral/burial. I can't imagine the Roman soldiers allowing Jesus' followers to take him off the cross.)
So, when people hear the word "apologetics", what they think is "apology". When apologists use it, they mean "defense". When I hear it, I think "massive cop-out".