Monday, November 29, 2010

The Arguments Aren't Enough

Here's another quote I saw recently over at the Apologetics 315 blog:

An argument in apologetics, when actually used in dialogue, is an extension of the arguer. The arguer's tone, sincerity, care, concern, listening, and respect matter as much as his or her logic - probably more. The world was won for Christ not by arguments but by sanctity: 'What you are speaks so loud, I can hardly hear what you say.'

- Peter Kreeft

Did you catch the point of this quote? Kreeft is stating what I've heard Christian apologists say over and over: the arguments aren't enough. For Kreeft (and most other apologists I've heard), rhetoric is as important as reason - or, as Peter Kreeft himself admits, "probably more."

This quote reflects the source of anguish I felt when I was in Bible college, listening to the professor's lecture in Christian apologetics class. I expected apologetics to be devoted to the search for truth; after all, Jesus Christ is "the way, the truth, and the life," so I assumed apologetics would be both an encouragement for people to seek truth and a discipline in which I would discover sound arguments proving the correctness of Christian theism. On the contrary, I found apologetics to be not much more than the attempt to convince people to think as you do, whether via the arguments or through other non-rational means.

"A lot of people are looking for love," my professor once told the class. "If we show people the love of Christ, we will win more for the Lord than we ever could with our arguments." Well... duh. Of course an apologist will win more people with emotional appeals than with logic, because that's how a lot of people respond to anything. Almost everybody who gets into any religion does so for non-rational reasons. Many religionists never even get to the retroactive reasoning stage where they start to at least feel some concern for rationality.

An apologist will win more people with emotional appeals than with logic for an even more significant reason: the arguments aren't enough. Kreeft says as much in this quote: "The world was won for Christ not by arguments but by sanctity." As if Christian apologetics class wasn't depressing enough, I also was required to take a class called "Dynamics of Personal Evangelism," which students simply referred to as "D.O.P.E." I hated that class. Not only were we being spoon-fed that "Becoming a Contagious Christian" nonsense, DOPE reinforced what I was taught in Christian apologetics class: do whatever it takes to convince others that Christian faith is correct. Logic and reason took a back seat, if they were even brought along for the ride in the first place.

The degree I received from Lincoln Christian College might as well have been just a piece of paper with the word "chump" written on it, because that's how I felt. I felt confused, betrayed, lied to. Bible college is where I was supposed to find answers, not end up with more questions they can't answer. Bible college is where I was supposed to learn the good arguments to show those arrogant atheists just how wrong they are. And to think that, among all the Bible colleges associated with the Restoration Movement, Lincoln is considered to be one of the more "cerebral" schools, supposedly placing a strong emphasis on reason and intellectual life. I'm not saying there aren't a lot of really smart folks at LCC; all I'm saying is that I thought I'd find good reason to hold on to my faith, and I didn't.


Jim Thompson said...


Now that is funny.

Infidel753 said...

I expected apologetics to be devoted to the search for truth;

Not bloody likely. One never knows where that might lead. The nearest religious apologetics could get to a search for truth would be a search for new routes to the same old pre-determined conclusions.

And yeah, D.O.P.E. is funny. Sounds like a lot of them knew the score, on some level.