Do You Want to Be a Christian Apologist? Part 9

I'm doing a series of posts dealing with the way recognized Christian apologists defend their faith. I'll number them and tag them all with the phrase "Christian Apologetics" so you can have a link to them in reverse chronological order. But let's say you are just starting out to be a Christian apologist, someone who eventually wants to defend the Christian faith in a scholarly way. Then what must you do? The ninth thing you must do is to become educated rather than indoctrinated. This almost goes without saying such that it should have been first on my list. What is the difference between a real education and indoctrination? Something like this. Better yet, attend a secular university instead, as I argued here. The last thing you should do is to study at a college where the professors are forced to sign a doctrinal statement. Why would anyone interested in the truth require this of their professors? If the truth can be defended it shouldn't be necessary. But because this is what evangelical colleges require, then as recent firings have shown us, honest evangelical scholarship is a ruse. Professor Chris Keith even says this about the firings of Antony Le Donne and Christopher Rollston:
First, we look like idiots, people...When schools associated with the tradition are firing or disciplining people over these types of publications, however, I don’t know that it can or should be defended. Let me take that back; I do know. It can’t and shouldn’t. The internet circus that has resulted in both instances (and ironically to which I’m actively contributing now) is just as embarrassing.

Second, is there a crisis in E/evangelical Christianity on par with the Modernist/Fundamentalist Debates? At first, I thought these were isolated incidents. But then I started thinking about Gundry and Pinnock and the nonsense of ETS, the famous Peter Enns affair at WTS, these two incidences and several others. I, in fact, just this weekend heard of a rising NT star at a theological school in Ohio being dismissed unjustifiably. Is E/evangelical Christianity tearing apart at the seams over critical thought again? Oh my goodness; this can’t be happening. We know this history. Why is it doomed to repeat? I thought it worked the other way around.
The undeniable fact is that the trend is toward liberalism. As I concluded in that post:
While it's hard to convince conservatives they are wrong, just think for yourself what it tells us about the evidence to believe. Many dedicated biblical scholars from a fundamentalist perspective are leaving that viewpoint and embracing anything but their initial stance. It would seem that fundamentalists, conservatives and/or evangelicals do not have a leg to stand on. Their ship is going down. All they're doing is re-arranging chairs on the Titanic.
Pretty harsh, eh? I think not. Want to prove me wrong? Then get a real education if you want to be an apologist. Skip on by any evangelical apologetics program where the professors are required to sign a doctrinal statement. Attend a secular university instead. Then see what happens. If your faith is strengthened then you will be a better apologist. If it causes you to become a liberal or non-believer then follow the evidence where it leads.

Along the way do two things. First, read books and attend lectures that are outside the box of your comfort zone, books like these for starters.

Read up on evolution too. Start with Charles Darwin's, On the Origin of Species. Also read the books by Jerry Coyne, Why Evolution Is True,and Richard Dawkins, The Greatest Show on Earth: The Evidence for EvolutionDo not just read the works of Christian creationists, who themselves were indoctrinated to believe what they do. Go to the source. Compare the evidence yourself. Along this same line read Robert M. Price and Edwin Suominen's wonderful book, Evolving out of Eden.

Stretch yourselves a little further by taking up the Debunking Christianity Challenge, especially The Outsider Test for Faith: How to Know Which Religion Is True.

The second thing you must do, not entirely unrelated to the first, is to read books and attend lectures outside of your specialization or expertise. Compartmentalization is the problem when it comes to arriving at metaphysical truth. One needs to read widely in areas related to science, philosophy, archaeology, psychology, Old/New Testaments, religion and theology. In regard to religion and theology I recommend Chad Meister's book, The Oxford Handbook of Religious Diversity. I also recommend Mark Juergensmeyer's book,The Oxford Handbook of Global Religions.

Read outside the box in a wide assortment of areas. Or, in reverse, read in a wide assortment of areas outside the box.

Far too often indoctrinated students who eventually become scholars in one field of expertise, and who teach at evangelical colleges where they must sign a doctrinal statement, will not read outside of their expertise. If they do, they usually only read the works of other scholars who themselves teach at evangelical colleges where they must also sign a doctrinal statement, and who do not read outside their expertise. A scientific creationist may only read evangelical commentaries on the Bible and then use his knowledge of science to defend creationism precisely because he is not biblically literate. His research in turn reinforces the evangelical biblical scholar that the Bible is true, even though he in turn is not scientifically literate. Evangelical philosophers can and do find ways to defend the doctrines of evangelical biblical scholars even though they are not themselves biblically literate. As Stephen Law said: “Anything based on faith, no matter how ludicrous, can be made to be consistent with the available evidence, given a little patience and ingenuity.” (Believing Bullshit, p. 75). Evangelical biblical scholars depend on evangelical philosophers even though they themselves are not philosophically literate. Then too, New Testament evangelical scholars are not experts in the Old Testament, and vice versa. But their scholarship reinforces one another. Each of them reads outside the box in their specialty, it's just that they don't read widely outside of it. They simply trust each other's scholarship outside their own expertise. And on it goes. Where it stops no one knows. This is viciously circular and why Christian Apologetics itself is not an intellectually honest discipline.

Daniel Dennett said, "One of the surprising discoveries of modern psychology is how easy it is to be ignorant of your own ignorance.” [Breaking the Spell: Religion as a Natural Phenomenonpage 31.]To see this evidence click here.

With this fact in mind then to be a Christian apologist, a really good one (if this is possible): 1) Attend a secular university; 2) Read outside the box; and 3) Read widely outside of your specialty.

You know what to do. Do it.

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