Monday, November 30, 2009

The Danger of Apologetics

The most neglected theme of this blog is the one of diaspora. But it is one I am keen not to lose grip on because it is a metaphor that has many insights to offer and is an important antidote to many vices that are the hangover from "Christendom." In recent past the church in NZ has probably been most noticeable in the public arena regarding the evolution/creation debate, same sex marriage, and to a lesser extent the anti smacking bill. All of these issues stem not from essential Christian doctrines but from Christians trying to answer challenges the wider society has given.
The Jews of the Hellenistic Diaspora thus found themselves interpreting their particularity in terms of a thought-world that bore no original relationship to it. The particularity of Israel was sometimes a burden to them in relationships with Gentiles, but it was also essential to their own sense of national and religious identity. Without it, they could not survive as a people. yet they could not survive with it, either, unless they were prepared to explain and defend it in terms intelligible to the larger world, and the very process of explanation and defense tended to alter the characteristic of the thing being explained.

From, Dirt, Greed and Sex, by L. William Countryman.

The great problem with today's Christian public interaction is that it is largely reactive and so the agenda has been set from outside the church. The result is that the church becomes increasingly positioned over and against secondary and marginal issues which in turn become much greater and assume a more central significance than they should have. In defending our faith against these attacks we run the danger of becoming a caricature of ourselves and losing sight of what really makes us who we are. Apologetics is very important, even essential, to maintaining a diaspora identity but it must be done wisely with an eye on the effect engaging in such a defense has on us. The first task of apologetics should not be to convince the scoffer but to preserve the integrity of that which is being defended. Otherwise even if we win such battles they will be only Pyrrhic Victories.

1 comment:

  1. Well written, but I also think that one has to think of the motivations behind several of these issues. It appears that sometimes as Christians, we are not thinking about "what would Jesus do?", but rather "what would a civilised middle-class Christian do?"
    Occasionally I wonder if we want to notch up the "persecutions" for standing up for what is "right", without standing up for anything which will actually cost us something.
    Or, maybe we fear what our neighbourhood "might turn into", or maybe we fear that if something we believe doesn't turn out to be true then we'll have to reconsider the whole lot.

    Just some of my rambling...
    Cheers,
    David.

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