Tuesday, March 04, 2014

Chapter 3 of The End of Apologetics - How We Believe

Chapter 3 starts out with the author and a professional acquaintance who has lost his faith.  They are having lunch.  Though he has lost his faith, it is with regrets and he realizes he desires a return to it in some manner. He is open to receiving help in this regard.  Along come two young Christian apologists who figuratively bash him over the head and punch him in the gut with their supposedly rational and unyielding arguments.  What do you think happens?  Instant conversion?  Nope.  Did they help?  

No.  According to Myron, belief should not be just rationally coherent but it also must be existentially coherent.  It is not enough or even required that we have an airtight, logical, scientific, philosophically sophisticated up-to-date justification.

Myron next considers the apostles and the prophets.  Do Amos and Jeremiah provide crafty knock'em out arguments?  No, they proclaim a direct message for the specific audience that is what they need to hear, what they need to do, and appeals to what they are doing and acting out.  That is prophetic speech.  Myron says:

"faith is tied to often-unacknowledged background values, assumptions and practices that give shape to our perspectives and meaning to our lives."  
"When I witness, I do not take up a self-centered, asymmetrical stance closed off to the needs, wants, desires, goals, dreams, story, or insights of the person to whom I witness."
Sidebar:  This brings to my mind one reason it has been so hard for many people to accept the overwhelming evidence that we humans by our actions are affecting the climate and that the buildup of CO2 in the atmosphere and ocean is something to have great concern about.  On the one hand I recognize that climate science is difficult and complex.  It has taken awhile for the story to unfold and there is much more to be learned.  There are legitimate questions on various aspects.  But the above also tells me that no amount of science however good is going to convince those who have a perceived existential investment in it being wrong.  In the long run, I think it is an erroneous perception.

Myron also asks what is the purpose of belief anyway?  According to him, there is a purpose and that is to build the person up.  It is to edify.  
To put it another way, when we take prophetic speech as the basis for apologetic witness, we move from an abstract epistemology of belief to an ethics of belief.  When I speak of an ethics of belief, I mean a focus not just on what one believes but also on how one believes.

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