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Education and Apologetics

My first talk at the NAC was about Education and Apologetics. I would call it something like a “Pre-apologetics” or “Preparation for Apologetics” talk.

Let me provide some context. Apologetics is not easy and its effects on Christians might not always be benign. Apologetics is an intellectual activity and it requires first rate intellectual training and gifting.

On the other hand, the assumption behind apologetics is that the Christian faith is intellectually defensible – or maybe it would be better to say that the conclusion that leads to apologetics is that the Christian faith is intellectually defensible.

I certainly believe that.

What I don’t believe is that most people are able to spend much of their lives devoted to apologetics and that anybody should base his faith on the arguments of apologists. Truth is truth, whether for you or for me. But persuasion is not the same as truth, and it is in the domain of persuasion that people come to believe things like, “That’s true for you.”

In other words, an argument can persuade me, and in a popular, rather sloppy use of the language one could say, “Because that is persuasive, it is true for me.”

If we put the burden of apologetics on every Christian, then we have given many of them an unbearable challenge. Not because most Christians aren’t smart enough, but because it takes too much time. That is why I believe first and foremost in a religion of love, which I’ll write more about in a post in the next few days. Simply, I mean that the true apologetic for the gospel is Spirit enabled love that bears witness to the life of Christ in the believer. More later.

However, there always have been apologists (I believe Clement of Alexander was the first to hold the title, and that in the 2nd century) and it will always be an honorable task. The Christian faith is and always has been intellectually defensible.

My concern is that we aren’t cultivating Christian intellects in a manner consistent with the Truth in the early years of schooling, which means we aren’t generating a sufficient number of college and post-graduate students who will have the intellectual discipline to engage in the task.

That leads to the virtual triumph of a group like Answers in Genesis, about whose work I have very mixed feelings, but whose psychologically manipulative techniques I regard as harmful and whose sarcastic approach to the “enemy” I believe to be inappropriate.

The quality of Christian apologetics, in other words, is suffering beneath the weight of inadequate Christian education in America.

According to the astonishing record in Genesis 1, God created a world by giving it form and then filling that form with content. It seems to me that most arguments about the creation and about apologetics issues generally are about the content of the arguments, but put little thought into the form.

The human soul is created to know God and to be like Him. One of the ways we are, apparently, like Him is that like Him we create by making and filling forms. But American Christians are so predetermined to be informal that they make no effort to form their souls to know God.

They think they just need the right content.

It’s not that simple.

For example, the truth is communicated through sentences that are constructed on the forms of grammar, which is itself rooted in both logic and in the structure of being. But we neglect grammar and the perceptions it gives rise to in our schools.

80% of Christian kids lose their faith in college and it isn’t because of the arguments. For the most part it is because they are so happy to escape the legalism and heartlessness of their fear-based religious upbringings.

The solution is in part not to teach them apologetic content but to teach them the forms of thought, including grammatical and logical forms, scientific forms, literary forms, moral forms, philosophical forms, and theological forms. They are all different, and that is one of the first things a young person needs to learn.

Christ is the Truth. The whole Christian faith rests on that conviction. If it is so, then the students in Christian schools should be spending 90% of their time learning the tools of truth-seeking. The other ten percent will be plenty to learn, remember, and contemplate the content – because their minds will be so well-trained.

Many Christian schools, however, are not rooted in truth-seeking. They are defensive and deeply naive attempts to protect their students from some abstract thing out there called the world, while establishing their own credibility by getting accreditation and certified teachers from “the world,” teachers who have learned how to teach the methods of the contemporary teacher’s college, where they learn the practices of progressive theories and are themselves untrained in the tools of learning.

To the Christian school, I humble myself and entreat you, “Teach the tools of truth-seeking. Teach your students grammar, logic, music, art, numbers, and shapes. Teach them to contemplate, not just produce. Teach them the forms of thought. Train your teachers in these tools so they can handle them with competence and comfort. The Truth can be known. Show some confidence and commitment!”

No, the tools are not enough, just like a shovel and pick axe won’t make gold fall at your feet. But no amount of discipline will help the gold-miner who refuses to use the tools either.

Learn and teach the tools of truth-seeking.

David will be posting this talk sometime in the next few weeks. Perhaps I’ll have more to post on it over the next few weeks.

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