Apologists and Apologetics Part I: Who, What, Why
Who are apologists? What is apologetics? Why do apologists want to argue with me?
Contrary to the way it sounds, apologetics does not indicate any sort of remorse (though perhaps it often should).
In these posts, for reasons of familiarity and continuity, I have chosen to default to Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary definitions. It’s not that I necessarily believe it to be superior. In fact, I have been known to take issue with some of their definitions, which occasionally allow for some ambiguity in meaning. The reason I bring this up in this post is that when you find yourself in a discussion or debate, it won’t take long before there is a disagreement regarding the meanings of certain words. If you’re not prepared for this, you might find yourself struggling to articulate the most basic and sensible of positions. If you’re doing it publicly, you’re liable to be embarrassed or confused by a more skilled apologist. We’ll start with that word.
An apologist is one who speaks or writes in defense of someone or something
Well, I guess that makes me an apologist. As a writer that defends the atheist position, the shoe fits. Before you say something like, “apologists annoy the crap out of me!” you should at least realize the generality of the term. For clarity, one only need throw a single word in front of apologist. I would be an atheism apologist, while I might have a discussion/debate with a Christian apologist. A waste of oxygen might be a Trump apologist. Regardless of your position, if you’re defending it, you’re an apologist.
One might then assume then that apologetics is simply the discourse of an apologist. You wouldn’t be wrong, but you wouldn’t be done.
The second definition is what prompted me to write this post.
Even if this is the first post of mine you’ve read, you’ve probably gathered that I don’t believe in the “divine origin and authority of Christianity”. For this reason, Christian apologists involved in apologetics are often referred to as simply “apologists”. This is technically ambiguous as they haven’t gotten their own separate entry from M-W just yet, but if you go off about this as I am right now, you can expect eyes to glaze over.
If I didn’t just lose you droning about the technicality of terms, we’ll go into a deeper discussion on apologetics and you can discover why it is I’m bogging down in the details. A person can actually obtain a degree in Christian Apologetics. Not usually, but some even receive secular accreditation up to and including a PhD in some circumstances. This means that many people have spent up to seven years after high school studying to learn how to make arguments for the validity of Christianity.
You might wonder what they would be studying for that long in order to defend Christianity. I certainly did. Apologetics is not about learning the Bible. It’s about defending it and maintaining an appearance of knowledge and competence. Of course there are many different ways to go about this depending on interpretation. By this I mean: If you believe in a strict literal interpretation of the Bible, you might be defending the claim that the Earth is 6000 years old, that two of every species were loaded on a boat, that the Earth is flat, or that eating a cracker can be lovingly cannibalistic if it is given the proper attention by a trained member of the clergy. Quite the challenge! Most Christian apologists prefer looser interpretations. If you say that any of the stories are “allegorical”, then explanations become much simpler, as do their defense.
No matter how you look at it, the Bible is full of head-scratchers. Inconsistencies and contradictions abound, not to mention the weird obsession with foreskins, animal sacrifices, and other less than palatable passages including some on how slaves should be treated, etc. Apologetics is an uphill climb. Since atheism is disbelief of a single claim, there are no degrees for it and it’s very unlikely to land you any sort of job. Frankly, by comparison, it’s an easy task.
For the Christian Apologist, like a lawyer arguing for a guilty client, the necessity is to rely on tactics, rather than facts.
With up to seven years of training, like a skilled defense lawyer, the Christian apologist should not be underestimated. They often are surface educated on a wide variety of subjects so that they may speak with relative eloquence on a diverse array of anything related to Biblical claims.
What Is the Motivation of Christian Apologists?
Everyone has a reason for everything they do. I’m writing this entry to this blog because I believe atheism is often, and for various reasons, often under attack, and largely misunderstood. What is the motivation for the defense of the divinity of Christianity? The answer seems obvious at first glance. A Christian believer would want to be able to answer the tough questions that come up regarding the credibility and plausibility of the claims of their religion for believers and nonbelievers alike. As is in the definition of apologetics, that describes a defensive position. That said, none of my interactions with those identifying as Christian Apologists fit that description.
The Christian Apologists have been on the offensive in nearly every case. Admittedly, the position I’ve chosen in defense of atheism is the reason for this, but I’ve found that a high percentage of my interactions are with so-called apologists. The beginning of the interaction is a claim about atheism and in my response, I find I’m dealing with a so-called apologist. The reason I’ve added “so-called” is that the person on the other end of the interaction is not at all acting in a defensive capacity and thus does not fit the apologist definition. Since they aren’t adopting a different moniker like “Verbal Crusader”, they’re indistinguishable from those that DO act in defense of their religion, except through evaluating where they entered a discussion.
The Offensive Christian Apologists, which shall be known heretofore as OCAs have their own unknown individual motivations. About the only thing that can be assumed is that they are out for an argument, but not to convince or be convinced. Anything beyond that would be speculative, but when interacting with an OCA, assume they have taken an adversarial position. By identifying and understanding the position of those you interact with, you can save yourself a lot of frustration and fruitless arguments.
Now that we’ve addressed what apologetics consists of and why some apologists may do what they do, I hope you’ll continue on with me as I discuss how to efficiently and effectively express your views while engaged with them in debate HERE