After the past week's discussion with Democracy Lover, and new reader Steven Carr, while energized and excited by the possibilities, I feel a need to move on from the topics I have been covering. You see, this blog is not about defending the faith, nor is it even about explaining it to those who don't, or perhaps won't, understand it. This blog is about my own experience of the intersection of the Christian faih, culture, and politics. As such, I am not about apologetics.
Apologetics has a long and storied history in the Christian Church. From a group of second century writers who are collectively known as the Apologists - because their approach was to use apologeia, legal defense - there have always been those who saw it their duty to make a case for the Christian faith for those outside it. Even St. Thomas wrote two separate works, one the Summa Theologiae for inside the Church and the other, the Summa COntra Gentiles for those outside it, at a time when CHristianity was the sole official faith of the European continent. In a pluralistic age, there has been an increasing awareness of the need for apologetics and some theologians, Leslie Newbigin, Paul Tillich, and Douglas John Hall in particular, have argued that it has a role in a world where the Christian fiath can no longer be taken for granted, even in the west.
My own position is quite different. I agree more with the late, great Swiss theologian Karl Barth who argued against apologetics for two reasons: first, it accepted the rules of the road from the non-Christian world for what is and is not acceptable as methods of argumentation and acceptable as "evidence"; second, it is the world that should stand before the Church and justify itself, not vice-versa. This militant vision of theology and the Church is appealing to me because, for three hundred years, Christianity has accepted the terms of the debate offered by those who refuse to grant it credence, and in so doing, has lost both intellectual respectability (theology was once the "Queen of the Sciences"; one could hardly find a person willing to grant that now) and its ability to ground itself in the lives of communities. Instead, it has had to contend in a foreign field, where the lay of the land is unfamiliar, and the adversary knows all too well every hill and valley, every trap and hiding place. Just as I do not believe we should accept "Conventional Wisdom" in our social, cultural, and political life, I do not think we should accept it in our faith life, either. You don't want to believ in Christianity, far be it from me to convince you otherwise. If you think you can convince me with an argument, no matter how sound you might think it is, I have heard them all before, and used some myself before I returned to the Church, and I understand them for the sand and wind they are.
The Christian faith and the Christian life is not about rational acceptance of certain principles and ideas. It is about a life lived under the cross, and in the shadow of the empty tomb. It makes no sense to those who cannot or will not understand it as such, and in the end, there are no "reasons", in the conventional sense, that can convince someone to choose such a life over others. I do not see anything wrong with other religions. I do not see anything wrong with no religion. I admire Islam, and Hinduism, and Baha'i, and Judaism, especially when they are lived and professed with integrity. I admire non-believers who are passionate about justice and freedom, equality and trust. What matters most to me is that a life is lived out of the experience of a community, or even an individual's conscience, for others. In the end, it matters not a whit to me whether one is a professed Lutheran, Roman Catholic, Zoroastrian, or refuses to profess anything other than a desire for people to live fully human lives. My pursuit is aprt and parcel of my Christian faith, and I accept it gladly, even for all its flaws and its history of denial of the very values I treasure. I do so because my experience in various Christian communities has been one of passionate pursuit of these goals, and my faith has grown organically out of them.
I appreciate rational argumentation, and enjoy the banter, but I also understand that lives are at stake - real lives, real people - and we need to act to save those lives, to bring those people to a place where they can live their lives as fully human. The game of "I'm right, you're wrong and here are all the reasons why," does not mean anything to me any more because it distracts from the loving acts required to do what is necessary for others. It is for this reason that this blog exists. It is for this reason I am a Christian. It is for this reason I feel it unnecessary to defend my faith to those who not only do not share it, but are actively opposed to any proclamation of faith. I think I need to move on because, as I wrote in a previous post, I am starting to feel like I am tramping over the same old ground, and I have no desire to get stuck in the mud.