Randal Rauser: Top 5 Problems With Contemporary Christian Apologetics

I spend a lot of time criticizing contemporary Christian apologetics. Since I am myself a Christian apologist, that might seem a bit strange. But it is, in fact, simply a practical outworking of my commitment to what I call the 50/50 Rule:

50/50 rule: devote as much time to (a) defending the beliefs of your opponents and critiquing your own beliefs as you devote to (b) critiquing the beliefs of your opponents and defending your own beliefs. (Read more here)

In short, the 50/50 rule is an attempt to embody the Golden Rule in civil discourse by debating and dialoguing with others the way you’d have them debate and dialogue with you.

With that in mind, this article is focused on a type of self-critique, though in this case not specifically critique of my beliefs, per se, but rather of some weaknesses in current Christian apologetics more generally. And so, without further ado, I will now count down the top five problems with contemporary Christian apologetics.

5. Lack of imagination

I’ve touched on this problem before in the article “Apologetics and the Problem of the William Lane Craig Clones.” The basic problem is that there is an inordinate focus on a limited set of arguments and topics. For example, while I think the Kalam cosmological argument and the argument from intelligent design are both interesting and well worth debating, they both receive excessive attention at the expense of many other worthwhile arguments.

This is not a new problem: in the above-linked article on the “Craig Clones”, I make reference to a famous paper by Alvin Plantinga from more than thirty years ago in which he challenged Christian philosophers to explore more arguments and lines of evidence for theistic and Christian belief. And I’ve certainly tried to do that in my own works as in my defense of an argument from answered prayer (in God or Godless) and an argument from the mathematical structure of reality (in An Atheist and a Christian Walk into a Bar).

One of the points I’ve often strived to emphasize is that the strength of arguments is always contextualized. I summarize the point in 59 seconds here. In that brief, 59-second treatment, I point out that good arguments must be accessible and persuasive. But both accessibility and persuasiveness are relative to individuals and that means we should be seeking to explore and develop more diverse arguments for our views. Most skeptics are already familiar with the Kalam and intelligent design arguments. So perhaps it is time to explore some other arguments that might find a more welcoming reception.

4. Excessive focus on debate

These days, so much of apologetics is focused on debates. When I first got into apologetics in the early-mid 1990s, it was primarily by way of watching VHS cassettes of William Lane Craig debates from our university library. Everybody loves a good dust up, right?

Perhaps, but on the downside, the entire debate format tends to reinforce tribalism (more on that anon), competition, and spin-doctoring/motivated reasoning to the end of winning the debate. Set against that backdrop, is it any surprise that both sides often think they “won”? For further discussion of this problem, see my article “The Problem with Debates.”

3. Lack of focus on emotional intelligence

I find that many amateur apologists focus a lot of effort studying arguments and evidence, memorizing various formal and informal logical fallacies. But they spend little time pursuing the emotional intelligence required to read a room, to identify the intended audience of an exchange, and to present oneself in a savvy and winsome manner so as to appear persuasive to that audience.

In my opinion, every apologist should put some readings on emotional intelligence and persuasion psychology on their reading list. What good is it if you win every argument but lose your audience?

Click here to read more.
Source: Christian Post