Note to reader: the conversation on insects and natural evil will continue next week.
Last year I was invited to Princeton Theological Seminary in order to give a response to a paper by their court philosopher, Professor Gordon Graham, on the topic of the philosopher in the seminary. While Professor Graham gave an erudite discussion of the key roles a philosopher should fulfill in the seminary, the role of apologist was not among them. Why? The problem seemed to be that apologists lack intellectual honesty since they are committed to vindicating Christian beliefs.
Many others have joined the chorus that sings for the abandonment of apologetics. Another familiar tune is the one that says apologetic arguments are simply not effectual for persuading people to adopt or retain Christian belief. Instead, so the argument goes, what we need is storytelling. This perspective is captured effectively in the following excerpt from theologian Robert Webber’s book The Younger Evangelicals:
“A few years ago I was asked to debate the question of God’s existence with an atheist. I knew my opponent would come ready to use his rational arguments against the existence of God to destroy my rational arguments for the existence of God. In order to shift the discussion away from my arguments for or against God’s existence, I used my opening comments to inform my opponent and the listening audience that I would not discuss traditional arguments for the existence of God.
“When asked, ‘Well, how then shall we proceed?’ I answered, ‘Let’s talk about the reality of the communities of Israel and Jesus. Let’s probe those stories to uncover what they tell us about the origin, meaning, and destiny of the world.’ In this way I shifted the discussion from propositions based on evidence to stories based on faith.”
“Yes, our salvation is ultimately due to the grace of God. But every act of divine grace presupposes the means of grace by which God makes His grace real to us. Christian apologetics is one such means of grace.” (12)