While I did not have a clear fix on who J.P. Holding was prior to yesterday, I had heard the occasional fleeting reference. So when I discovered that he had just reviewed The Swedish Atheist I read the review with some interest.
In his opening he writes that the book is “a study of how emergents/postmoderns “do” apologetics — rather badly, as it happens.”
First red flag. In my book Theology in Search of Foundations (Oxford University Press, 2009) I spent four chapters critiquing non-foundationalist epistemologies and the wider cultural postmodernism in which they flourish. And I’m not a postmodernist by any conventional definition. This suggested to me that Mr. Holding probably lacks a formal education. So I took a look on the website and found a place that discusses Holding’s academic credentials. He writes:
“I have a Masters’ Degree in Library Science. What the runs down to is, I’m trained in looking things up and answering questions.”
Okay, so I’m dealing with a librarian / self-taught apologist.
That suddenly made sense. Of course there are real problems with being self-taught. My daughter learned to skate by getting out on the ice when she was five and working at it until she could stand. Eventually she learned to navigate a rink without falling. But when she began to take lessons from a properly taught skater she had to unlearn all the horrible habits she acquired from the days of being “self-taught”. Based on what he writes I can only view Mr. Holding as a clumsy, self-taught child able to navigate the rink without falling and little more. Acquiring the kind of education necessary to equip a person in apologetics demands much more than the ability to navigate the Dewey Decimal System.
In the introduction to Swedish Atheist I critique the warfare model of apologetics as wholly inadequate. Given that Mr. Holding wields his libarian skills fiercely as a lamentable exemplar of that approach, it is no surprise that he didn’t like the book.
Assuming he read the book. It isn’t clear that he did. All he does is note a couple places where I say something he disagrees with. And he immediately characterizes me at that point as waving a “white flag” because of course apologetics is about war, innit?
The introduction to my book actually seems quite apposite here. In it I describe my childlike fascination with Holding’s warfare apologetic, a fascination which I outgrew (along with my fascination in super heroes, Archie Comics and Hubba Bubba chewing gum) as I put childish things away:
I discovered that the warfare approach to apologetics produced almost no change in others. Even when I had “demolished” other people’s arguments (or at least thought I had), they typically didnt see it that way. More often than not they’d continue to crouch in the ruins of their worldview, firing RPGs back at my rumbling convey of apologetic Humvees like stubborn insurgents.
It didn’t take much of that before I started to ask myself, what good is winning arguments if I lose people? (10)
What good indeed?