Imagine the absurdity of a would-be mountain climber arriving at the base of a great mountain one afternoon, prepared to climb it by himself. You ask him, “What preparation do you have? What have you studied about this great mountain?” And he replies, “I read a couple of articles on the internet.” And with that, he disappears into the trees.
It hardly need be said that such a misguided procedure would be fated for disaster. And yet, that’s precisely what the foolhardy Christian apologist looks like when he thinks that reading a couple of Christian apologetic articles provides a sufficient basis to prove God’s existence or refute an alternative worldview.
On this score, I love the wisdom of this quote from Charles Malik:
“The greatest danger besetting American Evangelical Christianity is the danger of anti-intellectualism. The mind as to its greatest and deepest reaches is not cared for enough. This cannot take place apart from profound immersion for a period of years in the history of thought and spirit. People are in a hurry to get out of the university and start earning money or serving the church or preaching the Gospel. They have no idea of the infinite value of spending years of leisure in conversing with the greatest minds and souls of the past, and thereby ripening and sharpening and enlarging their powers of thinking. The result is that the arena of creative thinking is abdicated and vacated to the enemy. Who among the evangelicals can stand up to the great secular or naturalistic or atheistic scholars on their own terms of scholarship and research? Who among the evangelical scholars is quoted as a normative source by the greatest secular authorities on history or philosophy or psychology or sociology or politics? Does your mode of thinking have the slightest chance of becoming the dominant mode of thinking in the great universities of Europe and America which stamp your entire civilization with their own spirit and ideas?” (Charles Malik, cited in Mark Noll, The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind, 26.)
Once we take Malik’s advice seriously, we are freed from the hubris of thinking that we can master any subject in short order. Rather, we have permission to spend months or years carefully studying a topic, achieving the knowledge base to allow us to offer informed and worthwhile opinions.