One of the most important and least appreciated virtues of a good (Christian) apologist is epistemic humility. In particular, Christian apologists have a bad reputation for memorizing factoids about fields in which they are ignorant and tacitly claiming an expertise and authority they wholly lack as they build their case for Christianity. A wonderful example of this is found in Denis Lamoureux’s new memoir Struggling with God & Origins: A Personal Story. Lamoureux has three doctorates so unlike the apologetic dilettantes out there, he actually knows his stuff. And one of the best things one can learn is the limits of their own knowledge.
In Lamoureux’ case, while he has been a leading evolutionary creationist for close to thirty years, in his book he recalls the time when he was a young earth creationist who would appeal to the Second Law of Thermodynamics to argue against evolution. However, during his PhD studies in theology, he describes the following experience:
Late one afternoon before supper, I came back from the library and a friend was working at the reception desk in Wycliffe College. I sat down on a corner of the desk and we talked about our academic work. A second-year student in engineering joined us. He placed his textbook on thermodynamics next to me. I immediately remembered the classic young earth creationist argument that claimed evolution was against the Second Law of Thermodynamics. I opened his book and tried to read the first page. I had no idea what was being said. Then I flipped over some pages and saw complex mathematics and formulas. Again, I didn’t have a clue what I was seeing.
I gently closed the book. I did not say a word to my friend at the desk or to the engineering student what was going through my mind. Completely humbled by this experience, I realized that I was not competent to talk about the Second Law of Thermodynamics. And since that time, I have never again used this creation science argument against evolution. (p. 145)
This really resonated with me because back in the 1980s and early 1990s I was trained in young earth creationist apologetics including this very practice of citing the Second Law of Thermodynamics as evidence against evolution. And yet, I really didn’t have any grasp of the law itself. I had simply memorized factoids from apologists like Josh McDowell. I was an apologeti dilletante of the first order. But that is no way to defend Christianity.
This method is the apologetic equivalent of putting on a muscle suit and claiming you’re a body builder. You ain’t fooling anyone.