i’ve got apologetics on my mind
Tuesday November 08th 2005, 2:29 pm
Filed under: faith, thinking..., books

the last few decades have belonged to a certain kind of person with a certain kind of mind — computer programmers who could crank code, lawyers who could craft contracts, MBAs who could crunch numbers. but the keys to the kingdom are changing hands. the future belongs to a very different kind of person with a very different kind of mind — creators and empathizers, pattern recognizers, and meaning makers. these people — artists, inventors, designers, storytellers, caregivers, consolers, big picture thinkers — will now reap society’s richest rewards and share its greatest joys.
(daniel pink, in his introduction to ““)

so, back in the day (like, august), i had a wearying blog-fisticuffs with brett kunkle, of the stand to reason blog. (if you care to be a voyeur — which is what blog are all about, right? — here’s the play-by-play: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5). in the midst of this, i offered have brett come down to san diego and hang out, sit in my hot tub, get to know my family. it was — in a sense –a rhetorical offer; but brett called me on it (fair enough!). and, today, we are having a long lunch. nope, the hot tub meeting (which got bantered around a couple corners of the blog world rather humorously — see here and here as examples) never materialized. but props to brett for making the drive down. and i will say, our email conversations have been very warm and friendly.

however, seeing my appointment with brett on my calendar has had me thinking a bit about apologetics (btw, how and when did talbot seminary become the new center of world for apologetics? what happened to dts? interesting shift.). and when i have some subject lingering in the corners of my mind like that, i tend to see connections to other discussions, readings and topics. like this daniel pink book i’m reading right now, called ‘a whole new mind’ (linked above).

“the most striking feature of contemporary culture is the unslaked craving for transcendence.”
(columbia university’s andrew delbanco, quoted in ‘a whole new mind’)

and this one is really connected to a discussion about apologetics, i think:

“humans are not ideally set up to understand logic; they are ideally set up to understand stories.”
(roger c. schank, cognitive scientist, quoted in ‘a whole new mind’)

one more, for now:

stories have the felicitous capacity of capturing exactly those elements that formal decision methods leave out. logic tries to generalize, to strip the decision making from the specific context, to remove it from the subjective emotions. stories capture the context, capture the emotions…. stories are important cognitive events, for they encapsulate, into one compact package, information, knowledge, context, and emotion.
(don norman, from his book ‘things that make us smart’, quoted in ‘a whole new mind’)

so, here’s my thinking today. apologetics, as it’s been popularized in the last few decades, is in no way a bad thing. if i’ve ever implied that, i apologetically repent (get it?). without going into a long subjective rif’ on where the world of christian apologetics is headed for disappointment, let me put a more positive, constructive spin on this: i believe apologetics needs a make-over. like dan kimball said, it’s important to understand why you believe what you believe, and why that why isn’t purely whimsical. however, it’s been my experience, and really the thrust of my suggestions back during the august blog-wars, that most of apologetics (as we know it) is about logic and ‘legal defenses’. we need an apologetic that is about transcendance, about story, about design. i suppose that’s why i SO LOVED brian mclaren’s second book in the ‘new kind of christian’ trilogy: . it really is a narrative apologetic. i suppose this is why i love talking to teenagers about understanding their calling to be part of god’s unfolding story.

i’d love to see the ‘conversion’ of a few hard-core apologetics types — who really do know their stuff; then see them write a book or two or seventeen that would help the people daniel pink is talking about in ‘a whole new mind’ — that would speak to a nation shifting to right-brain value drivers.

5 Comments so far
Leave a comment

Marko, this quote: “but the keys to the kingdom are changing hands. the future belongs to a very different kind of person with a very different kind of mind” points us in the wrong direction as Christians, I think. It reflects a kind of desire for power of one “side” over the other.

I can appreciate that a balance is needed, in fact, all I would argue for *is* a balance. I think that, from what you’ve expressed here, you agree that both are necessary. As Christians, then, we should strive to value and encourage both sides and embrace the whole Body. Unfortunately, I don’t often hear this from emergents because many are so intent on promoting their side of artists and storytellers that they feel they must denigrate the other side in order to gain power over them.

I’ve appreciated Dan’s comments on this whole subject as well as your comments here about the value of apologetics. I think you’d probably agree that what we need here is for each person to live out his gifts and appreciate and cultivate the gifts of the other without giving in to a fear that he might be losing power if he values the other.

Even if the world begins to reflect one side more than the other, it’s still our job as Christians to be whole people in the image of God, integrating *both* the artistic and analytical aspects of His nature into our own lives and the life of the Body.

Comment by Amy Hall 11.08.05 @ 4:43 pm

The more time I spend in ministry the more I’m convinced that trying to argue someone into heaven is the wrong approach. Yes, apologetics are important and I am in no way dismissing that area at all, but rarely have I come across someone who truly has an intellectual problem with Christianity. In 95% of the cases I’ve experienced people choose to believe something in their heart due to pain in life, a bad experience, or some other heart issue. They draw conclusions from the experience and then they try to “make excuses” for it intellectually. It seems to be more of a defense mechanism to protect their heart than actual logical reasoning, which is why I can shut someone down with intellectual gymnastics and still see no change of heart. It feels pointless and frustrating to debate my way to someone’s heart via their head.

Instead, my approach is to just listen and love on the individual. Just last night I was talking with a 9th grade student who has serious questions and reservations about Christianity. Instead of whipping out my defenses for Creationism, Bibliology, and Christ’s resurrection, I merely listened, affirmed their struggles, and, in love, offered answers when it was requested. We got down the issue that it was indeed past family experiences that was at the root of her unbelief. At the end of the discussion, the student had a much different heart attitude toward Christianity, not because I had made it a point to disprove all of her concerns, but because I loved her and even encouraged her critical thinking. She felt that I respected her and that I didn’t look down on her. Right before we parted ways last night, with tears in her eyes she said, “Thank you for listening. I love you guys!” Now THERE’S heart change! (I’m pumped!)

Comment by Tim 11.08.05 @ 4:47 pm

Marko, I’d also like to add, in answer to your question about Biola (Talbot), that nearly 10 years ago when I started the apologetics program there, they were already talking about raising up “a new kind of apologist” (yes, they used those exact words!) who would link a Christlike, humble character and approach with rigorous analytical thought and research. They kept this goal in mind and hired professors whose lives reflected this goal. I think this is a major reason for their current preeminence in the field.

Comment by Amy Hall 11.08.05 @ 5:30 pm

Culture lag is almost a tenet of the Christian Faith in the west. As some try to ask thoughtful questions (What about a Narrative Apologetic?)there will be backlash and labelling. (I mean it’s what we do so well!) I’d just like to see us get better at listening rather than posturing or “defending.”

We seem to spend our time explaining our apologetics rather than living them. More love - less words.

Comment by Keith 11.08.05 @ 5:45 pm

[…] left-brain apologetics (btw, not sure i agree with everything i wrote in this post — brent kunkle of str has helped shift my thinking a bit) a fun little right-brain exercise the world in 10 years […]

Pingback by ysmarko 11.07.06 @ 4:34 pm

RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URI

Leave a comment
Line and paragraph breaks automatic, e-mail address never displayed, HTML allowed: