Fellowship of Saints and Sinners

Fellowship of Saints and Sinners


Beyond Christian Apologetics

In 2001 TIME magazine named Stanley Hauerwas "America's best theologian."

In 2001 TIME magazine named Stanley Hauerwas “America’s best theologian.”

[NOTE: This is a revised version of an earlier post.]

The other day I did my first author reading at our local library. Only two people showed up, which was great, a) because it meant we were able to have a deeper conversation about all sorts of things, from reincarnation to the nature of Christian hope to why it is all three of us had found ourselves disappointed with organized religion; and b), because the two sweet ladies who came both felt compelled to buy a copy of my book by virtue of being the only two people there. The take-home? If sheer inspiration doesn’t work in drawing folks to a book signing on a Saturday afternoon, pity and guilt may.

But seriously, the eye-opening conversation with two new friends from the neighborhood about our spiritual quests left me even more convinced that I’m not generally a fan of that whole discipline we call “Christian apologetics.” A friend who is recently reminded me that the original meaning of that term connotes “a defense.” I still don’t like it.

Thankfully, this intuitive aversion to defensive expressions of Christianity has found a friend in the work of theologian Stanley Hauerwas, whose wonderful memoir Hannah’s Child is one of the books I’m making my way through.

Here is Hauerwas: “I fear that much of the Christianity that surrounds us assumes our task is to save appearances by protecting God from Job-like anguish. But if God is the God of Jesus Christ, then God does not need our protection. What God demands is not protection, but truth.”

In fact a theme that weaves in and out of this beautiful and painful telling of Hauerwas’ truth is a deep commitment to truth itself. Which may also help to explain Hauerwas’ suspicion of theories and systems. These, it seems, go hand in hand with Christian apologetics (my inference, not Hauerwas’). If Hauerwas is right that “positions too easily tempt us to think that we as Christians need a theory” (and I think Hauerwas is right), then Christian apologetics, by definition, tempts us into thinking that we as Christians by virtue of being Christian need not just a position and theory but an established way to defend ourselves in the public square from dangerous secularist views that would seek to take away our power. (Do you hear the sarcasm here?) This, I fear, only relegates expressions of Christian faith to that of public whining. Besides, if Christians have a right to whine, shouldn’t it at least be in places around the world where they’re genuinely being persecuted?

Maybe in matters of faith like on the basketball court, the best defense is actually a good offense (in this case, Christianity as Truth on the “offensive”). And it seems to me that in Jesus we can say that The Truth is our friend and that seeking The Truth will lead to God Himself. And if that’s the case, why spend so much time on defense?

 

 

 



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