Conservative Theology

Shallow vs Deep Apologetics

JB

One thing that is frustrating about the conservative movement, is the tendency in the last century to practice what I call "shallow apologetics".  Shallow apologetics is an attempt to defend the scripture or practice of the Church using the simplest means available.  It often means memorizing formulas or answers to questions.

Now, on its face, this has some value.  It builds up the congregation by providing answers to questions, and doing so at a level which is comprehensible to the largest group of parishioners.  But I will argue that this sort of benefit is largely temporary, and in fact is one of the reasons we are losing the culture war.

So what is the alternative?  The alternative is "deep apologetics".  Deep apologetics is looking into the faith in a way which engages the mind on a deep level, and is not satisfied with shallow answers.  This usually produces some of what I consider to be shallow apologetics, but the difference is that deep apologetics does not view the formulas and answers as the final goal, but rather looks at discovering the order of God's Creation as the final goal.  The fact that it can provide near-term answers is an added bonus.

The shallow apologists are looking to refute something, while the deep apologists are looking to learn something.  Notice that in shallow apologetics, it is the skeptics of the faith who set the agenda, while in deep apologetics it is the faithful who do so.  This is why shallow apologetics, if it is the main feature of the apologetics enterprise, is destined to lose.  Eventually someone is going to figure out that the shallow apologist is not producing anything of value, but merely holding on to what he has.  Think of the parable of the talents.  The shallow apologists are the ones who simply bury their talent it in the ground, and dig it back up when God asks for it.  Shallow apologetics does not bear fruit, precisely because it does not aim to.  Deep apologetics provides a harvest for the future precisely because that is where it aims.

This used to be known as "academics."  Unfortunately, in the current academic environment, anyone who starts their reasoning from scripture, or norms their reasoning by scripture, is considered unacademic.  That is a travesty of the highest order.  The very institutions which were established to provide a harvest for the future of the faith have excluded faithful reasoning from their repertoire.  And so, when we wonder where is the intellectual harvest of the Church is, we find that the institutions charged with its production have decided to simply do something else.

We need to return our minds to the task of understanding God's world - scientific, political, cultural, sociological, and historical, from a perspective that is explicitly and intentionally Christian.  Since others have burned the crops which the Church has contributed to, we must begin in earnest rebuilding the storehouse of faithful reason for the future of the faith.