Phenomenological Apologetics

Postmodern ApologeticsThis is a very succinct paragraph describing the intellectual culture following the developments of the Enlightenment, which further transformed into an institutionalized naturalism.

“Many people had, in fact, attempted to harmonize the new science with traditional Christian beliefs. It was argued, for example, that only a wise and loving Creator could have fashioned such a perfect universe. One famous argument, put forward by William Paley, used the example of God as a watchmaker. If one were to walk along the beach and find an intricately fashioned watch, one would immediately recognize that this watch could not have come about by chance but must be the result of intelligent design. Thus, the order and beauty of the natural universe clearly exhibited the hand of the Creator, the watchmaker. This argument became considerably less convincing after Charles Darwin showed that apparent order and adjustment can actually be the result of chance and adaptation and need not be the result of rational design. Others joined Darwin in demolishing any coherent notion of natural theology. Various political revolutions evidenced that not all government authority was directly given by God. Karl Marx argued that economic and political exploitation could not be justified by divine design and that God was not the driving force behind capitalism but instead the idea employed to justify exploitation and suppression of the masses. In fact, economic and social history could be sufficiently explained by their own moving factors (such as economic oppression, alienation, and class struggle) instead of religious reasons. Ludwig Feuerbach contended that religious belief could be explained through various social and cultural factors that make it necessary to project an all-powerful authority figure, which then becomes defined as divine. Thus, ‘God’ is merely a reflection or projection of our own desires and needs. Sigmund Feud, finally, demonstrated that we are deeply motivated by unconscious drives, desires, and fears. Thus, what had previously been thought of as ‘sin’ was re-defined as ‘disease’.” (Postmodern Apologetics: Arguments for God in Contemporary Philosophy, Gschwandtner, Pg. 8)

The culture described above, in my view, still remains intact. It is the environment Christian apologists have interacted with and failed to overcome in any meaningful way. For all the preaching, teaching, and defending, American culture still remains overwhelmingly secular and atheistic. The following is an apt description of the modern apologetics project,

“What does all this mean for ‘thinking’ or philosophizing about God today? It means that we have a much harder and different task before us. Perhaps for the first time in history society no longer subscribes to one common and coherent belief system. Hence, a defense of God cannot proceed from a shared starting point or even assume agreement about basic beliefs or presuppositions. Yet, in order to convince someone, one must talk to him or her in a language that is at least on some level comprehensible. One version of contemporary philosophy of religion attempts this by appealing to the paradigms of modernity or science and defending new proofs for God’s existence. On the one hand, analytical philosophers criticize Kant’s dismissal of these proofs and try to show (often by using logical parameters) that they are indeed quite coherent. On the other hand, many thinkers accept the contemporary scientific and philosophical worldview, but seek to demonstrate that Christian belief at the very least is not incompatible with it and possibly even provides the best explanation for it. Much philosophizing of religion therefore attempts to show the coherence of Christian faith in light of secular culture’s ‘knowledge’ about science (and science taken in its widest sense: as natural science, but also as knowledge about human thinking, feeling, and acting, as insights regarding the emergence and behaviors of cultures, thus including the social sciences.) These philosophies consequently assume that ‘truth’ is indeed defined along scientific parameters, that its means verification and certainty, established by evidence and experiments. In many ways such philosophy continues the ‘modern’ experiment and does not subscribe to postmodernism.” (Ibid, Pg. 12)

The original mission of the modernist project and the development of “Enlightenment” thinking was to overthrow ancient perennial wisdom and the Catholic Church. It should be easy then, to recognize that an apologetic utilizing the very tools meant to overthrow Christendom are inadequate to not only for defending the faith, but to save souls in the pursuit of establishing a Christian culture.


– Lucas G. Westman

One thought on “Phenomenological Apologetics

  1. christian apologetics suffers not for any reason given.

    and science has nothing to do with certainty and hasn’t been of a positivist venting for nearly one hundred years.

    “reason to assert” is what justifies belief about anything. science succeeds in asking relevant questions and gives answers that have meaning, supported with the best reasons possible to assert something may be the case. christian apologetics today fails because it begs all the wrong questions, gives irrelevant or thoughtless answers to them, and indeed thinks there’s some other language that needs to be learned in order to be believed.

    no one denies numinous experiences exist. these give rise to the idea of gods. that’s either appropriate because there is one, or appropriate because something about reality and something about humanity that causes us to imagine such a thing. no one would disagree here. anyone attributing things either way do so from an abduction about the world, and that, only through their sense about it all. in other words, attribution is not based on evidence, not based on logic, but purely through existential impression. one either has an impression of some big other or one does not. one cannot choose to believe or disbelieve.

    apologetics fails to be at all in touch with the rigors of epistemology, even to the smallest degree to recognize it engages a debate that solely entails to “my impression is better than yours”.

    of nearly twenty years of discourse with people of all faiths and folks completely lacking the impression of divinity in the world at all, i have yet to meet a person who would object to christianity as put forward as abelard’s moral influence theory of atonement; that there is a way to be in the world, that “the good” is personified as “god” and the only appropriate view a religious person can have (given god is defined as incomprehensible), and that seeking the good is in fact seeking god, and participation with the good is atonement and salvation; christ being exemplar of god’s logos (intent for humanity) as the ideal way of being (in the world; hodos) which leads us to the truth (of humanity; alethea) which provides mode for the fullness of the experience of life (zoe) … and this, all from god’s active presence in the world (grace) which draws us to the good (pistis) and transforms us all we enjoin it.

    objections from atheists on hearing that narrative are only for the fact they encounter zealot evangelicals who think any of that can be proven, as matters of fact, that christianity is a proposition. when redirected to the existential facts we all face, and given they can take the narrative as poetically as they like, they understand what most christians don’t. that is, this is my narrative of the impressions i have of the world and what i see it asking me to do is the very same thing others want to naturally do and concern themselves with; human well-being and doing to good.

    in missing the point of christianity by conflating faith with belief (a definite result and consequence of enlightenment thinking upon and in the christian mind) and making it all hinge on certain beliefs which much certainty be true, christianity has indeed begged the wrong questions and utterly made itself irrelevant.

    one can be offended upon hearing that report, but as it dawns on all ministers, christianity is diminishing; though many of these will simply put blame on how messed up “the world” is, or that the “end times” are here, or that “satan is winning” or tripe like that when more than likely, given my experience, christians simply have made themselves irrelevant. i mean, take a look at the “theology” category of wordpress alone! one wonders while looking at how many layman can mentally masturbate over things like dispensationalism or faith versus works or election and the like before they will get off their asses to actually do something to make the world a better place.

    but i digress.


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