Theodicy is atheism-Gabriel Marcel
There is something to be said for a controversial title, on pragmatic grounds it certainly has a tendency to increase the traffic to one’s blog. On the other hand, a controversial title that lacks any substantive content is nothing but a mere dog-and-pony show. I am hopeful that this post will be more than a cheap thrill, all pomp and circumstance, or worse still an exhibition of canine and equine.
i. What is apologetics?
Apologetics is the defense of the faith. The Greek word apologia means to give an answer back, a reasoned response in other words. Whenever a self-styled apologist is asked about why they are so passionate about defending the faith they generally recite without hesitation this verse always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you (1 Peter 3:15) here is proof positive from the text that we have a duty as Christians to defend the faith. Allow me to affirm this proposition, indeed we have an obligation to defend the faith.
ii. Why would you ask whether apologetics is a form of atheism?
Consider the above scripture for a moment, the bible clearly makes a command that the Christian is duty bound to observe. We are to be ready [prepared] to give an answer [an apologetic for our faith]. Apologists prepare for the confrontation by intensive study in the arguments for God’s existence and for the myriad of ways that faith is attacked by atheists,secularists, and adherents of other worldviews. In this task many apologists spend countless hours in diligent study (and I know this from personal experience) awaiting sometimes impatiently for a challenge to the Christian worldview.
All of this sounds warranted, even biblical. The nature of the case is we are to be ready with an apologetic q.e.d. But in taking the mantle of apologetics as preparation for battle (and the battle will come) misses something that forces our apologetics into a horizontal integration rather than a vertical integration. Our apologetic becomes for us and about them and we set about to show ourselves approved and prove apodictically ‘they’ are wrong [clearly they are!]
iii. What are you saying?
Ultimately, apologetics must be conjoined with something else in order to orient our task vertically rather than horizontally. A horizontal orientation contains a hidden premise that most of us accept without self-disclosure. The apologetical task becomes one couched strictly in human terms. The debate is focused on the implicit strengths or weaknesses of an argument from a merely human point of view. Our apologetics become atheistic not in the academic sense but in a more practical sense. God’s sovereignty is replaced with human ability, will, and intellectual autonomy.
iv. The fix is in!
Turning back to the scriptures provides the coup de grace for dealing with apologetics or apologists [present company included] that have humanized apologetics to the point where God is strangely absent. We see from 1 Peter 3:15 that our primary task is to honor Christ the Lord as holy; our main task is vertically orient our apologetics toward Christ, remembering his holiness, and his utter sovereignty over those who would persecute us or prosecute our worldview in the court of public opinion. Once our apologetics are vertically oriented on Christ, our apologetic will be gentle and respectful.
As a concluding bit of autobiography, I have fallen very short of this in my engagement with those who would disagree with our worldview. A robust apologetic requires a firm commitment to setting apart of Christ as Lord.