Friday, July 19, 2013

PHLAP! PHilosophy of Lazy APologetics.

Sometimes the question of why interact with pop Gnus with strange arguments, like John Loftus or Richard Carrier, comes up.  I noticed this morning that I'd explained my thinking on this on an obscure forum at this already obscure blog a few months ago pretty succinctly.

Sam: You really need to ignore John Loftus. He's nothing but a pseudo intellectual crackpot borderline narcissist.

David: We're all borderline narcissists, Sam. If I ignore the narcissists, I'll have to go join the nihilists, if they'll have me.

I think John raises interesting questions. I think those questions, properly understood, can help point people to the truth. I don't rebut Loftus because his arguments are terrifying, I rebut him because they are promising.

And the same, I think, should go for rebutting Avalos, Carrier, Dawkins, Dennett, Ehrman, Harris, Pagels, Price, etc.  Sometimes they represent challenges -- and let's be honest enough to admit those challenges -- but nineteen times out of twenty, they represent opportunities.  That's because the truth usually consists not of just saying, "You're wrong," but "You're right as well as wrong, and you haven't yet seen the quarter of it." 

In other words, low-hanging fruit often tastes sweet, and one can gather a lot of it quickly.

Call that, my Philosophy of Lazy Apologetics.  (PHLAP) 


Crude said...

Well, since you brought it up...

You know better than I do in what you decide to pursue, etc. The problem is, the arguments are easy to answer - those are free-floating. I think people get worked up when you cite Loftus as their source, since he's seen as kind of a wannabe shyster.

Dawkins? Dennett? Ehrman? Harris? They're not really clawing for attention, so giving them some accomplishes little.

David B Marshall said...

That's my point. Most of the arguments are easy to answer -- but they raise big issues in the process, which often shed light.

I've written five books so far, of my own. In retrospect, all of them were in some way written to respond to popular accusations against Christianity. The first was written to answer the charge I often heard in Taiwan that "Christianity is Yangjiao," or foreign religion, that doesn't fit China. Now I've written a doctoral dissertation on the subject, and I'm SO happy people brought the subject up so often. Because I am amazed at how wonderfully the Gospel fulfills the deepest truths in Chinese tradition.

Aside from the anthology, my last three books were all written on the surface to answer particular groups of critics -- the Jesus Seminar, Pagels & Co, and New Atheists. But in each case their criticisms, while weak, helped in the end shed light on the uniqueness of the Gospel in important ways. (My editor chopped the last three chapters out of the Gnu book, though, which said a lot more along those lines -- that may ultimately turn into another book.) Plus, having critics to answer makes the book more lively -- as Origen, Augustine, and Chesterton all found.

Is Loftus worthy to serve that function? Sure he is. It's not a particular noble function, but it is a helpful one. I'm taking the OTF, and running with it -- if taken seriously, answering such challenges often send one on a rich journey of intellectual discovery, with God showing up in unexpected places.

Crude said...

To make it clear: I wasn't saying that the arguments aren't worth being answered, or don't have utility. In fact, I'm sure they are and do. It's mostly that you can answer them, and never mention the name of a desperate-for-PR guy once. I think that sums up the strongest argument against directly dealing with such directly - you can deal with all of his arguments, yet give the unworthy no press. Very, very little trades on the individual specifically here. (It'd be another thing if you were dealing with, say... an Ehrman, who has a position of authority and is well-known and thought well of.)

But, really - you know what you're doing better than I, so I'm not pushing this point here or, God forbid, insisting on it. Just explaining where I think people are coming from. You certainly write well and forcefully on these topics.

David B Marshall said...

Thanks. I guess if I were the Professor of the Public Understanding of Science and Misunderstanding of Theology at Oxford University, also the World's Leading (Pseudo) Intellectual, I'd probably be too dignified to debate William Lane Craig, still John or these other guys.

Are you reading Meyer's new book? I'm about halfway through, now.