Monday, January 26, 2009

Is Christian apologetics inherently dishonest?

A redated post. This links to a Debunking Christianity post.

I suppose there are some Christian apologists who calculate the apologetic impact of what they say before saying it. But what seems to be going on here is a canard. Since the idea is to defend a particular belief, it must be dishonest, because the goal has got to be that of advancing the cause of Christianity rather than seeking the truth. But if so, atheist apologetics (and what the hell would you call all that stuff on Internet Infidels, not to mention what comes from Richard Dawkins, if it isn't atheist apologetics) is in the same boat.

As an apologist, all I am doing is saying "I have been following the argument where it leads as best I can for years now, this is where it has led me, let me tell you why I came to believe what I do and what holds my beliefs in place." I don't use arguments I think are bad in order to get people to become Christians.

I'm afraid this is an ad hominem attack on Christian apologetics. Last time I taught logic, that was a fallacy.


John W. Loftus said...

Well Vic, there are arguments and then there are explanations. This is an explanation. It tries to explain what apologists do from personal experience, and as such, the strength of his explanation lies in his background.


Ron said...

This would be more troubling if it came from people who haven't made it their agenda to denounce Christianity. This would be like if a neo-Nazi group announced that Jewish people ought not to be trusted. It has about the equivalent argumentative effect, that is to say none whatsoever.

Now, if they actually argued against a specific apologetic argument then I'd take notice. Overly general statements like this really get on my nerves though.

Btw, I disagree about this being an explanation which strength "lies in his background." How would an atheist like it if I said that all atheist apologetics are dishonest? Even if I phrased it as an explanation from personal experience what I said would not be valid. Even if I had the best background in the world on this issue, you still ought not take my explanation as gospel truth, so to speak.

Anonymous said...

Reminds me of a humanities professor I had in the Philosophy department who made a comment to me in an e-mail to the effect of saying my Christian belief and pursuit of philosophy were fundamentally at odds.

The philoospher Anthony Kenny's rebuke is that Bertrand Russel sets out to prove 1+1=2 in his Principia Mathematica when he already believes it to be true.

I think the same might go for people who defend, say, belief in the past our our memory/senses.

I guess you've gotta be some kind of universal sceptic to be a true philosopher.

Anonymous said...

It also has me thinking: if you asked these guys brothers themselves if they thought what they were doing was dishonest, would they agree?

It seems to me like the guy has reasoned: I don't think their views are true, and nor would any reasonable person, therefore they must be dishonest. How could anyone go so far as to get PhDs and follow a path in life that they believed to be a fraud and then continue it on?

James Moreland once noted that he heard a major figure in the philosophy of mind say that his views on the mind were totally at odds with his everyday attitude and actions. Is he dishonest too?

Mike Darus said...

I missed something. Where is the dishonesty? Christian apologetics is about defending the truth claims of Christianity. Does it ever claim anything else? It necessarily starts with God's existence and self-revelation through the prophets, Christ and the apostles. The dishonesty can only come from those who claim to come to the discussion with no bias. If he believes the two PHD brothers have been dishonest in some way, then name the issue.

Klatu said...

The answer to that question is probalby yes. In fact the entire Christian paradigm may be dishonest, that is a 'theological' counterfeit. The whole of Christian history is coming under question by a new interpretation of the moral teachings of Christ that is spreading on the web and this new teaching has teeth, both intellecutal and moral. I quote:

'it describes and teaches a single moral LAW, a single moral principle offering the promise of its own proof; one in which the reality of God responds to an act of perfect faith with a direct, individual intervention into the natural world; correcting human nature by a change in natural law, altering biology, consciousness and human ethical perception, transcending natural evolutionary boundaries. The experience of this event is known metaphorically as 'The Resurrection'.

I am part of the trail to test and either confirm or disprove this new truth claim and would invite anyone who would like to resolve the God question once and for all to join. Check the links:

Anonymous said...


Was William Lane Craig being dishonest when he gave his honest opinion that sometimes whole groups of people have to be killed, man, woman , child and baby , because they were so evil?

Were sceptics not crowing that at last they were seeing the truth about apologists, and now they say that apologists are dishonest?

Which is it?

Chad said...

The dishonesty amongst christian apologetics was the very thing that lead me away from christianity. Ultimately, their expressions of intellectual irresponsibility and sometimes outright dishonesty only served to encourage self analysis into why I believe what I believed at the time.

I became aware of the idea that someone can be emotionally dependent upon an idea to the point of lying not only to others but to themselves. Thats what I found in myself and thats why I see christian apologetics actually doing. Their only target audience are people who already 'want' to believe, regardless of the merit of what they are trying to explain.

Gordon Knight said...

If you defend Christianity because you believe it is rational, then that is not dishonest anymore than a defense of any other philosophical position.

On the other hand, if don't believe the arguments you are givng really support your positoin, then that would be dishonest. Or if you mischaracterize your own position to make it more palatable to others (like, what Marilyn McCord Adams calls the "dirty little secret" of some Christian's belief in Hell, which is kept in the closet while discussing the argument from evil)

I think WLC is honest, in that he is sincere, but he obviously has an axe grind.

Anonymous said...

Different anonymous here - call me anonymous X.

Oddly, my experience was the opposite. I started out questioning Christianity, and becoming dismayed at what I saw as duplicity on the part of some apologists - but this was far from universal either in population (not every apologist resorted to such tactics - not even most) or claims (I saw arguments which struck me as duplicitous with regards to their pro-YECness, say. But almost never when it came to philosophical arguments, and rarely even with historical arguments.)

On the flipside, I noticed even more duplicity on the side of atheists. Mixing science with philosophy or metaphysics, and trying to pass off the sum as purely science ('There is no designer because, uh, evolution!'). Talking about the values of being skeptical, or even appealing to the limits of rationality, but holding certain sacred cows anyway. Or worst of all, making the unwarranted jump from 'If Christianity is not true, there is no God', even while many times privately admitting that there's a strong argument for deism, or a basic theism, or pan(en)theism, etc.

The upshot was that any group composed of people strongly committed to their perspective will naturally be tempted by dishonesty, at least in the form of overstating their case or downplaying valid questions - sometimes worse. I remain a theist and a Catholic now, because I realize that no option will eradicate reasonable doubt. For every theist claiming that Haeckel's embryos prove evolution never happened, there's an atheist insisting that there's no evidence Jesus even existed.