Encore: Unapologetics 101November 30, 2009 — Deacon Duncan
[Originally posted as “Unapologetics 101” on July 27, 2007.]
Before we get into a detailed analysis of I Don’t Have Enough FAITH to Be an ATHEIST, I wanted to take a minute and look at the most fundamental and important principle for effective refutation of Christian apologetics. Debating apologetics can be a tricky matter: Christians have 2,000 years of experience in rationalizing their beliefs, and generally know better than to allow themselves to be pinned down to anything that would settle the matter fairly and objectively. There is, however, one inescapable fact, with one inevitable consequence, which can be used to force Christians to face reality no matter how much they would like to twist away from it.
The inescapable fact is this: God does not show up in the real world, not visibly, not audibly, not tangibly, not for you, not for me, not for saint or for sinner or for seeker. Many people, of course, have already pointed out this fact, and tried to use it against Christianity, with little or no effect. For 2,000 years, believers have been rationalizing their way around that one. That’s why, for maximum effectiveness, we need to combine the inescapable fact with the inevitable consequence.
If God does not show up outside the stories, superstitions and subjective feelings of men, the inevitable consequence is that we have no alternative but to put our faith in men rather than in God. If I promise you that God will put ten solid gold coins under your pillow tomorrow morning, and you believe that this is true, who are you believing, me or God? If those coins are not there tomorrow morning, who lied, me or God? When men say things on God’s behalf, and make promises that God is supposed to keep, you can either believe them or disbelieve them, but the word is the word of men, even if men attribute it to God. You can believe in what men tell you about God, but if you do, you are putting your faith in men. There is no alternative, since God does not show up to give you anything else to believe in.
This is an important point, because Christians tend to believe that they are doing something noble and spiritual when they believe Christian teachings. Because they believe that the Bible is the word of God and that Christian teachings in general are the teachings of God, they count their belief in these teachings as a mark of loyalty towards God. God does not show up in the real world, however, which means that when they put their faith in these teachings, they are not putting their faith in God, they are putting their faith in the fallible men who brought them these teachings and told them they were from God.
Psychologically, it makes a big difference to the Christian whether he is defending faith in God, or only defending faith in men. The most effective approach to unapologetics, therefore, is to keep directing the believer’s attention to the inescapable fact that God does not show up in the real world, and that the inevitable consequence of God’s universal absence is that all these apologetics for God are the words of men. Believe in them and defend them if you want, but you’ll be defending men, and not God, if you do.