Monday, November 2, 2009

Apologetics, Not an Apology

There are way too many sick people at work to avoid catching this junk that's going around and it finally caught up with me last week. I'm still sneezing and hacking but it could be worse. I'm not sure if that's because of the zinc tablets I'm taking but I'd like to think I'm not wasting my money on them. Don't get too close to this post; I don't want you to catch it.

I took a couple sick-days from the salt mine last week and used the time to resume work on the stained glass project that I'd put away when the weather turned warm last spring. We're so close to finishing it that I think another 8-10 hours should be all we need. I'd really like to get the entire project completed this winter. We've got some neighbors who would like us to do some work for them but I don't want to take on anything until these six panels are done. Here's what a completed panel looks like and here's where I was with the current one as of a few days ago. We're quite a bit further along now. If all goes well I'll have it hung by weeks end.

These windows are going above the entertainment center in our basement. Here's a link to a video I made last spring that shows the project in more detail.

Christian Apologetics is the science or art of defending the Christian faith. So many of us who call ourselves Christians readily gloss over some of the more difficult realities of our faith; myself included. I recently finished reading a book titled Letters from a Skeptic by Dr. Gregory Boyd and Edward Boyd. Greg is a Christian theologian and Ed, his father, is a cynical skeptic of the Christian faith. The book is a series of letters the two exchanged over the course of a couple years whereby Ed posed some very difficult questions to his son about Christianity followed by Greg's responses.

Some of the titles of letters his father posed to his son in the book are:
Why has Christianity done so much harm?
Why is the world so full of suffering?
Why does God create earthquakes and famines?
Why did God create Satan?
Why didn't God spare your mother?
Aren't the Gospels full of contradictions?
Why are there so many differing interpretations of the Bible?
How could an all-loving God torture people in an eternal hell?

Ed would form his questions with an honesty that left no room for Greg to misunderstand his father's intent. To give you an idea of how the book reads, below is an excerpt from one of those letters titled, Why does God make believing in Him so difficult?

Why does God put us in a position where we have to try to believe in Him? Why does He toy with mankind, teasing us with evidence that's good enough to make us uncomfortable, but never coming out directly and making Himself clear? what's so great about "faith" that He desires it above an obvious revelation of Himself? And when He does reveal Himself---supposedly in the Bible---He does so many damn bizarre things that no one who wasn't there to see it can be expected to believe it. Yet "salvation" supposedly hangs on this! Why do people have to believe things and accept stories that they'd never accept under ordinary circumstances in order to be saved? This isn't exactly fair.

So if I want to avoid hell, I presumably have to believe that a snake talked to Eve, that a virgin got pregnant from God, that a whale swallowed a prophet, that the Red Sea was parted and all sorts of other crazy things. Well, if God wants me so bad, Greg, why does He make believing in Him so damn impossible? He gives an evidence here, an evidence there---enough to get us wondering---but then He throws in these other bizarre things which we can't possibly be expected to take seriously! If there were only the evidence, or only the crazy stuff, I'd have no problem. But combined, it's most aggravating.

It seems to me that an all-powerful God could do a much better job of convincing people of His existence than any evangelist ever does, and even better than all your arguments do. Hell, just write it across the sky, nice and big: "Here's you're proof, Ed. Believe in Me or go to hell! Sincerely, the Almighty." You wouldn't have to spend an afternoon arguing history to me. I'd be on my knees.

I suppose it's for the better, but the more convincing you sound, the more ticked off I seem to get. And I've found myself recently thinking about all this material too much, which means I walk around here in a state of frustration. I don't have a clue as to what you could do about this. Maybe tell your "Spirit" who is supposedly quietly chipping away in my heart to come out of the dark and write in the clouds! Short of that, I think I'm destined to be an intrigued but frustrated skeptic, and your optimism about me is doomed to disappointment.

Sincerely yours,


Sometimes I'd actually find myself oddly amused at Ed's frustration; he reminded me a bit of my own father. His questions were well thought out and while I may have at times been strangely entertained by Ed's straight-to-the-point cynicism, I couldn't help but be sympathetic toward him as well. Just when I thought he couldn't possibly pen a more difficult scenario for his son to explain away, he does just that. Very pointed questions which Greg would speak directly to in his responses. Rather than write his answer to his father here for you to read, I'll encourage you to pick up the book and read it there with the rest of the dialog. There's also a story within the story of his father's struggle to find anything meaningful in his son's faith. I promise you that you'll find the book enlightening and worth every minute of your time. Link to the book at Amazon.

I saw Greg speak at our church earlier this year at a Men's Breakfast and he'll be back to talk with us again in December. I'm looking forward to it.

Greg isn't well liked by many in the Fundamentalist Christian arena. Watch this video where Greg appears at 2:07. He marches to his own beat and there's something about it that is very appealing to me, but then, I've been accused of being on a different wavelength from the norm myself a time or two.


John said...

Great video clip. Sounds like my kind of pastor!

I'll have to pick up the book. Many of the father's questions sound like the objections that Lee Stroebel addressed in "The Case For Faith". I'd like to see Greg's perspective, too. Thanks for the tip.

John <><

Kevin said...

Hi John...yes, I think you'll like the book. Greg's father lays down some extremely difficult situations/scenarios for Greg to explain.

The video clip is a breath of fresh air to me. Tammy and I have no intentions of leaving Hosanna but we'd like to check out Greg's church. It's maybe a half hour away.

I need to read Lee Stroebel's book. Didn't he come to Christ as a result of research he'd done to refute Christianity?