Tuesday, August 13, 2013

A waffle about apologetics and unapologetics

I feel rather like I am missing out on something tonight, that being Life, The Universe and Nothing, a debate between Christian apologist William Lane Craig and the atheist Lawrence Krauss, happening right now in the Town Hall. I hesitated in buying a ticket before I went away, then while I was away the event sold out.

I’ve actually heard William Lane Craig speak quite extensively at a Credo apologetics conference in Gothenburg, Sweden, many years ago. As part of that conference he debated a “famous” atheist from Stockholm university one evening also. As I recall that debate went very well, to the point that the atheist (whose name escapes me, and I have discovered that my notes from this time overseas are one of the few things left in the wardrobe at my Mum’s place) wound up saying, I kid you not, that he wasn’t prepared to say that God does not exist. It sounds like the debate a few days ago in Brisbane here did not got quite so well as per this post from Nathan Campbell. I am not the biggest fan of the method of public debating. I feel stressed just watching, especially when I have such a vested interest in the presentation of one side.

Speaking of apologetics, I am still reading Francis Spufford’s book Unapologetic. Last night I read the chapter Hello, Cruel World. I wasn’t with him in this chapter, his discussion of the problem of suffering (though I did like the ending, and his teaser that the next chapter, titled Yeshua, has something more to do with his “answer”), in his views of God's sovereignty, and was not entirely sure what he was trying to say about Genesis. You really have to keep reading and make sure you grasp the nuance and the subtle shifts with this author. He begins his chapters by dumping us all right in the middle of the worst things that have ever been thought and said about Christianity (these are worth reading for some pre-emptive fuel), then attempts to get us out of there, and you need to hang on while he indulges some of those arguments along the way.

Still, it is quite fascinating, and his way of thinking a thing through is novel, if nothing else. And every now and then you get startled into laughter, like when he writes “To anyone inclined to think, in a happy wafty muddly way, that nature is God, nature replies: have a cup of pus, Mystic Boy” (consider yourself warned about his use of language). I don’t know about anyone else, but I feel like I have a memory like a sieve when it comes to recalling apologetic arguments. Occasionally in conversation I have thought ‘I know there is a good way to counter what you’re saying, if I could only remember and articulate what it was ...’. And while I know I am learning a good amount from this book, I’d struggle to actually explain to you too much of what that was. I feel like such things soak into and lodge in my own assurance base down deep somewhere (the fact that there is a way out from the worst things that have ever been thought and said about Christianity), and feed my own personal satisfaction with what I believe to be true, but I don’t seem very adept at dredging them up later to be of any great benefit to anyone else. I need a better mental filing system.

2 comments:

Margaret Meandering said...

Recently, I read a post about a young man who was having an intellectual debate about the existence of God. The debate went on and on, with the atheist ignoring the answers by just moving on to another point. Finally, the Christian said something that just "popped into his head," "this isn't about your intellect at all, isn't it about your not liking God's attitude to your sleeping with your girlfriend?" Apparently, that was the heart of the matter.

Ali said...

Yes, well, Aldous Huxley himself admitted he had a vested interest in meaninglessness - because it freed him up to live the life he wanted to live - so I don't doubt that is at least some of the atheist angst in at least some cases.