Saturday, 20 February 2016

Apologetics and Predators

This post responds to one by Stephen Bedard called Why Apologetics is Essential to Being a Pastor. To be fair, you should read it first before going to the comments below. (Update: Bedard has since posted a response to this post, which you can find here.)


And now for my sermon...
Mr Bedard is a Baptist pastor. It seems he's also a proud apologist. His reasoning is that he's protecting the sheep from predators. He equates predators with people like Bart Ehrman. Wicked, wicked Bart!

There's a problem with this line of reasoning. The people who sit in churches are not actually sheep, they're people, just like their pastor. They're not illiterate, as were most folk in centuries past; they read, they think, they question.

Apologetics is the art of stopping people from doing this by conning them with often specious arguments or, if that doesn't work, scaring them with the threat of heavenly judgement. An apologist is seldom open to new thinking; he (not so often she) has it all worked out in advance, and the evidence is carefully massaged to fit. The wagons have already been drawn up. An apologist is an intellectual police officer armed with easy answers, delusions of competence and misinformation.

There are a lot of assumptions that go with the role. The people in the pews are dummies. They need to be treated as spiritual juveniles. The pastor is a heroic figure, a compassionate patriarch. Apologetics goes hand in hand with spiritual authoritarianism. Apologists are rarely good listeners; they're too eager to burst out confidently with their pre-packaged responses.

Mr Bedard says he wants to protect the 'sheep' from the wolves and coyotes. I get the impression he wants to protect them from asking questions he isn't competent to deal with. It's an arrogance that's hard to understand in a world where we increasingly encourage our kids to develop and exercise critical thinking and learn more about their world than we were able to. "Trust me, I've been to Bible College" just doesn't cut the mustard.

A good pastor is not a control freak. Nor is it their job to patronise the members of their congregations. No, apologetics is not essential to being a pastor. Maybe that was the way it was in pre-Enlightenment times when a tonsured priest was often the only educated person in the village, but I doubt that's true in St Catharines, Ontario in 2016. If this is Mr Bedard's position, it seems unlikely he's doing his congregation any favours.

So, who is the real predator here?

1 comment:

  1. On another blog, Hoss commented:

    "A study was posted at one or more WCG-critique blogs showed when certain ‘facts’ were shown to be fallacious, the number of people who believed the alleged facts actually increased. Perhaps that is what the splinters are counting on…"

    Maybe apologists are wasting their time. Do you suppose that if they attacked fallacious opinions and fantasies, the number of believers would increase?

    At least this one source seems that the answer is "yes".

    The predators only need to seem completely confident in whatever they say to pull off their scams.