Friday, September 3, 2010

The Apologetics Study Bible

The Apologetics Study Bible:  Understand Why You Believe

The subtitle to this book strikes me as supremely ironic.  This study Bible cannot help anyone to understand why they believe.  If they believe because of the information and arguments in this book, then they must already understand them.  If they don’t already understand them, then they must have some other reason for believing which this book does not address.   The reasons for believing must be antecedent to the beliefs.

This is the logical flaw in all Christian apologetics.  Apologists purport to describe the reasons for belief but they can't because the beliefs come before the reasons.  A better subtitle might be Understand Why You Would Like to Think that You Believe.  Or perhaps  Understand Why You Would Like Others to Think that You Believe.


  1. This post seems to epitomize the new title of the blog, and the answer is "not really, but we're faking it."

  2. Dan M.,

    This was the kind of thing for which I chose the new title. Unfortunately, the Apologetic Study Bible is written by people who don't think about what the think about any more than absolutely necessary for people who don't think about what they think about at all.

  3. I think you misunderstand the word. Apologetics doesn't explain why anyone believes. It presents arguments that justify why some do. It doesn't matter when the belief comes because those arguments won't convince everyone. Christ walked amongst the Jews and Romans performing miracles and some still did not believe. But the arguments for Christ's existence are many whether you want to buy in or not.

    As to the book, you're getting too hung up on the title which is meant to convey idea of what the book is about, but not necessarily a perfect one. If I wrote a book entitled, "Why Obama Is A Piece Of Dung", I would not expect that anyone would hope to find proof that he is an actual walking, talking pile of poop, but that I don't think highly of him or what he's done.

    One more thing, you realize of course that what you are doing in many of your posts is a type of counter-apologetics, don't you? You are making arguments to refute the arguments supporting Scripture. Do you do much thinking about what YOU think about?

  4. MA,

    I think about it a lot. I started blogging about it because some Bible believing Christians decided that their interpretation of their scripture should control the curriculum in my kid's high school.

    Apologetics is the practice of coming up with reasons to justify a belief which are other than the reasons that led to the adoption of the belief. They are essentially a smokescreen whose purposes is to divert the believer from actually thinking about the real reasons for his belief lest it occur to him how empty they are.

  5. First, I would like a link to whatever post you published having to do with the issue you mentioned regarding your kid's high school curriculum. If it was the Pinney incident in Dist 214, then you're overstating the situation.

    Next, now I see that I was correct and you misunderstand the meaning of "apologetics". Apologetics, at least as far as Christianity is concerned, takes knowable facts, truths and logic and shows why they support the belief in question. As I said, you're trying to do the same thing in reverse (but failing). To insist it is a smokescreen, however, indicates that you are less concerned for facts, truths and logic than are the apologists. I would think you'd be embarrassed to take such a cheap position.

    Further, I don't think apologetics even attempts to explain why anyone believes what the believes, but only to show that there are reasons to support the belief as being worthy. I think it would serve you well to study more apologetics.

  6. Uh, Marshall, you're supporting Vinny's point:

    Vinny: [T]he beliefs come before the reasons.

    You: I don't think apologetics even attempts to explain why anyone believes what [h]e believes[.]

    Vinny is pointing out that because of this, the subtitle is entirely wrong. You seem to argue that it's not important that it's wrong, but that doesn't make it less wrong.

    Moreover, that fact that some believers are satisfied with the post-hoc defenses of apologists is quite unimportant. Apologetics only become relevant to why people believe in christianity if it can convince non-believers to become believers. Do you have any evidence that it does so?

    You argue that it's not important tha

  7. It seems to me that if I have an argument for a particular position that I consider highly persuasive that I should expect at least some people to be persuaded by it. Apologists, on the other hand, see nothing contradictory in claiming that the argument for their position is overwhelming while conceding that it isn't going to convince anyone.

  8. Dan M,

    I wasn't trying to contradict the charge regarding the title, just the argument about apologetics. That argument, then, agrees with Vinny's point about the title. I do NOT think apologetics is meant to explain why someone believes, but only to justify that belief with the available facts and logical arguments.

    As to its effectiveness in converting non-believers to believers, I have no data on that, anymore than I have for those who have dropped their belief due to counter arguments. It has reinforced my own beliefs and that is all I'll vouch for. It should do as well for anyone who is more concerned with truth and logic than their own desires and preferences. That it doesn't is not an indictment on apologetics as much as it is on the character of the seeker.

  9. Vinny,

    Your point is well taken but you leave out one aspect: God is not definitively proven and arguments in His favor cannot overcome a person's willful desire to indulge his desires and preferences.

    Your own persuasive arguments, on the other hand, are likely more grounded in something that can be seen and proven without having to die first. So your expectations of success in persuading would be naturally higher. If your arguments are all of a kind that must rely on faith in the end, you would have the same track record.

  10. MA,

    When you shift gears as quickly as you did between your last two comments, I can almost smell your clutch burning. However, I thank you for perfectly capturing the intellectual inconsistency in the practice of apologetics. Faith is based on a personal subjective experience, the truth of which cannot be verified during this life. Truth and logic are objective concepts that are equally accessible to all human beings. Apologetics will never succeed in turning that subjective experience into objective reality.