While growing up and growing into faith I met many good people who gave me support and so much help and in many ways a home. My first interaction with Christian apologetics came at a time when I was reaching a point where my faith was more than the thing that the family did. It started meaning something to me.
The apologetics that I came in contact with was amazing. It was very clever and in some ways fun. It was great to see so many spurious arguments against faith dismantled with ease and to see that faith had some intellectual basis. Most of the influence for my friends came from Ravi Zacharias, the Indian born North America based evangelical apologist.
At first I wondered why anyone would name a ministry after themselves. Later I discovered that this was quite common in America. There are some deep cultural reasons for this but that was my first discomfort. My closest friend at the time was known as quite a star in apologist circles but again I started having discomfort about this brand of Christian Apologetics.
However these CAs (Christian Apologists) loved CS Lewis and having grown up with Narnia, I thought that it there MUST be cool. Anyway as a young urban Christian in India CA was very cool and hip and tons of my friends wanted go study it further and learn more and so on.
The first I heard anyone in authority mildly critique CA, was in bible school, where one of my lecturers suggested that maybe CA doesn’t have it all right. This was a huge relief to me. I still don’t fully know why.
In one of those summers in England I went to the Keswick convention where we saw a speaker from RZ ministries giving some very engaging talks. It felt like a great dizzying ride through intellectual depths and it was invigorating. In one of the sessions an old man with a wavering voice, with a shaking raised eye questioned the trinity. What happened next has never left me. The RZ man pounced on this old doddering man and intellectually just pounded him to the floor. Argument and reasoning flooded out drowning this man. He mumbled, ‘you’re just making me dizzy.’
Back in India I started observing how my friend conducted his arguments and realised that it was essentially belittling. We had a few arguments as well. Then RZ himself came and visited our church. At least a thousand people came and the church hired extra PA and video equipment to broadcast this amazing intellect. Yet I felt very unmoved. Over those few years I’d started hearing these arguments not as clever defenses but as a sneer against those who ‘don’t get it.’
Essentially I felt that CA was more polemic than apologetic. These weren’t defenses to a question. They were rational crushing balls to a justifiable thought. They relied on silencing the questioner with brilliance. Since then I don’t have too much respect for CA. Though of course RZ and his people ARE brilliant and it will be crude to question their passion for what they do.
However I do wonder whether my friends and me in urban India made an idol out of Apologetics and also idolized the leaders within this area. As I read CS Lewis further I also discovered there’s a lot in CS Lewis which these particular folks from CA wouldn’t really like or agree with. In other words CS Lewis was being very selectively read and portrayed as a CA. When in fact he is much broader than most evangelicals would like him to be.
This is not a pure rant against CA but more against the excesses of CA. I think at the heart of it, it is the classic elevation of intellect over all else. The issue here is that it encourages us to live our lives especially our faith, in our head. Yet our faith is meant to be our whole selves, body and whatever else is housed in it. Our heads and our thinking aren’t the beginning and end of who we are as God’s children.
So this ends with the question, if our faith is not just in our heads, how does it live out in the rest of us?