“It would be easier if You were just a thought in my head, simply something that I once read, a belief needing my defence.” – Tenth Avenue North
I love apologetics. I love expanding my knowledge and challenging my beliefs, finding answers and reassuring myself that I do not have “blind faith” (aka wilful ignorance), but faith that faces questioning head on. I love delving in to science, history and philosophy to find both the challenges and the answers. The trouble is, for every former-atheist who has had come to Christ through apologetics, there’s a former-Christian who has fallen away through doubt. If Richard Dawkins were to sit in a room with Josh McDowell for 3 days straight, I doubt either of them would have changed their mind at the end of it. Because faith is not an abstract concept. It’s not merely the absence of doubt. Faith is not an historical phenomenon, a social construct or an outdated scientific method of explaining things. Faith is not a series of answers to life’s big questions.
If I could ask Richard Dawkins just one question, it wouldn’t be about science. It wouldn’t even be about God. It would be this: “if you could convince just one person in the world, just one, to believe what you do, who would it be?” I want to know what his approach is to relationships, to community and to society. I want to know which kinds of people motivate him to try to change their views: is it someone he loves most, someone with the most influence, someone who hurt him (or others) badly in the name of religion? I don’t want to know about his theories or his evidence, I want to know about him.
You can say all you like about which parts of my husband’s brain fire up when he’s kissing me, what hormones are released into his bloodstream, the etymology of the phrase “I love you” and the social context that leads to marriages. Understanding the nitty gritty of a relationship doesn’t make it less beautiful – but nor does it somehow ‘prove’ the existence of that relationship to someone who isn’t living it. If anything, it might make them more cynical towards love and relationships as a whole.
Now this is not to diminish the importance of the field of apologetics. For me, I needed to tackle the doubts I had about God before I would be open to the story of Jesus. A few well-chosen books of apologetics helped me to get through those barriers and sent me on my way. But they weren’t what changed me or what made me “Christian”. I needed to understand what marriage was before I could enter in to the contract, but that understanding wasn’t what made me “married”. My husband did that.
I appreciate knowing more about how the world works, how it came to exist as it does now, what influenced Hebrew laws and what psychological and chemical factors contribute to a person’s desire to be part of a religion. But those things don’t prove or disprove God. Because faith is not a theory; it’s an experience. Faith is lived.