In this episode John and Gregg discuss the topic of Christian apologetics. John contextualizes the discussion by explaining how he goes through various rhythms of being more and then less engaged with the podcast, and how listener feedback is often a stimulus to rekindle John’s interest.
Specifically, John remarks on Lynette’s contention that he (and Gregg, in particular) are actually “apologists” for the Christian faith. Gregg is doubtful that what he and John are doing could be considered as apologetics, particularly because Christian apologetics aims to convert non-Christians to Christianity and Gregg aims to “convert Christians to better ways of thinking and being.”
So when John raises his issues with Christianity, Gregg sees that they are both of very similar opinion that the issues that John raises. Gregg then offers that apologetics seeks to offer better ways of thinking in pursuit of better beliefs, and that it is mainly an intellectual (and particularly, epistemological) exercise. Gregg sees that all of these orientations on their own are problematic.
John focuses on the notion of “conversion,” and wonders if this is all that is involved in apologetics. For example, isn’t apologetics also about supporting an existing view / defending one’s own faith (for oneself)? Yet John’s own experience of engaging with apologetics was actually to convince himself of the validity of Christian belief. John likens this to “mentally assenting to being in love with someone.”
Gregg comes back to John’s notion of “ownership” (and indeed, what constitutes ownership) and notes that, according to his exposure to Christian apologetics, there typically seems to be a real lack of ownership amongst those who express their Christianity in that way.
Gregg sees this lack of ownership and over-intellectualization as deeply linked to (and likely derived from) the notion that all truth is in / originates from the Bible. Gregg views this notion as itself untruthful, unspported by the biblical claims, and so as an unhelpful “addition” that Christians have appended to the Christian faith.
John directs this to a practical example, such as if Gregg’s kids go off to college. John wonders how Gregg will respond–will he be worried? Gregg doesn’t think so. First, because his children have had first hand experience of how their lives have been changed in positive ways (such as their parents re-uniting after 20 months of separation) and how Christianity, the church, and their parent’s claims about God’s involvement have been prominent throughout this process.
Second, Gregg and his spouse have ongoing engagement with their children about what their children think: the emphasis is on what the children think (and what they find compelling) rather than trying to persuade them to believe this or that. Third, Gregg notes that some “versions” of Christianity need to be thrown out! So he is very sympathetic to the possibility that new information may well help us to view our beliefs in a more truthful light.
So Gregg believes that when people a) have the space to think for themselves, b) are presented with new ideas, and c) have sufficient amount of supports (through those who are good advisers and counselors) that they are then able to weigh up this new information together with their existing beliefs in the best way, and so likely come to the best determinations about them.