A long time ago a very wise man said to me, a newby to the field of apologetics, “you need to ground your apologetics in your theology, not your theology in apologetics.” The point he was making relates to that unresolved debate between presuppositionalism and evidentialism/classical apologetics. I wasn’t immediately persuaded by his argument but eventually came to see the truth as it is, realizing that what we should be doing in making a defense is speak from within our worldview commitment instead of step outside of it in order to make it’s case. This is where I first saw the relationship between apologetics and ethics, but that’s another post for another time.
Time has been a rare commodity for me in the last few months, but I sincerely value the opportunity I have to teach ethics in a non-Christian setting, one reason is because I get to observe and evaluate worldviews in action in the lives of every day people (i.e. non-academics). One significant thing I have learned is that there is less of a worldview clash than I had previously surmised, at least that’s how I am thinking about it right now. I’d rather describe what I have observed as a worldview synthesis, a situation in which individuals pick and choose from a variety of philosophical systems without concern for consistency of content or application. Because of this welcomed disparity, little offense exists between people with obvious differences in belief, because at some point there seems to be some overlap. And as much of a philosophical failure arguments for tolerance are, these every day people are perfectly content appealing to tolerance as a means for dealing with whatever hostilities might exist. Apart from the bits and pieces approach they also take with Christianity, they generally know that biblical Christianity stands in stark contrast to their more blended perspective, but they’ve reduced adherence to it or any other more concise system of belief as a matter of family tradition or influence.
People aren’t accustomed to, and generally completely uninterested in learning to think systematically. Some of this is also motivated by a fear of labels, but really people just want what they want—it’s their nature—even if that involves illogical ways of thinking and believing. They really don’t seem to be asking for a systematic response to their system, or lack of system as it is.
So I’ve been wondering lately if, in offering arguments in defense for theism in general, we are actually enabling this bits and pieces approach to thinking. In other words, do incremental approaches to sharing Christ actually undermine the presentation of the gospel, of Christianity as a coherent system of thought? Do we exemplify their worldview synthesis in our method of engagement? Few of my students have a recognizable system, they have parts of many systems, and a great deal of presuppositions that can only be accounted for through a biblical worldview. So while my job in the classroom is not to ‘give an answer,’ my job is also not to step out of my worldview. Part of my job is, at least, to hear the question and identify who is asking it. These every day people aren’t asking me to defend Christianity in a pluralistic classroom, they are asking me to become part of the blended classroom and adopt a bits and pieces view like their own. As Christians looking for arguments attractive in the secular environment, have we not abandoned to some degree a system that is the only true foundation for our defense? Maybe in our bits and pieces answers we are obliging them in their request that we adopt a more blended perspective.