Saturday, February 16, 2019

Two kinds of Christian apologists

At the risk of oversimplification, there are roughly two kinds of Christian apologists:

i) The first kind calibrates the evidence to the plausibility structure of the "sincere truth-seeker" (an ideal abstraction). He seeks common ground with the unbeliever. He leads with a weaker position than his actual position because it's easier to defend. That's the opening move in a multi-stage argument.

So there's a gap between the reasons he gives and the reasons he has. The reasons he gives are a subset of the reasons he has. As a matter of apologetic strategy, he keeps some reasons in reserve because he limits himself to what the unbeliever ought to find persuasive.

ii) The second kind gives his own reasons for why he's a Christian. He doesn't filter his reasons. When he makes a case for Christianity, he explains why he is a Christian. That's the evidence he finds persuasive. He's not adapting his position to what the unbeliever might find persuasive. 

So there's no gap between the reasons he has and the reasons he gives. That's because those are the only reasons he has. He's not holding back. It's not an apologetic strategy. Rather, he has no additional reasons. That's it. What you see is what you get. 

He's hopeful that an unbeliever will find his reasons convincing, but he can't anticipate or control what an unbeliever will find convincing. Unbelievers don't have a monolithic plausibility structure. What the apologist finds persuasive may intersect or coincide with what the unbeliever finds persuasive, or they may be ships passing in the night. 

At the moment I'm not offering a value judgment on which approach is better. Both are legitimate. Both are useful.

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