I fear only lest, able to see and write these things, I should fail of witnessing and myself be, after all, a castaway---no king but a talker; no disciple of Jesus, ready to go with Him to the death, but an arguer about the truth.
C. S. Lewis, in the poem, "The Apologist's Evening Prayer":
Thoughts are but coins. Let me not trust, instead
of Thee, their thin-worn image of Thy head.
From all my thoughts, even from my thoughts of Thee,
O Thou fair Silence, fall, and set me free.
Anette Acker, in the blog comments, prior to ever writing anything on apologetics (quoting C. S. Lewis):
"What other answer would suffice? Only words, words; to be led out to battle against other words."
I'm sure that Lewis, as an apologist, saw the futility of words. People will always find the words to defend what they want to believe. Only a personal encounter with God (even if it's not dramatic) brings true faith.Do I agree with that? Well, I certainly agree with George MacDonald and C. S. Lewis, but I'm not sure about that Anette Acker person. (People who use words like "always" are always wrong.)
Apologetics has been very helpful to me in terms of answering the question of whether Christian theism is intellectually defensible, even as I seek out and honestly confront the best counter-arguments. The answer is an unequivocal Yes--more so than I expected when I first started engaging in discussions with atheists.
But I think it has limited value in terms of changing minds in dramatic ways, and this is why: First, we are all governed by will and emotion as well as intellect, and a person's worldview is often a major part of his or her identity. I remember when Norway voted on EC membership back when I was a child. Everybody had bumper stickers that said, "JA" or "NEI." I may not have understood any of the issues, but I knew that all right-thinking people said "JA," and a "NEI" bumper sticker was conclusive proof of feeblemindedness, a character flaw, or both.
Although most adults are a little more sophisticated than that, we are still prone to thinking in terms of in-crowds and out-crowds and banding together against the opposition. So completely changing our minds and, consequently, our identities, is difficult.
Second, those who have never experienced the presence of God in their lives and for whom God feels non-existent will require a much higher burden of proof than someone who has lived the Christian life, studied the Bible in-depth, seen answers to prayer, and experienced spiritual growth. The same evidence may be sufficient for one person and not for another.
On his blog, Atheist Central, Ray Comfort once wrote a couple of posts about a Canadian Christian talk show host who was experiencing a crisis of faith. The main reason for his crisis was that he had never experienced God's presence in his life, so for him God may as well be non-existent. How much would it help him if I said, "Just look at this evidence and these arguments. Can't you see that Christianity is true?" No, he probably wouldn't be able to see it because his own immediate experience would speak to him more powerfully than anything I could say. As hard as it is to change a worldview, it may be easier than maintaining a radical disconnect between experience and belief, at least for some people. He would need prayer more than argument.
I'm going to take an indefinite break from blogging about apologetics. The central reason is that it has become impossible to keep the comments from getting out of control, and it's burning me out. (The post on my daughter's study abroad has 199 comments on numerous subjects, and about half of them are mine.) I have always felt that apologetics blogs can be counter-productive if arguments are made and not defended or questions remain unanswered. Although the truth of Christianity does not depend on the ability of any given Christian to defend it, people still often conclude that there is no answer if they don't see one. Maybe it is my fault that my discussions spiral out control, but I have not discovered any way to avoid it without leaving unanswered objections, questions, and arguments. And that's something I feel irresponsible doing. If there is a solution I have not found it.
I do feel privileged to have had these discussions with you all and have learned a lot. They have been an invaluable gift to me and I appreciate your friendship. But everything tells me that I'm at a point of transition.
So although I will do a post on the power of prayer, as I've said I would, I will not be engaging in debate in the comments.