Apologetics Beyond Mount Stupid

By Ben Swift

In Christian circles, the art of apologetics – providing a reasonable defence for the Christian Faith – is becoming increasingly prominent, particularly as social media simplifies the process of conversation on a global scale. How can we become more effective in the area of Christian apologetics then?

I believe a good starting point can be found in the following words of Forest Gump. “Stupid is as stupid does.” Now stay with me here. Forest makes a good point. Stupidity is not defined by one’s intellect but rather by one’s actions. In the realm of apologetics, to be arrogant is to appear stupid and we need to keep in mind that we are called to reflect Christ in our conversations and Christ was gentle and humble in heart.

So how do we avoid appearing stupid when it comes to our ability to argue for our faith? Firstly, we should learn from a simple but interesting study conducted in 1999 by Dunning and Kruger in what became known as the ‘Dunning-Kruger Effect.” This study demonstrated a psychological phenomenon in which individuals foolishly believe they have enough knowledge about a subject to be vocal about it, despite not having obtained enough knowledge around the subject to engage in discussions that reflect any real wisdom on their behalf.

Perhaps the more well-known, less scientific version of the Dunning-Kruger Effect is referred to as climbing Mount Stupid. Until one reaches the peak of Mount Stupid they will continue in their delusion of expertise until finally they reach the point where they come to terms with their own ignorance. At this point they become willing to slide to the bottom of the uncomfortable slope where they can resume a realistic building of knowledge whist in a state of humility.

For the Christian apologist, the quicker one can ascend Mount Stupid the better. Let’s just get it out of the way! The advantage the Christian has, however, is that Christ demands humility from us from the beginning; He asks that we make our descent before him as we come to a child-like dependence on him from the moment we are called.

And he said: “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew: 18:3)

Having contemplated the need to avoid being stuck on the ignorant side of Mount Stupid, we need to consider what the apologist needs to immerse themselves in so as to provide reasonable arguments for their faith. Strangely, I believe we can learn here from an unlikely teacher, the fighter. If you’ve ever had a conversation with an experienced fighter, one with extensive experience in the ring, they will tell you that no training measures up to real combat. Take for instance the words of Mike Tyson: “Everyone has a plan – until they get punched in the face.” In other words, having conversations and healthy debates with people regarding the reasonableness of the Christian Faith will swiftly deliver blows to areas of our personal ignorance, helping to point us to where our knowledge needs to grow. Of course, we can also learn from those who have many years of experience answering the deepest of questions; responding with reason to the unreasonable.

Respected apologists such as Alister McGrath and Ravi Zacharias come to mind.

An excellent starting point in the apologist’s journey would be to consider: “Does Christianity and its understanding of God, stand tall when subject to questions of reason?”

Throughout history there have been several well-reasoned arguments for the existence of God.

Cosmological arguments that revolve around the need for an intelligent creator, the mind and energy behind the Big Bang and thus the birth of the universe have been discussed extensively. Moral arguments have been put forward suggesting that humanity’s sense of right and wrong must originate from an ultimate source of morality being God. It is important to keep in mind though that well-reasoned arguments in these areas remain unable to provide reasonable proof beyond any doubt for the existence of the Christian God. We must as apologists come to terms with the fact many answers can only be left to faith whether others accept this fact or not.

This is what we speak, not in words taught us by human wisdom but in words taught by the Spirit, expressing spiritual truths in spiritual words. The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned. (1 Corinthians 2:13-14)

The question of whether Christianity can stand tall in the face of reason will never be answered with a resounding, “Yes!” For if reason alone could explain the reality of God, then faith would become obsolete. The good news for the Christian however, is that by the ongoing, transforming work of the Holy Spirit, we are able to understand the reasonableness of our faith.

And so as Christian apologists we must arrive at the point of understanding that the God given gift of faith, provides us with the only means of truly comprehending God’s truth. That is the truth about his existence, his nature and his revelation and plan for his people. Let us therefore, seek to use our intellect in a way that is humbly and spiritually driven, prayerfully acknowledging that any effective apologetics on our behalf is completely dependent on God and his purposes; apologetics beyond Mount Stupid.

4 thoughts on “Apologetics Beyond Mount Stupid

  1. Hi Ben.

    Thanks for your thoughts here. When you refer to “the God given gift of faith” – do you mean this in the Calvinist sense, in which even our faith is a gracious gift? Or do you mean another sense?

    Thanks

    Like

    1. I mean the gift of having faith is the work of the Holy Spirit in which our eyes are opened to the truth which would otherwise seem foolish in a worldly sense. I’m not trying to define this as a Calvinist, Lutheran or other perspective, just a Scriptural one.

      Like

      1. No worries, I don’t need a strict definition! I raised the term ‘Calvinist’ simply as a place-holder to try to understand the nuance of your statements about faith.

        But I’m still a little unclear (i.e. I’m a bit SLOW).

        In your reply, when you say “the gift of having faith is the work of the Holy Spirit in which our eyes are opened to the truth,” I’m still not sure if I understand what you mean. Are you saying . . .
        (1) “having faith” = simply living as a believer in an unbelieving world, and that this journey of faith is a ‘gift’.

        Or are you meaning something more like
        (2) “having faith” = the act of believing in God salvifically which is granted as a gift by the power of the Holy Spirit?

        You write very well, and like any good writer, you’re probably saying much more than what I’m picking up. But I am curious to dig a little deeper.

        Thanks mate.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Thanks for your interest in digging deeper.

        I think in order to live the life of faith as described in your option 1, option 2 has to have already happened and that is the gift of faith I am referring to in my article.
        A key verse relating to the gift I refer to and why effective apologetics depends on this gift is in 1 Corinthians 2:14 “The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned.”
        J.I. Packer refers to this as ‘illumination’ in his book ‘Concise Theology’ where he writes, “God seems to us remote to the point of unreality, and in the face of God’s truth we are dull and apathetic. The Spirit, however, opens and unveils our minds and attunes our hearts so that we understand.” This is the gift of faith I refer to.
        The controversial Karl Barth when commenting on Romans 8 wrote, “No discipleship of Christ can, as a human undertaking, enrol men in the number of the existential brethren of the firstborn Son of God. It is a divine, unobservable, eternal constitution, a being ‘led by the Spirit’, that creates the divine sonship of men, that gives to their observable existence such significance, that fire which kindles this illumination is the fire of God.”
        I hope this is answering your question.

        Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s