June 18, 2009 3 min to read
Apologetics influences theology
Category : Blogs (Faith), Life-Ecstatic (Faith)
Many of the early church fathers, including Augustine, formed theology through the realm of apologetics. Their apologetics then became accepted theology.
This seems to be the case. You can’t really separate theology and apologetics, because the apologetic wants to present a clear-cut case of theology, but in doing so he can affect theology.
Well, to illustrate my point, let me give you an example. In discussions with an atheist on the Internet we were arguing about the foreknowledge of God. I was saying that just because God has absolute foreknowledge of an event doesn’t mean God purposed for the event to happen, nor does it mean we don’t have choices in life.
He was saying that if an event is “destined” to occur it is predetermined. There’s nothing I can do to change the event. I have the illusion of choice but I don’t really have the ability to change the event – so do we REALLY have free will? We have the illusion of free will, yes.
I argued my point thoroughly that foreknowledge of an event does not necessarily mean the event is predetermined only to realise he was right and I was wrong. The event IS predetermined.
Then I stumbled upon this intriguing and excellently written essay on the topic: http://www.cresourcei.org/freedom.html
To quote the writer, Dennis Bratcher:
The biggest problem for the foreknowledge of God is the relation of foreknowledge to human freedom. If God knows that something will happen, then it will happen. That is, if God knows the event to be a historical reality, then that event must occur; it is predestined. If it does not occur than God did not know.
If you have time to read the article, you should. Basically, Bratcher advocates that the absolute foreknowledge or omniscient model is not exactly wrong, just perhaps not the whole story. A better model would be incarnation, and he attaches this to the realm of prophecy, referring to certain prophecies in the Bible that didn’t come true the way the prophet initially prophesied it, but it did come true in just a different way (a different nation etc.).
I’m aware of Gregory Boyd’s work into the concept that God, in his sovereignty, actually chooses not to know the future absolutely but rather the infinite possibilities of every choice. This means the future is not determined, and not even God really knows which choice I’m really going to make. He knows all of the infinite possibilities and has a plan for all of them, but ultimately my freedom is my freedom.
I find it fascinating and intriguing, and some of the apologetics on Boyd’s site and Bratcher’s are incredibly compelling.
The problem is that this presents theology that is unconventional and sometimes seen as heretical. In an earlier post I mentioned that we’re all going to be a heretic to someone, eventually, so I guess we have to accept that. The issue is what do we DO – if an apologetic presents a compelling case, based on the Scriptures and reason, that goes slightly against (or even opposite) to the “accepted” theology on the topic, what do we do? If the case is so compelling it may bring skeptics to faith in Christ, what do we do? What do I do in my own apologetics? When am using “heresy” to bring people to Christ, and is that wrong? Right? Are we not making a big deal out of periphery stuff?
This is a conundrum. Should I defend certain theology just because it’s the “accepted” theology, but doesn’t stand up to intellectual scrutiny of the day? Or should we be forming new theologies based on new apologetics and intellectual discoveries? Why is it so difficult to say that Augustine may have been wrong, or he wasn’t necessarily wrong he just didn’t have the whole picture – or the questions been asked were entirely different?
One thing that Bratcher mentions is how the new generation asks different questions, but we attempt to answer it with the answers to older questions.
Yet, in the process of answering the new questions – new because the new generation is mainly post-modern or existential in its outlook – how much does this affect theology? And what should theologians, pastors, etc. do about it? What should writers do about it? 😉