WWW The Thinkery
Wednesday, June 06, 2007
(8:31 PM) | Stephen:
Further Thoughts On Defending The Faith

In my last post, I completely missed this statement of Ezra's:
I get that the Christian approach differs from those attempts to protect religion from skepticism, but how it goes about this quest remains, to me, mysterious.
Ezra points out Judaism and Buddhism as counter examples, with Judaism "largely reconciled. . . . .with a great mass of members who aren't necessarily believers, but think financially supporting synagogues and the state of Israel remains important." Buddhism apparently sees itself as "an empirically provable system."

This is fairly easy to answer. Fundamentalist Christianity tries to protect itself by acknowledging the superiority of the scientific method and using it to prove Christianity's claims. I've written rather more extensively on this here, but for all intents and purposes, in its "war" with Christianity, Science has won according to the fundamentalists.

If we go back to the earliest expressions of Christianity, then there was no real impulse to defend the faith against anyone, even the Romans who viewed the earliest Christians as dangerously subversive atheists/pagans who forced converts to desert the military or any other Roman governmental service upon acceptance of the faith. The attitude of the first several centuries of Christians was instead that the actions of the community would speak for its beliefs.

It wasn't until Christianity started to enjoy somewhat of a privileged position under Constantine and then made official under Theodosius I that the Church really began to be concerned with "defending the truth" of the religion. And of course that mainly consisted of resisting the influence of other belief systems rather than the claims of atheists and agnostics.

That of course has been a recent development of the last several centuries, and it's interesting to see how little the presence of skeptics* seemed to matter to most theologians. Even if the scientific advances of the Enlightenment didn't always sit well with Christians, the general attitude of optimism and perpetual progress took hold quite strongly, and Christians from liberals like Albert Schweitzer to the most conservative missionary societies all believed that through compassionate action and mere presentation of the wonders of the Gospel all the world would not only convert to Christianity but also would see an end to injustice and poverty.

As I said in my last post, that attitude died with World War I and led to the developments recounted there.

So from my perspective there is no classic Christian defense for skepticism, no strategy to deal with those who do not believe. There have been those who have employed various strategies to defend their particular role and understanding of Christianity, usually confusing their own political goals with the goals of the Church and justifying their excesses with its name.

Instead Christianity is told by both its history and the words of its founder that the only need is for Christians to be Christians, to act with love, justice and compassion toward all people. And I happen to believe that if this would happen, no defense would be needed.

*As opposed to those seen as promoting false teaching, which is the way the Church viewed Copernicus, etc.

<< Home
About The Thinkery
Site feed

Recent Entries
The Science Schism
Phill Kline Is A Jerk, Part Infinity
Olympic Boycott
Not An Asset
This Is Why Giuliani Is Popular Right Now
Anti-Choicers Fighting Each Other
Who's Afraid Of The Big Bad Republicans?
Placing Blame Where It Belongs
Stop Blaming The Victims



Ezra Klein
Harp and Sword
Brilliant At Breakfast
In This Moment
Faith and Theology
Theology and Biblical Studies
Internet Monk
Boar's Head Tavern
Jesus Creed
Sacra Doctrina
Maggi Dawn
Shadows of Divine Things
Foolish Sage
Per Caritatem
James K.A. Smith
The Ethical Werewolf
A Pedestrian View
Brilliant At Breakfast

May 2006
June 2006
July 2006
October 2006
November 2006
December 2006
January 2007
February 2007
March 2007
April 2007
May 2007
June 2007
July 2007
August 2007
September 2007
October 2007
November 2007
December 2007
March 2008
January 2075

Powered by Blogger

My Ecosystem Details>