Posted on Aug 25, 2013 by Tom Gilson
We who believe in Christ have got to tell Christianity’s true story. We have to do it a whole lot better than we have been.
Here’s what got me thinking about this today. I’ve been shaking my head in wonder at Peter Boghossian’s nonsense: not so much that he’s spouting it, but that he’s not getting laughed off the stage for it. His errors are elementary, yet some people take him seriously.
The same holds for other New Atheists. Their reasoning is pitifully weak, and demonstrably so. Still they have an audience of followers who think they’re the reasonable ones.
How do they get away with it?
I led a project to provide reasoned, rational refutations of their positions. Many others have done the same. It’s not making much of a dent.
Boghossian says faith is pretending to know what you don’t know — strictly that, nothing but that, and never anything but that. Let’s recognize that for what it is: it’s so simplistic, it verges on the childish. (It isn’t only “Internet atheists” who inhabit a strangely simple world.)
For those who know the story of what Christian faith has accomplished down the centuries, the suggestion that it was all motivated and guided by a pretense of knowledge is hilarious. Few know that story, however. For many, Christianity has been an unremitting force of moral and intellectual darkness from the beginning: which is as far from historical reality as it could be.
What favorable attention Boghossian gets, he gets because his description of faith fits persons’ stories of faith, their cloudy opinion of what faith has done in and for the world. He gets it in part because recent writers have been treating all faith as one thing, regardless of which religion, and regardless of what it is in which different religions place their faith. This, too, is strangely simple, but I see it making headway.
I keep telling myself it’s time to change my focus on this blog. My problem is the same as the problem of apologetics in general. We have good rational answers to every rational question. We haven’t been telling a good enough story.
We have a good story to tell. It’s a true story: a tale of moral courage, intellectual depth, artistic achievement, social progress, liberation for the oppressed, care for the poor, and above all spiritual life and joy. I wouldn’t dare suggest I think we’ve had anything like a perfect historical record — I’ve read at least as much church history as you have, probably, and I’m well aware of the embarrassments there — but we’ve had a very good one.
But few seem to know it. They “know” instead that Christianity opposed the progress of science; that Christians burned libraries and millions of supposed witches; that Christianity supported slavery in the south and sexism everywhere. That’s the story they think they know.
I’m telling myself again that I need to spend more time telling our story, the true one, not the distortion most people hold in their minds. I’m urging my fellow apologists to recognize the same thing, too. Again. Maybe if I start taking my own advice they’ll take it more seriously.
I have more to share this week in answer to Boghossian’s nonsense, defining faith at some length, showing (as if it hasn’t been shown already!) that he has made up his own invented version of the word for reasons of rhetoric, not truth.
In the meantime, I’m thinking again about how we must tell Christianity’s true story, and how I need to think through ways to do a better job of it.
Update Monday morning: this post was written to encourage Christians to think about and to express our message differently. It was not written to open the door for every atheist/skeptic complaint concerning Christianity down the years. Per the discussion policies, linked above the combox, discussion is to be on the topic of the OP. See Comment 16 for more.