A Predator of Information

Our songs will all be silenced, but what of it? Go on singing.

All Apologies

28 December 2018 1:04 AM (religion)

Being given a book of bad apologetics for Christmas has made me realize what divides good (or at least not awful) apologetics from bad in my mind: the attempts at rational apologetics are invariably pathetic. Things like Plantinga's Evolutionary Argument against Naturalism or his "Victorious" Ontological Argument are just bad. This doesn't surprise me since I think the things they're arguing for are both false and absurd. The Scholastic tradition does a better job, It mostly assumes various elements of doctrine (there are a few attempts at proof but they're isolated and you can ignore them) and attempts to rationalize and work out the details from there. I can respect that and find it rather fun to read, from time to time.

Surprisingly, the examples I can think of as good apologetics are those that take a humanist, creative, or emotional rather than analytical approach. Top among them are fictional attempts, like The Man Who Was Thursday and the better works of C. S. Lewis (Out of the Silent Planet, Perelandra, The Great Divorce, and The Screwtape Letters). Fiction has the advantage that even if one disagrees with the author, one may still enjoy the story.

Even non-fictional accounts that focus on emotion can illuminate and ruminate on shared emotional experience, while not actually describing the world well. Lewis's idea that 'The doors of Hell are locked from the inside' does an excellent job of describing the way people can fall victim to a trap where they fight tooth and nail to keep themselves miserable, though as a theodicy it fails utterly, since it places its god on the same level as a psychopathically narcissistic parent who lets a child that screams "I hate you!" and runs away die of hypothermia because love must be free if it is to be meaningful. The Man Who Was Thursday paints a brilliant picture of the drama of fear and suffering before release and joy and how the combination of the two can be a rich and fulfilling experience, but fails as theodicy unless one subscribes to universalism. (Not to mention being unsatisfactory as an account of the suffering of animals lacking the same mental capacity and makeup as humans.)

This is, by no means, an endorsement of Non-Overlapping Magisteria, just a recognition that when people write in an emotionally directed way about something that is bound intimately to their emotions and that they use to try and grapple with them and their experiences, it's unsurprising that they'll often say express something valuable about emotion and common experience.

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