Wednesday, 10 February 2010

Apologists and epistemology

Why is it that Christian apologists are so entranced by arcane vocabulary? In almost any American Christian treatise one can guarantee there will be a free use of such words as "epistemology" (the theory of knowledge, especially the critical study of its validity, methods and scope), even where their use is really not required by the discussion.
Is this just an attempt to add authority to their arguments - by demonstrating that they have an educated background? For instance, just look at any of the blogs by the apologist Mariano for examples. This person is so wrapped up in his own intellect and importance, that whenever his view is challenged he tries to defeat his opponent by ridiculously verbose and pedantic responses.
The main problem for me is that too often these people use this form of writing to "explain" in complex terms a quote from the Bible for which there is invariably a much simpler, but less convincing explanation, which is more appropriate to the time it was written. Much wasted energy is expended trying to relate outdated writings to the present day.
It seems to me that part of the problem is the common belief amongst religious apologists that morality is absolute. But deeds and words in the Bible which may have appeared moral or self-evident at the time they were written, now often appear just plain weird, unless they are wrapped up in "interpretation" by these people, to make them palatable and reasonable to the modern ear. To take one of many examples - the possession of slaves was thought of as quite normal and acceptable in biblical times, and this is reflected in the Bible.

The Bible is also full of truisms and common sense advice on how to live in an enlightened society. At the time these ideas may have been revolutionary, and fired people's imagination. But are they still? I think not. Most of us now live in a far more sophisticated, educated and enlightened society. Maybe that is one of the reasons that the Bible has ceased to be such a compelling read, and why apologists have to resort to ever more inventive ways to recreate interest and belief.

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