Is apologetics (often) a waste of time?

Hello, me again. I haven’t been here for some time. I just thought I’d share a reflection I’ve made.

I’ve noticed that despite the growth in philosophical apologetics throughout recent years, some of which is, to my mind, convincing, Christianity remains in decline across the western world. I can’t help but wonder if the main problem is not scientific or philosophical, but moral. In Ireland, for example, the Catholic Church has declined rapidly due to appalling scandals. Meanwhile, in South Korea it has grown in popularity and gained respect for actually standing for social justice, opposing the authoritarian regime of Park Chung Hee, for example, whilst Korean Protestants have largely adopted an apocalyptic quietism, not being bothered to save the world, because it’s beyond saving. As a result, the growth of Protestantism has stalled.

The case of Catholicism in South Korea honestly makes me wonder if the best way to spread the gospel is not through scientific or philosophical argumentation (which will probably feel esoteric and impenetrable to most people anyway), but through actually practicing the gospel in the world, making it feel appealing to people.

I know a lot of people don’t like fideism (myself included) but I think there’s a real difference between believing ‘non-rationally’ and believing ‘irrationally’.

The point is not that philosophy is bad, or that we can’t use it as an evangelistic tool, I think some arguments for God’s existence work, I’m just saying it shouldn’t be our only (or even main) tool.



Acts 2:14-36 is key to the future work of evangelism. It’s noteworthy how three types of evidence are used for the “therefore know for certain.” There is biblical theology, historical apologetics, and the work of the Spirit.

I started reading one of Tim Keller’s most important books, Richard Lovelace’s Dynamics of Spiritual Life. The first part surveys spiritual awakenings since the Reformation. It’s a wide ranging book which I look forward to finishing after finishing Denis Noble’s Dance to the Tune of Life, and I also need to respond to a series of articles on the Grim Reaper Paradox :wink:

Do I believe any of the arguments for the existence of God are sound?


Do I believe traditional apologetics a waste of time?


Think of the scientific method. Does science only make progress when the test of an hypothesis finds it is correct? No. Just because the answer is no, doesn’t mean it wasn’t worth attempting. Examining the proofs for the existence of God is a staple topic in the study of philosophy. People have thought these arguments were sound, so they are worth taking a look at.

Do I believe apologetics SHOULD be about trying to prove the existence of God?


I think it should be about showing that Christianity can be rationally coherent. You frankly only need to make it about proving the existence of God when you want to force the belief on people.

Of course it is. This is even what the Bible says.


It’s a definite both/and

We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God

You know that even by showing Christianity is “rationally coherent” you are forcing a belief on other people

Every one knows you cannot argue faith, or persuade anyone to believe but that has never stopped people trying.

The thing is, people argue against God so there has to be answers.

I would say that for this forum 90% of the arguments are a waste of time because no one actually “listens” they just rebuttal. The 10% are probably just viewers rather than the protagonists.

Rhetoric has a place, but we have to be realistic.

The problem with a discussion is that to be genuine both parties have to be flexible enough to change. Most of the time we just exchange “proofs” or interpretations of Scripture, or, the findings of science. The conclusions are personal, but we like to think they are not only accurate but irrefutable.



Yeah, I know that by insisting on the standards of tolerance and religious freedom in a free society, we are forcing beliefs on the people of that society.

I also know that by prohibiting cannibalism, prohibiting the sacrifice of babies in religious rituals, prohibiting human trafficking, and prohibiting the burning heretics at the stake, we are forcing beliefs on other people.

There are beliefs that SHOULD be forced on people. But there are also a lot of beliefs which should not be forced on people.

And getting people to accept that the majority of people in the world are not rationally incoherent because of their religious beliefs is worthy goal. But I don’t think getting people to accept that everyone else is rationally incoherent because they have different religious beliefs is such a worthy goal.

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I wonder whether such a rule book could exist?


Does the principle of Love (1 Cor 13) suffice?


NB Please note I did not make that the Two greatest commandments because belief in (Love of) God cannot be mandatory (IMHO)

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It is still wrong to love what is not most lovely as if it was

You appear to be diverting to the Decalogue.

Does the object of affection matter more than the resultant behaviour?

Does it matter why?

Many people seem to reach an acceptable code of conduct without the inclusion of any God let alone specifically the Christian identity.


PS I would much rather see someone behave correctly for the wrong reason to one who uses religion as an excuse to behave badly. Religious dogmatism has been responsible for may atrocities.

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I agree with all your examples but it occurs to me that the beliefs we should force are less bringing the belief about and more about stopping the asocial behavior.

Can we force any belief on anyone? Or can we only coerce people to say the words we want to hear which indicate nothing about what they actually believe. Belief isn’t really transferable by force and neither would God desire that it be attempted. Force is one one of things we set aside when we recognize each other as siblings.

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David B. Barrett (1927-2011)
"David Barrett pioneered the quantitative study of martyrdom. He died last year at age 83. Barrett told me the story of when he was invited to speak to a group of wealthy industrialists. They asked him what the most effective means of evangelism was so that they could invest their money to hurry up the evangelization of the world. He responded, “We have been engaged in in-depth research on this subject, and we think the most effective means might be Christian martyrdom.” There was an awkward silence until one industrialist screwed up the courage and asked, “Dr. Barrett, could you tell us the second most effective means of evangelism?” [from CHRISTIAN MARTYRDOM: A GLOBAL DEMOGRAPHIC ASSESSMENT, Todd M. Johnson (, Notre Dame, November 2012]


That’s interesting to hear about S. Korea - thanks for sharing that.

In the U.S. there seems (for the moment) to be an uptick in attendance at evangelical churches that have gone hotly political; probably because fear sells really well, and pastors who are willing to tickle itching ears spreading the perpetual “we’re under seige” mentality are cashing in on easily sold fear. But the culture over here is taking one look at all that and concluding that if that’s all that Christ (or a loud contingent of his ostensible devotees, rather) has been about all this time (let’s grab power and be all about winning and dominating) then there is really nothing new or needed of Christ, since all that other stuff is abundantly supplied by all human cultures apart from Christ all up and down history. Satan’s the dealer for all that stuff (as Christ reminded his own disciples quite sharply - just ask Peter.) So spiritually discerning people are right to walk away here (and anywhere else) wherever a false christ is preached. It sounds like Korean Christians are sensitive in some good ways about all this.


Different people are convinced by different things. For example, know what encourages my faith more than anything? When people admit to me that there is no convincing argument for God. When they tell me there is no scientific or logical reason for them to have faith, but they choose to anyways. I often feel like my faith is the byproduct of just stupid hope and hope for something that is a bit lame. I’m perfectly fine with dying and remaining dead forever. Resurrection would be meaningless to me except for one thing. I find the hope that the world is going to be restored. Not just me, but all the animals that have suffered and been slaughtered, all the people kicked to the side by society and so on. When I meet others who also mention these things, it encourages my faith far more than anything else.

So for some apologetics is what helps them. Some bits of archeological finds that could support some nuggets of historicity in the Bible maintains their faith. For some, the numbers involved in the complexities of the the cosmos where some numbers are 0.000xxxx to maintain some order.

For me none of those mean anything.

For some it’s the stories of miracles/magical events in the life of others. But despite having some seemingly spiritual events happen in my own, I’m so skeptical of other stories that they don’t mean hardly anything to me.


Can anyone say that they love God the way Jesus said we should?

Certainly not me, and yet I still so love him that my heart was crushed as I saw how great of a sinner I was and still am. There is a great and wonderful paradox with the Gospel.


Ahhhh! So when children express beliefs in cannibalism, sacrificing babies, human trafficking, or burning heretics at the stake, we should tell them its ok to believe that but just don’t get caught actually doing them.

(sarcasm font)

Obviously we cannot make them believe whatever we want, but when we express strong public disapproval we call that forcing beliefs on them. After all, consider the other side of this, when we say religious people are forcing their religious beliefs on people. How would you reply to a defense that they cannot actually make people believe anything?

It is a matter of appropriate response. We respond to the expression of such beliefs with our own expression of disapproval. And we respond to acting on those beliefs with our own actions accordingly – finally responding to violence with physical force to stop them.

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No, you’re just showing it isn’t a stupid option.


This made me think of why I like certain scholars over others, and I had to conclude it’s because they show how the Bible as a whole is coherent. I think that’s a lot of what Dr, Michael Heiser and Tim Mackie achieve, showing that it isn’t just a collection of stories (even when that’s not their aim).

So when apologetics serves to show not just that belief isn’t irrational but that the scriptures are coherent, I think that’s valuable.

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I frequently find myself wishing that I could employ my favorite fonts here, but I can’t think of one that shows “this is sarcasm”.
But it would be nice.

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People may have intellectual barriers to belief. Apologetics may help these people to get over the intellectual barriers. In this sense, apologetics may be beneficial. Yet, I suspect that very few will be convinced by mere apologetics. Often, overeager apologetists may put of people that do not seek just intellectual challenges.

What speaks more strongly is the message of our lives - does it show that God is truly present and we live with Him? That is a question that we should think before God. I feel that my life has not showed faith and love as it could have, and I believe that the life of many ‘Christians’ shows those even less. If our words and acts give conflicting messages, that is bad apologetics.

Luckily, it is God who saves and He can save people despite us.


I have only a short input for this topic…

anyone who thinks that science isnt philosophical and philosophy not also scientific, needs to have their IQ checked!

Its like saying Epistomology isnt relevant in my life. The word might not seem relevant, but its meaning and therefore relationship to our sense of self and worldview, is inescapable.