week 1 notes

March 21 (Week 1)

CASE STUDIES: What have been your experiences of apologetics? Is it something new to you? What has been the most challenging question or objection anyone had given you regarding Christianity? How did you respond?

Introductory discussion:

1. What is apologetics?

  • Etymology: derived from Greek apologia, a legal term meaning a formal defense. Related to the Greek apologos, meaning a story or fable.
  • St. Paul uses apologia or one of its cognates in Acts 22.1 & 26.2, I Corinthians 9.3, II Corinthians 7.11, Philippians 1.7, II Timothy 4.16, I Peter 3.15; and the negative version (anapologÄ“toi) in Romans 1.20.
  • Secular examples: apologias of Socrates (390 BC – Plato's account of Socrates' defense against the charges of corrupting youth) & Augustus Caesar (written by Augustus Caesar before his death; inscribed on his tomb by the Roman senate in 14 AD).
  • So what does it mean to us now?
2. What is the goal? When is apologetics useful? When is it not?
  • Is it the same as evangelism?
  • Defense of faith or defense of self? What would happen if you didn't offer a defense? Would Christianity go away?
  • Thoughtful apologetics can strengthen and clarify our own faith commitments (besides, we have to know what Christianity actually is before we we can defend or advance it).
  • Useful in helping us engage genuine questions.

3. Have the apologetics we've been taught met the goals we've stated? If not, why not?

4. Have apologetics changed since Paul's day? In the last 500 years? In the last 100?

Some notes bout the class discussion: when I asked the italicized question under 'case studies' people responded with apologetics conferences they'd been to or programs they'd seen. Nobody actually responded with a story of apologetics in action. Very interesting.

This class was intended to open up discussion and get people thinking & talking. Next week we'll talk about the intellectual context and consequences of modernism, particularly the Enlightenment, and how that has informed our current cultural milieu. Also, we'll do some 'how would you respond' sort of case studies from anecdotes I've collected.

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