Philosopher and Christian apologist Jeff Cook argues that the way most Christians do apologetics is wrong. He watched a recent debate between apologist William Lane Craig and new atheist Sam Harris. According to Cook, Craig won on points—hands down—but Harris won on style. Craig’s God seemed perfectly reasonable to believe in, but Harris wondered aloud why anyone would want to.
According to Cook, this wanting, this desire to believe in God, should be the focus of apologetics going forward. He’s even written a book about it. I look forward to Cook’s writing more about this over at Scot McKnight’s blog. He had a new post about it yesterday.
I’m sure I agree with Cook’s main thesis. This is a line of thought that our era’s best (although unofficial) apologist, N.T. Wright, uses in the first chapter (or so) of his book Simply Christian. Why is it that we have such a strong desire to see justice done? Why do love, relationships, and beauty seem so meaningful? Why do we seem programmed to crave a spiritual life?
Of course, evolutionary biologists have their creative and speculative just-so explanations, which are, to say the least, simplistic. Evolution, after all, implies no ought. It doesn’t describe what ought to be; it merely describes what is. There’s no moral content to it whatsoever. Anyone who’s tasted deeply of life can’t be satisfied for very long with scientific explanations—even if he believes that these are the only explanations possible. At best, he resigns himself to them: “I wish things were different, but they are what they are. What you see is quite literally what you get.”
But what if there were a God? That would solve the problem of the ought-ness of human life. Suddenly, justice, goodness, love, and beauty actually possess deep meaning, as our intuition already screams loudly that they do.
By all means, wishing doesn’t make it so. But start with the wish… start with the desire. I’m all for that.
But don’t abandon reason, either. I have great respect for William Lane Craig. There is no argument against God that he isn’t equipped to handle. No one is going to out-argue him or surprise him with an argument he hasn’t already considered. If it’s reason you want, it’s reason you get from Craig. I’m very glad that he’s out there making the case, unafraid to take on all comers. I have benefitted greatly from his website on several occasions. But he’s never going to win on style. He’s a bit of a stiff. He seems humor-impaired. But he is also kind, respectful, and always fights fair. Those darn Christians! Isn’t that the way they often are?