It seems to me that every honest Christian living in the 21st century must, sooner or later, come up against four “truths”—and a question that must then be digested. Here are the four truths:
- There is no hell
- The Bible is not inerrant
- Evolution occurred
- God (if he exists) permitted the Holocaust to happen
The question that necessarily follows is this:
- Now what?
A good deal of conservative Christian apologetics is devoted—if only unconsciously—to avoiding an honest grappling with these four truths. The result is that many Christians do not get to the “now what” question. In other words, contemporay Christian apologists find it easier to obfuscate—and keep in contention these four truths—than to face the “now what” question directly.
Put another way: the “oily certitudes” on which the engine of Christianity once ran upon are no longer certitudes. Ideas that may have “worked”—or could at least have been taken for granted as “working”—in the days of Pascal no longer work for Christianity today. Three hundred years of archeology, biology, geology—and the heightened concentration of torture and suffering that occurred during WWII, and which found its exemplifications at Auschwitz and Hiroshima—have intervened to unsettle the comfy platitudes that were once associated with traditional Christianity.
Christians are thus left with two (not very good) options:
- Simply pretend that the last three centuries did not happen (as in, “Give me that ol’ time religion”); or
- Confront this present century honestly: “There is no hell; the Bible is not inerrant; evolution and Auschwitz occurred. Now what?”
The honest and intelligent Christian cannot (for long) pretend not to know these things. A good deal of the energy that apologists expend on “defending the Bible” amounts to little more than the puffing of blue pipe smoke into the air—an attempt to obfuscate one’s vision from the terrifying “now what” question that history has cast upon all 21st century human beings.
I am put in mind of a scene from a Woody Allen film in which Allen is obsessing over the murder of JFK. His girlfriend (rightly) perceives that Allen is using his obsession to avoid a more vexing emotional question: Why doesn’t he want to sleep with her anymore?
Conservative apologetics is an obsession masking a more difficult set of questions.