Some of it is:
Since Darwin, we don't need the Christian explanation for Man.
Cultural relativism - if Christianity is right, then how come so many cultures disagree?
Morals change over time - if Christianity is right, then how come what is good changes?
Atheists are often decent people - well behaved, hard-working, smart etc.
All Christians are hypocrites; some are evil hypocrites; some are dumb or crazy as well - clearly Christianity doesn't work (or, not well enough).
When a society gives-up Christianity there is no instant catastrophe. Things keep going.
This world is obviously real, the next world is not.
Historical knowledge about what happened thousands of years ago in Palestine (etc) is too insecure, to debatable to pin your life upon. (We don't really know anything for sure.)
Miracles can't happen - therefore there is always an explanation, if not a scientific explanation then some psychopathology (humans are very suggestible, and unreliable witnesses) - miracles are not evidence for anything.
Prophecy can't happen - therefore prophecies are like horoscopes - vague predictions which people imagine to have been fulfilled because they want then to be true.
Religions are obviously explainable in terms of socio-political control and manipulation.
Religions did a lot of evil things - we need to find something better.
And so on...
My point here is that Christianity is the truth and all the above are wrong; but in real life there is zero possibility of taking objections such as these above, one at a time, and refuting them...
- not least because the people who hold such opinions will resist the process, will find it boring (bore-ing), will find it aggressive or condescending, have other things they want to do more or which they consider more important.
(Seculars regard Christians as salesmen - and they exhibit 'sales resistance'.)
What we are dealing with, is a total difference in perspective - dominant, mainstream, Leftist secularism is a kind of inversion of Christianity - not a perfect and coherent inversion, not yet, but one which is becoming more-perfect and more-complete over time - and is now become so seemingly-autonomous from the Christianity against-which it reacted, that many modern secular intellectuals have come to believe the nonsense that Leftism is an extrapolation of Christianity, rather than its inverse!
What this means is that Christian evangelism must be tough, simple and robust-enough to get-by and get-through this veritable meteor shower of bad but distracting anti-Christian pseudo-arguments.
There may only be a small opening for a few moments.
What is needed is somehow (and there is no formula) to get the Christian perspective across there and then, encapsulated into a vision - to show people, however briefly, that there is a totally different (better) way of looking at things, looking at reality from a different direction and with different basic suppositions - from which all the above quibbles are dissolved in an instant.
Everything clicks, or rather everything opens-out - in an instant, over a few seconds...
Of course this vision can be, and often is, rejected subsequently (Christianity is always and necessarily a choice) - but to induce such a vision is the aim and hope; and a vision can be strong, and will inevitably tend to grow (if it does not fade or become corrupted).
So, at least some Christian apologists and missionaries need to specialize in depicting visions: they need to be practical visionaries.
Yes - vision and argument usually are both required (and one or the other not sufficient). James' ladder-of-belief comes to mind.
Different arguments and different visions will be compelling to different people.
@ajb - "different visions will be compelling to different people" -
Yes. The new difficulty being that most of these visions cannot nowadays be linked with an actually existing institutional church, because these are by now mostly-corrupted in both aim and practice.
There is a totally different (better) way of looking at things, looking at reality from a different direction and with different basic suppositions…
I suggest that this totally different way is exactly what communists do to excuse and explain the failings of communist implementations: they consider the “canon” of theoretical communism and say the problem is that the people did not follow it properly. They are in the right in principle, except for the fact that their canon is the problem, being neither a real and true philosophy nor a workable social and economic system, but a fairly complete inversion thereof.
Then, the best way to look at Christianity is to reverse this inversion and consider its essentials instead of looking at the mass of Christians, whose bad tendencies are not helped by their having to swim in a leftist-nihilist ocean, to say nothing about the fact that the essentials of their particular faith often deform and disguise from the start the real Christian religion. “Mere Christianity” could be a good thing to get acquainted with some commonsensical rationality, but conversion of the self to the light needs surrendering ourselves to the Truth in person, who cannot possibly offer us a mix of error and truth.
The idea of an “offer” brings me to a second reflection. You wrote: Seculars regard Christians as salesmen - and they exhibit 'sales resistance'. I observed that Christians also have a strong tendency to regard themselves or their churches as salesmen when, actually, it is the contrary: Christ and his Church are buyers, not sellers. Jesus already bought us back in full, while leaving us our ownership, and freedom to sell ourselves to someone else if we want to. As for the Church, she digs for us in the treasure of grace, through the sacraments, whenever we want to avail ourselves of God’s offer. Our accepting grace and to what extent is entirely up to us.
I believe that one of the reasons for competing Christian sects is that not every sect will appeal to all people.
Some unimportant aspects of individual doctrines (local usages) will fit better with different cultures and individuals.
@Bruce - Well I haven't had any visions yet that I'm aware of, except perhaps in my dreams; but as far as arguement is concerned, you have convinced me with this blog, gradually over many posts. I have been through all of the anti-christian arguments many, many times and they just are not good enough really when we decide to approach them without a specifically anti-religious filter. I have to say that whilst my love affair with Buddhism has taught me a lot and there is much good to be found in it, on reflection, it does not seem sufficient, the fundamental doctrine of emptiness and non-self and the prolonged art of letting go of the world over countless lifetimes seems increasingly weak to me as an explanation of the world and our place in it. Your recent transhumanist post appears to have pushed me over the line as well as you described it.
I now regard myself as a Christian first and Buddhism as a psychology that has some uses. Thanks for the posts. I wish I could persuade my family and friends that Christianity is a valid choice but I'm afraid many of them remain hostile to even discussing it and regard the matter as closed to sensible discussion. This is distressing but I continue to pray that we can all be saved and it is not too late. Well, its a start. God bless and I hope you had a good Sunday with your family.
Very true, and my own conversion happened in exactly this way. It was *after* I had been shown the Christian vision, and not rejected it, that I started listening to answers to these types of arguments.
For a long time I thought my task in evangelism was to *prove* Christianity by argument. And my experience was that that is completely futile: it had not just a bad but a 100% failure rate. But your posts have reminded me of what my own conversion was like, and that it did not proceed by that method: so why should I adopt it?
Your comments on evangelism over the past few months have been insightful and, I think, have helped me to embrace the task with more joy and, indeed, more hope. Thank you.
Maybe, but can you start with item #1, conforming evolution to the Bible story of man. I'd like to see your take on that. (BTW - the fact that the 'prove you are not a robot' message is almost unreadable combined with the fact that it erases your comment after making a mistake with it, a near certainty given the hard to read nature of the code one must repeat, makes commenting more of a pain than perhaps it should be. Just letting you know).
@Jables and David - thanks for the encouragement.
@ Curle - I have covered this elsewhere on the blog, if you word search eg. 'evolution'.
The word recognition is indeed a pain (although you don't need to get the number correct - it accepts any guess). But I just have to have it in place, or else I am flooded with spam. If you can't get by it, you can e-mail me a comment and I will (if it passes moderation!) post it myself.
Leftists obsess over having everybody agree with their outlook.
Interestingly, so do Christians.
If Christians are so often seen as salesmen, maybe there's something to be learned from that.
Both vision and argument are merely door-openers. Both are still verbal mechanics for something that is deeper: feelings. In a nutshell: "The Gospel is a _feeling_."
True communication and understanding of Christian principles (the Gospel) are done spirit to spirit, speaker to listener, and confirmed, or "carried" from speaker to listener by the Holy Spirit of God. The speaker must "have" the Holy Spirit with him, and the listener must be "open" to the Holy Spirit. (The "speaker" can be the written word, too. The Holy Spirit can confirm the truth of written words to the reader.)
Paul spoke of this principle in 1 Corinthians 2:14
A more detailed explanation of how the speaker/proselyter/missionary can do this is given in the "Preach My Gospel" manual for LDS missionaries. (All LDS members are encouraged to read that manual to be "member missionaries.")
Sections 1 and 4 of that manual teach the missionary how to seek, "have" and work with the Holy Spirit.
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