“You always probe to the depth of something and grab onto the meat in a way that requires careful consideration before answering,” a friend said to me just the other day. I’d reminded him of a question I’d asked him that he’d not answered, and he was explaining why. What he was telling me was, I make him think. It was music to my ears.

The observation makes for a good opportunity to explain what I mean by ‘Analytical Apologetics.’ Apologetics is simply the discipline of giving a rational explanation, or defense, for a belief in order to demonstrate its truth. Christian apologetics is just the application of the discipline to the tenets of historical Christianity. But where apologetics in general, and Christian apologetics in particular, are about us doing the talking, analytical apologetics takes a different tack and invites the other person to give a rational defense for his belief. All three approaches begin with the understanding that truth can be rationally defended but falsehood cannot.

If you read these posts regularly, you may have noticed that two of my last three contrasted atheism with theism. And they did so, not as if the existence of God is a matter of subjective religious feelings, but as if it’s a matter of rational truth. As a matter of objective truth, either there is a God or there isn’t. And if God exists, he exists regardless of whether people believe in him or not. It’s not a matter of opinion or religious preference; it’s about reality. This is why we can confidently invite the atheists to present their case for the non-existence of God. There is no rationally coherent case for the non-existence of God.

There were two examples demonstrating the tactic in Let’s Rally for Reason. Each consisted of an invitation for the atheist to go to the depth of his adamantly voiced belief system and think about it in a way that required careful consideration. Had either of them actually responded with an explanation, we could have engaged over it, examined it, and analyzed it together, with the ultimate goal of getting at the truth. Sadly, both of them responded with what amounted to, Can we please not talk about this anymore? The ‘analytical’ part of the process was virtually over soon after it began.

But it permanently altered the conflict, both on its intellectual and relational fronts. At least three benefits came out of it.

  • The relational tension of the impasse has been released.
  • The door has been thrown wide open for us to resume the discussion at any point in the future; the impasse has been made passable.
  • Each of them has been presented with the meat, or heart, of the issue to think about … if they are willing.

AA makes a nice shorthand for it because there is an element of detox that takes place in the process. The Bible says the ways of the world and its wisdom are like shifting sands, or waves on the sea, blown and tossed about by the winds. In contrast, the truths of God and Creation are firmly established, unchanging. If this is true, then those who follow the ever shifting wisdom of the times will inevitably suffer a measure of inebriation. All of us will, actually, simply by virtue of living in a world with shifting ways. But if God and his truth are firmly established, there will always be a rational explanation for them because they are true, and appropriating them will give us an anchor that holds steady amid the turbulence. Conversely, there will never be a rationally coherent explanation for that which is false. Ever. The principle applies to everything that is a matter of objective truth.

I would add one caveat, though. This tactic is best suited to the militant, in your face, type of combatant, and we should always engage, not to score a dialectical win, but for the benefit of the other person and anyone else who may be listening in. It’s the people that matter, and it is for their benefit that we engage in the first place. Discussions about religion are notorious for being contentious, but notice that in both of these cases, it was the atheist who opted – respectfully, peacefully, and willingly – to leave the conversation. I don’t know if they gave the matter another thought; each of them must make that choice for himself. But the dialogue was advanced and the ball firmly placed in their court to deal with … or not. Their choice.

The relationship is at peace. The ball has been moved. And the contention has been cast back onto their false view of the world. Exactly where it belongs.

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12 Comments on “AA

  1. I was struck by this: that “there will never be a rationally coherent explanation for that which is false. Ever. The principle applies to everything that is a matter of objective truth.”

    I’d say that’s almost always true, but that there is one exception. The question about whether God exists is one for which nearly inexhaustible arguments exist on both sides of the question. At the end of all rational thought and careful consideration, one must choose whether to believe in God not because His existence can be proved or disproved. It comes down to a choice, and that choice must be made on faith.

    Most atheists will be deeply offended by that, of course, because they generally beleive that everything can be rationally and objectively understood.

    But having made the decision to disbelieve, they must either disengage before getting all the way down to the truth, or arrive at the conclusion that their position can only be defended if one has made the decision not to disbelieve.

    Thanks for making ME think!


  2. The terms “objective truth” and “faith” are mutually exclusive. One has “faith” that something is true not because it can be proven (objective) but because of one’s beliefs. Your belief (Terrell and others) that Jesus is the son of God, etc. is your faith, and you (hopefully and appropriately) base the way YOU live wholely or partly on that faith. My belief is that he is not. Neither faith can be proven. Neither is an objective truth.

    That’s why it is important to respect those of other faiths (and no religious faith) — unless they try to impose the way they live (based upon their faith) on others by making them conform to rules (laws) that are based SOLELY on a particular faith.

    It is true that actions such as murder and slavery are condemned by some religious people because of their faith, but society has other reasons (civil peace, equality and justice) to outlaw such activities.

    That’s why your arguments against equal rights (anti-discrimination laws and allowing same-sex CIVIL marriage) for GLBT people based SOLELY upon one’s religious beliefs are so irrelevent and disingenuous to a discussion of civil law. When people try to come up with other reasons against GLBT equal rights, they fall flat because they are not based on relevant facts. It’s ironic that some people hide behind their religious beliefs to discriminate and bully other people. Then they play the victim when a society that respects equality and justice tries to prevent them hurting other people.


  3. No, Les, “objective truth” and “objective falsehood” are mutually exclusive. You are an intelligent man capable of a having sound mind, but your comment exhibits a failure to think according to basic logic.

    Basic logic dictates that the statement, “Jesus Christ is the son of God,” can be either true or false. It cannot be both. It cannot be neither. It is one or the other. Either Jesus is the son of God or he is not the son of God.

    To take the two statements, “Jesus Christ is the son of God,” and “Jesus Christ is not the son of God,” and assert that neither is true is inherently illogical. This is not complex, and it has nothing to do with faith. If you want to be taken seriously on here you will need to adhere to the basic rules of intelligible intellectual discourse.


  4. Once again, Terrell, you are misrepresenting what I said. I never said that neither statement is true, I said that neither is an “objective truth”. In other words, neither can be proved. Neither NEEDS or HAS to be proved, however, because both beliefs are a matter of “faith”.

    My understanding of what your co-religionist John Andrews wrote is that he agrees with that. He can correct me if I misunderstood his post.


  5. One can believe something is true because he or she has faith that it is true — even if it cannot be proved. My understanding of an “objective truth” is a truth that can be proved. You believe that “Jesus is the son of God” is true (or truth), but you CAN not and you DO not need to prove it. It is a matter of faith to you.

    I believe that Jesus was a “false messiah” — one of many who have come along over the millenia. I can’t prove it. I don’t have to. It’s what I believe. I don’t expect (or indeed want) others to believe it.

    I understand that you define an “objective truth” as something that is true whether anyone believes it or not. I agree with that IN PART, but an objective truth ALSO must have the ability to be proved.


  6. Well, Les, it appears that you and I adhere IN PART to different understandings of truth.

    This particular statement that you made: “an objective truth ALSO must have the ability to be proved.” Is it an objective truth with the ability to be proved? Or is it a matter of faith to you?


  7. So, Terrell, are you saying: “Jesus is the son of God” is an objective truth but not a belief? But my saying “Jesus is not the son of God” is a belief but not an objective truth? If so, I see why YOU say that an athiest has to prove that there is no God to espouse that belief, but a Christian/Jew/Muslim can espouse the belief that there is a God without proof. That’s a very clever way to never lose an argument — at least in your own mind. And you say that I’m illogical!


  8. Les, are you asking me that question because you want an answer to it? Or are you dismissing my question? If you’re asking whether a statement can be both a belief and an objective truth, the answer is, Yes.

    If you’re dismissing the question I asked you in comment #8, then it appears this conversation is over.


  9. Word definitions are neither objective truths nor beliefs. They are common (accepted) usage in a particular language — in this case English.

    “Definition of Objective and Subjective
    Objective is a statement that is completely unbiased. It is not touched by the speaker’s previous experiences or tastes. It is verifiable by looking up facts or performing mathematical calculations.
    Subjective is a statement that has been colored by the character of the speaker or writer. It often has a basis in reality, but reflects the perspective through with the speaker views reality. It cannot be verified using concrete facts and figures.”

    Read more: Difference Between Objective and Subjective | Difference Between | Objective vs Subjective http://www.differencebetween.net/language/difference-between-objective-and-subjective/#ixzz1rvm1lqMi

    You’re right, Terrell, that if you make up your own definitions of words, then it’s pointless to have a discussion.


  10. Well, Les, I do think I’m right that this conversation is over, or at least suspended. But it’s over because I asked you a question in direct response to a statement you made. You did not answer. That’s where productive discussion ended.

    For further reflection on this subject, I would invite you to look up the definition of ‘objective’ in the dictionary, particularly definitions #7 and 8, but #6 is also relevant to this discussion.


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