What Pascal meant for good, God meant for great! Blaise Pascal (1623-1662) was a French mathematician, philosopher, and Christian apologist. Apparently he set out to write a book to defend and commend the Christian faith but died before it’s completion. The remnants of his apologetical thoughts were collected and arranged- though the proper order of thoughts is disputed- and then published as Pascal’s Pensées (French for “thoughts”).
Although Pascal didn’t set out to write a series of (some what random) thoughts, God took him home early and in His providence left us one of the great works of the western world and some of the best prose ever produced. Each thought is concise, clear, and cogent- rare qualities which have all but been forgotten today. I mean even Twitter added more characters to it’s allowance! I think we should all strive to be a bit more like Pascal. In light of this (and because my blog is named Parker’s Pensées) I’ve decided to emulate his style in a blog series. These will be a bunch of shorter thoughts on all sorts of stuff- though I promise they wont be as clear or as cogent as Pascal’s. If you’ve never read his Pensées, I highly recommend you get on that! Until then, Parker’s Pensées will have to suffice.
1.0 “Apology”, yet another victim of English bastardization.
“Let’s not get into semantics”, we say when our conversations are teetering on the trivial. Semantics, of course, is the study of meaning. If there’s anything we should be getting into in a disagreement, it’s semantics!
Trivial, in similar fashion, comes from the Latin trivium, which is the first three of the seven liberal arts: logic, grammar, and rhetoric. If anything is trivial (in our modern use) it’s certainty not logic, grammar, or rhetoric.
Apology, from the greek apologia, originally meant “defense”. Think of the Apology of Socrates. If only the Gadfly would have apologized (our sense) he would’ve been fine. But he apologized (original sense) and was forced to drink hemlock.
Somehow, apology, like many important words today, has come to mean the exact opposite of it’s original use. Today, to give an apology is to say sorry. The more you seek to defend or justify yourself, the less your apology is worth. It’s the exact antithesis of it’s original use.
Christian apologetics, derives it’s name from the Greek apologian in 1 Peter 3:15, and is concerned with defense rather than the hollowed out “apology” of modern parlance.
1.1 One does not simply write a book on apologetics today without kicking around the logical positivists and mentioning C.S. Lewis at least once.
1.2 Too often do apologists focus on “giving reasons” to the neglect of honoring Christ as Lord in their hearts and being respectful to their interlocutors. (1 Peter 3:15)
1.3 If God is the maker of the heavens and the earth, then nothing can be properly understood without reference to Him.
1.4 The problem with natural theology: untethered speculation. But you will say, “that’s definitional to natural theology. To add even a hint of special revelation would do violence to the very notion of natural religion!” To which I reply: so be it!
1.5 The “traditional” apologetical method of proving the generic god of “theism”, then the resurrection, then maybe the validity of the Bible (if there’s enough time or interest) must be explicated in Paul’s first (and lost) letter to the Corinthians, because it’s no where in the letters we have today.
1.6 The goal of the Christian Apologist is multifaceted. Sometimes we are to defend our faith against attacks of the critics. Other times we are to go on the attack to shut the mouths of the enemies of the faith. But we’re always called to commend the gospel, the material principle of our faith.
Christian apologist: Defender, Contender, Commender.
1.7 While there are those gifted as teachers, and there are those more gifted as evangelists, there’s no specific gift of “apologist” just as there’s no specific gift of “love-your-neighborist”. We are all called to love our neighbors, and we’re all called to defend, contend for, and commend the our faith. (Credit to Sye Ten Bruggencate for the “love-your-neighborist” line)
1.8 There’s work to do. Our bosses need our best. Few of us have truly mastered our craft. There are responsibilities to attend to. Our wives need to be heard and loved, our children need guidance, discipline, and nurture, our dogs need to know they’re still our buddies, our parents need to know we haven’t forgotten them in their old age, our siblings need our help moving or babysitting, our friendships need constant upkeep, the list goes on ad infinitum– but everyone shut the hell up! A bunch of twentysomethings are on the TV playing with a ball.
1.9 What is a sport? How many people have to play it for it to qualify? Does your body have to be involved? Does it need to be physically demanding? How do we judge what’s physically demanding enough? A definition has eluded me all my life. Definition, after all, is just ‘de (of) finite’. To define is to set boundaries on. Is it possible to set boundaries on ‘Sport’? Does NASCAR count? Do video games count? Competitive eating? Sea Shell collection? FedEx delivery driver competitions? Case races? Thumb Wrestling? Cow tippin’? Beard growing? Do any of us non-Greek lifers really want recognize “tugs” as a sport? Is there any separation between ‘sport’ and ‘competition’? Perhaps there’s a reason Plato never wrote a dialogue on sport. The task is a recipe for madness.
1.10 The athlete’s platform is strange thing. “Hey you’re good with a ball, tell us how we should change our government.”
1.12 “I was no good at school, I was always a poor test taker.”
“No, he wasn’t the second string quarterback, he was the third stringer and it was in ‘72 not ‘75, you idiot.”
1.13 Sports are a great pastime, but a terrible master.
1.14 We’re told that sports develop character. If that’s true, we should find the most virtuous people at the highest levels of each sport. (Voddie Baucham Jr.)