What none of the definitions I saw on the Web clarify is that apologetic work is concerned with defending a conclusion that has already been arrived at. It is, at its foundation, the antithesis of the scientific method. While apologetics wants to defend the conclusion by any means necessary, the scientific method aggressively attempts to poke holes in the proposed theory.
Apologetic work goes relatively unchallenged within one's own religion. The only way to see its deformity is by observing it in another. I live in the heart of Mormon country. When I was an Evangelical, I would often hear my friends snicker at Mormon apologetic attempts to defend the veracity of the Book of Mormon.
Of course, what my Evangelical friends could not see was how quickly and wholeheartedly they accepted the weak structure of Evangelical apologetics. Again, one only tends to see the absurdity of apologetics from the outside.
My wife recently got a view of how quietly apologetic work had influenced her throughout her life. Part of apologetics is knowing when to avoid a topic. Though raised in Christianity, my wife had never dealt with what the bible had to say about slavery. After researching it a bit, she declared on Facebook:
I wish Jesus would have taken the opportunity to address slavery. His apostles certainly did. Imagine the radical shift in society if Jesus would have sided with "mercy and compassion" toward those who were owned (abused) by another.Christians quickly swooped in to do the apologetic dance. The conclusion is that Jesus is divine, good, and perfect... so defenses are offered to support that.
Of course, those apologetic moves only convince the convinced. Their defenses work for Christians in the same way Mormon apologetics work for Mormons - the explanations only satisfy the already converted. To the outsider they are weak and often absurd. On the contrary, to one in the religion, the conclusion is already sure... so almost ANY explanation will do.
For my wife, the answers did not satisfy. She is no longer convinced of the conclusion. Apologetics only works as long as the dancing partner is willing to follow the apologist's lead.
For me, it is clear why Jesus had nothing to say on the issue of slavery. He was ahead of his time... but not that far ahead. Slavery was embedded in the cultures of biblical ages. It was in no way viewed as inherently wrong. So neither he, nor any of the bible authors, conceived it as being immoral.
On the contrary, the bible is supportive of slavery. It tells you how to do it, when to do it, and whom to do it to. It does not in any way, shape, or form reference slavery as an immoral practice. For example:
Slaves, obey your earthly masters with deep respect and fear. Serve them sincerely as you would serve Christ. (Ephesians 6:5)
However, you may purchase male or female slaves from among the foreigners who live among you. You may also purchase the children of such resident foreigners, including those who have been born in your land. You may treat them as your property, passing them on to your children as a permanent inheritance. You may treat your slaves like this, but the people of Israel, your relatives, must never be treated this way. (Leviticus 25:44-46)
When a man strikes his male or female slave with a rod so hard that the slave dies under his hand, he shall be punished. If, however, the slave survives for a day or two, he is not to be punished, since the slave is his own property. (Exodus 21:20-21)The apologist will attempt to dance around verses like these with talk of context, and bond-servants, and culture (but mostly they will work at directing the conversation elsewhere). The Christian listening will nod, satisfied, and go back to reading John 3:16.
I often wonder how apologists would need to dance if other sins were substituted for slavery in these verses:
If a spouse is caught in adultery, he or she shall be punished. But if the affair is not caught after a day or two the affair shall not be punished, since the adulterer was very clever.
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