Friday, September 01, 2006

Apologetics: Vacuous Study of Minutiae

Looking through other blogs, I am always on the lookout for any place to add to my roster. As stated a few times, my interests are in the more conservative and orthodox writers. There are some that I visit nearly on a regular basis, but have not listed. This isn't from any lack of agreeable positions. While questioning why I don't link to them, my thoughts drift to an opinion I have had for some time. Apologetics (of the "Mormon" kind) has been very interesting and useful. My personal library contains a few of my favorites. Ultimately, however, they seem to be lacking in spiritual benefits.

Some examples of sites that I go to and sometimes enjoy, but don't link include Mormanity, SHIELDS, and FARMS where apologetics are the main subject. Another example that doesn't seem to fit my interest is No Death Before the Fall as a one note discussion even if more conservative in orthodoxy (I am not sure if I agree with it's position). All of these touch more or less on the idea of refuting the critics and doubters of the LDS faith. Yet, I don't feel an overwhelming need to read them beyond an occasional peek.

With some soul searching I have concluded that much of what they say does not touch me at a root level. Sure, FARMS has been a lifelong obsession with me. What it doesn't do is make me want to live my life any better or closer to God than before I read most of the material. The reason for this is hard to put down on paper. My guess is that they don't study the actual teachings of the Scriptures or provide guidance for those looking for meaning behind doctrines and teachings.

There are some instances where apologetics goes beyond the mere esoteric, theoretical, and intellectual. Half of Hugh Nibley's writings for me have more than the mere mosaic of evidence, and say things about humanity and our spiritual relation to God. His predecessors often don't have that same grasp of the importance of what they are trying to defend. At least not in their writings. They list this discovery and talk about that similarity with the detached excitement of spectators.

Improving the dialogue in apologetics is a tricky proposition. On the one hand, they don't exist to deliver sermons or moral lessons. It is a blunt instrument meant to block the blows of other blunt weapons against faith. In some ways the subject matter is determined by "the enemies" goals and arguments. Yet, they are dealing with faith and religion where morality and theology are what make the fight important. That should at least make those engaged in the business think of things better to say than what kind of swords people carried. Many people might be able to recognize instances of parallelism, but how many can explain the meaning of the teachings between the lines? It can be a vacuous study of minutiae.

Such poor conditions of an otherwise robust and professional endeavor have given me pause. They are an important part of my faith development, but do not contribute much to the enlargement of my soul. I wish those in the apologetics business success and I will continue to read them whenever they catch my interest. They have my deepest respect and gratitude. I would just like it to become more inspirational.


Dave said...

Nice point, JB. I think you're right that Nibley is the exception as an apologist that moved beyond just scoring sparring points with critics to actually making positive statements about how we should live our lives or meet the challenges the scriptures throw at us.

Jettboy said...

As I said, I am not sure exactly how to change the situtation. What I do know is that apologists have become stuck on the signifier and don't touch much on the signified. there are some exceptions, such as Illuminating the Sermon at the Temple & Sermon on the Mount by John W. Welch,
King Benjamin's Speech: "That Ye May Learn Wisdomby John W. Welch and Stephen D. Ricks, and Feasting on the Word: The Literary Testimony of the Book of Mormon by Richard Dilworth Rust.

I can think of two apologetic writers (other than Nibley) who might be good examples to follow. These would be B.H. Roberts and, although not LDS, C.S. Lewis. Both of them were as interested in defending what they believed as they were to help increase the spiritual lives of believers.

Noelie said...

I wish I had paid attention to this post before.

Of course FARMS and other such sites are incredibly important to us, but you are right that for the most part they are of an intellectual standpoint.

We need them. No doubt about it. We have scholars now that are recognized for excellence getting LDS into such places as working with the Dead Sea Scrolls and other things we should treasure

That you don't list them here however, is totally in keeping with the type of blog that you have going here.

I hadn't thought of listing them on mine, which I feel is a more "Noelie just comes to write to let it all hang out", not nearly the thought and the inspiration that you, or my sister Tigersue of cultivated.

Is this a bad thing on any part? Nope. Just a fact of life. What you find at those sites are intellectual evidences for further study and search into spiritual searching. A Link to a thought would be in keeping with that. Not the whole sight.

Long story short, I am glad you made an explaination, but on thinking about it, it makes total sense.

Jettboy said...

Years later I do list maybe a few of those that I didn't before, but again not because of their apologetics exclusively. They have become good reads.