Celestial Lands The Religious Crossroads of Politics, Power, and Theology

Tired of Negative Apologetics

Perhaps it is that I am deeply involved in reading Reinhold Niebuhr, but I am tired of people attempting to prove their own beliefs by showing what is wrong with everything else, or negative apologetics. I’m tired of listening to political candidates discuss everything that is wrong with their opponents, leaving only themselves as an option. I’m weary of emails from conservatives who attempt to show that we should all become conservatives (or republicans) because this, this, this and this are wrong with liberals (or democrats).

In “The Nature and Destiny of Man” Reinhold Niebuhr begins his project with an attempt to show the falsity of classical belief systems (meaning is found only beyond this world) as well as the falsity of the secular belief systems (meaning is found only within this world). By proving these wrong, he then believes that only the Christian faith (where meaning is found both within and beyond this world) is true. Now, I’m not going to comment on what I think about his conclusions… but I find myself reacting strongly against his methodology…

I can show that A is false, I can show that C is false, so therefore everyone has to accept that my beliefs, B must then be true.

Politician A is wrong on the issue, politician C is wrong on the issue, and therefore you all have no choice but to vote for me, politician B.

Church A is too controlling, church C does not give you any answers, and so therefore you all have to come to my church, Church B.

Potential mate A has this wrong with him/her, potential mate C has this wrong with him/her, so therefore you have no choice but to spend the rest of your life with me, potential mate B.

It is endemic in our world, almost so accepted that we do not often even notice it, that we make our decisions not based on what it is we believe, but what it is we don’t believe. We live in a world of decisions made between “the lesser of the evils.”

How I rejoice when I hear a positive apologetic… even when I don’t agree with it. How I love when I hear someone passionately argue for what it is they are for, for the vision of the world they have, rather than what it is they are against. While I may not agree with their vision, their positive beliefs, they often inspire me to go deeper in understanding of my own positive vision for a world made whole…

Oh, for a world where we are more focused on what we are for, instead of what we are against.

(And yes, I know that this article itself is a negative apologetic… subtlety, the best form of being a smartalec).

Yours in Faith,

David

2 Thoughts on “Tired of Negative Apologetics

  1. “Perhaps it is that I am deeply involved in reading Reinhold Niebuhr, but I am tired of people attempting to prove their own beliefs by showing what is wrong with everything else, or negative apologetics. I’m tired of listening to political candidates discuss everything that is wrong with their opponents, leaving only themselves as an option.”

    Then I guess you won’t be supporting Rev. Peter Morales in his bid to become UUA President

  2. Robin,

    I’m not supporting or opposing either of the candidates for the Presidency of the UUAoC. As a UU seminarian who will most likely not be a delegate at General Assembly in the coming few years, I do not have a vote one way or the other. I think there are positives and negatives to both candidates, but I am much more focused on my own ministries than on who becomes President of the UUAoC.

    And see, when you ask open questions and./ or avoid polemics in your comments, I will approve your posts to Celestial Lands…

    Yours in Faith,

    David

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