To What End? Apologetics and the Blogosphere
The Dawn Treader is asking those of us who engage in apologetics blogging to remark on the positive and the negatives of the practice, listing some good questions to prompt the discussion. This is a worthwhile dialogue and I make my humble contributions here.
1) What potential does blogging bring to apologetics?
The ability to communicate inexpensively to many people. Getting the apologetics information to the laypersons out there who are interested in it is an obvious contribution of blogging. It also establishes our presence on the internet, where the dialogue over faith seems disproportionately influenced by skeptics.
Blogging is also a good way of keeping up with the skeptics. Speaking for myself, it puts some pressure on me to keep tabs on the latest arguments, research them, and post pieces in response. This often serves as a catalyst for more in-depth pieces that end up at The Christian Cadre or Christian Origins or Bede's Library.
Finally, hopefully the apologetics blogosphere will develop more of a sense of community. Apologetics can be a lonely field at times. I suspect that most of us don't have a lot of other apologist enthusiasts in our churches who we can go back and forth with. In fact, many of us are "the" apologist guy or gal for the church. The one others turn to when they have a question. Online, however, we can see the handiwork of other apologists and get to know them. I have found this encouraging spiritually, but also practically, as we can share sources, ideas, and arguments.
2) What drawbacks and limitations are there to apologetics blogging? &
3) What is the most significant challenge to apologetics blogging?
I'll address these together.
Blog posts, by there nature, tend to be brief. Although this allows us to cover lots of territory, it also runs the risk of not fully educating our readers. One way to redress this potential drawback is to conjoin the blog with more in-depth apologetics. Cadre Comments is a good example of this. The Cadre maintains its own website with a wealth of substantive articles (some original and many off-site) addressing many apologetics issues. If an apologetics blogger does not have such resources, then they should keep in mind other sites our there, such as The Cadre, Tektonics.org, LeaderU, or A Christian Thinktank.
An issue I have seen raised is whether we may do more harm than good by bringing skeptic arguments up and giving them publicity. I can understand this concern, but think that ultimately the best way of dealing with it is by responding with quality answers. The internet skeptics are not going away and they appear to be more organized and intense than the online apologetics effort. People googling these issues are going to find the skeptic's version of history, philosophy, and science. We should be prepared to meet all of their arguments with quality responses.
4) Is apologetics blogging really just another form of "preaching to the choir"? If yes, why do it? If no, do you think has an impact based on your own experience?
I think there is more than one choir. There are other apologists who might be considered our more sophisticated readers. By sharing strategies, arguments, and evidence, we equip each other to directly confront the skeptics -- sometimes even on their own turf. Then there is a range of more casual readers, from those who are interested in apologetics generally to those who are simply looking for answers to discrete issues or doubts that have entered their minds. An additional advantage of blogging is that it can give the latter quick answers (hopefully with links to more in-depth discussion if desired) that will turn up on google. I've been pleasantly surprised how many hits Cadre Comments gets from internet searches. Providing answers to Christian seekers or doubters is incredibly important:
What man of you, having an hundred sheep, if he lose one of them, doth not leave the ninety and nine in the wilderness, and go after that which is lost, until he find it? And when he hath found it, he layeth it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he cometh home, he calleth together his friends and neighbours, saying unto them, Rejoice with me; for I have found my sheep which was lost. I say unto you, that likewise joy shall be in heaven over one sinner that repenteth, more than over ninety and nine just persons, which need no repentance
That being said, I think there are a range of people not in the choir; from the hardened skeptic to the fence-sitter. By responding directly to the hardened skeptic, we may be able to tilt the fence-sitter to our side -- or at least keep him from falling onto their side.
In sum, blogging has made me a better apologists (though it takes up more time). I have reached more people than I would have otherwise. And I have gotten to know other Christian apologists than I would have otherwise.