Apologetics vs. Critical Thinking

Udo’s response:

Rick,

It seems that the main point of your video is that giving an apologetic is antithetical to critical thinking. Let me try and follow your reasoning.

You claim that “apologetics means that you commit ahead of time to the assertion and the assumption that your belief is true.” A commitment to what you believe is true is, of course, simply what it means to hold to a particular point of view. And we all have points of view on different matters. And yes, if your point of view is correct, or even if you wrongly believe it to be correct, then believing it to be correct is necessarily prior to being able to explain why you believe it to be correct. This really is unproblematic. What is problematic, though, is your claim that an apologetic merely asserts and assumes the truth of what is believed. This itself is a gross assertion and uncharitable at best. To bolster this assertion, you make another assertion, that “by definition apologetics is not objective” because it is biased towards a certain position. You seem to think that this bias implies, making yet another assertion, that it is inevitable that the apologist, simply by being an apologist, will ignore, minimize, downplay or dismiss any evidence contrary to the position held.

To highlight the problems with these assertions, consider the implications of making a video pointing out that giving an apologetic is antithetical to critical thinking (let’s call this point being made “proposition A”). Here are a few questions:

  • Do you believe that proposition A is true? Presumably you do, but didn’t you then believe it to be true ahead of time, before making this video? But surely that means that you were also committed to its truth prior to making the video?
  • Is the motivation for making the video an attempt at defending or merely asserting the truth of proposition A? Let me be charitable and guess that you’re trying to defend your point of view, not merely making blind assertions. But aren’t you then an apologist for the truth of proposition A? But, as an apologist, how are you then being objective? You’re clearly biased towards believing your position to be true because you even go as far as trying to defend it. Should we then also conclude that you will inevitably ignore, minimize, downplay or dismiss any evidence contrary to your position?

Considering these questions then, is it perhaps best to conclude that you, also, have not yet taken that important step in intellectual development to move away from the tendency to be an apologist, to commit to a position and defend it? After all, isn’t yours just one perspective among many and with shortcomings that you might not be willing to acknowledge?

Do you get a sense of the problem with your video and your assertions?

Contrary to what you assert or might believe, giving an apologetic most certainly entails the use of critical thinking as you begrudgingly seem to recognize when you say apologists “talk” of evidence, arguments, reason and logic. You breezily dismiss such “talk” by asserting that apologists “only think critically in one direction”. There is, of course, no such thing as thinking critically “in one direction”. You’re either thinking critically or you’re not. You should judge whether a particular defense or justification fails in showing that a claim is true by showing how the preponderance of evidence indicates otherwise, or how an argument is unsound or invalid. But this will merely show that a particular apologetic was unsuccessful, not that the idea of giving an apologetic is by definition suspect or illegitimate or not involving critical thinking. To think otherwise is disingenuous and merely reveal your own assumptions and bias.

Lastly, apologetics is not a claim to infallibility, even if some apologists are arrogant and give such an impression. It is simply false to say that being convinced that your position is correct, excludes intellectual humility, the possibility of error, having an openness to being corrected or being aware of your own biases. Someone can acknowledge all these things and still be warranted, if their beliefs are indeed warranted, for believing in the truth of a particular position.

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