I recently wrote a post about why apologetics is an essential role for a pastor. Gavin Rumney at the OTAGOsh blog was nice enough to respond to my post with his own post called Apologists and Predators. That is fine as I affirm his right to disagree with me. But he does bring up some good points that are worth addressing.
Rumney suggests that I make a number of assumptions. Interestingly, he assumes, “Apologetics is the art of stopping people from doing this by conning them with often specious arguments or, if that doesn’t work, scaring them with the threat of heavenly judgement” and “An apologist is seldom open to new thinking; he (not so often she) has it all worked out in advance, and the evidence is carefully massaged to fit.” Neither of these statements accurately describe me, even though I am a “proud apologist.” There seems to be a lot of assuming going around.
One of the main problems that Rumney has with my post is, “The people who sit in churches are not actually sheep, they’re people, just like their pastor. They’re not illiterate, as were most folk in centuries past; they read, they think, they question.”
My statement about sheep is not a judgment about the intelligence of people in my congregation. We have doctors and lawyers in our congregation who are far smarter than I am. What I was saying is that the chosen image for ministers is that of pastor, which means a shepherd. The connection is that pastors have a group to care for just as shepherds do.
Rumney says, “A good pastor is not a control freak. Nor is it their job to patronise the members of their congregations.” I completely agree with this statement. I do not try to control what people believe.
The apologetics that I integrate into my pastoral ministry is through teaching (and not teaching that demands full agreement with what I say). Why would people in our congregations need the pastor’s help if they are already well-read and educated? The fact is people specialize in certain fields. I am well educated but when I pastored a small country church and the people discussed farming, I was lost because that is not where my knowledge is. Education in one area does not mean the person is knowledgable in another.
Just because a person has a law degree from a respected school does not mean they have studied textual criticism. When they read Bart Ehrman’s claim that there are more errors among New Testament manuscripts than there are words within the New Testament, they assume the New Testament is unreliable. They will not necessarily know that elsewhere Bart Ehrman acknowledges that quality and quantity of New Testament manuscripts allow us to reconstruct the New Testament to a high level of certainty.
The truth is that my job as a pastor allows me to read and study subjects such as theology and biblical studies more than most others have in their careers. I do not get a sense of superiority as the keeper of the truth. My goal is for people in the congregation to read on these subjects for themselves, find where the resources are and be able to interpret statements in their proper context. This is part of what I do with this blog.