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Austin Farrer on the proper role of apologetic arguments

Peter Leithart posted a good quote from Austin Farrer that I thought was worth reposting here. Commenting on C.S. Lewis’ apologetics Farrer said:

“though argument does not create conviction, the lack of it destroyed belief.  What seems to be proved may not be embraced; but what no one shows the ability to defend is quickly abandoned.  Rational argument does not create belief, but it maintains a climate in which belief may flourish.”

Noah’s ark found…again

An explorer inside "Noah's Ark"

In case you haven’t heard yet, they found Noah’s ark again. I’m not sure how many times they’ve found it in the last fifty years ago, but they’re pretty excited about finding it this time. How do you respond to these kinds of developments? I have to be honest and say that I put on my skeptic hat pretty quickly. It’s not that I doubt whether Noah lived, but I have become rather jaded by prior “discoveries” that didn’t pan out.

I’m also not a big fan of the evidentiary apologetics that seems to drive archeological endeavors like this. What do we really think we’re going to prove? Do we think that if we can just find some irrefutable archeological evidence supporting a biblical story that  people will suddenly be convinced of the Bible’s truth? Or, are we trying to ease our own hidden fears that the Bible might be wrong by finding hard evidence to support our faith. If we are building our faith or the faith of the people around us on the reliability of the archeological evidence, we’re in a lot of trouble.

That doesn’t mean I think people have to stop looking for Noah’s ark, Sodom and Gomorrah, or Moses’ left sandal. It’s the motivation that troubles me. If we’re learning about the past to understand the history of God’s people and be better prepared to live faithfully in the present, outstanding. If we’re trying to accumulate evidence in favor of the Bible because we think that will give us or others a stronger faith, we’ve got problems.