Last semester, I signed up to take Apologetics 101 in the hopes that I might learn something and that it would challenge me at least a little to think about arguments for Christianity so that I could better refute them. I didn’t have very high expectations, but what expectations I did have were certainly failed. The biggest problem within this class is that the teacher is a nutcase, and he doesn’t teach out of a textbook. Everything he teaches is self-proclaimed truth with no sources to back it up. This wouldn’t be so bad if it influenced only his personal beliefs, but I can’t stand when he feeds information that I know is wrong to a classroom of college students. I often feel that even as an atheist, I could teach Christian apologetics better than he could! Below are some of the common themes that run through the class and make me consistently want to facepalm throughout class.
Lack of research and wrong information
As I said before, our professor doesn’t teach out of any books (although he did put books on the syllabus and cause me to waste my money on things I’m not using). This makes it so that he can teach us his opinions, and worse, information that is flat-out incorrect. One of the earliest examples of this was when he introduced to us the Four Horsemen of New Atheism.
He asked the class if anyone knew who they were, and I raised my hand, ready to list off all four. I only made it to “Richard Dawkins” when my professor listed off the other three as Sam Harris, Christopher Hitchens, and William Dennett. Now not only do my classmates know nothing about them but their names (and also that they’re evil atheists, although they probably don’t know what “atheist” means), they don’t even know that. They will probably spend the rest of their lives thinking that Daniel Dennett’s name is William.
Another thing he’s been teaching us that’s wrong is even more damaging. Rather than giving them the wrong name of someone, he mistaught the name of an entire belief system, and he does it continually. My professor frequently equates Christianity with theism. Of course, Christianity is one type of theistic belief, but he teaches them as being absolutely synonymous. He often refers to the bible as “the holy scriptures of Theism”. I understand that Christians often don’t know what atheism is, but I would expect them to know what theism is, as they are theists.
Just as atheism is a lack of belief in a god or deities, theism is a belief in a god or deities. If you want to distinguish theism from deism, theism would involve revelation and interaction with mankind via some holy book while deism has neither. This means, though, that any religion that believes in deities is theistic. Even pantheistic and polytheistic religions are theistic. Christianity is only one of thousands of theistic beliefs.
Disrespect toward non-Christians
We have had days of lectures in Apologetics 101 in which we “learned” how ridiculous other religions are. My professor uses a condescending tone towards the beliefs of Muslims, Mormons, Hindus, Jehovah’s Witnesses, universalists, and naturalists while his own belief is equally, if not more, unbelievable.
Furthermore, on several occasions, he has tried to provide my classmates with tips on how to deal with apologetic encounters with “the unbeliever”. He doesn’t really give any advice on trying to appeal to us using reason, but rather, he tells them that “The unbeliever won’t be able to understand this so you just have to trust that God will show them,” “The average unbeliever doesn’t understand why bad things happen to them,” and we should try to understand why they don’t believe, because “They deny Jesus because they had a bad experience at church or they don’t know how to interpret the Bible.”
He tells them to provide unbelievers with arguments for God and allow the Holy Spirit to convert them. The arguments that he taught us included the ontological, moral, design, cosmological, and teleological arguments, all of which serious atheists will have heard before, even if they’re not experts. What’s worse is that he didn’t even go into detail on these arguments; rather, he spent one class period to vaguely describe all of them in one day, and he didn’t prepare the students for any rebuttal that an unbeliever is likely to give.
If this class had another name besides Apologetics 101, it could be called Circular Reasoning 101. If my classmates learn to think the way that my teacher does, they’ll be arguing themselves into circles in no time.
Deep down, my teacher is aware that there is no true evidence for God. He once said something along the lines of “the Bible is our evidence of God, and it’s a good thing we have it, because it’s our greatest source of evidence for his existence.” In addition to that, he’s spent multiple classes talking about the infallibility of the Bible, telling us about how we know that it’s perfect because it was written by the Holy Spirit (which we only have “evidence” of because it’s in the Bible). He says that no one knows how the Holy Spirit moved the authors to write the divine scriptures, but we have to take it on faith that he somehow did, and we will just have to be okay with that.
After saying all this, my teacher decided he should bash unbelievers for not finding sufficient evidence for God in order to believe in him. He had talked a lot about the biblical authors and how they were divinely inspired, then asked the class, “Why do you think that when God spoke everything into existence that he didn’t just speak the Bible into existence as well?” It’s a really good question, but he didn’t give such a good answer: “Because he wanted the personalities of the human authors to be able to shine through.”
In addition to this, he also asked “Why do you think that God doesn’t just make himself known beyond doubt, like writing ‘I am God’ in the sky for all to see?” The answer was “He wants you to have to use faith to believe in Him. Plus, he has written it in the sky” (I guess he means in the pretty sunsets) “but for the unbeliever, that’s just not enough proof.” How dare we actually ask for real verifiable evidence instead of a fickle book and the night sky.
There is a lot more that my teacher has gotten wrong in this class, such as bashing my fiance’s secular university for being anti-Christian (it’s not—it is still full of Christians and pressure to join Christian groups on campus) and reminding us that the Bible says that wives should be submissive to their husbands, but I think I’ve said enough for now. In any case, I have a test in Apologetics 101 tomorrow, so I suppose I should begin to study, although there’s barely anything in this class that’s either correct, soundly logical, or that I don’t already know.