Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Apologetics as Inculturation

Note: the last post was satire. This one is not. :)

Peter Berger wants to ease the mind of theologians. He tells them: do not take those nasty relativists too seriously, because after all, they are not true relativists. They have used their Darwin and their Frued and their sociology to reduce religion into Durkheimian plausibility structures. Yet they have only neglected to do the same to themselves. Berger believes that he has done so, and hence we enter into a bright future of the "level playing field", where irreligion and secularism must compete without any a priori advantages over of the great religious traditions.

That's the playing field, but what is the game? For Berger, the game is the inductive method. For his money, the true religion, bustling about in the midst of all the false ones, will irresistably sing to the discerning and rational seeking mind, who only takes the time to investigate.

[to be continued...]


Title: Apologetics as Inculturation (as Opposed to Berger's Empirical Induction)

Abstract: In this paper, I will argue that "inculturation," as a necessary activity of the Church, is an ideal framework for the business of apologetics. When apologetics is understood as a kind of inculturation of the Gospel directed at relativistic culture, two things happen: (1) the specific flaws of Berger's inductive method are corrected, and (2) the positive insights of Pascal and Ratzinger are actualized.

The point of the paper is not to shoehorn apologetics into the mold of inculturation, but to expand the sense in which apologetics makes use of reason in order to demonstrate the rationality of Christian faith. Namely, if, from the side of faith, reason cannot be asbtracted into a fully autonomous, "pure" instrument without doing damage to itself, then the 'reason' used by apologetics must have two features beyond its counterfeit double: (1) rooted in faith, and (2) directed primarily to the heart of its audience. Enter inculturation. Inculturation has always been constituted by these insights, whatever culture it addresses. Apologetics cannot be truly effective if it regards itself as making an appeal only to sound reason. It must incorporate an inculturating paradigm, and make an appeal to hearts which are de facto feverishly concerned with sound reason. What makes apologetics apologetics, is not so much its unique method, as its unique audience. The purpose of this turn is to heighten the apologist's awareness of the pre-rational (desire-based) foundations of rationalist/relativist claims, not for the purpose of attacking them as inconsistent with the professed rationalism, but to see them as seeds of the Gospel and reorder them towards it as their highest fulfillment.

I. Introduction
II. Apologetics as inculturation: Correlating Ratzinger's notion of culture with Berger's notion of plausibility structures.
III. Problems in the inductive method resolved.
IV. Insights by Ratzinger and Pascal incorporated.
V. How other things fall into place: Wretchedness of man + greatness of God; the limits of reason
VI. Conclusion

[Just to illustrate further...]

Inculterative apologetics is not a reductive approach to reconciling cognitive dissonance, though they share the concern with rationally making connections between Christian faith and the deepest desires of modern relativist culture. Apologetics rooted in faith, however, does not immediately grant credence to relativist culture's superficial concerns (any more than inculturation would grant that eating human hearts was the deepest desire of the Aztecs).

Inculterative apologetics is not a deductive approach to preserving Catholic identity, though it shares the goal of demonstrating to relativist culture that its superficial satisfactions are dross compared to the gold available only to a faith which is passive to the supreme providence of a loving God active in history via the Church. Apologetics does not assume the sheer disorder of relativist passions, and seeks inroads to the relativist's heart via reason and desire-fulfillment.

Inculterative apologetics is not Berger's inductive approach, though it does share the requirement that the members of relativist culture have an active exercise in rational, and experiential investigation. It does not assume that these tools, unaided by faith (even the faith of another person), are not wrapped in personal wishes and distorted by disordered desires, or that even if they were not, that they alone are not totally inadequate to "find" faith because they misjudge what faith is.

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