For Apologetics, You Aren’t the Target Market

Blog Posts, Critique of Apologetics

Like David, I’m not a huge fan of apologetics. I’m also not a huge fan of counter-apologetics. I’m OK that they exist; I just don’t want to participate. It feels like that quip about wrestling a pig, “Never wrestle with a pig. You just get dirty and the pig enjoys it.”

However, like last week’s post about having an answer, I can’t help myself. In my defense, my main goal is to encourage those of us who are still dealing with remnants of the faith we grew up with.

When dealing with apologetics, one thing to keep in mind is this: You are not the target market. Apologetics is not for unbelievers. Apologetics is for believers. David calls this dynamic The Bubble.

The bubble is a way of expressing the self reinforcing nature of faith. Everything points towards the center: god. Most of the people a believer comes into contact with are believers. Most of the content believers choose to consume is from other believers. Everything the believer experiences is interpreted in light of the bubble of faith. All of the experiences, people and content that do not reinforce the bubble are cast as sinful, outsiders and “worldly.”

Apologetics isn’t about convincing people on the outside that Christianity is true.

Last year, I had lunch with a former pastor. My honest-to-goodness goal was to try to keep bridging gaps—to rehumanize atheists in the eyes of the Christian and to rehumanize the Christian in my own eyes.

My fantasy: I would listen to understand. I would try to honestly portray what I believed. I would gently push back when appropriate. I would be a Graceful Atheist, by gum!


What actually happened was what felt like a caricature of a conversation between an Atheist and a Christian. The kind of conversation the Christian goes back to their Sunday School and says, casually, “Yeah, when I was having lunch with My Atheist Friend…Oh, did I not mention I have an Atheist Friend? So, about My Atheist Friend…”

Past Jimmy wrote: “A bit tropey…didn’t feel like a real conversation. How to get to something that really matters in a situation like this?” I talked to people afterward, and the consensus was: These conversations aren’t worth it. If it starts taking turn toward apologetics, change the direction.

In the end, Apologetics is about protecting an identity, and protecting an identity is something people will do with great violence. And the further away you can keep the conversation from the vulnerable core, the better. It’s not the path of self-honesty, or grace.


PS – Counter-apologetics often suffers from the same problems as apologetics. You’re defending something rather than attempting to honestly find out what’s real. (See “Soldier Mindset” in Scout Mindset)


2 thoughts on “For Apologetics, You Aren’t the Target Market

  1. I think you’ve hit the nail on the head with identifying the “bubble” mindset and the defense of one’s “identity” at any cost. There is an even more succinct way to understand this from a very well understood and objective point of view that may be helpful in approaching these types of conversations in the future.

    What I think is really going on is much more serious, but also very understood by experts such as Dr. Steve Hassan. This is a classic case cult mind control. Once you approach these conversation knowing that the pastor or Christian is actually under undue influence/ mind control, you can begin to engage with them in the same way a cult deprogrammer would. Show interest. Never actually call them a “cult.” Ask them to look at how mind control techniques were used by groups like the Communist Chinese.

    Liked by 1 person

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