What's Mormon apologetics?
Bill's 'Faith Matters' Weblog
TEACHING THE FAITHFUL (IF IGNORANT)
One of the tasks of religious leaders is not just to defend the faith to outsiders (a subject I talk about below) but also to help explain it to adherents -- especially those areas of doctrine that people find puzzling. So I was intrigued to find Pope Benedict XVI in Australia over the weekend taking a good chunk of time to try to unravel the mysteries of the Holy Spirit, whom Christians regard as a member of the Trinity. B-16 relied on insights from St. Augustine. No doubt more modern theologians -- Catholic, Orthodox and Protestant -- have different ways of speaking about the Spirit. My own Presbyterian denomination, for instance, publishes some basic theology on its Web site. Click here for what the PCUSA says about the Spirit. And if you want a view of the Spirit by one of the best Lutheran theologians around, read Systematic Theology: Volume 1, The Triune God, by Robert W. Jenson. It's my contention that people of faith should be able to articulate their theology coherently. But I find that's pretty rare.
* * * DEFENDING MORMONISM FROM CRITICS, DOUBTERS Mormonism, an indigenous American religion, often has been on the defensive, as it has fought off both legitimate critics and violent protest.
That history of defense of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints continues today, with new and updated efforts at Mormon apologetics and at efforts to answer the sometimes-nervous questions raised by LDS followers themselves. One source for that work is a group called FAIR, the Foundation for Apologetic Information and Research. FAIR, founded in 1997, recently announced a new publication aimed at helping to answer critics and doubters. It's called Shaken-Faith Syndrome: Strengthening One's Testimony in the Face of Criticism and Doubt, by Michael R. Ash.
FAIR, by the way, will be holding a two-day conference on apologetics in August in Utah. Information is on the FAIR Web site to which I've linked you above.
Apologetics is not just a Mormon discipline. In some ways it happens in every faith. It amounts to efforts to create a careful and rational explanation of whatever religion it is so that adherents can be in a better position to articulate what they believe. Of course, you'll find a wide range of approaches to apologetics, including some that seek to install and glorify one particular approach to a worldwide religion.
But with the many questions surrounding Mormonism in recent months and years -- from the candidacy of Mitt Romney to questions about polygamy -- it's not surprising that Mormons would turn to the discipline of apologetics to defend themselves. In your own faith tradition, do you have some favorite practitioners of apologetics?