I don’t know about you, but I’m getting rather tired of watching clergy and apologists defending the church. There is so much energy being spent in defending the church against Atheism, or Antitheism or any other theism for that matter, that there is no energy left for moving forward. Every single debate I watch in which the church is involved in a way or another, the church’s representatives have the bad habit of over-emphasizing the good that the church has done in society in the past, and minimizing the mistakes at the same time. I think that is rather distasteful and counterproductive, which is probably why I’m not an apologist.
The Muslims still remember the Crusades. I was watching a comedian the other day commenting on how Pope John Paul II apologised for the crusades. “How old is this guy?” the comedian asked. We all know that society is not absurd in demanding that the church apologise for every single mistake it has done in the past. We all know that the church is a human institution, even if it does have a divine mandate. Thus it is prone to error. The claim to infallibility is too ridiculous to even consider, so I won’t even mention that…
What I’m really bothered about is the triumphalism reflex we Christians seem to be suffering from. We try too much to pat ourselves on the back and convince ourselves and others that all is well, and all has been well in the past. I don’t want us to become depressed about the past either, but we do need to acknowledge the mistakes in the past if we want to move forward and avoid making them all over again. I was sharing with a friend that I’m really dissatisfied with the way Christians debate with Atheists. They never seem to take the Atheist criticism seriously. They go into a default defensive position and without exception they revert to triumphalism. Where is the humility we so often preach? Where is confession and repentance?
I believe the church will not be able to move forward significantly unless it drops triumphalism altogether. Let others point out what the church has done well. Let us listen to the criticism, let us be thankful for the insight it provides, let us learn from our mistakes, let us be humble and then move forward in faith.