Back in the third century of the church, as I’m sure some of our readers are aware, there was a bishop named Athanasius – his tenacious defense of the doctrine of the Trinity, in opposition to the swiftly growing heresy of Arianism gave rise to the statement “Athanasius contra mundum” – Athanasius against the world. In a sense, this wasn’t quite true – there were other defenders of the Trinity around, but none so prolific, and none who were targeted nearly so heavily as Athanasius, who was ejected from his church five times, and was only vindicated after his death. As Reformed apologists, it is often the case that we are in a very real sense “contra mundum” – the established churches, the world, and just about everyone is arrayed squarely against what we profess and teach. The defense and vindication of that truth is something we do systematically – both in our responses to the various objections made to it, as well as our presentation of the Reformed faith.
Recently, watching Matt Oxley’s lack of response to Chris’ criticisms, I’ve been amused to see that every time that Chris makes a response to claims Oxley has made, Oxley’s response to his fans and readers has been to claim that Chris is “obsessing” over him – as if it’s some sort of abnormal personality induced activity. It amuses me, primarily, because not only it is not personal – it’s something Chris has done many, many times when dealing with *any* claiming to object to what we teach and believe. This is neither something restricted to Oxley, nor is it something personally motivated! This makes me wonder – is Oxley truly so self-absorbed that he believes that the responses Chris has offered are somehow uncharacteristic of Chris’ typical modus operandi? A cursory reading of our archives, of course, shows a quite different story.
Recall that we’ve been doing this since 2008. Chris is one of the founding members of the team, here, and is also our most prolific poster. Let me challenge Matt Oxley to something. If it is the case that Chris Bolt “obsesses” over Oxley’s material – is it not even more the case that Oxley is only a “bit player” in comparison to the number and frequency of exchanges with other critics? For instance, take Mitch LeBlanc. Over the first few years of our operation, there was a site called “Urban Philosophy”, headed up by Mitch. I debated Mitch in 2009, and there were quite literally dozens of interactions between myself and Mitch, Chris and Mitch, and others – both in posts, comments, and the like. Also figuring heavily into these discussions was another contributor at UP with the nickname “Nocterro”. It should be fairly obvious that if one were to count it “obsessive” to have repeated interactions with opponents, these two would be among the top contenders for an “obsession” on Chris’ part – not Matt Oxley. Further on, of course, there was the debate and multiple exchanges with Ben Wallis, who also had his own blog, as well as a podcast. Brian also was a guest on that podcast. I responded to Mr. Wallis myself, if I recall. Additionally, there were at least 6 posts in response to Ronald DiGiacomo. He dealt with Paul Baird extensively, as well as with several of his fellow objectors – to a much greater extent than any response Oxley has so far garnered. In summary, it just simply cannot be sustained that Oxley has had attention that any other opponent has not received. What seems to be at issue, then, is that Oxley does not welcome the attention he has received. This, however, is not overly problematic, as the responses were made to what are, definitionally, public commentary.
Is the problem, then, Chris’ “obsession” – or is it, perhaps, Oxley’s inability to defend his own comments when challenged on them? The responses Chris has made to Oxley’s claims have yet to be answered in any meaningful fashion. Oxley’s seeming inability to answer these counters only serve to highlight that when the objector is willing to make claims concerning the Christian faith they should also be willing to defend their claims adequately or to withdraw them as they are shown to be incoherent or false. Oxley has so far done neither; his quasi-humorous homoerotic suggestions of some sort of “obsession” do not constitute a response, or any sort of adequate rebuttal. They are, quite simply, a dodge. A sop to his followers that attempts to put the issues in question on the back burner.
So, let us turn to methodology, and why we treat these claims the way that we do. When we address an objection, we are not addressing the objection in a vacuum. We are addressing the objection as well as its place in the worldview of the objector. We are dealing with the intelligibility of the objection as well as the objection itself. To do so is not the task of a few moments. It is typically not the place of a single post, typically – because we have to deal with the entire framework in which the objection is only a part. It often seems to the objector that we are saying far too much to deal with “this simple objection” – but this begs the question in terms of methodology. It assumes that there are “brute facts” on which we both agree, and that only “the facts in question” need to be addressed. This, however, is not the case, and cannot be the case. Thus, when we deal with the objection, we deal with the framework of the objection as well as the objector himself. This isn’t “personal” in the sense that they might think. It’s personal in the sense that “who they are” will have everything to do with what they believe about the very issues under discussion. What needs to be understood is that if this claim of “obsession” is true – it’s true about every single person with whom we deal. So, the issue, even then, is not about you. It’s not obsessive if you treat every similar encounter in that precise fashion. What is actually going on is that we are dealing your worldview systematically as you present it – and showing you that your worldview is what drives your objections. When you finally “get” that your worldview is the basis for your objections, hopefully you will understand that your objections don’t apply to our worldview as it actually stands, and that you need to address our worldview as it is, not as you think of it. You need to make exactly the same sort of “obsessive” argumentation you are critiquing in order to actually deal with what you claim to be objecting to. That’s the point. It’s not about you. It’s never about you. No matter what you might think.