This post carries forward from Part 1, which outlined my main reasons for rejecting apologetics because at best it merely uses (rather than fosters) what is public for factional ends, shuts down conversations, absorbs political modes of engagement that are inherently divisive and immune to inquiry, adopts psychological stances that are poisonous, and absorbs metaphysical elements from the 20th century that ought to be rejected. It also carries forward from Part 2, which adds some autobiographical notes to the themes brought out in Part 1.
In some ways, it takes up some few themes of Part 3, which was a rather long reminiscence about several things that a professor I had –a former St. John’s student– told me about what the person of Christ meant, with some final remarks from me about the need for public language of value and worth, within which we articulate the merits of any and all of our commitments — religious or non-religious, Christian or otherwise.
Here, I recall a conference I attended in the John G. Rangos Family Building (photo in the banner, above) at St. Vladimir’s Seminary in NY that brainstormed, quite often, about creating an Orthodox Great Books College, and note the important objections to such a project that were raised at the conference, concerns relevant to my rejection of, and grave concerns about, the whole enterprise of apologetics. I also examine the approach taken by the Dean of that Seminary to theology, and compare it unfavorably with my apprehensions about apologetics from the first post.
I should say at the outset that I value the mission and work that St. Vladimir’s does in producing good priests and in raising the bar of scholarship in the English-speaking Orthodox world. I’d never have heard the concerns about religious education if I’d not attended the conference that St. Vladimir’s hosted. I should also say that I like Fr. John Behr as a person very much, and respect much of the work that he does, administratively and academically. I do, however, think that Fr. John is wrong on his position about what theology is (and I take this to be central to his project); this ties into why I have no interest in apologetics, why I have chosen to focus on what is held in common, and how neglect of what is held in common leads down some awful roads.