It’s always struck me as strange that the word for “the religious discipline of defending religious doctrines through systematic argumentation and discourse” is called “apologetics“. I understand the derivation of the word from the Greek, but it still think it sounds like you’re apologizing for your faith.

Here’s an interesting proposition: you don’t have to justify your faith to anyone, especially not yourself. If you have faith in your faith, you don’t need reasons. Faith is subjective; there are no objective facts that will change it.

Of course, when you speak of your faith you then can’t use statements that would be objective facts if they were true. If you say “I am a Christian because Jesus rose from the dead” then you are now into an argument which must appeal to objective facts. Also, you shouldn’t be a Christian due to any historical fact, one way or the other — if so, then you don’t have faith. (Why is this? Because “facts” can always be disconfirmed at some later date.)

There is a story of a research psychologist who is granted an interview with a Zen master. They sit together in the Zen master’s study, and the researcher starts asking questions. But, every time the master starts to respond to a question, the psychologist interrupts with “oh, this the called the so-and-so effect” or “I’ve also seen that with a Yaqui shaman.” After a bit of this, one of the Zen master’s students brings tea. The master sets a cup in front of the researcher and begins filling… and filling… and filling until the cup is over full and starts dripping hot water all over the table. “Stop!” the psychologist says, “it’s too full! There’s no room for the tea leaves.” The Zen master stops, puts down the pot, and says “Yes, indeed. Your cup is too full. You must first empty your cup if you want to taste my cup of tea.”

The point of this story is that you don’t reach enlightenment by filling your cup with useless facts. The usefulness of the cup is in its emptiness.

If you empty your mind of presuppositions and begin to look at your beliefs with fresh eyes, you can develop your faith based on your own experience, with guidance (if needed) from others. I try to choose my guides carefully, and quickly reject anyone who seems to me to not have a good sense of direction.

I’ve spent my life studying logic, philosophy, cognition, comparative religions, and the history of Christian thought. After all of that, it turns out that enlightenment doesn’t come from accumulating facts, because facts without a base crumble like a Jenga tower.

Enlightenment is based on faith. Faith is based on experience — your own experience. You can’t get faith from other people, because that turns out just to be hearsay. You can’t get faith from facts, because facts are always subject to disconfirmation. The only thing that you truly know for sure is your own inner life, aka your soul.

 Jenga tower on Amazon