Day 2: Soul-Numbing Friendliness

You know what I get really tired of quickly? Being friendly. I arrived this morning and went to the trouble of greeting a chap or two, and then felt I was dashed if I was going to try to think up questions the answers to which mattered to me not one fig. So I wandered inwards, away from the conglomerate, affecting interest in a bulletin board and then a chair and finally the shoes upon my feet.

That was working out well for me, when a dude I had made eye contact with several times already decided to make me the object, I suspect, of his compassion. He accosted me with a greeting, doing this unnatural but by now familiar thing where one introduces oneself. I did not get up, so in the end he sat down and there ensued a conversation.

He was dressed for hiking from what I could discern: the fulsome backpack, the hiking boots, the long sleeved shirt, and something on his head not altogether unlike some of those close fitting caps you see on chaps from the late 15th, early 16th century. Clearly a hiker. He wants to be translator when he grows up, I found, and this gave me a line of inquiry. Since I had given up on friendliness, I could pursue it without much concern for coming across as overly aggressive or skeptical.

So I questioned his desire, questioned the need, questioned the procedure, questioned everything about it I could, testing, as it were, his presuppositions in order to find any inconsistency, any gaps in logic, any unexposed assumptions. In the end I had, in effect, a statement of my argument, the fair statement of my opponent’s position, a generous and charitable critique, and the concluding Gospel alternative. Just kidding, but that’s something I learned today: that’s how they want apologetics papers to be written.

One of the things we did was look at a bit of apologetic writing that was an example of good writing. Only my group, including the hiker, did not have it abundantly clear that it was a good example and understood it to be in fact a bad example. My hiking friend tore it to shreds and then raised his hand and stated the reasons it was bad to the whole auditorium. Mom–the woman in charge of the session–gently corrected, and reversed some of his decidedly good judgments. Other’s began to push back, ambiguity was politely conceded all around.

We broke out into workshops after that. In the one I elected I actually had to evaluate an argument were the bad guy used Plato to back up an argument against the existence of God, and so in my paper I included a section where not only a Gospel alternative was offered, but also what Plato would have said to such a traducement: a pagan philosophical alternative, I guess. There may have been too much Plotinus in it for a good apologetics paper, I think. I don’t know how presuppositional apologetics handles the nuances of a pagan philosophical alternative yet.

We did get a free lunch out of it, and I am not ungrateful. I found that after trying my hand at apologetics and finding it so congenial to Plotinus, I was ready to be fullsome and friendly and ran down all my reserves then and there. The thing is, however, that tonight they’re having a picnic–serving Chick Fil-A. My wife is making me go to it, and it is hard cheese on me because it is going to be more soul-numbing friendliness.

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