Apologetics 102: Conclusion

David Hogsette’s Emails to a Young Seeker is one of the most… fascinating books I’ve ever read. I first discovered this quirky apologetics book when I had to edit it as an assignment in a class at Grove City College—and not even a religion class, but an English class. Being the passive aggressive individual that I am, I decided that I had too many edits to be contained in one assignment, and I wanted my critique of the garbage presented to me at that school to be public.

Thus, I published the following responses as I painstakingly read through the entire book:

Apologetics 102: An Introduction
Apologetics 102: Intelligent Design
Apologetics 102: The Bible
Apologetics 102: Theological Paradoxes

In each review, I would respond to each of the author’s email “exchanges”, which was really a conversation between Prof Dave (the author) and himself, posing as a college student who asks a lot of asinine questions about Christianity.

The seeker’s last four questions are as follows:

Exchange 18: What’s the deal with the Trinity? It seems like a total contradiction to me.
Exchange 19: Why did Christ have to die?
Exchange 20: Can’t I just understand God in my own way?
Exchange 21: I have so much to think about—what do I do now?

Exchange 18 consists entirely of Prof Dave trying to explain the Trinity in a way that makes sense, saying things like “It is a mystery but not a contradiction. It may go against the reason’s ability to comprehend completely, but it does not violate reason’s ability to apprehend consistently.” Although it seems completely illogical and contradictory to me, I don’t have much concern about the Trinity or the topic of the next chapter, the death of Christ.

The metaphor I use to explain why is this: imagine that Christianity is an egg. Christian doctrine and theology, and the core of the religion, are the yolk and the inside of the egg. There’s also the shell, which is what lies between this inner identity of Christianity and things that aren’t. It would be any instance when Christianity comes into contact with something else, like a debate between a Christian and an atheist or a creationist and an evolutionist. If you’ve read Mere Christianity, I’d say the first few chapters arguing for God’s existence using objective morality are more like the shell, but the end of the book about belief in Jesus and salvation and heaven are more like the yolk. I’ve read the first half twice and the second half not at all.

I myself am generally only interested in this shell where Christianity meets atheism, like the portions of Emails to a Young Seeker that tried so hard to refute evolution and atheism itself. Once the author goes into detail about the intricacies of the Trinity, I’ve lost interest because I hadn’t been convinced that God himself even exists in the first place, so why Jesus is said to have died or how he’s really three people aren’t great concerns of mine.

A point that Prof Dave made that did pique my interest was that humanity is innately bad. I’ve talked about this before, but Prof Dave tried very hard to make a point that without God, humanity is “by nature impure, evil, unholy, unrighteous, unfair, and unloving”. He continually implies that humanity is ultimately bad. It’s a pretty complex topic whether humans are innately good or bad, and I haven’t made my mind up as to what I believe, although I would say it is somewhere in the middle, but we are certainly not completely evil creatures.

Just before beginning this post, I finished Emails to a Young Seeker, and I am so excited to never read it again! If you are seriously looking for an apologetics book to read and study, just… read Mere Christianity instead. Don’t even bother with David Hogsette’s nonsense—I did so you don’t have to.

23 Replies to “Apologetics 102: Conclusion”

  1. I know someone who went to my school and was a great runner and person in general who is currently going to Cedarville University, since his family couldn’t afford Lehigh University, I don’t know how religious he is and won’t find out until next summer.

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  2. If you went to Grove City College, does that mean you live in western PA? I live in Washington Pa which is a little over an hour south of Grove City.

    Anyway, I agree that the idea that the true nature of humanity is evil, regardless of how some theists might spin that, is a wholly damaging idea and probably the worst core belief in the Christian doctrine. But perhaps it has to be that way. If you can convince people they are evil without God it’s a great recruitment tool. I find the Buddha’s approach to be far more uplifting. As my friend Victoria puts it, who was an evangelical Christian herself, “You are asked to give up your individual self, because it is evil, and become born again with Jesus. To put aside your essence, and merge with whatever notion of Jesus and God your particular church community has. Any doubts, or questions, or thoughts you might have that don’t conform with what the bible says is true, is that evil coming out from your individual self. A self forged by Satan in the garden of Eden when he tempted Eve and causing all humans to be born of original sin. Not a shred of evidence exists for this axiom. The kindness and empathy that is natural in my child, who knows nothing of God or the Bible is crystal clear. His nature is human and imperfect and I have no doubt that if he fails to become good person he seems destined to be, it is because we as parents are not good people and failed to teach him the value of kindness, humility, courage, etc. No bible required.

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  3. Very interesting discussion here. Fully agree with what I am reading above. Good and Bad are indeed subjective and the notion that we are all born in sin is harmful and preposterous. What I find especially harmful is that we indoctrinate children with this, making them feel like any step out of place will damn their soul for all eternity. A good way to keep kids in check but also a very good way to ensure a mental breakdown down the line. This review was a great read, thanks!

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Well, if god made humans, and humans are inherently bad, what does that say about god, and his, her, or its ability to ameliorate our built-in evil? Sounds like Prof Dave pushing his own unpleasant personality traits onto everyone else to make him feel better about himself.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. A thought just came to mind while reading your comment.

      If humans are by nature bad and humans were made in the image or likeness of god. So does that imply that god is by nature bad?

      Disclaimer: This thought just came out at the spur of the moment. It may be possible that if I give more thought to this thought, I may see that it doesn’t follow or……

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  5. I wonder how people can accept to have been born in sin. If I hadn’t rejected that notion soon since I first heard it, I would have done it later, as an adult. What kind of offensive proposal is this?
    And then? Allright, you go see a priest, confess your wrongdoing, and you are free – to sin again. Provided you convince yourself that you are sorry. As a child, you drop coins on the collection plate, when you grow up, you make donations, so you pay less taxes.
    An effective trick indeed.
    .-

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  6. “Good” and “Bad” are subjective terms. In an atheistic universe, all values are subjective, arising from what we have evolved to think of as good for us and bad for us, all of it depending on circumstances, which differ widely across cultures and situations. Moral conflict arises when circumstances are complex and unfamiliar. None of this means that people are inherently “good” or “bad”. I have always hated that Protestant notion that people are inherently “evil”. How then do you explain all of our instinctive empathic urges, which emerge in early infancy, long before religious indoctrination can even take root? The allure of the notion of humanity as evil is rooted entirely in our negativity bias, as I see it. All of our natural urges arise out of nature, including our inclination to contrive moral systems. The only consistent thing about our natural morality is that it has evolved to further our social cohesion and hence, ultimately, our survival as a species, like everything else in evolution. To the extent that good and bad are still useful concepts, they can only reasonably be applied to circumstances. Certainly some people can reasonably be described as evil, because that is how some people individually evolve. That does not mean that humanity is ultimately evil, or ultimately good. Like every species, we have evolved to survive, which sometimes means alacrity, sometimes selfishness. That’s why we speak of complicated circumstances, mitigating factors, etc. Morality is complicated, and so cannot be applied simplistically to humanity overall. Humans are neither inherently good nor inherently evil, nor inherently anything else. Context is everything.

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  7. This … without God, humanity is “by nature impure, evil, unholy, unrighteous, unfair, and unloving” … is the familiar cry of the oh-so-devoted, dedicated Christian. And it makes me angry! They think they have “goodness” all to themselves when, in fact, in real life, non-believers often show way more love, compassion, concern, and “holiness” to others than 10 Christians put together.

    Words are cheap.

    Liked by 4 people

  8. “Although it seems completely illogical and contradictory to me, I don’t have much concern about the Trinity…”

    One way to look at the Trinity:

    The Trinity is three persons in one — Father, Son, and Holy Spirit; the three aspects of God. And if one believes that we (humans) are made in God’s image — Genesis 1:27 — one can see a manifestation of the Trinity in everyday life: The family.

    Two become one and, in doing so, create a third. (Genesis 2:24)

    “A point that Prof Dave made that did pique my interest was that humanity is innately bad.”

    One way to look at the notion “humanity is innately bad”:

    Let’s say that, one night while in college, you return to your room wanting to do nothing more than relax after a long day and catch up on a series of YouTube videos you just discovered. But you’ve got homework. What to do?

    You could either 1) Bite the bullet and do your homework now, freeing up the rest of the night for much-desired relaxation, or 2) You could watch some YouTube videos and thus not do your homework until late that night, ensuring that, once it’s done, you’ll do head right to sleep.

    In this situation, there is conflict between what you know you should do (your homework), and what you want to do (relax and watch videos). It is that conflict that is at the heart of the notion “humanity is innately bad.”

    Humanity is “bad” in the sense that all people have a wounded ability to choose what will bring about the greatest good; all people, at one point or another, will struggle to put their “homework” above their “desire to watch videos.”

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You could either 1) Bite the bullet and do your homework now, freeing up the rest of the night for much-desired relaxation, or 2) You could watch some YouTube videos and thus not do your homework until late that night, ensuring that, once it’s done, you’ll do head right to sleep.

      Maybe you should have chose a better example. Knowing students the way I do, sometimes it is best that they have a relaxing evening, if they are stressed out. Having conflict is not “bad” in any sense. Having conflict is just very often times not knowing which action will lead to the best outcome. Sometimes not helping is the best action to allow someone to stand on their own. Sometimes options are limited and we are simply trying to make the best of two less than perfect choices. Removing conflict doesn’t mean you are going to always make the best choice, or the most moral choice. In a dynamic universe these things aren’t always clear, which is the whole reason why we reason. Giving into a desire can be an absolutely emotionally healthy thing to do, which can help us rejuvenate and make us more effective in the future. Like everything, moderation is important, but to say humanity is “bad” even in the sense that you interpret it as, is simply false. Humans aren’t perfect, that much is true, but to suggest that belief in some supernatural being is required to learn how to balance our individual needs with a greater good is pure hogwash. Provided we maintain some degree of humility and strive to be more than we are each day these things are not contingent on the existence or belief in a higher being.

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      1. “Maybe you should have chose a better example.”

        As my original comment makes clear, I chose the example I did in order to make the following point:

        “[T]here is conflict between what you know you should do (your homework), and what you want to do (relax and watch videos). It is that conflict that is at the heart of the notion ‘humanity is innately bad.’ Humanity is ‘bad’ in the sense that all people have a wounded ability to choose what will bring about the greatest good; all people, at one point or another, will struggle to put their ‘homework’ above their ‘desire to watch videos.’

        “[T]o suggest that belief in some supernatural being is required to learn how to balance our individual needs with a greater good is pure hogwash.”

        Which is why I never suggested it.

        “Provided we maintain some degree of humility and strive to be more than we are each day these things are not contingent on the existence or belief in a higher being.”

        I agree.

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    2. Let’s say that, one night while in college, you return to your room wanting to do nothing more than relax after a long day and catch up on a series of YouTube videos you just discovered. But you’ve got homework. What to do?

      You could either 1) Bite the bullet and do your homework now, freeing up the rest of the night for much-desired relaxation, or 2) You could watch some YouTube videos and thus not do your homework until late that night, ensuring that, once it’s done, you’ll do head right to sleep.

      In this situation, there is conflict between what you know you should do (your homework), and what you want to do (relax and watch videos). It is that conflict that is at the heart of the notion “humanity is innately bad.”

      I agree with Swarn Gill, you should have used a better example.
      The main issue is about morality and I don’t see how either doing your homework or relaxing first is related to morality
      Concerning your example, most of the times the circumstances are a lot more complicated than this, a lot more variables to consider e.g when I’m i to submit the assignment, what medical conditions to you have, how did your day go, what is going on in your life at the moment, how hectic was your day etc, things that could affect what the best option is

      One scenario, could be that this is a friday night and I was stressed out throughout the day and I have the whole weekend to myself. In this scenario relaxing could be the better options
      This is just one case, depending on the details of the circumstance. What you should do would be different. It could range from doing the homework that instance to relaxing. The best option isn’t static

      Humanity is “bad” in the sense that all people have a wounded ability to choose what will bring about the greatest good; all people, at one point or another, will struggle to put their “homework” above their “desire to watch videos.”

      Your example and your follow up comment is more towards the direction of
      Humans are “bad” at prioritizing or Humans are “bad” decision makers or Humans could be confused at some time

      While you miss the whole issue which is
      Humans are innately bad in a moral sense or humanity is “by nature impure, evil, unholy, unrighteous, unfair, and unloving

      You ended up talking about a different kind of “bad” from the “bad” that is in question

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      1. “You ended up talking about a different kind of ‘bad’ from the “bad” that is in question”

        Which is why, in my original comment, I said: “One way to look at the notion ‘humanity is innately bad’…”

        Note the words “One way.”

        I’m noticing that you and Swarn Gill are bringing up points that my original comment already addresses.

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        1. Which is why, in my original comment, I said: “One way to look at the notion ‘humanity is innately bad’…”
          Note the words “One way.”

          I am pointing out is that what you are talking about is largely red herring

          Humanity is innately bad at fighting lions
          Humanity is innately bad at digesting hard raw leaves and grass
          Humanity is innately bad at surviving in space
          Humanity is innately bad at surviving in volcanoes
          Humanity is innately bad at seeing in the dark
          Humanity is innately bad at flying
          Humanity is innately bad at moving very fast
          Humanity is innately bad at surviving under water
          Humanity is innately bad at storing water soluble vitamins
          Humanity is innately bad at seeing outside the visible spectrum
          And many more. All these are correct but these are not the “innately bad” that is in question

          Like I listed above, they are many things we are “innately bad” at ( I am not talking in a moral sense )
          But how the phrase Humanity is innately bad was used in David Hogsette’s book and how it is used in most religious circles is not one of the “bads” I mentioned here nor is it the bad you are hinting at
          But is
          Humans are innately bad in a moral sense or humanity is “by nature impure, evil, unholy, unrighteous, unfair, and unloving

          I’m noticing that you and Swarn Gill are bringing up points that my original comment already addresses.

          I am guessing you are referring to my comment about your example.
          Your example did not talk on the issue at hand. It was rather hinting at sometimes humans have problem prioritizing while it avoided the issue of
          If, humans are innately bad in the moral sense
          Another issue, I pointed at was in your example, the recommended course of action varied depending on various factors and in what angle you are looking at. In some scenarios it would be better to relax, in others do the homework, in some scenarios neither of the options and in some either of the options
          Your statement on what should be done did not account for a whole lot of scenarios

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          1. “[W]hat you are talking about is largely red herring”

            Call it what you want, I have made my reason(s) for saying what I say as clear as I can, in the interest of helping the CA as much as I can. What you do with that fact is up to you.

            “Your example did not talk on the issue at hand.”

            Nor was it meant to, as I made clear.

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            1. Nor was it meant to, as I made clear.

              Your first comment was clear to me that you were talking about something entirely different

              It is plausible that someone who is reading this post and the discussion in the comments, when he or she reads your comment may not get that the “Humans is innately bad” you were talking about is not the same as what they may have heard from their religion about this notion and what other people who left comments in this post were talking about

              Humans aren’t perfect, that much is true, but to suggest that belief in some supernatural being is required to learn how to balance our individual needs with a greater good is pure hogwash

              This was part of Swarn Gill comment to your initial comment, he stated what came to mind when he read your comment. Though in the follow up comment you then made it clear that this was not what you suggesting.

              What you do with that fact is up to you.

              This is right, it is left to the reader to make out what he or she thinks about your comment. I was just making it obvious that what you stated did not tackle the issue under question

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            2. “Your first comment was clear to me…”

              I’m glad.

              “…you were talking about something entirely different”

              Indeed.

              “It is plausible that someone who is reading this post and the discussion in the comments, when he or she reads your comment may not get that the ‘Humans is innately bad’ you were talking about is not the same as what they may have heard from their religion about this notion and what other people who left comments in this post were talking about[.]”

              How a person interprets my words is out of my hands. I cannot control how someone else thinks, feels or acts; I can only control how I think, feel, and act.

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  9. The need to be saved is a trick employed by many persuasions, and not necessarily religious ones. Those who employ it know that people have a “higher self”/ideal self/conscience or whatever it can be called, reacting to what they perceive as their flaws and injustices they witness around them. They lie to anyone who will listen that perfection is possible; that there’s a way to alleviate that guilt or inadequacy. That path involves letting themselves be controlled and attempting to control others in turn, somehow thinking if they try hard enough and convert enough people, they can save the world’s problems.

    It’s not even intended to ever work. Even if they managed to homogenise society by imposing a belief system, they’d need additional issues to keep “correcting” in order to keep people subdued.

    That’s why a good Christian is never good enough and needs to live in a perpetual state of neurosis, chasing that impossible perfection.

    Liked by 3 people

  10. “It is a mystery but not a contradiction. It may go against the reason’s ability to comprehend completely, but it does not violate reason’s ability to apprehend consistently.”

    It’s like he’s trying to use a Jedi mind-trick to get you to ignore his inability to make the trinity make sense. “You don’t need to understand this. I’ll use a different set of fancy words and wave my hand and pretend that there’s no problem here. You just keep believing. Move along.”

    Liked by 5 people

    1. What was default explanation I got as a catholic when you press to long on the trinity
      It is a mystery of religion Catechism of the catholic church, 237

      “It is a mystery but not a contradiction. It may go against the reason’s ability to comprehend completely, but it does not violate reason’s ability to apprehend consistently.”

      Catechism of the catholic church 253-255
      The father is fully god, whole and entire
      The son is fully god, whole and entire
      The holy spirit is fully god, whole and entire

      The father is not the son nor is the son the father
      The father is not the spirit nor is the spirit the father
      The spirit is not the son nor is the son the spirit

      But the is just one god and not three gods

      Can someone tell me how this is not a logical contradiction

      Liked by 1 person

  11. The good thing about Mere Christianity is that it is well written, as C.S. Lewis was a master. I read the book two or three times years ago and always liked it. I doubt I would now. Christianity can’t stand without the doctrine or belief that humans are evil and born in sin; without that, then only the hitlers of the world would need Jesus.

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