I think I’m over this now. Spufford’s speech came at a bad time for me (or at the perfect time, if heightened discomfort was the best preliminary to AVI learning something).
I had not known that Lewis’s accent was off-putting to British ears now. I knew that it was something of an advantage during his lifetime: here was an Oxford don who sounded like “a bloke in a pub,” as Spufford put it. He looks and sounds a red-faced butcher, was the description at the time. The years turn, and he now comes off as a toff, even in print. “He sounds bossy,” Spufford says with some emphasis. He spends the rest of the hour explaining how this style doesn’t work anymore, and developing a non-confrontative narrative is a better way to go.
His only real “let’s leave off with this Lewisian style of apologetics” data is the accent, plus the echoes of it that appear in print. The rest is all stuff that I recognised the truth of immediately – because I had first learned it from Lewis. It’s all very fashionable to be “about story” in the church just now, but I Was Story (When Story Wasn’t Cool) because of Lewis.
To be fair to Spufford, I was always confrontative, lecturing style as well (which was never cool), and justified it largely from Lewis, who could also engage in that mode of apologetics. In my case it predates my exposure to Lewis, and is contaminated by a lot of personal combativeness that has little to do with defending the faith. But that had been the long goal, to Be Like Jack and turn the contentious nature to good, attacking misunderstanding and deception, not for my own good but the good of all.
To be told that this goal was never worth pursing and even damaging – that it was responsible for much of the unpopularity of the faith now – went down rather hard. Especially, in the context of recent articles handed to me about “argument culture,” and a rant from a young person I am fond of about my critical nature.
Let’s separate out the two things as best we can. That much of my criticism may have been secretly personal, designed to benefit myself instead of the church, I grant. So be it. I wish I had done better. But the other piece, that we should not be engaging in this style at all in this era, I completely reject. Spufford is following fashion. His is a counter-fashion, perhaps, to a previous few generations of evangelicals who were very confrontative, didactic, and lecturing. Personal, political, or social issues often seemed to drive them more than
People who have left the church, or have no interest in considering the claims of Christ point to those folks with blame. Westboro Baptist comes up in this regard frequently, and ridiculous church signs. How can you belong to a group that includes such people? is the implication. Doesn’t this in itself prove that what you believe cannot be taken seriously?
Generally speaking, these are not the things that chase people out of church. These are the excuses people drag in later as they are already deciding to leave their wives, hang out with cooler people, or find moralities that are less expensive but more affirming.
We should strive to be all things to all men, of course, as Paul teaches. Or to live in peace with others, so far as it is in our power, as he mentions later. We should not be stumbling blocks, providing excuses for others to stay away.
But Jesus's disciples did not come up and say "We aren't getting a lot of response from the Pharisees, especially the 25-34 y/o urban Pharisee demographic. We've got to change our style to reach that group." Jesus was brutally hard on many of his hearers. Even his words of comfort to some are rather obviously pointed at powerful others, who are being condemned. There is no Gospel of Niceness in Jesus.
Does this provide excuse for evil and selfish men to condemn others? Sure. Apparently, that is considered the lesser problem.
More to come.