When we do apologetics, we seek to provide responses to charges against the faith revealed in the Bible. We defend the existence of God, the objectivity of morality, the incarnation resurrection of the Son of God. C. S. Lewis famously defended Christianity from the criticisms of the cold and sterile scientific elites of mid-twentieth century Britain. Francis Schaeffer, on the European continent dealt heavily with the knowability of truth against the existentialists and the first wave of fashionable postmodernism. These men and others interacted with assertions of those outside the Church, defeating propositions and arguments contrary to biblical claims.
In today’s world, we often find ourselves dealing with a different sort of objection to the faith. See Exhibit A:
We have a new sort of objection: the snarky meme. I do not know the origin of the above meme; tracing the origin of a meme carries severe difficulty. However, I found it in a tweet by Dr. Michael Shermer, editor of Skeptic magazine, former Christian, and member of the so-called Intellectual Dark Web.
Obviously, the meme means to make a joke out of Christian theology, particularly the story and logic of redemption. Here, a few rapid-fire potshots produce a perfunctory objection to Christianity, yielding dividends of laughter from atheists and secularists and consternation from Christians.
O, what shall we say to these things? Has the meme mashed our Messiah to meal? Are we undone, my brethren?
I posted the following in reply (expecting no response—the man has 157,000 Twitter followers); see Exhibit B:
Has anyone changed their mind or received any sort of meaningful challenge? We must answer in the negative; we only traded jabs. These sorts of online interactions have an analogue in high school boys pushing one another to feign toughness in the face of their peers while declining to throw a punch, hoping an authority intervenes to break up the non-fight before they might truly face the prospect of violence.
Neither the meme shared by Dr. Shermer (who is indeed a formidable intellectual) nor myself (a guy who counts Statler and Waldorf as two of his favorite Muppets) offered an actual objection to the other’s position. Internet doggerel damages the insecure. It accomplishes nothing else.
Friends, ridicule does not constitute an objection.
Dr. Shermer’s meme fails to account for the Christian claim of our understanding of goodness existing only as sourced in God. Everything he does proves not only justified, but good. His character cannot produce otherwise. The doctrine of sin, among the thickest in the Christian faith, also has no place in the meme. Likewise, any atheist can see my own meme and say, “So? That’s reality, man.” So our little social media chess match ends in a stalemate. Alas, I thought my maneuvering of my meme had him that time. Perhaps I would have succeeded had it not been for those meddling kids and their pesky dog, Scooby Doo.
These sorts of things fall in the same category as sound bites and
short snippets of film making up the proof-texts of the modern popular canon of poor rhetoric. No intellectual acumen need exist, just a penchant for snark and the ability to operate a meme-generating site.
Christian, when you hear you faith treated in a reductionistic way, fear not. Being the butt of a joke certainly hurts, but it does not make your belief false. You might feel silly in the moment, but the joke, however hurtful (especially when coming from a friend or family member) does not invalidate your faith. Whether or not Jesus defeated death by rising again to life does not hang on the ability of someone to make a clever remark.
Peter instructs us to stand at the ready to give a defense to everyone for the hope of the gospel. In cases of reductionist ridicule, the defense remains confident in humility, while it need only reply one thing: you have not offered substantive objection or criticism of my position; you only poked fun. Please do not think your joke shook my faith. Specifically, what tenet of my faith seems objectionable and why?”
Ridicule does not dethrone the one seated to the righthand of the Father, brothers and sisters. Have confidence in your Savior and remember our spiritual family in much of the world faces heinously worse challenges than mere jokes.
More well-known names of this supposed group would be men like Jordan Peterson and Ben Shapiro.