A couple of weeks ago, I posted a blog about Kierkengaard and his frequently misconstrued philosophy, especially in relation to popular apologetics. Before you continue reading this post, I would highly suggest you read its predecessor here:https://masonkelso.wordpress.com/2016/05/20/rational-leaps-into-the-absurdity-of-god/
After further study and introspection, I have come to a relatively firm position that classical apologetics (the defense of the Christian faith based primarily upon rational argument and evidence) is regularly missing a tremendously important element that many of its defenders often take for granted: the individual’s subjective experience.
Not long ago, I went to a Bible and Beer Consortium (check them out!) event to see apologetics superhero Dr. William Lane Craig speak on the historicity of the resurrection of Christ. If you’ve spent any significant time attacking or defending Christianity, you know this guy. He’s a beast. I have so much respect for him. Over and over, he, in an upstanding Christian manner, takes atheists to the place where Travis had to shoot Old Yeller. He just ruins atheistic arguments. I’ve watched him for years answer question after question and am astounded at his ability to thoroughly answer them all, no matter the topic. Even when I don’t agree with him (especially in quantum physics), he still hits his target.
Until here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i5IPW3Pa000
This agnostic respectfully approaches Dr. Craig. He admits “apostasy”, recognizes there is “a lot of evidence” for the resurrection of Christ, and asks “from the heart, what am I missing?”. Dr. Craig, whom I, again, have the utmost respect for, rightly points out “psychological” and “emotional” factors that are in play for this young seeker. But he then shifts to other arguments for God (cosmological, ontological, etc.) and suggests he reframe his view of Christian belief back to C.S. Lewis’ “Mere Christianity”. This is all well and good. But I don’t think that provides an answer for this man’s question. This man is in the midst of a profound existential condition. Tears come to my eyes as I watch this guy throw his hands down and ask, “What am I missing?” or, if I could paraphrase from my own experience, “Why isn’t all this evidence enough? Why isn’t it doing anything?!”
It was very interesting to see Dr. Craig mention C.S. Lewis because one of Lewis’ most well-known quotes was “If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world.” That is a primary existential apologetic quote.
As you may or may not know, I have recently been blending my classical approach to apologetics with an existential add-on. Now, on one level, all apologetics, even all experience, is existential. By that I mean that it requires a subjective experience in which to reason from or intake any sensory perception at all. This is obvious.
But on a deeper level, existential apologetics hassles the individual to come to grasp with a particular need that they have for God. Now, thats a broad definition. If left at such an unsophisticated assessment, existential apologetics can easily become fallacious. For example, it would be just as practical to create a parallel argument that one may become just as gratified with a new TV set as he would be with belief in God. Nietzsche, Sartre and others would effortlessly tear this to shreds. It’s individually based, doesn’t pledge any actual fact, some feel fine and dandy without answering these questions, but with just a minor tweak, we can construct a mammoth dialectic.
Take notice, apologists. This respect for the subjective, this existential component of which only the “I” can experience, when combined with rational argument and evidence, can point to an objective reality outside of oneself that justifies the struggle within each individual. It warrants each “leap of faith” by its basis in properly basic beliefs, effective confirmation of data while reconciling the confusion and absurdity of the conscious state itself. When blended, it is a more comprehensive and robust apologetic.
So when the poor wanderer, lost not in heart but in reason, asked Dr. Craig, “What am I missing?”, I see only one type of answer: you must admit your need for this Jesus; the Jesus who left so much evidence that you are found wallowing around now pitifully irrational, unexpectedly sinking in it! How should your search still be called incomplete?! Take your leap already!
In Pensees, Blaise Pascal writes, “All men seek happiness. There are no exceptions . . . Yet for very many years no one without faith has ever reached that goal at which everyone is continually aiming . . . What else does this craving . . . this helplessness, proclaim but that there once was once in man a true happiness . . . then he tries in vain to fill with everything around him, seeking in things that are not there the help he cannot find in those that are, though none can help, since this infinite abyss can be filled only with an infinite and immutable object; in other words by God himself.”
So when this poor wanderer asks, “What am I missing?”, we should ask, “My friend, how empty can you admit yourself to be?”
Like a lame man healed that won’t take a step because he hasn’t yet been provided a compass, make his existential dilemma clear. Kierkengaard correctly deciphers man’s intentions, writing, “What, then, is the difference between an admirer and an imitator? An imitator is or strives to be what he admires, and an admirer keeps himself personally detached, consciously or unconsciously does not discover that what is admired involves a claim upon him, to be or at least to strive to be what is admired.”
So when this poor wanderer asks, “What am I missing?”, we should ask, “My friend, what is it you strive to be?”
The data points to a man worth wanting, worthy of imitation, and the positive plausibility of his truth has already been established. So our apologetic must shift. These questions may snap the center of these honest men’s dilemmas. We can help his reflection become conviction. Evidence is no longer the focus.
 C. S. LEWIS. (2001) Mere Christianity. Print.
 PASCAL, B. TRANS. KRAILSHEIMER, A.J.. (1995). Pensees. Print.
 KIERKEGAARD, S., HONG, H. V., HONG, E. H., & KIERKEGAARD, S. (1983). Practice in Christianity. Print.