Vocational Apologetics An Argument For Using The Lutheran Understanding Of Vocation As A Form Of Enfleshed Apologetics For The Church To Engage A Cultural Setting Influenced By The Criticism Of The New Atheists

Kirk Clayton, Concordia Seminary, St. Louis


Clayton, Kirk M. “Vocational Apologetics: An Argument for Using the Lutheran Understanding of Vocation as a Form of Enfleshed Apologetics for the Church to Engage a Cultural Setting Influenced by the Criticisms of the New Atheists.” Ph.D. diss., Concordia Seminary, 2017. 252 pp.

This dissertation examines criticisms against Christianity from the New Atheists (Dawkins, Dennett, Harris, Hitchens, and Stenger), considers problems with how the church has formulated its apologetic response, and concludes that Martin Luther’s understanding of vocation applied to the Christian life offers a significant contribution to shaping an apologetic response to the New Atheism.

Apologetics is best understood as a defense, and must be a responsive discipline. For the last several centuries apologetics has largely consisted of rational or evidential responses to challenges arising from the Enlightenment. However, the strength of the New Atheists’ arguments lies not with their rational arguments, which are intellectually unserious, but with their moral arguments that Christianity is evil. These moral accusations, made with strong ethical and emotional appeals, have gained a hearing in a receptive culture. When the challenges presented to the Christian faith are of a moral nature, as with the accusations of the New Atheists, the apologetic response needs to demonstrate not only the truth of Christianity, but also the goodness of Christianity. While the apologetic response to the New Atheists has been prolific, it has been focused primarily on traditional apologetic methods such as Presuppositional Apologetics or Evidential Apologetics, providing intellectually correct answers to what really are moral challenges. Thus the apologetic response to the New Atheists so far has largely missed the main force of the attacks.

This dissertation uses Aristotle’s rational, ethical, and emotional appeals to apply a rhetorical analysis to the New Atheists’ writings in order to understand better the challenge they pose to Christianity. The dissertation then explores the developing field of Enfleshed Apologetics (also called Incarnational Apologetics and Lifestyle Apologetics) and argues that this form of apologetics should be used to respond to the lifestyle-oriented challenges of the New Atheists. Luther’s teaching on vocation provides the theological basis for developing an enfleshed approach in which a morally exemplary Christian life becomes the apologetic answer to the moral accusations of the New Atheists. This approach can be used alongside traditional apologetic methods as part of an overall Cumulative Case apologetic response to the New Atheists.