apologetics and imagination

Apologetics, after all, is a literature of the imagination. Its cousins are the memoir, the literary essay, even the travel book. Like the memoir it turns the private tissue of life into convertible coin, like an essay it makes the line of an explanation as concretely felt as it can be, like travel writing it delivers the sensations and incidents of a journey: all to accomplish for a reader on the outside of belief what an insider does not, strictly, need. (Though it’s always a pleasure for a believing reader to see our own half-lit, half-understood experience more perfectly articulated than we could manage ourselves.) The apologist is trying, above all, to convey the body of a truth. For a believer of course truth already has a body, in several ways, ‘body’ being the site of one of Christianity’s profound puns. Our truth is a body, the body of the incarnated Lord, and it makes us a body, the body of Christ which is the church, every time we eat the bread which is also the body of Christ. But more routinely, truth also has a body for us as believers in the sense that it is carnally present to us all the time, in bodily habit and bodily movement; in the lived shapes of a life. But if you’re on the outside, this kind of body is exactly what belief has not got. Apologetics is in the business of trying to create for the reader of goodwill a kind of temporary, virtual body for faith; one they can borrow and try out, so that they may have a concrete inkling of what it might be like to assent, long before they do.