New Stoa Apol Outlook and Questions Wading into Politics?
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Author:  Evan [ Fri Aug 04, 2017 5:23 pm ]
Post subject:  New Stoa Apol Outlook and Questions Wading into Politics?

So I doubt I'm going to get much response on a section of a nearly dead forum that hasn't been posted in for over a year, but I can't think of any better place to discuss this (except G+, which is also kind of dead. And I'm posting this there as well anyway so howdy G+ peeps.) I also apologize if this comes off as me rambling or ranting; I'm trying to type out my stream-of-consciousness thoughts after I just now read over the speech event changes, and I truly want what's best for the league.

Stoa recently announced some major rule changes and another overhaul of the Apol questions. The rules are a separate discussion, but suffice it to say I'm pretty pleased with most of them, and indifferent to some of the others. It's clear the Stoa board has worked hard (as they always do), but this year they seem to really be striving to improve the league as a whole with some radical change. Change is good.

However, the new apol questions, revisions to a lot of the older ones, and entirely new outlook has me a little uneasy.

Why should I as an alum really care about this? Not only because I am coaching students in this event, but I am also a judge and I now need to reorient my focus quite substantially because of the new changes.

First off, the ballots are getting a subtle new nuance with a huge impact on the event. There will now be a little statement which reads "Provides effective response that addresses a varied audience as appropriate (may be Christian &/or non-Christian)"

This is yuuuge. Since I first started out in Apol, I've been taught that Apol was intended to be delivered to a non-Christian audience. Without getting into too many details, there have been a couple questions (like sanctification) which are really difficult to deliver to a non-Christian audience, but I made do and found ways to make it relevant.

Well now, the audience can be BOTH. I am not sure how this will change the league, except suffice it to say I think this will encourage students to copy-paste a lot of what their pastors say in sermons without much critical thought of their own.

This will also force me as a coach and an alum to 100% change how I look at the event now. Because students who speak mostly to Christians in their speech have justification to do so from the rules now. Is this really what we want to encourage our students to do...preach to the choir? When IMO the event should be about training our students to speak the message of Christ to the WORLD? NOT Christians??

The second (and imo larger) issue to me are that some of the new questions smack of political opportunism to me. I'll only take note of two of them to illustrate my point:

When does human life begin and why does it matter?
How would you respond to this tweet from Bette Midler? “Men and religion are worthless.”

...yes, you have read it right. Stoa Apol is now making students speak on abortion and a FEMINIST TWEET. A TWEET. Let that sink in for a second.

While these new questions are commendable for their relevance, I struggle to see how they'll introduce much positive into Apol, and I only see them being sources of possible contention. The "extempification" of Apol is kind of disturbing tbh. Stoa as a league has always kept abortion, gay marriage, etc. potentially virulent and heated topics out of debate, and out of apologetics, for a reason. Christians can disagree on those issues quite fiercely, but pro-life and anti-gay marriage speeches in platforms have done well in the league for some time due to the league's pretty conservative outlook.

But that's my point exactly - those types of topics should be reserved for platforms, where the student will advance their own opinion/agenda and the judges can be persuaded one way or another. Many students do not choose to cover these controversial topics in their platforms and cover other issues of deep importance to them.

Now, in apol, we have it structured in a way wherein the league is essentially saying "you HAVE to talk about these things, and if you don't present a certain view, you'll probably get punished on the ballot for it." People who didn't choose to talk about abortion or feminism in their platforms now may HAVE to speak on them in apologetics, and it gives students a chance to speak on politics in an event where we should be focusing on something much more important than worldly politics.

Now yes, these are only two topics in a sea of 100 topics. And students can choose to speak on other ones if they pick three and get one of them. I do understand that. Hopefully you see why I am not too keen on these questions though - I don't want Apol to become a platform for students to persuade me to VOTE a certain way or to be or not be a feminist. That's not the proper place and role for an Apologetics student; that's a good role for an extemporaneous or platform speaker.

But I strive to keep an open mind and maybe I'm overthinking this, or maybe Stoa's culture is homogeneously conservative enough where questions like the totally-not-abortion question won't cause controversy. I don't know. Overall I'm happy with a lot of the changes Stoa has proposed, but I'm not really in favor of the changes to Apol. To me, the event has now become much more about how much students can appeal to a Christian audience's potential biases on a topic, while leaving the appeal to the unsaved as an afterthought or only PART of the message...when really, the event should be solely focused on outreach IMO. What do you think?

Author:  ConnorDaniels [ Sat Aug 05, 2017 12:28 am ]
Post subject:  Re: New Stoa Apol Outlook and Questions Wading into Politics?

Former NCFCA Apologetics competitor here. :)

1) In the NCFCA, the Apologetics judges are almost exclusively Christian (and used to be required to at least be sympathetic to Christian views). So speaking to a Christian audience in Apologetics can be done, you just have to frame the answer as "this is how we should give a reasonable defense" or "this answer should encourage us in our faith," not as actually witnessing to someone. Many of the questions are more theological in nature and so can sometimes be difficult to tie back to Apologetics proper. I have definitely seen lack of critical thought be a problem in some Apol speeches, but not necessarily more so than in debate and the other speeches, where conservative mantras are often repeated without warrant. The best competitors in every event go much deeper than that and engage in actual analysis (and are judged well for it).

2) I am not a fan of either question, though it is important to apply Scripture to current topics. The main problem I have isn't that the questions promote a political bias (I think the Biblical stance on both issues is crystal clear); my criticism would be that neither question is really Apologetics. Apologetics is about defending (mere) Christianity, not about engaging in theological disputes or arguing over how Christians should approach political issues from a Biblical standpoint. If you want students to speak on that, that's fine, but Apologetics proper is about convincing nonbelievers of the reasonability of Christianity itself.

Author:  White Fang [ Sat Aug 05, 2017 6:56 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: New Stoa Apol Outlook and Questions Wading into Politics?

As far as the ballot change, I am rather disgruntled. I believe that it will invite a lot of preaching to the choir and viewing the non-believer as an afterthought. My mom disagrees, since she said that some Christians are so Biblically uninformed, we need to be equipping Christians as well and know how to address their questions, too. I do see her point, and will concede that the old ballots did say to answer a non-believer or a Biblically uniformed person. However, I do not like the way the new ballots have worded the change. The people who do best at apologetics are equipped to answer the tough questions of their faith, but the main focus of apologetics should be to answer the non-believer. If a Christian is that Biblically uninformed, you may as well address him as a non-Christian. In short, I believe some of the importance of training students how to relate to the non-Christian or Biblically uninformed will be lost.
With regards to the two political questions, I think those questions are definitely relevant for today. It's true that they cover some more touchy material, so I'm not really pleased by that. Well, the question about when life begins seems more appropriate to be in the apologetics category. Feminism, on the other hand, I don't think is really an apologetics topic. The quote itself isn't directly related to feminism, but still, I believe that feminism will be the more sensitive issue of the two. Oh well. Like you said, it's only two questions out of 100.

Author:  Evan [ Wed Aug 30, 2017 4:54 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: New Stoa Apol Outlook and Questions Wading into Politics?

Good thoughts, good thoughts.

It seems Stoa isn't going to change this (unless I missed a big uprising over it ;P). I think students and judges will adapt to the new normal, but I am still not too happy with how they phrased the event's shift in emphasis and the political questions. Those two in particular are not Apologetics, as Connor said. We'll have to see if this really does have a significantly negative affect on the event, or if business as usual keeps going, and judges keep rewarding the good speakers that would have done well in the old rules.

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