The other day I was sitting at the library flipping through Car & Driver when I came across an article on the new Hyundai Veloster Turbo. I began reading the article … at least until I spotted those three fatal words at the top of the page: Special Advertising Section. Immediately I recoiled in horror and skipped the next several pages until I had returned to the copy written by the staff writers of Car & Driver.
And then it hit me that for many people the word “apologetics” is roughly equivalent to “special advertising section”. Like an advert article for a car, any book or essay that is identified as “apologetics” is at risk of losing a significant portion of its audience before they’ve even begun to read.
The problem with a special advertising section is that it has been written by people who have been hired to sell the product being described. Consequently, their integrity is compromised. They may include facts in their presentation — the Veloster has 201 hp and 36 mpg highway — but the overall assessment of the product will surely be skewed.
As I have noted elsewhere (see “Must we apologize for the apologists?”) this is a real problem for Christian apologetics. But it is a bit frustrating that Christian apologists get singled out for special censure. After all, we are all apologists for our particular point of view, whether we call ourselves apologists or not. Take Richard Dawkins, for example. In his essay “Viruses of the Mind” he begins by incredulously noting how, unbeknownst to him, his young daughter was being taught church doctrine by nuns. “What chance has she?” he snorts.
Elsewhere, in Climbing Mount Improbable Dawkins recalls how his daughter told him that wildflowers exist to help bees make honey and to help make the world pretty. Dawkins describes his response: “I was touched by this and sorry I had to tell her it wasn’t true.”
By denying teleology in nature, full-stop, Dawkins is as much an apologist for his worldview as the nuns are for theirs.
We’re all apologists even if only some of us labor under the stigma of a special advertising section. But we all need to fight that stigma, to be honest and forthright in the assessment of the difficulties facing our position, even as we remain committed to it as the best among competing alternatives.