Apologetics 102: An Introduction

I’m finally going to start a new series that I’ve been so excited to share on here for over a month, which is…. more apologetics! Rather than taking another class, I’m going to be looking at an apologetics book written by a professor from my college. I decided that it was so bad that I would review and critique it as I went along instead of one long review at the end of the book, which I usually do.

I found this book through a class that I took in the spring 2018 semester, the end of my senior year. Deciding I was done with explicitly Christian classes like Apologetics 101 and the entire series of required religion courses, I enrolled in a class on professional editing. I had considered becoming an editor, since, as you all know, I love to write, but it turns out that I really only like writing and not editing… so the class ended up being a waste. And with my luck, our teacher had a background on editing articles for Christian magazines and newsletters, so any pieces that we worked on were from this lovely and informative magazine… What a great job this class did in preparing me for potential real-life work!

34906659_1832817463424023_6979282548459307008_nThe worst example of when we were required to edit super-Christian content was the proposal of the book that I’m going to review. In order to gain experience in manuscript acquisition and book publishing, our assignment was to edit the book proposal for David Hogsette’s Letters to a Young Seeker: Exchanges in Mere Christianity. The author is a professor at my school (not the school that he worked at during the time when he was writing this) whom I’ve worked with and taken classes from before. It’s worth noting that he wasn’t the professor of my editing class, so I don’t think he ever saw the edits I made of this book proposal. The proposal was from 2009, and the book was published in 2011, so our edits were for educational purposes only.

I don’t know if you’ve ever tried to edit the grammar and development of an apologetics book proposal as someone who literally despises apologetics and knows that every statement on the page is absolutely wrong, but I’ll tell you this: sticking to just grammar suggestions was physically impossible. After four years of being bombarded with Christianity when all I wanted was a good education, and a semester of editing biographies of pastors and articles on how to fight evil temptation when all I wanted was to improve my editing skills, I was fed up. Rather than moving around commas or rearranging paragraphs, my edits looked like this (click to enlarge image):

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The entire document was filled with similar comments. Clearly, I was very heated during this assignment. After submitting it, I immediately showed my fiance what I had done. He asked, “Are you going to turn it in like that?” Ready to be reprimanded for losing my mind via Microsoft Word comments, I said, “…I did already.” But instead of saying, “Okay, well you’re going to get in a lot of trouble for insulting a teacher’s intelligence,” he said, “Good! What you said is true.” I’m telling you, he’s my soulmate.

Hogsette.Emails.95493But that’s beside the point. This book is terrible, and as a student who had to sit in class while books like this were treated as normal, I decided that it’s my turn to speak. So naturally, I went online and found the book used so that the author wouldn’t profit from it, bought it for $20, and decided to critique it one chapter at a time.

At this point, I know that it’s somewhat redundant for a knowledgeable and well-read atheist to try and find all the flaws in Christian apologetics. But for my whole life, I have been forced to take books like this seriously in class, as if there’s nothing wrong with them. So the fact that, even though they’re riddled with copious flaws, as long as they’re treated with the respect that they are by my teachers and family members, I find it appropriate to go through and point out just what makes them so flawed. And for the atheists who have left the closet and don’t have to deal with religion, I’m showing you that for some of us, even after coming out, it is still a problem.

This book is set up as a series of email exchanges between the author and a “seeker” of Christianity. He explains that when he was a professor at a secular university, he would often discuss topics of religion with a group of friends who were young professionals in their twenties and thirties. These friends, he says, ranged from deists to theists, but for the sake of smoothness in content, he personified them all in the book as one seeker who was manifested as a college student. So each chapter, or exchange, begins with this fictional college student asking a question that is meant to sound skeptical, and the author giving his apologetic response. Of course, this is easily seen right through as the apologist asking and answering his own questions.

It’s also very purposefully clarified that this book is for “seekers” of the Christian faith and for Christians who want to pursue apologetics and share the faith with others. I always find that questionable in that these self-proclaimed theologians can’t face atheists head-on in their books, but instead, they write the books for amateur apologists and make them do the dirty work. It makes me feel as though the author thinks that he and his fellow apologists are on some undercover mission to become equipped to answer to “the atheists”, and if he writes a book not addressed to atheists, then we won’t find his top-secret formula. But isn’t it easier to just skip the extra step and have an atheist read this book directly? What’s he so scared of?

The back cover, as well as any description you’ll find of this book if you’ve looked it up, opens with “As popular advocates for new atheism clash with intellectually gifted Christian apologists, the debates rage on.” Seriously? Give me a break.


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8 Replies to “Apologetics 102: An Introduction”

  1. I’ve been reading your blogs, perhaps you would call me a closet reader. I find them interesting and in-depth. I find points I agree on and some I do not. I understand you were raised Christian and through an orderly process became an atheist. For obvious reasons, excluding your time of Christianity, have you since had any experiences in your life that caused you to second guess your atheism and either think or hope there might be or is a God?

    Liked by 1 person

  2. My dad is a pastor of a very small church, and even though he knows I’m no longer a believer, he still sends me his religious writings for editing. Like you said, t’s really hard to stick to grammar and spelling.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Hi, CA,
    With your beliefs (non-beliefs?) and your attitude, I often wonder why you even went to a religion-based institute of “higher learning”? I mean, I know you were still closeted when you started, and money and shelter were definite factors, but did you really expect that you would receive an education that might help you prepare for your life in the real world?
    Don’t get me wrong please, this is not a totally critical set of questions, though it is a bit. Still, the very fact that you went to this college knowing as you did you would often be pissed off, and continually frustrated, shows a daring not many people would have, in my opinion. I would never have done it, I know that. Allowing myself to be surrounded by folk 180° opposite to my own belief s ystem would have driven me insane.
    But you persevered to the end, and for that you receive the first ever “rawgod award for bravery” ever bestowed on anyone. Congratulations!

    Meanwhile, even after all your posts I have read, and I have not read them all, I still do not know what type of atheist you are.
    Most people, a lot of them atheists, believe that there is only one type of atheist, the ones that do not believe in a god or gods. But in my experience, and my opinion, there are all types of atheism, and in fact there are as many types of atheism as there are atheists in the world. No one definition can cover what is under the blanket term “atheism” because atheists do not act as a group, but as individuals, which is what we ultimately are.
    But the more atheists I talk to, the more I can see what underlies the descriptive word (label) atheist. Some, possibly most, believe that death ends everything for us. Some few believe in reincarnation (a belief that itself has many branches), while others believe in other things. I happen to be of the second variety, but i’ll get to that later, or another time.
    Right now, I would like to ask you about your use of the term “soulmate”? To have a soulmate infers that there is life on a plane other than earth, or, if you like, not on or in the physical dimension. Does this mean you believe there are other worlds, or other dimensions, upon which life can exist? Please don’t be afraid to answer that question, there are a lot of atheists who believe this.
    Or is the term soulmate just a throw-away word for meaning the love of your life? (Soulmate is actually a buddhist term signifying a soul or spirit you have loved in a past life, and one you will love forever in all your future lives, no matter that at times you will love others if you and your soulmate do not meet in any particular incarnation.) Basically, to say you have a soulmate is to say that you believe in some kind of life after death. Does this term actually state how you do believe? Again, please do not be afraid to answer, I am just trying to round out my picture of who you are, and understand that vision of you.
    Another question I have to ask is about your statement that there is only one kind of evolution. If you believe there is only one kind of evolution, then what I am hearing you say is all life ends when it dies. While life itself goes on, the being that is each individual totally ceases to exist, and more or less has no real effect on how life on earth progresses.
    On the other hand, if you accept that evolution is real, that can also mean that you believe there is some kind of connection between each generation that supersedes the previous generation. For a quick example look up pyrophytic plants, which are plants that flourish after wildfires. How could a plant prepare for surviving wildfires unless they have experienced wildfires? This should not be possible if generations are not connected, and the very fact they exist is a sign that generations are connected somehow, and not only are they connected, they can and have learned how to evolve to propagate their species.
    So where do you intersect with these theories and beliefs, CA? Can you tell me what kind of atheist you are, what your life as an atheist really means? Can you tell me, does your life have meaning?
    Please remember, I am just trying to understand. I am not criticizing you, or even critiquing you. And I am more than willing to reciprocate if you would like me to.
    No matter, I think you are pretty unique in having gone through your academic life as you have, and as I said above, you are amazingly brave. I cannot wait to hear how you make it through the next stage of your life.
    Oops, I forgot to complete my thought on only one type of evolution. Being a believer in reincarnation as I am, because I cannot see a meaning for life without it, I believe there is a second kind of evolution, spiritual evolution (where spiritual has absolutely nothing to do with religion (or any kind of god). A good example of what I mean is in the book “The Source” by James A. Michener. Having some knowledge of his publicly stated belief system, I don’t think Michener ever intended for his readers to find what I found in it (though I could be wrong!), but what I found was agreement with my belief in spiritual evolution. Humanity, from its earliest beginnings to now, have progressed from a totally naturalistic view of the world to a view of natural sprites to pantheons of gods to a “one true god” and now to atheism. This shows a steady evolution in the world of human community, and life community, not on the physical plane, but on the spiritual plane. Despite the fact we are all individuals at every level and species of life, there is still a connection we can feel if we let ourselves feel it. Maybe it wasn’t even there at the beginning, but if not we have created it. Those plants I talked about earlier are connected to their future generations by having protected their species from fire. Humans are now trying to protect their future generations by ending the belief that someone else is responsible for their lives, and helping them to understand they are responsible for building our spirit of community, far exceeding the boundaries set by religion, race, nationality, gender, sexual persuasion, etc. IMO, this is what life is about, and why we are alive in the first place. Spiritual evolution, while connected to physical evolution, is now advancing at a much faster velocity than is physical evolution. And that, I think, are the main points I wanted to comment on as inspired by your above post. Thank you.

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  4. Rather than a series of blog posts, have you considered authoring an in-depth article for a national media company? Blogsites like Vox’s Big Idea series, The Atlantic and New Republic are interested in publishing works by writers with novel backgrounds and viewpoints, and I think they would be most interested in publishing something like what you’re suggesting. After all, modern apologetics is a billion-dollars-a-year industry, yet evangelical Christianity is bleeding millennials, and many want to know why.

    Anyway, love your posts and look forward to reading them every Sunday. I’m sorry about your current family drama. I’m likely 10 years old than you, and a bity of experience I’ll pass on is that it will be stunning how quickly your dependence on your parents will switch to your parent’s dependence on you in the next decade. right now you need them for shelter, emotional and financial support. But in 2018, you’ll be insanely busy with work and your family, and you’ll need pop-up reminders on your phone to check in with your folks, arrange times for them to see the grandkids and even occasionally offer them financial assistance. I found that my parents became much more respectful and considerate when that switch happened.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. There are two or three ways can apologists can present their arguments —but the list is infinite. Completely repackaged from day to day to find just the right wording, sophistry is the real religion. Wordy, flowery cover up of the truth to try and prove they are not crazy.

    Liked by 1 person

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