Friday, May 18, 2018

Apologetic gimmicks

Lee Strobel -- A journalist's personal investigation of the evidence for Jesus.

J. Warner Wallace -- A homicide detective investigates the claims of the gospels.

Pamela Binnings Ewen -- An attorney analyzes the evidence for the death and resurrection of Jesus.

I wish we could just stop with the gimmicks. The subtitles in the above works are supposed to add weight and credibility to the works of the above authors. But if you think about it, it does just the opposite. Being a journalist, homicide detective, or an attorney doesn't give you any special expertise on the subjects these authors wrote about. What all of these subtitle are really saying is this: A man/woman writes a book outside of their area of expertise. In the case of Strobel and Wallace, it gets worse with their subsequent books because the subjects they tackle are even farther removed from their area of expertise. Being a homicide detective does not qualify you to write on the existence of the soul. Being a journalist does not qualify you to tackle the problem of evil.

What Lee Strobel showed us was that there really is bias in the media. A journalist can inject his own point of view in a story by picking and choosing who he interviews and what parts of the interview he chooses to quote.

What Jim Wallace showed us was that a homicide detective has a wealth of stories from which to make great analogies.

I'm not sure what Pamela Ewen showed us, but whether Paul's letters would be admissible in court doesn't tell you anything about their historical value.

I'd be much more impressed with subtitles like these:

An historian investigates the evidence for Jesus.

A philosopher investigates the existence of the soul.

An organic chemist investigates the origin of life.

A cosmologist investigates the origin of the universe.

I have to cut Lee Strobel a little slack because his books served the purpose of directing people to historians and philosophers who really are qualified to pontificate on the subjects he interviewed them on. Lee Strobel got me started in evidential apologetics. But as a speaker, Strobel is no more qualified than any armchair apologist.

The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins was a philosophical disaster, but at least his subtitle didn't read, "A zoologist investigates the existence of God." We already knew he was operating outside his field of expertise without him having to tell us.

I am not saying that people who write outside their area of expertise have nothing valuable to say. What I am saying is that I wish they wouldn't pretend that their particular job or title gives them some special qualification when it doesn't. Brandishing their job in the subtitle of their books is just a gimmick. It's a trick, and it's manipulative.

It isn't just Christian apologists who engage in gimmicks like these, either. I'm equally annoyed with John Shelby Spong's subtitles that read, "A bishop rethinks this or that," as if him being a bishop of an Episcopal church gives him some special expertise in these subjects. In reality, Spong is the quintessential wolf in sheep's clothing (Matthew 7:15). While claiming to be a Bishop of a Christian church, he does everything he can to undermine the essentials of Christianity. He claims to be rescuing Christianity, but in reality he's just trying to replace Christianity with his own made up religion that he calls Christianity. Check out Luke Timothy Johnson's discussion of Spong in The Real Jesus, pages 32-35.

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