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!
The 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):
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.
But 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.