Stop Apologizing for Apologetics

But it might be time for it to grow up.

In an episode of the second season of the Netflix series Stranger Things, the four junior-high heroes of the hit series dress up as characters from Ghostbusters for Halloween. In their ghost-fighting jumpsuits with blasting packs on their back, they quickly realize they have, quite embarrassingly, failed to pick up on the unwritten rules of the middle school coming-of-age process. No one wears costumes to school anymore!

As the four friends become aware of their social blunder and the stares and snickers of their peers, one of the boys vents: “When do people make these decisions? Everyone dressed up last year. . . . It’s a conspiracy, I tell you!” His distress is palpable and, for some of us, relatable—consider this a parable for what it feels like to describe yourself as an apologist in today’s academic and theological guilds.

Have We Outgrown Apologetics?

In much of scholarship these days, apologetics is shunned as juvenile. Author and social critic Os Guinness describes mentioning apologetics to his tutor at Oxford, whom he described as an extraordinarily genial scholar. The man “noticeably stiffened. ‘Excuse my candor,’ he said, ‘but I would never use that word again if I were you. Apologetics is a dirty word in Oxford.’ ” In cases like this, it is often the perception of bias and the attempt to convert that is embarrassing.

For others in more confessional circles, apologetics can signal a childish attempt to play by the rules of secularism rather than boldly proclaiming the gospel—the power of God to save. Tacitly—and sometimes more directly—the lesson is clear: It is time to grow up.

“I am not sure that apologetics has not been the …

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