“But Doc…?” I hear you say, “What are you studying?”
This is usually followed by an awkward pause on my end. I assure you, though, it has nothing to do with you or with embarrassment on my part. I just have yet to figure out how to respond without setting you up for a lame and obligatory joke.
“I’m studying Cultural Apologetics.” I say. It is now your turn for the awkward pause while you pretend to know what that is supposed to mean, or if I made it up for fun to mess with your head.
I’ve heard all the funny (and not so funny) responses now. From the obvious “What are you apologizing for?” to the more clever “Oh, I’m sorry to hear that!” It’s just that “Apologetics” is not a word we use that way in common speech. Tricky stuff.
I even tried to head my more notoriously punny friends off by saying “Apologetics, …and I make no excuses for it!” but that that is usually followed by something clever like “Ah, I see, but are you willing to defend your position on the matter?” and groans and chuckles are had.
But stick with me here. Apologetics is a neat field. One definition of the form is: “reasoned arguments or writings in justification of something, typically a theory or religious doctrine.” Given that the word derives from the Greek "apologia," which translates as a defense, or a speech made in defense, this makes sense. Long ago I first studied Plato’s Apology of Socrates as a freshman in community college and it spoke to me in funny ways (and not just because it is all Greek to me). The Apology is not a confession of guilt in the way we might think, but a rationalization of thoughts regarding the actions that Socrates was tried and sentenced to death for, namely: not recognizing the gods recognized by the state, inventing new deities, and corrupting the youth of Athens. He was kind of like a modern rock star. Socrates was very metal. So, Plato simply is recounting of the speech Socrates supposedly made at the trial before drinking poison. (Metal!) Thus, via The Apology, Socrates attempted to defend himself and his conduct--certainly not to apologize for it!
There are a number of Christian Apologetics programs out there, but I struggled to find one that was right for me, and not stuffy and boring. I’ve read a lot of Apologetics essays and texts over the years, some of my favorites have to do with Theistic Evolution, Noah’s Flood, and Moses and the Israelites (or should I say the Egyptians?), but the program I’m in now out of Houston Baptist University is a little different than most.
1) First off, it is a distance learning program built around the notion that “Most people don’t live in Houston.” As someone who considers Houston to be the edge of "the mission field" (along with Miami and most of Canada,) I am glad for this distinction. If you live in Houston, rest assured, I pray for you often.
2) It is an Apologetics Masters of ARTS (MAA), which is a distinction I am quite fond of. My undergrad degrees in English and Art via Education are Bachelors of Arts, where the alternative was a Bachelors of Science, with the difference being two semesters of a language degree. The BA is a more advanced degree, and the MA is a better fit for me, so there you have it. (And that’s no BS.)
3) The program has electives that represent multiple tracks. One can take a more traditional Apologetics approach, but I’m going the Cultural Apologetics route. Essentially I’m getting a biblical studies degree patty wrapped in a juicy Humanities bun. (Or is it the other way around? Whatever, pass the scriptural catchup please?) Since my Ph.D is in Humanities: Aesthetic Studies, this is a perfect way to get my foot in the door with my first “Bible Degree.”
This semester, I’m essentially taking a creative writing course, a philosophy of religion course, and a film and art history course, all within the context of Biblical Apologetics. I’ve honestly not been this excited to read my textbooks since my undergrad days, and not only are St. Thomas Aquinas and St. John of Damascus on the curriculum, but so are Beowulf, Lewis, Tolkien, and Winnie the Pooh!
So, it stands to reason that some of the subject matter in this blog will change. Don’t worry, I didn’t rip up the M.Ed, or burn the Ph.D, and I’m still a transmedia, interactive story, and video game guy, (check out backward-compatible.com and youtube.com/LABventures if you don’t believe me!), so that’s not going away any time soon. I’m merely grafting a new perspective on to my work, and cranking away at my studies, my writing, my hobbies, and of course my one-year-old has center stage right now with his progress towards walking and talking.
So, yea, life is good. I’m busy, but I’m having a blast, and I’m not going to apologize for it!