Addressing the International Christian Retail Show at the Colorado Convention Center recently, the widely known evangelical apologist and Noah’s ark hunter, Josh McDowell, made the following observation (presumably with his brows knitted together in grave concern):
The Internet has given atheists, agnostics, skeptics, the people who like to destroy everything that you and I believe, the almost equal access to your kids as your youth pastor and you have.
Horror of horrors!
And wouldn’t you like to know how much he got paid to address the international purveyors of Christian retail products?
In any event, in his speech (ka-ching!) Josh McDowell also contrasted the 21st century with the good old days of the 20th century (when atheists and other skeptics of institutional religion could easily be ignored by the faithful):
If they wrote books, not many people read it. If they gave a talk, not many people went. They would normally get to kids maybe in the last couple of years of the university.
How times have changed!
But here’s what I don’t get: wouldn’t you think that a person genuinely committed to reason and objective inquiry would welcome the contemporary diversity of voices?
One would think. But, apparently, not so with Josh McDowell. When the Internet first started, he could see the wave of skepticism coming, and bemoaned it. He tried to play Paul Revere, warning people about it. For about a decade, McDowell says, he predicted the following:
[T]he abundance of knowledge, the abundance of information, will not lead to certainty; it will lead to pervasive skepticism. And, folks, that’s exactly what has happened. It’s like this. How do you really know, there is so much out there… the Internet has leveled the playing field.
Did you catch that? Certainty is good. Skepticism and doubt are bad. But, actually, Josh McDowell does ask, in the midst of his distress, some pretty decent questions: How do you ever really come to know things? And how do you sift through a wealth of sources (and think clearly about them)?
The Internet makes it difficult for contemporary people to duck such questions. Critical thinking resources (some endorsed by Josh McDowell; a lot not) are always just a Google search and click away.
So, Viva la Internet! Make evangelical apologists earn their audiences (and their suppers) by meeting their competition directly, and practicing honest, vulnerable, and plausible apologetics that are not primarily reliant on (unwarranted) confidence games, rhetoric, and oversimplifications.
Nietzsche famously wrote:
Whatever doesn’t kill me makes me stronger!
The Internet is good for religion (at least intellectually open and honest religion, the only religion worth sustaining).