I love apologetics, I’m not going to lie. There is a distinct intellectual thrill that runs up my spine when fighting for what you believe is right, carefully selecting the various tools and skills you have before you to craft the perfect projectile in response to an opponent’s volley. This, perhaps, may be one of my greater vices (if, indeed, this heady excitement is a vice).
However, there is one thing that bugs me about apologetics, and that is, strangely enough, the complete reluctance to apologize.
One specific example comes to mind, which is the priesthood ban in the Church that lasted until the 1970s. Since then, this ugly mark of race politics in our priesthood has continued to mar our Church history, and perhaps continues to hinder the work today. Despite its sensitive nature, however, most apologetics I’ve read concerning this policy continues to attempt justification for this unequal practice, which I feel hinders our ability to reach out to those around us with this marvelous gospel.
In my opinion, the entire thing can be summed up thusly:
(a) God is perfect, but His people are not.
(b) Sometimes, His people do terrible things (see also, Crusades).
(c) This was a terrible thing that we did without the sanction of God.
(d) We’re sorry.
See, the (d) step is the most important in my eyes. I’ve seen people spin intricate webs of tenuous logic, mostly based on the outdated comments and opinions of prophets, inaccurate portrayals and interpretations of history, and perhaps most odious, putting words in God’s mouth that He never spoke. When asked by angry, hurt people about the priesthood ban, those who attempt to placate them with their web of arguments often only achieve more anger and hurt. In my experience, however, a simply apology will make them feel better. They might not become stalwart, baptized Church members, but they are not enemies, either. But if you want to make enemies for the Church, try any of these excuses justifying the priesthood ban on someone angry and hurt by it. We should not think ourselves so proud and vain that we can use God’s name to justify morally ambiguous actions.
I try to put complete trust in God. A trust in man, our scriptures tell us, only leads to downfall. The Gospel and our Church is better off because of the Orson Hydes and Hugh Nibleys, the Tertullians and the C.S. Lewises. But sometimes, “a soft answer turneth away wrath” (Proverbs 15:1), and as apologetics, we should know when to put up a strong defense for our Lord, and also know when to take the blame for errant actions and show what Christ attempts to teach us – a little humility and grace. An apology in apologetics can go a long way.