Thursday, October 20, 2011

Ten Years of Tekton

On this day ten years ago -- give or take a day or two; my memory isn't that precise -- Tekton took a headlong jump from part time pastime to full time ministry. As a sort of observation, here are some reflections on those past ten years.

What was the nature of the decision to pursue full time ministry, in retrospect? It was more of a risk than had been expected at the time: The actual decision to pursue ministry full time was one I had made only days before the World Trade Center disaster, and at that moment, the world seemed a safer place to most people. Economically, there was no sign we were in for several years in which we would have especially lean tidings. I imagine many people would have rethought their decision in light of those events.

Would I have made the same decision had this all be foreknown to me? Yes, I certainly would have, though I'm also fairly sure I would have planned things differently. Out of the past ten years, there have been four so far in which the ministry's finances have touched on bleak, and only two in which such worries were far from consideration. It’s too early to tell what 2012 will be like, but there are a couple of unhealthy signs ahead. Tekton has been -- probably always will be -- a shoestring operation; it's the sort of ministry that inevitably relies on assistance that is transient and sporadic, and is often the first sort of thing on the chopping block when someone's personal finances need trimming. That's just the way it is -- and it's the result of the low priority our churches have placed on education and the emphasis they have placed on experience. (It's too bad apologetics doesn't give people an emotional high, isn't it?)

I suppose I could change that some -- by making Tekton something it isn't, by compromising certain pinciples. Not something immoral, of course: I mean, for example, that I could solicit for and accept live debate challenges, which tend to be relatively significant paydays. And by now more than a few atheists would relish the chance to (so they think!) take a bite of my hide, so that'd be a considerable source of income.

But no, that's not temptation enough, sorry. I accepted a debate with Richard Carrier so that my beloved could see, probably for the final time, an elderly uncle in his 80s who lived nearby; nothing else is enough to waver the principles that I hold when it comes to thinking live debate a useless sideshow that teaches people nothing. (She has one other uncle, but -- sorry, atheists -- he's somewhat younger and not in bad health. Check with me again in 10 years.) And besides, I've had it with extended travel for a while, too.

There have been a lot of changes in ten years. For example, I'm typing this entry on a notebook computer that didn't even exist in 2001. Tekton is also doing a lot of work today on the making of films for YouTube -- which in 2001 didn’t even exist, and would not for another 4 years. One of Tekton's first projects immediately after the switch to full time was a response to "cowboy" atheist Scott Bidstrup -- who today is still around, but still has the same versions of his articles up that I addressed in 2002, and also doesn’t seem to have written on the subject of Christianity any further after that. Bidstrup is just one of several opponents who have sunk into the woodwork since then; while of course others have risen to take their place. (The quality of opposition hasn't improved, though -- if anything they've gotten worse, and that's amazing when you consider that Farrell Till was in that earlier set.)

Beyond the ministry, there's also been a delightfully heavy chunk of freelance work for other ministries. When I'd made the switch to full time, I'd had one article for the Christian Research Journal, with one more in process: not by any stretch would I have imagined that the number of articles would reach two dozen (along with other articles for my friends in creationist ministry, and a few other places). There's also been unexpected as well as humbling recognition in the form of references (citations) in books by persons I never expected recognition from when all this first started: Lee Strobel, Daniel Block, Wayne House, Daniel Howard-Snyder, Robert Stacy McCain. There have been references in some very odd places as well: Perhaps the oddest of all, Tekton's article on Esther is referenced in a book by Matthew Stroud titled Plot Twists and Critical Turns: Queer Approaches to Early Modern Spanish Theater. If you'd told me in 2001 that there'd be a reference like that, I'd have probably suggested a place for you in a mental health facility.)

In all, rather unexpected for a shoestring operation that to this day operates out of one corner of a second bedroom. It remains to be seen what changes and morphings the next ten years will bring, but this much can be said: What has happened has exceeded my expectations, and what remains to be accomplished will be a matter of exploring new ground. I'd like to continue to put out books, whether e-books or standard print; I've also set a goal of having more YouTube apologetics vids on my channel than any other channel with an apologetics focus. That may not be hard; I've seen no channel with more than a few hundred such vids, though it is hard to count at times because some of them also upload personal vids on their channel. It would also be nice to drive a few more atheists there into submission. But it's likely TektonTV will reach 100 vids by the end of the year, and I'd like to reach at least 1000. With the current level of production, that will happen well before the end of the next ten years.

At the very least -- it'll be interesting!


  1. As a long-time Tekton reader, one-time contributer and E-block subscriber - thanks for the last decade, and here's to many more!

  2. From the bottom of my heart, thank you for Tekton.

  3. I recall that my first communication with you was an email to thank you for the ministry, as it was very helpful in helping me out of a major crisis of faith which had begun to spin off into depression. A hearty thanks then, and a hearty thanks now! I wish I could do more to support you financially, but my finances are in a continual state of "trimming."

    There's one thing I've thought about that I'd like to see you do: In much of your material, you frequently refer to how correct understanding of cultural, sociological, and literary context, as well as textual criticism are so important to correct exegesis and hermeneutics. This is a concept that seems lost on many people today.

    Most of your articles, however, seem to be somewhat defensive in nature: what I mean is that usually you are responding to some specific critic, objection or gross misinterpretation of scripture (of course that's because its apologetics, which is by definition a response to objections). We get to pick up bits and pieces of your methodology by reading the articles, but it would be nice to have it all in one place.

    What about something like a book-length work which just spells out your positive case for how you go about applying the various disciplines of sociology, literary analysis and textual criticism to the interpretation of scripture? I'm thinking of something that is a nuts-and-bolts introduction at the layman's level which puts together in one place all the principles that you regularly apply in your defensive pieces. Something focused more on methodology than on addressing specific criticisms.

    Something that has been on my mind lately is that we need something like a "beyond apologetics" approach. Apologetics is an essential and important activity (believe me, I know!), but how much better for the average layman to pro-actively get a better epistemic foundation BEFORE he or she has to go looking for an apologetics resource to address criticisms? A lot of us aren't introduced to the concepts surrounding the cultural and literary milieu of scripture until AFTER we are presented with the "1001 contradictions in the Bible" stuff and go looking for an answer. Not only would this pro-actively head-off doubt and difficulty evangelizing, it would also serve to deepen the reader's understanding of scripture and get more out of it.

    How about it?

  4. @Jared Funny, you just described some of my ideas for future projects...sadly, bits and pieces is all my time allows for now, though some of my YT vids have been more like what you describe. And a pro-active approach is reflected in the youth boot camps we do, plus my Blowing the Doors Off book. So it's definitely on my mind. I just need the time and support.