Tuesday, October 26, 2004

Of pet rocks, the Chicago Bulls, and Roman Catholic epologists

The man who invented the pet rock made a bundle. You take a rock, apply some cosmetic touches, put it in a box, and sell it for a few dollars (price point is very important), and you’ve got yourself a money-making product—so long as you had the foresight to apply for a patent.

Words and phrases are the same way. When Michael Jordan led the Chicago Bulls to their first NBA championship in 1991, someone had the foresight to anticipate that Jordan might be able to accomplish that feat a few more times. Mindful of the fact that it would be nothing for the Bulls to win a “Repeat” the following season, and in anticipation of three Bulls championship wins in a row, this man coined and patented the phrase “Threepeat.” When the Bulls did indeed win their third championship in a row, he sold the rights to that word to some marketing company, and the rest is T-shirt history.

Here’s a little known bit of trivia that I have mentioned from time to time on the NTRMin Discussion Forum, though I get the distinct impression everyone there thinks I’m only joking when I say it. The words “epologist/epologetics” and all their variations (e-pologist/e-pologetics) first occurred on my website many years ago. Don’t ask me the year; I don’t remember. It may have been 1997, but that’s just a guess. If you want to know where those words came from, look no further. I am the source. I coined them. And now it appears I should have patented them when I had the chance.

The words first appeared when I was making mention of certain Roman Catholic apologists who did apologetics solely or primarily online. At first, readers thought I had committed a spelling error and wrote me repeatedly to point it out. Then I was quoted on some Roman Catholic discussion forum, and one of the members there began mocking my use of the word (“what is an ‘epologist’ anyway?”)—he chose that, I suppose, because he was having a difficult time answering my arguments. Greg Krehbiel (who, as I recall, had just recently converted from Lutheranism to Roman Catholicism) responded by saying he liked the term.

From there, Roman Catholic epologists everywhere began using the words with regularity, even creating their own “Epologetics” sections of their websites. There are now more Roman Catholic references to epologetics than Evangelical ones. I didn’t mind, at first. But then I began noticing how much money Roman Catholic apologists actually charge to speak somewhere for a few hours—it’s in the thousands. I always speak for free. If the church wants to take an offering to help support my ministry, I certainly won’t object. But I was always under the impression that the gospel should be offered free of charge—and, in fact, that is just how Paul differentiated himself from the false teachers of his day: “Unlike so many, we do not peddle the word of God for profit. On the contrary, in Christ we speak before God with sincerity, like men sent from God” (2 Cor 2:17).

Still, there’s apparently big money to be made from Roman Catholic epologists. I guess I should have patented “epologetics” when I had the chance.