Christian apologist Steve Hays passed on at the age of 61. Steve was a prolific blogger at Triablogue. Over the past five years or so, he was my favorite blogger.
If you would have told me ten years or so ago that I would become a devoted reader of Triablogue, I would have laughed at you. I knew about Triablogue from the progressive Christian and atheist blogs that I read, and they did not care for it. I doubted that Triablogue would say anything that other Christian apologists had not parroted before, and I rolled my eyes at what other Christian apologists had parroted before, dismissing it as “pat answers.”
I first met Steve when he commented on my blog in 2014. I was sharing my usual struggles with Christianity: Isaiah 7:14 being about Isaiah’s time and not Jesus, Jesus mis-predicting the timing of his return, etc. Steve recommended to me some mainstream scholarly articles about these topics and also Triablogue posts that he had written. In one of his posts, he argued on the basis of Revelation 12 that the Book of Revelation does not necessarily see Jesus coming “soon” as Jesus coming in John’s day. I was not entirely sure if I agreed with what Steve wrote, but it was something that I had never encountered before. It left me scratching my chin and thinking, “Hmm.”
That, in my opinion, was what made Steve brilliant, not just smart.
Steve definitely was smart. He was extremely well-read in fields of history, theology, biblical studies, philosophy, science, and politics, and he was able to sift through these fields and arrive at a coherent account of what he himself believed. Not only was he well-read, but he continued to read and to learn. He read my blog because he felt that, somewhere in my meanderings, it taught him something. He was continually becoming aware of scholarly articles, books, monographs, and commentaries.
But Steve was brilliant in that he came up with new ideas—-not heretical ideas, but new ideas that were outside of the box. He was also effective in coming up with quick answers to questioners and people with whom he debated, and these answers were substantive. They usually took the form of succinct lists rather than complex prose, but these responses cut to the heart of the matter, taught something new, and gave a constructive way of looking at an issue.
Something else that I liked about Steve was that he tried to empathize with where others were coming from. His critics would undoubtedly laugh at this, seeing him as a harsh closed-minded debater. But he often would feature a skeptical objection with which one could empathize and offer a Christian response that took seriously that skeptical objection. In my case, he knew that I had Asperger’s Syndrome, which poses social challenges to me, and he sent me recommendations on books and articles that I could read. I also recommended one of Steve’s Triablogue posts to a young man who was struggling with the usual sexual desires that face heterosexual men. Others in that online Reformed group were recommending cold showers and shaming the young man for even having sexual feelings, but Steve had a different take on Matthew 5:27-29.
Another reason that I liked Steve was his interest in the paranormal. I am the sort of person who likes stories about ghosts, UFOs, and psychics. Steve had an interest in those things, too, and his perspective was reasoned, empathetic towards people’s experiences, and yet distinctly Christian.
Steve also did not take himself too seriously. When people did not like him, or when progressive or skeptical scholars and academics dismissed him, that did not bother him. As he said more than once, he did not debate them to convince them, but rather to show onlookers that there were answers to the arguments that progressives and skeptics were raising. As more than one commenter noted in the tributes to Steve on Triablogue, people did not feel they even knew a lot about Steve. Was he married? Did he have children? What was his job? But he shared who he was, in his own way, by posting about his thoughts and his values.
I will miss Steve’s posts on Triablogue. As events transpire, and as propagandists reign, I was always curious about what Steve’s take was on the latest issue. I will miss that.