ASK AUGUSTINE

Apologetics in a postmodernists world

Since we live in a postmodern culture aren’t your appeals to Christian apologetics (reasoned arguments) no longer of any value? Also, no one comes to faith through intellectual arguments.

Indeed postmodernists (those who hold to the belief that truth is relative, that it doesn’t exist in any objective sense but is created rather than discovered) state that rational arguments for the truth of theism are no longer valid. Therefore they advise that Christians should simply share their story, invite people to participate in it and not contend for its “truth.”

I believe this sort of thinking is guilty of a mis-diagnosis of contemporary culture. The idea that we live in a postmodern culture is a myth because a postmodern culture is really impossible. People are not relativistic when it comes to matters of science, engineering and technology but are modernists. People are postmodern in their thinking and become relativistic and pluralistic only in matters of religion and ethics.

Postmodern theologians allow feelings to trump facts. Rousseau predicted there will be a time when “sincerity has become more important than truth and feeling more important than reason.”

The majority of Western intellectuals today no longer consider theological knowledge to be possible. They mistakenly maintain that the person who follows the pursuit of reason to its end will be an atheist or an agnostic. They contend that the creature, and not the Creator, has the final say on what is right and wrong. So when there is no objective standard, the basis of action becomes whatever is the moral inclination of the individual.

Therefore the hope of the postmodernist is that Christianity will forego its apologetics because then Christianity will be reduced to but another voice in a cacophony of competing voices, each sharing its own views with none of the views presenting itself as objective truth about reality. Then seen in this light, as the questioner states, presenting the gospel to a postmodern culture is self-defeating. But if we lay aside our best reasoned arguments of logic and evidence, we guarantee post-modernism’s triumph over us.

It is true that the gospel is never heard in isolation. The gospel is always heard against the background of one’s current social environment; thus a person raised in an environment in which Christianity is still seen as an intellectually viable option, will display openness to the gospel. Christians who discount reasoned arguments because “no one comes to faith through intellectual arguments” are tragically shortsighted. While it is a biblical truth that regeneration precedes faith (that it is God alone who first must melt our hearts of stone before we believe), it is equally true that faith comes by hearing the Word.

Therefore, it is the task of Christian apologetics, to help create and sustain an environment in which the gospel can be heard as an intellectually viable option for thinking men and women. Christian apologetics gives people the intellectual permission to believe when their hearts are moved.