ASK AUGUSTINE

As I read your columns I find you ignore the fact that we live in a postmodern culture and therefore your appeals to Christian apologetics (wherein you present a rational basis for the Christian faith) are no longer of any value?

Indeed postmodernists like you (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in any objective sense but is created rather than discovered) state that rational arguments for the truth of theism are no longer valid.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 like me should simply share our story, invite people to participate in it and not contend for its “truth.”

I believe this sort of thinking that you espouse is guilty of a disastrous 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 mistakenly move away from Scripture and Judeo-Christian tradition and embrace subjective decision making. They allow feelings to trump facts. As Rousseau predicted, “sincerity has become more important than truth and feeling more important than reason.”

It is true that many intellectuals today no longer consider theological knowledge to be possible. They mistakenly maintain that the person who follows the pursuit of reason unflinchingly toward its end will be atheistic or, at best, agnostic. The creature, and not the Creator, has the final say on what is right and wrong. When there is no objective standard the basis of action becomes the moral inclination of the individual.

Obviously it is the hope of the postmodernist 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 narrative and none commending itself as the objective truth about reality. Meanwhile, scientific naturalism will continue to shape our culture’s view of how the world really is. Seen in this light, then as the questioner states, tailoring our gospel to a postmodern culture is self-defeating. By laying aside our best apologetic weapons of logic and evidence, we ensure modernism’s triumph over us.

The gospel is never heard in isolation. It is always heard against the background of the current cultural milieu; and a person raised in a cultural milieu, in which Christianity is still seen as an intellectually viable option, will display openness to the gospel. Christians who discount apologetics because “no one comes to faith through intellectual arguments” are tragically shortsighted. While it is an eternal truth that regeneration precedes faith, that it is God alone who first must melt our atheistic hearts before we believe, it is equally true that faith comes by hearing the Truth.

Therefore, it is the task of Christian apologetics to create and sustain a cultural milieu in which the gospel can be heard as an intellectually viable option for thinking men and women. Christian apologetics continues to be of value because it gives people the intellectual permission to believe.