Saturday, August 23, 2008


"As apologetics is changing--as we move from a modern, familiar environment to a new, less familiar one--our apologetic also needs to change. Modernity constrained us to operate in a rationalistic framework-- that is, based on reason alone--and our apologetic accordingly focused on logic, evidence, proof, answers, scholarship, reasons, arguments, and appeals to authority. As we move into the emerging culture, however, our apologetic will focus more and more on beauty, goodness, experience, questions, mystery, community, and humility. " -Brian McLaren (Adventures in Missing the Point, pg 101)

Apologetics has evolved, and in this new age, it needs to adapt to translate Christ to the new culture. Consider how it has changed to accommodate the needs of past times:
  • In the first few centuries of Christianity, the apologists gave a defense by explaining to their Roman Persecutors the doctrines of their religion, and dispelling the rumors of what Christianity supposedly practiced (orgies, cannibalism, and anti-patriotism).
  • As power shifted and the Roman Empire crumbled, it became important for apologists to convince the Germanic invaders that Christianity was a help to government, and a transcendental (and not merely Roman) ideology. It also became important to defend doctrine and orthodoxy from heresy, here apologetics was uniquely theological and less philosophical.
  • In the medieval era St. Anselm provides the Ontological argument, which will later be revised by Rene Descarte. The priority for apologists is to explain why God must philosophically exist, and explanation is focused inward as the apologists urge readers to consider the nature of their existence, and of their very ability to think at all.
  • As philosophy gives way to science, the modern era apologists must argue for demonstrable evidence and empirical proof that God exists and that Christianity is true. The enlightenment ignites an exhaustive search for absolute truth, and Christian apologists must compete with a variety of -isms in the market place of ideas to contend for true Reality.
So we see that as the culture and ideas change, so too the apologists adapt their method and their goal. First apologists seek to describe Christianity accurately, then to contend for it philosophically, and finally try to prove it unequivocally. But what comes now? What comes in the Postmodern age? Enter "Apomogetics".
Its a re-write on the shortened "pomo" for postmodernism, interplayed with apologetics to create a hybrid, and yes I just coined the term. Apomogetics doesn't exist as of yet, but I'm realizing daily that it should, must, and will. Today modern apologists attack the philosophy of postmodernism on the grounds that it dissolves their absolute truths of science and mathematical certainty, but they fail to see the need to translate our defense of Christ into the new social era. Postmodernism is not a philosophy up for debate, it is a new wave of culture that is sweeping the world, and America is one of the last stops left on the tour.

The question then is what does apologetics look like in the postmodern world? How do Christians prepare themselves to provide an answer for the faith within them? What are culture's questions? Today less and less care whether or not the resurrection checks out by the dates of Pauls letters, or whether God can be proven by the Kalam Cosmological argument. In this emerging world ideas cannot only be true, they must also be meaningful.

So it becomes the apologists duty to wade into the new waters and build us the vessel to reach the distant isles of non-Christian civilization. To pioneer new methods and new visions for how Christianity can re-fit its most important defenses to meet the thinking of a different people. To prepare ourselves for the battles ahead, and not to lag behind in denial of the times we find ourselves in. As culture shifts, a changing of the guard draws near, and so apologists must consider how they adapt to meet postmoderns on their ground.

Recognizing this, I want to assemble interested Christians to prepare for the new challenge. Not to defend ourselves against postmodernism, as current apologists glibly do, but to prepare our apologetics for the new era in human thought and culture. No longer are people interested in the objective certainty of information, nor the Christian "world-view". Because objectivity has been clothed in shame, and all "world-views" are seen as co-equal and impossibly self sanctified. Therefore instead of the apologists who cry "we have Truth!" from the academy's ivory tower, the thinkers of apomogetics may instead cry "we know Truth, and his name is Jesus" from the local pub. Seeing Jesus as Truth incarnate, instead of a person who exists inside of Truth.

must begin to make a home in the terra-nova of postmodernism, not continue in the pointless trend of trying to deny its currency. The body of Christ can survive the postmodern scalpel, and will perhaps even be the better for it. Maybe postmodernism removes the tumors that came with modern hyper-confidence, and the idolatry of human attainment of absolute truth. Maybe the church will find sand in its enlightenment foundation after it has been deconstructed. Whatever the case, the water is turning to wine, and new skins must be made ready to receive it.

Having made my case, I would like to invite anybody interested in this thought project, whether they consider them self an apologist, a postmodern, or neither, to join the group I'm creating to discuss and dream for the future. Please pass this post along through your various networks, so that even if none of this interests you, others may catch the vision and share in the effort.


Yard said...

Good stuff. I just read this from the EV site's re-post. I resonate with a lot of this as a friend and fellow desert rat just across the hoover dam from you.

I think a lot of what you're describing is a natural progression, dare I even say the evolution of Christianity. Because isn't 'Christianity' simply the collection of all things Christian? So, not to say that Jesus has changed, nor His message, but in fact His messengers have had to change. And it's time to change again. I like this idea, and I agree that we should embrace the change as part of what we signed up for. Thanks for the post, I'll continue to digest, and hopefully contribute to your discussion board.

DaveVL said...

You ask "The question then is what does apologetics look like in the postmodern world?"

It must look like Jesus. Folks who look in real life like the Jesus they read about or have questions about are the best hope to reach pomo's.

The question then become 'why do we do the things we do.' This is, of course, a positive and negative quesiton. Why do Christians offer kindness and compassion and live out grace...and why do Christians demonstrate hypocrisy.

Even though what we call apologetics may (or may not) change, the most convincing thing will always be the life lived in a fashion that imitates Christ.

It's hard to beat the real thing...