CADRE Comments

A Rational Look at Christianity; Basing Reason in Truth

Al Mohler, the president of Southern Baptist Theological seminary, has an interesting three part series on apologetics. Part one is called Strange Things to Our Ears: Apologetics in a Postmodern Age ... here are parts 2 and 3.

Here is the problem for the apologist. How do you present evidence in support of truth claims when the person you are engaging rejects the notion that truth exists?

Mohler's outline:

First, a Christian apologetic begins in a provoked spirit.
Second, a Christian apologetic is focused on Gospel proclamation.
Third, a Christian apologetic assumes a context of spiritual confusion.
Fourth, a Christian apologetic is directed to a spiritual hunger.
Fifth, a Christian apologetic begins with the fundamental issue of God's nature, character, power, and authority.
Sixth, a Christian apologetic confronts error.

Notice that Mohler never really addresses the problem of relativism head-on, in my opinion. I find that interesting. His approach to post-moderns looks ... well, it looks like his approach to moderns. Maybe that is the whole point he is trying to get across. Don't change your approach.

I actually do change my approach ... a little. I don't claim to be an expert on apologetic styles, but I do think it is unwise to use the exact same approach with every person. It seems to me that the apostle Paul approached evangelistic/apologetic engagements somewhat differently depending on who his audience was (Greeks, Jews etc.).

Here is my personal approach to engaging someone who leans postmodern in their beliefs about truth and knowledge.

  1. Focus less on arguments and evidence and more on developing my friendship with them (i.e. earning the right to be heard).
  2. Help my friend to realize that they actually do believe in truth despite their claims to the contrary. This can only be done effectively in the context of a personal friendship; otherwise, it comes across as an attack.
  3. Tell stories which illustrate scriptural truth: stories from my own personal experience are particularly helpful in this regard.
  4. Try my best to not use religious language or cliches (very hard to do, btw).
  5. Take a very long term view. Don't expect fast change. Be encouraged by progress measured in millimeters.
How about you (speaking to fellow Christian apologists)? Do you adapt your approach?

2 comments:

I always adapt my approach because my approach involves listening to what the other person is saying and trying to respond to their concerns. I think that simply going into an evangelism situation and saying "I am going to make my case for Christ by saying X, Y and Z" is doomed to failure because the person with whom you are talking may not be concerned with X, Y or Z, but may be concerned about A, B and C."

Apologetics, to my mind, is a very fluid thing. I would hate to become so set in a particular mode of apologetic that I miss the objections that any person is actually raising.

How do you respond to someone who has either rejected truth, or rejected any certainty of truth?

It seems presenting evidences at that point would be profoundly unhelpful.

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