- Tuesday, July 01, 2008
In Europe we have seen the bitter fruit of secularization, which now threatens North America as well.
Fortunately, in the United States in recent decades a revitalized evangelicalism has emerged from the Fundamentalist closet and has begun to take up Machen's challenge in earnest. We are living at a time when Christian philosophy is experiencing a veritable renaissance, reinvigorating natural theology, at a time when science is more open to the existence of a transcendent Creator and Designer of the cosmos than at any time in recent memory, and at a time when biblical criticism has embarked upon a renewed quest of the historical Jesus which treats the Gospels seriously as valuable historical sources for the life of Jesus and has confirmed the main lines of the portrait of Jesus painted in the Gospels. We are well poised intellectually to help reshape our culture in such a way as to regain lost ground, so that the gospel can be heard as an intellectually viable option for thinking people. Huge doors of opportunity now stand open before us.
Now I can imagine some of you thinking, "But don't we live in a postmodern culture in which these appeals to traditional apologetic arguments are no longer effective? Since postmodernists reject the traditional canons of logic, rationality, and truth, rational arguments for the truth of Christianity no longer work! Rather in today's culture we should simply share our narrative and invite people to participate in it."
In my opinion this sort of thinking could not be more mistaken. The idea that we live in a postmodern culture is a myth. In fact, a postmodern culture is an impossibility; it would be utterly unlivable. Nobody is a postmodernist when it comes to reading the labels on a medicine bottle versus a box of rat poison. If you've got a headache, you'd better believe that texts have objective meaning! People are not relativistic when it comes to matters of science, engineering, and technology; rather, they're relativistic and pluralistic in matters of religion and ethics. But that's not postmodernism; that's modernism! That's just old-line Positivism and Verificationism, which held that anything you can't prove with your five senses is just a matter of individual taste and emotive expression. We live in a cultural milieu which remains deeply modernist. People who think that we live in a postmodern culture have thus seriously misread our cultural situation.
Indeed, I think that getting people to believe that we live in a postmodern culture is one of the craftiest deceptions that Satan has yet devised. "Modernism is passé," he tells us. "You needn't worry about it any longer. So forget about it! It's dead and buried." Meanwhile, modernism, pretending to be dead, comes around again in the fancy new dress of postmodernism, masquerading as a new challenger. "Your old arguments and apologetics are no longer effective against this new arrival," we're told. "Lay them aside; they're of no use. Just share your narrative!" Indeed, some, weary of the long battles with modernism, actually welcome the new visitor with relief. And so Satan deceives us into voluntarily laying aside our best weapons of logic and evidence, thereby ensuring unawares modernism's triumph over us. If we adopt this suicidal course of action, the consequences for the church in the next generation will be catastrophic. 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, while scientific naturalism shapes our culture's view of how the world really is.
Now, of course, it goes without saying that in doing apologetics we should be relational, humble, and invitational; but that's hardly an original insight of postmodernism. From the beginning Christian apologists have known that we should present the reasons for our hope "with gentleness and respect" (1 Pet. 3:15-16). One needn't abandon the canons of logic, rationality, and truth in order to exemplify these biblical virtues.
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