Is apologetics a waste of time in a postmodern culture?

 

Air Force TACPs confirm target locations with their map
Air Force TACPs confirm target locations with their map

One thing that I noticed while growing up in youth groups and campus clubs is that most of the young unmarried ladies don’t have much interest in making a case for Christian truth claims that are reasonable and supported by evidence. Is it that they are just too lazy to do the studying? Well, no – they do very well in school and get decent jobs after they graduate. So they are able to learn and work on things they like, just not defending their faith. Is it that aren’t able to communicate? Well, no – they are able to talk and talk about things they are interested in, like clothes, television, movies, food, fitness, etc. So what’s the real problem here? I think the problem is that women (more than men) have accepted a postmodern worldview. Postmodernism reduces questions of religion and ethics to personal preferences, divorced from reason and evidence. In postmodernism, everyone is equally right about whichever religion or morality they prefer. And you choose what you like – what resonates with you. For postmodern “Christians”, it causes them to lose all motivation to study and engage in debate in areas like religion and ethics.

Look at this clip of William Lane Craig:

He’s also written a response here.

Personally, I don’t even see how you can BE a Christian and accept postmodernism.

When I was an undergraduate, there was a girl I attended IVCF with named Kerry. Although she was doing a STEM degree and graduated #2 in her class, she just preferred not to study anything related to the real questions that atheists ask. Why not? Because some male youth pastor she had a crush on had convinced her that postmodernism was true, and that it was a waste of time to argue about cosmic fine-tuning. She was more than happy to discover that (thanks to postmodernism) religion was all about feelings and intuitions. No need to waste time reading anything to learn how to give an answer for the hope within you. I would repeat to her verbatim questions I had got from atheists students in high school and university, and she just refused to do anything to come up with an answer. For her, Christianity was about feeling good and being liked, and God would never ask her to do anything (study, debate) that would cause her to be unhappy.

Another woman I worked for told me that she had enough trouble in her day-to-day life to take on any trouble in her religion. She was a leader in a program called the “Calvinettes” – girls interested in Calvinism, I guess. I asked her if she was teaching these Calvinettes anything that would help them when they were confronted by relativism and naturalism in the university. She said no, and that studying science and history was not desired by her Calvinettes, because people who study are nerdy and unpopular. Although she claimed to be in a two-way relationship with God, she never saw any responsibility to defend his honor when it was called into question.

I guess I have trouble understanding postmoderns who It would be like me marrying, and standing there silent when people spoke lies about my wife. Sharing my opinion is not what is needed here, you have to defend your wife and prove her goodness by making a factual case that overrides the other person’s opinions.

One thing is for sure: postmodern Christians don’t treat God very well. It’s almost as if embracing postmdodernism is done precisely because it relieves a person of having to do any studying and having to do any battling. When it comes to defending God’s reputation and honor when it’s called into question, we have to do what works. Not what makes us feel good. Not what makes people like us.

16 thoughts on “Is apologetics a waste of time in a postmodern culture?”

  1. So close, yet no cigar, Wintery Knight.

    The “problem” with women (and possibly the reason you haven’t found one to marry yet) is that women are about “feelings” not logic. This has nothing to do with “postmodernism” and everything to do with how men and women are different.***

    Postmodernism is a real issue today. I once worked with someone for nine months and debated the same issue of absolutes the entire time. He just wouldn’t accept that there were any absolutes, but wouldn’t accept it when I made a statement that he disagreed with. I was heavily into Francis Schaeffer (the good one, not the son) at the time.

    I recently left a church because the Sunday School teachers categorically stated that Muslims and Christians worship the same God. I couldn’t get the dust off my shoes fast enough.

    Yes, apologetics is a waste of time in postmodern culture. But, what else are we supposed to do with our time on earth? You are on the right track that we are to study and defend our faith. We are to try and persuade others to believe in God. So it isn’t really a waste of our time, but it may be a waste of the postmodern’s time. It is hard to persuade someone to believe in absolute, objective truth when you can’t even get them to agree on a definition of truth. Even though they think relativism is ABSOLUTELY true.

    And as for doe-eyed girls being swayed by a “man of god”, it has nothing to do with postmodernism, just feelings. I once spent a couple of years laughing my head off while all the girls in our singles group pursued the sensitive, musical Bible study teacher who was, you guessed it, gay. They had no clue, but their feelings, not their worldview, told them he would be a great husband.

    ***I’m thinking about a topic (not the right word, but the right one isn’t coming to mind) which came into view as I hear “Christian” and other people judge President Trump. They “judge” him based on THEIR worldview.

    I am defining the topic as “measuring vs understanding.” You, Wintery Knight, are “measuring” women based on your worldview and quite frankly you will NEVER find one that matches up even 80% with your worldview. (The score I was willing to accept based on the “checklist” I had written in FileMaker on a Mac that scored women automatically. I’ve been married to a 60% for 22 years.)

    What I am proposing is that instead of “measuring” we try to “understand” why people (Trump) do what they do based on THEIR worldview, not ours. If we do that then maybe their actions will make more sense, and might actually be the right choices. We never have the exact same information and RESPONSIBILITY as the person we are “measuring” (judging) against our worldview (no matter how RIGHT our worldview is (a bit of sarcasm).

    We should still “measure” against our worldviews. There is right and wrong in the world. But we need to accept the fact that not everyone has the exact same worldview as ours so we do need to try and understand others while not being a touchy, feely postmodernist.

  2. Perhaps you have given a rather truncated description of postmodernism. it is not just about feelings, preferences and intuitions. it is also a critique of truth claims and the large meta-narratives that often posit such truth claims. Postmodernism has often critiqued such truth claims as being nothing more but assertions of power. That being the case, I can see how one can be both a Christian and a proponent of postmodernism.

  3. Bit unfair to single out women for this criticism. It’s the men as well who show no appetite for proper study of truth, preferring to featherbed their faith on some wishy washy song lyrics for the most part.

  4. “For her, Christianity was about feeling good and being liked, and God would never ask her to do anything (study, debate) that would cause her to be unhappy.”

    VERSUS

    “When it comes to defending God’s reputation and honor when it’s called into question, we have to do what works. Not what makes us feel good. Not what makes people like us.”

    Actually, it’s one step worse. Christians who want to feel good and be liked WILL Vigorously Criticize the Christians who stand firm and argue for God and His Living and Written Word because they think it makes Christians and Jesus unlikeable.

    1. I was blocked many times from showing William Lane Craig debates to the group, and then when we brought him out to debate on campus with Campus Crusade, IVCF declined to help us advertise. Same for the Navigators group. There was no Ratio Christi back then.

      1. I’ll have to track down something I read about either Campus Crusade or IVCF. Or maybe it was Christianity Today. The article I’m thinking about basically showed that whichever organization it was about was essentially no longer Christian. Maybe it was something you wrote.

        On a funny note, when Josh McDowell was coming to Biola in the early 70’s when I was there, everyone was going ape. I had no clue who he was and was thinking about skipping chapel just to avoid the crowds.

      2. Most campus christian groups take on a female mindset in order to try to reach the large group of female college students. They encourage female leadership within the organization for the same reasons.

  5. Hi Wintery.

    Well, I went to a STEM undergrad and did a STEM major, and I have found some others who were interested in apologetics. And since then, I’ve taught apologetics in church a few times and have coordinated with the Ratio Christi and Cru and IVCF groups a few times, and also the Reasons to Believe chapter that happens to meet at the school (a deliberate choice).

    If you don’t call it “apologetics,” but call it a debate as Veritas Forums does, then I think that tends to draw more people. (I know Kelly Kullberg Monroe fairly well — plus her books “Finding God at Harvard” and “Finding God Beyond Harvard: The Quest for Veritas” are both very good.)

    I might dig deeper than just apologetics. I think a lot of Christians aren’t too self-conscious about their own worldviews. Amusingly, Summit Ministries has a bit of a “check up” that is a good link: https://www.summit.org/checkup1/

    In any case — some Christians aren’t even sure on (a) what they believe, (b) why they believe it. Therefore (c) their worldviews are suspect. And therefore due to all of the above, (d) apologetics is going to be unimportant. I mean, if you can’t articulate the “Good News” (and also the bad news), or maybe you don’t think there’s a “Good News” (and a bad news) then why would you spend much time making sure people understand it? (Or as J. Warner Wallace puts it, http://coldcasechristianity.com/2015/in-this-day-and-age-evangelism-is-spelled-a-p-o-l-o-g-e-t-i-c-s/ “In this day and age, Evangelism is spelled A-P-O-L-O-G-E-T-I-C-S”.)

    Amusingly, as I’ve talked with other Christian dads, I find many who are interested in apologetics (I’ve occasionally mentioned for instance, I enjoy J. Warner Wallace’s daily posts as well as his books, or various debates / conferences that I’ve been at). Or occasionally mentioned certain arguments that have come up.

    I’m not in marketing … never was. But I think there’s sometimes a need for how to ‘market’ important things like “Adult Sunday School classes”, “Bible studies/small groups,” and even apologetics classes and seminars and conferences. In other words, I have no problems with calling a class like “Belief and unbelief: loving our neighbors in truth” or whatever as long as my Christian friends get exposed to apologetics :)

    1. I have been in marketing and you’re right. You can’t sell the steak. You have to sell the sizzle. That’s one thing I remember from one of my most despised bosses.

      As to calling it a “debate,” as I was thinking about this post I pondered, “How many women are on high school and college debate teams?” It has been a few years, ok, decades, since I’ve been involved with forensics teams, but as I recall you didn’t join that team to meet or impress women.

      And, as I recall, women interested in that sort of thing have standards so high that not even Wintery Knight wouldn’t be considered marriage material. Human nature is human nature. There is a game out there and you not only need to know the rules but HOW the game is actually being played. The Apostle Paul was an expert. I’d recommend the book, Games Mother Never Taught You.

      And yes, Postmodernism is much more complex than we think. But life is simple and Postmodernism is wrong no matter how complex and sophisticated its adherents make it sound.

    2. J. Warner Wallace has such a splendid view of apologetics, and it comes from encountering non-Christians and working through his own unbelief, not having been raised in a Christian home. What I love best about him is when he talks about how happy he was as a non-Christian, and how feelings were not the driving force of his investigation into Christian truth claims. That’s what people need to hear.

      I just bought a book of his today! (For a gift to someone else)

  6. We Christians are too quick to look for enemies. I think we should follow the example of the apostle Paul and take every thought captive for the sake of the gospel. Postmodernism, in my view, has offered up a necessary critique of certain aspects of arrogant modernism and have said, what we Christians have always said: That every human truth- claim, be it political, philosophical, or ideological is tinged with sin. Postmodernism doesn’t use the word “sin” of course. But it points out that every truth-claim and every meta-narrative is at rock bottom a will to power. Why not accept this critique and use it in our ongoing battle with arrogant modernism?
    With all due respect to Dr. Craig, when God sought to reveal God’s truth to us blind and wayward human beings, God didn’t give us an argument, God gave us a story. The gospel story is the story that we are invited to live into and as people like NT Wright have pointed out, it is not a power story but a love story. The best argument we can make to both modernist and postmodernist alike, is to live into our story by faithfully following the Lord Jesus Christ on his path of self-giving love.

    1. Actually, Jesus says that he was giving his generation “the sign of Jonah”, which was his bodily resurrection. That would be evidence. His claims to be the Messiah were also evidenced by miracles. Romans 1 says that the origin and design of the natural world is evidence of God’s existence. More evidence. All of this evidence is nothing to a postmodern story-teller, or story-hearer. What “works” for them, is what works for Mormons and other personality cults: telling a story that makes people feel things, and then the feelings are taken as reason to engage. That’s not a Christian view, the Christian view uses evidence that is incumbent even on atheists.

      Romans 1 says that evidence for God from nature leaves unbelievers “without excuse”. And in Acts 2, Peter makes the case that “Jesus of Nazareth was a man accredited by God to you by miracles, wonders and signs, which God did among you through him, as you yourselves know.” This is not story telling, it’s a lawyer making a case using evidence. I could go on.

      I think being a postmodern is fine, but like I said, you can either be a Christian or a postmodern, not both. There is no such thing as a postmodern Christian, because Christianity is a testable worldview. It’s not a matter of listen to stories and choose what you like. It’s a matter of bow the knee to the facts, whether you feel like it or not. Mormonism is the religion of “burning in the bosom”, and that’s what postmodern “Christians” are, epistemologically speaking. Or, they just go straight to atheism like Brian McLaren, etc. If you’re trying to work off of feelings, pretty soon you just jettison the whole thing. Jesus didn’t give his life in obedience to the father for feelings.

      1. I am certainly not against “evidence” or rational argument in defense of the gospel. But the best evidence for the God that we come to know in the Lord Jesus Christ, is a Spirit filled community of Jesus followers who are empowered to live and love and perhaps even die just as the Lord himself did. Jesus said that we would be his witnesses not his lawyers. I am not talking here about feelings, but about faithfulness. We can argue and lecture and debate until we are blue in the face, but if we are not living out the story of the crucified/resurrected Lord, no one is going to be convinced.

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