As I argue in Uncompromised Faith: Overcoming Our Culturalized Christianity, the study of historic Christian apologetics is essential for any person who professes to be a follower of Christ. Without venturing into the debate over classical, presuppositional, and evidential apologetics, let me just say that I believe that elements of each are helpful and not necessarily mutually exclusive. So when I use the term historic Christian apologetics, I am referring to these three primary schools of thought collectively.
For the sake of clarity, classical apologetics “stresses rational arguments for the existence of God and historical evidences supporting the truth of Christianity” (Norman L. Geisler, Baker Encyclopedia of Christian Apologetics [Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2002], 154). Presuppositional apologetics differs in that it “defends Christianity from the departure point of certain basic presuppositions” (Geisler, 607)—namely that all persons presuppose or assume certain explanations about reality that arise from their worldview. In presuppositionalism, the Christian apologist presents the truth of Christianity by exposing the fallacy of alternative worldviews, which the skeptic ultimately knows only serve to suppress the truth that in his heart he knows to be true. Finally, evidential apologetics stresses the need to first logically establish the existence of God before arguing for the truth of Christianity. Suffice it to say that these, to one degree or another, are all vital for the Christian to apprehend and be able to communicate.
However, in light of our postmodern condition, I want to emphasize the need for what I call a “cultural” apologetic. (The particulars of this approach are detailed in Uncompromised Faith.) In short, a cultural apologetic applies to two intellectual fronts. The first addresses the ideas or ideological influences common to a given culture. These ideas surreptitiously shape our thinking in an osmotic fashion, like the water in which a fish swims: the fish doesn’t give the water the slightest thought, it simply takes the water for granted. Such is the case with the ideas common to our culture. They are the air we breathe, and thus we scarcely give them a thought; but their influence on our thoughts, if unchecked, is formidable.
The second front pertains to social issues and their underlying ideas or worldview. These are most often expressed in the cultural debates over moral and ethical questions such as abortion, same-sex marriage, feminism, and homosexuality, to name just a few. The respective positions often represent opposing views of reality and the nature of man; yet whichever moral perspective—and its underlying worldview—gains social acceptance, this tends to form the consensus view of reality.
However, it is not enough to simply posses an intellectual understanding of these two ideological fronts; a cultural apologetic ultimately relies on a missional approach to culture if we hope to effectively confront and subvert these ideas. Currently, we tend to toss “Christian hand-grenades,” occasionally entering the culture to present our one-sided arguments for the truth of Christianity and then retreating to our churches as soon as we are done. Being missional means we act more like a rescue force that is determined to stay until all are rescued, rather than a commando unit that occasionally enters hostile territory to harass the enemy! Being missional means we endeavor to develop real and meaningful relationships with those that God, in His providence, has brought into our lives—to first demonstrate the love of Christ and then be ready with an answer to explain the hope that is within us. It means we listen more than we speak; we ask and answer questions and we expand our conversations to include more than just religion; and when we speak—for goodness sake!—we speak in normal language and not “Christianese.”
The missional Christian presses into the world wherever he or she is and pushes back the darkness with the love of Christ. The missional Christian works at really getting to know and love his neighbor, not because he has to but because he loves people as Christ commanded. This includes those neighbors that are different, difficult, or just downright unlikeable. And, yes, this includes those neighbors who share very different political views and lifestyles.
In other words, we really seek to interact and develop real relationships with the lost. It means we invite sinners into our life. It means we put up with their profanity and coarse talk. It means we love them as Christ loves them, without reservation. This is what it means to be missional. If you claim to be Christian, it is what you already are—a follower of Christ left on mission in hostile territory. If you are armed with an understanding of the cultural and social barriers that inhibit the reception of the gospel and employ this missional approach, you will go a long way toward demonstrating the relevance of Christ and His message to the unbelieving world. To learn more about Uncompromised Faith or to order your copy, visit www.UncompromisedFaith.com.
© 2009 by S. Michael Craven
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S. Michael Craven is the President of the Center for Christ & Culture. Michael is the author of Uncompromised Faith: Overcoming Our Culturalized Christianity
Michael lives in the Dallas area with his wife Carol and their three children.