Mere Apologetics: Chapter 2: APOLOGETICS AND CONTEMPORARY CULTURE (Pgs. 27-40)


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In chapter two, McGrath considers how contemporary culture is to be understood and thus approached.

Our apologetics must be in touch with the culture and audience before us.  While we can and do learn from the past, it’s important to speak in contemporary terms in order to humanly connect with others.

McGrath writes about modernity and post-modernity.  Modernity (M) viewed human reason as universal, available to all, able to unlock the mysteries of life, and argument was reasons tool for the task.  During this era, Christian apologetics mainly focused on reason and rational arguments to commend the faith, but neglected the relational and creative side of being human (pg. 28).  This moreover minimized the mystery of the Faith (E.g., the Trinity was not used as an apologetic) and in order to win arguments some gave over too much real estate and assumed the opponents worldview and ended up losing the heart of the matter.

Post-Modernity (PM) is not easy to define but is easier to describe.  It saw (M) as a failure needing correction.  Of course not all of (M’s) ideas are bad.  Thus (PM) attempted to combine the best of (M’s) and that of Classical Tradition (CT) while removing their undesirable aspects.  Among these undesirable aspects was uniformitarianism—a kind of reductionism that has a “total-scheme” of reality like Marxism.  PM’s see this as a “straight-jacket” that essentially infringes on human freedom.  Now PM’s reject several things.

First, they reject the notion that there’s only one right or wrong way to live.  Second, they see “sameness” as belittling to human freedom, thus diversity is to be celebrated.  Therefore any metanarrative is to be rejected as a way of looking at the world.  Third, they see reason not as universal but rather contextual and relative.  Fourth, they have a suspicious view of truth and hold that it’s used by the powerful to justify their oppression and to maintain their positions of power and authority.  Fifth, they reject the idea that history has some kind of telos (E.g., Jesus of Nazareth).  Sixth, they refuse the view that the “self” has some point of reference, but instead the “self” is a fluid way of seeing ourselves.

PM’s contributes at least two appreciative qualities.  First, it’s a secular worldview that does not define what’s “right/wrong” and is neither pro/con Christianity.  Second, this movement in culture presents an opportunity for a new apologetic approach focused not merely on reason and arguments but also on story, imagination (I.e., the parables of Christ) and an incarnational approach.

How are we to reach our culture and do apologetics in this milieu?  We must first start by knowing the Gospel, secondly understanding our times and thus tailor-make our approach accordingly, third, so that the content of the message remains faithful to the /Master, while the methods adapt to the audience for human connection.

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