News Analysis

News: Postmodernism


>> = Important Articles

** = Major Articles


>>Characteristics of Postmodernism

>>Truth-Telling is Stranger Than It Used to Be (Christian Post, 050302)

**What is Postmodernism? (Evangelical Fellowship of Canada, 020600)

**Postmodernism: Friend or Foe? (Christian Post, 100615)

On Postmodernism (Christian Post)

What Is Enlightenment? (Weekly Standard, 041129)

Scholars Challenge Religious Pluralism and Postmodernism (Christian Post, 050330)

Strange Things to Our Ears: Apologetics in a Postmodern Age: Part 1 (Christian Post, 051010)

Apologetics in a Postmodern Age, Part 2 (Christian Post, 051011)

Apologetics in a Postmodern Age, Part 3 (Christian Post, 051012)

Darkness At Noon: Part 1—A Post-Christian Age (Christian Post, 051206)

Darkness At Noon: Part 2—The Closing of the Postmodern Mind (Christian Post, 051207)

Darkness At Noon: Part 3—The Commission of a Post-Compliant Church (Christian Post, 051208)

Decline of the West (Washington Times, 060215)

The Truth Project: Christian vs. Postmodern Worldviews (Christian Post, 061001)

Media Expert: Churches Dealing with Post-Christian, Not Post-Modern Culture (Christian Post, 070403)

Evangelical Theologian Dissects Post-Modern Culture (Christian Post, 080119)

Brian McLaren: Postmodern Christianity Understood as Story (Christian Post, 080218)





>>Characteristics of Postmodernism


·         relativism: anti-absolutism, moral relativism, truth relativism, against revelation

·         subjectivism: anti-objectivism (no objective reality), anti-rationalism (ideas are cultural creations), feeling more than thinking (what makes make feel good is right)

·         pluralism: religious pluralism, no absolute truth, anti-authority







autonomous self


scientific discovery

virtual reality

human progress

human misery









get ahead

get along





live to work

work to live



from Generating hope by Jimmy Long



The tables reflect on important differences between the older and the younger generations of today. Each of the points deserves further consideration.



·         “Boomers” refer to those born between 1945 and 1965 when the birth rate was high.

·         “Generation X” normally refers to the late boomers born in the early 1960s.

·         “Busters” refer to those born between 1965 and 1975 when the birth rate was low.

·         “Echo boomers” (“boomerangers”) refer to the children of the boomers (most of them born after 1980).


b (vertical direction)

« (horizontal direction)





form (conjunctive, closed)

antiform (disjunctive, open)









art object/finished work



























against interpretation/misreading



lisible (readerly)

scriptible (writerly)

narrative/grande histoire

anti-narrative/petite histoire

master code












God the Father

The Holy Ghost








SOURCE: Thomas Docherty, ed. (1993): Postmodernism, a reader. New York: Columbia University Press.

Ihab Hassan: “Toward a concept of postmodernism”, p.146-156.  From Ihab Hassan (1987): The postmodern turn.


Postmodernism: Western cultural mentality that emphasizes the perspectival and limited character of human knowing; it justifies truth claims holistically (rather than individually) and pragmatically (rather than through correspondence); contrasts with modernism.


Modernism: Western cultural mentality, associated with the Enlightenment but now gradually eroding, that stresses the supremacy and objectivity of human reason, the possibility of absolute knowledge, and the inevitability of progress; contrasts with postmodernism.




>>Truth-Telling is Stranger Than It Used to Be (Christian Post, 050302)


A common concern now seems to emerge wherever Christians gather—the task of truth-telling is stranger than it used to be. In this age, telling the truth is tough business, and not for the faint-hearted. The times are increasingly strange.


That sense of strangeness may well be due to the rise of postmodern culture and philosophy, perhaps the most important intellectual and cultural movement of the late twentieth century. What difference does postmodernism make? Just look at the modern media, pop culture, and the blank stares you receive from some persons when you talk about truth, meaning, and morality.


Postmodernism developed among academics and artists, but has quickly spread throughout the culture. At the most basic level, postmodernism refers to the passing of modernity and the rise of a new cultural movement. Modernity—the dominant worldview since the Enlightenment—has been supplanted by postmodernism, which both extends and denies certain principles and symbols central to the modern age.


Clearly, much of the literature about postmodernism is nonsensical and hard to take seriously. When major postmodern figures speak or write, the gibberish which often results sounds more like a vocabulary test than a sustained argument. But postmodernism cannot be dismissed as unimportant or irrelevant. This is not a matter of concern only among academics and the avant-garde—this new movement represents a critical challenge to the Christian church, and to the individual Christian.


Actually, postmodernism may not be a movement or methodology at all. We might best describe postmodernism as a mood which sets itself apart from the certainties of the modern age. This mood is the heart of the postmodern challenge.


What are the contours of this postmodern mood? Is this new movement helpful in our presentation of the Gospel? Or, will the postmodern age bring a great retreat from Christian truth? A look at the basic features of postmodernism may be helpful.


The Deconstruction of Truth


Though the nature of truth has been debated throughout the centuries, postmodernism has turned this debate on its head. While most arguments throughout history have focused on rival claims to truth, postmodernism rejects the very notion of truth as fixed, universal, objective, or absolute.


The Christian tradition understands truth as established by God and revealed through the self-revelation of God in Scripture. Truth is eternal, fixed, and universal. Our responsibility is to order our minds in accordance with God’s revealed truth and to bear witness to this truth. We serve a Savior who identified himself as “the Way, the Truth, and the Life” and called for belief.


Modern science, itself a product of the Enlightenment, rejected revelation as a source of truth and put the scientific method in its place. Modernity attempted to establish truth on the basis of scientific precision through the process of inductive thought and investigation. The other disciplines attempted to follow the lead of the scientists in establishing objective truth through rational thought. Modernists were confident that their approach would yield objective and universal truths by means of human reason.


The postmodernists reject both the Christian and modernist approaches to the question of truth. According to postmodern theory, truth is not universal, is not objective or absolute, and cannot be determined by a commonly accepted method. Instead, postmodernists argue that truth is socially constructed, plural, and inaccessible to universal reason.


As postmodern philosopher Richard Rorty asserts, truth is made rather than found. According to the deconstructionists, one influential sect among the postmodernists, all truth is socially constructed. That is, social groups construct their own “truth” in order to serve their own interests. As Michel Foucault—one of the most significant postmodern theorists—argued, all claims to truth are constructed to serve those in power. Thus, the role of the intellectual is to deconstruct truth claims in order to liberate the society.


What has been understood and affirmed as truth, argue the postmodernists, is nothing more than a convenient structure of thought intended to oppress the powerless. Truth is not universal, for every culture establishes its own truth. Truth is not objectively real, for all truth is merely constructed—as Rorty stated, truth is made, not found.


Little imagination is needed to see that this radical relativism is a direct challenge to the Christian gospel. Our claim is not to preach one truth among many; about one Savior among many; through one gospel among many. We do not believe that the Christian gospel is a socially constructed truth, but the Truth which sets sinners free from sin—and is objectively, universally, historically true. As the late Francis Schaeffer instructed, the Christian church must contend for true truth.


The Death of the Metanarrative


Since postmodernists believe all truth to be socially constructed, all presentations of absolute, universal, established truth must be resisted. All grand and expansive accounts of truth, meaning, and existence are cast aside as “metanarratives” which claim far more than they can deliver.


Jean-Francois Lyotard, perhaps the most famous European postmodernist, defined postmodernism in this way: “Simplifying to the extreme, I define postmodern as incredulity toward metanarratives.” Thus, all the great philosophical systems are dead, all cultural accounts are limited, all that remains are little stories accepted as true by different groups and cultures. Claims to universal truth—the metanarratives—are oppressive, “totalizing” and thus must be resisted.


The problem with this, of course, is that Christianity is meaningless apart from the gospel—which is a metanarrative. Indeed, the Christian gospel is nothing less than the Metanarrative of all Metanarratives. For Christianity to surrender the claim that the gospel is universally true and objectively established is to surrender the center of our faith. Christianity is the great metanarrative of redemption. Our story begins with creation by the sovereign, omnipotent God; continues through the fall of the humanity into sin and the redemption of sinners through the substitutionary work of Christ on the cross; and promises an eternal dual destiny for all humanity—the redeemed with God forever in glory and the unredeemed in eternal punishment. That is the message we bear—and it is an individual-transforming and world-changing metanarrative.


We do not present the gospel as one narrative among many true narratives, or as “our” narrative alongside the authentic narratives of others. We cannot retreat to claim that biblical truth is merely true for us. Our claim is that the Bible is the Word of God for all. This is deeply offensive to the postmodern worldview, which charges all who claim universal truth with imperialism and oppression.


The rise of postmodernism presents Christians with the undeniable reality that many people simply do not accept the idea that truth is absolute, or even that written texts have a fixed meaning. All claims to truth—especially claims to universally valid truth—are met with suspicion, or worse. This presents the Christian with a changed climate for truth-telling—and a genuine intellectual challenge.


The postmodern mind is marked by several significant intellectual moves and assumptions. In order to understand the contours of the postmodern mind, we must look at the basic worldview assumptions that frame its structure.


The Demise of the Text


If the metanarrative is dead, then the great texts behind the metanarratives must also be dead. Postmodernism asserts the fallacy of ascribing meaning to a text, or even to the author. The reader establishes the meaning, and no controls limit the meaning of the reading.


The late Jacques Derrida, a leading literary deconstructionist, described this move in terms of the “death of the author” and the “death of the text.” Meaning—made, not found—is created by the reader in the act of reading. The text must be deconstructed in order to get rid of the author and let the text live as a liberating word.


This new hermeneutical method explains much of the current debate in literature, politics, law, and theology. All texts—whether the Holy Scripture, the United States Constitution, or the works of Mark Twain—are subjected to esoteric criticism and dissection, all in the name of liberation.


Texts, according to the postmodernists, reveal a subtext of oppressive intentions on the part of the author, and so must be deconstructed. This is no matter of mere academic significance. This is the argument behind much contemporary constitutional interpretation made by judges, the presentation of issues in the media, and the fragmentation of modern biblical scholarship. The rise of feminist, liberation, homosexual, and various other interest-group schools of interpretation is central to this postmodern principle.


Therefore, the Bible is subjected to radical re-interpretation, often with little or no regard for the plain meaning of the text or the clear intention of the human author. Texts which are not pleasing to the postmodern mind are rejected as oppressive, patriarchal, heterosexist, homophobic, or deformed by some other political or ideological bias. The authority of the text is denied in the name of liberation, and the most fanciful and ridiculous interpretations are celebrated as “affirming” and thus “authentic.”


Of course, the notion of the “death of the author” takes on an entirely new meaning when applied to Scripture, for we claim that the Bible is not the mere words of men, but the Word of God. Postmodernism’s insistence on the death of the author is inherently atheistic and anti-supernaturalistic. The claim to divine revelation is written off as only one more projection of oppressive power.


The Dominion of Therapy


Then truth is denied, therapy remains. The critical questions shifts from “What is true?” to “What makes me feel good?” This cultural trend has been developing throughout the century, but now reaches epic proportions.


The culture we confront is almost completely under submission to what Philip Reiff called the “triumph of the therapeutic.” In a postmodern world, all issues eventually revolve around the self. Thus, enhanced self-esteem is all that remains as the goal of many educational and theological approaches. Categories such as “sin” are rejected as oppressive and harmful to self-esteem.


Therapeutic approaches are dominant in a postmodern culture made up of individuals uncertain that truth even exists—but assured that our self-esteem must remain intact. Right and wrong are discarded as out-of-date reminders of an oppressive past. In the name of our own “authenticity” we will reject all inconvenient moral standards and replace concern for right and wrong with the assertion of our rights.


Theology is likewise reduced to therapy. Entire theological systems and approaches are constructed with the goal reduced to nothing more than self-esteem for individuals and special groups. These “feel good” theologies dispense with the “negativity” of offensive biblical texts, or with the Bible altogether. Out are categories such as “lostness” and judgment. In their place are vague notions of acceptance without repentance and wholeness without redemption. We may not know (or care) if we are saved or lost, but we certainly do feel better about ourselves.


The Decline of Authority


Since postmodern culture is committed to a radical vision of liberation, all authorities must be overthrown. Among the dethroned authorities are texts, authors, traditions, metanarratives, the Bible, God, and all powers on heaven and earth. Except, of course, for the authority of the postmodern theorists and cultural figures, who wield their power in the name of oppressed peoples everywhere.


According to the postmodernists, those in authority use their power to remain in power, and to serve their own interests. Their laws, traditions, texts, and “truth” are nothing more than that which is designed to maintain them in power.


So, the authority of governmental leaders is eroded, as is the authority of teachers, community leaders, parents, and ministers. Ultimately, the authority of God is rejected as totalitarian and autocratic. Christians—especially Christian ministers—are seen as representatives of this autocratic deity, and are to be resisted as authorities as well.


Doctrines, traditions, creeds and confessions—all are to be rejected and charged with limiting self-expression and representing oppressive authority. Preachers are tolerated so long as they stick to therapeutic messages of enhanced self-esteem, and resisted whenever they inject divine authority or universal claims to truth in their sermons.


The Displacement of Morality


Ivan in Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s novel, The Brothers Karamazov, was right—if God is dead everything is permissible. The God allowed by postmodernism is not the God of the Bible, but a vague concept of spirituality. There are no tablets of stone, no Ten Commandments . . . no rules.


Morality is, along with other foundations of culture, discarded as oppressive and totalitarian. A pervasive moral relativism marks postmodern culture. This is not to say that postmodernists are reluctant to employ moral language. To the contrary, postmodern culture is filled with moral discourse. But the issues of moral concern are quite arbitrary, and in many cases represent a reversal of biblical morality.


Homosexuality, for example, is openly advocated and accepted. The rise of gay and lesbian studies in universities, the emergence of homosexual political power, and the homoerotic images now common to popular culture mark this dramatic moral reversal. Homosexuality is no longer considered a sin. Homophobia—a concept that combines the therapeutic notion that all moral opposition is evidence of psychological disease with the politically correct idea that opposition to homosexuality, not homosexuality itself is aberrant—is now targeted as sin, and demands for tolerance of “alternative lifestyles” have now turned into demand for public celebration of all lifestyles as morally equal.


Michael Jones has described modernity as “rationalized sexual misbehavior,” and postmodernity is its logical extension. Michel Foucault, who argued that all sexual morality is an abuse of power, called for postmodernism to celebrate the concept of perversity. He lived and died dedicated to this lifestyle, and his prophecy has been fulfilled in this decade. The very idea of perversity has become perverse to the postmodern culture. Everything is permitted.




R. Albert Mohler, Jr. is president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky.




**What is Postmodernism? (Evangelical Fellowship of Canada, 020600)


Postmodernism is frequently used to explain contemporary culture—but what exactly does it mean?


Christian witness in our world demands that we get up to speed with postmodernism. Whether we like it or not, postmodernism is one of the most powerful forces in philosophy and culture. Postmodern ideas and motifs dominate the intellectual landscape and shape public opinion. Matt Donnelly argued in a Christianity Today article that neglect of postmodernism is the “missing link” in Christian apologetics. He lamented that Christian web sites devoted to defending the gospel virtually ignore the presence and power of postmodern views.


Understanding postmodernism requires that one have some sense of the major changes in religion and philosophy over the last 500 years. Here is one way to capture the revolutions that have shaped the West since the end of the Middle Ages. First, think of the period 1500-1600 as the time when the power of Roman Catholicism was broken by Luther, Calvin, and other Reformers. By the end of the sixteenth century one could no longer think of “one Church.” There were Catholics, Lutherans, Calvinists, Anglicans, and Anabaptists, and this was just the start.


Second, the loss of unity in Christendom led in the next century to a radical crisis in philosophy and religious certainty. Paradoxically, the Reformers started a train of thought that had a dark side: if Luther can question the Pope, and Calvin can question Luther, and Henry VIII can doubt all of them, and the Anabaptists can doubt everyone from the Pope to Henry, then why not doubt religion altogether? When René Descartes wrote his famous line: “I think, therefore I am,” he was trying to work his way out of the skeptical fog bank of his time.


Third, in the next century rationalism became everything to philosophers. God no longer judged human reason; God was judged by reason itself. This period (1700-1800) is known as the Enlightenment. Such philosophers as Immanuel Kant, David Hume and Voltaire believed that reason must be used to question all views and ideas, especially crucial Christian themes that framed Western philosophy for centuries. The light in Englightenment was “reason” and not “Jesus.”


Though Christian faith has remained under attack since the Englightenment, in the nineteenth century it became increasingly difficult for philosophers and other intellectuals to agree on what constituted reason or on how useful rationalism was as a philosophy. If the Enlightenment represents the modern trust of reason, the last two centuries have witnessed the rise of the postmodern distrust of reason.


Postmodernism is a term of recent vintage, but the seeds of postmodernism hark back to thinkers like Friedrich Nietzsche, Sigmund Freud, Karl Marx, and Martin Heidegger who raised radical questions about the intellectual, cultural, and political ideologies of their day. Though none of these thinkers was a postmodernist per se, each saw that powerful elites use “reason” and “logic” and “truth” to hold humans in captivity in some form. Their deep critique of social, philosophical, and psychological norms led to the profound questioning of rationalism that has characterized the leading postmodernist thinkers such as Paul Feyerabend (1924-1994), Michel Foucault (1926-1984) and Jacques Derrida (b. 1930).


Though Foucault, Derrida and company are notoriously difficult to understand, the basic thrust of postmodernism can be captured quite readily in 10 principles (see sidebar: Postmodernist Viewpoint).


Christian scholars are divided over how to react to postmodernism. Some (e.g. Stanley Grenz, Brian Walsh and Richard Middleton) are deeply concerned about certain aspects of the postmodern mind, but they celebrate other aspects of postmodernity. They believe that Foucault and company rightly expose the danger of trusting in reason as an ultimate guide.


Other Christian scholars give virtually no credibility to postmodernism. They believe that it is a godless relativism that is a cancer against the gospel. Doug Groothuis argues in Truth Decay that postmodernism represents a dead end intellectually and morally. At last fall’s annual meeting of the Evangelical Theological Society in Colorado, Doug Geivett, a Christian philosopher, gave a public lecture against Stan Grenz for the latter’s openness to key themes in postmodernism.


Of course, even if one follows Grenz and others in seeing some good in postmodernism, all Christian scholars have noted that ultimately postmodernism is an anti-Christian perspective. That means, in the end, that Christians in this postmodern world must seek to present Christ in such a way that postmodernists will recognize in Him the path to truth, the way to meaning, the cause of beauty, the answer to oppression, and the solution to despair. If Christ is all that and more, who would want to stick with postmodernism?


For further reading: The Church on the Other Side: Doing Ministry in the Postmodern Matrix by Brian D. McLaren, Zondervan Publishers


James A. Beverley is professor of theology and ethics at Tyndale Seminary in Toronto. His web site is


Relevant web sites:


* For a comprehensive bibliography on postmodernism:

* University of Colorado Philosophy Site:

* Information on  Derrida:

* Philosophy in Cyberspace (a general guide to philosophy):

* On the work of some scientists against postmodernism:

* For a great site on Christian apologetics and philosophy:


Postmodernism Under Fire


If you want postmodernism handled with a bit of spice, I suggest three routes. First, you will want to get Frederick Crews’s work The Postmodern Pooh (North Point Press, 2001). Crews, a distinguished English professor, uses the famous bear as the focus for a satirical stab at postmodernism and other follies.


Second, you can ask your computer to pull up a postmodernist essay from “The Postmodernism Generator” web site. Andrew C. Bulwak created a computer program that generates meaningless essays using postmodernist lingo. Go to


Most important, check out the hoax that physicist Alan Sokal pulled off on the editors of Social Text, a premier literary and cultural journal. Sokal, a professor at New York University, wrote a parody of postmodernist jargon under the title “Transgressing the Boundaries: Toward a Transformative Hermeneutics of Quantum Gravity.”  He put in sloppy scientific data, used careless reasoning, and even argued that the external world is not real.


When the essay was published in1996 Sokal announced in another journal that it was all a joke, albeit a serious one. This led to a huge academic firestorm that led to major newspaper coverage, debate in journals and at international conferences, and a host of books including Sokal’s own Fashionable Nonsense (New York: St. Martin’s, 1998), co-authored with Jean Bricmont.  James Robert Brown, a philosopher at the University of Toronto, has just covered the whole debate in Who Rules in Science? (Harvard University Press, 2001). For Sokal’s own site, with a vast array of links, go to


Postmodernist Viewpoint


* There is no single world view that captures reality, no master story (or meta-narrative) that underlies humanity.

* Reason is to be distrusted because there is no way to know which person’s reason is reliable.

* There is no such thing as objectivity.

* There is no “truth” to appeal to for understanding history and culture.

* There are no moral absolutes.

* The West, with its colonialist heritage, deserves ridicule.

* Texts, whether religious or philosophical or literary, do not have intrinsic meaning.

* Ideas are cultural creations.

* Everything is relative.

* We need to be deeply suspicious of all ideas given the way that ideas are used as tools to oppress and confine humans.




**Postmodernism: Friend or Foe? (Christian Post, 100615)


There is a great deal of consternation and, I might add, confusion over the nature and impact of postmodernism. Many Christians immediately assume that all things postmodern are the source of pernicious moral relativism and that postmodernism is sure to destroy all truth.


I often hear evangelical leaders speak of the “threat of postmodernism” or the “challenges of living in the postmodern era” as if some new malevolent force is overtaking Western civilization. In short, most Christians tend to assume that postmodernism is completely opposed to Christian faith, but I would argue that this is based more on a popular and uninformed notion of postmodernity than on a critical analysis that seeks to truly understand the complexities of culture and human knowing.


Make no mistake; there is indeed a malevolent force that has overtaken Western civilization, a force that has undermined authentic Christian faith. I’m talking about modernism. Postmodernism offers the first serious challenge to modernism since its emergence from the eighteenth-century Enlightenment; thus postmodernism warrants serious consideration as an ally to Christian faith.


It was the Enlightenment emphasis on autonomous reason that ushered in the modern era and with it a rejection of Divine revelation as a legitimate source of truth. Messiah College professor of English and film studies Crystal L. Downing points out in her book, How Postmodernism Serves (My) Faith, “Truth for the modern thinker is objectively perceived by the unaided human brain. Reason begins to take precedence over revelation; rational analysis starts to supersede the authority of the church. … While the premodern Christian says that belief precedes understanding, the modern era began to switch it around, saying, ‘I must understand in order to believe.’” Professor Downing adds that, “once reason is turned into the preeminent source of knowledge, it erodes reliance on faith, which is ‘the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.’”


This is not to say that Christian faith is unreasonable or that the Christian does not employ reason. Certainly not. It is simply to say that the “enlightened” modernist attempts to separate faith and reason as two distinct and separate categories of knowledge, a trap that many professing Christians have unwittingly fallen into. Theologian Kevin Vanhoozer clarifies the cooperation of reason and faith well: “I believe in reason. Reason is a God-designed cognitive process of inference and criticism, a discipline that forms virtuous habits of the mind. I reason in belief. Reasoning-giving warrants, making inferences, analyzing critically-does not take place in a vacuum but in a fiduciary framework, a framework of belief.”


On the other hand, modernism (or the Enlightenment) elevated human reason to the “supreme object of human devotion … worshipped in the name of progress” according to Dorothy L. Sayers. The modernist falsely believes that his or her reason exists in an objective and therefore perfect vacuum apart from any external influences. As such, modernist epistemology teaches that all truth is exclusive to the comprehension of human reason and thus any knowledge, which does not come by means of empirical facts processed by “perfect” human reason is inadequate.


But in fact, we all posses certain presuppositions based upon our contextual experiences that inevitably shape our interpretation of the facts. Our presuppositions often only rely on reason up to a point from which we all employ a form of faith. Thus human reason alone is limited. So according to the postmodern, both the Christian and the atheist hold to beliefs that ultimately rest on faith. This is true. Postmodernism has the potential to restore faith (revelation) as a legitimate source of knowledge. The Enlightenment project limits knowledge to only scientifically provable facts. This condition would naturally inhibit the reception of the gospel and so its destruction would be helpful to the church.


Though they may deny it, modernists do presuppose certain “truths”; therefore they, too, depart from reason at some point, employing faith in their assumptions. This is precisely what postmodernism challenges: the belief in autonomous reason apart from faith, which ultimately gives rise to the myth of the autonomous self. The “autonomous self” taken to its logical conclusion creates its own unique meaning, defines its own morality, and then attempts to live it to the best of his or her ability. In other words, life is all about you, your feelings and your desires. You and you alone remain the ultimate authority in your own life. This is a purely modernistic notion that has infected the contemporary church in ways too numerous to count. I think this could explain, in part, the growth of the American mega-church at a time when the total number of adherents to Christianity is in decline. Small churches are closing at an alarming rate in this country and yet mega-churches are being built every day.


Of course this makes sense if too many Christians believe in the autonomous self. The mega-church offers a dynamic church experience often designed to entertain and excite the participant. The emphasis can unwittingly tend toward the attendee, rather than the worship of Jesus Christ. There is less direct accountability and few people are actually known by the pastor. People are able to “hide” in the crowd and church discipline is rarely heard of; accountability becomes less stringent and one is better able to maintain his autonomy. We Americans, especially, like it this way.


However, as my friend Dr. John Armstrong points out: “We evangelicals have a ‘low church’ theology, often because of our reaction against Catholicism. We need to recover both a high Christology and a higher ecclesiology, or doctrine of the church. The New Testament is replete with the emphasis that God saves us as part of a body of people, a family, and a community. We are not lone rangers when we pray. We are members one of another.”


I’m not saying that postmodernism is the answer to all that ails the contemporary church. But as John argues (and I agree), “it does offer a new challenge and new kairos moment for the mission of Christ that may be used by God to open a new generation up to the truth that is in Christ alone, known both incarnationally and relationally, not rationally as under modernism.”


As to postmodernism’s alleged contribution to the “all truth is relative” philosophy, this is not entirely accurate. Downing points out that “no thinking postmodernist denies the reality of facts. Instead, postmodernism calls into question the immediacy of our access to facts, suggesting that prejudices, presuppositions and other constructions of culture tint (but not obscure) the glasses through which we view facts …”


Such an understanding might make Christians more humble, less dogmatic, and more earnest in their own efforts to know the Lord, since they might more properly balance faith and reason. Recall Paul’s concession that “for now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known” (1 Cor. 13:12 KJV).


Lastly, by recovering a more Christian epistemology, we might abandon the autonomous self and instead properly integrate ourselves into the community of believers, which was the compelling testimony of the first century church.




On Postmodernism (Christian Post)


Douglas Groothuis




A prospective student recently wrote to Denver Seminary. He was alarmed by a statement on our web page, which speaks of defending “absolute truth.” Being favorable to postmodernism (through reading Brian McClaren’s, A New Kind of Christian), he feared that believing in absolute truth would stifle our witness to non-Christians and hinder Christian growth—since those who believe in absolute truth think they have it all figured out.


Postmodernism is seducing the church as well as the world. Christians authors tell us not to emphasize biblical truth as objective and absolute. Instead, we should underscore the life of our community and tell the Christian story. According to McLaren, it is wrongheaded to try to prove other religions wrong. We should rather try to be good and not worry so much about being right. (However, McClaren is concerned throughout the book to prove that Christians who disagree with his view are wrong.)


This kind of thinking issues the death sentence for apologetics: God’s call to defend our faith as true, rational, and compelling in the face of intellectual objections (1 Peter 3:15-17; Jude 3). One leading challenge to Christian faith—and to the idea of truth itself—is postmodernism.


Postmodern philosophies claim that truth is constructed by communities and shaped by language and social structures of power. There really is no truth “out there,” and apart from our own minds. Richard Rorty claims that no “vocabulary” (or worldview) is any closer to reality than any other—although he presents his own view as an improvement over opposing views. Truth is merely what his colleagues let him get away with. Few Christians make such bald claims, but one Christian writer recently published a chapter called, “There is No Such Thing as Objective Truth and It’s a Good Thing, Too.” Other Christian leaders have joined the chorus, instructing us to leave a strong emphasis on truth and apologetics behind as relics of the modern period.


Yet without a clear view of the nature of truth and a rational defense of Christianity as true, our witness will be paralyzed. We should tell our stories and invite people to join our communities. But Mormons, Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, New Agers and others in our pluralistic world will tell their stories and beckon souls into their communities, too. What makes us different? As apologist Francis Schaeffer often said, the purpose of Christian community is to serve the God of truth with all our being. The pursuit of truth should constitute our identity as Christians, individually and corporately. Jesus prayed to the Father, “Sanctify them by the truth. Your word is truth” (John 17:17).


The Hebrew and Greek words for “truth” in Scripture have deep meanings, but they all center on the idea of factuality and accuracy. To put it more philosophically (but not unbiblically), a true statement corresponds with reality; it fits the facts. Christian faith must fit the great facts of the Christian story or it is false and hopeless. Paul said that if we hope in Christ and his resurrection and Christ is not risen, our faith is pointless and misleading. It must be historical, factual, and reliable (1 Corinthians 15). Our confidence in the gospel is based on objective facts. We believe them because they are true; our believing them does not make them true. Christians do find their faith to be subjectively compelling. However, these beliefs are existentially gripping only because they lay rightly lay claim to realities about our selves, our world, and our God.


But can we say that Christianity is absolutely true? Many professed Christians get philosophical cold feet at this point. Recent polls show that upwards of 60% of “Christians,” like our prospective student, deny the existence of absolute truth.


An absolute has no exemptions or qualifications. Jesus affirmed an absolute truth about himself: “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6; see also Matthew 11:27). Paul echoes this when he claims that there is but one mediator between God and humanity, Jesus Christ (1 Timothy 2:5). Peter preached that salvation is found in Jesus alone (Acts 4:8-12). This absolute truth gives us a trustworthy point of reference—Jesus Christ, who is the same yesterday, today, and forever (Hebrews 13:8). It is no arbitrary pronouncement, but a claim based on good evidence from the incomparable life, death, and resurrection of Jesus, as recorded in historically reliable documents (Luke 1:1-4; 2 Peter 1:16).


Defending and living in accord with this objective and absolute truth does not imply that we have absolutely mastered all the truth. We bear witness to the absolute truth, but we are not absolute! Although knowing the truth is our goal, no church or denomination perfectly captures biblical truth. Nor does belief in absolute truth mean we can easily convince doubters of this truth. Nevertheless, we must marshal truth-claims and humbly present the arguments and evidence for the uniqueness and finality of Jesus Christ—as well as for all the defining doctrines of Christian faith. Otherwise, we fail to be true to the truth that alone sets the captives free.


·  Douglas Groothuis, Ph.D., is Associate Professor of Philosophy at Denver Seminary and the author of several books, including Truth Decay: Defending Christianity Against the Challenges of Postmodernism (InterVarsity Press, 2000).




What Is Enlightenment? (Weekly Standard, 041129)


Gertrude Himmelfarb explores three paths to modern times.


The Roads to Modernity: The British, French, and American Enlightenments

by Gertrude Himmelfarb

Knopf, 284 pp.


WE MUST STILL NOT BE ENLIGHTENED—given how little we agree about the answer to the question, “What is Enlightenment?” We seem not to agree even when the question is purely historical: The phenomenon that used to be called “the Age of Enlightenment” has become contested terrain, and the dissenters from the Enlightenment project have grown in number. No one, apparently, wants to be thoroughly modern anymore.


No one, that is, except Gertrude Himmelfarb. While most of the critics of modernity take their bearings from either the postmodern or the premodern, the eminent intellectual historian sets out in the latest of her many elegant and masterly books to reclaim the Enlightenment.


Her avowedly “ambitious attempt”—The Roads to Modernity: The British, French, and American Enlightenments—receives an assist from recent scholarship on the multiplicity of the Enlightenment. By taking seriously the insight that the Enlightenment was incarnated in different ways among and within different nations, Himmelfarb is able to shift the spotlight from the French (who have traditionally monopolized it) to the British and, to a lesser extent, the Americans. Himmelfarb is forthright about her aims: “I am engaged in a doubly revisionist exercise,” she writes, “making the Enlightenment more British and making the British Enlightenment more inclusive.”


To reach this goal, she subsumes the Scottish Enlightenment within the British—and grants enlightened credentials to some unlikely candidates, among them Edmund Burke and John Wesley. The end result is a remapping

of the Enlightenment that scales back some of the traditional peaks (Voltaire, Diderot, and the philosophes) while raising new ones (Shaftesbury, Hutcheson, Smith, and Hume). Himmelfarb discovers overlooked tributaries (Burke and Wesley) and a land bridge between the continents (Montesquieu). The territory remains recognizable as the Enlightenment, but it’s like the difference between a map based on the self-aggrandizing tales of explorers and a map based on aerial reconnaissance and ground surveys.


Perhaps that metaphor suggests too much impartiality on the part of the author. Himmelfarb admits to being a partisan of the British as against the French, but, in the current state of historiography and public opinion, hers is a partisanship that brings some balance and so furthers the cause of a fair accounting. Not that The Roads to Modernity will settle the question of disputed borders. In fact it will fuel the debates, since Himmelfarb argues that some roads to modernity are better than others. Moreover, despite the implication of her title, she seems to argue that the roads end up at different destinations. If there are plural “Enlightenments,” then aren’t there plural “modernities” as well?


INTERESTED IN THE GENERAL SPIRIT of each nation’s Enlightenment, Himmelfarb is engaged in what might be called a Montesquieuan enterprise. She would not take offense at the comparison. Indeed, because of Montesquieu’s prudence and Anglophilia, Himmelfarb pretty much excises the philosopher from the French Enlightenment. (While I don’t at all quarrel with her presentation of the differences between Montesquieu and the Encyclopédistes, I must say that it makes it easier to criticize the French when you strip them of their philosophers, Montesquieu and Rousseau, and leave them only with the philosophes and poseurs.)


Himmelfarb’s shorthand designations for the general spirits of the three national Enlightenments are: the sociology of virtue (England), the ideology of reason (France), and the politics of liberty (America). It is a mark of the basic rightness of these designations that readers can probably, without any help, match each general spirit with the appropriate nation.


Equally revealing as the substantive terms are the disciplinary qualifiers Himmelfarb chooses: sociology, ideology, and politics. Although her focus is on the ideas, she acknowledges that the national differences are in part a function of differing conditions. In Britain, where both a religious reformation and a political revolution preceded the eighteenth-century Enlightenment, the focus of the moral philosophers was on the social virtues of sympathy and benevolence that would underwrite gradual social reform. In revolutionary America, politics was primary, in both thought and deed: The formulators of the new science of politics were also its implementers. In ancien régime France, by contrast, all that was available was armchair theorizing, which contributed to the ideology of reason that had disastrous effects when action—the French Revolution—finally occurred.


Montesquieu said of the English that they were “the people in the world who have best known how to take advantage of each of these three great things at the same time: religion, commerce, and liberty.” Himmelfarb quotes this passage, and, like Montesquieu, she seeks to understand how they did it—and particularly how religion fit into the combination. Where the French attitude toward religion can be summed up in a sentence (Voltaire’s “Ecrasez l’infâme”),

it requires a number of chapters to sketch the contours of the British Enlightenment’s more welcoming stance. Himmelfarb offers a fascinating tour of the moral philosophers’ views on the utility of religious belief and the compatibility of “social affections and religious dispositions.”


Complementing that presentation is an equally fascinating examination of Methodism, especially the social effects of its “gospel of charity and good works.” The range of Methodism’s benevolent activities (hospitals, schools, libraries, mutual aid societies, poor relief, antislavery work) constituted “an Enlightenment for the common man.” Together, “secular philosophers and religious enthusiasts” articulated a social ethos “that found practical expression in the reform movements and philanthropic enterprises that flourished during the century, culminating in what the Evangelical writer Hannah More ‘the Age of Benevolence,’ and what a later historian called ‘the new humanitarianism.’” There were, of course, some outliers. Himmelfarb devotes a chapter to the radical dissenters: Paine, Price, Priestley, and Godwin; but just as the moderate Montesquieu gets to swim the Channel to England, the English radicals are, in effect, ostracized: “It might even be said that these radicals belong more to the history of the French and American Enlightenments than to the British.”


IN THE BOOK’S EPILOGUE, Himmelfarb briefly traces the subsequent fate of the three Enlightenments. While scholarly interest in the French Enlightenment remains high, Himmelfarb finds that it has no popular resonance except as a “cautionary tale.” The British Enlightenment, too, has suffered a slide into public irrelevance: Adam Smith, the central figure in that Enlightenment, is not a folk hero or a reference point in many political debates.


America’s Enlightenment tradition, however, is flourishing. The institutions established by the Founding Fathers still shape the American character; the documents they penned are the objects of our political reasoning and our partisan debates; and their personal example is still found worthy of study and often of emulation (as attested to by the spate of best-selling biographies read by ordinary citizens). According to Himmelfarb, not only has America kept alive its own politics of liberty, but it has imported the sociology of virtue as well. She says that America, with its combination of religious faith, capitalism, and morality, “has inherited and preserved aspects of the British Enlightenment that the British themselves have discarded and that other countries (France, most notably) have never adopted.”


I find this an intriguing but not altogether persuasive claim. I wish she had said more both about the British renunciation of the sociology of virtue and about the American embrace of it. According to Shaftesbury and his followers, man has an inborn moral sense and natural compassion. This teaching about the moral sense is compatible with religious belief but not dependent on it. The foundation of virtue is not love of God. Neither is it reason or self-interest.


But, if the British moral philosophers were right about human nature, how are we to understand Britain’s “de-moralization”? It appears that even if the moral sense is innate, it requires rigorous cultivation to actualize it. How do you get from sympathy (which is merely passive) to charity? How do you get from benevolence to beneficence, from good will to good works?


Rousseau, who also recognized the existence of natural compassion, was very aware of the problem. He tells of the tyrant who sheds ready tears at the sight of suffering (when uncaused by himself). Perhaps the social success that seemed to attend the British Enlightenment was more dependent on religion (and other forms of inherited moral capital) than it thought itself to be.


IN SPEAKING OF the fate of religion in liberty-loving England, Montesquieu predicts that “what would happen is either that everyone would be very indifferent to all sorts of religion of whatever kind, in which case everyone would tend to embrace the dominant religion, or that one would be zealous for religion in general, in which case sects would multiply.” British liberty followed the former course, with indifference eventually triumphing over zeal, followed by a drying-up of the wellsprings of benevolence. By contrast, religious liberty in America resulted in an enthusiastic multiplicity of sects.


There is another possible explanation for America’s healthier civil society that Himmelfarb alludes to but does not pursue. In her final paragraphs, she mentions what Alexis de Tocqueville said about “self-interest properly understood”—that it was “of all philosophic theories the most appropriate to the needs of men in our time.” She suggests, however, that we substitute “the moral sense” of the British Enlightenment for “self-interest properly understood.” A social ethic grounded in compassion was, she writes, “most appropriate to the needs of men” in eighteenth-century Britain and twenty-first-century America.


And yet, by reminding us of Tocqueville’s analysis of self-interest rightly understood, Himmelfarb perhaps undercuts her own argument. Tocqueville shows that you don’t need Shaftesbury and company to understand or foster virtue in America. The American approach to civic virtue is traceable to Locke, not Shaftesbury. According to the doctrine of self-interest properly understood, it is in one’s self-interest both to do the right thing (like tell the truth) and to do good things for others (like be kind and helpful).


This enlightened selfishness does not require altruism or compassion or humanitarian zeal to produce neighborly behavior and public-spirited action. What it requires is instruction in the coincidence of public and private good. Citizens must be taught the utility of virtue: “Honesty is the best policy,” as James Madison liked to say.


In fact, America seems a compound of Locke and Christianity. Despite the presence of other streams of thought, these remain the dominant ones. Our virtue is usually grounded either in the calculations of self-interest or the love of God. (These can even be conflated, as Tocqueville shows, in a chapter revealingly entitled “How the Americans Apply the Doctrine of Self-Interest Well Understood in the Matter of Religion.”)


BOTH OF THESE FOUNDATIONS of morality seem to me more efficacious than the sentiment of compassion, but then I may just be particularly unsentimental. Gertrude Himmelfarb is certainly right in The Roads to Modernity that the “politics of compassion,” which used to be a left-wing specialty, is now (with the advent of “compassionate conservatism”) bipartisan. A variety of public policy choices can bear the imprimatur of compassion. And if the rhetoric of compassion is now mandatory, it is incumbent on us to understand its intellectual genealogy.


But the hard work of instilling virtue doesn’t take place on the political hustings; it takes place in families and churches and schools. And I suspect that the folks on the front lines will continue to rely on appeals to self-interest and salvation.


Diana Schaub teaches political science at Loyola College in Maryland.




Scholars Challenge Religious Pluralism and Postmodernism (Christian Post, 050330)


Four outstanding Christian thinkers countered religious pluralism and postmodernism in defense of the biblical doctrine that Jesus Christ as the only way in the latest issue of Midwestern Journal of Theology, released on March 22.


The four scholars who had contributed their insight into the spring release of Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary (MBTS)’s publication are J.P. Moreland of Talbot School of Theology, Ronald Nash of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, Win Corduan of Taylor University, and Steve Lemke of New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary.


Midwestern President Dr. R. Philip Roberts described the issues addressed in the journal’s four featured articles to be of “enormous significance.”


The first article titled “Pluralism and Four Grades of Postmodern Involvement” is authored by Moreland, a noted philosopher and apologist, who expounds on four different forms of postmodernism.


In the second article, Nash, who has written a number of books including “Is Jesus the Only Savior?,” talks about famous religious pluralist John Hick.


Nash notes Hick as a”self-professed’Christian’ intellectual” whose “ideas are having a far greater influence than they deserve” as his Christian viewpoint and religious perspectives are being spread across many colleges and seminaries as something “brilliant, compassionate, and tolerant.”


Nash concludes by saying that”pluralism is hardly an intellectually responsible place to find an alternative to the Christian faith.”


Two kinds of modern day pluralism are discussed in the Journal’s third article by Corduan, -congenial and aggressive – titled “Congenial Pluralism: Why It Does Not Work.”


“Neither option, however, does justice to the reality of the world of religions.”


In the fourth article, Lemke challenges Richard Rorty, one of the nation’s highest postmodernist, who wrote “Pluralism and Relativism in Richard Rorty’s Liberal Utopia.”


According to Lemke, “his relativist thought has provided a conceptual framework that is foundational for many contemporary religious pluralists and relativists.”


The journal features one additional article, “James W. Fowler’s Stages of Faith and Friedrich Schleiermacher’s Gefuehl as Spiritual Transcendance: An Evangelical Rethinking of Fowler’s Model of Faith Development” where Pastor Timothy Jones, of First Baptist Church of Rolling Hills in Tulsa, Okla., examines a biblical and evangelical developmental model of Christian formation.


According to the managing editor Dr. Terry Wilder, the Journal is designed “In our day the biblical doctrine that Jesus Christ is the only way to salvation is under fierce attack,” said the managing editor Dr. Terry Wilder, who is also associate professor of New Testament and Greek at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.


“The articles in this issue expose some of the theological underpinning - or lack thereof - of religious pluralism and thus arm readers with information to better contend for the faith and proclaim the biblical teaching that Jesus is indeed the only Savior.”




Strange Things to Our Ears: Apologetics in a Postmodern Age: Part 1 (Christian Post, 051010)


Christians today are called to serve the cause of Christ at one of the crucial turning points in human history. The generations now living have witnessed an explosion of knowledge, the collapse of distance, the rising and falling of empires. Cultures and societies have been radically transformed, and expansive wealth has brought great material comfort even as the most basic structures of society are undermined. Families are fractured, lawlessness abounds, violence invades, and the media bring a constant stream of chaos into our lives.


The reality of truth is itself denied. Postmodern Americans accept meaning as a replacement for truth, and exchange worldviews as quickly as they try on new clothes.


This is a very strange time to proclaim and defend the Christian faith. Evangelism is difficult in an age when most persons think their most basic problems are rooted in a lack of self-esteem, and when personal choice is the all-determining reality of the marketplace. In the same way, the task of apologetics is complicated by the postmodern condition. How does one defend the faith to persons unwilling to make any judgment concerning truth?


In a very real sense, the defense of the faith has fallen on hard times. Liberal churches and denominations have so accommodated themselves to modernity that there is virtually nothing left to defend, except perhaps the Golden Rule. Postmodernism has been a great gift to the liberal churches, for it has given them new ways to sound like they are saying something important without running the risk of offending anyone.


Evangelicals seem perplexed by the postmodern condition. Some see postmodernism as a new opportunity—the death of Enlightenment rationality. Others see postmodernism simply as modernity dressed up for a new millennium. In any case, the apologetic task is stranger than it used to be.


Centuries ago, apologetic giants walked the earth. Apologists and theologians such as Athanasius and Augustine, Irenaeus and Cyprian, Ambrose of Milan and Anselm of Canterbury, Tertullian and Chrysostom, gave themselves to defending the Christian faith. We remember also the medieval Catholics such as Thomas Aquinas, and of course the Reformers—Luther, Calvin, Zwingli, and Knox. In the United States, we think of Jonathan Edwards, J. Gresham Machen, Carl F. H. Henry, and Francis Schaeffer. These men and other like them were unapologetic apologists, known for their defense and proclamation of the truth.


They had substantial opponents as well. The famous skeptic philosopher David Hume was once observed on his way to hear George Whitefield preach one of his five o’clock morning messages on Christ. The observer chided Hume: “I didn’t think you believed in God.” Hume replied, and referred to Whitefield: “I don’t. But I am convinced this man does.”


The times have certainly changed from those days. England’s King Henry VIII was granted the title “Defender of the Faith” in 1521 by Pope Leo X, who was grateful for Henry’s attack on Martin Luther. Though Henry was to make his own break with the papacy in later years, successive British monarchs have retained the title, down to Elizabeth II.


Queen Elizabeth is to be the last of the British monarchs crowned with this title, “Defender of the Faith.” Charles, the current Prince of Wales, is likely to be England’s first New Age king, complete with belief in reincarnation, a panentheistic worldview, and postmodern morals. In a recent interview, Charles declared himself unwilling to take on the title, “Defender of the Faith.” Better, he said, to be known as “Defender of Faith” since “people have fought each other to the death over these things, which seems to me a peculiar waste of people’s energies.” He added that he would be the “defender of the Divine in existence, the pattern of the Divine which is, I think, in all of us, but which, because we are human beings, can be expressed in so many different ways.” So the future King Charles will defend faith, but no particular faith, including Christianity and especially the Church of England, of which he will be head. Charles will be the perfect king for a church whose bishops routinely deny the most basic doctrines of the Christian faith.


The shift from modernity to postmodernity has not been pretty. In the end, relativism is a more deadly enemy than denial, for it rejects the very possibility of truth, even as it allows for infinite forms of meaning. This has made the apologetic task substantially more difficult.


In the pre-modern age, the great issue was which supernatural claims are justified and true. In the modern age, the assumption was that no supernatural claims are justified or true. In the ethereal vapors of postmodernity, any supernatural claim is assumed to be true, whether justified or not. But no claim to truth can be absolute, universal, or exclusive.


Oddly enough, all this is enough to make the Christian apologist almost nostalgic for Enlightenment rationalism. We can take head-on an honest, straightforward, and bold denial of Christianity. At least a true atheist knows what he denies. Postmodernity’s smug “whatever” pales against Friedrich Nietzsche’s bold claim that God is dead, and that we have killed him. The vacuous and unthinking relativism of the postmodern mind, however, is numbing.


This has complicated the work of theological liberals as well. Rudolf Bultmann’s program of supernatural denial by demythologization has been replaced in our culture with what I call hyper-mythologization. We are witnessing the re-paganization of western civilization. The old pagan cults are back, and new cults are plentiful.


Consider the Jesus Seminar, whose purpose is to deny biblical Christology while presenting Jesus as a Palestinian political agitator ready for a tenure-track appointment at the nearest liberal divinity school. In America, we are treated to Episcopal Bishop John Shelby Spong and his quest to take Christianity beyond monotheism. In the Church of England, the Bishop of Edinburgh—the Primate of Scotland—denies that the Bible is of any use in morality. Having denied the virgin birth, miracles, heaven and hell, biblical inspiration, the incarnation, the resurrection, the Lord’s return, scriptural morality, and virtually every other doctrine of the Christian faith, the liberals are left in a quandary—there is nothing left to deny.


Some suggest that the age of apologetics is over. I intend to argue that the apologetic task has never been more pressing, more urgent, or more important. Indeed, I believe that at this critical time of cultural and intellectual transition, the Christian ministry, taken as a whole, must be understood as an apologetic calling. Apologetics—the task of setting forth the truth claims of Christianity and arguing for the unique truthfulness of the Christian faith—must be the major mode of ministry in a postmodern age.


This means that apologetics cannot be reduced to a course taken at the seminary or a book securely placed on the shelves. Great Commission proclamation in our generation must be accompanied by apologetic ministry. Gospel witness must be undergirded by the defense of truth. Personal evangelism will require cultural dexterity. The task of world missions reminds us that we are in a war of worldviews.




R. Albert Mohler, Jr. is president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky.




Apologetics in a Postmodern Age, Part 2 (Christian Post, 051011)


The church is faced in the postmodern age by several distinct apologetic challenges. Internally, the church must defend the faith against ignorance, against compromise, against doctrinal apathy, and against denial. The church now suffers from a breathtaking deficit of doctrinal instruction and biblical truth. In some churches, the great truths of the Christian faith are unknown, and in others, these truths are left dormant and untaught. Beyond this, the very real dangers of doctrinal corrosion and heresy threaten.


Externally, the Gospel must be defended against secular atheism, postmodern relativism, naturalistic scientism, materialism, and current syncretisms. The Gospel must be proclaimed in the face of rival systems of belief and alternative worldviews, new and old.


This is where the task of Christian apologetics begins. In the Apostle Paul we find a model of Great Commission proclamation matched to an apologetic argument—an argument in defense of Christian truth. In Acts 17:16-34, we find Paul standing at Ground Zero of apologetic ministry in the first century.


Athens was the most intellectually sophisticated culture in the ancient world, and even in Paul’s day it basked in its retreating glory. Though Rome held political and military preeminence, Athens stood supreme in terms of cultural and intellectual influence. The centerpiece of Paul’s visit to Athens is his message to the court of philosophers at the Areopagus, also known as Mars Hill.


Some critics have claimed that Paul’s experience on Mars Hill was a dismal failure. Luke presents it otherwise, however, and in this account we can learn a great deal about the proper defense of the faith. Several principles of a proper Christian apologetic become evident as we consider this great biblical text.


First, a Christian apologetic begins in a provoked spirit. [Acts 17:16] Paul observed the spiritual confusion of the Athenians and was overcome with concern. The sight of a city full of idols seized him with grief, and that grief turned to Gospel proclamation.


Luke records that Paul experienced paroxynos, a paroxysm, at the sight of such spiritual confusion. Athens was intellectually sophisticated—the arena where the ancient world’s most famous philosophers had debated. This was the city of Pericles, Plato, and Socrates. But Paul was not impressed with the faded glory. He saw men and women in need of a Savior.


This text reminds us that a proper Christian apologetic begins in spiritual concern, not in intellectual snobbery or scorn. We preach Christ, not because Christianity is merely a superior philosophy or worldview, nor because we have been smart enough to embrace the Gospel, but because we have met the Savior, we have been claimed by the Gospel, and we have been transformed by the renewing of our minds.


Our apologetic impulse is not a matter of intellectual pride, but of spiritual concern. A dying world languishes in spiritual confusion. I wonder how many of us are grieved as Paul was grieved in his observation of Athens. Looking at the spiritual confusion of American culture, do we experience the paroxysm with which Paul was seized?


We live in a nation filled with idols of self-realization, material comfort, psychological salvation, sexual ecstasy, ambition, power, and success. Millions of Americans embrace New Age spiritualites in a quest for personal fulfillment and self-transcendence. The ancient paganisms of nature worship have emerged once again, along with esoteric and occultic practices.


As journalist Walter Truett Anderson observes, “Never before has any civilization made available to its populace such a smorgasbord of realities. Never before has a communications system like the contemporary mass media made information about religion—all religions—available to so many people. Never has a society allowed its people to become consumers of belief, and allowed belief—all beliefs—to become merchandise.” Anderson notes that America has become the “belief basket of the world.”


I fear that we have become too acculturated, too blind, or too unimpressed with the paganisms and idolatries all around us. We betray a comfort level that Paul would certainly see as scandalous. Where is the gripping realization that millions of men and women are slaves to the idols of our age? Where is the courage to confront the idols on their own ground?


Second, a Christian apologetic is focused on Gospel proclamation. [Acts 17:17] Moved by the city full of idols, Paul went to the synagogue and to the marketplace each day, presenting the claims of Christ and reasoning with both Jews and Gentiles.


The goal of a proper apologetic is not to win an argument, but to win souls. Apologetics separated from evangelism is unknown in the New Testament, and it is clearly foreign to the model offered by the Apostle Paul. The great missionary was about the business of preaching the Gospel, presenting the claims of Christ, and calling for men and women to believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and be saved.


For too many evangelicals, the study of apologetics is reduced to philosophical structures and rational arguments. This is not Paul’s method. He is not merely concerned with the justification of truth claims, but more profoundly he is concerned for the justification of sinners.


This is another reminder of the fact that every true theologian is an evangelist, and every true evangelist is a theologian. Christianity is not a truth to be affirmed, but a Gospel to be received. Nevertheless, that Gospel possesses content and presents truth claims that demand our keenest arguments and boldest proclamation. Moved by the sight of idols, Paul preached Christ, and called for belief.


Third, a Christian apologetic assumes a context of spiritual confusion. [Acts 17:18-21] Paul’s Gospel proclamation brought confusion to the Athenian intellectuals. The Epicureans, the forerunners of modern secularists, and the Stoics, committed to pantheistic rationalism, accused Paul of teaching nonsense.


Confusion marks the spiritual understanding of most Americans. Pollsters report amazingly large numbers of Americans who profess belief in God, but live like atheists. The vast majority of Americans profess to be Christians, but have no concept of Christian belief or discipleship.


A quick look around the local trade bookshop will reveal something of the contours of America’s spiritual confusion. Books on religion and spirituality abound, but most are empty of content. You know you are in a confused age when a popular book is entitled, That’s Funny, You Don’t Look Buddhist: On Being a Faithful Jew and a Passionate Buddhist. Sadly, this confusion has invaded our churches as well. An amazing number of Christians allow for belief in reincarnation, channeling, or other spiritualist manifestations.


The current popularity of angels is another symptom of our spiritual confusion. Americans now love to decorate their homes with angel figurines, artwork, calendars, and inspirational messages. These citizens may or may not believe in God, but they do believe in divine messengers, and they are always cute and friendly—the theological counterparts to the Smurfs.


To the Athenians—and to modern secular Americans—the preaching of the authentic Gospel sounds strange. “You are bringing some strange things to our ears,” the Athenians responded to Paul. The Christian evangelist hears this same response today. In postmodern America, the Christian Gospel is strange in its whole and in its parts. Most Americans assume themselves to be good and decent persons. They are amused at the notion that they are sinners against God.


We assume our need of therapy. The Gospel insists on our need of salvation. We want to work it out ourselves. The Gospel argues that this leads to death. We want to look within. The Gospel points us to Christ. We want to do our part. The Gospel insists that Jesus paid it all. We demand to get what we deserve. The Gospel warns that this is exactly what we will receive, unless we turn to Christ in faith.


Grace is an alien concept in American culture. Sin is almost outlawed as a category. A substitutionary atonement sounds unfair. God in human flesh is too much to take. But that is what we preach.


“You are bringing some strange things to our ears; so we want to know what these things mean.” [v. 20] The Athenians were confused by Paul’s preaching of Jesus and the resurrection. “He seems to be a proclaimer of strange deities,” accused others, charging Paul with the same offense that led to the execution of Socrates.


The Athenians and their tourists loved to spend their time telling or hearing something new—but not this new. Americans are consumers of meaning even as they buy cars and clothing. They will test drive new spiritualities and try on a whole series of lifestyles. To many, the Gospel is just too strange, too countercultural, too propositional, too exclusive.


Paul was brought up on charges and gained a hearing at the Areopagus. “May we know what this new teaching is which you are proclaiming?” he was asked [v. 19]. The one offense certain to bring charges against the evangelist in our generation is the claim to objective, absolute, eternal, universal, exclusive truth. Polytheists, syncretists, and secularists are untroubled by the promotion of one more deity or spirituality in the cultural cafeteria. But preach Jesus Christ as the Way, the Truth, and the Life, and the Gospel as the only message of salvation, and you will find yourself hauled off to the court of public scorn and derision.


To contend for biblical morality in this culture is to run the risk of being cited for “hate speech.” We must assume a context of spiritual confusion, and this is often now a hostile confusion. The Gospel sounds not only strange, but threatening to the local deities.




R. Albert Mohler, Jr. is president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky.




Apologetics in a Postmodern Age, Part 3 (Christian Post, 051012)


The postmodern age is a very strange time to proclaim and defend the Christian faith. In an age when the reality of truth itself is denied, the church finds itself faced with several distinct challenges. In Acts 17:16-34, we find Paul standing at the very center of apologetic ministry in the first century. As we considered yesterday, a Christian apologetic begins in a provoked spirit, is focused on Gospel proclamation, and assumes a context of spiritual confusion.


Fourth, a Christian apologetic is directed to a spiritual hunger. [Acts 17:22-23] Paul’s observation convinced him that the Athenians were a religious people. A deficit of religiosity was not the problem. The Athenians seemed to be fearful lest they miss any new philosophy, or neglect any unknown deity.


American culture is increasingly secularistic. The past century has seen the agenda of secularism accomplished in the courts, in the schools, in the marketplace, and in the media. And yet Americans are among the most religious people in the world. The emptiness of the secular wasteland haunts most postmodern persons. They long for something more.


Many people declare themselves to live by scientific rationality, and yet they read the astrology charts, believe in alien abductions, line up to see bleeding statues, and talk about past lives. In America, even some atheists say they believe in miracles. Sociologist Robert Wuthnow suggests that “Americans are particularly fascinated with miraculous manifestations of the sacred because they are uncertain whether the sacred has really gone away.”


Paul had taken account of the plentiful idols and houses of worship found in Athens. He noted that they were hedging their bets, lest they offend an unknown deity. Paul seized the opportunity. Brought before the court at the Areopagus, Paul brought up the altar to an unknown god. “It just so happens that I know that God,” Paul asserted. “Therefore what you worship in ignorance, this I proclaim to you.”


This is surely a pattern for Christian apologetics in a postmodern age. We must seek constantly to turn spiritual hunger toward the true food of the Gospel of Christ. God has placed that hunger within lost persons so that they might desire Christ. We bear the stewardship of proclaiming the Gospel. We must muster the courage to confront confused postmodernists with the reality of their spiritual ignorance. Paul never allowed this ignorance to become an excuse, but there can be no doubt that it is a reality.

In their ignorance, Americans are feeding on a false diet of superstition and myths. The hunger is a place to start. Our challenge is to preach Christ as the only answer to that hunger.


Fifth, a Christian apologetic begins with the fundamental issue of God’s nature, character, power, and authority. [Acts 17:24-28] Interestingly, Paul does not begin with Christ and the cross, but with the knowledge of God in creation. The God who created the world is not looking for Corinthian columns and the Parthenon, Paul argued. He does not dwell in temples made with human hands. He is the author of life itself, preached Paul; and He needs nothing from us. Furthermore, He has made humanity and is Lord over all the nations. He sovereignly determines their times and boundaries.


The Athenians were partly right, said Paul, even as he quoted their poets. All human beings are God’s children, but not in the sense the Athenians believed. In proclaiming God as the Creator, Ruler, and Sustainer of all things and all peoples, Paul was making a claim that far surpassed the claims of the Hellenistic deities.


Paul’s concern was to establish his preaching of Christ upon the larger foundation of the knowledge of the God of the Bible, Maker of Heaven and Earth. John Calvin organized his systematic theology around what he called the duplex cognito Domini, the two-fold knowledge of God. We must start with the knowledge of God as Creator, but this is not sufficient to save. “It is one thing to feel that God our Maker supports us by his power, governs us by his providence, nourishes us by his goodness, and attends us with all sorts of blessings,” Calvin said, “and another thing to embrace the reconciliation offered us in Christ.”


Sixth, a Christian apologetic confronts error. [Acts 17:29] In this sense, the apologetic task and the polemical task are related. Error must be confronted, heresy must be opposed, and false teachings must be corrected. Paul was bold to correct the Athenians with a firm injunction: “We ought not to think” false thoughts about God.


False theologies abound in the postmodern marketplace of ideas. Americans have revived old heresies and invented new ones. Mormons believe that God is a celestial being with a sex partner. The ecological mystics believe that the world is God—the so-called Gaia Hypothesis. New Age devotees believe that God is infinite empowerment.


The Athenians made idols out of marble and precious metals. Paul rebuked this practice, and proclaimed that the Divine Nature is not like gold or silver or stone. Furthermore, God is not “an image formed by the art and thought of man.”


Our culture is filled with images of gods formed by art and the thought of man. Our confrontation must be bold and biblical. We have no right to make God in our image.


Seventh, a Christian apologetic affirms the totality of God’s saving purpose. [Acts 17:30-31] Paul brought his presentation of the Gospel to a climactic conclusion by calling for repentance and warning of the judgment that is to come. He proclaimed Christ as the appointed Savior who will judge the world, and whose identity has been clearly revealed by the fact that God has raised Him from the dead.


It is not enough to preach Christ without calling for belief and repentance. It is not enough to promise the blessings of heaven without warning of the threat of hell. It is not enough to preach salvation without pointing to judgment. We have not preached Christ until we have proclaimed His resurrection from the dead.


An authentic apologetic defends and declares the whole Gospel. The center of our proclamation is Jesus Christ the Savior, who was crucified for sinners, was raised by the power of God, is coming again in glory and in judgment, and is even now sitting and ruling at the right hand of God the Father Almighty. We must defend the truths of Christ’s deity, the virgin birth, the historicity of the miracles, the truth of the incarnation, the reality of His substitutionary death, and the assurance of His bodily resurrection.


Yet we dare not stop at these affirmations, for we must place the person and work of Christ within the context of God’s eternal purpose to save a people to His own glory and to exalt himself among the nations. The task of Christian apologetics is comprehensive, even as it is driven by the desire to see sinners turn to Christ in faith.


Paul’s apologetic method did not make him popular in Athens. He was not hired on as a philosopher on Mars Hill. Some began to sneer. Others professed interest in hearing more—but later. But some men joined him and believed, “among whom also were Dionysius the Areopagite and a woman named Damaris and others with them.”


The world has no need of half-evangelists preaching a half-gospel to the half-converted, and leading a half-hearted church. What is needed is a generation of bold and courageous evangelist-apologists for the twenty-first century—men and women who will be witnesses to the whole world of the power of the Gospel, and who would proclaim the whole counsel of God.


O God, who dost ever hallow and protect thy Church;

Raise up therein, through thy Spirit, good and faithful

stewards of the mysteries of Christ, that by their

ministry and example thy people may abide in thy

favor and be guided in the way of truth, through Jesus Christ our Lord,

who liveth and reigneth with thee in the unity of the same Spirit ever,

one God, world without end.




R. Albert Mohler, Jr. is president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky.




Darkness At Noon: Part 1—A Post-Christian Age (Christian Post, 051206)


We are an affluent and comfortable people. We live in the midst of freedom as championed by those who established this nation and defined by successive generations, not only in terms of the originating vision of freedom, but now an ever-expanding understanding of liberty. We live in a time of prosperity; we live in a time of trouble. It all depends upon how you look at the world around us.


It is good for Christians to take some time to look at the trouble, for all around us are a darkening sky and gathering clouds. As we engage this culture and look at it honestly, we must sense that something has happened — and is even now happening — in our culture. These major shifts and changes will change everything we know about ministry in terms of the challenge before us and will draw out the reality of who the church is in the midst of a gathering conflict. Clouds are darkening.


We are no longer seeing the first signs of cultural trouble, but rather the indicators of advanced decay. The reality is that people now do not even know what they have lost, much less that they themselves are lost.


As a nation, we are living in the midst of an intense season of cultural, political, and moral conflict—that is no longer news. America has been through epic conflicts in the past, including a bloody civil war. Still, we must wonder if the worldview conflicts of our time may represent an even deeper conflict than those experienced in times past. We are living in a time of deep and undeniable trouble.


There is a sense, I think, in this culture that we are waiting for a signal for something to tell us which way we are going to go. Something is happening and about to happen. The landscape is changing, the skies are darkening—and this is something we know with a spiritual perception, a spiritual sense, a spiritual urgency. Something is happening that we as believers in the Lord Jesus Christ should see and understand. For we cannot say that we were not warned.


The prophet Joel declared: “I will show wonders in the heavens and on the earth, blood and fire and columns of smoke. The sun shall be turned to darkness, and the moon to blood, before the great and awesome day of the Lord comes. And it shall come to pass that everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved. For in Mount Zion and in Jerusalem there shall be those who escape, as the Lord has said, and among the survivors shall be those whom the Lord calls.” (Joel 2:30-32 ESV).


And, from the book of Hebrews: “See that you do not refuse him who is speaking. For if they did not escape when they refused him who warned them on earth, much less will we escape if we reject him who warns from heaven. At that time his voice shook the earth, but now he has promised, “Yet once more I will shake not only the earth but also the heavens.” This phrase, “Yet once more,” indicates the removal of things that are shaken—that is, things that have been made—in order that the things that cannot be shaken may remain. Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe, for our God is a consuming fire.” (Hebrews 12:25-29 ESV)


These passages describe a reality we might call darkness at noon. In these passages we confront a prophetic vision, a prophetic warning, and a haunting reality. Darkness at Noon—I borrow this title from Arthur Koestler. In 1941 he saw the Soviet Union in all of its horror and the Third Reich in all of its hateful fury, and he described this horrifying reality as darkness at noon. Our times are not the same as Koestler’s, nor are the particular challenges we face. Our central concerns and fears are not represented by totalitarian governments or foreign regimes that threaten world domination, but we must see a real and present threat on our horizon. We can hear the prophet Joel—we can hear him speak of the sun turned to darkness and the moon turned to blood on the great and awful day of the Lord. This is apocalyptic imagery—we know that. It is speaking of a judgment, of a day of the Lord that was near on Joel’s horizon, and yet distant on the horizon of the eschaton, when the Lord Himself shall come to judge the living and the dead.


The imagery of judgment in this passage — of the sun turned to darkness and the moon to blood — is a foreboding image that gives us in a graphic picture a sign of the times, and around us we can see a darkening sky that threatens a darkening sun. We can see darkness at noon on the dawn.


A central dimension of this reality is the dawning of a post-Christian age. History has been altered in so many ways in the twists and turns of human experience. But who could have expected that in our times we would see those nations that once were the cradle of Christianity become so secularized that they can only be described as post-Christian in composition, in culture, in theme, and in worldview and understanding? The post-Christian sense, the post-Christian theme, the post-Christian mentality of these cultures is such that we can look to the nations of Western Europe and see what a post-Christian culture begins to look like. We hear the language, we listen to the discourse, we see the laws, we hear the judgments, we watch the culture at work, and we realize that this is what a nation, a people, an ethnos, a generation that once knew Christianity but knows it no more, looks like and sounds like. This is how they live. And it is not just Europe.


Even as demographers, pollsters, and statisticians tell us how many Americans believe in God, and how many claim belief in the Lord Jesus Christ, still we can see the beginnings of a post-Christian mentality here in America. Look at the cultural elites—the political elites, the legal elites, the judicial, academic, and entertainment elites—look at them, and you will realize that they are largely post-Christian in their mentality.


The prophet Joel speaks of the “day of the Lord,” when the divine judgment would fall like a terrible and swift sword. In Joel 1, the prophet says, “The word of the Lord that came to Joel, the son of Pethuel: Hear this, you elders; give ear, all inhabitants of the Land! Has such a thing happened in your days, or in the days of your fathers? Tell your children of it, and let your children tell their children, and their children to another generation. What the cutting locust left, the swarming locust has eaten. What the swarming locust left, the hopping locust has eaten, and what the hopping locust left, the destroying locust has eaten.” (Joel 1:1-4 ESV)


This text speaks most directly of a crop, but it also points to a culture. Our culture has been savaged by locusts. What the cutting locust leaves, the swarming locusts eat. What the swarming locusts leave, the hopping locust takes. What the hopping locust leaves, the destroying locust destroys.


We can give evidence of this in individual words, each representing an individual loss. Consider what has happened to truth, to beauty, to dignity, love, and marriage. Consider what is even now happening in our midst. We are witnessing the dawn of a post-Christian age in our own times, in our own nation, in our own world, and among our own people. We can see the ravages that will come as the sacred things are profaned and trampled under foot. We see the evidence of this decadence and downfall in the culture—in art and music and literature. We are a people whose cultural and moral aspirations are indicated by the Neilson ratings and by the lowest common denominator of the entertainment industry. We are a nation, a people, entertained by a show called “Desperate Housewives,” by reality TV that celebrates the lowest and most base human instincts, and by entertainment that panders and is profane.


Look at what has happened to marriage and family. The idea of romantic love is now commonly reduced to lust. We have largely destroyed the purity of marriage. This central institution of civilization has been decried, denigrated, and even discarded. Marriage is under attack by those who would transform it into something it cannot be and never was, and truthfully never will be.


We see all of this and we wonder how it could have happened. And yet Scripture has told us that sinners love darkness rather than the light. Let me put it this way—in a truly post-Christian age, the saddest loss of all is a loss of the memory of what was lost. The saddest aspect of our dawning post-Christian age is that there is no longer even a memory of what was discarded and what was denied and rejected. Having lived for so long on the memory of Christian truth, without the substance of Christian truth, the culture now grows hostile to that truth.


Even the memory of what once was is now being lost in our generation. We are living in an age in which all constraints and restraints are to be thrown off—all in the name of the liberation that does not liberate, but enslaves. We are seeing the coming of a repressive post-Christian age that is packaged as an age of unprecedented liberty. We must name it for what it is — and be aware of what a challenge this represents for the believing church.


This is an edited transcript of an address given to the faculty and students of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.




R. Albert Mohler, Jr. is president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky.




Darkness At Noon: Part 2—The Closing of the Postmodern Mind (Christian Post, 051207)


The prophet Joel spoke of a day when the sun would be turned to darkness, and the moon to blood. This picture—besides giving us a glimpse of that terrible, coming Day of the Lord in judgment—is also a graphic picture of our own times. Even today, in the gathering clouds of our culture, we see darkness at noon.


One of the central realities of this darkness is the dawning of a post-Christian culture — and a central reality of our emerging culture is the closing of the postmodern mind. Something is happening to the worldview, the mentality, and the consciousness of this age. If we listen closely, we can hear something like the closing of a steel door — a solemn, cataclysmic slamming of a door. We have been watching the postmodern mind in its development, and it is now well developed. Not only do we see the themes of postmodernity taking hold of the larger culture, but we understand the challenge this pattern of thinking poses to Christian truth and Christian truth-telling. Tolerance is perverted into a radical secularism that is anything but tolerant. There is little openness to truth, and growing hostility to truth claims. Indeed, the postmodern mind has a fanatical, if selective, dedication to moral relativism, and an understanding that truth has no objective or absolute basis whatsoever.


The late French philosopher Jacques Derrida shaped the postmodern mind by arguing that the author of a text is effectively dead in terms of establishing the text’s meaning. One of the fathers of literary deconstructionism, his concept of “the death of the author” exerts a powerful influence on the culture at large. Derrida’s basically nihilistic philosophy suggested that texts mean nothing in themselves. In other words, it is the reader who comes to the text with meaning and determines what will be found within the text. The author is dead, Derrida proclaimed, and can no longer dictate by his totalitarian authority what the text means.


Even before Derrida’s death, new debates about deconstructionism arose in the academy. More significantly, these nihilistic philosophies have already filtered down into popular culture. Even now, for example, many of our judges are practicing deconstructionists, seeing the law not as what it was or what it was intended to be, but rather as a tool they can use for their own agenda of social engineering. In the elite institutions of American academia, deconstructionism is the order of the day. The text means what the professor says it means, and it eventually means whatever each student would have it to mean. The reader reigns supreme.


Unfortunately, deconstructionism has also found its way into many pulpits, sometimes in a hard, ideological form, but more often in a soft and seductive form. In the hard form of undiluted liberalism, it is simply the idea that this text, the Bible, may be a privileged text, but the authors are dead. Thus, it is now up to us to decide what it should mean, so we can turn the text on its head. And we can do so in the name of liberation, and freedom from oppression. We are no longer bound to the oppressive truth of the text because we can now twist the text to mean something it has never been understood to mean in the past — even the opposite of what the words and grammatical structure would seem to mean. In so doing, postmoderns seek to liberate themselves by deconstructing the text. After all, all the authors are dead.


Of course, it is worth keeping in mind that such a hermeneutic must also assume that the divine Author is dead. In its softer, subtler form, we find deconstructionism among some who would never consider themselves liberals, and who would even claim even to have what they would characterize as a high view of Scripture. Yet when they encounter the text, they also deconstruct it. The biblical text, they argue, has to be understood in terms of our modern understanding. Modern psychology, anthropology, philosophy, and cultural studies have something to bring to the interpretation of the text, they argue, something to tell us which the human authors of Scripture missed. In other words, one mat start with what it said, but now we ourselves can decide what it means.


In both its hard and soft forms, deconstructionism has filtered down to the popular culture, even to those who never heard of Jacques Derrida but have been nonetheless infected with this postmodern mentality and this subtle form of subversive relativism and subjectivism. You can hear Derrida in the discourse of adolescents in the mall. You can hear it in the conversation on the nightly news. The closing of the postmodern mind is the opposite of what postmodernism claimed to be its aspiration. Postmodernism claimed that this new postmodern age—with the end of modernity, the demise of scientific objectivity, and the openness to new forms and understandings of truth—would lead to an opening of the mind. But as is always the case, the totalitarian opening of the mind always ends with the radical closing of the mind. There is nothing less tolerant than the modern ethos of tolerance. There is nothing less open than the modern idea of open-mindedness. In the darkening sky and the gathering clouds, we see the haunting closure of this supposedly open mind.


Sociologist Peter Berger reminds us that every single individual operates on the basis of plausibility structures — certain frameworks of thought that are necessary for our understanding of the world. For years, Berger and others have been telling us that the plausibility structures of most Americans have little, if anything, to do with biblical Christianity. The way they most persons think about the world, the way they envision beauty, the way they conceive love, the way they understand authority and marriage and structure and principle and truth, all of these things are now basically secular in form. Not only so, but in recent years we have witnessed the acceleration of this secularism into something that is deeply dark, and increasingly nihilistic. What Karl Marx once promised would happen seems to be coming to fulfillment—all that is solid melts into air. In the world of postmodernism, all institutions are plastic, and all principles are liquid. We can reshape anything. Nothing is given. Nothing is objective.


We can take the family, for example, and we can melt it down and make it something else. In fact, we can turn it into an infinite number of liquid arrangements. We can take any institution, be it government or church, or marriage, or family, and we can make of it what we will. All principles are liquid, too. We can simply pour them out in a different way. Since there is nothing really there anyway, we can reconfigure any principle according to our desires. So we will reshape our entire worldview. We will shape our new philosophy. We will be humanity come of age, and we will do this in the name of liberation and tolerance and diversity—and open-mindedness. George Orwell never saw it so clearly, yet this is where we live. Openness becomes closedness. Freedom becomes bondage, and tolerance becomes intolerance.


The closing of the postmodern mind is not a pretty sight, nor is it friendly to human rights and human dignity. We can look to Europe, where the post-Christian age is already coalescing into a system of laws and a pattern of culture. Sweden, for example, already has imprisoned a Pentecostal pastor, Ake Green, for preaching a sermon in which he spoke of the sinfulness of homosexuality. He was recently acquitted of that “crime” by Sweden’s highest court, but the fact remains that he was arrested and convicted by a lower court — and the law remains in effect. Across much of Western Europe there is legislation in which it is can be considered a crime to speak of the sinfulness of any sexual lifestyle, and of homosexuality in particular.


In Belgium and the Netherlands, there are now official protocols for killing children and infants in hospitals. Euthanasia has advanced to the point that, in the Netherlands, the largest medical school in the country just reported that 31% of pediatricians have admitted to killing babies, and 45% of neonatologists have admitted to euthanizing infants—even without informing the parents that that is what happened to their child. And all this is done, of course, in the name of health, even in the name of compassion. Then along comes the Christian to say “We have a message about the dignity and sanctity of life,” and he is told to be quiet. We can say, “Well, that is Europe. That is a post-Christian future that is an ocean away.”


But even in the United States, we see all this coming together, and the clinched fist of a closed postmodern mind is increasingly evident. In 1995, for instance, a U.S. District Court judge in the state of Texas ruled against school prayer, afraid that some teenagers might in the course of their graduation ceremony actually mention the name of Jesus, or mention the name of God. When he handed down the ruling, the judge warned teenagers in the state of Texas, saying, “If any of you shall mention the name of Jesus or God, or any other deity, you will rue the day that you were born and will spend up to half a year in the Galveston jail.” That is not Arthur Koestler warning in Darkness at Noon of the Soviet Union in 1941. It is the United States of America in 1995. Legal observers may argue that this judge’s comments were not indicative of a universal trend, but is this truly reassuring?


In the state of California, those who would be foster parents are now required to pledge that they will say nothing that is in any way opposed to homosexuality or to any chosen sexual lifestyle. Effectively, that means that Christians can no longer be foster parents in the state of California. What a switch in ten years! Ten years ago, homosexual couples could not be foster parents in the state of California. Now it is the Christians — who would raise their children as Christians — who cannot be foster parents in that state.


A recently published book by Sam Harris entitled The End of Faith even claimed that faith itself is a form of terrorism, and that the United States can no longer afford its long cherished ideal of religions toleration and religious liberty. According to Harris, religious liberty is simply too dangerous in a world like this.


We need to take notice of these developments in order that we might understand the challenge we are about to face, because I fear that as evangelical Christians, we tend to swing like a pendulum between a naive optimism and a wrongful pessimism. In reality, we have no right to be either optimistic or pessimistic. To be either optimistic or pessimistic is to be deluded, and in some sense to deny the sovereignty of God. We cannot be pessimistic because Scripture tells us we are to be a people of hope. Of course, that does not mean that we are a naive and ignorant people of hope who close our eyes to the reality around us. No, we find a hope in something that is far more secure than anything this culture can secure.


But, on the other hand, we cannot be optimistic, either. Optimism is the message sent down from public relations. Optimism is the happy face that tells us with a chipper voice that everything is all right. Well, it is not all right, and everything will not be well, not in this age or in this life. We have no right to be optimistic, but we have no right not to be hopeful.


Evangelicals, sometimes demonstrating a nearly breathtaking naivete, swing between these pendulum extremes of pessimism and optimism, when Scripture calls us to reality. Be sober-minded, we are told. Gird up the loins of your thinking. Be ready, be alert, be watchful. Be a watchman on the wall. Have your eyes open. Be ready for action. This is our calling as Christians, even as the darkness gathers. We are to be the community of the open-eyed, the intellectually alert, the broken-hearted, and the resolutely hopeful. Pulling that off will take more than wishful thinking.


This is an edited transcript of an address given to the faculty and students of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.




R. Albert Mohler, Jr. is president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky.




Darkness At Noon: Part 3—The Commission of a Post-Compliant Church (Christian Post, 051208)


As the late Allan Bloom noted, a mind resolutely determined to be absolutely open is often, in actuality, quite closed. The closing of the postmodern mind will present a challenge for the church in this post-Christian age. Swirling worldviews and a reflexive relativism come together to form a mentality often closed to all substantive truth claims. Gathering clouds of darkness and the eclipse of truth present the believing church with a great challenge—will we surrender in a spirit of cultural compliance?


We must recognize that the church has been compliant for far too long, and if we are effectively to challenge the prevailing worldview of postmodern culture, the church must become a post-compliant people. What will it take for Christians in this generation to be awakened out of complacency and compliance? If we are complacent in this culture, if we are compliant in the face of its demands and expectations, then there will be no preaching of the gospel. There will be no authentic church. There will be no authentic Christian witness. We will withdraw into our Christian cave, and we will cower there. We will not witness, we will not work—we will simply retreat.


A recent debate between Robert Audi and Nicholas Wolterstorff is very revealing. In a book entitled Religion in the Public Square, Robert Audi takes the secular argument—which is the prevalent position in the academy—and argues that Christians have no right to make Christian arguments in the public square. It is fine for Christians to make arguments, he says; they just cannot show up as Christians. Following in the work of the philosopher John Rawls, Audi goes so far as to say that when we enter the public square, we must bring with us a purely secular rationale. In other words, any argument we make must be essentially and purely secular, and such arguments are to be motivated by secular concerns alone. They cannot even be spiritually motivated.


Think about what this means on the issue of homosexuality and homosexual marriage, to take just one example. I believe historians will one day point to this issue as the catalyst for a great and lamentable cultural revolution in America. The world will be categorically different the moment homosexual marriage is normalized in this country. Then we will find out how many Christians there are. We will find out how many churches there are. Who is going to recognize these same-sex unions? Who is going to solemnize these same-sex unions? Not the faithful church of the Lord Jesus Christ! Any church that would normalize and celebrate what Scripture condemns has set itself in direct opposition to revelation, reason, and the witness of the martyrs. Those who gave their lives for the sake of the Gospel did not do so in a spirit of cultural compliance.


Think for a moment about this issue of same-sex marriage in the context of Audi’s secular rationale. I was in Washington recently and heard a presentation in which a very well-informed person—one of the nation’s leading researchers on the issues of the day, said, “Look, we have to understand that we are not going to be able to bring God into the same-sex marriage debate. We are not going to be able to use spiritual and biblical arguments, so you Christian people are just going to have to understand that.” I was up next to speak, so I said in response, “Here is everything I know about marriage apart from God—nothing of binding significance. Now that that is out of the way, I can tell you that everything I know about marriage, everything I know about sex, everything I know about gender, everything I know about homosexuality, I know from the Word of God. That is all I know. That is all I can know, and I am not going to not talk about it. And if we lose this battle while preaching the Scriptures, then brothers and sisters, we lose gloriously!”


There are many who will say that what must be pressed in this debate over same-sex marriage are the deleterious social effects of undermining marriage—and leave all theologically-based arguments out of the picture. That argument, however, is not only wrong in principle, it is a pragmatic failure. We will never get anywhere with that, because the people driving the movement for normalizing homosexuality really aren’t primarily concerned about those issues. A culture that will compromise itself into accepting homosexual marriage will never really be convinced by such arguments. In the final analysis, all we have is the authority of the Word of God. We Christians are the world’s most eccentric people in a postmodern age. We are committed to a faith that is structured by a book that is two thousand years old. Beyond eccentric, we are increasingly seen as dangerous. A people who live by the light of an ancient book—and who dare to call it the very Word of God—will look exceedingly dangerous to the prevailing worldviews of this age.


The entire biblical truth claim is under assault in today’s culture. We see the tightening grip in the tenacity of all this onslaught. We see a culture that increasingly loves darkness rather than the light. We can see the logic of the culture, and we can see that the church has been compliant too long. Thus, when we turn to Hebrews chapter 12, we are confronted with an exhortation that instructs is that the reality must be different for us. The prophet Joel warned of that apocalyptic day of judgment that is coming—a day when the sun will turn to darkness and the moon will be turned to blood. In Hebrews 12, we are confronted with another warning of judgment—this time addressed to the church of the Lord Jesus Christ. The writer of Hebrews writes of two mountains, Mount Sinai and Mount Zion. One represents the covenant of old, and the other represents the New Covenant in Christ. Sinai represents thunder and shaking and fear; Zion represents the festive joy of the people of God in the work of Christ, in the Kingdom of the Redeemer.


In this passage, we are also told of a shaking that is about to come. In Hebrews 12:26, the author quotes from the prophet Haggai in chapter 2, verses 6-7: “For thus says the Lord of hosts: ‘Yet once more, in a little while, I will shake the heavens and the earth and the sea and the dry land. And I will shake all nations, so that the treasures of all nations shall come in, and I will fill this house with glory, says the Lord of hosts.’” Then the writer of Hebrews picks up by saying. “This phrase, ‘Yet once more,’ indicates the removal of things that are shaken—that is, things that have been made—in order that the things that cannot be shaken may remain.” (Hebrews 12:27)


We are now in a time of shaking, and there is more shaking yet to come. As we read the book of Hebrews, this too is pointing towards an eschatological shaking and sifting. But just as in Joel, there is both an eschatological and a present application. There is a shaking now happening in this generation, and this shaking will be followed by more and more violent shaking yet. We are about to see what remains and what falls. In this time of shifting and sifting and shaking, we are going to be tested, and we are going to find out what we are made of.


Look at Hebrews 12:28: “Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe, for our God is a consuming fire.” Let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken. Yes, there is a whole lot of shaking going on! But there is one kingdom that cannot be shaken, and that is the kingdom of our Lord Jesus Christ.


What does that kingdom look like? It is certainly a kingdom of victory, but it is sometimes a victory that doesn’t look to observers like victory. Look at Hebrews 11:32: “And what more shall I say? For time would fail me to tell of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, of David and Samuel and the prophets—who through faith conquered kingdoms, enforced justice, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, quenched the power of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, were made strong out of weakness, became mighty in war, put foreign armies to flight. Women received back their dead by resurrection. Some were tortured, refusing to accept release, so that they might rise again to a better life. Others suffered mocking and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were killed with the sword. They went about in skins of sheep and goats, destitute, afflicted, mistreated—of whom the world was not worthy—wandering about in deserts and mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth.” (Hebrews 11:32-38)


I think it is fair to say that to the casual, outside observer, this picture does not look much like victory. But in the eyes of faith, it doesn’t get any more victorious than what this passage declares. We don’t get to choose our times. We don’t get to choose our challenges. We didn’t choose to live in a post-Christian age. We didn’t choose to confront the postmodern mind, but this is where we are, and it is time that we become a post-compliant church. While all is shaking and shaken around us, the one thing that cannot be shaken is the kingdom of our Lord Jesus Christ, and this kingdom is visible in His church.


In a post-Christian age, confronted with the challenge of the postmodern mind, the Church of the Lord Jesus Christ is called to be a post-compliant people. Anything less is just another form of spiritual surrender.


This is an edited transcript of an address given to the faculty and students of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.




R. Albert Mohler, Jr. is president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky.




Decline of the West (Washington Times, 060215)


By Paul Greenberg


When future historians do their postmortem on the West, what will they cite as the cause of death? Caesarism? Suicide? Nuclear incineration? It may be nothing so dramatic, but just a general failure to thrive. You can sense it in the latest retreat from principle.


Note the West’s response, or lack of it, to the violent scenes in the Arab world and beyond as ambassadors are called home, boycotts declared, embassies burned, flags stomped et (usual) cetera — all in response to some less-than-respectful depictions in a Danish newspaper of the Prophet, the blessings of Allah be upon him and all his household.


In response, Western politicians and businessmen speak of freedom of the press in muted, pro-forma tones if they remember to defend that outdated idea at all. Right now the West’s leaders seem to be lining up to explain how horrified they are at the tastelessness and worse of these cartoons — as if one could have liberty without tolerating license.


For freedom is not freedom if it does not include the freedom to offend. Liberty is first challenged not at its core but on the margins: Bad taste may be the surest sign freedom is secure.


But for the moment, what all too many Western spokesmen seem to fear is not loss of liberty but being mistaken for Danes. Yes, the Danes may have stood with us time and again, but this is no time to stand with them. It might cost us something. And, after all, theirs is only a small country.


There are some welcome exceptions here and there to this sad pattern: The Brussels Journal proclaims we are all Danes now. Norway’s prime minister sensibly explains his country guarantees freedom of the press, so he cannot apologize for what newspapers are free to print. Germany’s interior minister took the same welcome tack.


France’s Nicolas Sarkozy, interior minister and never one to buckle under to the mob, said he would “prefer an excess of caricature to an excess of censorship.” Viva la France. I’ve been waiting for a chance to shout that once again. Unfortunately, French President Jacques Chirac issued the usual elegant statement of abject surrender. He is nothing if not consistent.


Other official voices — in Poland, in Britain, even in Washington — quiver. Our own State Department’s press officer, Janelle Hironimus, sounded more like a censor than someone who believes in freedom of the press. “Inciting religious or ethnic hatred in this manner is not acceptable,” she decreed. So much for the First Amendment.


Here was the perfect opportunity to discuss why freedom of expression isn’t just freedom for those ideas we agree with. That seems to be its definition in much of the Islamic world, where the grossest caricatures of other faiths are not only tolerated but encouraged while cartoons offending Muslims spark violence and threats of more violence.


What distinguishes a great civilization is its tolerance of ideas it does not share and even sees as offensive. There was a time when the Arab world was the tolerant realm while Christian Europe was mired in the Dark Ages. And Arabdom’s decline proceeded in step with its refusal to tolerate different ideas.


But instead of pointing out all that, much of the West just hunkers down and hopes this storm, too, will pass. As if freedom isn’t worth explaining if it will cost us our exports. Some call this craven performance diplomacy; it’s more like intellectual surrender. And it will only encourage the mob and those who would appease it. What we’re witnessing comes too close to a kind of intellectual Munich.


The moral disarmament of the West continues apace. Only now has the administration’s top leaders begun to focus on the importance of freedom of expression in this worldwide debate and contretemps. Happily, this is still a free country no matter what our State Department declares unacceptable. And free men should speak out in these circumstances.


We in the West should distribute copies of Milton’s “Areopagitica,” and explaining why the best reply to a bad idea is a better idea, not mindless violence. We should declare freedom, if it is to have any meaning, is freedom for the thought one hates, and that a crime is still a crime even and especially if committed in the name of the holy.


Freedom will always be a kind of island in the world, expanding or shrinking depending on whether those who say they believe in it are willing to defend it.


What, defend the most basic of our values in clear, unambiguous words and deeds? Unthinkable. We must be, uh, nuanced lest we offend the forces of violence and oppression around the world. And so the West declines.




The Truth Project: Christian vs. Postmodern Worldviews (Christian Post, 061001)


WOODBRIDGE, Va. – What is the truth? Many, both Christians and non-Christians, hesitate to give a clear response to the question that religious experts call the most important question Christians in today’s culture must answer.


Some 700 believers sat in the pews of First Baptist Church Friday night to learn of the “great battle” they are waging in at Focus on the Family’s The Truth Project training session. The cosmos battle: Truth vs. Lies; Christian worldview vs. Postmodern worldview; God is vs. God isn’t.


“It’s a mad, mad world,” said well-known Christian leader Chuck Colson in his latest column, and Christians need to help their neighbors understand the “dangers facing Western civilization.”


Dr. Del Tackett, president of the Focus on the Family Institute, waved his hands at the Christian audience driving into them the notion that they are in a huge battle and Christians themselves have bought into the lies that the majority of Americans have conformed to. And the root of the problem comes down to the one question that Pontius Pilate asked Jesus more than 2,000 years ago – “What is truth?”


“It’s not a new battle,” Tackett told the engaged believers as he clarified his position as a teacher and not a speaker.


“We live in a culture that is bowing down to all kinds of things and saying ‘save me,’” he said in reference to Isaiah 44 where a man bows down to a god he made from half a tree.


It’s not any different for Christians. Tackett alarmed some of the attendants when he brought attention to a Barna study that found only nine percent of the “born again” population have a biblical worldview. Among the general population, the figure was four percent.


“How can Christians expect to pass along their values to the next generation if they don’t even know what they believe [and] if those beliefs are ... changing all the time,” said Dr. James Dobson, head of Focus on the Family, in a promotional recording for The Truth Project.


Tackett, who taught Christian worldview for many years, quoted Colson saying: “The Church’s singular failure in recent decades has been the failure to see Christianity as a life system, or worldview, that governs every area of existence.”


The quote continued: “[W]e cannot answer the questions our children bring home from school, so we are incapable of preparing them to meet the challenges they face. . . . We cannot explain to our friends and neighbors why we believe, and we often cannot defend our faith. And we do not know how to organize our lives correctly.”


On the whole, churches and seminaries have failed to equip believers with the truth or how to defend the truth.


“Unfortunately, we have a lot of seminaries that have failed to give their ... students that full comprehensive biblical worldview,” Tackett told The Christian Post. “In many cases, there are many churches that are very strong. But on the whole, we don’t have that. People in the congregation aren’t getting it from there. And we have a whole world that is pulling them away, bombarding them with all those lies and they’re not armed with the truth to be able to discern that.”


Putting his teaching into context, Tackett gave an example of a young girl lying on a hospital bed weighing 65 pounds. Every time she looks in a mirror she sees fat.


“You and I act on what we believe is really real,” he said.


Jesus was born to “testify to the Truth,” said Tackett, and the Truth is God. “He is the Truth.” The world today says “Truth is reality.”


“How does mankind react to Truth?” posed Tackett. We suppress, distort, and reject the Truth and exchange it for a lie, he said.


The only long-term solution is “to rebuild those foundations, that comprehensive biblical worldview within God’s people,” he said. And one of the effects is not being easily fooled.


Two years in the making, The Truth Project was born to address the “pervasive problem,” as Dobson noted, and to introduce believers to the Truth claims of Christ. It is considered the ministry’s most ambitious project.


The Truth Project two-day training sessions began in May and this is the ministry’s sixth session. Each attendant is given a DVD curriculum and encouraged to open up their homes to go through the complete study with others from where the ministry prays for the project’s spread to many other homes.


“We’re interested in transformation,” Tackett stressed.




Media Expert: Churches Dealing with Post-Christian, Not Post-Modern Culture (Christian Post, 070403)


Debates in the church community over post-modernism and how churches are adapting to or not adapting to a post-modern era have caused churches to miss something far more important, according to a prominent media consultant to faith-based organizations.


“Rather than uniting to impact a post-modern culture, we’re spending most of our time in-fighting about what post-modernism is, who’s too post-modern, and who’s not post-modern enough,” said Phil Cooke of Cooke Pictures, in Church Business magazine.


In the culture today, too many people claim to be Christians, Cooke stated. Yet they are indistinguishable from non-believers. Cooke attributes that to there being too many pastors today who don’t take education seriously and have serious doctrinal errors.


“Our evangelism is handicapped if we don’t believe the right things about who God is, and what exactly being a Christian means,” he said.


A recent Barna Group study found 38% of American adults label themselves evangelical, but only 19% of them actually meet the criteria for an evangelical, based on the research group’s definition.


The lifestyles of born-again Christians are not much different from the rest of the world, another Barna study had revealed. Other studies have indicated a prevalent problem of Christians, including clergy, viewing pornography. And divorce among Christians is said to be as high as that of non-Christians – 50%.


“What you believe becomes irrelevant if you don’t act on your Christian convictions,” said Cooke in the magazine. “Pastor Rick Warren says that we’ve moved from a religion of creeds, to a religion of deeds.”


Warren, megapastor of Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, Calif., often preaches that the Church has had its legs and arms amputated and all that’s left is “a big mouth.”


The post-modern mind, however, responds to seeing believers live out their faith, Cooke stressed.


“The massive influx of churches offering assistance to the victims of Hurricane Katrina made a far more positive impact on the culture than years of preaching against abortions, homosexual marriage or euthanasia,” he stated.


Not only must churches teach the right doctrine, but they must also live out their faith in the public square. “The key is balance,” said Cooke.


But with churches largely fixated on debating post-modernism, Cooke says “we miss something far more important – that we’ve shifted to a post-Christian society.”


The issue is not a post-modern culture, but a post-Christian culture. Today, most people do not understand the evangelical or “churchy” language, according to Cooke; they don’t recognize the Bible as authoritative; and Christians have lost touch with how they are perceived by the culture.


“All of this causes non-believers to simply dismiss us as out of touch – or worse, nuts,” he noted. “...while we’re busy having an in-house argument about post-modernism, the culture has already passed us by.”


Cooke reminds churches that the post-modern debate is “an in-house issue” that should not distract from mission. Churches need to speak in a language that people in a post-Christian culture can understand.


“To make an impact, we must take the time and effort to understand, relate to, and love the very people who might think we’re crazy.”




Evangelical Theologian Dissects Post-Modern Culture (Christian Post, 080119)


One of the nation’s leading theologians examined many of today’s hottest moral and ethical issues through a biblical lens in a new book released this week.


Dr. R. Albert Mohler, Jr., president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, tackles topics such as Supreme Court power, abortion, bioethics, the state of public schools, terrorism and the Christian response to global tragedies in his book Culture Shift: Engaging Current Issues with Timeless Truth.


The man who has been called by as “the reigning intellectual of the evangelical movement in the U.S.” seeks to guide modern believers to develop a Christian worldview in a society increasingly challenging the faith.


“Many of the issues with which people are wrestling today are unprecedented in human history,” Mohler explained, in a statement. “Christians need a model for applying biblical principles to brand new problems.”


In Culture Shift, Mohler critiques relativism and defends the absolute truth of the Bible. He acknowledged that while Jesus sometimes speaks in parables that can be difficult to apply to modern situations such as politics and marketplace ideas, he spoke “very clearly, very straight-forwardly” about what was most important.


Jesus spoke directly about “Himself, His identity, His purpose, concerning human sin and the fact that He had come to save sinners and of His death on the cross; so in all those things He spoke very, very specifically, very straight-forwardly,” Mohler said on PBS’ NewsHour in December.


The high-profile theologian also discusses the dangers of public schools and the clash between Islam and Christianity.


Culture Shift is Mohler’s first full-length book that hit shelves Jan. 15.




Brian McLaren: Postmodern Christianity Understood as Story (Christian Post, 080218)


WASHINGTON – The Christian faith is understood as a story by a postmodern generation that sees itself as part of the developing storyline, said an emergent church leader Sunday.


Instead of breaking down the Bible and analyzing it as in the modern era, postmodern believers see the Bible stories as part of a bigger picture and larger story, explained Brian McLaren during the Washington National Cathedral’s Sunday Forum.


The author, speaker, pastor and leader in the emergent church explained that the Bible is seen by postmodern Christians as the chronological stories of God and creation, the story of Abraham, Moses, King David, the prophets, Jesus, Paul and then themselves as modern Christians.


“How we understand the faith as a story … is in some ways relatively new territory because we just haven’t practiced seeing our faith that way,” McLaren observed.


“And then understanding how our story relates to other stories and figuring out the role that we all play in this story – because it’s not finished yet – that comes to me as a very motivating and exciting way to understand our faith.”


Emerging Christian leaders are interested in understanding the shift in culture and how it affects Christianity because it helps them grapple with the problem of making the faith relevant to a younger generation that has increasingly left the faith, noted McLaren.


He contends that the reason the younger generation leaves the faith is not because of superficial reasons such as worship style or preaching style, although those can be factors, but because of the “deeper” issue of the shift in the way they believe and how they believe in the Christian faith and other religions.


“When we move into the postmodern world, people realize there is another way of thinking,” McLaren commented. “Analysis is good, from the whole down to the parts, but there is another way of thinking going from the whole to bigger wholes.”


“We try to understand whatever we’re looking at as part of larger wholes. That shift in thinking has huge implications on how we preach, how we teach, how we evangelize,” said the founding pastor of the nondenominational Cedar Ridge Community Church outside Washington, D.C.


The emergent church leader also gave his opinion of why mainline churches are in decline. McLaren said that while evangelicals are rigid in doctrine but flexible in their methodology, mainlines are more flexible in theology but rigid in their practice.


He suggested that the mainline become more flexible in practice while evangelicals “loosen up” on some of their doctrinal system.


“What I’m noticing is when we stop preaching Christianity as a religion…and we start inviting people to be followers Jesus and present Jesus and His way as part of this beautiful story of the Kingdom of God, a lot of our Christians who have left are drawn back,” he said.


McLaren is currently on a book tour for his new book, Everything Must Change: Jesus, Global Crises, and a Revolution of Hope.




Heretical 6-Year-Olds and Postmodern Teens (Christian Post, 110117)

By Greg Stier


Not too long ago my six-year-old daughter Kailey was looking out the car window as I was driving. She looked up at the sky and said, “Daddy, the sun is yellow. Jesus is the sun. Jesus has a yellow face and is following us.”

Greg Stier


“Jesus is not the sun in the sky. He is the Son of God” I gently corrected.


“No!” she emphasized emphatically. “Jesus IS the sun in the sky!”


“No!” I said more emphatically. “Jesus IS the Son of God, not the sun in the sky!”


“You have your deal and I have mine” she said with a smirk.


Okay, so my little girl knows how to drive her preacher dad crazy. She knows that I know that she really doesn’t believe that Jesus is the sun, but she loves to see her daddy squirm. And nothing makes an evangelistic, evangelical evangelist squirm like a pantheistic kindergartner in his own family!


What really caught me off guard is when she said, “You have your deal and I have mine.” To be honest it reminded me of the challenge before every youth leader today. Because, what may be true of my little girl, is 100x’s more true of this postmodern generation of teenagers.


Most teenagers today don’t believe that any one being can own the exclusive way to God. The words of Jesus is John 14:6 make many of them squirm, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”


Don’t get me wrong. They don’t have a hard time with Jesus calling himself a way to God. But the idea of Jesus being the way to God rubs their postmodern sensibilities the wrong way. Why? Because to them exclusivity in this culture is intolerance and intolerance is the unpardonable sin.


So how do we counteract this “you’ve got your deal and I’ve got mine” attitude so prevalent in the next generation? With love, grace and truth!


We love them with a love that can only be explained by the presence of the Spirit of God in us. This agape brand of love will break down walls, crush arguments and overcome evil smirks with good.


Add to love an overflowing cup of grace. When teenagers begin to hear that they are being offered the free gift of God’s forgiveness as a result of Jesus dying in their place for their sins they should begin to pay attention. Grace is a rare commodity in this competitive culture. So when the grace-soaked message of the gospel is shared by a grace-filled messenger great things will begin to happen.


Finally, to this combustible and transformative message of love and grace, add a healthy dose of truth. Once teenagers feel love and listened to they will be open to hearing whatever Scriptural and/or apologetic truth you may share with them. But, as the old adage goes, “Seek first to understand and then to be understood.”


I love the Gospel journey that my six year old girl is on. We are having better and deeper discussions about who Jesus is, what sin is and how a person can be forgiven once and for all through faith in Jesus Christ.


My prayer is that she puts her trust in Jesus soon. My prayer for you is that God will give you the love, grace and truth to lead your own children and the teenagers in your youth group on this same Gospel Journey!


Viva LA Cause!