Millard Erickson has a book called Postmodernizing the Faith where he summarizes the different approaches that the Christian community is taking in response to the postmodern plight. I think it is a great and valuable study. Let me give you a brief summary with some slight alterations of my own.

I will give a brief overview now and then expand on each option in the blogs to follow.

Erickson uses the illustration of leading a horse to water. The horse is the postmodern and the water is the Gospel.

Option 1: Deny the horse is really postmodern. No one can be a consistent postmodern. We simply need to convince them of the untenability of their professing worldview and show them how they don’t hold to it in reality.

Option 2: Convert the horse from being postmodern. Create common ground in epistemology (the way we come to know truth), then they will be able to drink the water.

Option 3: Change the rope. Christians need to change the communication method and style for a postmodern audience, being sensitive to the ethos of our culture.

Option 4: Change the water. The water we are calling “Gospel” today may not represent the true Gospel due to traditional folk theology and misinformation. Therefore, the water needs to be “purified.”

Initial thoughts?

Part 2

C Michael Patton
C Michael Patton

C. Michael Patton is the primary contributor to the Parchment and Pen/Credo Blog. He has been in ministry for nearly twenty years as a pastor, author, speaker, and blogger. Find him on Patreon Th.M. Dallas Theological Seminary (2001), president of Credo House Ministries and Credo Courses, author of Now that I'm a Christian (Crossway, 2014) Increase My Faith (Credo House, 2011), and The Theology Program (Reclaiming the Mind Ministries, 2001-2006), host of Theology Unplugged, and primary blogger here at Parchment and Pen. But, most importantly, husband to a beautiful wife and father to four awesome children. Michael is available for speaking engagements. Join his Patreon and support his ministry

    7 replies to "Engaging Postmodernism: 4 Views"

    • kolabok21

      Trading in the watering trough for a carrot on a stick!
      The reviews (3 only) seem to offer a day and night evaluation of Erickson

    • johndelliott

      I would recommend Option 2, “Convert the horse from being postmodern.
      Create common ground in epistemology (the way we come to know truth),
      then they will be able to drink the water,” as a most viable option in
      communicating with a postmodern culture.

      We can start with the following;
      Question: How many feet are in a mile?
      Answer: 5,280

      Question: What is the normal human body temperature?
      Answer: 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit

      Question: What is the speed of light?
      Answer: 299,792.458 kilometers per second

      As the answers show, truth is narrow, based on history, and based on
      tradition. Or, from a philosophical perspective, truth corresponds to
      reality and is non-contradictory.

      I am amazed that other disciplines (Science, History, Law, Math, etc.)
      have a “narrowness” in their equations and/or prepositions, but when
      postmoderns come to Religion, they adopt an attitude that “all truth
      is relative,” nothing could be further from the truth.

      By engaging postmoderns in discussions regarding items that we agree
      on, such as the ones list above, we can build a bridge to the gospel message
      with the expectation and hope that the Holy Spirit can take the seed that
      we plant and have it lead to a “drinking of the water.”

      (See references: John 3:1-15; 4:1-15; 14:6)



    • nathanimal

      Option 4: Change the water.
      Albeit, some of the other options might be good as well.

      I think for the most part in my experience the gospel is not communicated very well.

      Example: Most unbelievers I talk to say that Christians are ignorant and close-minded. They think that Christians have a blind faith. Thus making their world-view void and worthless.

      This can make Christianity not a viable option in their mind. Over half of those will say that they might know 1 or 2 exceptions!

      For the most part, I think Christians are some of the most uninformed people I know, and are pretty clueless on how to defend their faith.

      Better education = Better Message = Better communication

    • LukeHamilton

      I think that Option 3 will be the most effective step. It seems to me
      that the two area where postmodernism breaks from prior world-views
      are: epistemology (as you mentioned) and communication.

      With the dissolution (or relativisation) of absolutes, communication
      becomes much more difficult.

      Option 4 is dangerous. I feel that we need to be careful not to imply that
      the water itself needs purification. The water is pure, it is our handling of
      it (past, present, and future) that might need attention, in my opinion.


    • Cheryl

      I agree with Luke. Option #3 worked for me. If someone had preached
      the Gospel to me in a religious format, I would have walked the other way.
      I think the style of communication to skeptics is very important.
      You need to grab their attention and preaching in the normal Christian way
      will just push them further away. #1 – Denying the way someone appears is
      just like being in denial. Until you open your eyes and deal with the root
      of a problem, it remains unsolved. I believe #2 can only come after one has
      exhausted #3. You need to get their attention first so they will listen and
      discuss the common ground. And #4 I don’t believe can be accomplished
      until you have completed #3 and #4. In order to believe in the true Gospel,
      you need to know the truth not the fables and to accomplish this you need to
      first reach out in a language that they understand and then discuss the
      existing common ground and finally you will be able to discuss the truth
      as Christians know it. But absolutely never in life should one just deny
      someone’s existence because you will never be able to do anything for
      anyone by closing your eyes. Just a thought from an ex-postmodern!

      — Cheryl

    • […] yesterday’s blog, I presented my rendition of four ways that Christians are engaging postmoderns. The primary […]

    • […] How are Christians to engage with our postmodern generation? I have been exploring this question for a while now and am currently using the analogy of leading a horse to water. The horse is the postmodern and the water is the Gospel. The question is how do we lead this horse to water. Here are the options of the original post: […]

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