What are the options Christians are taking when it comes to engaging our postmodern culture? The question is: How do we lead a horse to water? The horse is the postmodern and the water is the Gospel. Here are the options of the original post:
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.”
I would like to expand on option 2.
This option is very much like the first, but does have some major philosophical differences in approach. Like the first, this approach starts with the assumption that postmodernism is essentially evil and antagonistic to the Christian faith, associating it completely with its tendency toward hard relativism (the belief that all truth is relative). But there is a distinction. While the first option did not accept the notion that a person could actually be relativistic in their epistemology, this option does.
According to advocates of this approach, people hold to contradictory systems of truth all the time. Polytheism, for example, is self-contradictory since it does not make room for a first-cause or a necessary being. Yet many people throughout time have adhered to a polytheistic worldview. The Christians job, according to this option, is to create a common intellectual ground from which evangelism can take place. Many times this will involve attempting to convince someone of the existence of a perfect, personal, all-powerful, necessary being from whom all things have their being. Once this is accomplished, then there can be a conversation where a transcendent reality, whom we call God, is creating a meta-narrative to which all truth must correspond. This God is the God of the Bible. Typical biblical apologetics can be used once the common ground has been created.
Some adherents of this view might be R.C. Sproul or Norm Geisler. While option one was identified with presuppositional or reformed apologetics, this option is taken by those who follow a more classical apologetics approach popularized by Thomas Aquinas.
I believe that this approach, like the last has its merits. I think it recognizes that people’s thinking can become corrupt due to sin and bad influences within the culture. But I must contend with its understanding of the postmodern ethos. I think that it is too simplistic to identify the problem and solution upon the assumption of hard relativism. I don’t think that the average person is truly a hard relativist either in confession or practice. I think better designations are skeptical and suspicious. They do not trust other people’s claims to knowledge and therefore are normally not open to listening to their arguments. At the same time, I do believe that there is going to be a necessary time and place for this type of argumentation, but only once we have won their trust. And in a world where even self-trust is difficult to find, this is not going to be easy.