Monday, January 10, 2005

Are Apologetics Still Necessary? Pt 2: The Turn to Community

In navigating the transition between a Modern culture influenced by the Enlightenment and the Postmodern culture influenced by a deconstruction of the Enlightenment, the topic of Christian apologetics has come up in some circles as something which is up for grabs. It should not be too hard to find an Emergent or pomo writer who asks whether apologetics are still necessary, and more often than not the answer is that apologetics, as they are traditionally understood, are dead and outdated.

In its place it is quite common to replace the process of argument for and defense of the faith with some notion of the faith community. For instance, I have recently engaged in a forum board asking this very question, and one of the responses ended with this statement:

Point is: I would be more willing to try to wrap my head around the idea that the Earth is flat if a close friend of mine honestly believed and lived out his life like that were true. And i would definitely believe him if he bought 2 plane tickets, jumped onto a 757 with me, took me to the place that the world dropped off, pointed down and said "see there is the edge of the world.”

This individual went on to clarify his position in a latter post, but I think it highlights well what is becoming more and more typical in Emergent/Pomo circles. The basic train of thought is something like this:

1.Propositional truth is either non-attainable or irrelevant.
2.People in the postmodern world view their experiences as their greatest way of attaining knowledge or personal belief-value.
3.Christ said things like, “they will know you by your love…”
4.Therefore, trying to talk about truth is useless and what we should really be emphasizing is a person’s experience among the people of God.

First of all, the idea that the Body of Christ should be a loving, grace-filled and forgiving place to be is clearly biblical-I am not concerned with that fact. What I am concerned with is an epistemic emphasis on experience combined with statements 1 and 2. When we take away any kind of appeal to transcultural/objective truth, there is absolutely no way to distinguish between a wonderful Christian faith-community and, say, a Buddhist faith-community. In fact, this line of argumentation, if it is correct, would rule in favor of a loving Islamic community over a dysfunctional Christian community.

To see the need to develop a loving and Christlike body of believers is admirable and should be repeated in us all. But to use any kind of experience to be the end-all of truth value is not only dangerous, but it violates the kind of biblical community we are called to create-one in which people recognize their need of Christ and no other.

The first entry in this series is here.

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