It is becoming more and more fashionable in the Emergent Church movement to ask this question. May feel, give their penchant for seeing the world through postmodern eyes, that the answer is some from of “no.” Those who say so typically point to the notion that apologetics have traditionally been an exercise in argumentation and at its worst, some from of intellectual bullyism. They will argue that apologetics are unnecessary for one of two, or both of the following reasons. First, the culture has strayed so far from Modernism that people no longer respond to arguments, premises and conclusions. If you tried to “reason” with a pomo, you would not get anywhere. The second reason is that, again given postmodern assumptions, the process of arguing toward a notion of objective, absolute truth is a waste of time. There either is no transcultural truth, or we simply can’t know whether there is.
My basic thesis is that the first reason is an important cultural observation which should help us understand what kind of role apologetics will play in our world today, but that the second reason is, well, basically hogwash. In a short series of posts I want to argue that apologetics are still necessary, and will always be a necessary part of the life of the Christian disciple but that the cultural observation made above will guide us in our understanding about what is important about apologetics today. In short, apologetics are still a necessary and important part of the Church, but it may take on a slightly different face that it has in the past century.
For now, a brief definition of apologetics is in order. “Apologetics” is a slightly unfortunate moniker for the contemporary American because the way we use the word on a regular basis has almost nothing to do with what it traditionally means in relation defending a belief system. It is originally derived from a Greek word which means “to defend.” So when we speak of “Christian apologetics” we are speaking of the exercise of developing good reasons to believe in Christianity, good reasons to not believe in other faith-systems and answers to the attacks on Christian faith.
So, are apologetic arguments still a useful tool for the believer, or have they gone the way of the Dodo bird? In my next post on this issue, I will discuss the typical postmodern alternative to traditional apologetics-the turn to the community.