Recently, Scot McKnight posted an entry on his blog on the subject of Emerging Evangelism, in which he stated that “[l]ogic isn’t as effective as it once was.” By implication, we would assume that our primary evangelistic approach should eliminate or at least seriously downplay the place and role of rational argument, subordinating it to subjectivist approaches such as story telling and so forth. However, I believe that the effect is a dehumanizing of the gospel. While subjectivist approaches should have a place in evangelism, dismissing rational and logical approaches to the gospel because “[l]ogic isn’t as effective as it once was” (a suspiciously pragmatic reason for setting them aside) downplays rational humanity in favor of popular, trendy, and often heavy-handed notions of how evangelism should be done. It also ignores the genuine intellectual struggles that people have about Christianity. Nick Pollard, in his book Evangelism Made Slightly Less Difficult: How to Interest People Who Aren’t Interested, makes this observation on why this is an erroneous anthropology. On p. 69-70, speaking about those who would argue against rational approaches to evangelism and apologetics, he says:
They argue that we must accept the conclusions of this increasingly postmodern culture and give up on any concept of worldview or, indeed, rationality. They say that worldview is dead and people no longer think. Therefore, they argue, it is pointless for us to try to help people think about their worldview, since they no longer have one; they just live life on the surface and we must find a way of relating to that.
I am certain that such a sellout to postmodernism is a great mistake. People do have worldviews, and they will continue to hold them. As we have already noted, when we were thinking about postmodernism, the worldviews that people hold are selected on a “mix-and-match” basis. They are muddled up and inconsistent. But they are still there. Similarly, people still think. We are rational beings. Some postmodern theoreticians may argue for the death of rationality (although, strangely, they do this in a rational way). If we are created in the image of God, however, all of us, Christian or non-Christian, modern or postmodern, will continue to think. So we cannot accept the speculative conclusions of postmodernism.
Yet we can (and must) work within the methodology of postmodernism if we really are going to reach people in this culture. Two major characteristics of postmodernism are of particular importance in evangelism: (1) the emphasis on questioning and (2) the displacement of propositional truth in favor of stories. If we are to be effective within this postmodern culture, then, our evangelism must involve the appropriate use of questions and stories. That is not actually anything new; it is the way in which Jesus taught. He made use of questions, often answering one question with another. And he told the greatest stories of all time.
Comment on August 15, 2006 @ 7:14 am
I absolutely agree with the last paragraph of your quote in that any missions course/program/evaluation in a new area includes an analysis of communication (language, style, nonverbal aspects, etc). If postmoderns value story over propositional, than the best way to communicate is story (which, as the quote pointed out, is how Jesus communicated, making it ironic that you feel that this “subjective” way of communicating is dehumanizing). I also fully agree with the area of questioning. There is a lot of questioning going on as to what is real and what isn’t real. This is an exciting opportunity for Christians to stand in and minister and participate and evaluate.
However, I believe the assessment that postmoderns don’t think is grossly misrepresented. Pomos may not think in the way determined by the Enlightenment as the appropriate and only way to think (hence seeing all non-Western cultures as idiots and barbaric), but we think. Ergo, the questioning and the literary bent.
I also don’t agree that the idea of worldview is out the window. In fact, I believe the opposite. Pomos are looking at the world and recognizing cultural lenses, how this affects our everyday life, our beliefs, our interpretation and practice of Christianity (for those of us that are Christians). Maybe I’m misunderstanding what you mean by the term “worldview.”
Comment on August 16, 2006 @ 9:17 am
By the way, I posted my thoughts on aesthetics today that you were wondering about. I don’t know if it will help you understand where I’m coming from or not.