The local dogs tonight taught me a lesson in apologetics. I was taking a walk in the evening. Plenty of shops are open and pedestrians are walking around at 8:30 in my Chiang Mai neighbourhood, and there was a bright full moon. At the doorway of the laundromat lay three or four dogs, resting.
As Christians, what do we make of Corinthians when it says love rejoices in the truth? How do we see the truth as a necessary component of how we love others in our communication/relationships?
The word ‘apologetics’ comes from the Greek word ‘apologia’ as used in 1 Peter 3:15. It translates to ‘answer’, but of the kind that would typically be given as a legal defence.[2,3,4] But does this mean Christians are called to engage others with intellectual legalism? Under what context does scripture command Christians to give an apologia?
To speak or not to speak
1 Peter 3:15 uses this word to describe the natural course of action in the face of persecution or inquisition. Wherever one was being questioned about their radical Christian living, they were to be ready to present an apologia for their hope. Unfortunately, there are always some who use “Christian apologetics” as what seems to be a modern-day means of ‘Bible bashing’. I hear time and time again from older generations how “all that stuff doesn’t work”, “it’s been tried”, “it’s failed to bring people to Christ”, “it’s unloving” or “not God’s way”. I have always loved discussing God with others, despite not knowing what apologetics was until 5 years ago. Apologetics hasn’t made my conversations more antagonistic, it has only equipped me with the ability to answer questions better when in conversations. However, I can see why intellectual muscle-heads would be inclined to blanket their argumentative sparring under “Christian apologetics”.
I thoroughly dislike the idea of ‘winning arguments’, but growing up I developed an insatiable yearning for fairness, leading me to sometimes behave argumentatively. This often manifested when I felt others were behaving in an uncharitable or unreasonable way, not for the purpose of winning arguments but to fairly assess the truth. As a result, my dad once challenged me saying I corner him into either choosing to agree with my view or professing stupidity to hold to his. He felt there was no grace in this kind of communication. The word grace made me think of God, realising that God never relates to us in the way I would often treat my dad. God usually allows us to make leaps in our reasoning, knowing it is a byproduct of our own heart/desires. The world is permeated with God gracing those he loves with the freedom to deceive themselves without forcefully exposing their true motives.[5,6] In seeing how God lovingly shows grace to each of us, I saw what it was my dad was asking of me. From then on, I’ve tried to get it right, trying to see people as the ends-in-themselves and to see truth as the means.
Apologetics is not itself argumentativeness, defensiveness or legalism. People may use what they learn in apologetics for those purposes, but this does not make apologetics those things. Apologetics in Christianity is an expression of kindness to provide insight to those who ask. Anything apart from this ought be of the form of lovingly sharing your faith and having life conversations about God. Apologetics study gives us the confidence to have these conversations knowing that if someone wants to know more, we can lovingly respond with the insight and understanding to help them take their next steps towards Jesus. The scriptures say that Love encompasses all the law, so as Christians, we ought to never respond to questions with legalism, never respond to questions with defensiveness and never respond to questions argumentatively. As Christians, we ought only ever respond to questions with love, grace and understanding, which is the foundation for all Christian apologetics.
1- 1 Corinthians 13:6
2 – http://biblehub.com/greek/627.htm
3 – https://thinkingmatters.org.nz/what-is-apologetics/
4 – https://thinkingmatters.org.nz/2010/02/introducing-apologetics/
5 – Psalm 81:12-13, Romans 1:24-25,
6 – Luke 16:30-31
7 – http://www.bbc.co.uk/ethics/introduction/endinitself.shtml
8 – Matthew 22:36-40
9 – 1 Corinthians 13:1-2
10 – 1 Peter 3:15-16, Matthew 5:44, Proverbs 10:12, 1 John 4:8
In online conversations I have seen and engaged in, the debate about who is meant to provide evidence for their beliefs and who isn’t often comes up. What starts off as an interesting dialogue can quickly become an argument around the abstract distinctions of justification and responsibility. I would like to suggest that the answer to this problem is to start asking more genuine questions. These questions should steer the conversation back on track, holding the appropriate person responsible for explanation while genuinely seeking to understand them.
What about Questions?
There are so many wonderful things about questions that it is rather surprising we don’t use them more often. Perhaps it is a result of our childhood, being told to stop asking “why” by our family or being shamed in our classrooms for asking a “dumb question”.
Why is it that most of us, particularly those in teaching positions, get frustrated when somebody asks “too many questions”? Could it be that part of the frustration is the internal struggle of not knowing how to comprehend much of what we take for granted as true? But what is it about not knowing the reasons behind our beliefs that gets under our skin? I have come to suspect that it is an innate sense of obligation, to have a reason for our beliefs, that Philosophers have come to describe as “The Burden of Proof”. Surely if we didn’t feel an obligation to answer a particular question, then we wouldn’t have a problem with it, right?
Who’s Burden?! What Burden?!
There is a decent amount of discussion in philosophy around what the burden of proof is, but like many things studied in philosophy, “the burden of proof” is usually understood clearly without the need of an explicit description. Nobody needs to explain the burden of proof to someone who already feels the responsibility to provide justification for what they think is true.
I have had many worldview conversations with people claiming that, because they don’t believe in God, it is up to me, positing a “positive phenomenon” (God), to bear the burden of convincing them of my worldview. In these situations, the most effective solution is avoiding any discussion of what “the burden of proof” is and who is responsible for bearing it. Responding by asking questions under-girding the assumptions they might have, or where they might be coming from, often leads the conversation to where it needs to be. It seems that we all have an innate recognition of this responsibility to answer questions, regardless of our status, education level, or how much we agree/disagree with society and mainstream views.
I propose that we all begin to ask more questions, relishing in the fact that many times we don’t have the answers to others’ challenges, but that this is actually OK. More often than not, people who are challenging you on your views won’t actually know what they think about their own views. Before volunteering to take on the burden of proving everything you think, take a step back and ask some clarification questions. Ask where their ideas come from and why they disagree with yours. Ask for what reasons they believe their further underlying views. Ask where they got their facts from and what relevant academics testify to these facts upon which their conclusions lie. Ask questions in the name of wanting to understand, wanting to learn, and not knowing all the answers, while under the protection of humility. Ask questions to put the responsibility of explanation where it needs to be, without bringing up another abstract debate on “the burden of proof”.
Isn’t it amazing how such a tiny stone can be so incredibly annoying when it gets into your shoe? As we go through life, an idea can be like this as well. Trying to defend an entire worldview in any conversation can be a lot like trying to pull off someone’s shoes when they don’t want you to. Yet, a simple and contrary idea to another’s worldview, given enough time, can be enough to make someone want to take off their now-uncomfortable worldview.
The idea of putting a stone in someone’s shoe is a relatively new concept for me and a profound message of the importance of simplicity. For most my life, I have been unknowingly obsessed with intellectual accountability, consumed by an insatiable desire to leave no potentially exaggerated or elusive concept unchecked. This distraction of wanting to keep people accountable kept me focused on the details, rather than focused on a clear single piece of truth that would be helpful to convey. I suspect that people are afraid to have worldview conversations because they feel an obligation to never look ignorant and to know all the answers. Well, what if studying the hard questions and having these conversations didn’t mean you had to?
Why less is more
More and more I am beginning to see the brilliance of using simple key points to induce growth, rather than thesis sized lectures with distinct precision. When you have a simple idea, it doesn’t take huge research to find a good number of credible sources or arguments to defend that position. A nice rule of thumb is if you feel you are spending a lot of time researching, your idea is probably not simple enough. With simple ideas in mind, you can play to your interest/ability, trying to defend only the ideas you have the capacity to research. As you become a better researcher, you can take on slightly more difficult ideas, learning to break those down into their simpler components as well.
The great thing about a simple point is that, if the idea is new for your friend, you are still likely to get the point across before the end of the conversation. This is what it is to leave a stone in their shoe. Often when an idea is new for someone, it can take a while before the coherency and implications of the idea really sink in. New ideas can quite often be difficult to take on board, particularly when it goes against something one is convinced of. Keeping points simple also gives you the time to really explore the perspectives and struggles of the other person. This not only helps them be open to hearing you, it helps to remove any misconceptions so they can really take on board the simple concept. Admittedly, there is still valuable discernment needed before you will find that perfect concept to share with your sceptical friend. Nevertheless, when you have it, it can work wonders!
But does it work in practice?
Recently I experienced the full benefits of taking a simple idea with a few strong sources onto my local sceptics’ Facebook page. It was in response to something I had seen championed on their page by some of their members I know personally. An idea which I had challenged in the past to no avail (due to ill preparation). While going through my Facebook feed of apologetic materials, I came across a short video of a Q&A where a student asked about defending the historical Jesus when others claim he never existed. The answer was quite concise and provided further reading materials from a reputable non-Christian historian. I had heard other quotes from reputable non-Christian historians in the past, so I knew they wouldn’t be too hard to find. So, I quickly hit up google for some quotes and sources (in case I needed them for later), then posed the question to their Facebook group along with the video I had watched.
I asked, “Is there actually people in this group that think that these low scholarly popular works claiming ‘Jesus didn’t exist’ really stand up to Bart Ehrman’s [non-Christian historian] critiques against those claiming the myth of Jesus?”
I have had many Facebook conversations in the past with sceptics. Usually, I will get a deeply rooted feeling of dread and anxiety every time someone replies to one of my comments. However, this online conversation was the most stress free and enjoyable engagement I have ever had on social media! My replies were the shortest they had ever been, required the least effort, and resulted in every sceptic who got involved having nothing to say to my simple questions (usually they are never short of something to say). It even seemed like people were learning and slightly shifting their positions as the conversations went on. I have never felt so confident in having left stones in people’s shoes in my history of online discussions.
The moral of the story
Conversations go much better when there is a single idea you want the other person to take away. All you need to do is present the key evidences/sources of one idea or fact that undermines their worldview, then question their sources and reasons for rejecting it. The teaching of leaving a stone in their shoe’ is not just something we can do when we fear not having the answers, I believe this teaching is highly effective in most life conflicts too. Perhaps you just feel the urge to flex that intellectual muscle of yours from time to time. However, if no one has asked you for the information, it is likely you are wasting your breath. Maybe try asking them a few questions to see why it is that they disagree or have a problem with you. Decide next time to have multiple progressive disagreements, rather than seemingly impossible large unresolved arguments. People need time when absorbing new ideas contrary to what they have heard before, and as loving communicators we want to give people the grace to come to terms with the truths that refine and rebuke each of us.
This is the ninth post in a series of posts running parallel to a weekly screening of the series Jesus the Game Changer on Shine TV.
A Curse and Blessing
Wealth is a curse and a blessing, it affords many great opportunities yet tempts us to trust in it. Many people detest those with wealth, thinking that they are selfish for not sharing or evil for ripping off the working poor. Communism had as one of its goals, to liberate the aristocrats and oligarchs of their wealth, distributing it among the poor. In such a system, your wealth is not your own, it is the property of society, and if you are wealthy then you have committed theft. It is common fare to hear story after story of people who have made it big yet whose lives are emptier than before when they were relatively more poor. Heraclitus once remarked “May you have plenty of wealth, you men of Ephesus, in order that you may be punished for your evil ways.” Plato himself once declared “There should exist among the citizens neither extreme poverty nor again excessive wealth, for both are productive of great evil.” Wow, wealth and poverty are both evil. I am sure we can agree, that the super wealthy seem to live lives of privilege and waste, shunning and avoiding those who are less fortunate than themselves.
Can Wealth Be Used for Good?
If wealth, then is so evil, how can any man stand against it. Jesus speaks to the danger of wealth in his interaction with the rich young ruler. This young intelligent man comes to Jesus and asks what must be done for he (the man) to be saved. Jesus replies, saying that the man must sell all his possessions and give to the poor. The young ruler leaves, saddened, and Jesus turns to the crowd saying “Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.” Matthew 19:24, ESV. What Jesus is saying, is that entering heaven is especially difficult for those who hang on to their wealth and love it. Jesus has said elsewhere in the gospels, that a person cannot serve both money and God, he will love the one and hate the other. So, if wealth is so dangerous, ought a person not have wealth?
Not quite. Bill Gates is an excellent example of someone who is choosing to use his wealth for the good of other people. Bill is one of the most wealthy men on the planet, yet has dedicated his life to giving away almost all of what he has earned. In addition, there are examples of people in the bible who were blessed with abundant wealth. Job is a perfect example, before his ordeal, he was one of the wealthiest men alive, and afterwards was even wealthier still. God blessed Job with great wealth, and spoke of Job as a godly man. Abraham is also another example, he had many possessions making him very wealthy, yet he was chosen by God to be the father of Israel, the chosen people of God. Perhaps it is not as simple as “give away everything you have”, though that may not be such a bad thing to do.
Not What We Have, but Who We Serve
The christian worldview, rather, says that it is not what we have rather it is who we serve. Job and Abraham were blessed by God precisely because they had their lives focused on God, seeking to worship and obey God in all that they did. God gave them money to use, not only for themselves, but also for others. We are used by God, in this world, to be his hands and feet, doing his work with the things he has given us.
More recent history gives us an example of a man called Humphrey Monmouth. Humphrey lived during the 16th Century, and was quite wealthy having made his fortune as a cloth merchant. The reason why we remember him, is because of Humphrey’s association with a man named William Tyndale. Tyndale, was the first person to translate the bible into English, a capital offense during the 16th Century. Humphrey Monmouth used his wealth to fund the exploits of Tyndale, and helped smuggle English bibles into England. Humphrey even went to jail for a time, but was let out since his trade was so important to England. Humphrey leveraged his wealth, seeing it not as his own but as God’s, to make the distribution of the English Bible possible. He did not let wealth enslave him, but rather kept his eyes on God.
So, What About Us?
What does this mean for us? We need to ensure that our wealth does not control us. First we need to make some breathing room in our spending by consuming less than we can afford. Second, we need to use the new spending gap to give some of our wealth away. These steps will help ensure that we remain free, serving and worshipping God instead of trusting in money. Money is a tool for worship, not selfish consumption, and only Jesus is big enough to replace it on the throne of our lives. Christ desires for us to live the abundant life, a life that is filled with joy, and as such he seeks to make himself as the center of our life. Wealth is a curse if we do not have God, but a blessing if we do, giving us even more opportunity to worship God and bless others. Work hard, seek wealth, but above all seek God. As Paul said in 1 Timothy 6:17-19:
As for the rich in this present age, charge them not to be haughty, nor to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly provides us with everything to enjoy. They are to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share, thus storing up treasure for themselves as a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of that which is truly life. (ESV).
This is the seventh post in a series of posts running parallel to weekly screening of the series Jesus the Game Changer on Shine TV.
Leadership Starts With Humility
Humility, Trump, and the All Blacks
What is one trait that Donald Trump seems to have little of? Humility. This Presidential race in America has seen a marked departure from what we have been used to. In times past, we have been accustomed to hearing mainly about the policies and plans of a prospective candidate, and specific things about themselves that make them a good fit for the job. Trump however bucks the trend, taking the idea of humility and trampling all over it by telling us that he is smart, tough, intelligent while saying almost nothing credible about what he plans to do. Perhaps this is one reason why we find him so repulsive. Our Western mindset has been so affected by Christianity, that we assume great leaders ought to be humble. We are not attracted to self-centered proud and boastful people, rather we want someone who we believe will serve us, and will look out for our good and not their own glory something Trump does not seem to understand.
In the New Zealand context, humility is something that we expect of our leaders and role models; there is nothing we dislike more than to see a person talk about themselves. Take the All Blacks; they are a rugby team known internationally for having a culture of humility. One of the examples of this is something known to them as “Sweep the Shed” . At the end of every game, the top players pick up a broom and together sweep the changing room. What a lesson in humility. During the 2015 Rugby World Cup, the All Blacks invited the Namibian team they had just defeated into the changing sheds, drinking beer and having casual conversation with the Namibian players queuing up to take photos with Richie McCaw and Dan Carter. After the final, All Black coach Steve Hansen spent some time congratulating and encouraging the just-defeated opposition .
Humility in Antiquity
The world that Christ entered was a world where power meant glory. If you had the power, then you also took the glory. In fact, if you did not dominate your opponents and display your prowess in every way conceivable, you were seen as weak. The strong did not practice grace but brutality. Pax Romana, the peace in the Roman Empire, was only achieved by crushing anyone and everyone who dared to disagree. The prevailing view at that time regarding leadership, equated leadership with Philosophy (the Greeks), Military might, Political power, and Wealth. Think of Plato and Aristotle who had such tremendous power in dictating the thoughts and ideas of the culture. Think of Alexander the great who had such military might that he conquered more land than anyone before. Think of Rome, an empire so vast and mighty in both statutory law and military might that it crushed all who dared to stand before. Or what about King Solomon, a man who through his wealth and power was able to satisfy every desire that he saw fit. In the ancient world, the Will to Power was all that existed, might made right, and so the mighty ruled with rods of iron. The ancient gods of Greece and Rome reflected this perspective, demanding sacrifice and honor and if left unsatisfied, liable to wreak havoc and destruction upon mortal men. The gods did not care how you lived, Justice and Virtue were alien concepts to them, instead they craved power and glory, accruing as much of each as they had opportunity.
Humility, Yahweh, and Jesus
The Jews however had a different idea. They believed that Yahweh did not only care for honor, but also justice and virtue. Jehovah, they argued, is a God who is essentially good, and as such is consistent in his dealings with humanity, demanding that men live according to a moral law. Those who followed Him were expected to obey Him and strive for righteousness and holiness. God loved the poor and weak, those who had been humbled by men were especially precious in His sight. Further, when Jesus stepped onto the scene, he upped the stakes even further arguing that everyone is to love their enemies and to seek to humble themselves for the sake of others. He based this on the idea that every person is made in the image of God, and as such deserves respect no matter the circumstance. The Christian world view argues that differences between individuals is not anything that belongs to the individual, but rather is what they have been given by God. People are not self-made, and as such, must be grateful to God and respectful of others. Whoever wishes to be first, must first be a slave.
The Apostle Paul, in his letter to the Philippians held Christ up as an example of humility, saying:
Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (Philippians 2:3-11 ESV)
When Paul says, “Who being in the form God” what he says could be more accurately translated “Who precisely because he was in the form of God”. This means that When Christ came to earth, He did not come in disguise like the Greek gods would when visiting earth, rather he revealed that God is a servant. Reading on in the passage, we read that Christ humbled himself to death on the cross and that it is through this ultimate humiliation that God exalted Christ above all things.
Culture today tells us that “you can have it all” because culture is centered around the individual, yet when voters see politicians living this out, they are repulsed because they know that leadership is about service. Great leaders who only talk about themselves are repulsive; we have little time and respect for such as these. Rather, humility is to hold and use whatever power you have for the good of others. The humble do not have a low view of themselves or their abilities, but rather acknowledge whatever power they posses and know that it is most beautifully expressed in service to others. A person with low self-esteem cannot be a humble person, for a humble person knows they have power, and in spite of it, chooses to use that power to serve others. Jesus is a game changer for us today because he reveals that God is a God who chooses to humble himself for our benefit. A God who is willing to go through so much for us is one who cares and who can be trusted.
So…What about you?
So what about you? Are you humble? Do you have power and authority? Do you leverage your status and capacities for others? Let the example of Christ inspire you and lead you to serve other people. Do not just expect humility but live it, and please… do not be a Donald Trump.
There are two aspects of Christian defence. The first deals with content, offering specific responses to particular questions and challenges. The second deals with the techniques of using this information – tactics in defending the faith – and focuses on style, strategy and method.
Thinking Matters Tauranga is running a 6 week couse that covers the second aspect, giving a variety of powerful tactics and specific strategies and methods for sound reasoning, clear thinking, and a gracious defence of the Christian worldview.
You will learn specific skills to help you:
- Initiate conversations about God and faith effortlessly
- Present the truth clearly, cleverly and persuasively
- Expose faulty thinking in a gracious yet effective way
- Manoeuvre through mine fields and stop challengers in their tracks
This is based on the small group DVD curriculum by Greg Koukl from Stand to Reason that includes discussions, role play, memory tools, games, competitions, self-assessment quizzes, and recall exercises.
WHEN: Tuesdays – Starting the 9th of April
DURATION: 6 weeks
TIME: 7.30 – 9 pm
WHERE: Bethlehem Community Church, 183 Moffat Road, Bethlehem, Tauranga
COST: $10 (includes 110 page course manual).
RSVP: None – just turn up!
We also highly recommend Gregory Koukl’s book Tactics: A Game Plan for Discussing Your Christian Convictions (check out the online reviews here) as a supplementary course text book. Copies will be available during the course for $20 each (cash only) while stocks last.
Hope to see you there!
As a marketer myself, I must admit this is exactly the kind of thing I’d be tempted to do. If someone brought this idea to me, I’d say, Yes, this will work! It’s perfect for the Hell brand. Of course, I’d also veto it.
As 3News and others report, comparing its hot cross buns to Jesus has predictably outraged some Christians. I think this response is misplaced. Outrage and righteous indignation hurt the cause of Christ while letting an apologetic opportunity slip by.
Tim Keller has written a great post about the apologetic approach he uses in his preaching and conversations with skeptics. The pastor of Redeemer in New York, Tim Keller is known for his ability to communicate the gospel clearly and persuasively. His church, which serves an area of largely urban professionals and secular postmodernists, has grown from a congregation of 50 to nearly 5000 today.
In his post, Keller talks about how he builds his case for one of the biggest points of conflict with non-Christians – the Christian sexual ethic. Keller describes his use of authors such as Immanuel Kant, the influential German philosopher, and Wendell Berry, an American academic. Without compromising or minimalizing the authority of the Bible, Keller discusses how he can gain a hearing from his audience by first appealing to common premises that his modern, secular thinkers might share. He writes:
Here’s what I learn from Kant and Berry. First, there are ways to argue in public discourse for various features of the Christian account of human flourishing without directly appealing to Biblical texts or to God. For example, if I am a Christian in politics, and I am speaking to a body of people who I know will resonate to Kantian views of human dignity or Berryan views of community, then it is possible to make a compelling argument for practices that are rooted in Christian truth. Why? Because people without an overt religious profession still hold many true beliefs about human dignity or community that are spiritually “there” in their souls because they are created in the image of God. We should not be under the illusion that we can “prove” Christianity to secular people however. The compelling nature of our argument relies on discovering the underlying beliefs that a non-believer has that match up with Biblical truth. Only if they grant these beliefs can we make our case.
Second, I find it is often helpful even when preaching to briefly recapitulate arguments such as these from Kant, Berry, and others. Why? The ultimate foundation for what we believe as Christians is the authority of God’s Word, but often the people we preach to are not convinced of the Bible’s complete trustworthiness. Here is an example. I may first present what the Bible says about sexuality. Then I may briefly make a Kantian argument (which C.S. Lewis also makes in Mere Christianity) about how sex outside of marriage de-humanizes or a Berryan one about how it harms community. Then I can add, “These are only some of the terrible results that come from violating God’s design for sexuality. There are certainly many others.” This approach both honors the Bible as the final authority for our lives and draws in listeners who, while not yet sure about the Bible’s inspiration, share the premises of Kant, Berry, or whomever else you use.
Read the whole post here.
Krish Kandiah, the executive director of churches in mission for the UK Evangelical Alliance, has written an article for Christianity Today, remembering the legacy and impact of Lesslie Newbigin (December 8, 1909 – January 30, 1998). Newbigin was a Church of Scotland missionary who served in India before becoming an important writer on the subject of missions, evangelism, and cultural engagement. His books include The Gospel in a Pluralist Society, The Open Secret: An Introduction to the Theology of Mission, and Foolishness to the Greeks: Gospel and Western Culture. Kandiah writes:
But there is a danger in free-market spirituality. Christianity becomes just another lifestyle option. As we become more aware of the multiplicity of worldviews and religions, and as we rightly value diversity, we can grow increasingly reluctant to commend the truthfulness of the Christian message. Privatized relativism is a real danger for the church. We are tempted to vacate the public square, avoid evangelism out of fear of offending others, and retreat into ghettos. The only alternative seems to be to try to impose Christian values on the wider culture by exerting moral muscle.
Newbigin offers a third way. He challenges the post-Enlightenment separation between so-called objective facts in the public realm (taught at school and presented without the need for the preface “I believe”) and the subjective values of the private world of religion and ethics. He argues that the church needs to humbly yet boldly enter the public sphere with a persuasive retelling of the Christian story—not as personal spirituality, but as public truth. He takes the logic for this public dialogue from the scientific community. A scientist does not present research findings as a personal preference, but with hope for universal agreement if the findings stand up to investigation. In the marketplace of ideas, we should likewise present the gospel not as personal preference but as truth that should gain universal acceptance. This allows us to commend the faith with the humble admission that we might not have exhaustively grasped the truth, but that we have truth that needs to be investigated and seriously engaged.
Read the whole thing here.
The separation of value from fact is reflected in the separation of private from public life that is one of the characteristics of our culture. And, as I shall argue, the response of the Christian churches – or at the least of the Protestant churches – to the challenge of the Enlightenment was to accept the dichotomy and withdraw into the private sector. Having lost the battle to control education, and having been badly battered in its encounter with modern science, Christianity in its Protestant form has largely accepted relegation to the private sector, where it can influence the choice of values by those who take this option. By doing so, it has secured for itself a continuing place, at the cost of surrendering the crucial field. As an option for the private field, as the protagonist for certain values, Christianity can enjoy considerate success. Churches can grow. People can be encouraged… All this can happen. And yet the claim, the awesome and winsome claim of Jesus Christ to be alone the Lord of all the world, the light that alone shows the whole reality as it really is, the life that alone endures forever – this claim is effectively silenced.
Lesslie Newbigin, Foolishness to the Greeks: the Gospel and Western culture, Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing, 1986, page 19, (italics are mine). Quote courtesy of Paul Windsor.