February 9, 2012
Dr. David Allison
Evangelizing To The Postmodern Mind
Communicating truth to someone that is not sure what truth is, or if truth even exists at all, is a very difficult task. To the postmodern mind, truth is not absolute; therefore, the spiritual absolutes Christians hold to, the postmodern mind insists do not exist. For Christians, sharing the gospel with the postmodern world appears to be a daunting task. D.A. Carson, in his book Telling The Truth: Evangelizing Postmoderns, compiles thoughts and strategies from various examples of contemporary evangelism. Carson’s compilation acts as a groundwork for sharing the gospel with the postmodern mindset of today’s world. For evangelism to be effective in the lives of the postmodern, the context of the postmodern and Christian beliefs must be bridged together at an intellectual, spiritual, and relational level. To understand the context of postmodernism, a person must start with the intellectual shifts in culture that influenced postmodern thinking. Such significant shifts in postmodern thought include the popularization of the death of God movement, religious pluralism, the power to inform through the visual and the blurring of reality and imagination, the lost center of cultural molding, and the shifting of power to a younger world. As a result of these shifts, there has been a major epistemological impact on the world. Today’s philosophy has moved to the existential, artists have moved to the sensual side of humanity, religion has been moved into the mystical realm of spirituality, education has gained an aura of skepticism, and individuals have moved to transcendental thinking. The impact of postmodern thought has divided the world. In the western world, Christianity has become marginalized; there has been a struggle with higher education and academic trends, as well as theology replacing religion. In the eastern world, western religion is criticized, and there has been a resurgence and greater appreciation for ancient wisdom, where religion has been and continues to be seen as a pursuit. In the west, there has been a displacement of objective truth, with nothing to replace it, while in the east there was no feeling of displaced truth because cultural focus was elsewhere. Within the context of postmodern thought, religious pluralism has made a significant impact in the shift toward postmodern intellectual thinking. In the past several years, the paradigm of understanding the relationship between Christianity and other religions has been understood in three broad categories: particularism, inclusivism, and pluralism. Pluralism is the category that has been most influential on postmodern thinking. During the 1970’s and 1980’s, theologians became unhappy with particularism and inclusivism, and were rejecting the superiority of Christianity and the idea that salivation is found in Christ, instead embracing pluralism. “Pluralism, then, rejects the suggestion that there is anything unique, normative, or superior about Jesus Christ and the Christian faith. Salvation (or enlightenment or liberation) is said to be present in its own way in each religion” (Netland & Johnson, 2000, p. 50). Theologians began to promote the thought that no religion could claim to be superior to any other, but that all religions in their own way were historical and cultural responses to divine reality. Basically, these pluralist scholars were asserting that while Jesus may be the savior for Christians, He is not necessarily the savior for all people. The modern appeal of religious pluralism in the postmodern mind can be attributed to increased awareness of religious diversity, the tendency to regard religion in highly pragmatic and consumerist terms, religious commitments being more tentative, the distinguishing between the public world of facts and the private realm of opinions, values, and preferences, the...