In Christian Apologetics in the Postmodern World some of evangelicalism's most stimulating thinkers consider three possible apologetic responses to postmodernity. William Lane Craig argues that traditional evidentialist apologetics remains viable and preferable. Roger Lundin, Nicola Creegan and James Sire find the postmodern critique of Christianity and Western culture more challenging, but reject central features of it. Philip Kenneson, Brian Walsh and J. Richard Middleton, on the other hand, argue that key aspects of postmodernity can be appropriated to defend orthodox Christianity.
An essential feature are the trenchant chapters by Ronald Clifton Potter, Dennis Hollinger and Douglas Webster considering issues facing the local church in light of postmodernity. The volume’s editors and John Stackhouse also add important introductory essays that orient the reader to postmodernity and various apologetic strategies.
“More importantly, he argues that in our present culture the church cannot even begin to speak about credibility until it establishes plausibility. By elevating persuasion and plausibility over evidences and credibility, Stackhouse is reversing Aristotle’s preference for logos over ethos and pathos. In a postmodern cultural milieu, where universal norms and totalizing metanarratives are suspect from the outset, the church must first persuade its audience that Christianity has something important to say and should be heard; only then should the church suggest that it might be true.” (Page 16)
“In the end, language cannot authoritatively communicate reality ‘as it really is’; rather, it fabricates what ‘really is.’” (Page 14)
“The problem seen by postmodernists is that if the Christian religion is objectively true, then multitudes of people belonging to other religious traditions find themselves excluded from salvation, often through no fault of their own but due simply to historical and geographical accident, and therefore destined to hell or annihilation.9 Many theologians find this situation morally unconscionable and have therefore abandoned the objective truth of Christianity in favor of various forms of religious relativism.” (Pages 82–83)
“In other words, one can defend objective truth or relativism only by assuming that it is possible for human beings to take up a ‘view from nowhere’; since I don’t believe in ‘views from nowhere,’ I don’t believe in objective truth or relativism. Moreover, I don’t want you to believe in objective truth or relativism either, because the first concept is corrupting the church and its witness to the world, while tilting at the second is wasting the precious time and energy of a lot of Christians.” (Page 156)
Dennis L. Okholm (Ph.D., Princeton Theological Seminary) teaches in the department of theology and philosophy at Haggard School of Theology, Azusa Pacific University. Previously he was associate professor of theology at Wheaton College in Wheaton, Illinois. He is also an ordained minister in the Presbyterian Church (USA), and an oblate of a Benedictine monastery (Blue Cloud Abbey, SD).
Timothy R. Phillips (Ph.D., Vanderbilt University) was associate professor of historical and systematic theology at Wheaton College, where he was instrumental in starting and organizing the annual Wheaton College Theology Conference.