When I started as a church planter in a secular city, I thought I’d face a sophisticated set of questions about Christianity. I was surprised to discover that many people don’t have questions about Christianity: that would assume that they’ve thought about Christianity. I had my arguments lined up, and discovered that I was trying to answer questions that most weren’t asking.
I also discovered that many people believe in the supernatural. I’ve encountered some atheists, but not many. Generally speaking, I don’t find myself arguing for the existence of God with most people.
People seem to accept that God may exist, and most aren’t asking the old issues I expected. Instead, I’m encountering three issues I hadn’t expected.
Questions About Sex
In his book The Problem of God, Mark Clark includes a chapter on sex:
Many people reject Christianity because of its teachings on certain ethical issues, especially the Christian teachings on sex and human sexuality. Bertrand Russell, a famous twentieth-century atheist philosopher once said, “The worst feature of the Christian religion is its attitude towards sex.” Christianity’s teachings about sex have been deemed oppressive and antiquated in the modern world. Many believe the Bible’s teachings on it should be abandoned altogether.
He’s right. People may not have thought about the problem of evil or theism, but they’ve thought about sex. And what they think about sex does not line up with what they think the church believes, and they have questions.
I don’t think you can write a book on apologetics today, or pastor in a secular setting, and not talk about sex.
We need to understand the cultural views on sex, and think deeply about how to present a biblical apologetic for holy sexuality. We’re dealing with ideas, but we’re also dealing with people with complicated sexual histories, so we need to think carefully and pastor wisely.
Feeling, Not Thinking
The Oxford English Dictionary recently announced that “Post-truth” is their 2016 “Word of the Year.” We’re equipped with arguments, but we live among people who value intuition, hunches, and preferences. Prove that the resurrection happened, and that it changes everything, and you still may hear, “That may be true, but I’m just not feeling it.”
Abdu Murray writes:
Unlike postmodernism, the post-truth mindset acknowledges objective truth, but subordinates it to preferences. That’s dangerous, as logic and evidence don’t have the same influence over the post-truth mindset that they had over a postmodern. In a post-truth age, if the evidence fits our preferences and opinions, then all is well and good. If it doesn’t, then the evidence is deemed inadmissible or offensive, with offense being a kind of solvent against otherwise sound arguments.
This changes how we preach and evangelize. We must get to issues of truth by demonstrating that living according to our feelings is unsatisfying, and then demonstrating the beauty of truth.
Part of our church’s mission is to share the beauty of relationship with Jesus. I once tried to eliminate beauty from our mission, but someone I respect in our church stopped me. “That’s the important part,” he said.
He was right. Increasingly we must not only demonstrate the truth of Jesus, but the beauty of Jesus. We’re called to not only argue truth claims but to demonstrate how glorious, beautiful, and satisfying Jesus is.
The issues in apologetics are shifting. Be prepared to answer questions about sex and objections based on feelings. And be prepared to show the beauty of Jesus as well as the truth of Jesus.