Rory Shiner thinks that 2018 is the time for evangelism. I agree.
Talk to student workers in AFES, for example. They are the ones on the front line, sharing the gospel with the very generation who have been raised on intersectionality and gender fluidity and the whole bit. And yet, again and again, from campus to campus, these student workers are saying that this is the best and the freshest evangelistic environment they’ve seen in their life time.
People are so post-Christian that the gospel is fresh and interesting. They know so little that there’s less prejudice. And if they have an impression of Christians at all, it’s so outrageously negative that all you have to do is offer them a cup of tea and not punch them in the face and you seem like Mother Theresa.
Think about this, and it makes plenty of sense. People in the last 60 years or so have felt, in rejecting Christianity, that it is old and outdated and childish. That they already understand it, and can dismiss it as false. But now they might still have some of that attitude, but in reality they know nothing about Christianity. It’s easy to get someone intellectually curious about Christianity now, or surprise them with how little they know. And this leads to critical engagement. And critical engagement with Christianity leads to Christians.
The harvest is great, but the workers are few. Don’t be afraid or discouraged. Go on the offensive, fight the good fight, and win souls for Christ.
Many of you will have noticed that I reference the book A Secular Age by Charles Taylor quite regularly. Outside of scripture, no other book has been more influential in shaping my thinking about the Western world. Where we are, how we got here, what it means, and where we’re going.
If for some reason you don’t feel like spending 4 months digging through this 900 page tome, then there is an alternative that I haven’t read myself, but some of my friends recommend. From James Smith, the author of You Are What you Love, it is a summary of Taylor, containing many of his most important ideas, and it seems to attempt to make them explicitly and directly relevant to the Christian apologist. I also believe that Smith is Reformed, which always wins points in my book.
If those are too hard (and I strongly encourage you to take one of those two options, even as audiobooks or something) then I have found a reasonably good series of YouTube videos, they seem to be recordings of a philosophy class at a university discussing the book. They are not an alternative, but they may be helpful.
…the prospect that religion might disappear under the forces of scientific refutation is abandoned, but the prediction that in humanity’s search for meaning in the future, religious answers will be relegated to the margins
But religion as a whole dissapear or be marginalized in this fashion? At first sight, there seems to be a difficulty with this, in that the very self-understanding of unbelief, that whereby it can present itself as mature, courageous, as a conquest over the temptations of childishness, dependence, or lesser fortitude, requires that we remain aware of the vanquished enemy, of the obstacles which have to be climbed over, of the dangers which still await those whose brave self-responsibility falters. Faith has to remain a possibility, or else the self-valorizing understanding of atheism flounders. Imagining that faith must just disappear is imagining a fundamentally different form of non-faith, one quite unconnected to identity. It would be one in which it would be as indifferent and unconnected to my selse of my ethical predicament that I have no faith, as it is today that I don’t believe, for instance, in phlogiston or natural places. This I suppose is something like what Bruce is predicting
Religion remains ineradicably on the horizon of areligion, and vice versa. This is another indication that the “official story” needs to be understood on a deeper level, as I have been suggesting above.
Something to think about as we engage with our atheist friends, especially those of the New Atheist tradition. It is always good to try to understand the deeper motivations and frameworks of the debates that we have, as well as critically evaluating arguments. We are not just out to win minds, but hearts.
This podcast from TGC is one of the best I’ve heard in a while. Explaining discipleship in the context of a biblical eschatology vs. three competing modern eschatologies of enlightenment, sexual revolution, and consumerism. The focus on eschatology was extremely interesting and perceptive. If you want to think about how the church can engage modern culture, this may be very useful.
On Wednesday I had the privilege of hearing David Robertson speak at Menai Anglican Church. He covered many topics, mainly in the area of evangelism and apologetics in modern culture. I took some notes, here they are in their very rough and unedited form. Perhaps some will be useful:
Proclaiming Christ in a post Christian culture:
- Acts 17:6. What kind of world was being turned upside down? Don’t just influence, turn upside down. Jesus does this. Not politics. Gospel
- Ireland and Scotland changed quickly. Why are people dancing and singing for abortion? Surely if abortion is permissible, it is a bittersweet and necessary evil.
- We are regressing to a Greco-roman pagan world. Not progressive.
- Secular utopianism. Pinker’s enlightenment, ignores bad stuff. Things can only get better. But things aren’t. Advancing to nirvana never happens. Hitler thought he was progressive. Lewis Namier. Most academics were Nazis.
- Religious Fundamentalism. Unthinking Christianity included, but also Islam. Progressive utopian have to believe all religions are fundamentally the same. But Islam is a political system. Welcome them and spread the Gospel
- State fascism. Control of the state over everything. If we remove the church from culture, the state now provides the function of the church: Morality, schools (social engineering, what to think. Safe schools). Values of the elites imposed. Guilty until proven innocent in university sexual assault committees.
- Consumerist dumbed down materialism. Affluenza. Cannot serve both God and mammon. Prosperity Gospel, exported out of the West, is evil.
- New age paganism. Sexuality, mother earth, “cool”. Trying to be different. Nothing new under the sun.
- Sexual confusion and dysfunctional families. Nothing surprising here. Especially pushed in schools, even primary school. Children need a mum and dad.
- Equality: we are becoming unequal. Only focused on sexuality, but finance is more important.
- The church. Society needs Jesus. Don’t patronise poor people, they need the Gospel more than soup kitchens. Australia will become worse soon perhaps. Billy Graham 1959 had long-lasting impact. Moore college had a big impact. Immigrants are an opportunity. But weak on 25-40 year olds, who are sheltered. Tribalism. Struggle with answering objections. And we are going to decline in 10 years without renewal. What can we do: Don’t fight to save Christendom. Make more disciples
- We will never have difficulty in evangelism if the glory of the Lord fills the temple. Don’t let them see us as fake, dead, boring, unreal. Let them think we’re crazy or wrong. But not dead.
- Ireland makes us angry because it’s people shaking their fists at God. Our primary emotion should be sorrow, as God is being mocked.
- How to present our views on social issues? They are shibboleth issues, testing if we are culturally orthodox. Jesus responds with a question to get to the bigger issues. Don’t answer in their framework, take it to a wider framework. Don’t avoid and don’t compromise, but go bigger.
- Sidenote: narratives and metanarratives, new sincerity, end of post-modernism. This is good for us.
- Society has a vision of the church. But it is wrong. The church is for glorifying Jesus and proclaiming the Gospel. Don’t use care for the poor as evangelism, it’s patronising and manipulative.
- Australia has phenomenal opportunities to be useful in Asia for evangelism