Tuesday, September 05, 2006

The Problem of Postmodernism in Apologetics

Today I was involved in a discussion regarding apologetics, particularly the task of contending against a postmodern viewpoint. The discussion revolved mainly around the difficulty of pinning down a postmodern to a single set of beliefs.

If you ask any number of so called "experts" for a definition of postmodernism, you will likely get as many different answers as respondants. This in itself seems to be indicative of the postmodern worldview -- it seems tailor-made by an individual to fit his or her own felt needs.

In such a worldview, truth(s) must be "relevant" (or meaningful) to the hearer in order to be accepted as true (i.e. "if you say the moon is made of cheese, the statement may in fact be true, but I do not have to accept it as truth because it has no relevance to my own life"). The converse seems to be true also; a claim may be false, but I may accept it because it has particular meaning to me, or I may affirm you're right to believe it even if I do not. Herein lies the difficulty of establishing truth with a postmodernist.

During today's discussion Aristotle's three forms of rhetoric were mentioned:
1)Logos is the appeal to reason, this is what we typically thing of when we think of debates: one offers reasons and evidence to persuade others.
2)Ethos is an appeal based upon the character of the speaker. This argument seems to have great potential in speaking to those who will not be swayed by the logical arguments.
3)Pathos is an appeal to the emotions of the audience. This form certainly has its merits, but to me it seems somewhat empty. I can be pursuasive and passionate, and can appeal to your emotions, but there must be more if my audience is to "stay convinced."

In light of the onset and spread of the postmodern worldview, what options should we pursue as we contend for the faith?

8 comments:

Mark Spence said...

For many postmodern champions, nothing is wrong until it is done to them. So their view of right and wrong is incredibly pragmatic. Stealing something may not be wrong until you steal their car, then it is wrong. It just reveals an incredible selfishness, but what else is to be expected of an incredibly lost world.

Mark

colinm said...

Postmodernism is an idol. Leslie Zeigler made that point so succinctly in Dembski's book using Isa. 44:9-20. The irony is that when people craft these idols, what is meant to be the deliverer becomes the deceiver. Our job as apologists is to remove the deceptive barrier that the person may possibly hear the Gospel in their heart.

It only becomes a problem for us when we try to speak to their heart the logic of faith. It is God alone who saves, and the HS who regenerates and allows for belief. Our job as apologists, as I see it, is to remove the deceptive barrier. Once that is down, they will hear the good news of the gospel, and Lord Willing, be saved.

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Matt Knight said...

Thanks Colin, I recently read Dembski's book as well and think there are some great points. The class discussion with him was one of the things prompting my post. You are very right in saying that logic alone cannot save, but only God. Thanks for the good words.

colinm said...

Thanks for the good post