103: Has Apologetics Run Its Course?

In this episode John and Gregg discuss books that they have been recently reading.

John explains that he has been reading N. T. Wright’s Surprised by Hope with his parents.  Given that this is the first book by N. T. Wright that any of them have read, John notes that the absence of fuller explanations (particularly on matters that Wright has discussed / argued at length elsewhere) is unsatisfying.

John also notes how his interest has recently been captured by the book of Job, particularly because it seems so self-contained, and how in searching for books on Job he has come across Peter Enns’ book, The Bible Tells Me So.  John is rather excited to see that his current study of Job / the Bible is holding his attention much longer than he typically experiences when reading on such topics!

Gregg, in turns, recounts that he is reading several books by Ravi Zacharias: Why Jesus? and Beyond Opinion.  Gregg’s interest in Zacharias was peaked by a post that listener Amy put in the Untangling Christianity Facebook group, and Gregg notes that he has also watched several of Zacharias’ videos and read 2 or 3 articles from RZIM website.

In addition, Gregg is reading Myron Penner’s The End of Apologetics.  John is surprised by the book’s premise, yet Gregg explains his longstanding misgivings about the “apologetic enterprise.”  So Gregg juxtaposes what he and John are doing on the podcast with looming focus that apologetics places on “defending the faith,” and how this is often a misplaced expectation in a non-Christian world that views Christianity neither as a subject of interest nor as a threat, but actually as largely irrelevant.

In other words, by anticipating being attacked (or at least questioned) by non-Christians, Christians often adopt a defensive stance (as the subtitle of one of Zacharias’ books: “Living the Faith we Defend”) such that their expectations ultimately keep them from being able to relate to others in easier, more normal manner (that, ironically, may allow them much greater possibilities in communicating the love and truth of Christianity than the typical apologetic approach)!

More worryingly, Gregg is concerned that Zacharias has misunderstood postmodernism and, as a result, misjudges postmoderns and so approaches them in a way that ultimately devalues them.  This is a particularly important as our North American culture is largely postmodern, and so Zacharias’ understanding of postmodernism is rather definitive for his apologetic approach.

Further, Gregg notes the disparity between apologeticists, who start with knowledge, and the widespread understanding in continental philosophy (following Martin Heidegger’s Being and Time) that human beings always start with a sort of tacit “understanding” gleaned through lived existence: understanding something’s use by using it.  Gregg connects this with the need to realize that the apostle Paul’s approach on Mars Hill (i.e., his focus on immediately “telling” about the gospel rather than first “living it out” to his hearers, in Acts 17) while necessary and beneficial at the time, is no longer relevant.

Rather, because North Americans in particular have become super-saturated with information about God and Christianity (even if such contains a good deal of misinformation), yet they have also seen the numerous failings and inconsistencies of Christians, today Christians must first overcome their suspicions before (and in order to) “earn a hearing” with postmoderns.

3 thoughts on “103: Has Apologetics Run Its Course?

  1. Pingback: Daycare or University... ? - Another Christian OptionAnother Christian Option

    1. Gregg Monteith Post author

      Hi John,

      Thanks for your interest in our podcast and for your comment. I take it that you are referring to The Gospel According to Job? I have not read the book but would be interested to know what struck you about it / have some sense of a starting point for the discussion.



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