One of the podcasts that I listen to is called Theology on Mission (You can find all the podcasts I listen to here). One of the recent episodes, called “World Evangelicalism – A Future For the West?” had some interesting comments about apologetics. In the episode, apologetics was identified with modernism. Because of this, it was suggested that its time had passed in the west, and it definitely should not be shared with the rest of the world.
Listening to these claims, I had a number of thoughts. One is that Christian apologetics is not an invention of the Enlightenment. Much of the earliest post-New Testament writings were apologetic in nature, often being explicitly titled “Apology.” Even in the New Testament, there is quite a bit of apologetic argument. In 1 Corinthians 15, when Paul lists the witnesses of the resurrection of Jesus, he is doing Christian apologetics. Apologetics was around many centuries before the Enlightenment.
I would also say that the death of modernism has been exaggerated. Many of the people that I speak to are heavily influenced by modernist ways of knowing. People have questions about the Bible or God and they want propositional responses, even if the experts say they are not supposed to. Experience reveals that people still respond positively to rational Christian apologetics.
Finally, I think that there was lack of clarity in this episode about the nature of apologetics. Christian apologetics at its core is simply why we believe Christianity to be true. It does not matter of you are premodern, modern or postmodern, if you are North American, African or Asian, any Christian will have an answer to why they are a follower of Jesus and that is Christian apologetics.
I do believe that Christian apologetics must be contextual. But I would also say that a distaste of modernism should not lead to a rejection of Christian apologetics. For those who struggle with what apologetics can look like in a postmodern world, I recommend James Sire’s Apologetics Beyond Reason. He has a very balanced approach.