J. P. Moreland in his forward writes, “In a recent Barna pool… They identified six reasons for the exodus (millennials leaving the church). (1) The church is overprotective and fails to expose people to anti-Christian ideas. (2) The church’s teaching is shallow. (3) The church is antagonistic to science and fails to help believers interact with scientific claims. (4) The church treats sexuality simplistically and judgmentally. (5) The church makes exclusivist claims. (6) The church is dismissive of doubters (13).”
Generation Z will be even worse with leaving the church than millennial's already are. Apologetics usually seen as just give arguments for the resurrection and God’s existence helps with some doubts and the apparent anti-scientific way of thinking in the church, but doesn’t deal with all doubts and reasons for why people leave the church. The shallow teaching of the church just sounds like any other religion and modern day people see Christ as another Zeus or pagan deity. Every person leaving the church may have similar reasons for leaving, but are always coming from different starting points. For example, many people may leave because they see what the church has to offer for the future, but not for the now. If the church mainly focused on the now of the Gospel instead of the future like Christ did, then less people in this area would see what Christianity has to offer for the now.
“The term “cultural apologetics” has been used to refer to systematic efforts to advance the plausibility of Christian claims in light of the messages communicated through dominant cultural institutions, including films, popular music, literature, art, and the mass media (20).” The focus is literally on culture instead of the typical philosophical arguments given for God’s existence. William Lane Craig seems to argue that cultural apologetics focuses on the negative side of apologetics. For example, if God does not exist then objective meaning, value, and purpose do not exist. Francis Schaeffer would take this point in his one step apologetics (aka. Presuppositionalism) and argue that one cannot live life without out belief in Christianity.
I however agree with Paul Gould with how he defines cultural apologetics. “I define cultural apologetics as the work of establishing the Christian voice, conscience, and imagination within a culture so that Christianity is seen as true and satisfying (21).” Christianity is a message for all people and has a timeless message to it. The apologetics aspect of the Gospel comes into play when someone asks you about the hope you have within you. This is what Saint Peter writes in his second epistle, which his cultural context was persecution on Nero. Everyone is coming from a different culture, context starting point that we most likely do not share. Gould gives us some helpful tips as how to do cultural apologetics in these types of conversations.
“In addition, a cultural apologist operates at two levels. First, she/he operates globally by paying attention to how those within a culture perceive, think, and live, and then she/he works to create a world that is more welcoming and thrilling and beautiful and enchanted. Secondly, she/he operates locally, removing obstacles to, and providing positive reasons for, faith so individuals or groups will see Christianity as true and satisfying, plausible and desirable (22-23).”
This will keep be emphasized, that everyone leaving or people you talk to about Christianity are coming from different starting points. Paul’s sermon at mars hill in Acts 17, comes from the starting point of worship. Paul does his homework and studied the Greek culture that he was in at Athens. Paul talks about the unknown God they worship as the Christians God and that he is knowable. Paul then provides the Gospels and points to the resurrections of Jesus to the Athenians.
As Christian Apologists, we need to know our “Athens” as Gould point out in his book. America’s “Athens” contains multiple worldviews like relativism, materialism, egoism, hedonism, secularism, and many other isms. Knowing these “Athens” will help us identify peoples cultural and contextual starting points. Doing this allows us to start the conversation and get to the core of why someone isn’t a Christian and employ the best reasons for why they should be a Christian is context to their starting points.
Gould gives us some more helpful tips and tasks as cultural apologists to help identify our “Athens” and people’s starting points. “First task of the cultural apologist-the task of understanding culture (24).” For our first task, we must listen to what the culture we are living is saying about Christianity and what the culture itself believes. The previous list of “isms” is a good starting point for practicing this first task. “Worldview analysis is necessary but not sufficient for a cultural apologetics (24).” This essential to cultural apologetics because to not understand competing worldviews is not listening and not understanding people’s cultural, contextual starting points.
“The cultural apologist works to resurrect relevance by showing that Christianity offers plausible answers to universal human longings (24).” As Aristotle points out, humans are rational, social beings that seek the transcendentals. The transcendentals are Truth, Beauty, and Goodness, also known as Logos, Pathos, and Ethos. Everyone’s starting points have hidden desires behind them associated with the transcendental in some way. The task here is to show how Christianity best offers relevance to people’s starting points that are associated with the transcendentals. “Cultural apologetics must demonstrate not only the truth of Christianity but also its desirability (25).” This is where cumulative case apologetics comes in by taking pieces of evidence of Christianity that relate to many people desirable starting points. For example, the argument from beauty shows that the aesthetic truths point towards Christianity along with the case of course. Everyone has aesthetic truths they hold dearly, but if their worldview(starting points) can’t satisfy that desire, then this is where cultural apologetics comes in. Cultural apologetics is a necessary component to apologetics that needs to be utilized in modern day apologetics to help spread Christian Truth Through Apologetics.
Cultural Apologetics by Paul Gould: https://www.amazon.com/Cultural-Apologetics-Conscience-Imagination-Disenchanted/dp/0310530490/ref=tmm_pap_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=&sr=
1. Gould, Paul. “Cultural Apologetics”, 13.
2. Gould, 20.
3. Gould, 21.
4. Gould, 22-23.
5. Gould, 24.
6. Gould, 24.
7. Gould, 24.
8. Gould, 25.
There are two views that compete with each other over how one should attain happiness and live their life. Both views accept the premise that everyone’s end goal is happiness, but take different routes to get there. Ethical Egoism says that one ought to act and live according to their self-interests. Ayn Rand is a famous philosopher of the twentieth century that defended ethical egoism. She took the view of extreme individualism and ultimately argued that your being and self-identity is equivalent to your stream of consciousness and experiences. This is a buffed up view of Cartesian ontology of human beings. “Man is a being of volitional consciousness (505).”
Aristotle took the view of the telos, that everyone’s goal is happiness and you should get there by living the virtuous life. Virtue can be defined as a habit that serves the higher good. According to Aristotle there are two different types of virtues, moral and intellectual virtues. Moral virtues would be examples like courage or justice. Using justice, rendering one one’s due shows virtue because you punish evil for the future good of maintaining order in the polis. Intellectual virtue includes having wisdom in both practical and theoretical knowledge.
Aristotle would argue that in our ontology we are both rational and social creatures, so to achieve happiness we must fulfill both of these types of desires that we have. “The definition of happiness; for it has been said to be a virtuous activity of soul, of a certain kind (59).” To practice virtue is to be in a state of “soulishenss”, which fulfills are rational and social needs. Doing this satisfies these functions of human ontology and builds the habit of virtue, which achieves our end goal of happiness.
The position that is most impressive with is living the virtuous life to bring about happiness. Firstly, Aristotle’s view of human ontology is correct as describing us as social beings. If this was not the case, then there would not be a strong need for community of each individual. Humans need to be social to fulfill this desire in us and to do this you must make friends. Friendship is a core aspect of the virtuous life, to maintain this requires habits of virtues. Love is one of these virtues that should be between true friends.
The second reason for why the virtuous life is better than an egoistic life is that virtue by definition helps out the greater good. An egoistic life doesn’t do good for the sake of good, but rather does good for self-interest and survival. There’s no real intrinsic good on egoism and it can’t ground intrinsic good. Many people have lived for self-interest and lived very easy lives. The ring of gyres shows that if one gets the ring, then they have power. If someone lives by self-interest, then with the ring can cause serious problems with those that have less capabilities.
The final reason for why one should live the virtuous life is to look at the greatest human to have ever lived. This being Jesus of Nazareth who lived a very virtuous life. Whether he was God is a different question, but clearly he has had the biggest impact on human history. The beatitudes in the sermon on the mount shows the basic virtues that people should live by. Examples like peace-keepers and the merciful are virtues that Christ taught to live by. The second greatest commandment is the key to friendship and the virtuous life, which is to love thy neighbor as you love yourself. Love here is the greatest virtue that brings about friendship and truly serves the highest good. Any Rand’s view of ethical egoism does not fit the need to fit human ontology, our need for community, and love as a server to the highest good. The end goal of happiness is to live the virtuous life and love as the central habit that you live by.
A defense of Ethical Egoism