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.