“Evangelism in a Postmodern Culture”
“I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.”
One of the difficulties of being witnesses to Jesus is the pushback of culture. Christianity is, by its very nature, counter-cultural and our postmodern culture can be resistant to the absolute claims of Christ. This presents a major obstacle in reaching their hearts and minds with the truth of the gospel.
Many are rejecting any standards of absolute or objective truth in favor of relative truth and relative morality (What is true for you may not be true for someone else. Or what is right and moral may vary depending upon the situation.). Spirituality is traded for secularism, the process by which religious ideas, institutions and interpretations lose social significance. Any talk of God or the supernatural is pushed to the outside leaving a purely secular mindset.
Exclusive religious truth-claims have been traded with pluralism, which is a competing number of views as a worldview in which no one worldview is dominant. To many people Islam (though it is an exclusive religion) is just as true as Christianity or any other religion. This is the mindeset that believes we’re all working toward the same goal, we’re just going about it in different ways.
Privatization is also becoming more popular; this is the act of internalizing those things which society does not feel should be expressed. In other words, you can worship whatever version of God you want just don’t do it in public or evangelize. Faith is individualized and privatized.
If you have any understanding of Christianity you can see the problems with these views. So what do we do when we encounter pushback from a culture that rejects absolute truth-claims and exclusive faith that, by its nature, is public and not private?
What offends people is the binary system which separates humanity into two groups of people: those who have the truth and those who do not. Most people find this a naive oversimplification. For example, if a Christian makes a claim to know THE truth (Jn. 14:6) then the logical conclusion people draw is that they are living in error and ignorance. This is usually followed by accusations toward the offender of being narrow-minded and insulting. In our post-modern world, it is taboo to persuade people to believe something outside of ‘their’ truth because truth is relative to the individual. So, how do we respond?
Before a dialogue can commence, let alone progress, we must point out the inconsistencies of such thinking.
Logical inconsistency - If someone ever accuses you of being narrow or insensitive about trying to persuade them to believe what you believe they have just committed the crime they are accusing you of. By demonizing you for spreading your version of truth what are they doing but spreading theirs? How is a Christian trying to persuade a person to believe in the gospel so different than an unbeliever proselytizing believers to unbelief?
Philosophical inconsistency - Post-modern thinking is philosophical quicksand. Christians may be accused of separating the world into those who have the truth and those who do not, but our post-modern friends may turn around and say, “I’m one of the good people who don’t push my beliefs on others and you’re one of the bad people who do!” This is the height of hypocrisy and irony. There are two kinds of people in this world; people who make exclusive truth-claims and others who make exclusive truth-claims but don’t know they’re doing it!
Emotional inconsistency - But the fallacy is not only logical and philosophical. It is also emotional. Imagine you had a child suffering from multiple sclerosis and you found a treatment that helped tremendously. How would you respond? You would naturally want to tell other parents whose children were suffering from this disease about the cure. Love for your neighbor (something our Postmodern friends will preach) would demand that you limit the suffering of others by sharing the good news of a cure. How absurd would it be to accuse such a person of being narrow-minded, insensitive or trying to push ‘their’ truth on others!
Christians spread the gospel not simply because it is mandated by God but out of sincere love for their neighbor. It is compassion and love that motivates evangelism. We who have been rescued from the slavery of sin and death proclaim the good news of freedom and healing in Christ so others can benefit from God’s gift.
So what holds a person back from not telling others about the salvation found only in Christ? I would suggest it is due to either one of two things: a lack of love for our neighbors or a lack of conviction about Jesus.
Penn Jillette, the atheist illusionist and comedian once said, "I don't respect people who don't proselytize. I don't respect that at all. If you believe that there's a heaven and hell and people could be going to hell or not getting eternal life or whatever, and you think that it's not really worth telling them this because it would make it socially awkward.... How much do you have to hate somebody to believe that everlasting life is possible and not tell them that?"
Comments like this should cause every Christian to examine his or her conscience to see if they truly believe that Jesus really is “the way, the truth, and the life.” We may not come upon a traveler beaten within an inch of his life like the good Samaritan but we see our friends, neighbors, coworkers, family members and acquaintances spiritually battered and bloodied by the ravages of sin. Let us love our neighbor enough to tell him about the gift of God available to him through Jesus (Lk. 10:30-37).