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Our evangelism must take seekers beyond their unexamined assumptions and beliefs. Obviously, postmodernism is not necessarily better than modernism. It may be the case that all worldviews share similarly in the amount of insight they have into reality—and all suffer from the comparable amounts of absurdity. We must be careful to neither make modernists out of seekers, nor uncritically embrace postmodernism. We must go beyond postmodernism. McLaren makes this point in saying "…postmodernism is the latest in a long line of absurdities." He notes that, "...Freudianism says that all beliefs and behaviors flow out of certain psychosexual complexes...all beliefs except, of course, Freudianism, and all behaviors except, of course, the behavior of expounding Freudianism. Evolutionism says that all characteristics, including the development of thinking brains, are selected naturally to favor survival...not necessarily the apprehension of truth; this belief suggests that the very organ which conceives of evolution is oriented to produce useful theories, but not necessarily true ones. And radical postmodernism rejects the universal truthfulness of every other belief while assuming its own position as the only universally true one."
Taking people beyond postmodernism means understanding what constitutes "separate ground." This is a term employed by Dennis McCallum, as he identifies where we go in dialogue with postmoderns. He says that there are several key areas that we eventually have to address—there is only one reality. Truth is objective. Objective moral norms are universally binding. In other words, you eventually have to be able to help people understand the Law of Non–Contradiction, and the inability for anyone to live in a culture that has tolerance as it’s highest virtue.
Proverbs 15:28: The heart of the righteous ponders how to answer.
The architectural maxim, form follows function, has never been more helpful than today in reaching a postmodern culture. We need to develop new forms to evangelize postmodern people. This means taking the time to help them think through their basic assumptions about life and how they view reality. It also means facilitating forums that can act as idea incubators—giving individuals time to reconstruct how they interpret their perceptions of reality. The best form I have observed is called the "Open Forum." This is a 59–minute and 10–second open discussion that gives individuals a safe place to wrestle with their questions. There is much to be gained from developing open forums, where genuine seekers feel comfortable interacting with believers. In an age where incivility, sound bites, and confrontation reign; this is a golden opportunity for believers to do cultural exegesis—while helping seekers through their intellectual hurdles. Most individuals in our country live without any sense of community. A small group that is well–moderated (while investigating conflicting worldviews) could bring about a sense of belonging for the participants. Carefully and lovingly facilitated, you can help someone critically assess their worldview and assumptions, and reconstruct the presuppositions from which they either understand or misunderstand the gospel message. Open forums are built upon the tenet that Christianity always fares well in the open marketplace.
If you are going to host and facilitate an Open Forum, you must be aware of the kinds of questions that the majority of people have today. And you need to have a reasonable response ready. Too many books on apologetics are designed to answer the questions of a modern culture. For example, I rarely have anyone ask me anymore about the historicity of the New Testament. Instead, they simply shrug and suggest that all history is simply the perspective of the writer. Evidence no longer demands a verdict! We have plenty of modern apologetics. We need to develop postmodern apologetics.
Francis Schaeffer, as I understand him, might have been prophetically forecasting the postmodern age coming to America. His way of interacting with postmoderns—using Romans 1 as his basis—was to head in two different directions. Schaeffer had impressive results. One direction was to walk with the skeptic and follow their belief system to its logical conclusions—leading inevitably to its bankruptcy. This demands that we understand what skeptics are saying, and can appreciate the elements of truth (usually there) that can be found in any system of thought. Dialogue like this requires believers—as has already been suggested—"get up to speed" with whatever worldview is holding sway over the culture.
The second approach of Schaeffer was to describe the beauty and coherency of the Christian worldview. This too demands great thoughtfulness for the believer. For you are not so much arguing for specific evidences, as much as developing a comprehensive and cogent worldview. The particulars of classical apologetics (of which many are familiar) serve as supports. But we must be able to synthesize the segments into an attractive worldview. Schaeffer simply held that either approach ends at the same place: the first will lead the skeptic to see the poverty of their view; the second leads the skeptic towards the beauty and rationality of the Christian worldview.
If you are going to facilitate an Open Forum, Brian McLaren suggests some helpful yardsticks to keep in mind as you help people wrestle with the idea of faith. His ideas serve as broad parameters for leaders of forums. Consider how effective they will be in a postmodern age. And also think about how they take the burden off of the facilitator having to have all the answers. Here are Brian’s five ideas:
In chapter three, we explored briefly how to dialog with postmoderns. Chapter four will take us more in depth, providing questions and answers in a Socratic fashion coupled with Pauline appreciation statements—modeled after the Apostle Paul's discourse on Mars Hill. We will see the questions of life asked by contemporary "poets" who have couched them in bumper stickers. Next, we encounter practical helps around the maze of difficult issues like the problem of evil. Finally, we will find information on assessing our audience and moving on from the open forum stage of outreach.
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