Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Alister McGrath on Postmodern Apologetics

My friend and ministry colleague Philip Johnson recently made me aware of an article by Alister McGrath on the necessity of apologetics in postmodernity titled "To Capture the Imagination of Our Culture: Reflections on Christian Apologetics," that appears in Anvil, volume 17, number 1 (2006), pp 5-15. Philip discusses this article as it relates to the emerging church movement's emphasis on embodied apologetics at his Circle of Pneuma blog. If by an "embodied apologetic" the emerging church refers to the need for greater emphasis on incarnating in postmodern subcultures and engaging in acts of service and hospitality, then I am all for it, provided this is done in connection with other forms of mission and apologetic as well. The emerging church needs to resist the false dichotomy of "embodied apologetic" vs. "rational apologetic."

But before evangelical apologists shout a hearty "Amen!" they need to remember that apologetics within postmodernity needs to be done very differently than in a modernist context. Apologetics, like missions, must be contextually appropriate and relevant to a culture. Evangelical apologists' penchant for modernist apologetic approaches need to be revisited in light of social and cultural shifts. Readers might be interested in a popular article I wrote on that touched on this area in "A Fresh Agenda for Apologetics in the Twenty-First Century."

Emerging church participants and apologists alike are encouraged to click on the link above to Circle of Pneuma for Johnson's comments on this issue, and to secure this issue of Anvil.

1 comment:

Matt Stone said...


I applaud the Emerging Church for recognising the apologetic value of living the good news, but as you indicate, many display a concerning tendancy to draw false dichotomies between 'embodied apologetics' and 'rational apologetics'. I belive much of this stems from a hangover from confrontationalist styles but there's more that a little 'baby going out with the bathwater' dynamics going on.

As you suggest, we still need to be able to put together a well reasoned apologetic, but new cultural situations call for new approaches. In this respect I think Stackhouse's 'Humble Apologetics' is a must read.

A truly holistic apologetic will commend God through mind body heart and spirit.