One of the best ways to reach people for Jesus today is not to try to persuade or convince them through rational arguments and persuasive reasoning.
Certainly, some will respond to this, and so there is a place for it, but the majority of people today are relational in their approach to truth.
Most people are not asking, “Do I want to believe like you do?” but instead are asking, “Do I want to live like you do? Do I want to be like you?”
Whether you agree or not, most people today believe that beliefs result in behavior.
If your behavior stinks, people assume your beliefs stink too, without even knowing what it is you believe.
If you want to convince people of the truth of Christianity, the best way to “argue” it today is not through reason and and rational propositions, but by becoming more and more like Jesus in everything we do.
Since Truth is a person (John 14:6), truth is best learned through knowing that person, Jesus Christ, and truth is best shown by living like Him.
Of course, it is not as easy at it sounds. I am convinced that most of us Christians and many of our churches have a very skewed idea of who Jesus was, so while we think we are living like Jesus, we may actually be living like Judas.
If you want to reach our culture for Jesus, the best (and most biblical) thing you can do is show people Jesus and invite them to follow Jesus with you.
I’m not going to argue whether or not you can only find the truth in Jesus because, for the purposes of this particular point, it doesn’t matter where the truth comes from. We still, I think have an obligation to ourselves, our society and even Jesus (if you are so inclined) to try and figure out that truth. If you’re using what Jesus said as a starting point (not a bad one, regardless of your faith), there is still much to discuss and hash out to interpret that philosophy in our modern lives. For some, that may sound like an easy thing to do, but some people tried just that about 500 years ago and it didn’t work out as well as they probably hoped. Just having faith and waiting to for the truth to be revealed to you is a disservice to the source of that truth. We should keep looking and discussing and even arguing, even with the almost certain knowledge that we will never find it. To do less is to abandon our reason and abdicate our responsibilities to others.
Having said that, I totally disagree with relativism. There are (have to be, I should say) absolutes out there. The physical realm is bound by natural laws (i.e. gravity) and there’s no good reason to abandon the idea that the metaphysical realm is no different. That doesn’t mean I believe they come from a god, just that they must exist because we can conceive and comprehend them.
We are moving beyond the post-modern, beyond relativism and existentialism. They weren’t that great to begin with. One should never, I think, come up with a theory of life and truth based upon despair. 🙂 The era that began with the revolutions of the 18th century is not yet over and we still have so much to learn before it can be. Continuing to rename periods by adding “post-” to them doesn’t make it move any faster.
Jeremy Myers says
You know, I’ve been hearing and reading that postmodernism was only a transitional phase, and we are already “over” it. You seem to be saying that very thing. We don’t yet know what to call the era we are in now, and we certainly aren’t back to “modernism” but whatever era we are in, I’m sure history will label it for us.
Have you heard much about this?
Most of what I know and understand about the philosophical periods is through the art and theatre that they produced. It is meager and scattered, as was recently demonstrated to me by my 22-year-old cousin, and a lot of it I learned through character work and scene study.
A ggod tool to examine our relationship to the beginnings of what I believe should still be defined as the current era is Building a Bridge to the 18th Century by Neil Postman. The 1700s started a shift away from empire and privilege to self-determination and empowerment of the masses. We haven’t quite made it through this period, especially as different areas of the world have encountered and responded to these ideas. Postmodernism was born of the despair of WW2 and the apparent breakdown and failure of the ideals of modernism. This wasn’t the case. We can see the same struggle with national identity and determination carrying all the way through to the present day, even among peoples who had already “discovered” it.
I’m sure there is another label out there already, but modernism is still enough for me, at least until someone can be a little more creative than “post-” and “post-post-“.
If there is a serious philosophy student out there, I’m sure he can skewer me on these points, and, frankly, I welcome it, as I’m mostly self-taught.
My formal education in philosophy ended when I informed the head of the department that I had changed my major to theatre. He asked me something to the effect of, “Wouldn’t it be prudent to stick to a major that would lead to a more certain future?” To which I replied, “Like Philosophy?” He didn’t find that very amusing. As it turns out, I absolutely could have turned a Philosophy degree into a great many career opportunities, but it wouldn’t have been nearly as much fun.
Jeremy Myers says
I love Neil Postman. He has a great book called “Amusing Ourselves to Death.”
Have you ever heard of Francis Schaeffer? He believed that art is one of the first indicators of where a culture is going, and what a society thinks and feels. Cultural trends are visible through pictures and art long before they make their way into books and articles. So, in a sense, art (and theater) is philosophy put to picture and story.
Bullet, thanks for sharing your ideas about the search for truth. I whole heartedly recommend Schaeffer’s writings based on my own journey.
Jeremy, Bullet makes a good point about the responsibility of finding truth, I hope he reads Schaeffer and enjoys him as much as I did. He was one of the great thinkers of our time.
I’m actually reading Amusing Ourselves… right now! I picked up the 20th anniversary edition with a foreword and some commentary by his son.
Definitely will check out Schaeffer.
Jeremy Myers says
By the way Schaeffer is a Christian, so don’t think I was trying to ambush you with him. I think the book I was thinking about is “How should we then live?”