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Apologetics still a necessity in postmodern age, Mohler says

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (BP)–Christians must defend the gospel effectively even in a postmodern age when most Americans reject the concept of absolute truth, said R. Albert Mohler Jr., president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky., in a convocation address to the seminary community Aug. 24.
“The world has no need of half-evangelists preaching a half-gospel to the half-converted, leading to a halfhearted church,” Mohler said. “I pray that God will raise up and call out a generation of bold and courageous evangelist-apologists for the 21st century.”
This postmodern age, Mohler argued, is one marked primarily by the denial of truth’s reality.
“Postmodern Americans accept meaning as a replacement for truth and exchange worldviews as quickly as they try on new clothes,” he said. “Evangelism is difficult in an age when most persons think that their most basic problems are rooted in a lack of self-esteem and when personal choice is the all-determining reality of the marketplace.”
These days, apologetics is almost nonexistent in some circles, Mohler said. Liberal churches and denominations have compromised truth so much that there’s “nothing left to defend.”
Mohler said many evangelicals seem to be confused by postmodernism and aren’t sure how to defend their faith in such an age.
“Some suggest that the age of apologetics is over,” Mohler said. “I intend to argue that the apologetic task has never been more pressing, more urgent or more important. Indeed, I believe that at this critical time of cultural and intellectual transition, the Christian ministry, taken as a whole, must be understood as an apologetic calling.”
Preaching from Acts 17:16-34, Mohler used the Apostle Paul’s address to the Athenian philosophers at the Areopagus as a pattern for Christians to follow. Mohler said a proper Christian apologetic:
— begins in a provoked spirit.
Paul saw a city full of idols and was overcome with compassion for the Athenians.
“This text reminds us that a proper Christian apologetic begins in spiritual concern, not in intellectual snobbery or scorn,” Mohler said.
“We preach Christ, not because Christianity is merely a superior philosophy or worldview, nor because we have been smart enough to embrace the gospel, but because we have met the Savior, we have been claimed by the gospel, we have been transformed by the renewing of our minds.”
— is focused on the gospel proclamation.
“The goal of a proper apologetic is not to win an argument, but to win souls,” Mohler said. “Apologetics separated from evangelism is unknown in the New Testament, and it is clearly foreign to the model offered by the Apostle Paul.”
— assumes a context of spiritual confusion.
Just as Paul’s message confused the Epicureans and Stoics in Athens, the gospel perplexes people today.
“Confusion marks the spiritual understanding of most Americans,” Mohler contended. “Pollsters report amazingly large numbers of Americans who profess belief in God, but live like atheists. The vast majority of Americans profess to be Christians, but have no concept of Christian belief or discipleship.”
— is directed to a spiritual hunger.
Despite the growing secularism in the United States, Americans are some of the world’s most religious people.
“Many people declare themselves to live by scientific rationality, and yet they read the astrology charts, believe in alien abductions, line up to see bleeding statues and talk about past lives,” Mohler said. “In their ignorance, Americans are feeding on a false diet of superstition and myths. The hunger is a place to start. Our challenge is to preach Christ as the only answer to that hunger.”
— begins with the fundamental issue of God’s nature, character, power and authority.
Before telling the Athenians about Jesus Christ, Paul spoke about God’s revelation of himself in creation.
“Paul’s concern was to establish his preaching of Christ upon the larger foundation of the knowledge of the God of the Bible, maker of heaven and earth,” Mohler said. Like Paul, “We must start with the knowledge of God as Creator, but this is not sufficient to save.”
— confronts error.
“False theologies abound in the postmodern marketplace of ideas,” Mohler said. “Americans have revived old heresies and invented new ones. … Our culture is filled with images of gods formed by art and the thought of man. Our confrontation must be bold and biblical. We have no right to make God in our image.”
— affirms the totality of God’s saving purpose.
“It is not enough to preach Christ without calling for belief and repentance,” Mohler said. “It is not enough to promise the blessings of heaven without warning of the threat of hell. … We have not preached Christ until we have proclaimed his resurrection from the dead.”
A true apologetic declares the whole gospel, not just parts of it, Mohler said. While Christians must defend Christ’s deity, virgin birth, substitutionary atonement and other truths, “we dare not stop at these affirmations, for we must place the person and work of Christ within the context of God’s eternal purpose to save a people to his own glory and to exalt himself among the nations,” Mohler said.

    About the Author

  • Tim Ellsworth
    Tim Ellsworth is associate vice president for university communications at Union University in Jackson, Tenn. BP reports on missions, ministry and witness advanced through the Cooperative Program and on news related to Southern Baptists’ concerns nationally and globally.Read All by Tim Ellsworth ›