Telling the Truth: Evangelizing Postmoderns, D.A. Carson

I think the title of this book is very misleading. What I was expecting was a book full of philosophical arguments on how weak the Postmodern position is. What I got was a book full of useful hints and tips on how to evangelize.

Postmodernism is a philosophical concept that stems from the community: morality is based on the ideals of a community. Further, the dominant thought is that the only absolute is that which there are no absolutes. This has proven to be a monumental task in Evangelicalism in America because how do you convince someone who has no truth except what they believe is truth to believe in absolutes?

D.A. Carson hosted a conference on evangelizing postmoderns in the late 1990’s and the outcome of that conference became this book. Each chapter is a different speaker whose thoughts were transcribed and put into a book form. So you have a really wide degree of opinion and thoughts on this subject. Many of the speakers are with college campus ministries because postmodern ideals run rampant here.

What was disappointing about the book was it eventually just became a “how to” guide for evangelism. I suppose I could have figured that it would given the title, but the glimmer of hope I had for real substance was not to be. The main concept that kept coming up was one of community. Since the community is the force in which morality is disseminated in the postmodern thought process, much emphasis is placed on bringing people into Christian communities for evangelism. A lot of the advice is similiar: get college youths plugged in at a campus ministry in a type of community. This opens the dialogue process up and helps young Christians gain a community that will ultimately lead them into a positive direction. Much is weighted on the idea that you can’t full out tell people you’re a Christian anymore, or even try to point out their sin; rather you have to form a relationship with an open dialogue that people will come to you for questions. There is some merit to this I think. But on the other hand, this point is so well documented in this book I thought I was re-reading things over and over again.

What is also frustrating is that this was written in the late 1990’s. The authors reference cultural phenomenons such as the movie “Titanic” and  other late 90’s cultural references. I don’t mind that as much, but the problem is that it is so archaic, I wonder if some of these strategies are so outdated that they will no longer work. Take for example the sexual revolution: 20 years ago, not a lot of people were talking about gay and transgender rights. Today, that is a topic of heated discussion, and particularly for the Church who, for the most part, will push against claims that those things are morally acceptable. Of course, this book does not address those topics. Which makes me wonder if we have entered into a new age in regards to the dominant philosophical thought of the day.

This isn’t a bad book. I just think the view of evangelism taken here is too constructed: it makes evangelism out to be a system that works for our modern culture. Like if you do A), B), and C), you’ll enter into a dialogue with someone about God and get them thinking. I’m not sure there is a “system” like “lifestyle evangelism” or “the way of the master” that is necessary. 1 Peter tells us to have an answer for the reason of our hope; that means certainly we need to study and know our culture, but it doesn’t insinuate that 1) we need to perfect a certain system in order to be successful in evangelism or 2) that this particular system will work better than what we’ve been doing. And I think that’s my biggest problem with evangelistic “systems”.

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