By Brandon Robbins

Sharing their faith is a very difficult task for many within the church. For some the very idea of sharing their faith strikes fear into their hearts. One of the reasons for this is the fear of not having all the answers to the many questions that may be asked. The purpose of this article to help provide a simple response to a common objection someone might receive in our current cultural climate.

The postmodernist’s response to the proclamation of the Gospel often goes something like this: “Well, religions are all relative.” Often followed by: “I mean, being a Christian is great for you, but it is just not for me. Thanks, but no thanks.” I have a feeling that many Christians feel dejected by this response and don’t really know where to turn next. In essence this response becomes the great conversation stopper of our day. The dialog ends and the conversation turns to the weather, college football, or even politics before the topic of eternal salvation in Christ is ever brought into focus. It is my prayer that the following will be a helpful guide in engaging people with the reality of the gospel in the face of this particular postmodern objection.

Two Views of Truth

Truth does not exist, some may say, but it does have power. “Truths” are tied up in what are often called power plays. Meaning that what makes something “true” is what power a proposition evokes over you. For example, a stop sign does not contain something called “truth” within itself, but is does have the power to do something. Namely it has the power to cause people to stop. The truth value of something like a stop sign is created by an agreement within society for the purpose of social order. So the “truth” of a stop sign is relative to a given society. Truth in this postmodern sense is what provides responsibility for individual citizens to the community as a whole. There is a profound connection to notions of truth and responsibility. If something is believed to be “true,” if it is an accepted fact, then you are responsible to adhere to it. Truth has an inherent authority over human action even in this postmodern world.

The question is what makes something true, or, put another way, how should we understand the concept of truth. One view is the postmodern one outlined above, namely, that truth is relative to different cultures; that truth is what a society, a family, a religious community agrees upon. The alternative view is that what makes something true is that it corresponds to the way the world really is.1 Truth is independent of anyone’s believing it or not. These two approaches to truth need to be kept in mind as we seek to engage people who have a postmodern mindset.

Another thing to keep in mind is the concept of responsibility and its connection to truth and religion. Nietzsche once remarked, “We deny God, and denying God we deny responsibility.”2 If God does not exist, then there is no universal standpoint by which humanity can be judged. For the Postmodern, the “truth” of a religion lies not in its description of the world but in its power to make you feel good and live well or ethical around others. Thus, religion is just an agreement within a culture or an expression of that culture’s understanding of the ultimate meaning of the universe. But the claims of religion are not objective descriptions of the “real” world. The implication of this is that a person has no real responsibility to respond to the claims of any religion because they lack the power to create responsibility. But what if truth claims about the Christian God are real descriptions of the external world? These truth claims would have power over people. They would create a responsibility for a person to respond. The reality of God and objective truth go hand in hand.

For example, if I make the claim that “God raised Jesus from the dead,” can that be seen as a relative statement to a particular culture? What power does this proposition have? The truthfulness or falsehood of this statement is quite profound. If it is not the case that God raised Jesus from the dead, then, as the apostle Paul makes clear, then Christians who claim to have faith in the risen Christ are to be pitied.3 Now my purpose in this short article is not to prove the resurrection or its historical reliability. I want to do something somewhat less significant. I simply want to make the case that it matters whether or not this event happened in history.

Back To The Conversation…

“So my belief in the Christian faith can be true for me, but not for you?” So, for example, if I make the statement that “Jesus is alive and is seated at the right hand of God the Father,” is that a true description of what happened in time and history or not? Can this religious belief really be reduced to preference? If Jesus’ resurrection really happened, it is the greatest power play in the history of mankind. Not only would this create a responsibility to respond, but it would prove that God has indeed provided a way of salvation. The author of history has written himself into the storyline of human history and speaks and calls us to receive or reject him. But, postmodern relativism threatens to prevent anyone from hearing his message. It reduces the message to a cultural preference and ends any quest to discern the facts of the case. To keep this from happening, keep these points in mind. . .

First, press the historical character of the Christian claims. I often tell people that they have a choice to make in this matter. They can simply tell me that they don’t believe that Jesus was raised from the dead, or they can say it might be true but they don’t know for sure. But in either case their postmodern worldview must be abandoned and they must admit that they believe in the objective truth or falsehood of my faith.

As people who want to engage the world with the gospel, we can’t allow people this kind of “easy out.” It is often argued, for example, that the intelligent design movement is a science stopper and therefore has no place in science. From this the antagonist means that, if you can always say “God did it,” then there is no reason for scientific investigation. In much the same way, postmodernism acts as an even greater conversation stopper. To say it is “relative” ends the conversation about the historical fact or falsehood of the resurrection. We need to show people that the claims of the Christian faith are true or false, not relative. For if they are false then it is not a good thing to believe in Christ—it is something they should have pity on us for.

Second, don’t defend more than you have to. As Christians we need to be discerning and realize that the objection is not the issue. The issue is that men build up strongholds against the faith in order to suppress the truth. We need to remove the obstacles set before us and move on. As in this article, I don’t always feel it necessary to prove the resurrection as much as showing that it matters if it is true or not.

Third, move the conversation to the Scriptures. Faith comes by hearing the word of Christ.4 With gentleness and kindness we need to share the true power the Gospel. We need to not only show that the historical reality of the resurrection matters, but also show what the implications of its being true are. What does it matter if Christ is raised from the dead? It means that the dead can be raised and those who are in Christ will be raised to heavenly glory. It also means that there is a God to whom all mankind is
accountable.

Is the resurrection true? Did the Father through the Son by the power of the Holy Spirit provide a way for man to have union and communion with the very creator of the universe? Well, that is a question for another time. But at the very least we have an invitation here. It is an opportunity for further discussion around the truth of the Gospel. It is not a relative truth. It is either a universal fact that would have a profound effect on humanity as a whole, or it is a lie.

Brandon Robbins is a staff apologist with the Apologetics Resource Center in Birmingham, Alabama.

Notes
1 As explained and defended in JP Moreland’s article in this issue of Areopagus Journal.
2 Friedrich Nietzsche, Twilight of the Idols (Indianapolis: Hackett. 1997), 8.
3 1st Corinthians 15:12-19
4 Romans 10:17