Thursday, September 06, 2007

The Movement

I found this great site for evangelism articles. The site is from Redeemer Presbyterian Church in Manhattan (New York CIty. It's called The Movement: Global City Church Planting. I love the title and the pastor there (Tim Keller) has written some great articles.

The best one so far is called DECONSTRUCTING DEFEATER BELIEFS: Leading the Secular to Christ from October 2004. The premise of the article is that our culture has adopted culturally informed anti-Christian beliefs which makes Christianity less believable. He calls these "defeater beliefs." Let me quote a bit from this article.

1. Defeater beliefs
Every culture hostile to Christianity holds to a set of 'common-sense' consensus beliefs that automatically make Christianity seem implausible to people. These are what philosophers call "defeater beliefs". A defeater belief is Belief-A that, if true, means Belief-B can't be true.

Christianity is disbelieved in one culture for totally opposite reasons it is disbelieved in another. So for example, in the West (as we will explore below) it is widely assumed that Christianity can't be true because of the cultural belief there can't be just one "true" religion. But in the Middle East, people have absolutely no problem with the idea that there is just one true religion. That doesn't seem implausible at all. Rather there it is widely assumed that Christianity can't be true because of the cultural belief that American culture, based on Christianity, is unjust and corrupt. (Skeptics ought to realize, then, that the objections they have to the Christian faith are culturally relative!) So each culture has its own set of culturally-based doubt-generators which people call 'objections' or 'problems' with Christianity.

When a culture develops a combination of many, widely held defeater beliefs it becomes a cultural 'implausibility-structure.' In these societies, most people don't feel they have to give Christianity a good hearing – they don't feel that kind of energy is warranted. They know it just can't be true. That is what makes evangelism in hostile cultures so much more difficult and complex than it was under 'Christendom.' In our Western culture (and in places like Japan, India, and Muslim countries) the reigning implausibility-structure against Christianity is very strong. Christianity simply looks ludicrous. In places like Africa, Latin America, and China, however, the implausibility structures are eroding fast. The widely held assumptions in the culture make Christianity look credible there.

So sharing the Gospel looks like this:

Two parts to sharing the gospel
What this means now is that there are two parts to sharing the gospel in a particular culture – a more 'negative' and a more positive aspect.

a) The more negative aspect has to do with 'apologetics' – it consists in deconstructing the culture's implausibility structure. In short, this means you have to show on the culture's own terms (that is, by its own definitions of justice, rationality, meaning) that its objections to Christianity don't hold up.

b) The more positive aspect of sharing the gospel is to connect the story of Jesus to the base-line cultural narratives. In short, you have to show in line with the culture's own (best) aspirations, hopes, and convictions that its own cultural story won't be resolved or have 'a happy ending' outside of Christ.

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