In his wonderful book, Fools Talk: Recovering the Art of Christian Persuasion, Os Guinness spends some time discussing the challenges that thinking Christians face today. One of the most dire, he believes, is from the fraudulent, revisionist perversion of true Christianity within churches:
Many revisionists in the Protestant liberal churches, followed by the extremes of Catholic progressivism and emergent evangelicalism, have reached the point where their thinkers preach “a different gospel,” some of their leaders are hardly recognizable as Christian, and some have joked that they recite the Apostles’ Creed with their fingers crossed …
Some of today’s deadliest challenges to the Christian faith come from within the church itself, yet in many parts of the church Christian apologetics is weak, poorly understood and openly dismissed as an unworthy and a wrong-headed enterprise.
Without faithful and courageous apologists, men and women who are prepared to count the cost, the church is vulnerable to the challenges it faces internally as well as externally. Can there be any question that today’s “grand age of secular apologetics,” which is both post-Christian and pluralistic, is no time for Christians to be voiceless and lacking in persuasion?
If ever there was a time when it was vital for all Christians to be bold and winsome advocates on behalf of their faith, it is now. No one can fail to see the blizzard of challenges sweeping down on the Christian faith today and calling for a clear response.
From questions about the origins of the universe (Leibniz’s “Why is there not nothing?”) to the challenges of scientism, to attacks on the existence of God and the person of Jesus, to the exposure of the sins and hypocrisies of the church, to recurring questions about evil and suffering raised by natural disasters, to the validity and importance of truth, to the contested place of religion in public life, to the purported irrationality and menace of religion of any kind, to the relationship of the Christian faith to other religions and the response of Christians to new technologies and alternative lifestyles—the church faces an unprecedented barrage of questions, challenges and attacks on its core message, its view of the world and its way of life.
Not surprisingly, such grave assaults from the outside have led to serious erosions on the inside too, and all this at a speed and on a scale that is without precedent in Christian history (210-211).
In today’s environment, many “Christians” are moving rapidly towards the exits, anxious to leave the hard truths of the “rule of faith” behind. As soon as it begins to cost something to identify as a Christian, we’ll see the pretenders stop pretending and seek to “revise” the faith. Indeed, Guinness makes the point that the term “revisionist” is much more accurate than “liberal,” (222-223).
He then turned to one important task for Christians today:
Christian advocates, then, must be ready to focus their attention on those inside the church as well as those outside—resisting modern revisionism just as St. Paul resisted ancient Gnosticism and St. Athanasius stood fast against Arianism and the world of his day.
Are today’s evangelists and apologists prepared to count the cost and pick up their crosses again and truly be contra mundum—even to the point of scorn, shame, and perhaps imprisonment and death?
Let there be no misunderstanding: the greatest crisis now facing the church in the West today is the crisis of authority caused by the church’s capitulation to the pressures of the sexual revolution, and in particular to the bullying agenda of the Lesbian-Gay-Bisexual-Transgender-Queer coalition.
It will not do for evangelists and apologists to keep silent for fear of losing opportunities to present the gospel. As Luther made plain in his day, to fight the battle at any point other than where the battle is being fought in one’s day is to lose the battle (226).
Guinness’ book isn’t about fighting the culture wars. It’s an encouraging, thought-provoking and profoundly moving book about recovering the lost art of persuasion as a tool for engaging the our friends, neighbors, co-workers and communities with the Gospel. It’s probably the most helpful apologetics book I’ve ever read, but it’s much more than that. I’ll write a full review on it soon.