It is no secret that our culture today has been/is undergoing a massive paradigm shift with regards to the way people come to know truth. The atmosphere of the intellectual landscape has changed. For many, confidence, certainty, and dogmatism have been replaced with doubt, skepticism, and agnosticism. All truth claims are held in high suspicion. Those still working under the old paradigm of absolute truth and absolute knowledge are thought by this new generation of thinkers to be naive at best and power mongering manipulators at worst.
Within the philosophical and theological communities, this new generation goes by many names: Post-fundamentalism, Post-Christian, Post-Evangelical, Post-Liberal, “emerging”, and the most common postmodern. While these names may not be sufficient to completely convey the ethos of this generation, they all have one important element in common—they are all post something. They are all emerging out of something. The culture is moving beyond where it was before. And this is not necessarily a bad thing.
How do you know who to trust?
Before Google, before the internet, before twenty-four-hour world news, before community run encyclopedias such as Wikipedia, before Facebook, before blogs became the premier source for truth, before the introduction of our globalized culture where alternative truth claims are literally at ones fingertips, people could be much more confident that the truth claims to which they adhere were an accurate representation of reality. Why? Because we did not have so many alternatives to confuse the issues. The naivety that this intellectual isolation provided, while quite comforting, is no longer a luxury that we can afford to entertain and expect to have an audience in the real world with the Great Commission. Truth is no longer simply a matter of going to the local parish on the corner and inquiring of the pastor. It is much more complex and confusing. Today, people are looking for answers, and bewilderment is the most common result. Doubt, depression, and disillusionment are often the result as people pan-handle for truth. Thousands of alternatives present themselves at your front door at every turn. After a while you just don’t want to answer the door anymore. The question “What is truth?” or, better, “Where is truth?” is the great ambient question that saturates the thinking of our culture whether we know it or not.
People are suspicious
Suspicion. This is a good, rich, and sad word that is only needed because of humanity’s moral downfall. To be suspicious means that you are in a “state of uncertainty or doubt.” Or better, “Suspicion is the positive tendency to doubt the trustworthiness of appearances and therefore to believe that one has detected possibilities of something unreliable, unfavorable, menacing, or the like.” Synonyms for suspicion are doubt, mistrust, or misgiving. Our culture is in a perpetual state of uncertainty about truth; our culture is suspicious—suspicious of you and suspicious of me. Heck, I am even suspicious of you! Why? Because Christians claim to have the truth about the most important questions in life. Christians believe that Jesus Christ is the truth. We have presented ourselves at the front door, and our message of exclusivity is, more often than not, falling on deaf ears.
While the problem is no secret, the solution is harder to come by. It would be easy to say “sin” is the problem. While this would be the answer that fits within the Christian worldview, it is a bit simplistic. Yes, sin is the problem. Its my problem as a knower of truth and my problem as a seeker or truth. I can’t know perfectly and neither can you. I can’t seek perfectly and I often don’t where to go. Because of these epistemological (“how we know”) difficulties, the focal point for theology is no longer Bibliology as it once was, but prolegomena. Prolegomena is the theological discipline that focuses on issues that need to be covered before truth claims can be asserted and debated. Prolegomena deals with the “first things” of theology. Methodology, theological systems, epistemology, and sources for truth are all issues of prolegomena. Because the world does not work with the same assumptions that it used to, I believe we must create common ground before we can reach our culture. This common ground must first and foremost deal with the issue of suspicion. The distrust that people have for you when you approach their door with a Bible opened to your favorite verse is real and needs to be answered. Trust needs to be gained. Continue Reading →