“Do I, as an African, have first to study and learn Greek philosophy and master its conceptual categories [so he can understand what the orthodox creeds really mean] before I can convert to Christianity and believe in Jesus?” Mabiala Kenzo in chapter 5 “The Politics of Witness” (Emphasis authors and his)
Several years ago I sat with a couple who had asked me to perform their marriage ceremony and as we debriefed their responses to a well-known pre-marital instrument which I use in helping couples prepare for marriage, we came to the spiritual segment of the survey and as we talked the bride-to-be blurted out, “I want God in my life, but I don’t how to do that!” I simply invited her to ask God into her life and I would pray in support of her as she did! There was no “gospel presentation” (the view from a ‘program’ that I unwillingly trained to do in the 1980’s only because I was required to as a staff member of the church I was serving) but simply a simple sharing of encouragement and support as she took that significant step of faith. Today, she is a faithful member of the congregation I currently serve.
I have thought about these two approaches to a personal faith commitment as I have read Myron Bradley Penner’s The End of Apologetics: Christian Witness in A Post-Modern Context. (Baker Academic Books, 2013)
Written with the goal of reorienting “the discussion of Christian belief and change a well-entrenched vocabulary that simply does not work anymore, whatever its past uses might have been,” Penner attempts an ambitious effort “from a deep conviction that the modern apologetic paradigm does not have the ability to witness truthfully to Christ in our post-modern situation.” (Emphasis his.) To do this Penner critiques the dominate modernist apologetic approach and concludes that it is too tied into a propositional approach whose vocabulary “simply does not work anymore.”
The result is a book that offers an alternative to the long dominant propositional approach to “defending the faith” and instead, as Penner increasingly outlines in chapter 4, depends “on the witness of Christians-our full testimony to the truth that edifies us and builds us up.”
Utilizing diverse sources from Kierkegaard to Augustine, as well as the Biblical text, Penner argues for a new apologetic approach in this post-modern era in which testimony of experience must be raised (I suggest re-raised) alongside a hermeneutical view that uses the Scriptures as a series of texts to give witness to what Penner calls an “edification” that enables a believer to talk about faith “in such a way that it explains me to myself and enables and empowers me to live honestly and meaningfully – with a clear conscience – with God and others. (Emphasis his)
I liked this book as it laid out to me what I recall hearing (in more simple terms) from Sunday School teachers and pastors as a kid in the 1960 that Christ is best seen when a faith commitment is lived out in the community of faith and in the public community. Or as Penner puts it, “The proof of Christian truth does not depend upon a rational apologetic procedure but on the witness of Christians-our full testimony to the truth that edifies us and builds us up.”
This book was a challenging read and required me to dig into my memory of philosophy but I am glad that I read it.
I give this book a ‘very good’ rating.
Note: I received a galley copy of this book from the publisher via Net Galley in exchange for a review. I was not required to write a positive review.