Cultural literacy is nothing more than being aware of popular cultural references. It is not, contrary to popular opinion, the same thing as being intimately aware of all the current trends of culture. Why is it important to be at least minimally aware of current trends in culture? Well, as any good marketer knows, the timeliness of a message is just as important as the message itself. And as Christians, our goal is to tell others about the good news of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. To do that we can and should use as many cultural references that we can.
Here’s a helpful story by way of illustration:
Whenever I go to back to my parent’s house to visit I generally try to go to their church if I’m going to be there on Sunday morning. One Sunday I went with them and decided to visit their young married Sunday School group. During the lesson the wife of the leader mentioned how they watched Twilight recently and how she regretted it somewhat because it was “a complete waste of time”. To that I responded that an underlying theme of Twilight is the refusal of one of the main characters, Edward Cullen, to marry or have sex with Bella, the love-sick (and stupid) teenager. Part of the culture’s fascination with this story is due to the illogical purity and deep and abiding love that is portrayed in the Twilight series. From that simple plot overview, it would be relatively easy to strike up a conversation with a Twilight fan and lead them rather quickly into a conversation about ethics, morality, and ultimately, Jesus Christ and His passion for His bride, the Church.
Cultural literacy is all about maximizing the communication surface for our message. And any attempt to artificially limit that surface is detrimental to the spread of the gospel.
Here is an exchange I had recently with a brother in Christ on the topic of presuppositionalism and it’s possible pitfalls when it comes to being a basis for apologetics and evangelization:
when the presuppositionalist claims there is no common ground, how duz the classical apologist respond?
Because one of my seminary buddies (he’s in seminary, I’m not) said that all we can do is deliver the Gospel and if God wants to save He will. Then my buddy quotes something from Romans 10 about how faith comes from the Gospel.
I think your friend needs to take a few courses or read a few good books on epistemology. Specifically, I would recommend Alvin Plantinga’s work as it is widely recognized as some of the best epistemological work in that area. I think Plantinga still comes down in the presupposionalist camp, but his exploration of the topic shows that there is a lot more there than Van Til (the father of presuppositionalism) thought.
As for faith, I don’t think it is accurate or logically valid to say that faith is given to us by something/someone else. I would contend that the Biblical view of faith is “to trust” and that it ultimately falls under the category of epistemology or how you know what you know. Faith is not an object and therefore cannot be given or taken away from anyone. Here is a piece I wrote on the dynamics of faith.
As for the common ground. Not all presupposionalists take that view. Some (like myself) will use presuppositionalism to point out that different sets of presuppositions lead one to different conclusions so that a philosophical naturalist and a theist will approach the subject of the resurrection differently. In that case presuppositionalism is used more as a line of argument in a cumulative case for the rationality of Christianity.
In that respect I find great value in presuppositionalism. However the other side, what you elude to, is the view that since we start off in different epistemological camps and since man cannot change his own mind (which entails the negation of limited freedom in any meaningful sense which is quite beyond the scope of this post), there is no use even attempting to change someone else’s mind through reason and evidence.
It is that view of presuppositionalism that I find quite unfortunate in the Christian community as it necessarily undercuts any sort of evangelism as it essentially requires the other person to come without any objections.
Since our culture is becoming increasingly hostile to Christianity I also believe the second view of presuppositionalism is not only unwise and unhelpful but downright dangerous and detrimental to the Christian church as the clear message it sends to non-believers is “we will not engage you, you must just accept what we say on blind faith”.
I believe that persuasion is the center piece of evangelism. Therefore I think anything that hinders or nullifies our ability to persuade others (in an intellectually honest fashion) is unhelpful and wrong.
When confronting opposing views it is often easy to fall into the trap of attempting to win by shooting at the messenger rather than the argument. It is also tempting, especially in evangelism, to try and base your primary point of persuasion on your own personal experiences via your testimony.
After trying and failing at many different tactics I discovered that the best way to share your faith is to point out to others what your faith is grounded in. In other words, strive to leave the other person with facts to wrestle with rather than a warm and fuzzy story based wholly in personal experience that is easily dismissed with the relativistic notion of ” that’s true for you, but not true for me”.
Even if your facts and evidence and arguments don’t ultimately prevail. If your aim is truth rather than the other person then even though you may have lost your case you will have hopefully exchanged a true belief for a false one, a win-win situation.
For more resources to help you argue more persuasively, I highly recommend this post by Brian over at Apologetics315 which includes the following:
• Paul in Athens and Engaging with Popular Culture MP3
• Apologetics in 3D MP3
• Apologetics: What, Where, When, Who, How & Why? MP3
• Persuasive Evangelism MP3 by Tom Price
• Conversational Evangelism MP3 by David Geisler
• Conversational Evangelism MP3 by Michael Ramsden (excellent!)
I recently listened to a great lecture by Dinesh D’Souza on how we can reach a common ground with our atheist friends. I highly recommend it to anyone who interacts with atheists or who are intimidated by the “new atheists“.
A recent poll shows that public support for abortion is starting to shift and while this is laudable, there is still much work to be done.
Specifically we each need to be equipped to share with our neighbors why abortion is wrong in a way they will understand without relying on the Bible which even a growing number of Christians don’t holding in very high regard anymore.
To help with this task of defending the sanctity of human life in such a manner I want to mention two approaches that will help you easily defeat abortion arguments and, hopefully, help convince others of the evil of abortion.
- Scott Klusendorf has an excellent method involving an easy-to-remember acronym, SLED, that covers the four basic objections most advocates of abortion uphold and try to use when debating this issue:
- Size – It’s just a collection of cells until it develops past a certain point.
- Location – It’s not a baby until the fetus is out of the womb.
- Environment – It’s better to abort a child than have them grow up in an abusive or unloving environment.
- Degree of dependency – Until it can live on it’s own it is really merely a parasite living off the mother.
- Serrin Foster is a devoted feminist who makes an excellent case against abortion based upon the premise that, far from being a feminist issue of granting women more choice and control over their bodies, it actually harms them and sets back feminist advancements in society.
There are many other arguments that can be made against abortion but I think the shortest and simplest ones are often the most effective because they are the easiest to remember and make in the short amounts of time we often get to spend with most people.
I hope these arguments help you articulate the pro-life position and help give you greater courage and confidence as you stand up for the truly defenseless.