Dr. David Teague, a former missionary who teaches at Gordon-Conwell Seminary in Massachusetts, has started the website Postmodern Preaching as a resource for pastors and others who find the old methods of Christian apologetics irrelevant to a culture with postmodern ideas about truth and knowledge. The essays on this site are succinct and readable, providing a good starting place for the would-be evangelist. Here are some highlights from his article on Cultural Pluralism:
In the postmodern world, all beliefs and belief systems are considered to be relative. We are told that there is no absolute truth. Faith is just a matter of private opinion. One person’s faith is no more valid or unique than anyone else’s.
So, how do we preach in a world that is culturally pluralistic? We do so by being aware of:
1. The spirituality of postmodern people
2. The uniqueness of Christianity
3. The need to be spiritually faithful yet also socially tolerant
… Cultural pluralism…suggests that the difference between world religions is superficial. It makes us feel that our choice amongst these religions is as trite as choosing an item on a restaurant menu.
Dr. Daniel Brown argues that the difference between the world’s religions goes much deeper than that. Each religion represents a different worldview that affects all of life.
For instance, postmodern spirituality often confuses God and the created world. This makes people confuse psychological self-actualization with God. But this understanding is based on a worldview called pantheism.
It’s wrong to simply think that all religions are the same. Each religion is unique because each reflects a fundamentally different worldview. The process of choosing a religion, then, involves understanding which world and life view one wishes to adopt. It is in this way that we can understand the uniqueness of Christ….
Christianity is unique among the religions of the world because in it the transcendence and the immanence of God — his holiness and his love — become perfectly blended. As a result, the Christian worldview teaches that God is not the created world, but God can be known because he entered into the created world.
…The cardinal sin of the postmodern world is intolerance. Yet, through the centuries, intolerance has characterized the followers of Christ. This is a handicap to the Christian message in a postmodern world.
Some Christian thinkers, to avoid being intolerant, have bought into the pluralistic vision that all religions are the same. But pluralism undermines Christ’s claim that he is Lord of all. When we adopt a pluralistic vision, we end up respecting other religions but not our own.
Is our only choice, then, between faithfulness and intolerance?
David Clendenin thinks not. He points out the difference between what he calls “social tolerance” and “intellectual tolerance.” (David Clendenin, “The Only Way,” Christianity Today, 12 January 1998, 40). Intellectual tolerance is when we say that all beliefs have to be respected as valid. This is the typical postmodern view. Social tolerance is when we say that all people have a right to their own belief, but not that all beliefs are valid.
Clendenin’s distinction helps Christians to be tolerant toward others, yet without fully buying into the pluralist vision. Being socially tolerant does not mean we have to sacrifice our own integrity. We can show respect toward all people while still disagreeing with them.
When we adopt an attitude of social tolerance, it enables us to discern the good in other religions. As socially tolerant people, we are free to find common ground with those of other faiths, even as we also affirm the uniqueness of our own faith….
The Bible is very clear that Christians are not to judge others. Judging is God’s right alone. When we truly understand this, it frees us. Our job is just to be faithful to God and to love people and to leave all the judging up to God.