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Os Guinness: Welcome to the 'Grand Age of Apologetics'

Os Guinness: Welcome to the 'Grand Age of Apologetics'
With the era of 'Christian consensus' coming to a close, we have a fresh opportunity to make the gospel appealing.

Interview by Tim Stafford
JULY 23, 2015

In the late 1960s, Os Guinness worked alongside Francis Schaeffer at L'Abri, Schaeffer's famed Christian retreat center in Switzerland. In the 1980s, he moved to the United States, where he served (among other places) at the Woodrow Wilson Center and the Brookings Institution. He has been heavily involved in discussions about the First Amendment and the need for a vigorous, civil public square. Yet he never lost Schaeffer's vision for Christian apologetics and evangelism, a fact reflected in his latest book, Fool's Talk: Recovering the Art of Christian Persuasion (InterVarsity Press). CT senior writer Tim Stafford spoke with Guinness about making the gospel appealing in a secularizing culture.

What made you decide to write about apologetics at this time?

Clearly we're at a stage in Western history where we need the church to be persuasive. Public life has grown more secular. Private worlds have become more diverse, and we have a mounting hostility against us. If ever Christians at large and evangelicals in particular needed to be persuasive with people who are not open, it's now. So I thought it was the time to write.

Fool's Talk is the fruit of many decades of thinking. I owe a huge debt to C. S. Lewis, from whom I came to faith; to Francis Schaeffer, who introduced me to the discipline of apologetics; and to Peter Berger, the sociologist, who has probably shaped my mind more than any other living person. My approach is a mixture of the three of them.

At the beginning of your book you refer to this as "the grand age of apologetics." That will surprise some people. What do you mean by it?

The phrase is not mine. I read it in a sociology article, and it surprised me at first. In the age of the Internet, everyone is presenting their daily me. Think of Facebook. People are selling themselves, defending themselves, presenting themselves, arguing for themselves, whatever. In that sense this is the age of apologetics. When I read that, I realized that we Christians have had this in our DNA for 2,000 years. But are we prepared for this extraordinary new age?

You see opportunity in this highly confessional or apologetic age?

Overall it is a magnificent time of clarification. The Christian consensus has collapsed, and much of the rise of the so-called religious Nones is really the falling away of people who were only loosely attached to a church tradition. So there is a grand moment of clarification, and among the many things we need to clarify is our ability to communicate. Much of our witnessing, on the one hand, assumes that people are open and needy. It also assumes a whole series of formulae or recipes. I would argue that Jesus never talked to two people in the same way, and neither should we. So as part of the grand clarification of our generation, this is a time to reexamine our communication and see if it is as biblical as it should be.

What exactly do you mean by persuasion? How is it different from arguing about ideas?

It certainly includes ideas, don't make any mistake about that. Evangelism is presenting and sharing the good news with people who know they are in a bad situation, so it really is good news. But with more and more people indifferent or hostile, we need that ground-clearing exercise which is apologetics.

We've got to start further back. We have to see that it's not just ideas that are shaping us; it's modernity itself. Even today most apologetics deals with ideas--modernism, postmodernism, relativism, secularism. I would argue we need not only to do that, but also to look at modernity--the whole constellation of modern things that come from the industrial revolution and globalization, things such as smart phones that are shaping our thinking just as much as ideas.

For the rest of the story click here: http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2015/july-web-only/os-guinness-interview-welcome-grand-age-apologetics.html

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