Questions a Post-Christian Culture is Asking

In Evangelism Outside the Box: New Ways to Help People Experience the Good News, Rick Richardson calls these “questions that heat up a room” or “the new questions we face”: 1

  1. Questions of power and motive. Even our logical answers can feel like an exercise of colonializing power to people today. To many people we’re just another tribe, using logic to gain power. Postmodern people have redefined truth as “whatever works for you, whatever rings true to your experience, whatever feels real to you.” There is no “meta-narrative,” no grand story to inspire people, no explanation of everything. Any attempt to claim that one has the truth for everybody is experienced as an arrogant, offensive attempt at domination and control.

  1. Questions of identity. Who am I? Who will I listen to for help in developing my identity and sense of self? How can you Christians think you can tell other people who they are? Each person has to create her own meaning and identity and align with others to increase her power base. After all, we’re in a battle. We’re a minority (whoever we are!). So who do you think you are to invalidate my sense of self and identity and my group’s definition of who we are?

  1. Questions of pain and suffering. Why do I hurt? Why did my family break apart? Why is there so much hatred and violence in the world? There is no grand story. People are crying out not so much for philosophical answers as for a way to give meaning and purpose to personal and corporate pain and suffering.

  1. Questions of character, trust and attractiveness. Why should I trust you? Look at what believers have done. Racism. Sexism. Homophobia. The Crusades. Religious wars. Intolerance and dogmatic, narrow hate seem to mark your institutions. You are constantly drawing lines of exclusion. Your character is no better than the character of the society you live in. I can trust you just as much as I can trust other leaders in our society: hardly at all.

  1. Questions of love and meaning. How can you reject the homosexual lifestyle? How can you say you love people when you reject who they are, how they define their very identity? How can you question living together when people love each other? How can you be rule-oriented in your ethics when the situation has to determine what is really loving and meaningful?

  1. Questions of interpretation. Isn’t the way you see the world completely dependent on your community and place of birth? Can’t you interpret Scriptures any way you want, and haven’t you? I don’t care about the Bible’s reliability. I am concerned about its integrity and moral value. After all, it was written by patriarchal, ethnocentric people.

  1. Questions of relevance and relativism. Does your belief change lives? Does prayer really make a difference? Do you live a better or a happier life? Does your religion work? Does it help you with your pain? If it works for you, why should it work for me? What does it matter what you believe as long as it works and helps you? The question of the uniqueness of Christ is not primarily philosophical. It is a question about utility and relevance. Don’t all religions help people equally? If a religion works and feels real to a person, then it is true for that person. People are not looking for theological comparisons but for attractiveness, relevance and usefulness comparisons.

  1. Questions of impact. Does your religion help society? Does it help me, whether I’m in your group or not? Or are you just another self-serving group? Of course you are.

How do we reach people asking these questions? How do we reach people today?

1 Rick Richardson, Evangelism Outside the Box: New Ways to Help People Experience the Good News (Downer’s Grove, Illinois: IVP Books, 2000), pp. 38-40.

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