Christianity in the Marketplace of Ideas
As a former editor of a college worldview webzine and as a board member for Axis, a nonprofit that travels the country speaking to people about moving from apathy to action, I’ve spent some time in the “world of worldviews.” One thing that many Christians lacked for a long time was the knowledge to talk about the Christian faith in a way that was compelling to those who believed something different. As Douglas Groothuis points out in today’s Boundless article, “Christianity in the Marketplace of Ideas,” many people unfortunately see Christianity as a baseless faith — one that depends solely on myth, tradition and blind belief.
Lamentably, Christian witness today is often crippled by timidity or
intellectual incompetence. In a pluralistic setting, Christians too
often fail to present their deepest beliefs to unbelievers in a wise,
reasonable and knowledgeable manner. As a result, non-Christians
typically think that Christians hold beliefs with no rational support.
Groothius’ article is a helpful look at how to talk about Christianity and why it’s important. And in our Western, postmodern world, it is often crucial that Christians be willing to understand their beliefs, the beliefs of others, and know how to speak wisely about them. After attending the Focus Leadership Institute, my eyes were opened to the variety of belief systems out there and why it is important for me to know why I believe what I believe.
Of course, this idea isn’t new. As Groothuis shows, Paul was an excellent example of someone who was a witness for the Gospel in a way that was rational, logical and understandable to the Hellenistic culture of his day. In Acts, Paul spent time talking to the Greeks in Athens about his faith. He did it in a way that was familiar to them, quoting their own philosophers and appealing to the altar of the “unknown God” that was in the city. This was very different from how Paul would’ve evangelized to a Jewish audience, which shows that God uses different people, conversations and methods to bring his truth to the world.
This, I believe, relates to each of us. Where has God placed us, and how can we appeal to the beliefs of those around us to speak the truth? Can we find bits of God’s truth in our culture and then expand on them to help reveal the fullness of God’s plan?
Although their fundamental worldview was off-base, the Greeks had some
sense of the divine as well as their dependence upon it. They were
partially right, although largely wrong. Given God’s general revelation
in creation and conscience (Romans 1-2),
Christian witnesses should always try to find the scattered elements of
truth embedded within darkened worldviews. To do this, we, like Paul,
must know our culture and its history. This requires careful study and
Ultimately, Paul’s willingness to study and understand the beliefs of the cultures around him were born out of his burden to share the good news of Jesus with those who had not heard. Paul was not fascinated with the world; he was grieved by Athens, filled with idols. Our desire to understand competing worldviews and to correctly communicate ours should not come from pride or a simple thirst for knowledge. It should be so that we can better know God’s truth and communicate it to others in a way that they can understand. We should know why we believe so that we can act on those beliefs. And in the end, it is the work of the Holy Spirit that brings people to a saving knowledge of the Lord.
About the Author
Denise Morris Snyder is an associate pastor at CrossRoads Church in Red Deer, Alberta, Canada. She previously worked as an editor for Focus on the Family and a writer for David C Cook. She has her Master’s in Old Testament Biblical Studies from Denver Seminary. Denise got married to a Canadian this past summer, which means she is now freezing in Canada. Send BBQ chips to warm her.