Leadership Development in Local Church Revitalization: A Review of the Literature and Suggestions for Further Research

by Bart L. Denny This article identifies a gap in the existing literature concerning leadership development in the context of local church revitalization. The article further suggests how existing leadership and leadership development theories could be applied to church revitalization and proposes further investigation and research areas. Observers and practitioners in the field of church revitalization unequivocally make the case that for a local church to reverse its decline, the pastor must develop a new generation of leaders (Clifton, 2016; Davis, 2017; Henard, 2021; Rainer, 2020; Stetzer & Dodson, 2021). The extant literature links the decline of churches to a lack of leadership and identifies renewed leadership as a vital component of church revitalization. However, little has been written, theoretically or practically, about the process of leadership development as it applies to local church revitalization. Moreover, little empirical verification supports church revitalizat

A Theology for Preaching in a Postmodern World

 In 1 Cor 9:19-23, the Apostle Paul sets forth a strategy for ministry, “I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some. I have become all things to all people, so that I may by every possible means save some.”[1]  Like any missiologist today, Paul understood the criticality of ministering within the cultural context of the people to whom God had called.  Today, most pulpit preachers are probably inclined to recognize the need to follow Paul's example, proclaiming the gospel within the cultural context of their own communities, but many feel at a loss for practical and theologically sound ways of doing so. 

This is particularly true in present-day intellectual milieu of American culture.  “Whether we like it or not,” say Allen, Blaisdell, and Johnston, “postmodern (with all its various shades of meaning) may be one of the most accurate terms for describing our contemporary culture.”[2]  If postmodern is the term which best describes today’s culture, then “rapidly changing” is perhaps its second-best descriptor.  Indeed, the American culture has not only changed drastically in the previous decade, but remains in a state of flux sufficient to leave many preachers scratching their heads as they try to adapt their methods of preaching an unchanging message to a rapidly changing culture.  Indeed, the preacher's greatest challenge in postmodern America is a rapidly shifting cultural view toward religion and, particularly, the Christian faith.  This paper, then, identifies the unique theological challenges in reaching a postmodern (broadly Western, and specifically American) culture and presents some reasonable suggestions.

The writer’s perspective is unreservedly evangelical.  This paper does not approach its task from a prescriptive, “how to” stance.  Rather, it combines a healthy measure of biblical theology, systematic theology, and missiology with a view of postmodernism from an apologetics perspective.  In writing, the author hopes to provoke in the preaching practitioner a deep theological reflection on preaching in his own context. 

This paper will first examine the present a brief theological examination of preaching, without respect to a cultural milieu.  What does biblical theology say about the reasons and methods of preaching?  What does systematic theology say to the preacher about his motives and his message?  Is preaching even a non-negotiable pillar of the New Testament church, as most evangelical Christians hold it to be?  If so, what universal principles transcend culture to inform preaching and its delivery?  Second, the paper will identify postmodernism's most serious challenges to the Christian theological worldview.  Where premodernism viewed biblical truth as both given and absolute, modernism elevated science to the ultimate position of authority.  The increasingly prevalent postmodern worldview today rejects the notions of absolutes.  This section of the paper will deal with each of these challenges with an eye towards apologetic approaches to each, as well as the theological flaws of each worldview challenge. 

Having equipped the reader with a basic biblical and systematic theology for preaching, the paper shifts its view toward application.  The paper will attempt a theologically-based apologetic for answering postmodernism in preaching.  The author will then seek to bridge the theological aspects of preaching with an understanding of postmodern theological challenges.  This should inform the preacher’s thinking as he seeks to develop his own theology of preaching in the cultural context of twenty-first century postmodernism.  The author will suggest reasonable suggestions for theologically sound preaching in 21st century. 

A Theology of Preaching

While much has been written about the theology of preaching, it seems appropriate here to boil down the most relevant thoughts.  Does preaching merely amount to the recitation of theological principles and church doctrines in rhetorical form, or is there something theological in and of the homiletical practice itself?  Barth says that all theology is sermon preparation.[3]  Jacobsen argues that homiletics itself is an exercise in theology in rhetorical form.[4]  Mohler contends that, even if it may surprise some preachers who think of theology as merely an academic exercise, preaching is, at its very heart, at theological activity and preachers, by definition, are called to be theologians.[5]

The various subcategories of theology, especially biblical theology, but also systematic theology, inform preaching in numerous ways.  It is the intent of this section to capture timeless and universally contextual theological truths of preaching.  These non-negotiable principles form the bedrock for preaching.  Regardless of when in time or where on earth the preacher speaks, this is the unmovable foundation for all preaching.  Mohler refers to the theological task of the preacher, explaining that, “The preacher functions as a steward of the mysteries of God, explaining the deepest and most profound theological truths to a congregation that must be armed with the knowledge of these truths in order to grow as disciples and meet the challenge of faithfulness in the Christian life.”[6]

Meyer agrees that, viewed theologically, preaching is a stewardship.  More specifically, he defines the theological task of preaching by writing that preaching is, “stewarding and heralding God’s word in such a way that people encounter God through his word.”[7]  The preacher to day stands in line with the prophets of old and, indeed, with the Apostles and Christ himself.  As a steward, the preacher is custodian of biblical truth.  As herald, he stands with his prophetic and apostolic forbearers in declaring, “Thus saith the Lord!”  The hearer may encounter God through the preacher’s message in several ways.  The encounter may be sweet, taking on the shape of hope and encouragement.  Just as likely, the encounter with God may take upon it the bitter smell of death as the preacher heralds God’s judgment to those who ignore and disobey His Word.  Once the preacher has completed his task, the stewardship responsibility passes on to the hearer.[8]

Systematic Theology in Preaching

The role of systematic theology in preaching, though important, is straightforward.  Citing multiple sources across the Bible, systematic theology enumerates the doctrines of the Christian faith.  By its very nature, systematic theology is topical.  Perhaps one of the most important of systematic theology’s contributions to preaching is in its explanation of the doctrine of Scripture.  Various systematic theologies explain what is meant by the Word of God, the canon of Scripture, and such critical doctrines as the inspiration, inerrancy, authority, clarity, and sufficiency of Scripture.  Such are foundational doctrines in evangelical Christianity.

A quick glance at a small sampling of evangelical texts on systematic theologies also reveals a basic hermeneutic for biblical interpretation.  Grudem, for example, explains the differences between exegesis and eisegesis, cautioning his readers to avoid the latter.[9]  Such systematic theologies as Geisler’s not only outline an orthodox doctrine of Scripture, but compare the evangelical understanding against liberal and neo-orthodox views.  Systematic theology, then, has a considerable amount to say about the substance of biblical proclamation.  Biblical theology, it shall be show, speaks the very nature of preaching itself.

Biblical Theology in Preaching

Biblical theology provides a tremendous base from which to inform preaching.  Of course, it is first necessary to define “biblical theology” for, as Goldsworthy notes, the uninformed reader may be inclined to believe that biblical theology is spoken of here in opposition to the likes of an “unbiblical” or “liberal” theology.[10]  While biblical theology does seek orthodoxy in its conclusions, the term is not speaking of orthodoxy versus heresy or conservativism versus liberalism, but is technical.  As opposed to systematic theology, which elucidates the Christian doctrine on any given subject, biblical theology seeks to allow the Bible to speak for itself on a canonical basis.  Biblical theology allows each book or corpus to speak in light of its own place in the entire biblical narrative. 

In biblical theology, the context of a given passage is not simply the immediately surrounding passages of Scripture.  Instead, biblical theology demands each portion of Scripture be viewed from its place in the entirety of God’s Word.  Biblical theology views the entire canon as a unified whole, declaring from beginning to end the history of God’s redemptive work among humankind. Biblical theology rightly sees the Bible as the one written word of the one God, declaring one way of Salvation through the one incarnate Word of God.  From Genesis to Revelation, then, Gospel of Jesus Christ is central to every verse of Scripture. [11]

Biblical Theology and the Necessity of Preaching

That preaching is a necessary part of the church’s ministry is probably a universal assumption across evangelicalism.  Griffiths, however, challenges whether such an assumption is theologically sound.  This is not to question whether the messages of preachers are, themselves, theologically sound.  Rather, if post-apostolic Christian preaching is not a biblical mandate, then it would make sense for churches perceiving that preaching is ineffective in their cultural context to abandon it for another form of word ministry, such as small group study, personal discipleship, or classroom lectures.  However, if preaching is, in fact a biblical necessity in the New Testament church, then those who find it less effective are compelled to seek God’s guidance in devising a preaching strategy that works in their own context.[12]

Griffiths examines the language of preaching in the New Testament, the word ministry of the prophets, and the preaching and teaching ministry of Jesus and His apostles.  Ultimately, he arrives at several biblical theological conclusions about preaching, each with far-reaching impact on the church’s view, practice, and theology of preaching.  The first conclusion is that preaching is a proclamation of the word of God.  This may seem obvious at first brush, but Griffiths argues that the New Testament shows that, beyond the scriptural content of a sermon, the preacher acts as a herald of God.  It is the preached word today, and not merely the reading of Scripture to the church, says Griffiths, that constitutes the address of the living God to His people today.[13]  If Griffiths is correct (and his arguments from the Pauline corpus are indeed convincing) the implications of the forgoing conclusion alone are enough to conclude that preaching is a theological necessity. 

Biblical Theology and the Nature of Preaching

Griffiths continues to further persuasively demonstrate the necessity of preaching from other biblical theological arguments.  To him, Christian preaching in the post-apostolic age stands squarely in a “line of continuity” with the preaching ministries of the apostles and of Jesus Himself.[14]  Griffiths makes a most compellingly case from Paul’s instruction to Timothy.  In 2 Tim. 4:2, Paul tells his protégé, “Preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching.”  But Timothy is more than just a successor to Paul’s preaching ministry; he is first in the line of post-apostolic preachers.  As Paul instructs him, “(W)hat you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.” (2 Tim. 2:2).  Preaching is clearly a post-apostolic function, and preachers today inherit this ministry of Christ and the apostles. 

Griffiths further finds the Christian preacher to stand in a line of continuity with the Old Testament prophets and their proclamation of, “Thus says the Lord!”[15]  To Goldsworthy, this is the “beginning of preaching.”  The Christian preacher, like the Old Testament prophet is herald both of God’s impending judgment upon sin and of His grand plan for the salvation of doomed sinners.[16]  Further, Griffiths argues from biblical theology, preachers must be commissioned to preach.[17]  This is unsurprising, given his conclusion that preaching, by its very nature, “uniquely reflects the nature of the gospel.”[18]  According to Griffith, preaching is a declaration, not a conversation; the gospel is something to be formally proclaimed and, in turn, received by its hearers.  This, says Griffiths, is in continuity with the preacher’s inheritance of the Old Testament prophet’s role and, “uniquely reflects God’s sole agency in achieving and offering salvation.”[19]  The preacher, the herald, like the apostles and the ancient prophets, is commissioned, filling a special role that is not part of the ministry of every Christian.

Worthy of deep reflection, Griffiths concludes that preaching is an interaction between the human and the divine, with an encounter with God at the center.  It is God who acts, and is the primary agent in preaching.  “The ‘word of Christ’ proclaimed is not simply a word about Christ, but a word that Christ has spoken and continues to speak through His heralds (Rom 10:17).”[20]  It is the Holy Spirit who is present and active in faithful Christian proclamation.  The preacher should derive a real sense of awe, of humility, and of comfort, understanding that it is God’s job, and not the preacher’s, to convince the hearer.  Indeed, Griffiths is clear that preaching is far different from other sorts of rhetoric.  Where other forms of speech rely on the power of the speaker’s argument to win the day, only the power of God can move the hearts of the audience.

Griffiths further situates preaching squarely in the context of the local church.  He notes that, for all their preaching in public venues, Jesus and the apostles gravitated to synagogues.  To Griffiths, Moses is the “archetypal” Old Testament preacher, who declared the word of God before the assembly.  In the Septuagint, the assembly is the Greek ekklesia, the same word that, in the New Testament, speaks of the local church.  Further, the book of Hebrews is a sermon, one that the writer describes as a “word of exhortation” (logou tes parakleseos).  This is the same phrase used in Acts 13:15 of the synagogue’s homily.[21]

Meyer uses language that is quite different from the explanation that Griffiths offers.  However, it seems clear that the two authors would find considerable agreement.  Both agree that the Bible is the story of Christ as The Word, even if Meyer is not nearly as emphatic in his insistence that every passage of Scripture must find its way back to Christ.  For his part, Meyer defines preaching, in biblical theological terms, as, “stewarding and heralding God’s word in such a way that people encounter God through his word.”  Meyer’s theology of preaching then, involves three components:  stewardship, heralding, and an encounter with God.[22]

In discussing the role of preacher as herald, Meyer differs little from Griffiths.  Likewise, his notion of preaching as an encounter with God bears many similarities to Griffiths.  However, Meyer does tend to emphasize more the hearer’s encounter with God than the preacher’s.  Moreover, Meyer does not demand that somehow an encounter with God demands a positive experience, “the sweet smell of life.”  In fact, in some cases, quite the opposite might be true.  The encounter with God may be quite negative, “the stench of death,” and justifiably so, because the herald’s news is, at the same time, one of God’s impending judgment upon sin and God’s merciful plan to rescue perishing sinners.[23]

Unique in his approach to the nature of preaching is Meyer’s notion of preaching as stewardship.  As with Paul’s steward in 1 Cor 4:1-2, the preacher is entrusted with something that is not his own, but that belongs to his master.  To Meyer, this stewardship takes different forms, depending on the biblical genre at hand.  However, stewardship always requires the preacher to be faithful in exercising that stewardship.  Moreover, in every case, when the preacher has faithfully passed that stewardship over to the hearer, the hearer now bears responsibility for the stewardship (see Ezekiel 3:18-12, and Acts 20:26-27).

Both Meyer and Keyser are convinced that biblical theology stands shoulder-to-shoulder with expository preaching.  Passages must be taught after a careful study of the passage and its context.  To Kaiser, the sermon without careful exposition of the text at hand essentially causes the preacher to proclaim a word that God did not say.  If the preacher does not proclaim the word of God from the pulpit, then there should be no wonder that the Holy Spirit is not present in his sermon.  Rampant exegetical neglect, says Kaiser, is epidemic.  In fact, Kaiser calls it a “crisis,” among preachers and the reason most sermons lack the very power of God himself.[24]

Goldsworthy is quick to note that, included in the concept of context is the entire Bible itself.  He laments carefully exegeted sermons that have not so much snatched a passage out of its immediate context (indeed, many of the sermons he takes to task are contextual in the immediate sense), but that have forgotten the context of the Bible as a whole, and its grand story of salvation.  One example he finds disturbing is a sermon on the marks of a good husband and father, taken from Ephesians, chapters 5 and 6.  Indeed, Paul has described the makings of a superb husband and father but, Goldsworthy observes, what immediately precedes this passage is a discussion of the gospel.  One can only be a good husband and father in light of the transforming work of the gospel; to Goldsworthy, the sermon he laments turned the text into law without any visible sign of grace.[25]

For his part, Adam takes no issue with the study of biblical theology, and with a proper exegesis of the biblical text.  Indeed, he encourages these disciplines, but he warns that proper exegesis also includes an exegesis of the audience.  Many voices in our culture, he observes, have called Scripture irrelevant or obsolete.  Obviously, the preacher must reject such a notion and remain under the theological assumption that God inspired the Scriptures with future audiences in mind.  To be certain, there is a chronological, geographical, and cultural gap between the biblical authors and modern audiences.  Adam sees this gap as overstated.  A careful study of Scripture shows the preacher what the passage meant when first penned.  A careful study of the preacher’s audience today helps him to bridge the gap between meanings then and now, and thus proclaim the universal principles of God’s word to present-day listeners.[26]

The above discussion on the biblical theological nature of preaching gives the preacher a great deal upon which to reflect.  Such a reflection might easily be sobering.  The notion of stewardship of something as valuable as the very word of God should motivate the preacher to ensure that he has carefully prepared for the task at hand.  Such responsible should always drive the preacher to his knees in prayer while preparing for his task as herald. 

Moreover, the sobering idea of standing in a line of continuity with the Old Testament prophets, and with Jesus and the apostles should motivate the post-apostolic preacher to diligent study.  The preacher should desire not only to carefully study the passages with which he deals on a weekly basis, but should wish to continuously sharpen every aspect of his knowledge.  If the preacher’s job is to proclaim, “Thus says the Lord,” then his life of biblical and theological study, and his own personal prayer life and walk with God ought to be lived so that, when the time comes, what the preacher says truly reflects the word of God.

Universal Biblical Theological Principles for Preaching

The preacher of any age, and regardless of the cultural setting of his audience, must approach his task while considering numerous theological principles.  First, the preacher must approach the duties with a clear understanding of what the Bible is, as the word of God.  Such an approach will give him the proper respect for the Bible, while avoiding bibliolatry, or its opposite:  the idea that the Bible is somehow philosophical or allegorical.  He must be convinced that in his hands the singular God-given, self-interpreting, coherent, and cohesive salvation history.  It is not a textbook, but a story about God and his plan to reconcile fallen humanity, His image-bearers, to himself.[27]  Respecting the Bible for what it is, the preacher must then allow the Bible to speak on its own terms.  Numerous of the authors this writer consulted quoted this oft-repeated phrase, “A text without a context is a pretext.”  And it is.  The preacher must be careful not to make a passage say what God never intended it to mean.

Moreover, the preacher must understand the seriousness of his task.  To realize that it is no overstatement to say he follows in the footstep of Christ, the apostles, and the Old Testament prophets should not be cause for pride or haughtiness.  Rather, this realization should drive the awestruck preacher to his knees in humble prayer, relying on the God whose words he is to speak to empower him for the challenge.

Finally, a sound theology of preaching requires that the preacher know his audience.  Indeed, that is the example the Apostle Paul set.  Moreover, the many encounters of Jesus with people show that the savior understood his audiences, and related to them in terms with which they were familiar.  He used agricultural metaphors.  He taught in parables that each graphically and memorably depicted the timeless truth that Jesus desired to convey.  Further, one could argue, Jesus not only fully understood the arguments of skeptics and His detractors, but he turned their own preconceptions and prejudices against them.

Thus far, this paper has briefly delved into some universal biblical theological principles for preaching, separate from any worldviews standing in opposition to Christianity.  Preaching is, indeed, a bedrock function of the church, with Jesus being the greatest exemplar of the practice.  Now, the focus of this paper shifts to a prominent worldview that stands in strong opposition to the claims of the Christian faith, namely, postmodernism.  This author will make a particularly careful examination what Allen, Blaisdell, and Johnston have termed, “folk postmodernism,” the secular worldview of middle class Americans who are not engaged in the depths of academia.  It is these people toward whom the preacher must design his own theology of preaching.

The Postmodern Challenge to Christian Theology

As Groothuis admits, the challenges of postmodernism to Christian theology are many.[28]  Before discussing those challenges, it makes sense that this paper should first attempt to define postmodernism, at least in terms that its truth claims might be lined up with those of Christian theology.  However, as Erickson admits, postmodernism eludes a strict definition.[29]  This paper, then, will not seek to define postmodernism, for it is a worldview that, by its very nature, delights in rejecting and evading objective categories.  Nor will this paper attempt a through-going historical reconstruction of postmodernism.  Rather, the author will attempt to trace the general contours of postmodernity, particularly in light of its challenges to the truth claims of the historical Christian faith.

Postmodernism Viewed in Light of Modernism

As Kelly and Dew note, postmodernism certainly did not arise from a vacuum.  Rather, it is the product of a deep uneasiness and discontent with Enlightenment modernism that reached a crescendo in the 1960s.[30]  The defining marks of modernism (a still-prevalent, but fading worldview) is a deep trust in the competence of human reason and scientific knowledge to answer society’s pressing issues.  Indeed, as Kelly and Dew are quick to point out, it is the Enlightenment’s emphasis on science that made the Industrial Revolution and many major medical advances possible.[31] 

Modernism, of course, found itself at odds with the Christian faith at many intersections.  Against the biblical and historical record to the contrary, many modernist thinkers rejected the idea of original sin, believing instead that human beings are basically decent.  Certainly, the twentieth century dispelled such a naïve conception of humanity.  Further, Enlightenment thinking came to see European culture as the pinnacle of civilization.  Such a societal superiority complex justified the exclusion and exploitation of numerous non-European cultures, including the selling of African people into the bondage of slavery.  More than that, modernist thinkers typically rejected core tenets of the traditional Christian faith.  Nietzsche said traditional Christianity was for the morally weak, while Darwin argued it was scientifically unsupported.  Marx said Christianity was a tool of oppression, while Freud claimed it was psychologically unhealthy.  Modernists critiques, in totality, worked hard to undermine the traditional Christian faith.[32]

The events of the twentieth century, with its destruction beyond all historical precedent, would serve to solidly rebuff modernism’s overly optimistic view of humanity and scientific progress.  However, if Enlightenment rationalism and modernism were shown to present an overly optimistic and wildly inaccurate view of the human condition, this did not lead the postmodern world to reembrace the biblical description of sin and the state of mankind.

Postmodernism does not make a clean break with modernity and, despite the discontinuities there are many philosophical and cultural lines of continuation.  As Groothuis notes, both worldviews are mostly nontheistic in nature, favoring instead (at least in later modernism) atheism or agnosticism.  Both modernism and postmodernism embrace a philosophical naturalism, denying the objective existence of God and rejecting the supernatural.[33]  Smith says that both deny grace, instead promoting “an idolatrous notion of self-sufficiency and a deep naturalism.” 

As to the use of technology and ideas of freedom, Smith argues that postmodernism is, in fact, modernism intensified.[34]  Groothouis goes further, arguing that postmodernism is simply modernism taken to its logical conclusion.  The twentieth century proved the fallacy of modernism’s faith in the infallibility of science and rationality, and postmodernism rushed in to fill the vacuum.  Thus, if the modernist presupposition that theism is merely superstition remains in place, then when rationality and scientific inquiry prove their limits, the postmodern rejection of absolute truth logically follows.[35] 

Postmodern Truth Claims in Detail

Despite its tendency to defy definition, postmodernism does bear certain common marks and perhaps the most prevalent, and most challenging to Christian theology, is the very nature of truth.  “What is truth?”  Pontius Pilate’s question to Jesus (John 18:38), is one that Christian theology (and indeed, almost any other conceivable worldview) insists is objectively knowable.  Indeed, as Groothuis notes, while the Bible does not present a philosophical discussion on the nature of truth, it does offer a coherent perspective on the issue of truth and falsehood.  The biblical worldview, then, is one that completely denies the postmodern view.  According to Scripture, truth is knowable, objective, and revealed by God.  What’s more, God’s truth is absolute, without variance, and universal in nature.  Finally, biblical truth is unified, coherent, and is not merely a means to an end, but is, itself, an end.  None of this is to mean that the biblical worldview agrees that human knowledge of truth is either entirely comprehensive or even close to infallible.[36] 

Postmodernism, on the other hand, dismisses the very question, at least in an objective sense.  Still, it is not that postmodernism sees truth as unknowable.  Rather, the one universal truth in postmodernism is that truth as entirely subjective and relative.  In fact, Allen, Blaisdell, and Johnston call it, “radical relativity.”[37]  Truth is in the eye of the beholder, and may be entirely different for one person than it is for another.   In postmodernism, Erickson notes, even expert opinions of those who have studied a subject to the doctoral level can be dismissed by neophytes who interpret the evidence on the matter according to their own subjective standards, definitions, and feelings.[38]  Indeed, as Groothuis observes, postmodernism puts the very notion of truth in jeopardy.[39] 

There is, says Butler, a “a defining sense of the postmodern” in which history, tradition, and cultural memory have disappeared.  “(M)uch postmodern analysis,” Butler continues, “is an attack on authority and reliability—in philosophy, narrative, and the relationship of the arts to the truth.”[40]  Political, academic, journalistic, scientific, and most definitely, religious authority is suspect in postmodernism, and in many cases, rightly so.  Rationalism and human reason, so prevalent in modernism, are dismissed with all other means of evaluating truth claims.  When it comes to authoritative claims, it seems that postmodernism has thrown out the proverbial baby with the bathwater.  Postmodernism is an extremely pessimistic, yet entirely pervasive worldview.

As Butler notes, conspiracy theories have flourished in the postmodern milieu.  Just as popular movies and books as Oliver Stone’s JFK cast a paranoid skepticism on the political establishment, books such as Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code present wild theories about the historical Jesus Christ that, if true, would certainly cast the Church in an extremely negative light (as seems to be Brown’s intent).  The popular media bombards the average citizen with wildly divergent truth claims, and the postmodern person will not be bothered with filtering through all of the noise to sort each against a set of objective criteria.  This is understandable, given the information overload under which the typical person in postmodern society exists.  The one thing the postmodern person knows for certain is that the self is the ultimate arbiter of truth.  The truth is what each person decides is his truth.[41]  The pessimism, skepticism, and individual subjectivity that so defines the contours of postmodernism presents a formidable challenge for the theologian who insists there is, indeed, absolute, truth and that such truth is not only knowable, but found in the pages of Scripture.

As opposed to modernism, which asserts that “knowledge is power,” the postmodernist says that knowledge is a function of power.  Essentially, the one with the power defines what is true.  Because modernism’s faith in the ability of knowledge to bring about progress proved largely unfounded in the twentieth century, postmodernism presumes that objective truth cannot be known.  What’s more given the overwhelming amount of information available (much of it contradictory) it follows, in the postmodernist view, at least, that there can be no unified worldview.  The shear multiplicity of religious and philosophical views negates the possibility of one true worldview.  To the postmodernist, language is merely a human construct, incapable of relating absolute truth; the hearer provides the meaning, regardless of the speaker’s intent.  Correspondingly, the meaning of a text cannot be confined solely to that which the author intended to convey; instead, its meaning is what the reader takes it to mean.  Ultimately, postmodern truth is subjective and only knowable because it is the construct of individuals and communities.[42]

Ultimately, the most frustrating aspect of postmodernism is that there are no objective truth claims to validate.  Since postmodernism rejects outside authority and elevates the individual’s experience, postmodernism is not only difficult to define, but hard to critique.  While many people in postmodern society may not even have heard of postmodernism, let alone the likes of its great champions, like Lyotard, Foucault or Derrida, they have unwittingly adapted their viewpoints, confident that truth is to be found in their own intuition and experience.  The result is societally pervasive point of view that Allen, Blaisdell, and Johnston term “folk postmodernism.”[43]

According to Allen, Blaisdell, and Johnston, folk postmodernism is the tendency of a great many contemporary people who, though lacking any formal philosophical or theological training, nonetheless demonstrate in their sensibilities a great affinity with the thinking of Derrida or of Foucault.[44]  The average person may be uncomfortable with other people’s “truth,” may not hold the same view as their own truth, but are content to let the other person keep the opposing view.  Debate is stifled in the name of tolerance.  Rejection of authority manifests itself as being “non-judgmental.” 

While the folk postmodernist may quietly wonder whether anything goes, he most desires to be viewed by others as unbigoted and open-minded.  “Who am I to say how others should live?” the folk postmodernist down the streets asks himself.  Statistics seem to back this up.  According to a 2014 survey by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public life, a clear majority of American adults (64 percent) said that right or wrong depends upon the situation, while only a third of adults said there are clear standards of right and wrong.[45]

Theological Implications of Postmodernism

Kelly warns against choosing the most radical or fringe elements of postmodernism in judging the entire school of thought.  In arguing for a fair critique of postmodern thought, Kelly says:

“The Principle of Charity encourages us to put forward the best-dressed versions of postmodernism and to read and interact with both the fringes and the mainstream in an attempt to portray fairly and critique sympathetically what various postmoderns have to say. The number of theologians and philosophers (and historians, too) who read the postmodernists as crass relativists does an injustice to the breadth and depth of the postmodern corpus and to the authors of the texts.”[46]

 

 

To be fair, then, this paper will seek to find the opportunities for Christian theology to discourse with postmodernism.  In fact, this author seeks to find more points of contact than differences between postmodernism and Christian theology.  This is not to argue that postmodernism is not, in many ways, inimical to the Christian faith.  It is.  But a simple exploration of the contours of postmodernism should make problems with that worldview self-evident to evangelical students of theology. 

To be clear, this author is entirely uninterested in compromising the essential elements of the Christian faith in order to render it more palatable to postmodern sensibilities.  Rather, the author seeks to build on opportunities to advance the Christian worldview in a way that communicates accurately to postmodern understanding.  In other words, this paper looks to find ways to overcome the communication barriers that inevitably insert themselves in a discourse between strongly divergent worldviews.

With its view of objective truth as an ontological impossibility, or nearly so, postmodernism presents severe challenges to the Christian worldview.  Simply put, if God is not extant, or at least not knowable, then the idea of Scripture as the inspired, and inerrant Word of God is, at best, an unprovable theory.    Moreover, even if a postmodern individual accepts as fact that the Bible is the Word of God, he is likely to reject the areas of biblical authority that he dislikes, using the argument that the words were “true for them and then” (the original audiences), but “not true for me.”  That argument may or may not be true to an extent for a given biblical passage, but the arbiter of contemporary truth in postmodernism is always the individual speaking for himself.  The Pew Survey may give significant insight as to the pervasiveness of such views, at least in America.  In 2014, Pew found that a mere 31 percent of U.S. adults say the Bible is the Word of God, and to be taken literally, while 27 percent said that the Bible is the Word of God, but not to be taken literally.  But most shocking in this survey is that 33 percent of the respondents said that the Bible is not the Word of God.[47]  One recent cultural blogger this probably sums up most folk postmodern views most concisely.  Responding to Christians who tell her what the Bible says on any given issue, she replies, “So what?”[48]

Yet, postmodernism does provide a way, however subjective, for the individual to determine his or her own truth.  Owing probably in great part to Foucault’s thinking, postmodern thought today rejects a uniform concept of self, especially the rationalist self.  There is no human nature; there is only the power and structures that have shaped each person individually.[49]  Yet nevertheless, the individual’s own experience is enough to define truth for that individual.  Filtering out all of the external noise in the world, postmodernism says people ought to trust their own experience. 

Certainly, this is an idolatrous, self-centered, self-exalting view that is entirely pessimistic in assuming that people act as they do to gain power.  This view says the Christian’s experience does not trump, for example, that of the Buddhist.  Moreover, by its very nature experiential judgment necessitates some form of emotionality.  The Christians is reminded of Jeremiah’s warning about the emotions.  “The heart is deceitful above all things,” says the prophet (Jer 17:9).  But it is the notion of experience where the Christian faith may have the deepest affinity with postmodern thought, and it is experience that could prove a starting point for Christian dialogue with postmodernism.  Indeed, the psalmist writes an invitation to experience God, “Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good!” (Ps 34:8).

Opportunities for Christian Engagement with Postmodern Thought

Postmodern people may accept or reject parts or the whole of the Christian worldview, and any other, for that matter, based upon “what works for me” and what is “true for me.”  However, at its worst, postmodernism is no more antagonistic to the claims of Christianity than was modernism.  Further, posit some, postmodernism may show theologians and preachers alike the way to return to a biblical proclamation untainted by modern rationalism.  In any case, the failings of postmodernism as a worldview provide ample opportunity to exposit a theological and philosophical worldview of mystery, hope, and confidence where it is so desperately needed.[50]  For his part, Allen seems extremely skeptical about the prospect of engaging postmodernism by finding any sort of common ground.  Postmodernity’s subjectivity, pluralism, and rejection of metanarratives in favor of simple narratives appear, at least to Allen, just plain wrong, and a threat to biblical authority that must be tackled.  He is concerned that Loscalzo and Allen, Blaisdell, and Johnson (with some justification, particularly on the part of Johnson) have ceded too much theological ground in attempt to accommodate postmodern ears.[51]  But there must be some way to communicate the uncompromising truth of the biblical message in a way that postmodern society may be more likely to receive, without compromising the foundational doctrines of the Christian faith.

Engaging Postmodernity at Common Points of Contact

Raschke believes that Groothuis, among others, has far overstated postmodernity’s opposition to sound theology, painting postmodern thinkers with a broad brush of evangelical anti-intellectualism.  Raschke rightly faults Groothuis for a failure to even engage with anything postmodern writers haves said.  To Groothuis, Raschke says, postmodernism is simply every avant-garde trend to have come along since the 1960s and represents all that is wrong with contemporary American culture.[52]  Raschke’s point is worth considering.  Indeed, for all its challenges to orthodox Christian theology, postmodernism may share some common ground with the Christian worldview.  This common ground may actually assist the apologetic task. Smith takes what is, perhaps, one of the most radical Christian views of postmodernism.  He argues that what Christians think the postmodernists are saying is not at all what they are trying to communicate.  Rather, he believes (provocatively, he admits) that many of postmodernism’s claims share a “deep affinity with central Christian claims.” This is not to say that Smith believes that all things postmodern are good, but rather, that modernism (and Christian adaptations of modernism) has often overshadowed essential truths about the church. 

Postmodernity, despite its continuity with modernity, is the enemy of modernity.  Because modernity is the milieu in which many Christians have operated since the Enlightenment, many Christians wrongly think of postmodernism as the enemy of the Christian faith. [53]  Modernism, Smith argues, has caused Christianity to become intellectualized and individualistic rather than incarnational, and this shows in the consumerist desires of modern church-goer, including in their preferences for certain types of preaching or preachers.[54]  Olson finds several points of common interest between postmodernism and Christian Pietism that may give rise to the tools needed to proclaim the gospel in the postmodern milieu.  Critically, he says that Pietists rejected the intellectualized faith that had come into being in their day.  Pietists believed that, while reason had its place, faith is more a matter of the heart.  Faith is something “more caught than taught.”  Olson believes that many postmodernists who are open to religious ideas may find a great affinity with the experiential nature of the Christian faith.[55]

Postmodernism may allow for types of word proclamation that are more in line with a biblical theology of preaching.  First, says Smith, classical apologetics is very “modern” in nature, centering as it does upon human reason.  Presuppositional apologetics, on the other hand, says Smith, is moth postmodern and Augustinian, in that it acknowledges the role that presuppositions play in understanding what is recognized as truth.  “For this reason,” Smith argues, “postmodernism can be a catalyst for the church to reclaim its faith not as a system of truth dictated by a neutral reason but rather as a story that requires ‘eyes to see and ears to hear.’”[56] 

If preaching, as the kerygmatic proclamation of the Word, and not an exercise in rationalistic philosophy, then it seems that the Christian witness might find fertile ground in a postmodern culture.  That is if, as in all other successful missiological endeavors, preaching occurs within the cultural context of a largely postmodern society.  Still, it seems highly doubtful that postmodernism is itself an antidote for what ails a modernist church.  However, Smith has presented many hopeful arguments that portend well for the future of biblical proclamation, if the church but acts upon the opportunity.

The most important point of contact between Christianity and postmodernism is a mutual rejection of the modernist belief in the fundamental goodness of humanity.  Certainly, the Christian faith and postmodernism see differing underlying causes for the fundamental evil of humanity.  But it is here where biblical theology can step in and insist that there is hope for humanity.  Further, as Erickson argues, the postmodernist view that it is impossible to be unequivocally certain about any system of thought is both correct and helpful.  It is not that Christianity does not possess absolute truth (it does) but rather, that with human limits it is impossible to say that we understand that absolute truth in an absolute manner.  The Christian, says Erickson, would do well to approach his own faith with the understanding that he will always be required to balance certainty against faith.[57] 

Erickson also believes that postmodernists rightly assert that all human knowledge is conditioned.  In other words, each person operates from his or her own vantage point, judging what he or she sees, both consciously and unconsciously, based on his or her own life experiences.  The societal group to which a person belongs further influences the human understanding of his or her own situation and circumstances.  Christian theologians are not exempt from such preconceptions and presuppositions derived from their own experiences.  What’s more, the postmodernist recognizes, with the Christian theologian, that there are dimensions of knowledge that remain beyond the reach of pure science and human reason.[58]

A Christian dialogue with postmodernism, then, demands a sense of humility, authenticity, and of intellectual integrity.  Christians should welcome such an opportunity to carry on a conversation with such traits.  Christian theology should be upfront in its admission that the Bible never claims certainty that fits the standard of empiricism and human reason demanded in earlier modernism.  Indeed, as the Apostle Paul admits, “now we see in a mirror dimly” (1 Cor 13:12).  Our understanding of things spiritual is imperfect, yet believers hold on to faith that on the other side of eternity, they will understand completely.

Apologetic Preaching in Light of the Postmodern Milieu

Postmodernism, at its heart, is a worldview of skepticism, even cynicism.  It offers little in the way of hope for the human condition.  It cannot speak with confidence because it denies any sense of right or wrong.  While Christians can and do make the mistake of speaking (on certain issues) with certitude that the Bible plainly does not justify, the Christian worldview does offer a hopeful confidence.  As postmodernism does not acknowledge any sense of certainty, it is a worldview utterly devoid of any hope.  The Christian worldview places no faith in the ability of humankind, and postmodernism would probably agree no faith is warranted.  However, one can easily show that the Christian worldview it is an entirely optimistic outlook that sees, in the power of the triune God, ultimate redemption, significance, and hope for the eternal future of people who will surrender in faith and trust to Jesus Christ.  Further, where postmodernity is a self-centered worldview, Christian preaching can present a theology of belonging to something infinitely larger than oneself.

Theologians and apologists can readily show that postmodernism, with its subjective value judgments and its real lack of answers to the problem of the human condition, is an entirely empty and unsatisfying philosophy for living.  Further, says Smith, Christians need to recover their identity as a “peculiar people,” and instead, “seek to retrieve the strange ways and ancient practices of the communion of the saints in order to re-form who we are…and the outcome should be a robust confessional theology and ecclesiology that unapologetically reclaims premodern practices in and for a postmodern culture.”[59] 

Preaching the Mystery of God

Loscalzo believes that postmodern society is hungry preaching that proclaims the mystery of God.  Although the world of postmodernism is one of information overload, Loscalzo wonders why people are gathering so much information, and what good that information is to them.  Despite being awash in information, he notes, people feel driven to know more, and more, and yet remain completely unable to effect any change with what they know.  Loscalzo believes it is in articulating what it has in premodernity that the church will be most able to passionately, apologetically, proclaim the gospel to the postmodern world.  The church, he says, must reclaim its “absurd roots” and articulate the “wonder and mystery of our faith.”[60]  However, he cautions that postmodern people are skeptical or apathetic about the deductive logic systems and philosophical categories that Christian theologians and apologists typically use.  Christian academia is presenting an apologetic for a generation gone by.  For instance, a discussion on the ontological argument for the existence of God will move few postmodernists.  This is unsurprising, as such logical arguments posit an objective truth that postmodernists do not even believe exists. [61]

Yet rooted in the mystery of the Christian faith, says Loscalzo, are coherent answers to the questions people have asked since ancient times. Even in a postmodern milieu, people still ask questions about their origin, their purpose, and the meaning of life.  Despite the relativism of postmodern culture, people still wonder about right and wrong, and have an innate sense of fairness and justice.  Likewise, even though postmodernism is nontheistic, most people wonder about God’s existence and His nature.  They ponder the truth claims of the world’s religions and want to know if those worldviews might just be true.  And, most importantly, most continue to wonder about the existence and nature of an afterlife.[62] 

While Christianity coherently answers each of these questions, Loscalzo cautions against the presuppositions preachers have typically worked from.  That is, preachers once preached deductively, saying, “The Bible says.”  This presupposes that their hearers, lost or saved, agreed, and, mostly, they did.  The Bible says what is says on a matter, and that left the matter settled for all.  Loscalzo believes that, rather than bombarding the audience with theological truth, the preacher today must act inductively.  In inductive preaching, the preacher unpacks the message differently, leading the audience to those theological truths.  Such preaching relies heavily upon life’s experiences and story-telling that comes across as authentic.  Inductive preaching, though devoid of argumentative propositions remains countercultural, unafraid of confronting the pluralism and relativism of the postmodern worldview.[63]  One simple adage of a theology for postmodern preaching would be, “Preach like Jesus did.”

Projecting a Theology of Hope

Although postmodernism has much earlier roots, Loscalzo believes it really came into its own in the United States following the political, cultural, and social upheaval of the 1960s.  The American Dream seemed to have collapsed, replaced by the nightmare of threatened nuclear conflict.  The civil rights movement brought attention that fact that African-Americans were mostly unable to share in the American dream, despite the abolition of slavery in the U.S. a century earlier.  Moreover, night after night (as this student recalls from early childhood) television brought the horrors of the Vietnam War into the average American home.  The naïve optimism of the Pax Americana of the 1950s was gone, replaced by the disillusioned skepticism of postmodernism.[64]

Even if people do not believe there is hope, it does not mean that they no longer desire that.  The need for hope is certainly hard-wired into the mind of every human being.  The Christian message says that, despite all the hardships in life, despite the pain, evil, and suffering in the world, there is a God who is in control of it all, who has a plan in all of it, and who offers an eternal hope that actually begins in this life.  If the Christian faith is pessimistic about human nature (an attribute shared with the postmodern worldview) it expresses a hopeful alternative to the failures of humankind.  As have unbelievers throughout the centuries, many in postmodern culture will reject the gospel in any way that it is communicated.  However, for many struggling for hope, and emphasis on articulating a theology of hope may be a powerfully effective tool for conveying the Christian message.

Proclaiming a Confident Certainty

The enormously skeptical postmodern worldview sees that nothing is certain.  There is no bedrock truth.  Everything is relative.  There is nothing about which anyone can really be confident.  This is, of course, entirely counter to the Christian message, but more than that, it is an enormously unsatisfying view.  Christianity possesses a theology of confident certainty.  This, says Raschke, is not the dogmatic certainty of the Reformation (or, indeed, of later fundamentalism), which he believes, with some justification, paved the way for the Enlightenment’s scientific view of certainty.  Rather, the Christian worldview exudes a certainty built on belief, and backed up experientially. 

Moreover, the Christian message tells us that to enjoy that certainty, we must believe.  Where postmodernism lacks in providing any certainty, at least it rejects the notion that we can or must demand scientific certainty in everything.  Although postmodern beliefs may be unbiblical, contra the modernist, the postmodernist is at least willing to believe in something.  Indeed, even the deconstructionist postmodern philosopher Jacques Derrida admitted, “I don’t know.  I must believe.”[65]  A biblical view of certainty may well appeal to those seeking an alternative to the uncertainty inherent in postmodernism.

Biblical Truth as Antidote to Relativism

As the Apostle Paul says, even the Gentiles know right from wrong because God has written it on their hearts, and given them a conscience that tells them wright from wrong (Rom. 1:18-20; 2:14-16).  If there is any absolute in postmodernism, it is that all things are relative.  Yet, here again, postmodernism shows itself an untenable worldview, because it stands in tension with the biblical idea that the human conscience has been wired to instinctively grasp that there are, indeed absolutes of right and wrong.  Indeed, even children have an innate sense of injustice.  Even brought up in a postmodernism, there is a point where many people will ask themselves, “Does anything really go?” 

Perhaps the message of the Christian faith most appealing to a postmodern world may be that God is a God of justice, while at the same time, a God of mercy.  Admittedly, any postmodernist will be quick to toss the problem of evil and suffering in the world back onto any theologian making an attempt at engagement.  Frankly, however, the problem of evil and suffering has been effectively wrestled with and dealt with in centuries of Christian thought.  The challenge to the theologian and apologist, in dealing with postmodernism, is how to convey these truths in a relational, experiential way:  there are absolutes because my experience with God show me there are absolutes! 

Conclusion

To be certain, the postmodern worldview contradicts biblical truth at many levels.  Yet, preachers must understand and try to reach the people to who they have been sent in the context in which they live.  Biblical truths, no matter how unpalatable they are to postmodern sensibilities, remain biblical truths.  Biblical truth is absolute in a world of relativism, and objective in a world of subjectivity.  It is not because biblical truth changes that the continuing work of theology throughout the centuries is to restate those truths for contemporary ears.  Rather, theology continues to exposit biblical truth afresh in each generation, precisely because the culture changes and meanings shift.  The theological tasks of preaching as heralding and stewarding are remain, and preaching remains relevant in a postmodern world.  We are simply called to do what Word proclaimers have always done:  to understand our cultural context and proclaim the Word in a way that it makes sense to contemporary ears.

In many senses, postmodernism is no different from any other worldview opposed to the Christian faith.  The Bible tells us that not all people will respond positively to the gospel, and history certainly bears that out.  Yet, the Holy Spirit works to convict the hearts of sinners, while the Father draws men and women to Christ.  Postmodernism is similar to other missiological challenges of days gone by:  Christian missionaries reach out to a culture different from their own and who speak a language different from their own.  The only difference from traditional evangelistic missionary work is that the person whose culture differs lives next door, and the language he speaks sounds a lot like the same language the Christian witness speaks, even if the meaning is entirely different.

Christian thinkers must, then, stop fighting the old battle against over-rationalistic modernism, and engage postmodernity with this central Christian message:  That there is an encounter to be had with the living God and His Christ.  It is an encounter of mystery, defying completely rational explanation.  It is an encounter that brings with it relationship with the true and living God and with the body of Christ in the church.  It is an encounter from which one walks away changed for the better, and at peace with truths far more satisfying than unadulterated skepticism, nervous uncertainty, and cynical relativism.

If biblical preaching is to prosper in any new culture, the local church preacher must learn the ways of that culture and the language of that culture.   Further, the local preacher must work diligently to set aside the mistaken notion that it is his own culture he is reaching is his own.  It is not.  Once the local American preacher learns the principles his foreign missionary counterparts have long mastered, he should be much better able to communicate biblical and theological truth to the culture in which God has called him to minister.



[1] Unless otherwise stated, all Scripture quotations are from the English Standard Version (ESV).

[2] Ronald J. Allen, Barbara Shires Blaisdell, and Scott Black Johnston, Theology for Preaching:  Authority, Truth, and Knowledge of God in a Postmodern Ethos (Nashville, TN:  Abingdon Press, 1997):  29.

[3] Karl Barth, Homiletics (Louisville, KY:  Westminster John Knox, 1991): 17.

[4] David S. Jacobsen, Homiletical Theology:  Preaching as Doing Theology (Eugene, OR:  Cascade Books, 2015):  6.

[5] R. Albert Mohler, He Is Not Silent:  Preaching in a Postmodern World (Chicago, IL:  Moody Publishers, 2008): 105, Kindle.

[6] Ibid., 108.

[7] Jason C. Meyer, Preaching: A Biblical Theology (Wheaton, IL:  Crossway, 2013):  20.

[8] Ibid., 25-6.

[10] Graeme Goldsworthy, Preaching the Whole Bible as Christian Scripture (Grand Rapids, MI:  Wm. B. Eerdmans, 2000):  26.

[11] Ibid., 14-21.

[12] Jonathan I. Griffiths, Preaching in the New Testament:  An Exegetical and Biblical-Theological Study (Downers Grove, IL:  IVP Academic, 2017): 

[13] Ibid., 122.

[14] Ibid., 122-4.

[15] Ibid., 125-6.

[16] Goldsworthy, 38-9.

[17] Griffiths, 128.

[18] Ibid., 129.

[19] Ibid.

[20] Ibid.

[21] Ibid., 130-1.

[22] Meyer,  21-3.

[23] Ibid., 23-5.

[24] Walter C. Kaiser, Toward and Exegetical Theology (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 1981): 235-7.

[25] Goldsworthy, 20.

[26] Peter Adam, Speaking God’s Words:  A Practical Theology of Preaching (Vancouver, BC:  Regent College Publishing, 1996): 97-100.

[27] Ibid., 110-12.

[28] Douglas Groothuis, Truth Decay:  Defending Christianity Against the Challenges of Postmodernisim.  (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2000):  Kindle location 1097.

[29] Millard Erickson, The Postmodern World:  Discerning the Times and the Spirit of Our Age.  (Wheaton, IL:  Crossway Books, 2002):  Kindle location 51.

[30] Stewart E.  Kelly and James K. Dew, Understanding Postmodernism:  A Christian Perspective.  (Downers Grove, IL:  IVP Academic, 2008): 29.

[31] Ibid.

[32] Ibid., 30.

[33] Groothuis, 49.

[34] Smith, 26.

[35] Groothuis, 49.

[36] Ibid., 68-71.

[37] Allen, Blaisdell, and Johnston, 18.

[38] Ibid.

[39] Groothuis, 38.

[40] Christopher Butler Postmodernism:  A Very Short Introduction (New York, NY:  Oxford University Press, 2002):  110, Kindle.

[41] Ibid., 113.

[42] Groothuis, 28-9.

[43] Allen, Blaisdell, and Johnston, 21.

[44] Ibid., 22.

[45] Pew Forum, “Belief in Absolute Standards for Right and Wrong,” in Religious Landscape Study, Pew Research Center, 2014.  (Accessed on March 28, 2018 at http://www.pewforum.org/religious-landscape-study/belief-in-absolute-standards-for-right-and-wrong/)

[46] Stewart E Kelly, Truth Considered and Applied: Examining Postmodernism, History, and Christian Faith (Nashville, TN:  B&H Publishing, 2001): 53, Kindle. 

[47] Pew Forum, “Interpreting Scripture,” in Religious Landscape Study, Pew Research Center, 2014.  (Accessed on March 28, 2018 at http://www.pewforum.org/religious-landscape-study/belief-in-absolute-standards-for-right-and-wrong/)

[48] Keay Nigel, “The 10 Most Annoying Things Every Non-Christian Is Sick of Hearing,” The Coffeelicious, n.d.  (accessed February 20, 2018 at https://thecoffeelicious.com/10-annoying-things-every-non-christian-is-sick-of-hearing-3c144bc6eea).

[49] Kelly and Dew, 135.

[50] Craig A. Loscalzo, Apologetic Preaching:  Proclaiming Christ to a Postmodern World (Downers Grove, IL:  IVP Academic, 2000):  24.

[51] David L. Allen, “Preaching and Postmodernism:  An Evangelical Comes to the Dance,”  Southern Baptist Journal of Theology 5, no. 2 (Summer 2001), 68-71.  (accessed January 30, 2018 at http://www.galaxie.com. ezproxy.liberty.edu/article/sbjt05-2-06?highlight=Preaching%20and%20Postmodernism% 20An%20Evangelical%20Comes%20to%20the%20Dance).

[52] Carl Raschke, The Next Reformation: Why Evangelicals Must Embrace Postmodernity (Grand Rapids, MI:  Baker Academic, 2004):  Kindle Locations 213-214.

[53] James K. A. Smith, Who’s Afraid of Postmodernism?  Taking Derrida, Lyotard, and Foucault to Church (Grand Rapids, MI:  Baker Academic, 2006):  22, Kindle. 

[54] Ibid., 29.

[55] Roger E. Olson, “Pietism and Postmodernism: Points of Congeniality,” Christian Scholar's Review 41, no. 4 (2012), 372.  (accessed April 8, 2018 at  http://ezproxy.liberty.edu/login?url=https://search-proquest-com.ezproxy.liberty.edu/docview/1030142650?accountid=12085).

[56] Ibid., 28.

[57] Erickson, Kindle location 766.

[58] Ibid., 779-818.

[59] Smith, 116.

[60] Loscalzo, 32-3.

[61] Ibid.

[62] Ibid., 37-8.

[63] Ibid., 39.

[64] Ibid., 50-4.

[65] Smith, 118.

 

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