God and the Bible were once widely revered in the United States. Though this country never was a theocracy or a purely Christian nation, most of the Founding Fathers were Protestants. Tour Washington, D.C., and you’ll see all kinds of references to the Bible, including some etched onto government buildings, monuments, and memorials. Clearly, there was once a time when most of the American public respected God’s word.
Times have changed.
Although 70% of Americans still describe themselves as Christians, the number of unreligious “nones” is growing rapidly. Nearly one quarter of the population does not associate with any faith. Which means that the Bible has much less clout in our society, especially among younger generations.
Are you and I prepared to be salt and light in this post-Christian culture?
Andy Stanley, senior pastor of North Point Community Church, recently wrote a provocative column in Outreach Magazine titled “Why ‘The Bible Says So’ Is Not Enough Anymore.” His premise? We need to adjust our evangelism and apologetics methods to better reach our friends and family with the gospel. “We are now a post-Christian culture,” Stanley observes.
A post-Christian society is not merely a society in which agnosticism or atheism is the prevailing fundamental belief. It is a society rooted in the history, culture, and practices of Christianity but in which the religious beliefs of Christianity have been either rejected or, worse, forgotten.
In other words, millions of people already know about Christianity—and they have rejected it. That “presents a unique challenge for us in terms of apologetics and evangelism,” he says. “It requires a new approach.”
Nowadays, simply telling people that “the Bible says this” or “the Bible says that” is often ineffective, because:
Appealing to post-Christian people on the basis of the authority of Scripture has essentially the same effect as a Muslim imam appealing to you on the basis of the authority of the Quran. You may or may not already know what it says. But it doesn’t matter. The Quran doesn’t carry any weight with you. You don’t view the Quran as authoritative.
So far, Stanley’s observations here are reminiscent of those articulated by Ken Ham in the book Why Won’t They Listen? But Stanley then goes a step further, arguing a point I had never heard emphasized before:
I will continue to insist that the foundation of our faith is not an inspired book but the events that inspired the book; events that inspired writers, borne along by the Holy Spirit, to document conversations, insights and events—the pivotal event being the resurrection. … It is the events, not the record of the events, that birthed the “church.” The Bible did not create Christianity. Christianity is the reason the Bible was created.
Stanley urges us to shift our focus from the Bible to the events described therein. We must pivot from talking about the book to the events that led to the writing of the book, he says.
Definitely something to chew on. Needless to say, Stanley’s observations have ruffled some feathers and drawn some criticism. John Piper wrote a lengthy blog post last week in response to Stanley’s column that is well worth reading.
At the end of the day, whether you agree with Stanley’s entire argument or not, we should at least acknowledge that our culture is changing. Millions of people now scoff at the Bible. Doubt and skepticism are increasingly common. Given all that, we Christians should take a hard look at our evangelism, apologetics, and preaching techniques. Could they be done more effectively? Do we need to adjust our strategies? Should we scrap old-fashioned methods that just aren’t working like they used to?