Reprinted from the March 2014 issue of “Gospel Advocate” Magazine.
In the last 50 years, society has experienced a tsunami-like change in the way that it thinks. There are many terms by which this philosophical change can be described, but for purposes of this article, let’s say it is the difference between a rationalistic, enlightenment way of thinking (from about 1700-1960) and a postmodern era way of thinking (from 1960 to today). It represents a shift in civilizations, one where values held for several hundred years are collapsing.
While we must know the gospel, and while it is always true, we must also know the world to which we take the gospel. Much of the evangelism we carried out in the past was “argument-based,” dependent on rational reasoning and an appeal to biblical authority. Neither of these can be counted on as persuasive today. Please note that although the gospel has not changed, simply shouting Bible verses and expecting to make disciples by out-arguing people will not prove as effective in today’s culture.
The Enlightenment (1700-1960)
In this era we observe the elevation of human reason over every other aspect of human life. God’s authority was replaced by humans as the center of existence. Once Napoleon was speaking to French scientist Pierre-Simon LaPlace about the solar system: “I notice you made no mention of God in your calculations,” Napoleon noted. “Sire,” LaPlace was said to have responded, “I no longer have need of that hypothesis.”
Although early scientists in this era were devout believers in God, as their scientific method began to produce more and more scientific advances, they began to see God as unnecessary, a remnant of the Dark Ages.