We Are All Apologists Now

fools-talkOs Guinness, in his new book Fool’s Talk: Recovering the Art of Christian Persuasion (IVP), pages 15–16:

We are all apologists now, and we stand at the dawn of the grand age of human apologetics, or so some are saying because our wired world and our global era are a time when expressing, presenting, sharing, defending and selling ourselves have become a staple of everyday life for countless millions of people around the world, both Christians and others. The age of the Internet, it is said, is the age of the self and the selfie. The world is full of people full of themselves. In such an age, “I post, therefore I am.”

To put the point more plainly, human interconnectedness in the global era has been raised to a truly global level, with unprecedented speed and on an unprecedented scale. Everyone is now everywhere, and everyone can communicate with everyone else from anywhere and at any time, instantly and cheaply. Communication through the social media in the age of email, text messages, cell phones, tweets and Skype is no longer from “the few to the many,” as in the age of the book, the newspaper and television, but from “the many to the many,” and all the time. . . .

That is why it can be said that we are in the grand secular age of apologetics. The whole world has taken up apologetics without ever using or knowing the idea as Christians understand it. We are all apologists now, if only on behalf of “the Daily Me” or “the Tweeted Update” that we post for our virtual friends and our cyber community. The great goals of life, we are told, are to gain the widest possible public attention and to reach as many people in the world with our products — and always, our leading product is Us.

Are Christians ready for this new age? We who are followers of Jesus stand as witnesses to the truth and meaning of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus as a central matter of our calling. We are spokespersons for our Lord, and advocacy is in our genes. Ours is the apologetic faith par excellence. But regardless of the new media, many of us have yet to rise to the challenge of a way of apologetics that is as profound as the good news we announce, as deep as the human heart, as subtle as the human mind, as powerful and flexible as the range of people and issues that we meet every day in our extraordinary world in which “everyone is now everywhere.”

Later Guinness writes (pages 166–167):

On the one hand, modern words suffer from inattention. Everyone is speaking and no one is listening. On the other hand, modern words suffer from inflation. Under the impact of the omnipresence of advertising and “adspeak,”words are nothing more than tools to sell products and agendas, and the highest and most sacred words can be used to give a leg up to the most trivial of goods and the worst of causes. Words today are all so much “verbiage,” “propaganda” and a matter of “words, words, words.”

In direct and forceful contrast, we Christians must show again that we are both people of the Word and people who believe in words. Words are never mere words for us, for they are linked indissolubly to truth, freedom, worship and human dignity. Words matter because we worship the Word himself, and our words used on his behalf should be spring-loaded with the truth and power of his Word — especially to those who are closed.

The problems of inattention and inflation are only two of the oddities of communication in the great age of communication. But they show how great communicators as Christians are called to be and have often been, communication today is often harder and not easier. More importantly, they show that the best answer to the challenge is not through improved technology but through deeper theology.

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