The Basics Conference (II)
Voddie Baucham began the conference proper with a session dealing with “Preaching to Postmoderns.” He explained that this is a difficult title because it relies on a term that is nearly impossible to define. Some use postmodernism to describe a generation, a group of people currently in their twenties. But this is unfortunate because postmodernism is not new. Since the sixties at least this postmodernism was shoved down the throats of students. In reality postmodernism is about a specific epistemology. We are talking about individuals who take issue with (though they do not necessarily deny) certain truth claims. Postmodernity is about taking issue with certain truth claims or with our ability to know and to grasp this absolute truth and therefore taking issue with certain constructs. We are dealing with individuals who ultimately come to a place where they are not willing to stake a claim on certain historical doctrines or truths. They may not deny certain doctrines or truths but they also will not go to war with them. It operates under this mantra: what is true for you is not necessarily what is true for me. Another difficulty is that we could actually believe that we have to fundamentally change the practice of preaching in order to suit a group of people. Preaching is preaching is preaching. As Lloyd-Jones said, ultimately if a sermon is going to be preaching, it has to be expository in nature. We don’t start with ourselves or start with a need. We start with the text. Having said that, we do live in an age where people take issue with certain types of exposition. So how do we engage this group? How do we engage the individuals growing up around our college campuses who are immersed in postmodernism, but want to both hold on to the truths of Scripture and be relevant to the culture around us. Can we do biblical exposition with this group?
The answer is yes, you can! From 1 Corinthians 15 we’ll learn how. Here Paul is dealing with people who claim interest in Christianity or identify with it but there are certain aspects that they cannot grasp onto wholeheartedly. The issue of the resurrection is problematic because their way of thinking, their philosophy, their preconceived ideas, must be brought to bear on the text or the message that is being proclaimed. When the message being proclaimed rubs the wrong way of something we hold to, the message loses. This is what he deals with in 1 Corinthians 15. Paul makes three arguments: argument from authority, argument from evidence, argument from logic.
In the first few verses, Paul argues from authority. Paul identifies himself as the one who sends or provides this message but that he does so on behalf of God. God says that there are certain requirements to be His child. This argument from authority points out those who are true believers. You cannot claim to be something without having met the requirements to be what you claim.
In the next set of verses Paul argues from evidence pointing to Jesus. There are so many who are wrong on Jesus, wrong on Christ, and hence wrong on the gospel. They don’t believe that He died for sin, that He was raised. If we’re wrong on the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus we’re wrong on the gospel. The argument from evidence is that Jesus, in His life, fulfilled promises that were made hundreds of years before. Jesus dies according to the Scriptures, is raising according to the Scriptures in fulfillment of prophecies. There is also eye-witness evidence of those to whom he appeared (including Paul himself). The third evidence is to look at Paul, saying “Look at me.” We can fall into a trap of thinking we’re sharing the gospel when we’re really sharing our own story. Paul shares his story but only after the gospel, not in place of it. We are prone to simply compare our stories with each other, reducing the gospel to experience. Paul doesn’t leave his story out, but he also doesn’t highlight it.
Then there is the argument from logic. It is a little bit difference because here Paul answers people directly who claim to believe in Christ but not in the resurrection. He takes their arguments to their logical conclusion. In this passage people are saying that Jesus is fine, but they just can’t believe in the resurrection. Paul, though, says that if there is no such thing as the resurrection there are seven things that absolutely must follow. You can’t just get away with saying this. With that one statement you’ve then made other conclusions necessary. Namely, Christ has not been raised; our preaching is vain; your faith is vain; we are liars and blasphemers; your faith is futile and you haven’t been forgiven; those who have died have perished; we are the most pathetic lot around and we may as well just eat, drink and be merry.
Are these three points magic bullets that always work with postmoderns? No, absolutely not. But it is a verse-by-verse, straight out of the text exposition. It means that it’s easy to remember; that, because the Word of God is alive, it is powerful; it validates what we say because it’s rooted in the authority of Scripture; it keeps us from being the authority.
Ultimately what is important is not winning an argument, but winning a soul. It is easy to feel good about using logic and intellect and information to feel superior to an opponent. One thing exposition does to you is making the baser parts take a back seat. We don’t write the mail—we just deliver it. And that’s enough.
Postmodernism is nothing new. If we love the Word and cherish it and the God who gave it to us, and get into this book and get this book into us, we will have ready responses that have the authority of the Word of God that will be alive and active. This does not mean we don’t share our experiences, but we do so as people who have been encountered by truth to show that our experiences do not validate that truth, but merely show an example of a life that has been touched by these truths.
This is only the second time I’ve encountered Voddie’s teaching (you can read about the first here), but I’ve found both of these sessions remarkable in their content, delivery and application. You’ll want to get ahold of this MP3.
As I finish this, Keith and Kristyn Getty have taken the stage again and are going to lead us in a few minutes of song. That will bring us to the end of the first day of this conference. I’ll be back tomorrow with more. And, once again, if I could bother you with a prayer request, I’d be grateful if you could pray for God’s blessings as I speak again tomorrow.