Sage Advice

In 1945 C. S. Lewis was invited to address an assembly of Welsh Anglican priests and youth leaders on the topic of Christian apologetics.1 After humbly confessing that, as a layman, he had “little right to address either,”2 he went on offer his thoughts on the primary task of apologetics in the British Isles at that time. Defining apologetics as the defense of orthodox Christianity “the faith preached by the Apostles, attested by the Martyrs, embodied in the Creeds, expounded by the Fathers”3 Lewis added that, though the Faith is eternal, it is imperative for the apologist to expound it in light of the cultural and spiritual environment of his audience. “Your teaching,” he writes, “must be timeless at its heart and wear a modern dress.”4

In Lewis’ analysis, the fit and cut of Britain’s “modern dress” at mid-twentieth century was essentially post-Christian. The radical secularizing tendencies of modernism had by then stripped the British public mind of its Christian memory and presented to church leaders a new social situation. According to Lewis, “a century ago our task was to edify those who had been brought up in the Faith: our present task is chiefly to convert and instruct infidels.”5 The primary reality for the apologist is that the church is engaged in a missionary activity, and he must therefore adopt a missionary mind-set. “If you were sent to the Bantus you would be taught their language and traditions,”6 Lewis writes; similarly, he who intends to present a defense of Christianity in his own time and place must first consider the prejudices, experiences, and mental habits of his fellows. As Lewis concludes, “you must translate every bit of your theology into the vernacular.”7

Sage advice, from however humble a layman, and especially helpful for us today…

From Jack Meets Gen X: Apologetics of Longing and the Postmodern Mood, By: Gregory Dunn, July 1, 1998

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