Christians who fear that their message is not civil or irenic will negate the message. We cannot allow so-called undue civility, or irenic approach, to displace the gospel. Unadulterated civility is a code word for assault on the message. God ties salvation closely with clarity of the gospel. It is a false dichotomy to claim that God is not “generous” if he claims specificity in the way of salvation. Was Paul civil to Peter when he rebuked Peter “before them all?” Were scores of writers of the Bible uncivil when they rebuked false teach- ing? I think they were true to truth and not to prevailing opinion.
With so many evangelicals becoming happily uncertain about what they believe, it will not be long before we see significant decline of Christianity in the Western world. Evangelicals must awaken to the fact that this “uncertainty” is nothing more than unadulterated unbelief. It is a new wave of skepticism placing a pall on evangelicalism.
Self-styled, avant-garde evangelicals try to pawn off the idea that this new uncertainty is a new development, but it is simply old unbelief. These people are introducing skepticism in the name of reaching postmoderns.
It is one thing to use the postmodern method to reach postmoderns, but it is another thing to deny the gospel message by inference, which is denial of the faith cloaked in religious disguise. That disguise comes in the form of a phony humility that states we cannot have the arrogance to be certain about what we believe. Postconservatives fail miserably in coming to “sound doctrine” because their “itching ears” want to find some new truth.294 Ever in protracted dialogue, they cannot come to finality of truth. Because they cannot come to final truth, they cannot present it with certainty.
Obviously, there is no place for an obnoxious approach to non-Christians. Peter says that we are to present the gospel with “meekness and fear” (1 Peter 3:15). Meekness is in-wrought grace. It is a sense of humility that we ourselves need the gospel. This has to do with treating others with a graceful attitude. Christians should not look down their self-righteous noses at non-Christians. We cannot win people with a sense of arrogance. “Fear” means “respect, reverence.” We respect perspectives of non-Christians.
Josh McDowell, in his 2005 commencement address to Dallas Theological Seminary, said that ninety-one percent of professing born-again, church-attending youth assert that there are no absolutes.295 That figure was up from fifty-two percent in 1991, sixty-two percent in 1994, and seventy-eight percent in 1999. Of the ninety-one percent in 2005 “sixty-five percent of these same young people also say that we cannot know whether any religion is true or not, including Christianity. And today, fewer than four percent of these youth agree that the Bible is the infallible Word of God and true in every situation.”296
Such erosion of Christianity will increase with postevangelical belief. Instead of facing down relativism with a counterculture position on absolutes, postevangelicalism caves into current culture, weakening our youth further. There is a great need to return to biblical Christianity, a Christianity that proclaims the objective, absolute truth of Christianity. Obviously, evangelicals should recognize the reality of postmodernism and develop strategies that will reach postmoderns, but this does not presume that we must believe their message to reach them with our message.
Certainty is essential for a passionate message. Otherwise, we are just passionate about passion. Let’s accept for ourselves Paul’s challenge to Timothy to protect the “pattern of sound words”: “Hold fast the pattern of sound words which you have heard from me, in faith and love which are in Christ Jesus. That good thing which was committed to you, keep by the Holy Spirit who dwells in us” (2 Timothy 1:13, 14)