Today, many large cities in North America like New York City, Toronto, Los Angeles, Vancouver, and some European cities like London have become very multicultural. People arriving from other nations have changed the dynamics of the established Christian heritage through migration. The western world, as we knew it, is no longer truly “western” in the historical sense of the word. People of other races, cultures and ethnicities have brought with them different cultural beliefs, practices and religions. As a result, the Christian heritage that once existed in western civilization has lost dominance and has become blended into the dominant western world. Reflecting upon biblical history, today’s social environment resembles something like the polytheistic society of ancient Israel. In ancient biblical Israel, the monotheistic Hebrew people lived amongst a diversity of cultures and religions. The dominant Israelite religion was eventually overshadowed by its surrounding cultures and religions. Within today’s context of North America and western European nations, the same thing has happened with our monotheistic Christian religion today.
How may this be relevant to Christianity in the 21st century? This century may show itself to be a most important one, especially in terms of the spread of Christianity in the world. This century may produce more Christian apologists than ever before. In the face of a multi-religious and multicultural environment, the role of Christian apologetics will act to distinguish Christianity from other faiths within the religious and cultural marketplace.
It will definitely seem politically-incorrect to even speak about a certain “strain on the Christian faith,” but being who I am, well, I may have a voice that is able to speak to this subject without being accused of being politically-incorrect. North America’s change into a multi-religious and multicultural society has placed a certain level of strain upon the whole dynamics of how one’s Christian faith plays a part in our society.
The role of Christian apologetics is going to be more important in today’s post-modern polytheistic and multicultural society. As Christians, our commitment in keeping Christ’s commandments to love God and one another has faded within the values of younger generations in the secular sphere. God’s Spirit will call men and women to rise to the challenge—to answer the call—to defend the faith within contemporary society. “Defending the faith” as apologists for Christ is not in any way, shape or form even remotely related to extreme Islamic fundamentalism or the early crusaders of the Roman Catholic Church. To do Christian apologistics is to do works of love for Christ and the gospel. Traditional Christian values are no longer the norm in our secular humanistic society today. In this type of shifting social and religious environment, the role of Christian apologetics will be extremely important–no matter what part of the world we are in.
In years ahead, the variety of Christian apologetists and their theologies will be even more diverse than what it has been in modern history. They will come from varied theologies, churches, and varied cultures and ethnicities. Lines that previously divided denominations, churches, cultures, race, and ethnicities will blur and blend together. Today’s church includes the global church. If you did not know, the majority of the Christian church today exists in the global south and is no longer located in the northern hemisphere. (Read: The Next Christendom: The Coming of Global Christianity by Philip Jenkins). It should not matter which denomination they are from because all denominations are important in eyes of Christ. This is the situation in our post-modern world. It may be difficult for many traditionalists to accept this but that is what I can foresee in the future. But by their works of love, the reign of God or “kingdom of God” in Christ will be distinguished and be visibly witnessed in those whose faith is strengthened by God’s Holy Spirit. This must be the norm if one’s Christian faith is to survive and grow in our shifting global environments. God’s holy and universal church is spreading and will spread across the entire world. It is happening before our own eyes this century, and we are witnesses to this.
If we are to recognize our church as apostolic and universal (catholic), we need to honor our previous generations of Christian apologists for the works of love they have done for the body of Christ—that is the holy Christian church. Throughout the history of the early Christian church, the works of love of Christian apologists were invaluable to the survival of the early church, e.g., Justin Martyr, Irenaeus, Tertullian, and Jerome. In the early Roman Catholic Church, there was Augustine of Hippo and Thomas Aquinas. The great protestant reformers like Martin Luther and John Calvin brought immense freedom in the life of the church, which in turn, introduced great political and social freedoms to society. We also have modern apologists from the 20th century like Francis Schaeffer (Presbyterian), Norman Geisler (evangelical), C.S. Lewis (Anglican), G.K. Chesterton (Roman Catholic), and John W. Montgomery (Lutheran), who have contributed much to the intellectual Christian defense. There were also the Calvinist presuppositionalists apologists like Cornelius Van Til and Gordon Clark. Today’s leading evangelical apologists might be people like Lee Strobel, R.C. Sproul, and Josh McDowell, and then there are many more in the making. This may be the century for North American Christian apologetics.