A major shift is taking place in the consciousness of Western civilization, a shift that greatly impacts the Christian church. This shift is known as the movement from modernity to postmodernity. Modernity was proud, confident, and certain. But its postmodern stepchild is marked by despair, suspicion, and confusion. Some Christians have hailed postmodernity as a breath of fresh air in which the Holy Spirit’s hand may be perceived—a refreshing sign of repentance from the sins of modernity. But at least one feature of postmodernity—in fact, a central feature—is its espousal of relativism in matters of truth. So what happens to the exclusive claims of the Christian faith in such an environment? Can we— should we—continue to assert that ours is the one truth from heaven? Is it still necessary to worship only the Christian expression of God? Can we really continue to insist that Jesus is the only Savior, apart from whom we must perish under God’s wrath?
The contributors to this book are convinced that Christians can continue to affirm the exclusive claims of the biblical message, indeed, that we must defend especially these claims if we are to communicate effectively the biblical gospel to a postmodern world. As Philip Ryken asserts: “For all its insights, postmodernism must be recognized as an attack on the very foundations of truth, and we must join the battle at the very place where truth is under attack” (p. 92).
The six chapters of this book follow a general progression. The introductory chapter by David Wells locates us with the apostle Paul in the pagan Athens of Acts 17. If there has ever been a time since the Reformation when Christians find themselves in a situation like Paul’s Athens, that time is now. Peter Jones follows in chapter 2 by noting that at its foundation, neo-pagan postmodernism involves a rejection of the biblical idea of God himself. Both Wells and Jones warn Christians—and especially evangelists and apologists—of our great need to understand the intellectual and spiritual environment of our time. Both perceive a threat as well as an opportunity for a biblically faithful and intellectually credible Christian witness to the postmodern age.
The middle two chapters tackle specific topics that are under siege by the world and are also in danger of abandonment by post-modern-minded Christians. Chapter 3 (my chapter) considers the biblical claim of Jesus Christ as the world’s only Savior. Can we continue to insist that people must believe on Jesus Christ—and him only—in order to be saved? What is the biblical basis for such a claim? Why is this such a hotly contested doctrine? Philip Ryken then confronts us in chapter 4 with Pontius Pilate’s unforgettable question, posed to Jesus himself during the Roman trial: “What is truth?” (John 18:38). Is there one truth from God, or must we agree that there are as many truths as there are perspectives?
The book concludes with two chapters directed not so much to the conflict of ideas between Christianity and the world, but to the Christian’s own embrace of the Bible’s call to exclusivity. In Chapter 5, Ligon Duncan reflects on the “one people” united through faith in Jesus Christ. If we are to be a people of truth, we must together be the people we are called to be. Lastly, in chapter 6, D. A. Carson ponders whether this exclusivity penetrates to the living of our lives. Is there “one way” in which Christians must live? If so, what is it, and how can people like us ever hope to fulfill it?
This material originated as conference addresses to the 2005 Philadelphia Conference on Reformed Theology (PCRT), sponsored by the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals, and this book is Preface 15 published as a partnership between the Alliance and Crossway Books. We chose the theme, One Way, because of our mission to promote “clarity and conviction about the great evangelical truths of the gospel and to proclaim these truths powerfully in our contemporary context.” I would like to express my sincere appreciation to Robert Brady, executive vice president of the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals, and to our wonderful staff—especially those who work so hard to put on this historic conference year after year. I also thank Allan Fisher and all his colleagues at Crossway Books, not only for their hard work on this volume but for all their stalwart labors to advance the gospel. Lastly, I join with all the contributors in asking God for his richest blessings on all who consider what we have written, that faith might be renewed and strength be added to all who love the Lord Jesus Christ, who is the one Way, the one Truth, and the one Life (John 14:6). To him be glory forever.
Richard D. Phillips
Coral Springs, Florida