As I argued yesterday, atheism may be the current philosophy du jour, but it will struggle to win over followers the farther our culture moves into a postmodern era. How else can you explain the fact that 75% of Americans, including over 2/3 of college graduates, believe that Jesus literally rose from the dead?
While much of our debates here and in academia deal with establishing the truth of the resurrection, the culture is debating the relevancy more than the accuracy of Christian beliefs.
The Barna study asked individuals if they thought six significant Bible narratives were “literally true, meaning it happened exactly as described in the Bible” or whether they thought the story was "meant to illustrate a principle but is not to be taken literally."
Jesus’ resurrection was deemed literally true by 75%. Daniel surviving in the den of lions was supported by 65%. Americans also say they believe the account of God parting the Red Sea for Moses (64%), David killing Goliath with stones and a sling (63%), Peter walking on water with Jesus (60%), and God creating the universe in six-days (60%).
The new phase of apologetics in a post-modern world will shift from demonstrating the possibility of the miraculous to demonstrating the usefulness and application in everyday life of these Biblical accounts. As Mark Galli wrote at Christianity Today’s liveblog, "Perhaps it’s time for a new chapter in evangelical apologetics. Not ‘The Resurrection–Did it Happen?’ but ‘The Resurrection–So What?’"
From George Barna:
While the level of literal acceptance of these Bible stories is nothing short of astonishing given our cultural context, the widespread embrace of these accounts raises questions about the unmistakable gap between belief and behavior. … In fact, a minority of the people who believe these stories to be true consistently apply the principles imbedded in these stories within their own lives. It seems that millions of Americans believe the Bible content is true, but are not willing to translate those stories into action. Sadly, for many people, the Bible has become a respected but impersonal religious history lesson that stays removed from their life.
Christianity must show a postmodern world that the truth in Christianity must be acted on, not simply accepted along with every other religious claim. Atheism has no real chance of appealing to the postmodern who accepts the miraculous and acknowledges the existence of the spiritual. It can only hope for the cultural pendulum to quickly swing back to the modern and enlightenment mindset.