“The End of Apologetics: Christian Witness in a Postmodern Context” by Myron B. Penner

Sorry do you mean a particular post of yours?

I think I would best fit with option #4. It seems the more apologetics I have read through the years, the more the arguments offered seem like pleadings of rationalization to those who are struggling to justify their position, and ultimately, love remains certain to faith. I have not read beyond chapter 1 but am back from travel so hope to learn more.


Elsewhere in Biologos, I recently told a fellow-fan of Gary Habermas that I noticed that Gary does something in his presentations on the Resurrection of Jesus, that intrigued me. He refers to Jesus’ “DDR”, and explains once that he’s referring to Jesus’ deity, death, and resurrection. None of those themes is new to me, but Gary’s summarization of them as *DDR" was. So I asked my “fellow-fan” if what I had seen and heard Gary do was a one-time act or a common practice, and I was told that Gary does it often.

Gary’s “DDR” moved me to reflect and realize that I can’t remember ever doubting that Jesus existed, in the flesh on the earth during His lifetime. Nor can I remember doubting His death or His resurrection in a visual, auditory, and tangible form, although I’m sure that I’ve never been a competent spokesperson for Jesus’ existence, death, or resurrection. Indeed, I’d be surprised to discover that anything I’ve ever said or done “brought in a grain stalk, much less a sheaf.”

At 74, I can confidently say that I’ve never been persecuted for my beliefs, so I guess I’ll have some explaining to do. But what troubles me most now, in my waning years, is the thought of digging up my talent and giving it back someday. And I can’t help wondering if I missed the boat neglecting the deity part of Gary’s DDR.


Yes, this one

Sorry. Time has been short again today, and my brainis so tired. I’ve wanted to go through some of the group’s excellent recent posts and interact, too. I haven’t been able to fit it in.

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Hey, Dillon!

You put this well.
The Christians’ arguments I have heard (admitedly few) against postmodernism focus on the strawman that postmodernism claims there is no such thing as truth. And the arguments against PoMo (the few I am familiar with) don’t recognize the valuable analytical tools it can help us develop. It’s regretable that such beneficial tools are tossed away. They could be a very healthy part of how Christians evaluate how best to interact in our world.

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A pithy quote I came across that feels appropriate here:

“Spinoza made the mistake of viewing the world rationally, when of course it is nothing of the sort, either in fact or ultimately. (Modern mathematical scientists fall into a similar error when they view it mathematically.) Philosophers before Spinoza naively tended to view the world from the human viewpoint. Philosophers after him have persisted in this approach, with increasing awareness of its limitations. Spinoza, on the other hand, dispensed with the human view point, choosing to see the world sub specie aeternitatis (beneath the gaze of eternity).”

Paul Strathern - Spinoza in 90 Minutes

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Screenshot 2022-07-29 at 06-36-18 waving emoji gif - Google Search

  • Ambiguous: Was Spinoza’s mistake that he viewed the world rationally? or that he believed that the world is rational?
    • Ambiguity resolved:
  • Ergo: According to Strathern, Spinoza’s mistake was that he believed that the world is rational which, IMO, is not itself a reasonable opinion.

I’m still trying to catch up. It’s going to be another busy day.

Merv asked:

While I often refuse to listen to what I don’t want to hear, I don’t think that is what Penner is talking about here. He is describing an apologist who
…imagines that his apologetic arguments are normative to society but take place in a public sphere outside political or religious power. They are neutral means of establishing the rock-bottom truth about things regardless of one’s vantage point or perspective.(pg. 29)

This is an apologist who argues from a point of authority that does not exist , because matters of faith are not objective, universal, neutral or outside of power (now that we no longer live under the assumptions of the premodern world view). They DO depend on a vantage point. This is also the blindness of modernism, the assumption that in every area such a space of neutrality exists.

When one attempts to wield authority one does not have, it’s perfectly appropriate, even needed, that someone calls: “FOUL!”

Taking this further, Penner claims that the thing that is being argued for in this apologetic is not Christianity. "[W]hat is defended in this apologetic effort is not the gospel or even an aspect of Christian doctrine but what amounts to the modern conception of reason (OUNCE) and modern philosophy in general…[T]he overarching characteristic of the church’s Enlightenment project can be summarized as “the attempt to commend the Gospel on grounds that have nothing to do with the Gospel itself. What is at the bottom of our Christian belief, for modern apologists, is not a set of practices – a way of life, a confession, etc. – but a set of propositional asseverations that can be epistemically justified. And that is what it means for them to have faith. (p. 42)”

If this is the case, one should holler, “FOUL!” as loudly as possible.


As I mentioned above, I think the problem Penner describes isn’t OUNCE itself, but rather the misapplication of it and the blindness that allows (in this case) Christian apologists to attempt to speak from a position of authority that doesn’t exist.
Does that make sense?


Your beef with Christianity is painful to hear, and oh, so real. It’s so easy to focus on “good behavior” and “rightness” even when one is convinced that in matters of salvation, all the work is done by God–start to finish, and we deserve no credit. (I grasp that that is not every Christian’s view, but it’s mine.)
It’s true that some people feel that “accumulating converts and/or improving others” helps them acquire merit with God. But that’s not the point. The Good News is that an infinite God loves us and wants us to enjoy living in relationship with him so much that he does all the work to make that possible.
When we present as prigs and prudes we don’t “represent the family” at all. However, even presented and represented ideally, the message is not always “of interest.”


I haven’t read Craig. How does he incorporate the Holy Spirit into his apologetics? Or does he actually follow the course that Penner claims he does:

And perhaps most important, Craig imagines that his apologetic arguents are normative to society but take place in a public sphere outside political or religious power. They are “neutral” means of establishing the rock-bottom truth about things regardless of one’s vantage point or perspective. (p. 29)

If Penner accurately characterizes Craig’s work, then Craig is attempting to argue from a point of objectivate, universal, neutral authority, which makes him modern in view. In claiming such a point of authority, though, postmodern would point to Craig’s blindness to his lack of authority, because no such point of neutrality exists in such matters.

Five: Housekeeping an Experimental Book Discussion
Forgive me, if I’ve already put this in a post. I think I had, and then lost it.
I’ve edited the OP to include links in the schedule to the slides with questions and resources. So, it now works a bit like a hyperlinked table of contents in an ebook. I hope it’s more useful. I will try to continue to do this.

I know it’s early, but if people want to PM me community sourced questions for Chapter 2, feel free to do that, and I’ll put them all in one slide again, which will be linked from the OP. If you PM them to me, rather than posting in the discussion, it’ll help keep things neater. If you just post them in the discussion, though, that’s fine.


Wow! I just wrote a response to this and somehow deleted while trying to post. Will have again later. I think his emphasis is warranted.

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Nor is the world irrational. That whole thing with married bachelors still applies.



  • Dilemma:
    • Where does the “Nor is the world irrational” go?
      • … that he believed that the world is rational, nor is the world rational?
      • …which, IMO, is not itself a reasonable opinion, nor is the world rational?
      • or somewhere else?
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The world of reality is neither rational or irrational.

My jury came in with a verdict. Looks like yours is still out.
Seems like, if the world of reality is neither rational or irrational, ID and Fine Tuning proponents are up the creek without a paddle, no?

Side note: I live in California. Two gay males got their marriage license and a had a beautiful wedding. California Civil law says they’re married. There are places in the world that say they’re not. Looks like they’re two “married bachelors” to me.


This (and your paragraph preceding it that I didn’t include above) are so key I think, Kendel. And I think the reason Penner went there, and we have to keep circling back to it is because it is so difficult - well nigh impossible, to extract our minds far enough out of the modernist paradigm to even be able to take this in. At the risk of offending or boring us all with repetition of your point, I’ll re-iterate it again yet here - putting my own spin on it, for myself as much as anything because I sense that even my own thoughts rebel against me trying to “think” that way.

In apologetically-minded Christian settings, I’ve spent most of my career steeped in the now-culturally-hardened conviction that our access to absolute truth is everything. The notion has always been that to let go of that is to sell the entire farm. All is lost in such a case, hence the powder and shot spent against scary bogeymen like postmodernism that (in all these same venues) is understood as denying this epistemic foundation.

I think that’s as fairly as I can put it, and I think my colleagues would even have no problem owning those words above. As in, I don’t think I’ve straw-manned anything here.

Yet, if so - it is revealingly and exactly what Penner addresses and (fatally?) critiques. It is an attempt to slip a different foundation in underneath the cornerstone that is Christ - who is the only foundation we are given or taught in scriptures.

Apologists might reply that, of course none of these epistemological issues were addressed in scripture - because they weren’t yet an issue in the same way back then (which is also Penner’s very point - so he would agree with that.) But the apologist would go on to say that because it became an issue later, a Christian response becomes legitimated - nay - even mandated then too. And I think they’re right, but it doesn’t get them off the hook of Penner’s critique. It would seem that all sorts of other foundations have now been added as prior to Christ, like “our philosophical commitment to absolute truth, and our objective access to that”; other Christians would add things like “a historical understanding of Genesis creation accounts” which for them becomes a gatekeeper of scriptural truth, and therefore a gatekeeper also potentially preventing access to Christ should somebody give wrong answers to those things.

That last bit would be words that I realize apologists would not necessarily own, and so I (or Penner) could stand accused of straw-manning their words at that point. But there is a de facto kind of philosophical fallout from our culture wars that has (I suggest) made this become the effective situation for our modern apologetic world. It is telling (and good) that apologetic stakeholders object to these characterizations because that means they recognize that it would indeed be wrong to do this (insert other foundations for faith that are not Christ). But if or when they deny that this is a problem at all (as in … “Penner is just wrong, because we don’t do what he says we’re doing”), then I think it betrays the giant blind spot modernism has about this very thing - and Penner anticipates this very denial. Individuals among apologists may indeed be aware enough of all these pieces that they (individually) may not be guilty of it - or only guilty to varying degrees. But for the apologetics industry and its less philosophically attentive practitioners and participants, it is a huge blind spot. So far, I think Penner nails this.


And other times he misses the head and snags the tail.

Did you catch my comment about how Penner recognizes Craig’s understanding of the Spirit’s testimony at the beginning of the chapter and apparently drops it completely by the end of the chapter?

Mike, did you see my question about this in my “long post” from a bit earlier today? It’s exactly to this point.

Oh yeah, I read that earlier and got sidetracked.

Penner has a pretty good description of it at the beginning of the chapter and then seems to also get sidetracked.

As much as I don’t identify with Craig, I also have appreciated how he makes this distinction. Even with the best reason in the world, he does not think he could have faith if it were not for the testimony of the Spirit. Reason, after all is said and done, cannot convince anyone of the goodness of God in the midst of ‘turn the world upside down’ suffering.


Merv, my heart is pounding so hard, I can hear it in my ears. You are the first, THE FIRST Christian outside my house I have been in direct correspondance/contact with in over 30 years (more than half my life), who has articulated this and understood it and not resisted it. This is the thing I’ve had in the back of my closet since I finished that degree in ‘96.
This is why Penner’s book is so important to me, and I can’t tell you how grateful I am that you and the rest are reading and discussing it with me.
NO Christian (‘cept my excellent husband) I have known has had a clue what to do with this. NONE. Except to say, it’s all a lie, and going to destroy my faith or …. you name it. All they have had to offer is the fedeism as Penner describes it… More binaries that just don’t work.
You can probably hear my heart singing in gratitude all the way to Kansas.
I sure hope so.


This and the other quotes you put together highlight something important that is missing in our hyper rational, positivist modern POV both for Christians and for everyone else. I would describe that (as neutrally as possible) as an appreciation for the contribution which the imagination plays in our mental life. It isn’t just a developmental phase like tadpole’s tail which we shed or reabsorb upon maturation. In our lived experience we are always already experiencing the world in the terms by which we imagine it to be from the vantage point of what and who we take ourselves to be. There is no neutrality possible. We find ourselves thrown into a world full of implicit meanings and social contexts which we do not navigate from any captain’s chair by way of the charts and past ship’s logs where we may find all the facts we need to make every decision. We may imagine that we do but then we’re not doing a very good job and will have to course correct soon from such a delusion.

Imagination isn’t a capacity of limited utility to be deployed for the captain’s entertainment. Perhaps in pre-modernity we could just lose ourselves in our social roles and never doubt who I was politically, socially and what that meant in the grand scheme of things, everything and everyone around me would echo back to me the reality of all those imaginings. There would be little sense of ourselves outside of those roles and the meanings they provide. Our imaginative function would be completely engaged and we would have all the nitty gritty meaning we could ever want and not all of it of the rose-garden variety.

Now we are not so insulated in our views and roles. It is pretty hard not to bump up against characters very clearly belonging to a different play entirely. This forces us to learn the contours of our identity and to recognize contexts where we belong. But a whole slew of new questions emerge about what is the grand overarching play within which everyone belongs, both those in my cohort and those enacting a different script - if there even is one. That is part of the task of imagining our world and ourselves. It isn’t a question of thinking up an order that fits but of discovering what it is if it is.

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I can appreciate what Penner’s book represents to you.

Something reminded me of a letter Craig wrote to an apologist who left the faith. The man had a PhD and was connected with Craig’s ministry somehow. It wasn’t John Loftus, someone more recent in the last 10 or so years, maybe 20. I can’t remember exactly. But I remember reading Craig’s letter and something stood out that felt disproportionately weak for what was occurring. A fellow brother is abandoning the faith, and Craig’s advice was to not go so far as denying that Jesus existed.

I wanted to find the letter and spent some time searching google. I couldn’t find the letter or the person’s name. Erased from history as it were. What really stood out for me, was reading all the search returns, and getting a sense of how bad it is out there. Of how bad the convo is in the public square. Yikes.

So being reminded of how bad it is out there, I can understand why you would want to find a better way in Penner’s book.

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