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

Clearly, we disagree.

I might not appreciate it because it challenges me in a way I hadn’t been before. On the other hand, if there are questions being asked and an open discussion is allowed, then it’s a fair game.

And what’s unique in our forum, is a user can be effectively ignored if you’re not interested in what they have to say. And if a user is showing a particularly obnoxious behavior, they can be suspended or removed.

The reason to suppose is due to the nature of reason itself.

I’ve always liked Kant’s quote about a contradiction in his section on the ontological argument:

“Without a contradiction, I have through mere pure concepts a priori no mark of impossibility.”

Some of my most “rational” life decisions have been spectacular fails, largely because of a general lack of information and a failure to “know myself” which I learned better for having failed.
Really important decisions, whom to love, for example, are not so clearly a matter of rationality. Whom to break off from can be, and then we have to deal with internal conflicts between reason and our emotional inclinations.

As I Christian, I can’t claim to have come to faith in Jesus by logic or reason. I like very much how Penner describes the hermeneutical paradigm in ways of being, becoming and living in true, intellegible and meaningful ways. We live subject to apostolic messages, the Word of God, and don’t only (or completely) master knowledge of them but interpret these messages or texts with our very beings and lives. This strikes me as something far deeper, although not exclusive of, a conscious set of decisions.


Having finished chapter 2, this one is my favorite so far. Hermeneutics is a weak area for me so I found Penner’s explanations on this helpful.

My 2 big takeaways:

One problem I see with his view of hermeneutics is it appears to exclude the immediate self-evident testimony of the Spirit. This is a pretty clear teaching in the NT and something that can be more or less experienced by believers today.

Nearly everything (dare I say everything?) written about the God debates fits with my view of classical apologetics, and it made for a nice fit and form with Penner’s heartfelt agreement he shared with me by way of email a couple years ago.

I think I found it here :
Hell , death and the 2nd death? - #89 by Randy.
Thanks for mentioning @Randy ’s post. It was very helpful and unsettling at the same time. @Randy quietly, humbly subverting doubt and certainty all at once.


That’s pretty cool that you were able to have that exchange with Penner a couple years ago - he does seem very personable to me from what I see and hear of him in videos.

Can you elaborate more on this:

…because my impression is that this is one of Penner’s strengths! My impressions so far is that he would agree with you on seeking out - and putting greater weight on the testimony of the Spirit. So I’m curious what you saw in his hermeneutic that left you with the opposite impression.

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I would have bestowed more likes on it if that were possible.


“perhaps, that the Judeo-Christian tradition has always and essentially been hermeneutical in both its literary and philosophical senses.”

textual in the rather straightforward literary sense that it is focused on interpreting a received set of texts (God’s Word) within a community that receives them.”

“hermeneutical in the philosophical sense. It has its origins in revelation—with an event expressed in language (text) that is interpreted within the tradition and not by means of rational “first principles” (Greek philosophy).”

It’s appears to be exclusively a textual revelation and tradition of interpreting text.

Penner also leaves the backdoor open for any number of other epistemic possibilities:

“While the hermeneutic approach to Christian faith has no exclusive purchase on truth and cannot guarantee that one will avoid cognitive idolatry”

This was another one that stood out for me and shows me Penner did not listen to and understand Craig’s view about the role of the Spirit in knowing Jesus:

“my ability to demonstrate it—is the only thing that makes something worthy of my acceptance”

That all seems to me like it’s just an essential humility on display … admitting that no approach (including the one Penner advocates for) can claim to have “exclusive purchase”.

Page numbers would be helpful (though I can use a search function to find it … when I have the time). You’re giving me sentence fragments in some cases … and even the full sentences need more context. It’s not clear if it’s Penner talking in the quotes, or Penner quoting somebody else (like Craig) or Penner expressing something approvingly or critically.

Sorry I don’t have or don’t know how to reference page numbers as I am using scribd to access the book.

If you see a reference to immediate knowledge in the section on hermeneutics, then please highlight it for me. I may have missed it, but it feels incompatible with philosophical hermeneutics in my untrained opinion.

I was careful not to misrepresent the flow of thought while seeking to avoid quoting a wall of text.

Page 71

Page 71

Page 71

Page 72

Page 72

Now to find a translator who can explain what all of that means…


Well, I’m loving the direction that Penner is taking things, especially in his claiming (or preaching?) that being truly, rather than “thinking truly” is a fundamental aim of faith. I also agree with his assessment concerning “the apologetics industry” which, for all intents and purposes assumes nihilism in order to argue Christianity. To me, that sort of venture fails right out of the gate. Or at the very least shows that contemporary apologetics wants to achieve little more than claiming a little plot of land for the Christians amidst the acres of nihilism.

I also liked this thought of Penner’s on p. 53 concerning the genius: “In theory, the rest of us could have made the discoveries, and if this particular genius had not made them, no doubt sooner or later another would have.”

That is very true. I agree that we shouldn’t assume geniuses themselves to hold authoritative power over the truth. But, at the same time, neither does any modernist. Something that annoys me about a typical postmodernist analysis is that it regularly confuses itself in its own milieu of abstractions. Let me elaborate:

Einstein is regarded as a genius of sorts in the field of physics. His theory (relativity) was a kind of observation that, many physicists agree would have been discovered eventually, but perhaps decades after Einstein laid it all out. Some physicists suggest that (without Einstein) we might not even have all the particulars of relativity laid out in contemporary times. So… yeah. Good for Einstein. We all benefit from his good work.

But no modernist really considers Einstein (or his theory) authoritative. To the contrary: we know his theory must be wrong because it fails to describe natural phenomena (black hole singularities) that we know exist. Penner’s characterization of the importance of the “genius” to a modernist is simply wrong.

But (my personal defenses of modernism aside) Kierkegaard’s distinction between genius and apostle is a perfect example for Penner to bring in in order to criticize contemporary apologetics. I agree with Penner (and Kierkegaard). A contemporary servant of Christ has no business trying to throw his hat into the “who is genius” game. Serving Christ requires a different kind of effort, and in no way revolves around “the opinions of the crowd.” If one takes these things to heart, which a genuine believer presumably does, then it becomes difficult to see WLC as someone who promotes the cause of Jesus Christ. If anything, modern apologetics (especially if it has become an “industry”) may be injurious to that cause.

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I also want to say something about the hermeneutic way of understanding Christianity. But I need to think about it some more. (I very much liked that part of Penner’s analysis.)


I would be a little more nuanced on my response to Craig’s classical apologetics, but Penner lumps all contemporary apologists into the same boat. And I’m sorry it’s just ridiculous to see the evidentiary apologetics of Wright and Keener as opposed to the witness of Christ. If this was the only standard, then that would also be ridiculous to the witness of the NT that teaches there are various parts to the body. There is clear unity and diversity.


Not sure I see exactly what it is you’re finding annoying, maybe a tendency to overgeneralize? Presumably to inhabit a PoMo worldview you must also stand with one leg in a modernist POV, the only difference being a less naively positivist and optimistic outlook. But I don’t think anyone wants to lose the fruits of modernism. Surely the lesson of PoMo is simply to lose the triumphalism and begin noticing the problems.

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There’s an old joke:

"There is no way to reconcile the differences between continental and analytic philosophy.

The analytic philosophers accuse the continental thinkers of being insufficiently clear. While the continental philosophers accuse the analytic thinkers of being insufficiently."

I very much like Nietzsche and a lot of other postmodern thinkers, but it’s annoying how they are willfully opaque at times. I’m not claiming that they overgeneralize. Maybe they overgeneralize. Maybe they don’t. But they don’t strive to be clear like say, Plato, Spinoza, Hume, Kant and others. The fact that certain thinkers are opaque can be counted among their virtues. And Nietzsche is a good example of this. He’s a better thinker for it. But, the fact is, opaque things are more annoying to understand than transparent things.



Nicely clear with a dash of innuendo to give it depth. Well that gets at it nicely. I also have struggled with Heidegger (especially) but also with Nietsche’s bombast (do you think he suffered from Turret’s?) Now we learn Kierkegaard has a penchant for satire and of course Wittgenstein, after an early experiment with robotic intelligence swung the other way preferring to teach with parables almost. Maybe the effort to render being with language is just a strain on the system. And yet if you don’t examine the implications of how our nature influences how we experience the world, perhaps the most we can hope for is an incomplete.


“Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.” -Colossians 4:6

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