Morrisey, lead singer of the alternative group "the Smiths" and outspoken homosexual and gay activist, sings to Jesus that he has forgiven Jesus, no doubt for being a moral monster fir making the unreasonable and thus malicious claim that there is something worthy of damnation about the homosexual lifestyle. This shows that Morrisey is the better person. But one could understand if one should rather tell Jesus to go to Hell himself for such an inhuman and arbitrary opinion. Morrisey is thus being more gracious than need be and more than perhaps most of us would care to be, the true embodiment of grace in thus conversation. Meanwhile, Jesus has proven to be a failure as a moral teacher and psychologically unstable for his homophobia. At best, Jesus is a figure that failed to perfectly rise above his own time and place in the ancient past and thus his life is best unregarded by us today. The same could be said of Jesus' book, the Bible, to which Jesus gladly submits as authoritatively teaching right and wrong, including on issues like the condemnation of homosexuality and approval of ritual blood sacrifice. It's fine as a quaint artifact but it's continued use in public ceremonies such as swearing an oath of presidential office can no longer by tolerated as a custom but rejected lest we imply any condoning if it as a moral guide to justice.
Even the presuppositions of Jesus and the Bible are positively obstructive. Even in the recent past we may have had to tolerate religious customs and bizarre comments about science and public policy by yahoos claiming only the authority of the Bible on their side and just from their numbers and previous status as citizens. But we are now at the point where we can simply push all this nonsense away and build more sound culture based on proper science and pragmatic policy. We should not be ashamed to openly legislate against this but rather be ashamed that we let the moral monsters of the Judeo-Christian tradition survive another day.
This speech characterizes the point of view of our society and our mission field in the West as Christians. We no longer live in the early 20th century where there was still a residual tissue in the language and customs of society - and thus in the conceptual schemes of most citizens - that made sense of the Christian faith even for those who didn't hold it. Even while many did not believe the gospel of Christ, one could briefly explain the Gospel in it's traditioned terms and it would still get across. A program like Billy Graham's crusade ministry was possible and appreciable.
But this us no longer true. Today our society is highly educated. College study is widely distributed and includes acquiring the skills of critical thinking and the hermeneutic of suspicion. What it does not include is an appreciation of classical liberal learning and the western tradition but rather the deconstruction of all traditions to a scheme of competing interests.
As the opening paragraphs show this has had the two-fold result of losing all touch with Christian literacy and with it a commensurability with the conceptual scheme of the gospel. Critical ideas such "God", "sin", "reconciliation", "repentance", etc. no longer hold the sane meaning for Christians and today's non-Christians. On top of this, there is in the non-Christian point of view a prima facie case that becoming acquainted with the Christian conceptual scheme is foolish and immoral. The program is now to eliminate the Christian view once and for all with confident belief that at any point we can ourselves create our own conceptual scheme whenever we need to through quilting a new one.
The situation of the church today has gone back to that of the apostle Paul in the Hellenistic world having to start from scratch and using concepts available from the culture of Athens to make his points and help the gospel make sense to the Greek world. Francis Schaeffer wrote concerning apologetics that while it had the negative function of defending the faith, it also had the positive function of communicating the faith. This us all the more true today. Even if one were to argue that argument and evidence could never be the sort to demonstrate or compel assent to Christ and his truth claims, it would still be necessary to give a reasonable account of faith if only to communicate it in a way that makes lucid the meaning and plausibility of the gospel. Our approach must reckon with both the analytic acumen and sense of justified resistance to the gospel of today's non-Christian.
I don't intend to answer the question about whether Jesus should be forgiven but rather point to a way to find the answer and motivate taking that way.
Starting with the later, while the emphasis on the present and the alleged ability to construct a conceptual scheme de novo blocks any argument for becoming literate in the Judeo-Christian tradition from the obvious fact that the Christian scheme has influenced Western thought until recently, one still has to confront the false claim self-sufficiency in evaluating such a product. Like doctors, writers who edit themselves have fools for clients.
To really appreciate the value of your scheme construction, you cannot keep bootstrapping on your own perspective alone. You need to be able to get a view of your thinking from a point of view outside of your thinking. But since the new technology is bringing about a global scheme building operation, there is no "other" point of view to be found contemporary to yours that is other in a sufficiently radical sense. The only alternative is to revisit the past and enter sympathetically into what were once the viable traditions and try to understand them as moral points of view, thus appreciating the moral shock they would have about the modern world. This would be necessary to avoid self-deception through self-absorption.
This would open the prospect of reconsidering the Christian worldview on spite of it's features that offend modern moral sensibilities. The fact is that Christians like any other holders of great traditions gave gone through the exercise of setting up a dialogue between traditional and then contemporary thought as well as between western and eastern thought and thus have continued until and including now, avoiding the extremes of isolated fundamentalism and capitulating "liberalism". They are following the example set by Paul in Athens.
Some reply that one of the features of modern global conceptual scheme formation is that diversity of points of view is not denied but radically emphasized. We are all other to each other and to ourselves moment by moment. Now either thus claim is genuine in which case the Christian tradition should be considered seriously and appreciatively just like any other point of view or this is just a protocol statement that uniformly defines and applies to the global contemporary scheme and still requires a genuinely outside stance to critique it. Conclusion: while not necessarily imposing a personal obligation on the individual reader to consider the Christian way of thinking, it does argue that the project of considering the Christian worldview should be taken up by some in behalf of all, and that anyone of good will ought to agree that rejecting the consideration of Christianity by eliminating it is wrong whether it's Dennett's way or Barzum's.
But I have another reason that non-Christians should not refuse to consider the Christian worldview and learn to appreciate it as a conceptual scheme with it's own moral point of view, and that is the case for Christ and the Bible as original sources of authority. If Jesus is God, then obedience is the only reasonable response and we need to reconstruct our views accordingly. Of course, it must be God as morally perfect in himself alone that could make us change our moral views with reasonable contentedness and so this claim that Jesus is God must be explained and defended. but this is what apologetics does - which is what I attempt to do in this book:
I won't develop the point further here but I expect that anyone who takes up my project seriously will discover that it's Morrisey that needs forgiveness and not Jesus
Apologetics ministry has become necessary in the 21st century. Apologetics and evangelism have become one in a West where Christianity has become a second language.