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«_ A Dissertation Presented to the Faculty of the School of Theology Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary Fort Worth, Texas _ In Partial ...»

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Paul’s Areopagitica (Acts 17:16-34) serves as an example for an apostolic approach for evangelism. There is a relationship between deisidaimonestevrou~ (Acts 17:22)143 and the pluralism prevalent in postmodern thinking. Paul’s witness in the midst of the pluralism among the philosophers in Athens sets an example for the evangelism in the postmodern world.144

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sozusagen die Vorwegnahme der weltgeschichtlich bedeutsamen Tatsache, dass durch diese Botschaft menschliche Weisheit in ihren höchsten Errungenschaften herausgefordert sein

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Paul’s address, o{ ou\n ajgnoou`nte~ eujsebei`te, tou`to ejgw;

kataggevllw uJmi`n (17:23), gives insight for the contemporary church in proclaiming the gospel to postmodern people with a penchant for pluralism. See Cornelius Van Til, The God of Hope (Phillipsburg, NJ: Presbyterian and Reformed, 1978), 7.

Heinz Külling, “Zur Bedeutung des AGNOSTOS THEOS.

Eine Exegese zu Apostelgeschichte 17, 22.23,” Theologische Zeitschrift 36 (1980): 67. The translation is: “This event is, so to speak, the anticipation of the momentous reality gospel engaged the pluralism of the ancient world.

Following the example of Paul, the Areopagitica speech presents a paradigm for the evangelization of postmodern people. First, Paul begins with a statement of

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means “devout” rather than “superstitious.”146 Rather than attacking the various idols in place before him, Paul begins with an acknowledgment of religious pursuit among his hearers. Although this is not necessarily complimentary, it clearly is not condemnatory.147 The nature of postmodern pluralism certainly presupposes the same deisidaimonestevrou~ of postmodern people.

Paul’s example for the contemporary church is to recognize and acknowledge the spiritual hunger and search of the postmodern people.

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a starting-point for the gospel.148 Although they did not of world history, that through this message human wisdom in its highest attainment will be defied.” Hans Conzelmann, “The Address of Paul on the Areopagus,” in Studies in Luke-Acts, eds. L. E. Keck and J.

L. Martyn (London: SPCK, 1966), 220.

Conzelmann, “Paul’s Address,” 220.

Ibid. Conzelmann suggests that Luke takes the common inscription on Athenian altars, “to unknown gods,” know the identity of this deity, tou`to ejgw; kataggevllw uJmi`n (17:23).149 The postmodern setting also presents an opportunity for the church to find common ground for evangelization. The popular postmodern culture is filled with spiritual images and symbols which offer a startingpoint for the gospel. Hahn and Verhaagen describe this situation through the music and television of postmodern culture. The music of contemporary secular artists provides common ground for the gospel with postmodern people.150

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ajgnwvsto~ qeov~ in verses 24 through 29. He seeks to bring his audience “to a proper understanding of the living God.”151 As Quesnel suggests, Paul “qui s’adresse á des grecs païens, ne cite évidemment pas l’Ecriture juive; il lui préfère les poètes grecs, reconnus comme capables d’ouvrir aux mortels les portes du contact avec le sacré (v. 28).”152 and then “changes it into the singular and then uses this as a point of departure for Christian ideas.” “This one I proclaim to you.” Hahn and Verhaagen, Reckless Hope, 120-21.

Joseph A. Fitzmeyer, The Acts of the Apostles, Anchor Bible (New York: Doubleday, 1998), 603.

Michel Quesnel, “Paul prédicateur dans les Actes des Apôtres,” New Testament Studies 47 (October 2001): 475.

“Paul, who addressed himself to Greek pagans, does not cite evidently Jewish Scripture; he prefers to it the Greek poets, recognized as capable of opening to mortals the gates In an apostolic approach to postmodern people, the contemporary church must lead the postmodern listeners to a proper understanding of the living God. This demands the use of specific phrases and terms which will not fit neatly with the pluralism of postmodernism. Yet, this approach begins with a common ground and moves toward the specific statements of God’s reality and ultimate sovereignty.

Finally, the apostle presents the necessary response to God through Jesus Christ (17:30-31). The resurrection of Jesus Christ is the proof and verification of the power and victory of God.153 The judgment of the world is also included in this approach. The clarity of the gospel demands a faithful presentation of the judgment that awaits all humanity. The pluralism of postmodern people will cringe at this presentation of an absolute truth-claim.

The results, however, depend upon the Spirit of truth leading the hearer toward the conviction that yields repentance (John 16:8-11).

Following the pattern of the apostolic community, the contemporary church may deal effectively with the pluralities and the pluralism of the postmodern world. The final analysis of an apostolic approach for the of contact with the sacred (v. 28).” J. A. Fitzmeyer, Acts of the Apostles, 612.

evangelization of postmodern people seeks to remain faithful to the absolute truth of the gospel, and yet also seeks to find avenues through which the Spirit of truth may move more

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specific application for personal evangelism in a postmodern world following an apostolic approach. The first issue to consider is the form and function of mavrtu~ with postmodern

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who proclaims the facts and the truths of the gospel.1 Trites indicates that mavrtu~ in Acts “presents the claims of Christ against a background of hostility, contention, and persecution,”2 which finds similarity to postmodernism.

An apostolic approach, therefore, calls for personal testimony concerning the facts of Christ and the truth of the gospel. As already noted, the Spirit of truth conjoins the witness of the follower of Christ to present epistemological foundations of faith to postmodern people.

H. Strathmann, s. v. “mavrtu~ ktl.,” TDNT, 4:492-514.

Allison A. Trites, The New Testament Concept of Witness (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1977), 132.

The mandate of Christ is e[sesqe mou mavrture~ (Acts 1:8).3 The believer in a postmodern milieu has the duty to share the gospel with individuals through personal witness. The manner of this evangelistic witness, however, finds various formulations. This writer proposes that the power of personal witness moves along the lines of narrative.

The speeches in Acts present one aspect of this witness.4 These speeches serve as guidelines for a contemporary approach in personal evangelism. As noted in chapter one, the postmodern people search for a better story to provide meaning for their existence. These speeches in Acts present a variety of style and form.5 This writer proposes that this variety reflects the different audiences to whom the apostolic church evangelized with the gospel.6 For instance, when dealing with Jewish sympathizers, the apostolic witnesses interpret Scripture as the basis for Israel’s historical place in God’s plan of redemption.7 “You will be My witnesses.” The future tense carries the force of a command in this context.

Jacob Jervell, The Theology of the Acts of the Apostles (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996), 9.

Michael Green, Evangelism in the Early Church (London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1970), 137-38.

Jervell, Theology of the Acts of the Apostles, 9.

See chapter 2, “Evangelistic Approach at Pentecost, Acts 2:14-41.

Jesus is the culmination and fulfillment of God’s saving purpose.8 In Acts 5:29-32, “the apostles affirm more briefly that God has exalted the rejected and crucified Jesus, and through [H]im is now offering Israel an opportunity to repent and receive [H]is forgiveness.”9 Peter’s evangelistic speech to Cornelius represents the variety of approach to eujsebh;~ kai; fobouvmeno~ tou` qeou`.

Bruce suggests that the apostolic witness proclaims the fulfillment of prophecy, the facts of Christ’s crucifixion and resurrection, the eyewitness reports, and the “assurance

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sermon at Antioch Pisidia represents another witness to eujsebh;~ kai; fobouvmeno~ tou` qeou`. Paul presents a survey of God’s mighty acts of redemption in Israel’s history (Acts 13:17Jesus, according to Paul’s witness, is the summit of God’s saving deeds (Acts 13:26-37). Salvation, therefore,

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Paul’s speeches to a Gentile audience, however, do not include an extensive look at Old Testament Scripture.13 In Lystra, as well as in the court of the Areopagus, Paul forms his witness around the qeo;n zw`nta. Rather than a description of God’s activity in the history of Israel, Paul presents the world of nature to point to the “existence, power, and goodness of the Creator.” According to Marshall, this presentation leads Paul to the gospel witness, although Luke does not record this testimony.14 Michael Green proposes that the varieties in the evangelism of the apostolic church reflect the needs of the audience. Following an apostolic approach, evangelism is the proclamation of the gospel “in terms that makes sense” to the audience.15 As Bruce cogently writes, Luke’s record of speeches to Jews demonstrates “how to present the gospel to Jews and God-fearing Gentiles; and when he reproduces the preaching at Lystra and Athens, this, he implies, is how it should be presented to pagans.”16 Ibid., 67.

I. H. Marshall, The Acts of the Apostles, Tyndale New Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1980;

reprint, 1999), 238-39.

M. Green, Evangelism in the Early Church, 137-38.

F. F. Bruce, “The Significance of the Speeches,” 24.

Schweizer offers the following elements essential in the apostolic approach to witness: 1) an appeal to Scripture, 2) the “christological kerygma,” 3) proclamation of salvation, and 4) the call to repentance.17 In an application of the apostolic approach for the evangelization of postmodern people, this writer proposes similar elements.

Alvin Reid offers a similar proposal in his evangelistic approach. Reid draws a comparison between the Jews and nominal Christians who have “some knowledge and background in the faith.”18 Reference to Scripture makes sense to postmodern people who have connections to the church.

Gentiles, however, represent the “radically unchurched” in Reid’s model. Reid suggests that “we need ‘sensory apologetics’ to reach a postmodern culture.”19 In this approach, the witness tells the “story of how God relates to man.”20 Similarly, Schweizer contends that the apostolic witness to Gentiles promotes the “theological” kerygma.21 Eduard Schweizer, “Concerning the Speeches in Acts,” in Studies in Luke-Acts, eds. L. E. Keck and J. L.

Martyn (Nashville: Abingdon, 1966), 208-16.

Alvin Reid, Introduction to Evangelism (Nashville:

Broadman and Holman, 1998), 226-27.

Ibid., 235.

Ibid., 236.

E. Schweizer, “Concerning the Speeches in Acts,”

214. This is in contrast to a “christological” kerygma.

The personal witness shares the story of Christ’s work in the individual’s life. Indeed, Dieter Zander suggests that this is the most authoritative connection to the postmodern generation. Evangelism that is effective to postmodern people communicates the personal story of salvation and forgiveness.22 The metanarrative of the gospel finds connection with the postmodern person through the personal testimony of the believer.23 The postmodern culture communicates knowledge through the fluidity of the spoken word. The reception of this knowledge depends upon the oral devices, such as rhythmic balance, formulaic patterns, proverbs, mnemonic aids, and other tools to provide associative remembrance in the minds of the hearers. The narrator moves to the point of action in the story rather than following a linear plot. In the telling of the story, the hearers become active participants in the creation of the narrative.

The culture communicates truth by story.24 Dieter Zander, “The Gospel for Generation X,” Leadership 16 (Spring 1995): 36-42.

James W. Sire, “On Being a Fool for Christ and an Idiot for Nobody,” in Christian Apologetics in the Postmodern World, ed. Timothy Phillips and Dennis Okholm (Downers Grove: InterVarsity, 1995), 120-24.

Walter Ong, Orality and Literacy: The Technologizing of the Word (London: Routledge, 1982), 142In his description of conversion, E. Y. Mullins describes personal evangelism: “Christ is presented to the soul. A new sense of sin is awakened through the power of the Holy Spirit within. At length the will is surrendered to God in Christ.”25 The communication of the gospel of Christ to the soul of the postmodern person comes most readily through the personal story of the witness.

As Jensen states, “Stories work by indirection.

Working indirectly they have a chance to break through the cultural filters that work in the heads of those who listen.”26 Through the use of story, the witness creates an “affective experience for the audience of a sermon.”27 Listeners are provided room to overhear this kind of “message,” to bridge the distance and choose to participate because they identify with the experience created and the impetus to act evoked by the speaker’s own encounter with “meaning.” The goal of this kind of preaching is to create an experience of the word of God in listeners within a range of possible responses rather than trying to control the specific response.28 E. Y. Mullins, Christian Religion in Its Doctrinal Expression (Valley Forge: Judson Press, 1917; reprint, 1964), 62.

Richard A. Jensen, Thinking in Story: Preaching in a Post-literate Age (Lima, OH: CSS Publishing Company, 1993), 62.

Robert Stephen Reid, “Postmodernism and the Function of the New Homiletic in Post-Christendom Congregations” Homiletic 20 (1995): 7.


Erickson suggests that “we may need to modify the way in which we do the leading or present the message. This may mean that a more narrative presentation, not in the hermeneutical or heuristic but in the communicational sense of narrative, will have to be the beginning of the conversation.”29 This provides the foundation for witness.

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