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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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consideration of evangelism and exegetical analyses. Where Gosnell offers insight into the postmodern condition and proposes evangelistic response, this dissertation presents more exegetical analyses as the paradigm for such responses.

Gosnell’s approach focuses the first half of the dissertation on the historical development and contemporary condition of postmodernism. This dissertation, however, focuses upon an exegetical analysis of the evangelistic approach of the first-century church in the New Testament.

Ricky D. Gosnell, “Abstract,” in “The Postmodern Pardigm: Challenges to the Evangelistic Ministry of the Church,” (Ph.D. diss., Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, 1993).

David J. Bosch, Transforming Mission (Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 1993).

The strength of this dissertation is its analyses of the evangelistic ministry of the apostolic church as foundational for the evangelization of postmodern people.

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The premise of this dissertation is that the New Testament approaches to evangelism are sufficient and effective for evangelism in a postmodern context. Similar to the conditions in the contemporary society, the apostolic church evangelized cultures fundamentally opposed to the proposition of the gospel. In the midst of competing worldviews and rampant pluralism, the apostolic church “saturated” the contours of the ancient world with the gospel.41 The term apostolic will reflect the period beginning with Pentecost and ending at the close of the first century.42 An apostolic approach may be defined as the adoption of the examples, directions, and procedures of the apostolic church for the contemporary church setting.

Malcolm McDow and Alvin L. Reid, Firefall: How God Has Shaped History Through Revivals (Nashville: Broadman and Holman, 1997), 96.

Everett Harrison, The Apostolic Church (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans, 1985), ix-xii. Harrison divides the New Testament into “Gospel History” (the four Gospels) and “Apostolic History” (the remainder of the New Testament). This dissertation follows a similar division, but focuses upon Acts and the Pauline epistles.

The record of the apostolic church found in the New Testament provides the basis for the work of the contemporary church. Robert Guelich correctly states that the apostolic church serves as the “norm for all Church history.”43

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for a coherent and biblical approach for the evangelization of postmodern people. Within the plethora of material dealing with evangelism in general, a specific approach for the evangelization of postmodern people rarely is found.

Furthermore, within the several books and articles dealing with the evangelization of the postmodern person in particular, a coherent, biblical paradigm often is missing.

As a response to this condition, this writer seeks to offer an approach for the evangelization of postmodern people following a coherent, biblical model. This model is found in the evangelistic strategy of the apostolic church detailed in the Book of Acts and the Pauline epistles.

Postmodernism makes basic presuppositions that present difficulties for the evangelistic ministry of the church. In order for the contemporary church to evangelize the postmodern person, she must answer these difficulties.

Robert A. Guelich, “Translator’s Preface,” in Apostolic and Post-Apostolic Times by Leonhard Goppelt (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1970), x.

Erickson suggests that postmodernism presupposes that knowledge is not objective, that authoritative systems of explanation are invalid, and that knowledge is a creation of community.44 The apostolic church faced similar challenges for evangelism in “a cauldron of conflicting religious claims within which the Christian faith would have remained tiny but for one fact: the first Christians knew that their faith was absolutely true.”45 Through the pattern of the apostolic church, the contemporary church finds an approach to address the four basic challenges of postmodernism: 1) anti-foundationalism, 2) communal truth, 3) deconstruction, and 4) pluralism.46 These four challenges will be examined in the following chapter.

Millard J. Erickson, Postmodernizing the Faith:

Evangelical Responses to the Challenge of Postmodernism (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1998), 18-19.

David Wells, No Place for Truth: Or Whatever Happened to Evangelical Theology? (Grand Rapids: William B.

Eerdmans, 1993), 104.

These terms will be defined in the following chapter. The definitions will be presented primarily from the viewpoint of postmodern adherents. Although there remains a varying degree of specificity among the theorists of postmodernism concerning the definitions of these terms, the general descriptions present sufficient groundwork for analysis.

TABLE OF CONTENTS

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challenge for evangelizing the postmodern person.

Jean-François Lyotard, The Postmodern Condition: A Report on Knowledge, vol. 10, Theory and History of Literature, trans. Geoff Bennington and Brian Massumi (Minnaopolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1984), xxiv.

Jean-François Lyotard, The Inhuman: Reflections on

Time, trans. Geoff Bennington and Rachel Bowlby (Stanford:





Stanford University Press, 1991), 65-69.

Eric J. Thomas, Ph. D.

Senior Pastor

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knowledge.3 Postmodernism rejects “realism” which states that “there exists a mind-independent world” which “can be accessed.”4 Postmodernism also rejects foundationalism, which states that knowledge is justified through “certain indubitable” beliefs.5 Postmodernism states “that there are no objective, transhistorical truths, or bottom lines which might serve to stabilize the interpretation of the particular historical purposes of groups and individuals.”6 Even the pursuit of such foundations is not beneficial.

Philip D. Kenneson, “There’s No Such Thing as Objective Truth and It’s a Good Thing Too,” in Christian Apologetics in the Postmodern World, ed. Timothy R. Phillips and Dennis L. Okholm (Downers Grove: InterVarsity, 1995), 157.

Dirk-Martin Grube, “Realism, Foundationalism, and Constructivism: A Philosopher’s Bermuda Triangle,” Neue Zeitschrift für Systematische Theologie und Religionsphilosophie 40 (1998): 108. Richard Rorty, Objectivity, Relativism, and Truth: Philosophical Papers, Volume 1 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1991), 2. Rorty suggests the need for the abandonment of any claims to “representation.” Alister E. McGrath, “The Christian Church’s Response to Pluralism,” Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 35 (December 1992): 498; Millard J.

Erickson, The Evangelical Left: Encountering Postconservative Evangelical Theology (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1997), 54.

Steven Connor, Postmodernist Culture: An Introduction to Theories of the Contemporary, 2d ed.

(Oxford: Blackwell Publishers, 1997), 66.

Eric J. Thomas, Ph. D.

Senior Pastor

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“The question is not whether human knowledge in fact has ‘foundations,’ but whether it makes sense to suggest that it does –– whether the idea of epistemic or moral authority having a ‘ground’ in nature is a coherent one.”7

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postmodern philosopher who was trained at the Sorbonne and lectured at College de France, states that “objective knowledge” is the product of a social construct establishing

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Knight, assistant professor of evangelism at Saint Paul School of Theology in Kansas City, Missouri, states, “Instead of the individual being prior to the community, the community is prior to the individual; participation in the community with its network of practices and relationships is

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degree, in that it views the community as oppressive to the minority group of dissidents within the social construct.

On the other hand, postmodernism embraces community as the

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metanarrative of modernity, including the gospel.30

Albrecht Wellmer, The Persistence of Modernity:

Essays on Aesthetics, Ethics, and Postmodernism, trans.

David Midgley (Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, 1991), 43-48.

William Klein, Craig Blomberg, and Robert Hubbard Jr., Introduction to Biblical Interpretation (Dallas: Word, 1993), 440-41.

Jacques Derrida, Of Grammatology, corrected ed., trans. Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1997), 10-18. The gospel from an evangelical perspective provides the fixed meaning for life.

Eric J. Thomas, Ph. D.

Senior Pastor

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the appropriate and necessary action for the responsible individual. The responsible individual must “deconstruct” objectified meaning in order to overcome the totalitarianism

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the “arbitrariness of the linguistic sign” so that the “signifier” becomes the focus of “orientation and value.” Language is arbitrary and capricious, incapable of

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as a “metamorphosis of the macro-structures into innumerable particles which bear within them all the stigmata of the networks and circuits –– each one forming its own micro

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as “urging the lost to accept Christ as Saviour [sic].”49 Evangelism is the communication of the gospel to the unconverted so that they might repent of their sin, trust

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Stanley Grenz suggests, the postmodern rejection of the “reigning epistemological principle -- the correspondence theory of truth... undermines Christian claims that our

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epistemological quest results in the ineffable, by which the “recontextualization of signs” unceasingly alters meaning.62 A systematic theory of meaning in postmodernism, therefore,

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Rorty approvingly cites Heidegger’s idea that objectivity in epistemology emerges from the description of things “before us” which is personal perception rather than the

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epistemology, the work of the Holy Spirit and the gospel becomes simply another metaphor of perception rather than a true description of reality in postmodernism.

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Hermeneutics is a set of principles which is utilized “to understand what something means, to comprehend what a message -- written, oral, or visual -- is endeavoring to

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of God”69 and Roland Barthes’ “countertheological refusal of God”70 represent theological and philosophical proposals.

While Carl Rashke suggests that “deconstruction is the death of God put in writing,”71 Stephen Moore contends that Derrida and his brand of deconstruction exists in a “muted dialogue with theology,” and he suggests that deconstruction

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“iterability” produces alternate meanings even while the author speaks or writes with a particular meaning in mind.

The author’s intention is “contaminated” by the possibility that what he says is “(already, always, also) other than”

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disappearance of the author in postmodernism moves “interpretation” from a truth claim emerging from a text to a reference “to what the reader makes of the text.”74 Therefore, Rorty confidently suggests that hermeneutics is

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Robert Yarborough correctly concludes, “A contemporary commitment to hermeneutical pluralism, if not anarchy, is demanded by postmodern experience, with a primary casualty being God’s Scriptural witness to [H]is unified, redemptive

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This interview demonstrates that the yearning of the individual caught in the morass of a deconstructed life may provide opportunities for evangelism.

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that is non-representational and communal has created a society of individuals who are disconnected and fragmented.

The postmodern person searches for connections which will

–  –  –

a place of connection between the postmodern reality of this world and God’s reality found in the gospel of Jesus Christ.

The community of faith connects with postmodern people at

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Church refused to compromise the content of her message.”128 In the same manner, the contemporary church must apply the principles of the apostolic church to communicate the gospel without compromising the content of the message.

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church maintained and emphasized community (Acts 2:41-47).

The postmodern culture desires community, and the church can provide the specific answer to this yearning for connection.

Alister McGrath, “The Christian Church’s Response to Pluralism,” Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 35 (December 1992): 500.

Michael Green, Evangelism in the Early Church (London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1970; reprint, Guildford, Surrey: Eagle, 1995), x-xi.

Grant Osborne, “Preaching the Gospels: Methodology and Contextualization,” Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 27 (March 1984): 33.

Eric J. Thomas, Ph. D.

Senior Pastor

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finds deeper significance through an examination of the promise of Joel’s prophecy (Joel 2:28-32) and the promise of Christ concerning the Spirit of truth in John’s Gospel.

This writer will seek to show the implications of Pentecost and the Spirit’s work in the evangelization of the ancient

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declared, ajlla; lhvmyesqe dunvamin ejpelqovnto~ tou` aJgivou pneuvmato~ ejf j uJma`~ kai; e[sesqev mou mavrture~ e[n te jIerousalh;m kai; pavsh/ th`/ jIoudaiva; kai; Samareiva/ kai; e{w~ ejskavtou th`~ gh`~.1

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