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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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The postmodern premise suggests that one may not know truth because language is not a clear nor reliable representation of truth.82 By implication, postmodernism Walt Russell, “The Holy Spirit’s Ministry in the

Fourth Gospel,” Grace Theological Journal 8 (Fall 1987):


David Wells, God the Evangelist: How the Spirit

Works to Bring Men and Women to Faith (Grand Rapids:

Eerdmans, 1987; reprint, Carlisle, Cumbria: Paternoster Press, 1997), 46.

Jacques Derrida, Of Grammatology, corrected ed., trans. Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1997), 295-302.

proposes that the gospel is an illusionary foundation, since no foundations for knowledge or certainty exist. This presents a dilemma in the evangelistic work of the church.

Julian Hartt rightly assesses this postmodern dilemma: “If the ontological truth-claims of the New Testament are false, then the Christian religious life, understood and pursued as the knowledge and service of God in Jesus Christ, is founded on an illusion.”83 With epistemology jettisoned in postmodernism, the evangelistic ministry of the church submerges into a quagmire of postmodern skepticism and doubt in relation to the gospel. The postliberal and revisionist approaches to postmodernism increase this skepticism.

For example, the postliberal approach begins with the “self” and moves to Scripture. David Kelsey’s discussion of Scripture presents a postliberal approach.84 Kelsey sees the authority of a text in its pragmatic and productive uses within the context of a particular Julian N. Hartt, “Theological Investments in Story: Some Comments on Recent Developments and Some Proposals,” Journal of the American Academy of Religion 52 (1984): 121.

Kelsey’s approach extends Frei’s proposal. See

Hans Frei, The Eclipse of Biblical Narrative (New Haven:

Yale University Press, 1974).

community.85 For Kelsey, texts are authoritative on the basis of “how they are used in the Christian community.”86 Along these lines, however, Kelsey’s postliberal approach devolves into an extreme pragmatic theory of truth, whereby something is true because it works. Evangelization of postmodern people, then, depends primarily upon the demonstration of the gospel’s pragmatic effects as a sign of its veracity rather than upon the work of the Spirit of truth.

David Tracy proposes a revisionist model which begins with self and moves to questions about God and Scripture. The revisionist approach couples “Christian texts” with “common human experience and language” as the two principle sources of theology.87 Tracy offers a theology which provides a “proper understanding of our common experience and its fundamental continuity with the God proclaimed in the Christian scriptures.”88 For Tracy the gospel may be true if it is “existentially meaningful,” David H. Kelsey, The Uses of Scripture in Recent Theology (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1975), 150.

Ibid., 89.

David Tracy, Blessed Rage for Order: The New Pluralism in Theology (New York: Seabury Press, 1975;

reprint, Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1996), 43-45.

Ibid., 175.

internally coherent, and verifiable through experiential analysis.89 Truth is determined by the self-enlightenment which a text provides. In this light, evangelization of postmodern people depends upon the gospel’s ability to lead the individual to self-understanding.

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believers through the Scripture to the truth of God found in Jesus Christ,91 so that each believer receives the “Spirit of Christian proclamation.” This outpouring inheres authority (ejxousiva) and power (duvnami~) for the evangelization of postmodern people. Although postmodernism rejects this type of authority, Jesus declares in Matt 28:18, jEdovqh moi pa`sa ejxousiva ejn oujranw`/ kai; ejpi; th`~ gh`~,92 so that ejxousiva represents the power of ultimate arbitration ejn oujranw`/ kai; ejpi; th`~ gh`~.93 Ibid., 71.

W. F. Lofthouse, “The Holy Spirit in Acts and the Fourth Gospel,” Expository Times 52 (1940-41): 336.

Millard Erickson, Christian Theology, 890.

“All authority has been given to Me in heaven and upon the earth.”

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Pannenberg notes that “as the Spirit bears witness in believers to Jesus as the truth of God, they themselves are ecstatically raptured and are outside themselves in Jesus, while conversely Jesus is in them to bind them in fellowship with one another, and along with Jesus the Father also takes up [H]is dwelling in believers.”94 Just as Jesus possesses ejxousiva, He invests His ejxousiva through the Spirit to His followers. This continual presence of Christ in believers produces the authority for evangelism in a postmodern world.

It is this ejxousiva of Christ which produces the right and responsibility of His followers to poreuqevnte~ ou\n maqhteuvsate pavnta ta; e[qnh (Matt 28:19a).95 Bearing witness in the epistemological dilemma of postmodernism highlights the significance of duvnami~.

Indeed, the basic meaning of duvnami~ centers on one’s ability

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is the enabling power of God in the witness of Christ’s followers. According to Christ’s promise (Acts 1:8), this power comes upon Christ’s followers through the Holy Spirit.

Wolfhart Pannenberg, Systematic Theology: Volume 3, trans. Geoffrey W. Bromiley (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1998), 16.

“Therefore as you go make disciples of all nations.” W. Grundmann, s.v. “duvnami~,” TDNT, 2:284-85.

The Spirit “dispenses and mediates” the power which enabled Christ to fulfill His mission and which equips His followers to “stand in the place of Jesus and continue His work.”97 The Spirit of truth joins Christ’s followers in the witnessing encounter to bear witness together that Jesus Christ is the way, truth, and life.

The Spirit further infuses the witnessing encounter with duvnami~ to lead postmodern people to truth. The conversion of Saul provides exemplifies the evangelization in the midst of epistemological uncertainty (Acts 9).

Although Saul rejected the “truth-claims” of the gospel (Acts 6-7), the power of the Spirit of truth deconstructs his epistemological skepticism (Rom 1:16-17).98 In the same manner, the Spirit of truth deconstructs the epistemological dilemma of postmodern people.

Borrowing cautiously from Tracy’s revisionist approach, the Spirit of truth establishes the gospel of Christ as “meaningful” to the postmodern person through the conviction (ejlevgcw) of sin, righteousness, and judgment.

Ibid., 311.

This language represents Paul’s experience on the Damascus road (Acts 9). The layers of rabbinic interpretation were deconstructed or unraveled in a decisive encounter with Jesus Christ, the truth. Upon this encounter, Paul’s epistemological skepticism of Jesus Christ as Messiah and Lord was diffused. The power of the gospel led him to repentance and salvation.

The Spirit of truth establishes the “meaning” of the gospel through the empowered, internally coherent proclamation of Christ’s witnesses. The Spirit of truth establishes the “truth” of the gospel experientially and existentially in postmodern people. The Spirit of truth answers the postmodern dilemma of epistemology through His witness to truth and the conviction of truth for the postmodern kovsmo~ of the truth. In this light, the evangelization of postmodern people depends primarily upon the proclamation of the gospel in the power of the Holy Spirit to lead postmodern people to truth who is Jesus Christ.

Beyond Babel: Epistemology and eJtevrai~ glwvssai~ The evangelization of postmodern people presents the problem of language in a world of pluralities. The global scope of evangelization for the apostolic and contemporary church creates the difficulties of language and culture. David Harvey describes postmodernism as a rejection of any “meta-language” which can overcome the plurality of “power-discourses” or “language-games.”99 The events of Pentecost point to the “meta-language” of God through the Spirit which overcomes the problem of languages.

Dunn suggests that “the glossolalia of Pentecost David Harvey, The Condition of Postmodernity (Cambridge: Basil Blackwell, 1989), 44–45.

fulfils [sic] Joel’s expectation of the outpouring of the Spirit in prophecy.”100 In verse 4 Luke states that the disciples h[rxanto lalei`n eJtevrai~ glwvssai~, and in verse 6 Luke states that h[kouon ei|~ e{kasto~ th`/ ijdiva/ dialevktw`/ lalouvntwn auJtw`n.101 The difference between glwvssai~ and dialevktw`/ is the difference between that which is spoken and that which is heard.102 This writer contends that the Spirit of God communicates through the words of Christ’s followers so that the hearer understands the message which is communicated.

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result is the “multiplicity of idioms” found in a confusion of tongues.105 Derrida posits that God deconstructs meaning.

Despite Derrida’s pursuit of confusion and trace through Dunn, Jesus and the Spirit, 174.

“They began to speak with other tongues” (Acts 2:4), and “Each one was hearing them speaking in his own language” (Acts 2:6).

See, Malcolm McDow and Alvin L. Reid, Firefall:

How God Has Shaped History Through Revivals (Nashville:

Broadman and Holman, 1997), 86.

Jacques Derrida, “Des Tours de Babel,” Semeia 54 (1991): 3-34, especially 7-8, 31-32.

Ibid., 7.

Ibid., 8.

deconstruction,106 Umberto Eco suggests that the confusion of languages at Babel provides the hope that confusion might end.107 Luke’s list of nations (Acts 2:9-11) covers the entirety of the known world in the apostolic period.108 Amidst these pluralities, the “truth-claims” of the gospel story encountered the obstacles of language and meaning.

Yet, eJtevrai~ glwvssai~ at Pentecost shows that “the Spirit of

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establishes confidence in communicating the gospel crossculturally, for God speaks through His followers to hearers of all races, languages, and cultures (Acts 2:6-8).110 Thus, the Spirit reverses the consequences of Babel in Genesis 11:4-9.111 Pentecost marks the call of grace to “all humanity by making all human languages congruent with God’s Ibid., 6-7.

Umberto Eco, Serendipities, trans. W. Weaver (San Diego: Harcourt Brace, 1998), 28-29.

William Neil, The Acts of the Apostles, New Century Bible Commentary (London: Marshall, Morgan, and Scott, 1973; reprint, Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1987), 74.

Thomas C. Oden, Life in the Spirit, 64.

Dockery, “The Theology of Acts,” 46.

C. Bartholomew, “Babel and Derrida: Postmodernism, Language, and Biblical Interpretation,” Tyndale Bulletin 49 (November 1998): 317.

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glwvssai~ reverses the curse of Babel so that “now men from all nations could be brought into one fellowship by the power of the Spirit.”113 The Spirit of truth serves as the epistemological bridge for evangelism with postmodern people. Regardless the cultural, ethnic, or socially informed situation of postmodern people, the Spirit of truth fills the witness of Christ’s followers so that the hearers experience conviction and comprehension.

Evangelistic Approach at Pentecost, Acts 2:14-41 Peter’s sermon at Pentecost represents an apostolic approach for evangelism.114 An examination of Peter’s sermon provides a framework for the proclamation of the gospel in a postmodern world. Ridderbos insightfully suggests that this sermon is illustrative of “apostolic preaching.”115 Thomas C. Oden, Life in the Spirit, 64.

William Neil, The Acts of the Apostles, 72.

For a discussion of the veracity of the speeches in Acts and the arguments against it, see, Hans Conzelmann, A Commentary on the Acts of the Apostles, trans. James

Limburg, A. T. Kraabel, and Donald Juel (Philadelphia:

Fortress, 1987), xliv. This writer contends that Luke’s record of the speeches in Acts reflect the content of the sermons delivered, yet the sermons are not verbatim reports.

H. N. Ridderbos, The Speeches of Peter in the Acts of the Apostles (London: Tyndale, 1962), 11.

Accordingly, Peter’s sermon is paradigmatic of other speeches in Acts as well as for evangelism in postmodern times.116

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the public proclamation of the gospel to unbelievers.117 Dodd proposes that the apostolic khvrugma includes six basic elements present in Luke’s presentation of the speeches.118 Of these six elements, Peter’s sermon at Pentecost includes five.119 Within this examination, one notes the OT foundations of the messianic age, the life, death, and exaltation of Jesus, and a call to repentance.120 An apostolic approach for the evangelization of On the paradigmatic nature of the speech, see Marion L. Soards, The Speeches in Acts: Their Content, Context, and Concerns (Louisville: Westminster, 1994), 9-11.

C. H. Dodd, The Apostolic Preaching and Its Development (London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1936), 7-8. Dodd distinguishes khvrugma from didavskein. The latter is moral instruction for believers.

Ibid., 17-24.

These five elements are: 1) the dawn of the messianic age (Acts 2:16-21); 2) the life, death, and resurrection of Christ (Acts 2:22-32); 3) Jesus is the exalted Lord sitting at the right hand of God as the head of the “new Israel” (Acts 2:33-36); 4) the Spirit is the sign of Christ’s exaltation (Acts 2:33); 5) a call for repentance, the offer of forgiveness, and the gift of the Spirit (Acts 2:38-39). The sixth element speaks to the consummation of the messianic age (Acts 3:21).

John B. Polhill, Acts, New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman, 1992), 107.

postmodern people requires the proclamation of the gospel.

Peter’s sermon provides a pattern for this public

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