A biblical investigation of the Pauline apologetic framework and its implications for evangelism in a postmodern context
Schumacher, Robin Maurice
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This work is an investigation to uncover the apologetic framework used by the Apostle Paul and discuss how it might be applied to current evangelistic efforts in Postmodernism. To be certain, there are a number of issues that face Christianity in the twenty–first century. I will give particular emphasis to the philosophical teachings and arguments that are characterized as being postmodernist in nature. Although within Postmodernism numerous individual challenges to Christian thought are present, I have selected four core issues to examine: (1) relative truth; (2) relative language and meaning; (3) philosophical pluralism; (4) a perceived lack of authenticity in the lives of professing Christians. The first three have been chosen because I believe there to be a meaningful downward progression from the first to the third, which culminates in what I believe is a relegation of the Christian Gospel to the realm of opinion and not truth. The fourth challenge has been selected because of recent research that argues it has perhaps become the single biggest obstacle for postmodernists in considering Christianity as a valid belief system. Once each of these evangelistic challenges is explored in detail and traced from its point of origin, attention is then given to uncovering the apologetic framework used by the Apostle Paul in the first century. This process is basically two–step in nature. Step one involves gaining an understanding of the Apostle Paul's world and discovering the factors that molded him into God's first century apologist. This involves examining Paul's culture, the competing religions and philosophies of the first century, the background and education of the Apostle, and his conversion and commissioning by God while on the road to Damascus. The resulting information allows us to build a bridge between the first century world of the Apostle Paul and today's postmodernist age. The second step in uncovering Paul's apologetic framework is to examine the biblical texts that describe the Apostle's evangelistic efforts and thoughts regarding the delivery of an apologia for the Christian faith. This equates to an investigation of the book of Acts and the Pauline corpus. The conclusions of this inquiry result in a new apologetic classification - that of tria martus or 'three witness' apologetics - with the cornerstone verse of the framework being 1 Thess. 1:5, which says: "for our gospel did not come to you in word only, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction; just as you know what kind of men we proved to be among you for your sake." Labeling each component of Paul's apologetic framework results in an analysis being performed of the message of Paul, the method of Paul, and the manner of Paul. After this has been done, one last question with respect to Paul's framework needs to be answered: Is the Apostle's apologia prescriptive or descriptive? While the book of Acts describes Paul's evangelistic and apologetic method in action, does Paul prescribe his method in his writings? Answering this question is pivotal in deciding whether to take Paul's framework and apply it to today's postmodernist culture. I believe the evidence points to Paul's framework being prescriptive, so the task then becomes how to apply the Apostle's apologia to Postmodernism, and how it addresses the challenges to Christianity that were identified earlier. As Paul's apologetic framework consists of three components, it becomes sensible for modern day apologists to take each part of the Apostle's framework and apply it to the various dimensions of the postmodernist unbeliever. This application results in an evangelist speaking to the rational, spiritual, and moral dimensions of non–Christians, with each challenge of Postmodernism being appealed to amongst the various dimensions. When applied, I believe three–witness apologetics represents a strong framework for giving honest and robust answers to the postmodernist unbeliever. While the postmodernist culture certainly poses some threats to Christianity, I firmly believe that the Apostle Paul would have thrived in today's climate and eagerly sought out converts from Postmodernism. I also believe that those who choose to use his apologetic framework will enjoy a harvest that enlarges the body of Christ and brings glory to the Creator of all humankind.
- Theology