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Engaging Today's Postmodern Generation

Today's postmodern generation has rejected, by and large, the following:
  • The Bible as God's Word
  • Christianity's view of absolute truth
  • Rationality as required to attain truth (at least in the religious realm)
Instead they have embraced the scientific or existential (experience) approach to acquiring truth. So, the difficult question when seeking to communicate the gospel with a postmodern, is "where does one start?" The following reasons explain why we can not assume that anyone in today's generation has even the most basic understanding of the Bible.
  1. The United States is much more diverse with many immigrants from Asian and Mid-Eastern (eastern religions) as well as Hispanic origins (bringing forms of Roman Catholicism). Public schools today teach students that we must be tolerant of all religions and not give any one religion preference over another. As a result, America has become one of the most religiously diverse nations in the world.
  2. For a generation students have been fed evolution, the denial of absolutes, the relativity of truth, and secular humanism.
  3. The internet has opened up new ways to disseminate information and ideas. The average person no longer has a geographical based cultural influence but can choose to identify themselves with any culture they find on the internet.
  4. The evangelical church, in their quest for church growth and cultural relevance, has become more worldly. Instead of engaging in spiritual warfare against non-Biblical ideas, they have been buying into them wholesale. This has resulted in  a large number of children, born in Christian households, abandoning the faith.
  • Give an example of when you have met a person who caught you off guard because they didn't know much about the Bible. How did this change where you started when talking about Christ?
  • What signs have you observed that America is becoming more religiously diverse?

Apologetic Implications

There are several implications to this postmodern shift in our culture.
  1. The people that we engage in apologetics with are likely to have positions that they must abandon in order to embrace Christianity. These positions may clash formidably with Christian ideas.
  2. Our starting point must be moved farther back. We can not assume that anyone believes that God created the world or that God is one. Such starting points may include:
    • God as creator of all things
    • Man being made in the image of God, being made moral and answerable to his creator.
    • The curse of the fall
    • The sinfulness of sin and God's wrath against it due to His holiness
  3. We must seek to identify where people are and communicate the gospel clearly, using terminology that they can understand.

Paul's Apologetic Method in Athens

Read Acts 17:16-17 - What provoked Paul's spirit? What did this cause him to do?
Indeed, Athens was so full of sculpted statues of the Greek pantheon that one ancient writer said there were more statues of the gods in Athens than in all the rest of Greece put together. Petronius, the Roman satirist, said it was easier to meet a statue there than a man. - Robert Reymond, Faith's Reaons For Believing (Ross-shire, Great Britain: Christian Focus Publications, 2008), p. 441
Read Acts 17:18-21 - Who did Paul run across?
  • Epicureans - taught that the chief end of life was pleasure, the highest being free from pain and fear. Affirmed the existence of the Greek pantheon and believed them to be blessed and immortal beings not interested in the affairs of men.
  • Stoics - taught that all that was real, including the gods, was material. The aim of life was harmony with nature and a virtuous life. All other things such as health, wealth, beauty, life, and death was considered "indifferent".
Read Acts 17:22-29 - Where does Paul start? What kind of terminology did he use? Why? What method of apologetics (e.g. presuppositional or evidentialism) did he use? Did he offer any proofs for the existence of God? (See vs. 23, "the One whom you worship without knowing, Him I proclaim to you")

Notice the things that Paul "proclaims".
  • vs. 24 - God created the world and everything in it. This destroyed the stoic's pantheism since God transcends the creation. This also equates the worship of anything made with hands as idolatry.
  • vs. 24 - God is Lord of heaven and earth. He is sovereign over all things and is not limited to a lesser domain.
  • vs. 25 - The aseity of God (being from himself, self-existent) and not dependent upon anything outside of himself. He does not need man.
  • vs. 25 - Man is completely dependent on God for even the air he breathes ("since He gives to all life, breath, and all things"). Keep in mind that the Greeks viewed all God's as having a birth and were not eternal. They thought that gods came into being through natural processes.
  • vs. 26 - Explains the biblical view of anthropology, that all nations are made by God.
  • vs. 26 - Explains the doctrine of predestination whereby God ordains "determined their preappointed" all of man's times and places of dwelling. Not one maverick molecule can undo His decree.
  • vs. 27 - Man is lost and does not know God
  • vs. 28 - While God is transcendent (vs 24) He is also actively involved in His creation (the imminence of God).
  • vs. 29 - Idolatry is a sin
  • vs. 30-31 - There is a beginning and an end "has appointed a day on which He will judge the world". God commands you to repent "commands all men everywhere to repent".
  • vs. 31 - Finally brings up Christ and His resurrection as assurance of the final judgement.
Then his address to the council is immediately stopped. So we only have a portion of what he indented to say. It is important to note all of the ways in which Paul directly confronted the foolish errors of the Greeks.
 Biblical Assertion     vs. Greek Thought
 creation and last judgement  eternality of form and matter
 providence / predestination  human freedom
 bodily resurrection  matter was evil
Also notice that Paul backed up his starting point to explain the entire Biblical narrative before explaining the gospel (good news) of Jesus Christ. Why is this important?

Notice that Paul does not flinch from offending with truth. He would have known that most Greeks held some form of dualism (matter was evil, spirit was good). Therefore, he would have known that stressing Jesus' immortality would have been much more receptive to the Greek. So, why did he bring up the bodily resurrection? Should he have been more "culturally sensitive"? What was the importance of the bodily resurrection?