The Gospel in the Marketplace of Ideas
By John Stonestreet
What is the proper relationship between the church and the larger culture? What is our responsibility to the world? Is it nothing, or everything? During this week’s broadcast, John Stonestreet welcomes special guest Paul Copan, whose latest book “The Gospel in the Marketplace of Ideas: Paul’s Mars Hill Experience for Our Pluralistic World,” tackles those questions and more.
Copan, who serves as chair of philosophy and ethics at Palm Beach Atlantic University, has written and co-written several popular books defending the faith, including “Is God a Moral Monster?” “True for You, But Not for Me,” and “When God Goes to Starbucks.” In his latest, he sets out to explain why Acts 17, the famous passage in which the Apostle Paul addresses the intellectuals of Athens, is the most important scriptural example of evangelism in an alien culture.
“Paul is speaking in a cross-worldview setting,” explains Copan, “whereas Peter [at Pentecost] is speaking to people who share the same worldview.
And so we can learn many lessons from what Paul is doing. Paul serves as a model for us in Athens because he is communicating the Gospel without quoting Scripture. He quotes pagans to build bridges with his audience.”
For the first time in generations, this passage has a special relevance not just in missionary settings to foreign cultures, but to Christians’ interaction with our own culture. Copan explains:
“…if someone said maybe two generations ago, ‘The Bible says,’ we’d perk up and listen, or we’d show at least a respect for the Scriptures. Whereas today, if someone says on a TV show or in a panel discussion, ‘Well the Bible says,’ he’s basically lost the debate, he’s lost the discussion, he’s lost his audience. He’s appealing to a book that…at least the audience thinks…has no authoritative claim upon them.”
That means that Christians today have a thorny task. Like the Apostle Paul, we must find alternative ways to reach our audience, not leaving aside Scripture, but communicating its message in language our post-Christian culture can understand…
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