Monday, October 20, 2008

Paul the Apologist

Henry Chadwick, cited by Michael Green in Evangelism in the Early Church, p118.
"Paul's genius as an apologist is his atonishing ability to reduce to an apparent vanishing point the gulf between himself and his converts and yet to "gain" them for the Christian gospel"
Paul had "as much common ground as possible with his audience - even while he is at work undermining their position" (Green, p192). This is a skill I want to develop. 

Tim Keller on deconstructing defeater beliefs is a helpful example. "The leading defeaters must be dealt with clearly and quickly but convincingly. Defeaters are dealt with when the person feels you have presented the objection to Christianity in a clearer and stronger way than they could have done it."


  1. don't you just love that book? I've been enjoying it on the tube each morning. What I like is that he's brutally honest in assessing the risks/failures of the necessary task of translating the gospel, but refuses to solidify methods in reaction. Practically every page is teeming with how they used every (godly) means possible to persuade people, with a critical eye on current trends - eg anti-intellectualism.

  2. I love it, except for it having endnotes instead of footnotes - especially with up to 200 of them in some chapters...

  3. Aren't these two different things?

    1. Closing the gulf
    2. Dealing with defeaters


    Sure, I know you'll quickly say that 2. leads to 1.

    But 1. doesn't have to mean 2. And frequently, if we want to avoid hardening the posture of people who might come to faith very easily, we need to be aware of this.

    I think we have to get away from this whole understanding of apologetics as dealing with objections. That is 50% of it. The other 50% is about working out how you can communicate with people who are often cynical, pragmatic, anti-established religion and trying to tread water with all sorts of pastoral issues.

    Could, for example, an apologist (and an evangelist - the separation of these two is not biblical), be dealing with pastoral issues. E.G. Should Christians get training in counselling to help them share their faith more effectively?

  4. I don't think 1 & 2 are the same... but I do think they shoot in the same kind of direction, which is against the assumption that people are coming at the gospel neutrally.... culturally, intellectually, affectionately etc there are bridges to cross...

    You're right it's not just the negative, and it is dealing with those who are "cynical, pragmatic, anti-established religion" - which is what I think Keller gets at well, engaging both "objection issues" but also attitudes and assumptions like pragmatism, anti-religion.

    And by engaging those things to get onto the front foot. Considering that people don't default to believing what we're saying (for all kinds of reasons) has to be an essential part of communicating the news about Jesus lovingly, carefully, clearly, effectively.

    Not quite sure how overcoming gulfs in culture or belief could prevent people from believing...

  5. totally! Tis terrible format to read! Quotes in main body of text...needs a reprint.

    Tom - I guess that's where Berger's idea of plausibility structures are helpful - they're sociological things, not merely sets of ideas. Newbigin said the church is the plausibility structure of the gospel. The deconstruction is social too, but that's precisely the drum people like Keller & Chester are banging, right?