Acts 17:16-34 : an apologetic model then and now?

Dahle, Lars Olof Martin (2001). Acts 17:16-34 : an apologetic model then and now? PhD thesis The Open University.



Presupposing a specific understanding of 'apologetics' and the need to investigate biblical apologetic foundations, this thesis explores the hypothesis that Acts 17: 16-34 is to be seen as an apologetic model 'then' and 'now'.

It seems plausible, in view of the content and purposes of Acts, that Luke recorded this narrative about Paul in Athens, not just to provide confirmation of the truth of the Christian faith for insiders, but primarily as an apologetic model for relating to Gentile outsiders. This understanding of Acts 17:16-34 as a Lucan apologetic model seems consonant both with the contemporary exegetical discussion on authenticity, the Athenian context and Paul as speaker, and with a responsible exegetical study of the text itself.

This thesis identifies key positive elements of this Lucan model: the apostle presents essential Christian truth claims in Athens, about who God is and how he has revealed himself, which should be seen as indicators of a normative worldview content. It is further argued that contextual understanding, application of appropriate justification procedures, and 'positive deconstruction' of alternative worldviews characterize Paul's approach in the agora. The justification for the apostle's truth claims is an overall argument from natural theology through ultimate authority to the resurrection, which is offered with the threefold aim of generating interest. persuading, and confronting.

Through a critical comparative review of the extent to which contemporary apologists Alister E. McGrath and Donald A. Carson apply this Lucan-Pauline model to the specific challenge of postmodemism, it is argued that the content, the approach, the arguments, and the aims of this first-century model justifiably may be seen as valid and relevant for contemporary apologetics in comparable agora contexts. A perspective is also offered towards a more adequate application of the model to the postmodem challenge.

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