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Monday, November 28, 2005

PROPM--Part 4

Pointless Ramblings on PostModernism--Part 4, "Athenian Audience"

It seems that everywhere I've turned recently, the issue of Postmodernism is right before me. It's been the focus of some books, lectures and conversations I've had lately. As I've stated here before, I've struggled to understand the entire movement, and thought I'd take the next couple days to hammer out some of my observations. The observations don't mean a whole lot, remember, because I probably don't have a clue what I'm talking about.Our church has been walking through the book of Acts. This week was Acts 17:16-34. At first, I was bummed when I realized that I wasn't going to be preaching this passage. However, it was great to talk about this passage in LIFE Group and to sit and listen this week as Daniel preached the message.

Athenian Audience

It seems that in the postmodern era, Acts 17 has been claimed as a model for many of the churches. Paul does a masterful job of reading the culture of the city and responding to it. The lesson is illustrated that we need to understand our culture, adapt to it, and present the message in a "language" that is understood.

However, I just wonder if we always see the full message in Acts 17.

The God who made the world and all things in it, since He is Lord of heaven and earth, does not dwell in temples made with hands... Most of the time we see that as a response to the "Unknown God" that Paul says he will reveal to them. However, reconsidering the context of Athens, this is a statement in contrast to every idol in the city. Paul is not merely saying that the Unknown God is different than all the others, he is stating that God Almighty is different from every form of religious practice in their city. This is not simply a statement of clarification to teach the Athenians. This is a statement of contradiction, explaining that all of their practices are wrong.

--because he was teaching Jesus and the resurrection. Some have attempted to claim that Paul was very non-confrontational in this passage, trying to affirm the Athenians more than transform them. However, Paul very quickly took the message to being about "Jesus and the resurrection." It is not too much to assume that since Paul discusses the resurrection, he obviously covered the crucifixion as well. If you read the manuscripts of some of Paul's messages (found in Acts) as well as his summaries of his teachings (found in the Epistles) we see that Paul very clearly taught man's sin, the cross, Christ's payment and the resurrection (I Corinthians 15:3-4).

because He has fixed a day in which He will judge the world in righteousness through a Man whom He has appointed... Further strengthening the idea of Paul's preaching the resurrection is found in this area. Paul says God furnished proof that Christ will judge all mankind by raising Him from the dead. Judgement was part of this message. Not man's judgement, but instead, the righteous, holy juddgement.

some began to sneer... It is the very issue of judgement that seemed to set some in opposition. For the passage says, "now when they heard of the resurrection of THE dead" they began to sneer. The text seems to indicate that it was not the resurrection of Jesus that put people at opposition, but rather this concept of the resurrection for "the dead." More than likely, the people were either nihilists or gnostics, neither one seeing a use for the body after death. Paul teaches that they will be raised to life again, and then will be judged. This issue set some of them against him sneering.

It seems to me that this section of the passage is often ignored today. Such a high premium is often placed on the response of the audience, that the accuracy of the message is a subpoint. Paul's messages were not often received overwhelmingly well. He would appeal to culture (he even quotes a secular poet in this message) and their basic understanding of God, but he never leaves it there. His message is often resisted.

I am not suggesting that the pastor preach stale, boring, lifeless messages. I am not claiming that illustrations should not be used to clarify the issue (Paul did). The pastor should have passion, he is sharing the revelation from God!!!! However, his primary concern should not be reaction of the audience, but his accuracy to the Word.

It seems to me that Paul was not saying to the Athenians, "Hey, we're a lot alike. I just see things from a slightly different angle." But rather, he was saying, "You guys are religious, however, you misunderstand who God is. Allow me to explain Him to you because some day you are going to have to stand before Him and be judged."

That just doesn't seem to be the point I hear out of many (not all, I have heard it accurately, including here at GGBC) who champion Acts 17 today.


  • At 4:00 PM, Blogger ~d said…

    i've been reading your PROPM posts but am hesitant to respond because i know even less than you about the whole movement. what i DO know is that i have a postmodern-thinking son and with his "matrix" mentality, i have a hard time reasoning with him.

    on the other hand, i have to wonder if anyone who holds strongly to postmodern thought really WANTS to know truth...if there isn't simply an unwillingness to believe that their might be absolute truth, that this truth DOES correspond to reality and is objective rather than perspectival.

    i mean, do postmodernists really care if truth can be known, or do they simply want to avoid having to confront it?

    again, i fear being simplistic. perhaps i see this avoidance in my own son and am projecting that onto others who spiritually are in a different place than he is.

    what can you add that will help me understand?

  • At 4:09 PM, Blogger ~d said…

    Oh, by the way, I researched the question I asked you Sunday about the Areopagus. It was a limestone hill in athens where the philosophers met to discuss...well ...philosophies. One interesting point I read was that "today Paul's speech is affixed in Greek on a tablet at the entrance to the Areopagus...a monument to a time when the Athenians deliberated before the gods and missed the significance of the One whom Paul identified with the 'unknown God'"

  • At 5:58 PM, Blogger ~d said…

    dang, i just re-read my first response and found a grammatical error

    i hate that

  • At 8:14 PM, Blogger danny2 said…


    while i don't call myself a postmodernist (or a modernist) i will admit (and i'm sure you can see from my posts) that i don't get the movement fully.

    hopefully, some of my friends can shed a little light on your thoughts.

    i feel your concern and pray that i can help reach postmodernist like your son. i love him too.


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