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The Gospel in the Marketplace of Ideas

By Paul Conan
March 2015 | Review by Dennis Hill
  • Publisher: Inter Varsity Press
  • ISBN: 978-1-78359-128-2
  • Pages: 200
  • Price: 11.99
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Book Review

What is the significance of Paul’s famous address to the Athenian philosophers in Acts 17? One of Paul’s biggest blunders? Or rather a blueprint for successful, cross-cultural ministry in a multi-cultural world? A teacher of philosophy (Copan) and a teacher of New Testament (Litwak) have teamed up to tell us the answer.

Perhaps their best chapter is an analysis of Paul’s Athens compared with the ‘Athens’ of our own time and culture. There is a helpful chart comparing theistic with naturalistic views on different aspects of belief. Also included at the end of the book are suggested discussion questions for each chapter.

The authors examine Paul’s shaping of his approach to his audience while not watering down the message. ‘The earliest Christians are to be credited for their attempt to build bridges with pagan culture, as they mined Greek and Roman literature and history to connect the gospel to their audience’ (pp. 160-61). They say we would be wise to emulate this approach today.

I do have some concerns. The authors seem to downplay the immortality of the soul in favour of the immortality of the resurrected body — an unnecessary conflict. Also (and in spite of 2 Corinthians 5:8), they say the Bible does not evidence the view that Christians go to heaven when they die!

A further strange aspect was repeated references to Paul’s sermons as Paul’s ‘speeches’. Indeed, chapter five is entitled ‘Paul’s speeches in Acts’. A new trend?

Overall, the book says some helpful things and I generally agree with its main idea. However, it is a rather familiar idea and the book has some flaws. Read with caution.

Dennis Hill

Hull

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