Questions and observations for discussion
1. How far may one go in making the message of the gospel relevant to the world?
Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 9:22 that “I have become all things to all men, that I might by all means save some.” The term “all” is pretty inclusive. Does Paul really want to be this inclusive?
One of the classic debates over Paul”s preaching in Acts 17:22-34 and what he later says about his preaching in 1 Corinthians 1:17. In his attempt to preach the Gospel in Athens at the Areopagus arena of debate in Acts 17:22-34 he starts with the alter to the unknown god, refers to God”s transcendence which does not limit him to dwelling in shrines, as the giver and sustainer of life who is nevertheless near to humans whom he regards as his children, and as the one who orders the universe. All this was highly acceptable to Stoic philosophers among others. But when he gets to judgment and resurrection he loses his audience and only gains a few converts. Later in 1 Corinthians 1:17 he prefers to preach the gospel without eloquent wisdom, so as not to empty Christ”s cross of its power.
After studying both passages in their respective contexts what should one think of this debate. Is it valid to reject the Acts 17 approach? It is also later in Corinthians that Paul claims to be all things to all people! Paul says elsewhere in 1 Corinthians 10:23 that “”All things are lawful,” but not all things are helpful. ”All things are lawful,” but not all things build up.” How is he using “all” here? How is this helpful, or not helpful?
2. To what extent may one express the gospel in philosophical language and categories?
In Col 2:8 Paul states “See to it that no one makes a prey of you by philosophy and empty deceit.” Does this mean that Christians are to avoid all philosophy? Or a particular kind of philosophy? The latter seems to be the case in Col 2:8-23 with worship of angels (Col 2:18) and the practice of asceticism (Col 2:23).
3. To what extent is culture normative in how one may or may not package the message of the gospel?
Would you feel comfortable taking a harlot to wife as Hosea was commanded to do to illustrate Israel”s relation to God and its consequences (Hosea 1:2)?
What are we to make of the fact that Paul had women as fellow workers in the gospel (Philippians 4:2-3), but that women are to be silent in community worship (1 Corinthians 14:33-36; 1 Corinthians 11:4-5)?
In our contemporary world there is a great deal of controversy with regard the kind of music that is used to mediate the message of the gospel. Which is appropriate, the classical tradition or the popular tradition? Or even rock? Does Scripture give one any help in such questions? See 1 Corinthians 8:1, 1 Corinthians 9; 1 Corinthians 9:12; 1 Corinthians 10:27-31.