Who is this 'apostle Paul' you're referring to?"

I was quietly thunderstruck at 35,000 feet. On a flight from Chicago to Minneapolis, I had been talking with my seatmate. A young executive on her way to a new job, she had told me a little about herself. Among other things, I found out that she had earned university degrees from Ivy League Dartmouth College and from the internationally recognized School of Business at the University of Chicago.

She, in turn, had asked me about my work, and I had joked that some of my introductory students could not place "Jesus Christ" and "the apostle Paul" in the correct chronological order. "Who is this 'apostle Paul' you're referring to?" she asked me, utterly sincere, completely unaware that this ought to be an embarrassing question for a well-schooled American to ask.

This ignorance among the educated is a sign of the times. Too much of our Christian witness today concentrates upon trying to convince people that Christianity is true. We need instead to consider two prior problems. First, most Americans and Canadians are ignorant of even the basics of authentic Christian faith. And second, most people think that they do understand Christianity and thus feel entitled to dismiss it out of hand.

The problem of plausibility Much of our apologetics and evangelism is misdirected to the problem of credibility: Is Christianity true? To answer this question, we pile up reasons and arguments and evidences that we hope will overwhelm every skeptic and bring to faith every doubter. The trouble is, we earnest Christians come armed to the teeth for battles that rarely occur. We are eager to convince all comers, but nobody comes. Why is it that we are willing to engage in two hours of argument, but no ...

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Christianity Today
Why Our Friends Won't Stop, Look, and Listen
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In the Magazine

February 3, 1997

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