Too often when we engage people regardless of the venue, many of us forget to consider who it is we are talking to and thus mis-communication occurs.
In this chapter McGrath argues that the book of Acts and the Gospel accounts should be used as an apologetic for non-believers and skeptics seeking faith. The reason is because unlike Paul’s letters which are primarily addressed to the believing community (his audience) not skeptical seekers, Acts and the Gospels are.
In the book of Acts, McGrath points out three different apologetic approaches that are audience sensitive thus making the gospel presentation more impacting. First, before his Jewish audience, Peter’s apologetic appeals to the Old Testament for his proclamation. He explained the fact of Christ’s life, death and resurrection and interpreted its meaning, namely, that Jesus of Nazareth is the long awaited Messiah. Peter appealed to the authority for monotheistic Jews—Torah, and grounded his message in it (Acts 2-4).
Second, before his Athenian audience, Paul’s apologetic appeals to common ground on Mars Hill. Here, Paul explains the nature of who the “unknown God” is, by appealing to creation, their poets and finally Christ’s resurrection. Had Paul appealed first to the Scriptures, it would not have been effective (he probably wouldn’t have gotten an audience) because Torah was not authoritative to the Athenians, but their philosophers were (Acts 17).
Third, before the Roman Court, Paul’s apologetic appeals to legal terminology and reasoning. The apostle here by using the language of the court culminates his message in Christ’s resurrection which assures God’s nearness and thus none can hide from Him (Acts 25-27).
These examples serve as a reminder to all believers that the audience does and should (generally speaking) consider the audience before a particular apologetic approach is followed.
McGrath affirms that critics and skeptics abound, thus depending on the person and the situation, our methods must change but never our message. That’s obvious in Acts and should be in our encounters as well. This will require loving sacrifice of our time, energy and money to get better equipped. See pages 68-70 for general and specific examples of dealing with differing worldviews.