After working through Paul’s teaching in Romans 1:18-32 and Acts 17:22-31, Schnabel responds to a document (“Ecumenical considerations for dialogue and relations with people of other religions”) put out by the World Council of Churches in 2002:
While the apostle Paul would not have wanted to justify or promote injustice and conflict, and while he certainly did not believe that he had “exhausted” the depths of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God (Rom 11:33-35; cf. Phil 3:12), he was convinced of the truth of his theological affirmations, of the deception of secular religions, of the fact that God now provides salvation only on account of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, and of the reality of God’s judgment. Paul was a missionary, not a religionist involved in a dialogue that proceeds from the assumption that God is present in all religions, that salvation is possible through all faiths and ideologies, and that God’s Spirit is at work in all religions, faiths, and ideologies. Paul did not suggest that Athenians who worship Zeus, or Isis, or the emperor, “walk together” with him “towards the fulness of truth.” Paul was convinced that pagan religiosity and spirituality constitute a deliberate rebellion against God. Paul did not hesitate to call idol worshipers fools whose religious activities demonstrate futile ignorance that is devoid of salvation. Paul never abandons his conviction that the sole criterion for valid religious knowledge and for relevant spiritual truth is God’s revelation in Jesus, the crucified and risen Messiah (Rom 3:21-26; 1 Cor 1:23-24; 2:2). I. Howard Marshall perceptively comments that “the problem of transmitting the message [of the gospel] is a problem of communication or translation, in which the message must be put in such a way as to be intelligible and applicable to the receptor. It is not a problem of discovery in which the evangelist hopes that the ‘receptor’ will help him by means of dialogue to discover what the gospel is.”
The proclamation of Paul and of the other early Christian missionaries focused on Jesus–his person, his life and ministry in Galilee and Jerusalem, his messianic dignity, his prophetic teaching, his death and resurrection, his exaltation at God’s right hand as Kyrios, his gift of the Holy Spirit, and his return as Judge. They called on Jews and Gentiles to repent, turn to the living God, and accept his saving revelation in Jesus, the crucified and risen Messiah and Lord. They challenged their Jewish listeners to abandon their ignorance that caused the rejection, condemnation and crucifixion of Jesus, and they invited them to accept Jesus as the promised Messiah who, through his atoning death, forgives sins. They exhorted their pagan listeners to turn away from their temples, altars, and idols, to worship the one true and living God, and to accept Jesus as the Son of God and the Lord who alone can forgive sins and achieve reconciliation with the almighty, holy and merciful God.
Eckhard Schnabel, Faith Comes by Hearing, p. 121-122