Confronted with intellectual pluralism, idolatry, and biblical illiteracy, Paul was neither naive nor obscurantist. He was equipped in worldly learning, and he was able to proclaim God's Word powerfully.
Scripture: Acts 17
- While Paul is in the pagan city of Athens, he is provoked by the idols.
- The Holy Spirit works in our hearts a righteous provocation toward idolatry because it is an offense to God and destructive to humanity.
- In the market place Paul is labeled a seed picker, just as in our society orthodox Christianity is the single target of scorn and derision.
- The new strategy is to implicate Christianity for all of the world's ills. In a similar situation, St Augustine wrote the City of God as an apologetic response to the accusation that Christianity caused the fall of Rome.
- The Bible is relevant to issues of the world; it's a public book giving guidance to every circumstance, from economics to health care.
- Paul interacted with naturalist intellectuals, who lived by reason and pleasure, and spent all their time batting around contradictory ideas.
- Confronted with intellectual pluralism, idolatry, and biblical illiteracy, Paul was neither naive nor obscurantist. He was equipped in worldly learning, and he was able to proclaim God's Word powerfully.
- Christianity provides the very foundations for learning and progress, so we ought to be seeking high achievement in submission to Christ.
- Speaking before the areopagus (marketplace) is equivalent to speaking to Parliament and the faculty of leading universities.
- NT writers didn't distinguish between pluralism and idolatry; allegiance to Christ as King rules out relativism.
- We do not find Paul using the classical proofs for God's existence. Paul says we already know God but suppress the truth in unrighteousness, knowing that we're accountable to Him.
- Man is an ethical being living in a moral universe. The biggest challenge for evangelism is ethics, not information. Ethical hostility to God is in our nature, and it's the essence of unbelief.
- The offense of the gospel should not be based on our rudeness; Paul is uncompromising but winsome in his speech.
- Paul doesn't provide evidences; sinful man will throw out any evidence that contradicts his worldview; and without the Christian worldview the evidences don't make sense anyway.
- To understand the meaning of the resurrection you need the biblical background: The good creation; the fall; death as enemy; causal relationship between sin and death; God in Christ the second Adam defeats death; the resurrection is then inevitable.
- Paul paints a picture of who God is, from a shared entry point, defining the doctrines of creation and God’s sovereignty over all of history. He lays a ground-work so that Christ’s resurrection makes sense.
- Paul finally calls the assembly to repentance for their idolatry and suppression of the truth.
- Paul's theology in Romans 1-3 requires this approach to the sermon.
- When we defend the faith we must do so in terms of the God we believe in. It's not a subjective claim to say that Christ is Saviour and Lord; it's an absolute statement about what God has revealed.
- You can't reach a true diagnosis for man based on false assumptions about God and the world. Absolute truth is necessary.
- All truth is relative to God. Truth is what God says it is.
- Unbelieving man absolutizes the relative by making his mind, feelings, and will absolute; thus he takes the place of God.
- In our daily lives and conversations we’re to take every though captive in submission to Christ, that through us God may call many people to Himself (Rom. 1:18-20; 1 Cor. 1:19-21; 2 Cor. 10:5).
- What is the essential problem with man which informs Paul’s apologetic approach?
- What are the foundational biblical doctrines which are prerequisite for the preaching of the cross and the resurrection of Christ?
- Explain why pluralism, relativism and inclusivism are just another form of idolatry. Why isn’t Paul impressed by Athens and its “learning”?
- How can we be winsome and yet uncompromising when sharing the gospel with pluralists?
- What’s the theological consequence of making man the arbiter of truth (i.e., by embracing relativism)?
- What are some entry points for introducing the biblical worldview and the gospel in our conversations this week?
- How can we start thinking and equipping ourselves, so that, like Paul, we can be ready to declare Christ to unchurched people?