Monday, April 25, 2016

The Unknown God Who Makes Himself Known

As I consider the claims of evolutionists that their long-ages views are superior because they are scientific, while the Bible’s revelation of God’s creative work is inferior because it is religious, I can summarize my response in just a few words: they’re wrong; God’s Book is right.

While I can’t say whether the earliest leaders in Jesus’ church encountered outright evolutionary beliefs, I do know that they faced a whole variety of worldviews and philosophies that were not true, just as today. In the seventeenth chapter of the book of Acts, we see how the apostle Paul used such a collection of wrong beliefs to teach people the truth in love.[1]

16 Now while Paul was waiting for them at Athens, his spirit was provoked within him as he saw that the city was full of idols.

The world continues to love its idols. They are in religions, philosophies, worldviews, statues, trinkets, people, and the universal idol of self. Paul knew Jesus, so he was provoked, or troubled, that all this city seemed to know was counterfeit.

This should also encourage us to see that pluralistic societies are nothing new. This city was full of the contradictory ideas of the pluralistic mind. However, everyone still needs to know the truth and life that is in Jesus Christ, the only way to the Father.[2]

17 So he reasoned in the synagogue with the Jews and the devout persons, and in the marketplace every day with those who happened to be there.

The “so” says that Paul was not satisfied to leave each to their own idol. He knew what was true, and counterfeits would never do.

However, because he understood the differences between segments of their society, he reached out to various groups in distinctive ways. In this case, “the Jews and the devout persons” who already had a belief in God, he reasoned with them regarding the Scriptures, always seeking to show that Jesus of Nazareth was the promised Messiah, or Christ.[3] There were others in the marketplace, and so Paul reasoned with them as well.[4]

18 Some of the Epicurean and Stoic philosophers also conversed with him. And some said, “What does this babbler wish to say?” Others said, “He seems to be a preacher of foreign divinities”—because he was preaching Jesus and the resurrection.

Even within various groups, the audience could be divided in their opinions. What stands out is that, even with the thoroughly philosophical leaders of the day, Paul “was preaching Jesus and the resurrection.” We can well imagine the kinds of tangents people could have taken Paul on if he thought he had to reason with them on the basis of their philosophies and false religions.

However, Paul knew that all people were created by the same God, had offended the one true God, and had no other hope of escaping the just condemnation of their sins, except through Jesus Christ and his redemptive work. The greatest affirmation of Jesus’ ministry as the Messiah of Israel, and “the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world”,[5] is the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. This reality proves evolution wrong, philosophy wrong, religion wrong, and calls all people from everywhere to come into the kingdom of God through repentance and faith in Jesus Christ.

19 And they took him and brought him to the Areopagus, saying, “May we know what this new teaching is that you are presenting? 20 For you bring some strange things to our ears. We wish to know therefore what these things mean.” 21 Now all the Athenians and the foreigners who lived there would spend their time in nothing except telling or hearing something new.

This particular audience was characterized by a culture of needing to hear new stories. Of course, this was a cultural admission that the old stories were not satisfying the inner longings of their souls. Paul knew that Jesus called people to himself so he could give rest to their souls,[6] so it was a prime opportunity for Paul to give them the one story that would end all others.

22 So Paul, standing in the midst of the Areopagus, said: “Men of Athens, I perceive that in every way you are very religious.

I can see the way proponents of the evolutionary religion are “very religious” in their worship of naturalism as the cause of all we see around us. The issue is not how devout people are, but how true they are.

23 For as I passed along and observed the objects of your worship, I found also an altar with this inscription, ‘To the unknown god.’

The evolutionary religion presents naturalism as its altar to the unknown god. It marvels at how evolution could figure out so many amazing things to work together. Paul, of course, knew better.

What therefore you worship as unknown, this I proclaim to you.

Because naturalism has no means of measuring spiritual things, the god they worship is “unknown” to them. Because Paul was deeply immersed in spiritual things, he could proclaim to these people the identity and character of this unknown god. Paul was not agreeing that God was unknown, but meeting these people where they were in their admission of not knowing God.[7]

24 The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man, 25 nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything.

This presents the obvious, that the God who made all of space, time, and matter, does not relate to man with material needs of any kind. He, in fact, sustains material life from his spiritual realm.

26 And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place, 27 that they should seek God, and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him. Yet he is actually not far from each one of us, 28 for “‘In him we live and move and have our being’; as even some of your own poets have said, “‘For we are indeed his offspring.’

God has put it into the human heart to seek him, feel their way toward him, and find him, even though he “is actually not for from each one of us”. While naturalism can only think as far as something like SETI,[8] the vast history of world religions shows this to be true, that God has caused human hearts to want to find the one who created us (our Father). As another part of God’s Book reveals, “he has put eternity into man's heart.”[9]

29 Being then God's offspring, we ought not to think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone, an image formed by the art and imagination of man.

Even though we live in a universe of space, time, and matter, we cannot think that the true God who created us can be represented in material forms. No compilation of artistry can capture the spiritual realities of God in material forms.

30 The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent, 31 because he has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed; and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead.”

This points to the way God did something in the material realm to prove his place in the spiritual realm. By giving us his Son, presenting him as the sacrifice for sin, proving his death, and then proving his resurrection, these material expressions gave assurance of the spiritual realities in which they originate.

While this is a glorious message to those who receive it (Jesus’ resurrection gives us his eternal life), it is also a deadly level of accountability since God has already given us enough time to overlook our ignorance of him, and soon there will be that “fixed” day on which “he will judge the world in righteousness”.

As his Book says elsewhere, “For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse” (Romans 1:20). When Jesus returns, the whole world of naturalists, and skeptics, and false religions, will admit that they had no excuse for rejecting Jesus as the resurrected Christ.[10]

32 Now when they heard of the resurrection of the dead, some mocked.

Nothing new there. Mockers are easy to come by.

But others said, “We will hear you again about this.”

Even though this was a new message, and identified the accountability that their “unknown god” was really the most known and knowable God of all, and was accompanied by the usual mocking of the skeptics, some people heard something in this message that made them want to know more. Yes, there are still such people around today. The gospel will find them.

33 So Paul went out from their midst. 34 But some men joined him and believed, among whom also were Dionysius the Areopagite and a woman named Damaris and others with them.

This is the way of history since the coming of Jesus Christ into the world. Some mock, others are curious, and still others join because they believe what they hear.

It is also significant that, once Paul had shared the good news of the gospel with these people, he “went out from their midst.” This helps to put to rest the notion that Jesus wants his leaders to keep flogging a dead horse in the hope it will come to life. Paul knew that the power of God was in “the word of the cross”,[11] so he preached about Jesus and the resurrection so everyone had the opportunity to hear God’s invitation into eternal life.

My aim in writing my blog is to look for people who will join in Jesus’ name and believe the glorious message of Jesus’ death and resurrection. As we marvel at all the inter-relatedness in the universe around us, down to the inner workings of cells and molecules, we also see the inter-relatedness of the Book God has given, and the impossibly complex message of redemption.

While some see using the Bible as proof of God’s existence as circular reasoning, others (like me), see it as irrefutable evidence that the God who is spirit made a way to communicate with creatures bound up in space, time, and matter, so that the sheer complexity of history, and testimony, and prophecy, and fulfillment, and doctrine, are woven together in such a way that no collection of men (especially spread out over a period of fifteen centuries), could fabricate so many details into so many fulfillments.

The heavens continue to declare the glory of God in his creation,[12] and God’s Book continues to explain him to us in the finest of details. I know I will never stop the world from promoting its unknown god of naturalism. I am simply looking for those who feel the eternity in their hearts recognizing the voice of Jesus their Creator and Shepherd calling them home to the eternal love of their heavenly Father.

© 2016 Monte Vigh ~ Box 517, Merritt, BC, V1K 1B8 ~
Unless otherwise noted, Scriptures are from the English Standard Version (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers.)

[1] The whole episode is recorded in Acts 17:16-34
[2] John 14:6
[3] Both “Christ” in the Greek, and “Messiah” in the Hebrew, mean “anointed one”. These titles belong to the one God anointed, or commissioned, for the work of salvation he promised through the Prophets.
[4] In I Corinthians 9:19-23, Paul detailed how he adjusted his way of relating to whomever he was addressing, but with the common aim of winning people to Christ so they could share in the blessing of salvation.
[5] John 1:29
[6] Matthew 11:28-30
[7] As Ravi Zacharias said of Richard Dawkins book, the God Delusion, (as best I recall) that he also could not believe in the god Richard Dawkins could not believe in. In other words, no Christian believes in the god Richard Dawkins keeps describing as the God of the Book, since Richard Dawkins’ god, and the God of the Book, are not the same person.
[8] SETI = Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence. Of course, God’s intelligence is as extra-terrestrial as we can get! However, it is very sad that evolutionists and atheists are looking for signals from space that would have an orderliness to them that indicates intelligence, while denouncing all the orderliness of creation as proof of the supreme intelligence of God our Creator.
[9] Ecclesiastes 3:11
[10] In fact, Jesus said that the nations would mourn when they saw him returning (Matthew 24:29-31), and John described the horrifying way that people would call on the rocks and mountains to cover them when they see the look of God’s wrath in the face of Jesus Christ ( Revelation 6:12-17).
[11] I Corinthians 1:18
[12] Psalm 19:1

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