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. 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.
And they took him and brought him to the Areopagus, saying, “May we know what this new teaching is that you are presenting? For you bring some strange things to our ears. We wish to know therefore what these things mean.” Now all the Athenians and the foreigners who lived there would spend their time in nothing except telling or hearing something new.
So Paul, standing in the midst of the Areopagus, said: “Men of Athens, I perceive that in every way you are very religious. For as I passed along and observed the objects of your worship, I found also an altar with this inscription, ‘To the unknown god.’ What therefore you worship as unknown, this I proclaim to you. (Acts 17:16-23)
Some Important Questions
Does it really matter what someone believes about God? That is an extremely important question, and what I’ll do now is to give you a sound answer by turning to the Bible to see what the Lord has to say the subject. Another vital question we should be asking today is: When is the church visible going to stop letting the world tell it how to live? Sure the Willow Creeks and the Lakewoods and the Saddlebacks have many people in them; but the truly discerning Christian should rather be concerned about whether or not these people have actually found the Christ of the Bible and have been born again amidst all the worldly practices of these sinner-friendly Purpose Driven/Seeker Driven and postmodern Emerging/Emergent churches?
And so we must also ask: Why is it that the Christian is even attempting to walk in ways of harmony with this evil world system as does the sinfully ecumenical neo-liberal cult of the Emergent Church aka the Emerging Church? It’s now gone so far as to design a quasi-universalism in their new version of Progressive Christian theology under the spiritual circus “big tent” of the Liberalism 2.0 often referred to by these rebels against sola Scriptura as Emergence Christianity. So at this point we will do well to keep in mind that the Bible does emphatically state:
You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.
Or do you suppose it is to no purpose that the Scripture says, “He yearns jealously over the spirit that he has made to dwell in us”? 6 But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” (James 4:4-5)
Let’s turn to Acts 17 as we mull over the above questions, and focus specifically now on our main question in this article—Does What You Believe Really Matter? The events described here in our opening text from God’s Word above took place historically during Paul’s second missionary journey about 49 to 52 AD. At one time Greece was a mighty empire and Athens a great city known for its art, philosophy, and literature. However by the time of Paul’s arrival Athens had faded considerably; though it did still maintain a leading university, and was still well known for being the center of classic philosophical discussion.
In fact the great Bible commentator Matthew Henry informs us:
A scholar that is in love with the learning of the ancients would think he should be very happy if he were where Paul now was, at Athens, but Paul though bred a scholar, does not make this any of his business at Athens. He has other work to mind: his business is, in God’s name, to turn them from the service of idols to the service of the true and living God in Christ.”
The Reactions Of A Wise Man
Our Lord in His infinite wisdom sent a scholar of His own, the Apostle Paul, right into the very seat of contemporary scholarship in the ancient world, the city of Athens. A common misconception today is that in Paul’s time man was really not all that intellectual; but this was actually a time of great learning. It is interesting note here that so-called “modern” man fancies himself as so much wiser than these poor ignorant people in the first century. I wonder then, why is it that our western world is still so heavily influenced by these ancient Greek philosophers like Plato, Socrates, and Aristotle? And why is it that our leading intellectuals still bow down to them in worship before their sacred cow of philosophy?
As all this relates to the text in Acts 17, here’s how the New American Standard reads in verse 16 — Now while Paul was waiting for [Silas and Timothy] at Athens, his spirit was being provoked within him as he was observing the city full of idols. The NIV says that [Paul] was greatly distressed to see that the city was full of idols. The Greek word translated here as “greatly distressed” is paroxuno and carries with it the meaning of “provoked, pained, to stir to anger.” The theological term itself comes down to us from the Latin: really-ticked-off-i-cus. In other words, Paul was angry over the rampant idolatry and the prevailing philosophy of the day — “eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow you may die.”
Does that sound familiar? Well now, maybe you’ve heard it expressed this way: You only go around once in life—so go for the gusto! Or, how about: Just Do It; No Fear, Go For It. Or maybe you’re familiar with this one: Life Is Short-Play Hard, and other like phrases in so many of our contemporary ad campaigns from our would-be postmodern philosophers on Madison Avenue. E.H. Trenchard informs us that the ancient city of Athens was “a city notorious for its liking for ‘intellectual chat’… The Epicureans formed a philosophical school which thought of pleasure as the greatest good,…”; and then there’s this further bit of wisdom from Dr. Henry Morris, whose numerous writings about the creation/evolution debate earned him the title, “The Father of Modern Creationism.” Dr. Morris insightfully points out that, “In Paul’s day, the dominant humanistic philosophies were Gnosticism, Stoicism, Epicureanism, and others—all based on evolution.”
Remember, it’s a common misconception that modern man, and now postmodern man, thinks he is somehow superior to the allegedly ignorant people who lived in the first century. So I find myself wondering if we really are so much more intelligent and sophisticated now, then how is it we are raising a whole generation of television junkies addicted to “Reality TV,” and our society has now become enslaved by the pursuit of the very same things that caused the great civilization of Greece itself to implode? Do you seriously think that the inevitable “success” of the powerful homosexual lobby is not going to bring devastating consequences upon our countries; and even more so our churches?
The truly wise person would be prudent to give this subject some very serious prayerful consideration. As the words of this classic adage have never rung truer than for this sorry generation: Those who cannot learn from history are doomed to repeat it. One final key comment on Acts 17:16 by Matthew Henry — “[Paul] was filled with concern for the glory of God, which he saw given to idols, and with compassion to the souls of men, which he saw thus enslaved to Satan.” A few pertinent questions spring to mind: Why don’t we seem to be as concerned for the glory of God today? Where is our compassion for the lost? And why is it that now we can see so many so obviously following the “idols” of the theory of evolution and sexual immorality, and yet we ourselves appear not to be greatly distressed or even feeling our spirits being provoked within?
Who Speaks For Our Creator?
Yet while in the throes of a growing apostasy within the evangelical community, the ever-increasing number of Christians being swallowed up by the seeker-sensitive Church Growth Movement, perhaps too busy with their own Purpose Driven Life, say nothing as posers like Doug Pagitt and his friend Michael Dowd infiltrate the church with evolutionary hogwash. In his book The Battle For The Beginning Dr. John MacArthur begins to expose a major part of the reason why. So many who would claim to be Christian are losing their faith regarding the fact that God has directly created us in the first place. If we can come to understand this problem—then we will then be see how the whole creation/evolution debate has eroded belief in God to such a point that even professing Christians are losing their courage to be willing to stand for what the Bible actually says.
It seems ridiculous to say what I’m about to say, but it rings true in the Spirit; and in our hearts, so we dare to admit it: The church visible of our Lord—and not just here in America—has now become afraid of the world. MacArthur reveals a terrifying outlook for the future of this nation, and Christ’s church within it:
As humanity enters the twenty-first century, an even more frightening prospect looms. Now even the church seems to be losing the will to defend what Scripture teaches about human origins.
Now we would expect this denial of the Word of God from those who are nonbelievers. We really aren’t even all that surprised when professing Christians in dying mainline denominations like the Congregational Church; the Episcopal Church; and the United Methodist Church, all of which apostatized long ago, deny the clear text of the Bible. Because, as MacArthur tells us, the sinister Cult of Liberal Theology has:
long espoused theistic evolution. They have never been reluctant to deny the literal truth of Scripture on any issue. [But a destructive] new trend has also influenced some evangelicals who contend that it is possible to harmonize Genesis 1-3 with the theories of [evolution and] modern naturalism without doing violence to any essential doctrine of Christianity.”
However, did you know that even most Bible colleges and seminaries in this country have already compromised the Scriptures they say they believe in just to be compatible with the theory of evolution? And what a grave mistake we are making! To paraphrase Tertullian, a second century Church Father and polemicist: There will never be; there can never be; any agreement between Athens and Jerusalem. Tertullian uses Athens here as representing the zenith of man’s wisdom, contrasting it with Jerusalem, which represents the wisdom of Almighty God. MacArthur then states a sad fact when he says, “More and more [evangelicals] are embracing the view known as ‘old-earth creationism,’ which blends some of the principles of biblical creationism with naturalistic and evolutionary theories, seeking to reconcile two opposing world-views.”
It has now gotten even worse; consider the aforementioned Michael Dowd, who’s receieving a boost from EC luminaries like Pagitt and fellow universalist Spencer Burke, as well as Living Spiritual Teacher and EC grand guru Brian McLaren. In fact, on one of his recent radio programs Pagitt gushed of Dowd, “I like what he’s up to…he’s written a book called, Thank God for Evolution.” Actually I have both books Michael Dowd has written and here’s a sampling of the lunacy in the Lord’s Name that he spews, and these EC leaders help him promote. In a sermon called Evolutionize Your Life: Heaven Is Coming Home to Reality, which he “preached” at a spiritual blackhole called C3 Exchange Dowd tells us our sinful nature is actually a good, and quite necessary, thing:
[F]rankly, I don’t know of any Christian, Muslim, or Jew, that is genuinely appreciative of their sinful nature; and yet, that’s what an evolutionary understanding gives us. Is we can have appreciation [of it].
Obviously, we don’t need a crucified, and risen, Savior for that. And Dowd also shares the following evolutionary revelation concerning “God” in his article Evolutionize Your Life: Heaven Is Coming Home to Reality:
God is not a person; God is a sacred personification of one or more deeply significant dimensions of reality. If we miss this we miss everything! (Online source)
Thinking Isn’t Illegal—Yet
So you can see, if we were ever in it, we’ve now left the Christian building completely. The question you need to be asking is: Why would professing Christians wish to work with someone teaching this spiritual skubalon, which obliterates the need for the Gospel, and that has absolutely nothing to do with the one true and living God of the Bible? What are we saying; bottom line: Any way you slice it this is a horrid compromise of what God clearly said in the Bible. Now I ask you to carefully consider this: Can you think of one time in the history of His dealings with mankind—just one time that the LORD Almighty, Creator of Heaven and earth; the God of Biblical revelation ever—ever blessed men when they compromised His Word? And do we seriously think that He’s about to start now?
A couple of very significant questions to which men who have been aligned with this centered on the self (cf. 2 Timothy 3:2) Church Growth Movement such as C. Peter Wagner and Rick Warren, as well those in the Emerging Church section e.g. EC rock star pastor Rob Bell and Dan Kimball had best give much prayerful thought. In closing this out, for now, let me share one last thing from The Battle For The Beginning. MacArthur hits the issue dead on target when he writes:
It is therefore a serious mistake to imagine that modern scientists can speak more authoritatively than Scripture on the subject of origins… Scripture is God’s own eyewitness account of what happened in the beginning.”
Can you see why this gross compromise and acquiescence to our fickle postmodern culture has had such a profound impact upon the historic orthodox Christian faith in this nation? The fact is that the average person today who visits one of these pragmatic people-pleasing churches in the various branches of the Church Growth Movement has already been affected, in varying degrees, that the profane and vain babblings, and oppositions of science falsely so called (cf. 1 Timothy 6:20, KJV) has somehow proven that the Bible is an unreliable source upon which to base one’s faith. And, if the visible church of Jesus Christ no longer has the intestinal fortitude that’s required to defend Holy Scripture against these eternally fatal and erroneous beliefs, then people are never going to find the Jesus Christ of Biblical rvelation in these user-friendly social clubs no matter how “missional” and seeker-sensitive they may be.
 Dr. Leslie Church, Ed., Matthew Henry’s Commentary [Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1999], 1705, emphasis his.
 F.F. Bruce, Ed., New International Bible Commentary [Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1999], 1298.
 Henry M. Morris, The Biblical Basis for Modern Science [Green Forest: Master Books, 2002], 114, emphasis mine.
 Henry, op. cit., 1705.
 John MacArthur, The Battle For The Beginning [Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2001], 17.
 Ibid., 18.
 See transcript at http://tiny.cc/nxthx, accessed 2/1/11.
 MacArthur, op.cit., 23.