Sunday, April 15, 2007

Men of Athens!

In America, we revere the Gettysburg Address of Abraham Lincoln as one of the greatest short speeches ever delivered in this land. In only 278 words, Lincoln captured the purpose of the life, or so it seems to us today. He concluded with...

It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us -- that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion -- that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain -- that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom -- and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

But I submit to the Round Table that the true birth of freedom did not occur on that Pennsylvania battlefield, but on a hill far away, 18 centuries before. The apostle Paul gave an even greater speech on that freedom, and he required only 266 words.

"Men of Athens! I see that in every way you are very religious. For as I walked around and looked carefully at your objects of worship, I even found an altar with this inscription: TO AN UNKNOWN GOD. Now what you worship as something unknown I am going to proclaim to you.

"The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by hands. And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything, because he himself gives all men life and breath and everything else. From one man he made every nation of men, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live. God did this so that men would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from each one of us. 'For in him we live and move and have our being.' As some of your own poets have said, 'We are his offspring.'

"Therefore since we are God's offspring, we should not think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone—an image made by man's design and skill. In the past God overlooked such ignorance, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent. For he has set a day when he will judge the world with justice by the man he has appointed. He has given proof of this to all men by raising him from the dead."
- Acts 17:22-31

Even from the earliest days of Christian ministry, the preaching of the resurrection of Christ was offered as proof of God's justice and coming judgment. Many heard and believed, many more scoffed and turned away. And it has been so since man first walked as a creation of God. For..."There is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end it leads to death." Proverbs 14:12, 16:25

Millions of men of Athens have gone down to their death since that day on the Hill of Calvary, including all who fought in that battle near Gettysburg. Some now reside in eternal life with Christ, because they heard the message of Christ and believed. How blessed are those who believed, and shared the Good News of Christ!

Sir Chuck of the One True Battle


  1. In the past God overlooked such ignorance
    Does this imply a special arrangement for the heathen and the "erring"(Jews, Moslems, heretics, etc)who die in ignorance or honest error?
    Obviously there is only one way by which men might be saved-but perhaps the Catholics are right, in saying that does not necessarily imply Total Exclusivism. Of course given that God can make road-to-Damascus appaearances to people in the last momment of death one might say the difference is less important then one might presume. It is "appointed unto man once to die and after that the judgement"-but that is not definite support for Exclusivism(we don't even know if "die" was meant to imply physical death necessarily).
    It is a sticky argument. An Exclusivist is sticking to a difficult and very harsh doctrine for the sake of truth. At the same time it is a doctrine that draws suspicion on God's love. This is not because God's justice is different from ours but that it is greater. That is if it was totally alien, calling it justice or love would twist language. But it seems more likly that if we could recognize it we would see it as greater but akin just as a toy boat is akin to a clipper ship.
    Perhaps the most likly alternative is simply that God judges each individual according to the peculiar circumstance involved in his judgement, and therefore we are talking about something infinitely complex. Thus the hints about what judgement is, are just-hints. In any case we must neither despair of the salvation of others nor let hope lead us into the Pluralistic Heresy. We should keep hope but some things we are not given to know.

    Sir Jason

  2. .."There is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end it leads to death." Proverbs 14:12, 16:25

    It is an underestimation of the cunning of the devil, and an overestimation of the depravity of man to say that "other ways" don't have things in them that can attract an honest man. Even the Germans fought more for comradeship, pursuit of excellance, and patriotism then for the right to bully their neighbors(I have sometimes said that the Wehrmacht was the only place in Germany where there was any freedom left).
    It also goes the other way. "Other ways" though they can deceive, sometimes lead man to the right way . Remember the centurion who was lead by the code of Roman military discipline(I say to one come and he cometh...)? Moreover you can find(or think you find)in Other Ways uncanny things which look suspiciously like "signs and portents" that make one think the Holy Spirit works also on the unbeliver leading him if he will look.
    It is not true that there are many paths to God. There are however many maps and some are more accurate then others. What cannot be tolerated though is contradiction which goes against reason as well as faith. Perhaps it is more accurate-and more charitable-to say that "another way" is wrong when it contradicts Christ then simply to say it is wrong.

    Sir Jason

  3. The Men of Athens had long been dissatisfied with their rather childish gods(to be fair they were usually just childish rather then diabolical like some of the Near Eastern gods-though childish in a rather scary manner, as if a day care class got near infinite power).
    The phrase "We are the salt of the Earth" has a special meaning. Salt is not meant to drown the flavor of food but to bring it out. Likewise the "Salt of the Earth" brought out the good things in the cultures that accepted it, good things that were muted by human depravity.

    Sir Jason

  4. overestimation of the depravity of man

    Original Sin does not mean there is no good in man but that man has an inate tendancy to sin.

    Sir Jason

  5. Moreover you can find(or think you find)in Other Ways uncanny things which look suspiciously like "signs and portents" that make one think the Holy Spirit works also on the unbeliver leading him if he will look.
    Remember "the bizzbuzz of the Law".

    Another story I heard was of a Rabbi in The Camps who was lead to his death still telling others to "trust in God". I think he is in heaven, not because he denied Christ but because God heard his faith and led him to the right way. Or to paraphrase(somewhat extravegantly), "I have not seen such great faith, no not in Christiandom".

    Another bit of uncannyness was the Kamikaze wind that delivered Japan from the Mongols, and which leads one to think that God sometimes hears the prayers even of heathen. They at least knew they had been delivered even if they knew not whence the deliverance had come.

    Sir Jason

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