Summary: A message concerning the "reasonableness" of our faith.
Don’t Check Your Brain at the Door
(September 9, 2001)
One of the most often heard challenges to Christianity is that it is not a rational or intelligent religion.
Some people feel you have to be a bit on the slow side to believe that God would become a man, born of a virgin, then after dying a horrible death, to rise again, then rise to heaven in a cloud.
Our passage of Scripture refutes that assertion. Paul, an intellectual if there ever was one, meets some other intellectuals on their turf, and lays down a defense of God that leaves them spinning.
Please turn in your Bibles to Acts 17:16-34. If you are using the Bibles in the seats, this passage is found on page 785 (wrong in bulletin outline). I want us to explore three facts about God that Paul lays out to these people in Athens, and three responses we can have to these facts.
And in doing so, I want to encourage you that our faith is a reasonable one, and that you don’t have to check your brain at the door.
While Paul was waiting for them in Athens, he was greatly distressed to see that the city was full of idols. 17 So he reasoned in the synagogue with the Jews and the God-fearing Greeks, as well as in the marketplace day by day with those who happened to be there. 18
A group of Epicurean and Stoic philosophers began to dispute with him. Some of them asked, "What is this babbler trying to say?" Others remarked, "He seems to be advocating foreign gods." They said this because Paul was preaching the good news about Jesus and the resurrection. 19 Then they took him and brought him to a meeting of the Areopagus, where they said to him, "May we know what this new teaching is that you are presenting? 20 You are bringing some strange ideas to our ears, and we want to know what they mean." 21 (All the Athenians and the foreigners who lived there spent their time doing nothing but talking about and listening to the latest ideas.)
22 Paul then stood up in the meeting of the Areopagus and said: "Men of Athens! I see that in every way you are very religious. 23 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.
24 "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. 25 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. 26 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. 27 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. 28 `For in him we live and move and have our being.’ As some of your own poets have said, `We are his offspring.’
29 "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. 30 In the past God overlooked such ignorance, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent. 31 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."
32 When they heard about the resurrection of the dead, some of them sneered, but others said, "We want to hear you again on this subject." 33 At that, Paul left the Council. 34 A few men became followers of Paul and believed. Among them was Dionysius, a member of the Areopagus, also a woman named Damaris, and a number of others.
Let’s start off by looking at three facts about God, and the first is that…
I. God is more than a mere philosophy. (vv. 16-21)
In talking to these philosophers, Paul makes a point of distinguishing God from the idolatry and philosophies of the culture.
He’s not just another deaf and mute idol made of metal, wood, or stone.
He is beyond human comprehension.
The key verse here is verse 21:
(All the Athenians and the foreigners who lived there spent their time doing nothing but talking about and listening to the latest ideas.)