Engaging the Religion Worshiping at the Altar of the “Unknown God”

“So Paul stood in the midst of the Areopagus and said, Men of Athens. I observe you are very religious in all respects. For while I was passing through and examining the object of your worship, I also found an altar with this inscription, ‘TO AN UNKNOWN GOD.’ Therefore what you worship in ignorance, this I proclaim to you.”
~ Acts 17:22-23

I have been spending some of my devotional time in Acts 17 and interacting with Paul’s encounter with the Greek philosophers on Mars Hill. Many of you know that this chapter in Acts is Paul’s Gospel polemic to the Greek intellect of his day, the Stoics and the Epicureans.

The Stoics were of the hard, skeptic, non emotional type where feelings were not of great importance. They would be along the lines of our skeptics of this day where reason is “king.”  The Epicureans were rooted in the pleasure and experience to find some kind of meaning and purpose in life. These folks would be along the lines of the hedonist and the existentialists of this day.

As I just mentioned that we have both of these ideologies and a mixture of them in our culture today. Looking at these two verses there are a few take aways I would like to bring forth to our minds.

First, we need to remember that man is a religious creature. Just as the Apostle Paul discerned and understood the fact that the local philosophy club of Epicureans and Stoics were very religious with all their altars lining the way to the place where he would give his polemic. They had altars to all their deities and one to a deity they had no clue about.

Was there a god that they truly did not know the name of? America has lost its moral footing to where we have forgotten the God that made her great.  But there is a second take away from this passage.

Friends, we need to understand that people are religious by their very nature and that they will try to create a god to assuage the moral conscience, all the while continuing to test the bend-ability of the moral boundaries.  Let’s look at the next take away.

Second, we need to be aware of the culture’s “deities.” There are some major fronts forming like a perfect storm that the church and we as apologists need to address with the sole goal of engaging them with the good news of Jesus Christ.  Like the Athenians our culture is not much different when it comes to the secular gods in America.

The altars of the secular city take on a different name and label:  scientism, narcissism, hedonism, immoral and gender issues, materialism, greed, naturalism, world religions, and cults.  But then there is another “altar” to the “Forgotten God” of the American sitz en lieben.

If we are not careful, America will become a by word, and the church in America will become insignificant. Our nation and our world is becoming weirder and weirder.  We need to be sober minded and ready to give the gospel truth to those who ask for the reason why we hope in Christ.

These are sobering days, but they are exciting days. It is time to understand that our evangelism needs to be undergirded by apologetics; our preaching needs to be dovetail not just with what the passage says, means and how it applies.  Preaching today also needs to be bathed with “how then shall we live application, because if you don’t the culture will.  And with 75-88% of our kids 18-22 years old are walking away. Also we are now hearing that young adults are asking whether or not what is being preached on Sunday mornings from the pulpits is actually relevant to our lives.

As I interact with college students, know that I am praying for you who are pastors reading this.  We are in an ideological war.  Let’s stand together. Let’s stand firm and go out and give them Heaven.


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