Tag Archives: Apologetics

Did Paul Really Fail in Mars Hill?


Apostle Paul’s address to Athenians in Areopagus Hill (“the Roman equivalent is Mars Hill”) is one of the well-known passages (Acts 17:22-34) to his readers. Some see Paul’s rhetoric for the risen Christ among Athenians in Mars Hill as his total failure. They claim that Paul never opted to use rhetoric that appeals to the intellect thereafter. They see no place of apologetics or have lowly view on need of apologetics in the evangelistic ministry thus are quick to discredit it on the basis that Paul could not win many and plant there a local church. Is it really true that Paul failed miserably in Athens and never was apologetic in other places that he later preached and planted the churches?

Firstly, we have to remember that Paul had no plan to stay extensively in Athens and preach there. He was forced to leave Macedonia to escape persecution. There he was waiting for Timothy and Silas to join him from Berea (Acts 17:14) and then travel to Corinth. While waiting for them in Athens, Paul could not contain himself from preaching after seeing the rampant idolatry of Athenians. Those idols were dedicated to different gods and goddesses to appease them so that no bad omen would fall up on them. Idolatry is one of the prime issues he addresses in his epistles. In fact, Athens was named after a goddess, Athena, in her honour.

Secondly, the Athenian Council of Ares which had the full control of affairs in the city, silenced Paul immediately after he mentioned the risen Christ from the dead in his address to the council. Some of them thought that Paul was preaching a foreign god. They probably mistakenly understood Anastasis (“resurrection”) for the goddess consort of a god named Jesus, because the “resurrection” is in the feminine gender while Jesus is in the masculine gender.

For Athenians, the resurrection could have never happened. Paul’s proclamation of the resurrection account was the utter foolishness. Five hundred years earlier, their own tragic poet Aeschylus (525-456 BC) claimed in the same Athenian Council of Ares, “When the dust has soaked up a man’s blood, once he is dead, there is no resurrection” (Eumenides 647-48). Therefore, Paul seemed to be a mere babbler, who had not knowledge of his own but learned things from other people without understanding and made his own, to them. That caused commotion among them which led to a sudden dismissal of the council.

Finally, Paul was not legally free to continue teaching in the city, since the council had not taken any action to approve Paul to do what he wanted to do – teaching or reasoning with Jews and God-fearing Gentiles everyday in synagogues as well as in agora. It was the forum and marketplace of the city which happened to be the centre of Athenian life. All he could do in Athens was to wait for receiving legal protection or permission from the council to teach or move on to Corinth.

Having laid these three reasons, we cannot label his brief mission work in Athens as a complete failure, as Dionysius, the Areopagite who was also a member of the Council of Ares, a woman named Damaris and others with them believed the message and joined Paul. Given the little opportunity to preach the gospel in an unusual circumstance also he had to leave without finishing his preaching, Paul did, in fact, win some. He adapted himself to the context and the audience he was preaching to, just as he talked about it later to the church of Corinth: “To the Jews I became as a Jew, in order to win Jews. To those under the law I became as one under the law (though not being myself under the law) that I might win those under the law. To those outside the law I became as one outside the law (not being outside the law of God but under the law of Christ) that I might win those outside the law…. I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some. I do it all for the sake of the gospel, that I may share with them in its blessings.” (1 Corinthians 9:20-23 NIV). Thus, his work in Athens cannot be labelled or talked about as a failure in light of all the reasons presented above.

For more readings on Paul’s address to the Athenian Council in Athens, you may read my previous post.

Sources:

1. Gaebelein, Frank E., Merrill C. Tenney, and Richard N. Longenecker. The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: John and Acts. Vol. 9. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1981.

2. Utley, Robert James. Luke the Historian: The Book of Acts. Vol. Volume 5. Study Guide Commentary Series. Marshall, Texas: Bible Lessons International, 1999.

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Saturday Quote: William Lane Craig on Apologetics


“Like a missionary called to reach an obscure people group, the Christian apologist is burdened to reach that minority of persons who will respond to rational argument and evidence…. This people group, though relatively small in numbers, is huge in influence. One of these persons, for example, was C.S. Lewis. Think of the impact that one man’s conversion continues to have! I find that the people who resonate most with my apologetic arguments tend to be engineers, people of medicine, and lawyers. Such persons are among the most influential in shaping our culture today. So reaching this minority of persons will yield a great harvest for the kingdom of God.”[1]

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Reference

William L. Craig, On Guard (Colorado Springs: David C. Cook, 2010), 22-23.

Lecture: Amy Orr-Ewing on “Language has no fixed meaning – Can the Bible say anything?”


Amy Orr-Ewing is an evangelist, apologist and Training Director for the RZIM Zacharias Trust as well as Director of Programs for the Oxford Center for Christian Apologetics. She earned her Masters Degree in Theology at King’s College, London. She has also authored two books exploring key questions in apologetics: Why Trust the Bible?, and But Is It Real? She has contributed to the books Beyond Opinion, God and the Generations and Worth Knowing: Wisdom for Women.

Amy travels worldwide to speak and lecture on Christian Apologetics at many churches, conferences, and universities, including at events such as Keswick Convention, and the European Leadership Forum, Hungary.

In this lecture, Amy addresses the issue “Language has no fixed meaning – Can the Bible say anything?”

Click here to listen to audio mp3

Institution of the Lord’s Supper and the Upper Room Discourse


Jesus’ Last Supper with His Disciples and Intimate Discourse in the Upper Room on the day he was arrested.

Historical Background:

The Gospel of Matthew is entitled to the Apostle Matthew. He is one of Jesus’ twelve disciples. The early church fathers suggested indisputably Matthew as the author of the book. But in the recent time, there are many questions raised over the authorship of the book. The author has not imprinted his name; neither does the book clearly identify its author. Matthew also has not claimed to be the author. To be meticulous, the Gospel of Matthew is fundamentally anonymous.

Indeed, one of the major Greek manuscripts has the title “According to Matthew,” yet, it is not sure if the original document bears the same title. J. Knox Chamblin wonders that the title did not belong to the original documents, because modern day findings of the first century history reveal that the subscribed title was originated no later than 140 A.D.[1]

The Matthew could not have been written earlier than 40 A.D. and after A.D. 100. Bearing some first century historical events and writings of the early Church Fathers in our mind, we can safely put the gospel of Mathew in around A.D. 70. Since the first of four gospels, “Mark cannot be earlier than A.D. 40, for Caligula’s attempt to profane the temple is reflected in ch. 13; John, the latest of the Gospels, cannot be dated long after the year 100, for a papyrus fragment of it, found in upper Egypt, has been assigned to the second century by competent papyrologist.”[2] When we try to date in between 40 to 100, the most likely result would be around A.D. 65-70. Elwell and Yarbrough affirm that the A.D. 70 is the most certainly correct.[3] Continue reading Institution of the Lord’s Supper and the Upper Room Discourse

Nietzsche’s Perspective: Rejection of All Objective Values


Friedrich Nietsche (sekitar 1875).
Friedrich Nietsche (sekitar 1875). (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

As the world is advancing in this millennium, the words of German Philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche – “God is dead” – are still echoing louder than ever before in the history of our time. This statement has been notably his widely known and esteemed remark on religions, especially organized and rational religion such as Christianity. His blatant pronouncement of death of God necessarily does not reflect literal sense of God as a living being once lived and died; however, he meant Christian God to be dead. When God is dead, all the universal ethical moral values of human life and the objective truth of the universe also follows suit which leaves a man to replace God in order to become god himself.

Continue reading Nietzsche’s Perspective: Rejection of All Objective Values