Mars Hill Offensive | Part 1: Wordly Wisdom

I’ve often heard over the years that God’s Word is the only thing we need to reach a lost world. If people are receptive to it, or would otherwise call themselves church goers or religious, I can see the appeal in that statement. What about those that don’t prescribe to a certain religion or to a philosophical view of God? Or how about those that see the Bible as irrelevant to them, just plain fake or created to control mankind?

The Apostle Paul ran into this exact issue when He visited Athens during His ministry. Greece has a long history of being the philosophical capital for the world, especially Athens and even under Roman rule, this was no different. While preaching in the markets to the Jews and the Gentiles, some philosophers approached him. These philosophers were Stoic and Epicurean (Acts 17:18) and had never heard of Jesus, the one true God, or the resurrection. You see both of those schools of philosophical thought are ironically extreme opposites looking for the same goal (which is probably why they were together, for discussion). 

Epicureanism is a sad ideology which has gripped the modern world. We can see it in our book stores, on television and in the types of businesses and events that are run. Epicureanism advocates that hedonism will save you from pain and anxiety and the needless fear of death and the gods. Basically they prescribe that pleasure is our salvation from all of the horrible things that happen to us and around us. Our current world tells us that we need to put “me first” and that we “need” to shop for things, we have bars filled with alcohol that encourage drunkenness, we have clubs that encourage promiscuity, and we have the internet that encourages everything else. 

Paul saw the danger of this ideology, and no doubt was slightly perturbed that it existed still, even 400 years after Epicurus (the founder) lived. However, there was another group that was with them and they were equally dangerous. Not that they encouraged blatant sin in order to cure the pains of this world, no, the Stoics advocated for much different; however, the Stoics had a lot of things right about the world as well and Paul used that to his advantage. 

Stoicism: A quick overview

Stoicism comes from the greek word Stoa, or painted porch where the founder of the philosophical school of thought, Zeno of Cyprus, would teach. True to the modern epithet of “Actions speak louder than words”, the Stoics believed that a person’s behavior in relation to external stimuli was more important than their words. On a physical plane, they held that everything that was real was material. On a metaphysical level, they taught there was a logos

If that word sounds familiar to you, it should. In John 1:1 we read “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” The word “Word” is translated from the Greek word “logos”, meaning “reason”. This is extremely important to consider that not only are the stoics on the same page-ish as Christians, but God has allowed them to deduce through their worldly wisdom, that God exists and through Him everything was created. 

See, the Stoics were philosophical decendents of Socrates and Socrates was a student of Plato (supposedly, but that’s for a different discussion). Plato also had another famous student, Aristotle. (Now, you’re all getting upset because I’m bringing back high school geometry and this isn’t what you signed up for.) Aristotle wrote, in the 12th book of Metaphysics this quote, And life also belongs to God; for the actuality of thought is life, and God is that actuality; and God’s self-dependent actuality is life most good and eternal. We say therefore that God is a living being, eternal, most good, so that life and duration continuous and eternal belong to God; for this is God”

WOW, this is one of the most intelligent philosophers to ever live, and he understood that the pantheon is wrong, all the Greek myths were false and over it all proclaimed there is only one God and HE IS GOOD. 

So we know that these Stoics understood that A). There is a single God and B.) Not only is there a God but He is the active reason that created all of the material in the world. 

But why did I say their philosophy is equally as dangerous as the hedonistic Epicureans? They believed they didn’t need God and that they could overcome the pains of this life themselves. They believed all emotion was equally threatening to their existence and in the process of wanting peace they only relied on themselves.

Paul’s arrival to Mars Hill

Paul as a person, was well educated not only in human doctrine (such as the philosophies listed above), but also in the laws, prophets and history of the Jews. Not only had He searched the scriptures and seen that His Savior was Christ the Lord, but He was personally visited by the Lord a few times after His miraculous conversion. 

So when Paul arrived to this hill that had alters to all the gods, he stopped to look at one. It was interesting because it said “To the unknown god”. Paul siezed this opportunity to explain that this God, whom they didn’t know, was the only God. I find this especially ironic since the Stoics and Epicureans initially accused him of speaking of a “foreign god” (Acts 17:18), which they were in reality worshipping a foreign god all this time. 

Paul made sure he was well versed in their ideology before he spoke to these intelligent men. He knew of their teachers and understood what they were taught. As Christians, which this blog is aimed at, we need to make sure we are aware who our audience is, what they believe, and know how to counter it. Sometimes early on in the conversation that requires us to relay our knowledge of their beliefs before even bringing up the Bible. If we study not only the scriptures but other ideas that challenge what we believe, not only will that refine our faith but give us the tools to give the gospel effectively. 

Society’s Assumptions | But you don’t act like a Christian

I have a question for all those that may read this that aren’t Christians. Have you ever accused someone of “Not being a Christian”, because they didn’t measure up to your idea of what a Christian should be like? Our society today tends to have an idea of what a Christian may be in their heads. They think we should be meek, quiet, naive people without an opinion and if we have an opinion they stand at the ready to cross-check that with an out of context verse or two. We have fact checkers everywhere these days, and many times they have been wrong. 

But if I asked you personally, as a Christian, “what would a Christian look like”, would you have an answer?

Many don’t. Many think even after salvation that going to Church, reading their Bible and trying to be good is all that matters in Christianity. But do we honestly think that just because we have salvation that our earthly deeds matter more? Do you think they please God because we went to a soup kitchen, or fed the poor, or went out of our way to volunteer at an animal shelter?

No it doesn’t. Isaiah 64:6 tells us simply “We have all become like one who is unclean,

    and all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment.” The question then becomes: well if that’s the case why should anyone do anything “good”?

We all can do good but we have to do it in God’s time and what He wants us to do. Later down the chapter Isaiah goes into further detail concerning how we are to act with respect to how God wants us to act. Verse 8 has Isaiah replying to God “But now, O Lord, you are our Father; we are the clay, and you are our potter; we are all the work of your hand.” If we’re not moved by the Spirit to do something, everything else is in vain. Sure, we can do good things to have our testimony reach people, but if God doesn’t specifically instruct us to do it, it is through our own power and not His. 

Back to the original question, “What would a Christian look like?”. Isaiah made a point that will continue on for the rest of the post. In his reply to God, he tell Him that he is like clay and wants to be molded to fit God’s idea for his ministry and for his nation. As Christians, we should ask the same. And the Apostle Paul agrees while also giving us a list of things that should naturally come out of us if we are in fellowship with our Lord. 

This is generally known as the fruit of the spirit and these fruits are : love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, patience, gentleness and self-control. We should all show these daily in every conversation and interaction. Even then, however, people will pick apart (especially online) everything we say or do. So what else are we to look at about how a Christian should act?

Paul also tells us a hallmark of a true Christian is the following: Love good, Love one another, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord, Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, constantly in prayer, bless everyone, do not repay evil with evil, do everything with honor, try to live peaceably with everyone to the best of our ability, and finally, leave all vengence to God. 

These are what we are commanded as Christians on how to live. There are no laws against the fruit of the spirit or the list Paul wrote above in Romans 12. Our way to following what God would have for us, is to be good and move through life with as little strife as possible. We are to seek peace, as our God is the God of peace. In the case we do find ourselves in strife (as we are fallible human beings), we are to act in a way that no one can fault us except our adversary. 

Finally, I’ll ask one more time, and I will give an answer no one will like. “What does a Christian look like?”.

A Hypocrite. 

Yes, a Christian looks like a hypocrite. As R.C. Sproul once said “We are not sinners because we sin, we sin because we are sinners.” Salvation doesn’t change any of that, salvation doesn’t make one perfect, it doesn’t stop anyone from being fallible. It simply gives us a hope and a relationship with our Creator. As much as we try to “be good”, or display the fruits of the spirit or attempt to follow Paul’s lead or love God and our neighbors, we are going to fail. 

THAT’S OK.

When we do, we know God is faithful and just to forgive us of our sins (1 John 1:9). That is what salvation is for! Because we are imperfect. Jesus died so that we may one day attain perfection in Heaven. Christ didn’t die for perfect people -because honestly there aren’t any- He died for people who are going to screw up, who are going to make bad choices, who are going to come crawling back because they thought they could do something themselves. That doesn’t mean anything I said is “ok” or right, it just means I’m being realistic. 

So what now? Let the world just rip us apart? Yes, because they’ll hate us just as much as they hated Christ. They don’t know how a Christian should act, they simply tell us how they think a Christian should act. We, as Christians, follow a book that is ancient, that was given to us by an omnipotent and all-knowing God. I would rather follow what that guidebook has to say about how I should act versus what someone says they think I should act. At the end of my life, I will not be answering to them, but both of us will be answering to God. 

Society’s Assumptions | Christianity = Spiritualism?

I was sitting with a friend the other day, whom many may define as a good person.  He told me “You know Mike, I’m not sure I could have gone through what you’ve gone through without your Spirituality, It’s a good thing you have it.” This is interesting, simply because I don’t consider myself a spiritual person. I don’t consider Christianity, God, Christ, good or evil spiritual things. I consider them just as tangible as you or I. The reason I believe in God is the same reason I believe in trees, or water, or the sky, no I can’t touch him, but I can see His work. I can’t hear Him, yet I can read His words. I can’t see him, but He knows where I go. 

Likewise, Christ was a real man. He is still God. Many of historians from antiquity have written about Christ and the Christians or “followers of Christ”, so I know He isn’t just a myth. The same can be said for good and evil. Human beings, since the beginning of time, have considered whether there is good and evil, and what that looks like. They question such things as “Are humans substantially more evil than good?”, “Can people choose good without a benefit?”, or my favorite “Why is there evil if there is a benevolent, all-powerful, diety?”. 

Dictionary.com gives us more modern interpretations of words and how they are used colloquially or in other words, as common words in  conversation. The site defines “Spiritual” in definition 6 as “of or relating to the spirit as the seat of the moral or religious nature.” And I would have to agree in this use of the word, as many people, especially my age may define themselves as “Spiritual, but not religious”. As a Christian, I should be neither spiritual nor religious in my beliefs. If I define Christianity as a tangible faith, then how could either of those (religious or spiritual) bring me closer to my Creator? 

Neither of them can. Religion, is a system made of rituals and practices associated with worship. Christians should not practice religion. God doesn’t require us to sing or do anything except love him. As I went over in my love series, that means being the best ambassador of Heaven on Earth. We are to study about Him and read His word. We are to pray and talk to Him, just like any relationship, and we can embark on artistic ventures about Him if we want to, in order to worship him, such as music or artwork; however, if we aren’t talented like that, we should worship Him with diligence in doing “all to the glory of God.” (1 Cor 10:13)

God doesn’t even require us to have corporate worship, we however are commanded to gather with likeminded believers as that encourages us in our faith, but that doesn’t mean we have to go to church. God requires a personal relationship with us first, and then by that relationship we will want to spend time worshipping and fellowshipping with other like minded individuals. 

So what’s the issue with someone calling us Spiritual? It seems harmless doesn’t it? It’s all about pluralism. Pluralism allows someone to serve two masters. It separates innate curiosity of the divine from the animalistic instincts that keep us from perfection. It allows us to follow man-made principles in satisfactory fashion allowing for our superficial concern over eternity to be quenched, but also allows for humanity to continue endulging in vices, questionable morals, and blatant rebellion without much consequence if any. People who are spiritual may believe in “God” as a higher power, but also subject themselves to eastern ideas such as Karma and Nirvana. They may even call themselves Christian, but when tasked with explaining their faith they can’t expound on it much more than being raised in a church. 

People who are Spiritual consider themselves good people, and they have a morality that they believe to be right; Christians on the other hand cannot consider themselves to be good people, because we know we aren’t deserving of the title as sinners.

The whole point of this blog is to pierce right through what the church has neglected in so many years. Churches have gotten hung up on being “Spiritual” focusing on music, worship teams, and nice messages about how being good will please God, and following God’s rules make you a good Christian. As Christians we really need to take a stand against what society thinks of us and correct them. We are not spiritual, we simply serve a very real being who cannot be seen because of His holiness, who cannot be touched but can change lives in a very real way, and cannot be heard but has written down His word in a guidebook for our lives. 

We are Christians, because we follow the Son of the being, known as God, who was sent to tell us exactly how His Father thinks, as He and the Father are one. We don’t follow Him because of His good ideas, or His compassion, or His Death. We follow Him because He is God. 

Out of all this, the takeaway is Christianity isn’t spiritual, it’s not religious, it’s faith; a faith that is very real based on personal experience with a divine being who reached out to choose us to love Him and follow His plan on this Earth. While other religions espouse that they received their words from angels or men, We and our Jewish brethren are the only ones who can say we’ve received word directly from God himself. 

Apologetics | Train up a child

I think I’m on a dad blog kick here, I hate to say it, but it’s extremely easy to model my posts after my child. She does things right, she does things wrong and often she does things that just don’t make sense. I’m sure we’re similar to God in that aspect, He shakes his head at a lot of what we do, or doesn’t understand why we do things. Unfortunately, that’s not what this post is about, really. It’s about Apologetics, or more conversely training our children to understand the “Whys” behind our faith.

See, when I was growing up, going through Christian school, church and Wednesday night youth group, I understood what was right and wrong, I understood the Bible stories and I understood what God expected of me, but I didn’t understand the “Why”. This (after a very long winding path, that I may or may not get to) has led me to finally getting into and studying apologetics.

In his book, Love your God with all your Mind, Moreland makes a salient point that after the Great Revival in the United States we lost our intellectual curiosity surrounding Christianity. See, prior to 1850 really, local pastors, lay preachers and the clergy in general were extremely educated men. They were often Doctors, Lawyers, Philosophers that were primarily Christians. Many of our church fathers were also educated as well. Many Apostles were educated or had become educated after Christ’s return to Heaven, Paul being a roman citizen was extremely educated and Peter, being only a fisherman’s son, became educated in Rome after the resurrection as well.

Christianity is the only faith on Earth that tells us to continuously question our leaders, pray and read, and to find God in His perfect systems through science, math, logic, reason and our own studies on philosophy, civility and government. Somewhere after the Great Revival, but before Darwin’s explosive report on evolution and his theories surrounding it, we found an intellectual Fischer in Christianity. No, it wasn’t that our clergy were illiterate, it was the people they were preaching to stayed but infants in the faith.

I’ve spoken about it before, but this is how our faith, what was once taken as truth for over a thousand years in the west, became relegated to simply personal opinion. Science, and the human fallibility ingrained within the discipline, became the new religion. It would slowly take hold among the brightest minds and infiltrate to the smallest children throughout the 20th century. Now, I am not saying science is bad, or is a conspiracy. I’m not crazy, as stated before God expects us to study His systems on earth so we can learn and enjoy more and more is wonders. Theoretical and Philosophical sciences should not be taught en masse, however. Those soft sciences were the issues and have created hosts of problems over the years.

So what was the point of explaining all of this? I had my daughter homeschooled last year due to my local school system not having a concrete plan for handling the pandemic (virtual or not, what’s the difference etc.) and I used the Abeka Academy brand of homeschooling for kindergarten. I absolutely loved it, it was fantastic to work with them and my daughter loved it too. Fast forward to two nights ago, and after getting some ice cream after her first day of “real school”, my daughter tells me, “Dad, I really like school, but there’s an issue. They don’t talk about God there.”

Unfortunately having a theological, philosophical, and political discussion over the constitution wasn’t in the plan for a school night with a six-year-old, so I brushed it off a bit. That night though I began to think that she needed something to reinforce her faith, and also that would tell her the “why” behind her faith. Our children are being inundated with constant attacks from a secular society that tells them the right thing is what God says is wrong. The obfuscation further persists when these are brought to society as legal acts to the mind of a child (or an adult). While teaching them about the Bible and even creation is all well and good, it never gets them to a point where they can see why someone else isn’t held to the same standard as they are.

Now, we’re getting to the point of the matter. I know as a child and seeing my own child do this, it is extremely frustrating to watch as another child gets to behave or do something that is strictly against what she is being taught. Much like us as Christians we have to grapple with a world that tells us what we believe is wrong on a daily basis by people that are richer, more powerful and frankly more insulated than we are. We sometimes want to look at God and point to the other person and say “BUT THEY’RE ALLOWED TO!”, and that’s where the kicker is. See, on Earth we belong to one of two adoptive parents. We are either the children of the creator or the children of the destroyer. Children of God or Children of the Devil. The Devil is like the parent that praises their children no matter what they do, they make excuses for them, they hide them when they’ve done wrong. God is like a parent that carefully instructs His children unto perfection or as close as possible. He expects us to use everything in order for us to want Him to be proud.

Nowadays what is the more common parent? What do we see? Parents today aren’t taught to discipline their children or to expect anything more from them. We are taught to always take their feelings into consideration no matter how asinine it may be, and to always try to accommodate the child -a child who looks up to us as parents- it’s literally the blind leading the blind.

However, we know what happens when the child inevitably points at the other kid and goes “Why can’t I do that too?”, the next sentence is “BUT THAT’S NOT FAIR.” I guess the point of all this, and it wasn’t really meant to be a moral of the story type post, but more to get you thinking type post, the point is how do we stop our kids from asking the first question in the first place. Now you’re all telling me Good luck Michael I have 3 kids and I still can’t stop them from asking that. Maybe we even ask ourselves that sometimes, but we stop ourselves from voicing it. That’s what I want from our children, I want them to know the “Why” before they even ask why they can’t do it. If they know the “why”, even though something may seem completely unfair, they won’t have to ask the question because they will already know the answer. And that’s how we will raise a generation that can stand firm on the truth.

If you all have any apologetics for kids study guides (Preferably primary ages) or tips and tricks I’d love to hear it. As much as I enjoy writing deep series and philosophical arguments for adults, children baffle me sometimes on their comprehension, so I would rather work on this from another author’s angle.

1. What is Love // Man’s Purpose on this Earth

Do you have a dog?

And now you’re all reading this asking if I mistakenly posted that previous sentence. I really meant to ask, “do you have a dog?”

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2. What is Love // Society’s Bastardization of Love

Imagine you are walking to a baseball game. Many times cities do not have adequate parking for their spectators, so the fans have to park all over the city. During the walk to the game, you see a lot of different things. First, you might see a single man selling “PEANUTS! HOT DOGS! GET YOUR HOTDOGS!”. Second, you may see a couple selling their wares, probably a t-shirt or a 3 for 1 hat deal with your favorite team on them. Finally, you most likely will see a panhandler asking for money.

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3. What is Love // The Three Types of Love

With love’s light wings did I o’erperch these walls,

For stony limits cannot hold love out

Romeo and Juliet (2.2)

Ah, love. We are finally arriving at what Love is, correct? Right? We’re finally getting there. Especially after the last post derided society’s view of love, surely a man such as Shakespeare can show us what love is, right?

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4. What is Love // Man’s defiance of True Love

Michelangelo di Lodovico Buonarroti Simoni was a sculptor and artist born in 1475 in Italy. While many know of him, his works have lasted hundreds of years and were commissioned by many very wealthy individuals in medieval Italy. One of his most famous works on display at L’Accademia in Florence is the David. It stands at 17 ft tall and is a marvel at the study of human anatomy and replication of that anatomy. This creation was done out of love and admiration, which Michaelangelo had toward design, biblical history, and the male form. 

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4.5 What is Love // Intermission

We’ve gone over four posts so far overlooking the human ideas of love. I hope and pray I’ve been able to lay out each of these topics for you adequately. I wanted to do a cumulative exercise showing how they all fit together. As I was writing the posts, I realized that they each said what they needed to say; I don’t think they actually portrayed the proper idea and gravity of the situation in total. 

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5. What is Love // Something Extraordinary

So we went over some really in-depth stuff in the past few posts of this series. In order to understand what love is and how it is manifested within the human condition, we first had to see what man’s purpose was on this earth. Which is to glorify our Creator. 

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