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Tuesday: Paul and the Unknown God — 14 Comments

  1. Paul uses the Greek sense of the numinous to bridge the gap between Greek religious philosophy and Christian belief. The word numinous was essentially introduced by Rudolf Otto to describe a sense of beyondness invoking mystery and perhaps awe of something beyond our comprehension. Some claim that even atheists have this sense of the numinous.

    The Greeks had a pantheon of gods, mostly they were cultural rather than deities in a spiritual sense and the altar to the "unknown" god was an expression of the Greek sense of numinous. Paul appealed to their spiritual sense by asking them to develop a deeper understanding of the divine. He was presenting Christianity, not as a new Jewish religion, but as a development and fulfillment of their own spiritual/philosophical thought.

    Paul's presentation on Areogopus was not just a quick, off the cuff presentation of ideas, rather it shows a deep understanding of Greek thought and their worldview.

    In many respects, this encounter illustrates the difficulty in trying to reach people's minds when they have a worldview that is entirely different to our own. There is some indication that Paul considered this presentation a failure but seeing this lesson has stretched the analysis over the whole week, I will keep that discussion till later.

  2. The method Paul used to be accepted readily is classic and it works. Yes, mingling, appreciating the people for the things they hold Dear to their lifestyle has worked for me too. Out of which Christ followers- are equiped with the knowledge of Adventism and lifestyle adjustments. Maranatha.

  3. I remember speaking to an Unknown God when I was at the age of 18 due to not knowing how my life would be in the future. My family didn't worship any God, so I followed no religion. Until I traveled to the States to pursue my studies, I came to know a powerful God, a Creator who created the heavens, the earth and everything in it.

  4. Thank you, Tim, for your comment and the link to the helpful observations at the Answers in Genesis site.

    I have always thought that we, who are to proclaim the Three Angels' messages that calls the world back to true Creator worship should be foremost in proclaiming God as Creator, as recorded in Genesis. I think we've more or less fallen down on the job, and others have been filling in the void. Answers in Genesis is one good source, even though we may not agree with all their positions.

    There are now a number of Christian organizations who emphasize God as Creator of all. Some attempt to demonstrate evidence in that Genesis tells the story of the whole universe being created. But we do not believe that, because the Bible also demonstrates that other created beings existed when this world was created.

    Adventists generally take one of these three positions:
    1. Genesis tells the story of God creating life on this planet, meaning that the matter of this planet was created previously.
    2. Genesis tells the story of God creating this planet from nothing, meaning that stars and planets in outer space as well as the rest of our solar system were created previously.
    3. Genesis tells the story of God creating our solar system from nothing, meaning that the rest of our galaxy and other galaxies were created previously.

    All these positions affirm that Genesis is a historic account of what God did relatively recently.

    For anyone interested in the subject, we have a page on this site to get you started on learning more about evidence that points to God's creating life on this planet only some thousands rather than billions of years ago. See the Science and Creation page on this site.

  5. Paul connected with the Greeks via the “unknown “ God. We can connect with others of different religions via our mutual love of Jesus, and God the father.

    • Thanks, Anthony. What you suggest is true regarding our relation to other Christian denominations.

      However, "different religions" do not love Jesus and God the Father because they do not know them. They worship other gods. However, most have a sense of a *Creator God* - whether or not they have a name for Him - a little like the "Unknown God" of Athens. If they worship many different gods, they have a sense of a God above all gods - the One who created everything. Thus our commission beginning in Rev. 14:1 is very meaningful. Notice that it calls humanity back to *Creator* worship. Our worship of the Creator is the closest we can come to most world religions. That's why I believe that we, as a church, need to focus much more on God as our *Creator* and speak of Him as such when we interact with people of other religions. (They can't relate when we speak of Jesus until they can first relate to us as worshipers of the *Creator.*)

  6. I find it interesting to note that, the message that we have to proclaim (3 angels' messages) has its roots in the first chapter and verse of the Bible, and the introduction of Christ in John 1:1-3. Throughout the Bible whenever God is distinguished from other gods, His creative work is highlighted. Even God Introduces Himself as Creator. Example "For all the gods of the people are idols: but the LORD made the heavens."
    (1Ch 16:26)
    "I have made the earth, and created man upon it: I, even my hands, have stretched out the heavens, and all their host have I commanded."
    (Isa 45:12)

    • Thank you, Robert. I believe we need to put greater emphasis on God as *Creator.*

      Even a great many secular people have a sense of the necessity of there being some sort of *Creator* who is responsible for all there is. And in post polytheistic societies there is either a God above all gods, or people have an innate sense of there being a God above all the gods they worship. So that is a point of connection. But most of all, as you point out, that's how the God of the Bible identifies Himself in the passages you mention and many more throughout the Old Testament.

      P.S. There are other Roberts who occasionally post on this blog. So it is really helpful for you to use a last name consistently.

  7. I find it interesting that what catches the attention and is the main theme of Paul's teaching is a crucified Savior who made the world.

    "Others remarked, “He seems to be advocating foreign gods. They said this because Paul was preaching the good news about Jesus and the resurrection..."(Acts 17:18).

    It is this that caused them to want to hear more. I believe that Paul recognized the search that these people had already begun to find meaning in life. This meaning however is not in philosophy or logic alone, but is found in a relationship with Jesus.

    I present that everyone who has recognized their limitations, inabilities, and destitute state (Rev 3:17) and found Jesus as rest for their soul (Matt 11:29-30) has a testimony about the Truth of a loving Savior. It is this Truth that the world needs not only to hear but more to experience.

    We can recognize the need in others when we recognize the need in ourselves. Jesus is still my Savior and I live by faith in Him because apart from Him I am destitute. To experienced / recognized this destitute state is painful. May all know or come "to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fullness of God." (Ephesians 3:19)

  8. The unknown God is the one we worship. He lives in heaven and He is Almighty.
    The known God is that/those that is/are handmade by Craftsmen


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