Perhaps it is the most intriguing question the brain can produce. It is the voice of the three year-old as father and daughter walk down the street, “Why is the sky blue? Why are leaves green? Why is the sun warm?” It is the mind of the scientist, “Why do these chemicals produce this reaction? Why does the feather fall at the same velocity as the bowling ball?” It is the conscience of the sinner, “Why did I give in to temptation?” Questions such as “who”, “what”, “when”, and “where” are often much easier to discern, but far less interesting than “why” and the ever-present “how”. Yet it is this question that has escaped far too many minds of Christians, and especially children of Christians.
Surf the Internet for a while and you’ll come across the discussion groups; they have names like “Evolutionists Agree”, “Debunking Creation Science”, or “Read a Textbook, Not a Bible”. Many of these groups, hosted by those hostile to God and His followers, spend a great deal of their time insisting that Christians are uneducated simpletons willing to believe whatever a Bible-thumping preacher or their parents tell them. And as frustrating as it may be to admit, certainly we must concede that to a point, it is true. While I wouldn’t level such a charge upon all believers, or even most, nor would I charge that any Christians are “simpletons”, it is evident that some Christians have never invested the time in investigating their belief in God. Some Christians have never stopped to ask themselves, “Why?” Perhaps they were raised by parents who exhibited a strong faith in God, and from childhood they always “knew” there was a God. It could be that as Americans, they just followed our cultural acceptance of God (He is still given credit in our pledge and on our money). There may be a host of other reasons, but the fact remains that some people have never asked themselves why they believe there is a God. While I am not condemning anyone’s failure to ask himself why he believes in God, I am offering that a wonderful way to get acquainted with a reasonable reason for acknowledging the existence of God is to study the book of Ecclesiastes.
We live in a world that is challenging the minds and hearts of Christians. That much is sure. Satan is the ruler of this world (John 12:31; 14:30; 16:11), and certainly has most of its inhabitants as citizens in his kingdom (Matt. 2:13-14, 21-23). For this reason we must prepare our minds for the spiritual battle we face each day in our communities and culture. But unlike the days of Athens and much of the ancient world, today’s battleground is not based on which god is true, but whether there is a true God at all. Paul, in his discourse at the Athenian Areopagus, did not have to promote the concept that God exists, but rather displayed which god was the true God. In his reasoning, he philosophically addressed the issue from what could be seen and sensed. He showed that it was only reasonable to believe that such a God as created earth and man could not be like those false gods which man created from earth, gold, or silver (Acts 17:22-32). If we lived in a society which prostrated itself before a pantheon of deities, we would rightly contend for God in much the same way as Paul did in Athens. However, we live in a world which largely rejects God, at least God as He is described in the Bible. We live in a world of empiricism and materialism. We struggle with the atheist and the evolutionist, not the polytheist. We contend with false science and self-blinded interpreters of evidence. Like Paul, our battles are confrontations with the educated minds of the day. But also like Paul, if we are well educated in the will of the Lord, the oracles of God will prevail over the prevalent opinions of the day.
Athens was a city respected for its elite citizenship. Children were well-rounded in their classical Greek education, being accomplished in mental knowledge, physical prowess, and social refinement. The men with which Paul spoke were no push-overs for anything new. Certainly they enjoyed discussing current trends, but discussing concepts and accepting them as truth are two entirely different things. The same attitude can be seen today in elitist academic circles -- sometimes even to the point of absurdity. For each new theory is forwarded to these scholars to discuss and test, regardless of how obviously ridiculous the concept may be to even the most common man (How many times have we seen thousands of dollars granted to academic institutions to study such grandiose topics as how baby swallows are psychologically impacted by pictures of cats placed near their nests?) However, most of these ideas are greeted with scrutiny and skepticism. It is entirely likely that this was the same type of scholasticism present in first century Athens.
These men greeted Paul with open arms, welcoming Him into their inner sanctum so they could scrutinize his claims about “strange deities” foreign to Stoic and Epicurean philosophies. Paul likewise greeted these men with the deepest concern for their souls and God’s glory. He acknowledged their belief, their passion, and evidently their intellect, but he pointed out their inconsistency as well. He was able to meet these scholars at the steps of their prestigious university because he was well aware of what he believed and why he believed it. Though he was inspired by the Holy Spirit, his ability to confront the educated elite can be possessed by any of us who choose to avail ourselves of the tools the Holy Spirit has provided. As the psalmist wrote:
for your testimonies are my meditation.
I understand more than the aged,
for I keep your precepts.
Though we may not argue from precisely the same premises as Paul, we can still show that it is entirely reasonable for educated people to acknowledge that a true God exists if we are aware of what we believe and why we believe it.
This is an excerpt from my book, just published last month. (Finally finished!) It's available at Amazon.com.