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Leveraging Culture

Acts 17:16-34

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 "Now while Paul was waiting for them at Athens, his spirit was being provoked within him as he was beholding the city full of idols. [17] So he was reasoning in the synagogue with the Jews and the God-fearing Gentiles, and in the market place every day with those who happened to be present. [18] And also some of the Epicurean and Stoic philosophers were conversing with him. And some were saying, 'What would this idle babbler wish to say?' Others, 'He seems to be a proclaimer of strange deities,'-- because he was preaching Jesus and the resurrection. [19] And they took him and brought him to the Areopagus, saying, 'May we know what this new teaching is which you are proclaiming? [20] For you are bringing some strange things to our ears; we want to know therefore what these things mean.' [21] (Now all the Athenians and the strangers visiting there used to spend their time in nothing other than telling or hearing something new.) [22] And Paul stood in the midst of the Areopagus and said, 'Men of Athens, I observe that you are very religious in all respects. [23] For while I was passing through and examining the objects of your worship, I also found an altar with this inscription, 'TO AN UNKNOWN GOD.' What therefore you worship in ignorance, this I proclaim to you. [24] The God who made the world and all things in it, since He is Lord of heaven and earth, does not dwell in temples made with hands; [25] neither is He served by human hands, as though He needed anything, since He Himself gives to all life and breath and all things; [26] and He made from one, every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined their appointed times, and the boundaries of their habitation, [27] that they should seek God, if perhaps they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us; [28] for in Him we live and move and exist, as even some of your own poets have said, 'For we also are His offspring.' [29] Being then the offspring of God, we ought not to think that the Divine Nature is like gold or silver or stone, an image formed by the art and thought of man. [30] Therefore having overlooked the times of ignorance, God is now declaring to men that all everywhere should repent, [31] because He has fixed a day in which He will judge the world in righteousness through a Man whom He has appointed, having furnished proof to all men by raising Him from the dead.' 
    [32] Now when they heard of the resurrection of the dead, some began to sneer, but others said, 'We shall hear you again concerning this.' [33] So Paul went out of their midst. [34] But some men joined him and believed, among whom also were Dionysius the Areopagite and a woman named Damaris and others with them." (NASB) 

 It would be impossible for me to overstate the importance of Acts 17 in understanding a postmodern approach to evangelism and apologetics.  If your heartbeat is for the evangelization of our community and world, please join me in paying particular attention to this text.  First, please notice how close the Athenian culture of Paul's day is to our contemporary culture.

 Look at verse 16.  "Now while Paul was waiting for them at Athens, his spirit was being provoked within him as he was beholding the city full of idols."  The idolatry and paganism of their culture turned Paul's stomach, or to be more accurate, "provoked his spirit."  Athens was an accommodating, inclusive place.  One god was as good as another, so they built idols to all of them they could name and even to those they couldn't (vs. 23).  Like today, their primary doctrine was tolerance.  Have you noticed that tolerance embraces every perceptive, and encourages everyone to speak, unless the speaker wishes to make an exclusive claim. 

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