Philosophy needs philosophers to propagate its message. And we know that the people who espouse worldly philosophies can be pretty antagonistic to the Christian faith. The apostle Paul came face to face with just such people as he took the gospel of God to the city of Athens, to the synagogues and to the market places of that great city,
- “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. 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. 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.” (Acts 17:16-18 – NASB)
Athens was the cultural center of the world at that time, much like the United States is today. As the apostle Paul looked upon Athens he was “provoked,” that is to say, “greatly distressed” in “his spirit” by a “the city full of idols.” Athens was well known for its multiple philosophies and philosophers. Some of the most renown philosophers of history had flourished there and greatly influenced the culture, men such as Socrates, Plato, and probably the most influential of all these, Aristotle. Also among these were other lesser known philosophers by the name of Epicurus, who was the founder of “the Epicurean” philosophies, and Zeno, who was the father of the “Stoic philosophers.” These two groups represented “the spectrum of all humanistic evolutionary systems of past or present,” writes Dr. Henry Morris. It is important for us to note here that the end-product of all these so-called great philosophers and their philosophies was a “city full of idols.”
The “Epicureans” writes Dr. Morris, “were essentially atheists, devoted to the cultivation of pleasure as the chief aim of life.” Regarding the “Stoics” he writes that they “were pantheists, dedicated to passive acceptance of whatever happens.”
Much like the United States today, Athens was filled with philosophies. In many, many ways the philosophies that filled Athens are much like the humanistic, evolutionary philosophies that fill our country today. The similarities are striking!
The apostle Paul was not afraid to confront the philosophies of Athens! The conditions he saw all around him only served to stir “his spirit” and he took God’s gospel message right into the midst of Athens, and he “reasoned” (lit., discussed, debated) with its people.
How did the philosophers of Athens receive Paul’s teaching of “Jesus and the resurrection?” Well, they thought him to be an “idle babbler.” They thought Paul to be “a proclaimer of strange deities.”
We do well to take notice that Paul did not shy away from confronting the philosophies of Athens, and neither should we.
We also should take note as to how he went about it (read the remainder of the context: Acts 17:19-34), and emulate his method of teaching . . . emulate it in the midst of a culture, a society, a nation, a plethora of philosophers and philosophies that, in our day, are of the same demonic makeup as they were in the city of Athens.
Have a good day brethren . . . and as you walk be sure that the power of the gospel message is that which has been given to you to be used to confront the vain philosophies of man.
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