Those who have been watching my web adventures will know that I have spent the past while since April 7, 2005 on an extended recon in force over at Joe Carter's Evangelical Outpost.
Now, Joe has just taken up the job as Director of Web Communications with the Family Research Council, as he discusses here, and at the same time, as the threads here, here, and most recently here can show, the major topics I have addressed have now come to a point where I am satisfied that I understand practically as well as theoretically and can assess and address the issues likely to be raised by the dechistianisers of the North here and elsewhere.
So, let me excerpt from the 2002 JTS-CGST Ethics lecture, on the onward strategy for this blog:
. . . intellectual leadership is a decisive factor (for good or ill) . . . and must therefore be a key to the sound and sustainable reformation of the Caribbean. This is not new; the need for prophetic intellectual leadership was also a central issue faced by Paul, most notably on his visit to Athens. Therefore, his example provides quite relevant insights that we may use to guide our own initiatives.
The Apostle had come to Athens five hundred years after its glory days — the days of Socrates, Plato, Aristotle and Pericles, to take a brief respite from his stressful Macedonian adventures. For, in Macedonia, he had been harassed and harried from one town to the next, and was finally driven out, taking refuge in Athens.
However, he found the all-pervasive idolatry too disturbing to keep silent. [Acts 17:16.] So as a lion, with terrible resolve, turns and vexes those who have unwisely persisted in harrying him, Paul — in the city of Socrates — went to the Agora (the marketplace), and started to dialogue with passersby; as that stone-dresser turned philosopher was wont to do. Soon, a group of pagan Philosophers paused, argued with him, conferred among themselves, and, parodying the fate of Socrates, took the Apostle to a meeting of the Areopagus [Mars Hill] Council.
There, the Athenian leaders got more than they bargained for. For, Paul made straight for the rotten intellectual foundation of Pagan thought and culture. Pointing to its beautiful temples and monuments, he picked the altar that exposed the critical instability: TO AN UNKNOWN GOD. That is, on the most important possible point of knowledge, the Athenians — the fountainhead and proud guardians of the Western intellectual, artistic and democratic traditions — were forced to admit their ignorance, in a public monument!
Paul then pointedly stated the decisive prophetic issue: “Now what you worship as something unknown I am going to proclaim to you.” That is, the true key to the field of Knowledge is Revelation (rather than merely human speculation, argument or experiment), starting from our God-given intuition that an orderly universe without and a rational mind and ever-probing conscience within jointly testify to a Rational, Orderly, Moral Creator. [Cf. Romans 1:18 – 32.]
Of course, and as Dingwall, Spong, Freud, Marx, Skinner, Ayer, Crick and many others illustrate today, we may suppress or becloud such intuitions; but plainly to our intellectual, moral, and social peril; with damaging environmental and sustainability implications. However, since God knows perfectly, he can communicate additional significant — though obviously not exhaustive — truth to guide us in the face of such intellectual dilemmas, moral conundrums, and sustainability challenges. Hence, the prophetic force of Paul’s key word: “proclaim.”
1) The Creator-Redeemer God does not live in temples we can make with our hands. Nor does he depend on our religious leaders and institutions, rituals, gifts or offerings. Instead, it is he who made us and gave us everything we have. We are therefore his stewards in — and of — his world, for “in Him we live and move and have our being.”
2) From one man, God created the nations, setting their times & seasons [kairous], and their places, “so that men would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him.” That is, the diverse fraternity of nations [ethnoi, people groups] was created to foster opportunities to demonstrate godly, harmonious social order-- not least, by restraining the possibilities for the rise of a corrupt, globally dominant regime. (Further to this, when nations choose instead to forget God and His ways, making false loyalties, power, prestige, pleasure and prosperity their chief values, they walk down a road to ruin; cf. Deut. 8:17 – 20.)
3) “In the past, God overlooked [our] ignorance, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent. For he has set a day in which he will judge the world with justice by the man he has appointed. He has given proof of this to all men by raising him from the dead”:
4) The time for ignorant pursuit of false loyalties and foolish agendas is over; God has intervened globally, decisively and publicly by Christ’s incarnation, death, and resurrection: “he has made this same Jesus . . . both Lord and Christ.” [Acts 2:36.]
5) God therefore commands that we repent, undergoing a comprehensive change of heart and mind driven by recognition of the truth and godly sorrow over sin, leading to a transformed way of life [1 Cor. 6:9 – 11]. In particular, we are to receive as Lord and Saviour him who is “the Way, the Truth, and the Life.” [John 14:6, cf. Acts 4:12.]
6) This command to repent is universal, but does not demand blind obedience: God offers public proof to us by raising Jesus from the dead. In evidence of this, we have over five hundred eyewitnesses, most of whom were still alive when the record was made, and the continued manifestation of resurrection power — in manifold ways — in the church to this day. [1 Cor. 15:1- 8, Eph. 1:17 – 23.]
7) Flowing from this, human culture is not autonomous or absolute: there is a set day for judgement of the world, a comprehensive audit carried out with perfect justice. Thus, communities and their citizens are servants of God, accountable before their Creator for truth, right, justice and the proper stewardship of resources in their care, starting with their land. This opens the door for prophetic commentary on public morality, policy and issues linked to development and sustainability. [Cf. Rom. 1:18 – 32 & 13:1 – 10.]
8) Moreover, since we are created from one ancestor, there can be no justification for nationally-, or racially-, or class-, or otherwise- motivated oppression, aggression, exploitation or prejudice. Community extends to the fraternity of all peoples, and so God refuses to answer the foolish question: “Am I my brother’s keeper?”
Paul’s audience, however, mostly reacted with an ill-advised, illogical sneer: in effect, never mind the evidence and our acknowledged ignorance on the subject — God can’t be like that!
However, some were willing to listen further, and a few openly turned to Christ. Scanty immediate results. But the truth had been proclaimed and backed up with adequate evidence. And, Paul, too, had made a decisive turn, seizing the intellectual and cultural initiative.
From Athens, the Apostle would go on to Corinth and Ephesus, building bases from which the Christian Faith would ultimately triumph in Greek culture. Intellectually, he would go on to expand his Mars Hill thesis, through penning the Epistle to the Romans, which articulated in greater detail the case that would at length prevail over classical paganism.
So, two thousand years later, we know who had the better case that fateful day. For, Paganism’s hollow intellectual and moral core now stood exposed for those with eyes to observe, and ears to listen. The future therefore belonged to the Apostle, not to the Philosophers and Politicians. Thus, from small beginnings, the churches planted in Athens and other Greek cities grew strong and prevailed.
And that, ladies and gentlemen, defines our own challenge as thepeople of God in the Caribbean in our time, as we take up the MVAT challenge.
Grace be with us all.