Why Paul Was A Christian – Part 1

Speaker: Scott Jarrett | Apr 16, 2017

Acts 17:16-32 represents the discourse Paul delivered to the Athenians at Mars Hill (or the “Areopagus”). In it, we find a total of three reasons Paul chose Christianity (though other religions/viewpoints did exist). And they (along w/the resurrection) sb the same reasons you and I are Christians (today):

1. Because all people are religious whether they like it or not.

(22)  – “I perceive that in every way you are very religious” (lit. devoted to practicing your religion) = Paul believed this to be true of not only those he met in Athens, but all people (26-28 = God created us w/feelings for Him and for seeking Him out wherever we live. We are hard-wired for God and religious things seeing that we are “His offspring”). A study conducted at Oxford University’s Institute of Cognitive and Evolutionary Anthropology confirmed as much. It found that all human beings are innately, very religious. This can be shown to be true however, much more easily by considering the fact that every human being’s moral choices are determined by the answer they give to three questions some philosophers call “the ultimate questions” since the answers (we all give) are – by reason of our absence/inability to be eyewitnesses, entirely faith-based. Those three questions are: 1) The question of our existence (How did I get here? Who or What made us?), 2) The question of our purpose (Why am I here? What is our human responsibility?), 3) The question of our future (Where am I heading? What is the end-game for humanity?). As mentioned, these three questions are the “modus operandi” (i.e. mode of operation) of every thinking human being on the planet, which means (then) we are all religious, since (once more) we are all operating from a place of faith in the answers we give. Paul’s comment regarding the Athenians’ religious nature was therefore more than just the conclusion he was drawing about them based on observing their city filled w/various religious objects (16, 23a). It also represented what Paul knew about all people -including himself. IOW: Paul knew all people are religious, whether they like it or not. We are all making moral choices based on the faith we possess regarding the ultimate questions of life. The question is, is that faith-based religion –where we are putting our faith, getting our answers and deciding our morality, – is it the right one?

For Paul then, the answer to the ultimate questions was found in Christianity—and so that is what he “proclaimed” to the people. The remaining reasons tell us why.

2. Because all other religions fail miserably in their answers and proof (regarding the ultimate questions).

Paul was a Christian, not b/c it was the religion he was raised in, or b/c it was the one that best fit w/his lifestyle choices or made him feel good. He chose Christianity b/c he saw that the others failed miserably in their attempts to answer the three ultimate questions and their ability to prove they indeed had the absolute truth:[1]

2.1. Agnosticism (23) – “To the unknown god” = The most popular religion on planet earth today. I will choose to answer the ultimate questions w/ “I don’t really know nor do I really care: How we got here/Who or what made us, Why I am here/What my purpose is as a human being and Where I am heading/What is the end-game for humanity. My ignorance is my bliss”. As such, those in this camp could also be called the world’s laziest people since that which matters most is what is most left undone (and as a result they will most assuredly be condemned if there is a God unless he is a cosmic creampuff who doesn’t care what people do or who they serve). Usually what places a person (here) is they are so pre-occupied w/ and mesmerized by the trivial things of this world (e.g. entertainment) that they have no time or energy for any serious pursuit of absolute truth regarding ontological/spiritual/religious things. That being said, this group would include those who make claims to being Christian, yet do so only b/c: 1) it was part of their upbringing (i.e. momma fed and daddy led), 2) it’s the over-arching religion of their immediate culture (i.e. they live in Oklahoma, Kansas or Texas), 3) they like watching Little House On The Prairie, Touched By An Angel, reading Anna of Green Gables and listening to K-Love, 4) they like a religion which tells them Jesus accepts them, loves them, died for them and has a wonderful plan for their life since they never got around to having such a plan and everyone else thinks they’re total bums. IOW: they are fake (or flake) Christians, who know nothing about (nor care to know) what the Bible really teaches or Who Jesus really is. So then, though they use the same Christian buzz-words, the altar they serve at is (in reality) that of the Agnostic (an “unknown god”) since the true God of heaven and earth is unknown to them. Regarding the issue of proof (as a legitimate religion/religious position -or as an answer to the ultimate questions), this too sb obvious. Agnosticism doesn’t even make an attempt since (once more) it is the position of complete cop-out. Paul was no looking for a cop-out – but rather to “knock out the cop-outs” (23 –  “What therefore you worship as unknown, I proclaim to you”).

2.2. Atheism = The second biggest religion on the planet. Its answers to the ultimate questions are the same as the “Epicurean and Stoic philosophers” who “conversed with” Paul (18) since both were essentially atheistic in their religious views. Here then are the atheist’s answers: 1) Our existence is an accident = The material world (including human beings) are not the product of purposeful design, but rather millions of years of cellular matter randomly colliding and coming together by chance to eventually evolve into advanced organisms such as ourselves (E/S = “God” is simply the name we give to the atomic matter that makes up the material world – including the natural forces/law – e.g. gravity, thermodynamics. As such, god is impersonal, unintelligent and unintentional in what comes forth from it or as a part of it), 2) Our purpose is futility = Since we along w/everything else in the universe are nothing more than evolutionary accidents, our reason for existence can also possess no real intention. What we do or how we choose to live is therefore pointless. Morality doesn’t exist and only matters if it benefits us. The number one thing is surviving as long as we can and having as many fun-yet-futile experiences before our dismal demise (E = Seeking pleasure is man’s highest good; S = Avoiding pain is man’s highest good, morality is a cultural phenomenon[2]), 3) Our future is insignificant = All we have to look forward to is simply providing raw material back (i.e. our dead bodies) to the meaningless, futile and accidental universe so that other organisms can use it to fuel their equally insignificant existences before doing the same (E = No after-life or judgment, just non-existence, death and decay; S = No end to this world. Everything just returns back to the universe and is recycled[3]).  Most Atheists are in denial of what history has already demonstrated to be the atrocious consequences associated w/their beliefs – esp. the necessary by-product of no objective morality (e.g. Atheist-Communist regimes: Stalin’s Russia, Mao’s China, Pol Pot’s Cambodia, The Columbine Massacres, serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer[4]). Sadly, all of them are too stupid to realize how much their beliefs are based on fantasy science[5].  Paul however was no dummy – nor attempting to escape reality. As such, he knew the answer to the ultimate questions was not found in this religion either (Psa 14:1).

2.3. All other non-Christian or pseudo-Christian religions (29) = Scripture is filled with examples of religions whose “divine being is like gold or silver or stone, an image formed by the art and imagination of man” (e.g. Baal, Asherah, Molech, Dagon, Rephan, Kiyyun; 1Sa 5:1-4; 2Ki 11:18, 21:7; 2Ch 33:22; Jer 32:35; Amo 5:26; Act 19:24-36). God told His Old Covenant people to never take their names upon their lips or marry their followers. Instead they were to utterly destroy them whenever or wherever they found them in their land (Exo 23:13; Num 33:52; Deu 7:1-5, 25, 12:3). The reason for such intolerance, was the same as Paul states (here). They are the creation of men, the figment of an idiot’s imagination, no better or more powerful than the wood or precious metals the artist had used to make them, false gods who could not deliver or do anything for those who worshipped them (Isa 40:19-20, 41:6-7, 29, 44:9-20 w/45:9). If then that is the case, the answers we are all looking for (to the ultimate questions) cannot be found in them – since how can that which was created by us, be our creators? Or the ones who have determined our purpose- or the direction in which we are all headed? Paul had enough common sense to see the folly in following any religion – or religious viewpoint made up by human beings. Like Atheism, this (too) was just another form of fantasy for losers. That being said, such thinking has always occupied a large contingency among those claiming to be spiritual. Even today, countless throng to the temples of imaginary gods and worship at the feet of divine beings formed by the art of man claiming no more validity/proof to what they believe than personal experience or the experience of untrustworthy witnesses. This would include (for example), Mormonism (Adherents claim to be true Christians yet their theology is in complete contradiction w/the Biblical witness -e.g. man becomes a god vs. God becoming a man; Joseph Smith, the founder of LDS/Mormonism, was a career criminal, charged with over a dozen crimes during his life including bank fraud, perjury and conspiracy to murder; the Book of Mormon’s claim that American Indians were a part of the bloodline of Israel has been proven patently false through DNA testing;  Its claim to be a history of ancient America has never been considered as credible in any respect.), Islam (The Quran affirms both the Old Testament and the Gospels as the Word of God yet teaches a theology which is also in complete contradiction to it – e.g. Jesus was a prophet but not divine vs. Jesus was the Divine Prophet[6]), Scientology (the religion of Hollywood elites such as Tom Cruise or John Travolta, admits to being the invention of L. Ron Hubbard), most of Evangelical Protestant Christianity, all of Roman Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy (The common denominator in each of these pseudo-Christian groups is their possession of a gospel/soteriology whose origins are man-made versus biblical – e.g. all are ultimately antinomian and works-based: faith alone is the only real condition to being saved; salvation is a works-based system; the Law/Word of God was not ever truly necessary except for Jesus – consider: how did Abe, Moses and the OT saints get to heaven according to what pseudo-Christianity teaches? By faith only. Which means then the Law truly only applied to Jesus – can that be right?). The response of Paul to our current culture’s love affair w/created religion and man-made doctrines/gods would be the same as it was in his day (30).

3. Because Christianity is the only religion with the answers and the proof (regarding the ultimate questions).

[1] By “absolute truth” what is meant is that which is always true for all people at all times in any place according to its point of reference (e.g. “The temperature was above freezing in Denver at noon yesterday”. Though it may have been freezing for those in Breckenridge, what can be acknowledged by all people anywhere at any time is that for Denver at 12 pm on May 15th, 2017, it was not below 32˚F). Absolute truth or what is known in logic as the Law of Non-Contradiction (a ­­­­­­­­­≠ ⌐a) is both a logical and empirical necessity (e.g. Math and its practical implications). When dealing with those who would posit an argument against the existence of such truth, the principle of applying their argument to itself is helpful for exposing its folly and self-defeating nature. For example: 1) There is no absolute truth (Therefore this statement is absolutely not true), 2) There is no way of knowing absolute truth (Therefore there is no way of knowing whether this statement is absolutely true).

[2]In the words of atheist biologist, Richard Dawkins, “In a universe of blind physical forces and genetic replication, some people are going to get hurt, other people are going to get lucky, and you won’t find any rhyme or reason in it, nor any justice. The universe we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil and no good [i.e. morality/right and wrong doesn’t exist], nothing but blind, pitiless indifference…DNA neither knows nor cares. DNA just is. And we dance to its music…Absolutist moral discrimination is devastatingly undermined by the fact of evolution” (River Out of Eden: A Darwinian View of Life, p. 133, The God Delusion, p.301)

[3] “Let me summarize my views on what modern evolutionary biology tells us loud and clear — and these are basically Darwin’s views. There are no gods, no purposes, and no goal-directed forces of any kind. There is no life after death. When I die, I am absolutely certain that I am going to be dead. That’s the end of me. There is no ultimate foundation for ethics, no ultimate meaning in life, and no free will for humans, either.” – William Provine (Debate w/Philip Johnson at Cornell University)

[4]In re: to Atheist-Communist Regimes = “ The total body count for the ninety years between 1917 and 2007 is approximately 148 million dead at the bloody hands of fifty-two atheists, three times more than all the human beings killed by war, civil war, and individual crime in the entire twentieth century combined” – Theodore Beale (Vox Day), In re: to the Columbine Massacres = On the day of the shooting, Harris (one of the shooters) wore a white T-shirt with the words “Natural Selection” emblazoned on it (“Columbine,” 2008). This was not coincidental, but was designed to make a statement. According to the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office Report, in a document found in his room, Harris wrote: “I would love to see all you f—heads die. I love it! sometime in April me and V will get revenge and will kick natural selection up a few notches” (ibid). His diary also stated: “I will sooner die than betray my own thoughts. but before I leave this worthless place, I will kill whoever I deem unfit for [from the standpoint of evolution], anything at all, especially life”; In re: to Jeffry Dahmer (why he killed and ate people) = “Because I always believed…that evolution is truth, the theory of evolution is truth. That we all just came from the slime, and when we died, you know, that was it. There was nothing. So the whole theory cheapens life…. If a person doesn’t think that there is a God to be accountable to, then what’s the point of trying to modify your behavior to keep it within acceptable ranges? That’s how I thought, anyway” (Dateline Interview w/Stone Philips, 1994)

[5] Take for example, the atheist’s claims regarding: 1) a “no-causality” universe (out of nothing comes something) = Even the prominent atheist scientist Stephen Hawkings now believes the universe had a beginning, yet can posit no explanation for how it began that removes the answer being found in God and direct causation. IOW: Nothing magically produced something! In response to such poor thinking Richard Dawkins has stated, “science just needs more time”. Faith then is clearly at work in the atheist camp—a blind faith to be exact! More detrimental to atheist’s position on this point is what must be concluded if it is indeed possible for something (i.e. the universe) to come from nothing. In the words of Dr. Willian Lane Craig, “If atheists are going to claim that things can pop into existence uncaused out of nothing, then why doesn’t everything do so? Why don’t iPads, Teslas, atheist books and pizzas pop into existence out of nothing? If you’re hungry for a pizza right now, does it make more sense to order one or to just wait and hope? Talk about faith.” 2) we get all truth from scientific proof = That statement doesn’t come from science, it is instead a philosophical claim. Not only that, but it is impossible to do anything scientific without presupposing certain philosophical principles/beliefs -e.g. morality or ethics cannot be proven by science. You cannot condemn what the Nazis did based on science, yet are we to say that our condemnation of such acts is not truth since there is no scientific process for proving it? Thought science is an essential component to truth, clearly not all truth is derived from just science.  3) evolution = It takes more faith to belief in the possibility of evolution than anything the Bible teaches: “Elementary statistical theory shows that the probability of 200 successive mutations being successful is one chance out of 1060. The number 1060, if written out, would be ‘one’ followed by sixty ‘zeros.’ In other words, the chance that a 200-component organism could be formed by mutation and natural selection is less than one chance out of a trillion, trillion, trillion, trillion, trillion! Lest anyone think that a 200-part system is unreasonably complex, it should be noted that even a one-celled plant or animal may have millions of molecular ‘parts’ [humans are made up of about 100 trillion cells]. The evolutionist might react by saying that even though any one such mutating organism might not be successful, surely some around the world would be, especially in the 10 billion years (or 1018 seconds) of assumed earth history. Therefore, let us imagine that every one of the earth’s 1014 square feet of surface harbors a billion (i.e., 109) mutating systems and that each mutation requires one-half second (actually it would take far more time than this). Each system can thus go through its 200 mutations in 100 seconds and then, if it is unsuccessful, start over. Multiplying all these numbers together, there would be a total possible number of attempts to develop a 200-component system equal to 1039 attempts. Since the probability against the success of any one of them is 1060, it is obvious that the probability that just one of these 1039 attempts might be successful is only one out of 1060 – 1039, or 1021. All this means that the chance that any kind of a 200-component integrated functioning organism could be developed by mutation and natural selection just once, anywhere in the world, in all the assumed expanse of geologic time, is less than one chance out of a billion trillion. What possible conclusion, therefore, can we derive from such considerations as this except that evolution by mutation and natural selection is mathematically and logically indefensible... Furthermore, since the law of increasing entropy, or the second law of thermodynamics [i.e. things go from usable to unusable], is essentially a statement of probabilities, many writers have also used that law itself to show that evolution on any significant scale is essentially impossible…[since] in the world of scientific observation, no more complex system can ever ‘evolve’ out of a less complex system…[hence] the probability of the naturalistic/accidental/non-causal origin (i.e. evolution) of even the simplest imaginary form of life is zero. The existence of complexity of any kind is [instead] evidence of intelligent design.” – Dr. Henry Morris (Creation Research Society, Institute Of Creation Research)

[6] See http://crossexamined.org/simple-reason-quran-word-god/