“A Concise Worldview”

So Paul, standing in the midst of the Areopagus, said: “Men of Athens, I perceive that in every way you are very religious. For as I passed along and observed the objects of your worship, I found also an altar with this inscription: ‘To the unknown god.’ What therefore you worship as unknown, this I proclaim to you.

Acts 17:22-23

Up to Acts chapter 17, the gospel has confronted zealous Jews in synagogues and the economic and political forces of the Roman empire. But in Athens, the intellectual center of the ancient world, the good news clashes with the strange world of ancient philosophy. After gaining the attention of the philosophers, Paul was given audience to address them publicly at the Areopagus. Paul brilliantly and persuasively uses the insights of the philosophers (even quoting them!) in service to his message of truth. He presents all the hallmarks of a solid worldview: the identity of God, the nature of human beings, the meaning of life and where life is headed.

Who is God? — “The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man, nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything… we ought not to think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone, an image formed by the art and imagination of man.” (Acts 17:24-25, 29b) God is the Lord of the universe, a non-contingent being who gives life to all creation.

What are human beings? — “And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place…for ‘In him we live and move and have our being’; as even some of your own poets have said, ‘For we are indeed his offspring.’…” (Acts 17:26, 28a) Humans are part of God’s creation. As his “offspring,” we need God, not the other way around. God displays his sovereignty over humanity and his goodness toward us by providing for all our needs.

What is our purpose? — God placed humans on the earth “that they should seek God, and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him. Yet he is actually not far from each one of us.” (Acts 17:27) The point of human existence is to seek and find God. This is the noblest pursuit. Humans have tried to do this through devising complex systems of religion and various rituals involving temples and sacrifices but they are merely blundering around in the dark. God desires to be found by humans and remains within our reach but he cannot be found unless he is sought on his terms.

Where are we going? — “The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent, because he has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed; and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead.” (Acts 17:30-31) Because God is Creator and Lord of the world he is also Judge to whom all creation answers. Bound up with God’s power is his ability to control and direct history, which he is moving toward resurrection and judgment. God has ended the era of ignorance by sending Jesus to the cross and raising him from the dead. What previously could not be known about God has been revealed through Jesus. This resurrection is the evidence that judgment is coming. If God is going to set the world right then everyone must get ready by repenting and preparing for that judgment.

All the elements of a solid and concise worldview are present in Paul’s sermon; God is the Lord of creation who made human beings to seek and find him that they might escape judgment and live with him forever. Do any other worldviews compare?