Sunday, February 13, 2011



There is something that has always been curious and even bothersome to me. It has to do with the "unknown God" Paul refers to in Acts 17 when speaking to the business men and women in the Athens marketplace. What bothers me is Paul's approach is very different from how I was taught and shown. His approach to these who had no reverence for the Bible, were not "Christians", not "Jews", yet they were quite religious, it's very different. So, I ask the question, "Are we missing something here?" Have we been using the wrong approach with the vast non-Christian world around us as we attempt to introduce them to Jesus?

Let's take a look at what Paul said in Athens: 22 Paul then stood up in the meeting of the Areopagus and said: "People of Athens! I see that in every way you are very religious. 23 For as I walked around and looked carefully at your objects of worship, I even found an altar with this inscription: TO AN UNKNOWN GOD. So you are ignorant of the very thing you worship-and this is what I am going to proclaim to you. 24 "The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by hands. 25 And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything. Rather, he himself gives everyone life and breath and everything else.

When you tie this passage with what Solomon mentions in Ecclesiastes 3 that God has placed eternity in their hearts, this intensifies my questioning even more. What does this mean that God has placed eternity in the hearts of everyone?

Then I think of Paul's argument in his letter to the Romans where he says that there is no one in this world-those who have the Bible and those who don't, who are exempted out of knowing the Creator, the God of gods. Paul gives two natural lights that anyone can know and thereby know God. This is found in Romans 1.

18For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, 19because that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them. 20For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse. 21For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks, but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened. 22Professing to be wise, they became fools,

There are two natural lights given for man's observation. FIRST-The natural light of conscience. Francis Schaeffer identified this as having "moral motions"-a sense of right and wrong. SECOND-The natural light of creation. You have to imagine this without the concrete jungle where we live. We are so de-naturalized in so many ways. You can spend a whole week or more without ever noticing or touching or experiencing the handiwork of creation-mighty oceans, the stars, the grass, the flowers.

With these things in mind, then how does a person know God? Note there is no doctrinal system to know and embrace. God is able to be known by what God has placed in them (the eternity that has been placed in their hearts) and by the wonders of what God created.

Our tendency is to trivialize God by making Him more accessible, localized and tangible like the golden calf episode while Moses was up on Mt. Sinai speaking with God. We want to make God OURS. We want to own God for our own little religion, so that we can be RIGHT. We tend to make Him the God-of-my-cause, the God-of-my-understanding or the God-of-my experience. However God is more awesome than this!

Here are only a very few passages of Scripture that speak to this awesomeness:

Isaiah 40:21-26-21 Do you not know? Have you not heard? Has it not been told you from the beginning? Have you not understood since the earth was founded? 22 He sits enthroned above the circle of the earth, and its people are like grasshoppers. He stretches out the heavens like a canopy, and spreads them out like a tent to live in. 25 "To whom will you compare me? Or who is my equal?" says the Holy One. 26 Lift up your eyes and look to the heavens: Who created all these? He who brings out the starry host one by one, and calls them each by name. Because of his great power and mighty strength, not one of them is missing.

Isaiah 45:9-9 "Woe to those who quarrel with their Maker, those who are nothing but potsherds among the potsherds on the ground. Does the clay say to the potter, 'What are you making?' Does your work say, 'The potter has no hands'?

Acts 17:24-24 "The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by hands. 25 And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything. Rather, he himself gives everyone life and breath and everything else.

We must begin with a pure agnosticism-an "I don't know everything and I don't have all the answers." The difference between the awesome God and finite man is immense! Therefore, "to know the holy God, we must acknowledge what we do not know; to see the light of God, we must pass through the dark night of the soul; to gain faith, we must begin with doubt; to hear a Word from God, we must wait through the silences of God; to experience the comfort of God, we must experience the pain of life!"

The God Who is there is awesome! I like the words of Romans 11:33-36: Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable his judgments, and his paths beyond tracing out! "Who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has been his counselor?" "Who has ever given to God, that God should repay him?" For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be the glory forever! Amen.

If the God of gods is out there, then you would expect that He will make Himself known in some fashion-through conscience and creation. In fact, you would expect that there would be flood stories in most every religion and culture, and there is! You would expect some sort of motif about the God of gods making some provision for full forgiveness and delivery through a Messiah-like personage, and there is!

If there is a true God of gods out there making Himself known through conscience and creation, then you would expect that God has already made Himself known in most every spot on earth. Our responsibility is to reveal this UNKNOWN GOD to all who are interested, no matter the religious background and culture-Buddhist, Hindu, Muslim, Tribes, etc.

I've come to realize that the God of gods out there is an awesome God and worthy of searching out in order to get to know Him. Over the next few days I want to examine several we know who have come to know God without doctrinal teachings, without a "Christian church" and without the Bible.

Once we understand how awesome God is, then we won't ever want to put Him back into our little boxes we have created again!