To the Athenians -- and to modern secular Americans -- the preaching of the authentic Gospel sounds strange. "You are bringing some strange things to our ears," the Athenians responded to Paul. The Christian evangelist hears this same response today. In postmodern America, the Christian Gospel is strange in its whole and in its parts. Most Americans assume themselves to be good and decent persons. They are amused at the notion that they are sinners against God.

We assume our need of therapy. The Gospel insists on our need of salvation. We want to work it out ourselves. The Gospel argues that this leads to death. We want to look within. The Gospel points us to Christ. We want to do our part. The Gospel insists that Jesus paid it all. We demand to get what we deserve. The Gospel warns that this is exactly what we will receive, unless we turn to Christ in faith.

Grace is an alien concept in American culture. Sin is almost outlawed as a category. A substitutionary atonement sounds unfair. God in human flesh is too much to take. But that is what we preach.

"You are bringing some strange things to our ears; so we want to know what these things mean." [Acts 17:20] The Athenians were confused by Paul's preaching of Jesus and the resurrection. "He seems to be a proclaimer of strange deities," accused others, charging Paul with the same offense that led to the execution of Socrates.

The Athenians and their tourists loved to spend their time telling or hearing something new -- but not this new. Americans are consumers of meaning even as they buy cars and clothing. They will test drive new spiritualities and try on a whole series of lifestyles. To many, the Gospel is just too strange, too countercultural, too propositional, too exclusive.

Paul was brought up on charges and gained a hearing at the Areopagus. "May we know what this new teaching is which you are proclaiming?" he was asked [Acts 17:19]. The one offense certain to bring charges against the evangelist in our generation is the claim to objective, absolute, eternal, universal, exclusive truth. Polytheists, syncretists, and secularists are untroubled by the promotion of one more deity or spirituality in the cultural cafeteria. But preach Jesus Christ as the Way, the Truth, and the Life, and the Gospel as the only message of salvation, and you will find yourself hauled off to the court of public scorn and derision.

To contend for biblical morality in this culture is to run the risk of being cited for "hate speech." We must assume a context of spiritual confusion, and this is often now a hostile confusion. The Gospel sounds not only strange, but threatening to the local deities.


The above is Part Two of a three-part series. Click here for Part One. Please view other entries on Dr. Mohler's blog.


R. Albert Mohler, Jr. is president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky. For more articles and resources by Dr. Mohler, and for information on The Albert Mohler Program, a daily national radio program broadcast on the Salem Radio Network, go to www.albertmohler.com. For information on The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, go to www.sbts.edu. Send feedback to mail@albertmohler.com.