More Than A Mind Game
It was the main event that got top billing. The conservative Oxford and Cambridge scholar, N.T. Wright, and the liberal Roman Catholic scholar, John Dominic Crossan, were going to square off in debate at the Evangelical Theological Society National meeting.
The auditorium was packed and the question at hand was whether or not Jesus actually rose bodily from the dead. Debates like this generate large audiences, but it was quite clear that Wright and Crossan had squared off before. Not much chance that either would alter their position.
Now Wright’s strong points bolstered the views of most of the professional biblical scholars and students in the room, but where the real debates take place is in the public squares on university campuses around the world, and the Apostle Paul knew this in the first century.
While he waited for his friends to join him, he didn’t sit idle. As a Jew, he went straight to the synagogue and followed his usual practice of arguing from the Jewish Scriptures that Jesus was the Messiah. But he also went right out into the agora (the public meeting place in cities throughout the Roman Empire) and dialogued with anyone who would listen about the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus. Like the Wright—Crossan debate, it was the resurrection of Jesus that caught attention.
“Now in Athens while Paul was waiting for his associates to join him, his spirit was provoked while observing the idolatry in the city. Therefore, in the synagogue he dialogued with the Jews and the God-fearers, and also daily in the marketplace, he interacted with those who happened to be present. Some of those who entered into discussion with him were Epicurean and Stoic philosophers. They said, ‘What’s this idea scavenger trying to say?’ Others said, ‘It appears that he’s proclaiming strange deities.’ They came to these conclusions because Paul was proclaiming the Good News about Jesus and the resurrection.
So they took and brought him to a meeting of the Areopagus, where they asked, ‘May we know more about this new teaching that you are advocating, for you have surprised us by bringing these novel ideas to our ears. Therefore, we want to know about these things.’
Now all the Athenians and foreigners living there spent their time trying to say and to hear something new.” Acts 17:16-21
Those who worship intellectualism are more interested in the journey, the discussion of new ideas, than arriving at truth. They are “always seeking but never coming to a knowledge of the truth,” but Paul was still willing to enter the discussion, present his case, and leave the response of his audience in God’s hands.
LORD, thank you for scholars like N.T. Wright who do argue Jesus’ case in the academic world. Continue to help us to be like Paul in presenting the Good News about Jesus in places of faith and in places of philosophical discussion.
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