Destination Unknown - Today's Insight - September 24, 2019
Do you know where you are going?
The place? Dublin, Ireland. The time? Toward the end of the nineteenth century. The event? A series of blistering attacks on Christianity, especially the "alleged resurrection" of Jesus of Nazareth. The person? Thomas Henry Huxley.
You remember Huxley. Devoted disciple of Darwin. Famous biologist, teacher, and author. Defender of the theory of evolution. Bold, convincing self-avowed humanist. Traveling lecturer.
Having finished another series of public assaults against several truths Christians held sacred, Huxley was in a hurry the following morning to catch his train to the next city. He took one of Dublin's famous horse-drawn taxis and settled back with his eyes closed to rest himself for a few minutes. He assumed the driver had been told the destination by the hotel doorman, so all he said as he got in was, "Hurry . . . I'm almost late. Drive fast!" The horses lurched forward and galloped across Dublin at a vigorous pace. Before long Huxley glanced out the window and frowned as he realized they were going west, away from the sun, not toward it.
Leaning forward, the scholar shouted, "Do you know where you are going?" Without looking back, the driver yelled a classic line, not meant to be humorous, "No, your honor! But I'm driving very fast!"
That true story is more than a story. It's an apt summary not only of the spirit of Huxley and his followers in the nineteenth century but of many in our own day. Great speed, much motion, rapid movement, but an unknown destination. As Rollo May, the contemporary psychologist, once admitted:
It is an old and ironic habit of human beings to run faster when we have lost our way.
Maybe that describes you. It can happen to anyone—strong, aggressive individuals as well as quiet, passive types. Even people like Rabbi Saul. Back in the first century he, like Huxley, was engaged in a mission of assault. Bold, dogmatic, sincere, and scholarly, the Jew from Tarsus was busy putting Christians where he felt they belonged, out of circulation! Until . . . well, until he met the very Man he was trying to convince others was a fraud. The results? A changed life. A changed man. A changed mind. A changed mission. Even a changed name. Enter Paul the apologist.
Several years later he (of all people) stumbled into Athens (of all places). The scriptural record puts it mildly, calling Athens "a city full of idols." Pausanius, who wrote fifty years after Paul was there, states, "Athens had more images than all the rest of Greece put together." Pliny adds, "In the time of Nero, Athens had well over twenty-five to thirty thousand public statues." (He didn't include another thirty thousand in the Parthenon.) Petronius once sneered, "It is easier to find a god than a man in Athens."
By and by, monotheistic rabbi and polytheistic philosopher stood nose to nose in the ancient oval office of the world, the famed Areopagus. A lonely stranger facing an intimidating body of powerful men. Those eggheads had the appearance of brilliance. Like Huxley's driver, however, they didn't know where they were going. But they were driving very fast. In an impromptu speech of remarkable logic and brevity—a mere six sentences that takes only two minutes to read—the Jew became a Greek to the Greeks that he might win the Greeks. Read it for yourself in Acts 17:22–31.
After quoting (from memory!) one of their own poets, Paul referred to their "unknown god" and spoke not only of Zeus but Jehovah . . . not about shrugging their shoulders at tomorrow a la the old Epicurean song, but about judgment "through a Man whom He (God) has appointed," having raised Him from the dead.
Boom! That did it. End of speech at Athens. Some began to sneer. Others mumbled, "Mmmm . . . interesting. Let's meet again and dialogue together." Still others—perhaps only a few—stopped right then and there and believed in the One whom God raised from the dead.
In a big hurry these days? Driving yourself at breakneck speed? Working up lots of lather . . . but unaware of your destination? Easter is God's annual question. All across the world on that Sunday morning Christ leans forward and shouts, "Do you know where you are going?" Wonder how many would be honest enough to answer, "No, your honor! But I am driving very fast!" Perhaps many.
But a few will stop, turn around, and head toward the Son.