Then Paul stood in the midst of the Areopagus and said, “Men of Athens, I perceive that in all things you are very religious; for as I was passing through and considering the objects of your worship, I even found an altar with this inscription:
TO THE UNKNOWN GOD.
Therefore, the One whom you worship without knowing, Him I proclaim to you:
Faith can be divided into three levels—none, faith in something, faith in Christ. Many non-Christians would say that they don’t believe that Christianity is true, but they believe that something is true. They’re convinced that the universe isn’t random; something else is going on. They’re just not sure what. These people can be ripe for the harvest. Our job is to show that the something is the Trinity.
These are the kind of people Paul preached to in Acts 17. His sermon begins on their terms. He just talks about their faith in something until verse 31. But even with all this excellent lead in, the crowd reaction to his mention of the resurrection is predictably closed minded. Some even mocked him. So Paul left.
However, some men joined him and believed, among them Dionysius the Areopagite, a woman named Damaris, and others with them. — Acts 17:34 (NKJV)
It’s good to start on someone’s own familiar ground. For the men of Athens, that was the inscription on their altar. For 21st century Americans it can be almost anything. You need to listen to them for a while to find out why they believe that something is true. Start from there.
I often use science. This Steven Hawking quote from A Brief History of Time indicates something is true.
The laws of Science, as we know them at present, contain many fundamental numbers, like the size of the electric charge of the electron and the ratio of the masses of the proton and the electron. … The remarkable fact is that the values of these numbers seem to have been very finely adjusted to make possible the development of life. … One can take this either as evidence of a divine purpose in Creation and the choice of the laws of science or as support for the strong anthropic principle.
I just love his use of the word, “adjusted.”
The belief that something is true is an underappreciated part of our belief that Christianity is true. When our faith is strengthened by an experience of the presence of God, it’s the underlying belief that something is true that’s strengthened. We’ve already figured out that the something is Christianity.
When anyone senses God’s presence, or sees His hand in things, they’re sensing that something is true. This can make them very ripe for the harvest. They may be wondering, “What just happened?”
We know the answer.
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