Week of August 20, 2014

Todd JonesMy Dear Friends,

Saint Anselm defined theology as “faith seeking understanding.” As such, the task of theology is incumbent upon all vital Christians. We will never know all that there is to know of God, which ought always to make us humble, even as we hunger to learn and grow in “faith seeking understanding.” One of the great Biblical examples of this is the Apostle Paul at the Areopagus in Athens. The Areopagus is a large outcropping of green marble that stands at the base of the Acropolis, the intellectual and cultural center of ancient Greece. Paul came to this place in order to engage the best thinkers of the day with the Gospel. Acts 17:17 says, “So Paul argued in the synagogue with the Jews and the devout persons, and also in the marketplace every day with those who happened to be there.” Surrounded by temples and idols to other gods, Paul said, “The God who made the world and everything in it, he who is Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in shrines made by human hands, nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mortals life and breath and all things” (Acts 17:24,25). Paul was engaging the Greeks, who loved philosophical discussion and debate, in thinking about God. While his own theology was rooted in the religion of his Jewish forbearers, God for Paul was not confined to one people or to one race or religion. The God that Paul encountered in Jesus Christ was as wide as the world that God created, and as deep as the truth that ran right to the heart of all things. Paul was able to quote from their own Greek poets and philosophers to build bridges of understanding that might bring his audience to Christ. He took seriously the genuine desire for God that he found among the Greeks, and sought to meet them in the places where they may be in agreement to take them to another place. Standing atop what the Romans called Mars Hill a few years ago, I marveled again at the courage and faith that Paul demonstrated at the Areopagus.

Paul was convinced that everyone needed to know Jesus Christ if they were truly to live. To the Corinthians he could say, “For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and him crucified” (I Corinthians 2:2). To the Philippians, Paul would say, “For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain” (Philippians 1:21). This passion for God turned Paul into one of the most influential thinkers of all time, and Paul’s every thought was captive to the Lord Jesus Christ. In the twentieth century, C.S. Lewis spoke to a whole new generation of people both inside and outside the Church. He came back to the faith in which he was baptized as a middle-age adult. While many of his friends helped Lewis to understand the importance of God, he later would write that he was “surprised by joy.” For both Paul and Lewis, it was the Spirit of God that gave to them the faith to discover in Christ all that they had longed for and ever wanted.

I always feel a deep concern for those who never come to this encounter with the Living God, or who find faith impossible to affirm. Paul spoke on Mars Hill of those who “would search for God and perhaps grope for him — though indeed he is not far from each one of us.” We all find ourselves in times and seasons when we search for God, and even grope after a more firm and certain knowledge of God. Some find God harder to believe in than others do, and it is for those who find faith difficult to affirm that I think about often. It was just such people that C.S. Lewis had in mind when he wrote that “God designed the human machine to run on himself. He is the fuel our spirits are designed to burn. That is why it is no good asking God to make us happy in our own way without bothering about religion. God cannot give us happiness apart from himself, because there is no such thing.” This is what Augustine was getting at when he said, “Thou hast made us for Thyself, O God, and our hearts are restless, until they find their rest in Thee.” May every restless heart follow that God-given restlessness to its true home in Jesus Christ.

With Love and Prayers,

Todd Jones

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