Christianity Oasis Ministry
Evolution vs. Creationism
Chapter 4 - Creationism is Misused Theology
There is no question that the debate over creation versus evolution has resulted in serious hostility on both sides. As discussed in the previous chapter, it has resulted in a backlash that gives the Secular-Progressive elements in society the ammunition they need to show Christians as ignorant, stubborn, and irrational. Who would want to be associated with that group?
Jesus, the apostles, and the early Christians were all faced with elements in society that challenged Christianity. If Jesus, Paul, Peter, or any of the early Christians were alive today, how would they deal with this issue?
A Brief History of Challenges to Christianity
Jesus was challenged by the hypocritical and legalistic Pharisees or, as Jesus called them: a brood of vipers. It seems that wherever Jesus went, there was a Pharisee ready to argue with him and distract Jesus from his message with minute and insignificant details and stupid questions and arguments. How did Jesus handle the Pharisees? He did not enter into a debate with them. Through metaphor, example, and retort Jesus exposed their hypocrisy and error; then proceeded with his evangelizing.
Paul and the other apostles faced a different problem, Gnosticism (see Chapter 12 for a detailed discussion on Gnosticism). Briefly, Gnosticism is an occult philosophy/theology with roots in ancient Babylon that blossomed during the time of the early Church. It is based on the concept that, as Satan told Eve, we are all gods and through a special hidden knowledge, Gnosis, we can realize our divinity. The Gnostic position was that Jesus was a man and the Christ spirit came upon him. Jesus mastered the Gnosis and became divine. Where evolution challenges Christianity by denying the spiritual dimension, Gnosticism challenges Christianity by diverting men away from Jesus and into the world of self-salvation. So how did the apostles handle the challenge of Gnosticism? They did not enter into philosophical arguments with the Gnostics but, through their epistles, merely gave guidance on how to recognize the Gnostic message, the error, then went on with their evangelizing. (See 1 Jn 4 for a good example of this approach).
The early Christians were, in addition to severe physical persecution, challenged by a pagan society. Paganism was the state religion. Challenging paganism overtly was a crime. Yet Christianity spread throughout the Roman Empire at an alarming rate. When Christians were brought before a judge, typically they could not be found to have committed any crime, even for denouncing paganism. They usually were just found guilty of not practicing paganism themselves. The persecution forced the Christians to practice their faith in hiding. There were no 20,000-member mega-churches in early Rome. Evangelizing was done on a one to one basis. It was personal. And it was enormously successful.
Do we see a pattern emerging here? The answer to theological challenges used by Jesus, the apostles, and the early Christians was Evangelism. Jesus' last words to the apostles were:
"But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be my witness both in Jerusalem, and all Judea and Samaria and even to the remotest part of the earth." Acts 1:8
The message was clear – witness, spread the Gospel, be Evangelists. It was a simple and successful plan and the early Christian generally kept their focus.
The Political Church
However, the Church did not always react to challenges with evangelism as instructed by Jesus. The early Christians suffered great persecution but in the early part of the 4th century, Emperor Constantine declared Christianity as the official state religion of the Roman Empire. Up to this time, even with the severe persecution and large number of Christian martyrs, Christianity flourished. However, Constantine politicized the Church by making it an office of the state.
One evening the pagan citizens of Rome went to bed pagan and the next morning they woke to find themselves Christian, at least in name, and the Bishop of Rome woke to a church full of unbelievers and heretics. The Bishop of Rome functioned like a Minister of Social and Religious Affairs for the Roman Empire and was given considerable temporal power. Paganism was gradually made illegal and pagan temples were converted to churches. The persecution shoe was now on the other foot. But just declaring the population to be Christian was far different from a true acceptance of Jesus as one's personal savior (see Chapter 18) and paganism, now an underground and secret practice, still flourished. The Political Church made efforts to accommodate the pagans by incorporating some pagan practices into the Church rituals. Genuflecting and votive candles are direct imports from pagan ritual. Saints with specific areas of influence replaced pagan gods with the same areas of influence. Statues of saints replaced pagan idols and "holy medals" and objects with spiritual powers replaced magic amulets for protection against the evil demons.
Along with the pagan challenge and, in fact more dangerous, was the Gnostic influence that was growing steadily in popularity and corrupting even the Church hierarchy. The "Political Church" met this challenge by forcefully declaring the Gnostic beliefs as heresies, but then took the same approach with Gnosticism as they did with paganism. This was a far more devastating move. Paganism was based on traditional practices and superstition but did not have much of a theological impact. Gnosticism had a direct and very negative impact on Christian theology. The Political Church, in an attempt to make the Gnostics comfortable, introduced several Gnostic beliefs into the theology with a Christian spin. The Sophia of the Gnostics was introduced into Christian theology as "Mary, Queen of Heaven." Mary was later raised to the position of "Co-redemptrix"! Concepts such as Purgatory, monastic life, celibacy, holy water, and physical penance, for example, are all Gnostic concepts. When the Church became political it had to accommodate all the citizens of the empire and that meant compromise.
By the Middle Ages, the Church had gained power over not just the religious life of the population, but the politics and economics of Europe as well. The Church threatened political rivals with excommunication, and that was political suicide even for a king. When offerings did not meet the increasing financial needs, the Church taxed the subjects and Bishops became some of the wealthiest landowners in Europe. The Church became the supreme power but with the power came growing resentment.
The result of answering the pagan and Gnostic challenges through regulation and compromise is that many were Christian in name only, nominal Christians. Paganism and Gnosticism continued to be a significant part of the culture. Chaucer's Canterbury Tales is a good example of how paganism and Gnosticism were comfortably merged with legalistic Christianity among the common folk.
A thousand years after the establishment of the Political Church, it bore little resemblance to the vital Spirit-filled Church that preceded it. Rather than the personal evangelism that changed hearts and souls, the Church now made men "Christian" by fiat–efficient but not very effective. The Church leaders took the approach that they were establishing the kingdom of God, the temporal kingdom of God. They forgot that the temporal kingdom of God will be established when Jesus returns. The focus for Christians now is to establish the spiritual kingdom–through evangelism!
However, the political and religious hegemony enjoyed by the Church could not last. Europe's feudal system was not stable enough for central control to continue and the nominal Christianity imposed upon the populace was an illusion. By the early 15th century, the Church began to loose its grip on society. The curricula of universities were tightly controlled and academic thought had to comply with Church dogma. However, the academics gradually rediscovered the Greek philosophers and Roman poets and began to challenge the arbitrary teachings of the Church. At the same time, Europe began to succumb to the fragmented feudal rivalries. The unity that was required for Church political control began to take second place to the expediency of survival among warring feudal kingdoms. It did not happen overnight, but eventually the Renaissance was born and a new challenge to the Church with it.
Political leaders were more secure in their positions and could challenge the Church without concern for being excommunicated. Academics, with a more secular political structure, could express thoughts conflicting with Church dogma without fear of being burned at the stake as heretics. And the resentment that had built over centuries of Church abuse burst the seams of theological restraint.
The Renaissance was a period of refreshment expressed in music, art, and learning. The classical period of Greece and Rome was rediscovered and emulated. Philosophy was rediscovered. No longer was an academic required to regurgitate a philosophy conjured up by a cleric in Rome. The Renaissance thinker developed his own philosophy and defended it with logical arguments. One could explore new frontiers in answering questions about the human condition, God, the world–anything and everything was fair game. As one might expect, some of these thoughts offended the Church leaders in no small amount.
Let us pause here for a moment and consider the mindset of the Church leadership after 1500 years. Instead of a focus on the personal welfare of the individual and their salvation, they were focused on the political welfare of the Church. Instead of promoting personal a religious experience, they enforced a "cookie-cutter" rote compliance with a legalistic religion. They were distracted with the politics and economics of their world and had alienated the population. They had immunized many against Christianity and, in some case, even theism. Actually, Satan tried to establish the Political Church many centuries before Constantine. Recall the temptation of Jesus.
Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor. "All this I will give to you," he said, "if you will bow down and worship me." Matt 4:8, 9
Satan was content to give Jesus all the temporal power of the satanic kingdom if it would prevent Jesus from establishing the Kingdom of God on earth. Unfortunately, by the Middle Ages he had essentially succeeded with the Church where he had failed with Jesus.
The Philosophical Church
Free to explore new concepts, some philosophers considered the question of the existence of God. Was there a God? If so, what was his nature? Can the existence of God be proven? Up to this point in human history, the answers to these and similar questions were found in revelation, in the Scriptures, and accepted by faith. Now the philosophers rejected faith and required a reasoned and provable argument to establish truth.
Various philosophical positions were put forward regarding God, morality, and the human condition. A few suggested that there might not be a God or at least not a God as the Church claimed. Initially, these ideas had to be carefully presented but as the Renaissance gained momentum and the Church lost its power to burn opponents at the stake, the atheistic philosopher gained courage.
To answer this challenge the Church leaders attempted to "fight fire with fire" and develop philosophies based on logical arguments that proved the existence of God and supported the dogma the clerics had established over the centuries. This was the birth of the "Philosophical Church." Some of the attempts at developing a Christian philosophy were quite successful. Some of the arguments of Thomas Aquinas are still put forward by Christian philosophers and theologians. However, Christianity is not a philosophy– it is a personal relationship. Knowledge of God, his nature, his moral code and standards, and his relationship with man cannot be acquired by logical exercises and philosophical inquiry, which is why this knowledge was revealed.
As the Renaissance progressed and education advanced, knowledge of the Greek and Roman classics, their languages, the arts, music, and philosophy became the mark of the educated man (women were not included in this elite club). Secularism and Humanism, although previously a secret part of the culture, emerged as, not just acceptable, but as a more enlightened and sophisticated position. Religion, with its reliance on faith, was seen as superstitious, acceptable only for the lower classes that did not have access to a "proper" education.
All through the Middle Ages, the Church had been the center of learning. Were it not for the diligent work of the clerics in the monasteries, much of the knowledge that fueled the start of the Renaissance would have been lost. Now society was showing its thanks by rejecting religion. In order to make Christianity acceptable to the intelligentsia, courses in theology were introduced in the universities that attempted the rigor and rhetoric that would be acceptable to the newly emerging "Renaissance Men."
Even today, some ministers wear academic robes at services to show their educational achievement. Many denominations required their clergy to study in seminaries that have a heavy dose of philosophy, psychology, and sociology. The Church has come a long way from the uneducated fishermen who started it all. What if Peter, whose only credential was that he was a Spirit-filled evangelist who personally knew Jesus and studied at his feet, applied to be a minister of a church today? How many congregations would choose him over a Yale-educated theologian who can give an erudite discourse on what Peter meant?
The Social Church
Over the centuries, humanistic philosophy gained popularity and with it secularism; and with secularism liberalism and atheism. The old Political Church no longer had a hold outside its own religious community. The Philosophical Church gradually changed its position to a more conciliatory philosophical position in an attempt to find acceptance in an increasingly liberal society. This was reminiscent of the compromise made in the initial stages of the Political Church with Paganism and Gnosticism.
The humanistic position rejected an absolute moral standard in favor of standards set by the individual or society. Sin was relative. Sin was what one said it was. Liberal universities became overtly atheistic and religion relegated to classes in sociology that studied beliefs of primitive societies. Those universities that did have a theology department taught theology as a philosophy and "Christianity" taught there was a deistic compromise to the sensitivities of the liberal society. An example of this ecclesiastic compromise occurred in the 1960s when the Episcopal priest Joseph Fletcher developed the concept of Situational Ethics, which states that moral principles can be cast aside in certain situations if love is best served.
By the last half of the 20th century, one could enter a gathering of educated "movers and shakers" of society and mention Marx, Buddha, or Mohammad and the statement would draw a crowd wanting to express their ideas on how the principles of these "great thinkers" should be incorporated into our society. Mention "Jesus" and everyone would move away from you in embarrassment. In the elite society, Jesus represented the Evangelical Christians–and everyone knew that they were those superstitious, irrational troublemakers.
As in the case of the Political Church, Satan tried to establish the Social Church from the beginning. When a woman anointed Jesus with expensive perfume, the reaction of some of the Pharisees was that of the modern Social Church.
Some of those present were saying indignantly to one another, "Why this waste of perfume? It could have been sold for more than a year's wages and the money given to the poor." And they rebuked her harshly.
"Leave her alone," said Jesus. "Why are you bothering her? She has done a beautiful thing to me. The poor you will always have with you and you can help them any time you want." Mk 14:4-7
While we are guided by love and the Holy Spirit to help the poor, we must keep our priorities straight. It is all about Jesus and the social programs are only the result of a spirit fill life. Many secular welfare agencies do not believe in God. The Christian should give his "perfume" to Jesus first.
The Political and the Philosophical Churches had a problem. They were loosing membership. Some churches were closing. The challenge was obvious, the Political and Philosophical Church had to become more modern, more relevant to attract the better-educated and more liberal society. To meet the challenge elements of the Political-Philosophical Church morphed into the "Social Church."
The Social Church is the politically correct church, even if that means compromising the message of the Gospel. The message is non-confrontational, "Let's not emphasize sin, but the goodness of people". Homosexuality is not condemned it is embraced. Some homosexuals are ordained and even made bishops. In some churches, homosexuals are married. Sermons about protecting the environment and how to further the liberal political agenda replace the message of the Gospel. In some congregations, it is preached that there are many ways to God, not just Christianity – a message taken straight out of New Age Gnosticism. Richard Dawkins in his The God Delusion, mentions an Anglican bishop who refers to himself as a "recovering Christian" after realizing that the message of the new liberal Social Church did not require Christ. The Social Church preaches "Social Justice", a concept that emphasizes justice for the collective society or a group within society as opposed to equal justice based on the individual. It states that previous injustices to a group must be corrected, wealth must be redistributed to eliminate the poor/oppressed classes, and that government must ensure that citizens have a basic quality of life. In other words, salvation is a function of the Marxist philosophy.
However, this approach to the current challenges has been a total disaster. The Political/Philosophical/Social (PPS) Church continues to loose members. People who are called by the Holy Spirit and are seeking spiritual fulfillment cannot find it in the "politically correct" Church; they are seeking the truth.
Beginning in the mid-twentieth century, the theology of "collective salvation" emerged, largely from the concept of social justice. Collective salvation proposes that we as individuals earn our salvation through collectively saving society. Our actions that promote equality among classes, eliminate oppression of the worker and the poor, eliminate hunger, etc., will "save" society and as society is saved, so our we. Essentially, this is "religious socialism" and is diametrically opposed to the message of the Bible that says we are saved individually. This philosophy has become prominent among many liberals of the Catholic Church as exemplified by Cardinal Henri de Lubac:
Just as the Jews for so long have placed all their hope not in individual rewards after death, but in the collective destiny of their race and the glory of their earthly Jerusalem, likewise, all the hopes of the Christian should tend toward the coming of the kingdom and the glory of the one Jerusalem ... Spiritualized and universalized, according to the words of the prophecies themselves, Judaism transmits to Christianity its conception of an essential social salvation.
Social Justice and Collective Salvation play an important part in the Humanism-Christianity polarization and will be discussed further in Chapter 13.
It is interesting to note that, while the PPS Church is loosing membership, the Evangelical churches are rapidly gaining membership. For the purpose of this book, I define an Evangelical Church as one with the following characteristics:
However, even in the Evangelical Church there is the temptation to meet modern challenges by human, not spiritual power.
The Scientific Church
We have discussed the Political, Philosophical, and Social Churches and how they attempted to meet their challenges through human efforts only. In every case, these efforts have been unsuccessful and, in some cases, caused the Church to loose its Christian character. As Jesus said:
You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt has become tasteless, how will it be made salty again? It is good for nothing anymore, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot by men. Matt 5:13
The flavor that men seek is the salvation paid for by Jesus. Diversion from that message is like salt loosing is flavor. But now the Evangelical Church is faced with what is perceived to be a significant challenge, evolution. I say the Evangelical Church because the PPS churches have not made it an issue and, in fact, some accept atheistic evolution as consistent with Christianity.
Evolutionists have succeeded in incorporating the study of evolution in the public school curricula and with it the challenge to 1) Specific creation of each species and, 2) A six-day creation period. However, an additional challenge is implied: The laws of nature can sufficiently explain all creation without the need for a God. We will discuss this last challenge in detail in Part 3. There is a fear that teaching a Godless science will undermine theistic faith and, therefore, it is necessary to oppose such teaching or at least required the inclusion of a theistic alternative.
As we discussed in the previous chapters, Creationists do not agree on exactly how God created the world and Creationism is not a science but a tenant of faith. The liberal courts have ruled, rightly or wrongly, that religion cannot be taught in public schools and therefore Creationism cannot be taught in public schools, and that includes Intelligent Design. So efforts are redoubled to include Creationism in some form in the public school curriculum and to devise a scientific explanation acceptable to the courts that includes a theistic cause. This is the birth of the "Scientific Church."
Recall the pattern we see in the Political, Philosophical, and Social Churches. First, a perceived challenge to Christianity is defined. Then the resources are diverted from evangelism to engage the challenge in its own arena. The result is that evangelism is reduced or even eliminated and the Church becomes contaminated by the element of the challenge.
Satan is no dummy. In fact he is smarter than any of us and it is no coincidence that he has succeeded in diverting the Church to respond to his challenges and draw us into battle in his arena. Sun Tzu states in The Art of War "And, therefore, those skilled in war bring the enemy to the field of battle and are not brought there by him." In other words, fight the enemy on your own ground. When you fight the enemy on your own ground, you have the advantage of position and preparedness. You fight from strength. Satan knows this well and every time the Church takes his bait and enters into battle – political, philosophical, social, or scientific – Satan has the advantage. That is why the Church must fight Satan on the ground God has prepared for battle.
Satan is at a disadvantage when the Church focuses on the Word of God and especially the salvation message of Jesus. That is the only battleground the Church will find success. That is why the Church must keep its focus and not be distracted by the challenges Satan places before us in an attempt to distract from the primary goal–winning souls for Jesus.
What if, for the sake of argument, the first chapter of Genesis was never written? Would the Gospel message be any different? The answer is NO. How God made the world is not important, we merely take it on faith that he did. What is important is that mankind has a sinful nature in need of redemption and that redemption is available through Jesus. Whether evolution is proven or disproved, the Gospel message is the same.
If Christians want to have a real impact on the liberal, atheistic evolution movement, then must turn away from the creation-evolution argument and put all that energy into evangelizing. Would that have any impact? Consider this; even liberal Secular-Progressive politicians who deride Evangelicals in private (or not so private at times) court them at election time with obvious hypocrisy. They do not court the PPS Churches because they are already in the liberal camp. They are afraid of the Evangelical message and they want to soften its impact in an election campaign. They use the words "God" and "faith" in their speeches. Clever euphemisms are substituted for "abortion", "homosexuality", "euthanasia", and "recreational drugs". Evolution is not mentioned because evolution is not a factor. It has no moral impact. Evolution is not a player in the game of winning souls.
An example of how the Church can be scientifically distracted today is the question regarding UFOs and aliens. For decades, UFOs have been the subject of science fiction and speculation. Most credible scientists reserve their opinion at best; many simply dismiss the possibility largely because the nearest habitable planet is a journey of several hundred years away, if you travel at the speed of light (and that is impossible). Nevertheless, in April, 2000, a meeting between the Hebrew scholar, Zecharia Sitchin and Monsignor Corrado Balducci exemplifies the current reaction of the Church (at least the Catholic Church) to challenges presented by science, speculative or otherwise. In his report, Sitchin quotes Msgr. Balducci as follows:
On UFO's: "There must be something in it." The hundreds and thousands of eyewitness reports leave no room for denying that there is a measure of truth in them, even allowing for optical illusions, atmospheric phenomena and so on. As a Catholic theologian such witnessing cannot be dismissed. "Witnessing is one way of transmitting truth, and in the case of the Christian religion, we are talking about a Divine Revelation in which witnessing is crucial to the credibility of our faith."
On Life on Other Planets: "That life may exist on other planets is certainly possible... The Bible does not rule out that possibility. On the basis of scripture and on the basis of our knowledge of God's omnipotence, His wisdom being limitless, we must affirm that life on other planets is possible." Moreover, this is not only possible, but also credible and even probable. "Cardinal Nicolo Cusano (1401-1464) wrote that there is not a single star in the sky about which we can rule out the existence of life, even if different from ours."
On Intelligent Extraterrestrials: "When I talk about Extraterrestrials, we must think of beings who are like us -- more probably, beings more advanced than us, in that their nature is an association of a material part and a spiritual part, a body and a soul, although in different proportions than human beings on Earth." Angels are beings who are purely spiritual, devoid of bodies, while we are made up of spirit and matter but still at a low level. "It is entirely credible that in the enormous distance between Angels and humans, there could be found some middle stage, that is beings with a body like ours but more elevated spiritually. If such intelligent beings really exist on other planets, only science will be able to prove; but in spite of what some people think, we would be in a position to reconcile their existence with the Redemption that Christ has brought us."
The merging of speculative science fiction and theology dilutes the theology and gives unjustified credibility to the speculation. It also distracts from the central message of the Gospel, just as the Political, Philosophical, and Social Churches have been distracted. Scientists and speculators are currently proposing that the religious experience is merely a chemical reaction in the brain, near death experiences are merely the release of endorphins, and a myriad of similar hypotheses. They claim these "prove" there is no such thing as a God because it all can be explained by science, or science raises questions that cannot be explained by religion. Satan will use anything to distract and divert the Church from its mission to evangelize.
Yes, an atheistic form of science will be taught in the public schools. The public schools will teach the use of condoms for premarital sex and abortion. Public schools will continue to teach that "alternative sex preferences" are legitimate and good for society. However, these challenges are no greater that those facing the early Church. They should be met in the same way the early Church met them: Head on with vigor, but on God's battleground– the Gospel of Jesus.
Perhaps we can learn from Jesus. During his ministry, the Roman Empire was pagan, hedonistic, corrupt, and, immoral. Among the popular Greek philosophies were those that would be named "antichrist" by John. Gnosticism and the occult were an integral part of the culture. This was not a democracy for the Jewish people and there was a deep resentment among many (particularly the Zealots, of which the apostle Simon was a member). Jesus could have preached about political injustice or put forth compelling arguments against the worldly philosophies, Gnosticism and the occult practices of the time. But he did not take that path. He focused on the Kingdom of God, the need for repentance, and how God is calling each of us. He condemned religious hypocrisy and declared the need to worship in spirit, not as a ritual.
The corruption, immorality, apostasy, idolatry, oppression and all the numerous sins one can name are part of the kingdom ruled by Satan. Jesus told us to be in the world but not of it. He did not challenge the kingdom of Satan directly. Instead, Jesus showed us how to leave the kingdom of Satan and become citizens of the Kingdom of God. Christians will be challenged and Peter gives us this advice when it happens:
But even if you should suffer for the sake of righteousness, you are blessed. And do not fear their intimidations, and do not be troubled, but sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence. 1 Pet 3:14, 15
Do not be intimidated. Do not be troubled. Be ready to gently witness concerning the hope that is within you, if they ask. How can the Christian apply this to the challenge of atheistic evolution and Humanism in general? First, do not be intimidated or troubled by it; find the peace of Christ within you and remember that it is not up to you but that the Holy Spirit is in charge. Second, do not argue and do not be confrontational. Peter says we are to "make a defense" based on the hope that is within you. In other words, meet the challenge with the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
In 1 Cor 5:20, Paul says he is an ambassador of Christ, as are all Christians. The duty of the Christian ambassador (1 Cor 5:17-19) is to reconcile all men to Christ. That should be the focus of all Christians. Should we stand for a moral high road? Yes, of course. Should we expose sin and heresy? Yes, of course. But instead of entering into arguments and endless discussions and confrontations that are not "gentle or reverent", let the Christian stand on the hill and shine the light of Christ upon the challenge and let the Holy Spirit do his awesome work.
Of all the places the apostle Paul evangelized, Athens was the most difficult. For centuries, Athens had been the cultural center of the Western world. Birthplace of Western philosophy and critical thinking, the Athenians developed geometry and trigonometry, and their academies were the basis for higher education today. Their art and architecture was copied by the Romans and can be found throughout the modern Western societies.
The Roman religion was essentially the same as the Greek, only the names of the gods were changed. And the language of the Roman Empire was not Latin but Greek. Anyone who wanted to be considered educated or be accepted in the right circles had to be fluent in Greek. Greek poetry and drama are still enjoyed today. Athens was the cultural capital of the Roman Empire and Paul set out to evangelize the city and, in so doing, perhaps take a big step forward in the establishment of Christianity in the empire.
When Paul visited Athens, he encountered a group of Stoic and Epicurean philosophers (Acts 17:16-32). When Paul told them about Jesus and the resurrection, many of them laughed at him. His simple message of salvation just was not sophisticated enough for the intelligencia of Athens.
Stoicism was a school of philosophy founded in 308 BC by Zeno of Citum (Cyprus). It emphasizes self-control and detachment from distracting emotions. Stoic philosophy emphasized the use of logic and emphasizes materialism, natural science, and naturalistic ethics. Men should strive to be free of all passions.
Stoics believed that there was a universal reason, Logos, inherent in all things and the animating principle of all things. Logos was thought of as an impersonal divine power that orders and directs the universe. Unhappiness was due to ignorance and to achieve happiness one must pursue philosophy.
Stoics held that, since all people were manifestations of the one universal spirit, we should all live in brotherly love. Differences in rank and wealth were of no importance in social relationships. At the time of Paul, Stoicism was the most influential philosophy in the Roman Empire. The best example of a Stoic is Mr. Spock from the old Star Trek television series.
The Epicureans were the other group that confronted Paul in Athens. Epicureanism was founded upon the teaching of Epicurus (340-270 B.C.). Epicurus was a materialist, following the philosophy of Democritus. He attacked superstition and divine intervention. He believed that the greatest good was to seek modest pleasure. The highest form of pleasure, according to the Epicureans, is the pursuit of knowledge.
Epicureans emphasize that the gods are neutral and do not interfere in the physical world. Gods, matter, and souls, are all made from atoms. Even thoughts were composed of atoms. Some have considered Epicureanism to be the root of modern atheistic philosophy. For the Christian who is confronted with the Humanism of today, it may be of some comfort to know that Paul faced the same philosophical challenges 2,000 years ago.
Paul was certainly a match for these philosophers and he could have debated them on their philosophical positions. He was a scholar and a Pharisee. The Pharisees were known for their ability to argue the Law and debate the fine points of theology. Paul was fluent in at least Aramaic, Hebrew, Greek, and Latin. His epistles exhibit his ability to formulate clear and logical arguments for the Christian position. But Paul did not enter into a philosophical debate. Instead, he simply presented the Gospel in simple terms in a sermon on Mars Hill (Acts17:22-31). The reaction of many of the philosophers was to shake their heads and sneer. But a few followed him–just a few. Paul knew that, since Christianity is not a philosophy, changing their heads would not have brought repentance and an enduring belief. He had to change their hearts. As he had done so many times, he simply told them about the Gospel and let the Holy Spirit do the rest.
If Paul lived today, I think he would be moved to write the first Letter to the Creationist (I say first letter because I am sure more than one would be necessary). It might begin something like this:
My dear brothers in Christ,
I write this letter to you with much concern. Why have you allowed yourselves to be distracted from our goal? It is Satan's oldest trick. You allow yourselves to be caught up in arguments that make no difference instead of spreading the Good News of our salvation ............
We ended the previous chapter discussing how Christians using creation as an evangelical tool, i.e. the scientific Church, are in danger of causing a backlash from scientist who recognize the fact that creation is not provable by the scientific method. This provides fuel for the Humanist argument that Christians are superstitious, illogical, and all the other negative adjectives they are so fond of attaching to Christians. The same backlash effect is associated with the Political, Philosophical, and Social Churches. These churches are the result of human contamination of a divine institution and exhibit the imperfections one might expect when Man meddles in God's business. The Political Church gave us dogma, bureaucracy, Gnostic contamination, the Inquisition, ecclesiastical wealth and power in secular affairs, and a myriad of "sin" the Humanists use to show that religion does not make one any better than Atheism. The Philosophical Church gave us (and still does) logical argument to prove there is a God. However, these arguments are not convincing and many atheistic philosophers, often quoted by modern Humanists, make a compelling argument against the existence of God. Efforts by the Social Church to show religion makes us better than the Atheist (we are not, the premise of Christianity is that we are sinners) through good works fail to convince the Humanists who outperform the religious social work in many areas.
Whenever Man meddles in God's business, we can expect a backlash from the Humanists. The Humanists have used this quit effectively to discount religion as a moral force in society. The problem is that Humanists are comparing Atheism to Man-contaminated Christianity (there is little difference between the two) and not to the God-instituted relationship between God and Man that represents authentic Christianity. We will be discussing authentic Christianity throughout the book, but particularly in Part 4. Once the Christian engages the Humanist as an authentic Christian, acknowledging the problems of the Political, Philosophical, Social, and Scientific Churches, the discussion takes on a new perspective, a perspective we have seen before in the early Church.
 Much of the information presented here is taken from A Concise History of the Catholic Church by Thomas Bokenkotter. This is readable, interesting history of the Church and highly recommended.
 Socialology Guide website, https://www.sociologyguide.com/weaker-section-and-minorities/social-justice.php
 Henri de Lubac, Catholicisme - Les aspects sociaux du dogme, 1945. Collective salvation and "liberation theology" will be discussed in detail in Chapter 12.
 The Art of War by Sun Tzu is thought to have been written sometime between 400 and 200 B.C. Sun Tzu was a great general and military strategist and his book has been a source of excellent strategic thinking for not just military commanders but for corporate CEOs and politicians. Some of Tzu's thought are included to emphasize the fact that we are at war and that we must begin to think like Christian soldiers.
 Catholic theologian, member of the Curia of the Roman Catholic Church, a Prelate of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples and the Propagation of the Faith, leading exorcist of the Archdiocese of Rome, member of the Vatican's Beatification Committee, an expert on Demonology and the author of several books. Appointed in the Vatican to deal with the issue of UFO's and Extraterrestrials.
 Sitchin and Vatican Theologian Discuss UFO's, Extraterrestrials, Angels, Creation of Man, © Z. Sitchin 2000 Reproduced by permission.
 Our word "logic" is taken from the Greek Logos.
Copyright © 2011 by Patrick Vosse
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