7 Tips on Engaging Skeptics Like Paul Did in Athens [Part 1]
by Mikel Del Rosario
Cultural Engagement Tips
My studies at Dallas Theological Seminary have challenged me to think about practical lessons we can learn from Paul’s engagement in Acts 17. I recently had a conversation about this passage with my mentor, Dr. Darrell Bock, and I’ve discovered some cultural engagement tips that every defender of the faith should know.
So today, I’m beginning a new series of posts called “7 Tips on Engaging Skeptics Like Paul Did in Athens.” In this post, we’ll kick things off with a little background, so you know what Paul was walking into. Then, we’ll just take a look at two simple lessons we can learn from his encounter in Acts 17.
The Apostle Paul in Athens – Background
Besides religion, a lot of people were big into philosophy, too. Athens was home to Socrates, Plato and Aristotle–basically the center of Greek philosophy. So what can everyday defenders of the faith learn from Paul’s encounter in Athens?
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Back in the day, Athens was a massive intellectual center. Anyone who set foot in the city couldn’t help but notice all the statues, temples, altars and inscriptions to various deities. So polytheism–a belief in many gods–was everywhere. For example, there was a temple honoring Hephaestion, the god of the craftsmen. The Parthenon tourists visit today was actually huge temple honoring Athena—the patron goddess of the whole city.
The Apostle Paul in Athens – Lessons
Here are two life lessons from Paul’s time in Athens, recorded by Luke in Acts 17:
1. Care About People
The Apostle Paul cared about people. We should, too. I mean really care–even if their lifestyles or religious beliefs kinda creep you out. While Paul was in Athens, “he was greatly upset because he saw the city was full of idols (16).” As a devout Jew, this might have made him sick. As a Pharisee, he knew how seriously God dealt with Israel over idol worship in the past.
But Paul didn’t flip out in the streets. And he didn’t show up with a spiritual chip on his shoulder, like he was somehow better than them. His engagement with the culture was fueled by deep compassion for people enslaved to idolatry…
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