This is a blog that I post to several times a week although not necessarily daily. These reflections are triggered by the scripture found in the lectionary used by many Christian denominations. While I am part of the Catholic tradition, these posts are not --or rarely--sectarian. I try to put myself in the space of a of Jesus Christ and listen to words that come to me as I read and pray the scriptures. Each post also includes a photograph. These rarely have any connection to the content of the post but are simply pleasing images that I capture as I make my pilgrimage through life.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

St. Paul in Athens: What lesson for us?

For ‘In him we live and move and have our being,’as even some of your poets have said,‘For we too are his offspring.’Since therefore we are the offspring of God,we ought not to think that the divinity is like an imagefashioned from gold, silver, or stone by human art and imagination.  Acts 17:28-9

Although it is tempting to read these lines as confirmation of the universality of the Divine One's self revelation, I think the relevant message for us today concerns Paul's failure in Athens.  These lines are taken from Paul's address at the Aeropagus--public gathering place--in Athens.  He was trying to use the prevailing cultural and religious beliefs to communicate the Christian message to those considered pagans.  He takes lines from two poets--and he takes them out of context--to try to convince the Athenians that the Christian message is compatible with their traditional beliefs.  Interestingly he mentions nothing about "The Way" of life that is central to Christian faith.  His communications tactic does not work and he never find Paul again trying to use this to spread the message.

This reminds me of some of the current Christian thinkers and writers who seem convinced that quantum physics has provided a way to "almost prove the validity" of the Christian revelation.  I am not a physicist but I do have two children who are.  If I have learned anything from them it is that when I think I understand quantum physics especially through the writings of someone who is not a quantum physicist, I almost certainly do not understand it.  Most writers of this sort use words that seem understandable but which are distortions of the quantum insights.  It is all too easy both as physics and as theology.

Paul learned that the Athenians were not buying his facile interpretations of Athenian religions.  Just so, we should learn that those who understand--if that is even possible--quantum physics find the Christian message undercut by such tactics.  The core Christian message is about a way of life and the only effective evangelization will be based on lives lived in that way.  Philosophical and theological analyses are certainly important but will never bring people to faith.  Contact and engagement with Christians who are on the way will do that.  The analysis will come later if at all.

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