Continuing on the theme of judging by appearances and our own experience… Here is today’s scriptural reflection from the Dynamis site that more deeply sheds light on the issue… We must affirm that on a personal and communal basis we are guided by the Spirit of Truth not by our convictions regarding appearances or the validity of our own experience.
Tuesday of the Sixth Week of Pascha (May 19, 2015)
Some New Thing: Acts 17:19-28, especially vss. 24-25: “God, who made the world and everything in it, since He is Lord of heaven and earth, does not dwell in temples made with hands. Nor is He worshiped with men’s hands, as though He needed anything, since He gives to all life, breath, and all things.” The Apostle Paul, “as his custom was” (vs. 17:2), visited the synagogues in Athens (vs. 17) and also the agora – the city’s market center. There the masses mingled with philosophers from the classical schools, spending “their time in nothing else but either to tell or to hear some new thing” (vs. 21).
As the primary bearers of Hellenistic culture, the Athenian philosophers naturally wish to bring the visiting apostle to a gathering at the Areopagus or Mars Hill (vs. 19). According to Saint Luke, the Stoics and Epicureans who “encountered him” (vs. 18) are especially curious about his “new doctrine” (vs. 19). Among the pagan schools of philosophy, these two dedicated the greatest effort to illumining the uncertainties of life and seeking truth concerning the divine. However, their efforts were based solely on human reasoning.
Saint Paul’s words undercut the Athenians’ basic assumption that the ultimate truth about life can be found by men through reason, using trial and error. We recall that in the Garden of Eden the serpent suggests this very approach, promising Adam and Eve “you will be like gods” (Gn 3:6).
Ultimately the Church, in the person of the Apostle Paul, brings the true light to Hellenized world, which “received the heavenly Spirit” and acquired “the true faith, worshiping the undivided Trinity,” as we sing during the liturgy after holy communion. This new faith made profound advances upon Western culture until the Enlightenment.
Gradually, the idea that mankind has the capacity to discern its own truth gradually regained ascendancy. Today, we are once again living in a world where the ancient lie rules. Scientific materialism and secular humanism openly attack the truth which Christ and His apostles taught.
What Paul shares with the Athenian philosophers is truly “some new thing” (Acts 17:21): the Word of life, sent by God’s own initiative, to enlighten mankind (vss. 30-32). The Athenians’ “unknown God” (vs. 23) is the Christ who has revealed Himself to the Church.
Christ is disclosed as the Maker of all things, visible and invisible (vss. 23-29). Saint Paul proclaims that the Lord has revealed Himself openly. As the psalmist says, “God is the Lord and hath appeared unto us” (Ps 117:26).
The ancient Hellenists and modern materialists alike believe we can decipher “the unity of all things contrary to the appearance of diversity.” Metropolitan John Zizioulas repudiates this view and its corollary position that God does not rule over the material world since “He too is bound by . . . necessity to the world and the world to Him” (Being as Communion, p. 29).
Saint Paul’s new thing directly counters this error, for he declares, “God . . . made the world and everything in it, since He is Lord of heaven and earth” (vs. 24). God needs nothing, for “He gives to all life, breath, and all things” (vs. 25). The Creator existentially contradicts the ancient and modern lie that leads mankind on the impossible quest to know everything.
The apostle also addresses a related lie, initiated by Plato: “The world does not exist for the sake of man, but man exists for its sake.” Herein we find a denial of God’s infinite freedom as well as His gift of free will to us as persons who are intended to be “like” God.
Instead, the Apostle Paul says, “We are also His offspring,” i.e., free beings (vs. 28). If we have accepted the lies of materialism, let us hasten to repent (vs. 30)!
O Lord, Thou hast made all things new. Help us live in Thy likeness to eternal life.