June 20, 2020

Subject: America and Racism Part 3: Confronting the Culture with the Truth of the Gospel

Ed Croteau

Acts 17:26 “God has made from one blood every nation of men to dwell on the face of the earth, and has determined their preappointed times and the boundaries of their habitation.’”

The Babylon Bee is described as “a news website publishing satirical articles on religion, politics, current events, and well-known public figures. With intentional irony, the Bee describes itself as ‘the world’s best satire site, totally inerrant in all its truth claims.’” Their writers give us a chance to laugh at ourselves.

But sometimes, especially in our politically-correct, super-sensitive culture, their satire provokes strong reaction. People take sides against one another over a story meant to make us laugh. Such was their story on June 12 on the bible supposedly removed from bookstores: “Bibles Pulled From Shelves For Outdated Idea That All Humans Are Of One Race And Made In The Image Of God: Online and brick and mortar booksellers across the country will no longer be selling the Bible due to its ‘outdated depictions of humanity all being of one race and made in the image of God.’

The Bible has long been controversial when it comes to race, suggesting that Jesus Christ can break down barriers between people groups through the blood of His cross and callously proclaiming that everyone is made in God’s image and has inherent dignity and worth because of God’s infinite worth.

‘We’re trying to stoke racial tensions, and the Bible is extremely unhelpful at a time like this,’ said one activist. ‘Pulling the book will go a long way toward progressing the race war. If everyone believed what the Bible said, we’d have no racial divisions to exploit. Can you imagine all the peace and harmony that would break out? We can’t have that — our careers depend on it.’”

Although a satire, there is some truth to Babylon Bee’s article. Having replaced objective truth with relativism, people are drawing lines of separation over ethnic, social and religious issues. Some people are even publicly apologizing for being born with a certain skin color, or for their success in business, or for what they have believed about God. The humanist, secular culture in America today is not uniting us – it is tearing us apart. The “tolerance” we once cried for has led us into a time of extreme intolerance.

This week’s verse explains that this is nothing new. The apostle Paul faced even worse opposition, where the culture was even more indifferent to Christianity, with a well-educated but morally corrupt audience: the philosophers at Mars Hill. It was here in Athens that the humanist philosophies of Epicureanism and Stoicism were taught. The extent of the man-centered culture was expressed by one of Nero’s advisors, Petronius: “It is easier to find a god in Athens than a man.” This provoked Paul to the core.

Verses 2 and 17 in Acts chapter 17 record his response. He went to the local synagogues and to the gathering places to “reason from the Scriptures with those who happened to be there”. Paul knew the Gospel of Jesus Christ was superior over manmade philosophy. But his audience had no interest in the Gospel. As in today’s culture, they were only interested to “hear something new” (Acts 17:21). That’s the setting for Paul’s message in confronting the culture with the truth of the Gospel. Here’s Paul’s method.

He begins in verses 22-25 by explaining to his audience who is the true God. He starts with the fact that everyone is intrinsically religious. We either worship God or something else, but we all worship something.

He then tells them they are ignorant of who God is, and they actually worship Him without even knowing it. because they have creation as His witness (verse 24) and everyone’s very existence has no explanation outside of a Creator (verse 25). Paul’s book to the Romans explains that “what is known about God is evident within all of us, because God Himself has shown this evidence to everyone” (Romans 1:19).

In Acts 17:26, he confronts the pride of the Greeks, who labeled anyone who was not of Greek descent a barbarian. If anyone is a Uniter of all mankind, regardless of ethnicity, social standing, or religious affiliation, it is the God of the Bible through His Son Jesus Christ. All of mankind has descended from one man, Adam, and it is God who has set each of our times and boundaries. He alone controls the affairs and destinies of all of us. We were all created to be His children, united together as brothers and sisters.

Paul tells us God’s purpose for us is to be a family: to “seek Him, though He is not far from each one of us” (Acts 17:27). This is how the truth of the Gospel overcomes racism: we are all one in Christ: “There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for we are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28).

Ed Croteau is a resident of Lee’s Summit and hosts a weekly study in Lees Summit called “Faith: Substance and Evidence.” He can be reached with your questions through the Lee’s Summit Tribune at Editor@lstribune.net.