“For while I was passing through and examining the objects of your worship, I also found an altar with this inscription, “TO AN UNKNOWN GOD.”” Acts 17:23
Unknown – You may have heard this story too often. It has become familiar fodder for gospel grist. Until we really recognize the depth of Paul’s cultural analysis, we might just think that these Greeks were spiritual fools. We know better, right? Our God isn’t an “unknown” God. At least that is what we would claim – until we realize that we are worshipping on a hill in Athens.
Paul speaks Greek to these Greeks. He uses the word agnosto. Of course, you can see the word “agnostic” in this Greek root. The Greek word implies that such a god is not knowable, hidden and unrecognizable. The Greek implies that this god is deliberately withdrawn. Paul points out that the Greeks have an altar to a god that they aren’t sure about. The Greeks are ambivalent, undecided and uncertain about this god. Why? Because this god doesn’t quite fit into the rest of their pantheon of gods. There might be such a god, but they just don’t know for sure.
You and I would never claim to be agnostic about our God. We know that our God reveals Himself. That’s the only way we can know about Him. In fact, He was manifest in a human form for the express purpose of revealing Himself to us. So, that aspect of agnosto can’t apply. But that doesn’t mean we aren’t Greek. You see, God has revealed Himself, in deliberate, specific ways to very particular people. If we don’t look into the depths of His revelation, then for all intents and purposes, we might as well be standing with the men on the Areopagus. After all, agnosto works in both directions. God can hide Himself or I can hide from God. Either way, I would erect an altar to an “unknown” God.
Don’t object too strenuously until you really ask yourself how much of God’s self-revelation you have actually embraced. Of course, you know about Jesus, creation, the Israelites, David and Paul. You have collected some stories. But have you understood what God’s self-revelation means for the way you live? Are you still on the accumulation treadmill? Have you discovered the difference between happiness and joy? Do your actions mimic those of the Messiah? Have you made the shift from knowledge to obedience? Have you learned to be content? Do you know triumph in tribulation? Have you discovered the emptiness of sin?
Or are you still serving leveraged advantage, managed image, social acceptance, personal power or six-figure success? Do you still believe that knowledge is power, that destiny is decision, that luck is what you make and that those who win need to climb over others?
Do you think that the universe is a place you can trust because you serve a God who loves you? Or are you still afraid?
Most of us think we aren’t agnostic – until we look at the fundamentals behind our behavior. Take a hard inventory. Determine how much of your life serves an unknown God.
Topical Index: Agnostic